To Tell The Truth

For those of you who have pursued in depth Bible study, the term exegesis is one that you are familiar with. When applied to interpreting biblical text, exegesis is the means by which we “draw out of the text” what is contained within it, or, the way we are led through a text into an accurate understanding of its meaning. Exegetical interpretation involves seeking to understand the original intentions of the author and the meaning he attached to those things he has written. In short, exegesis is intended to get us to the truth.  Okay, now before I lose you and you “click” out of here; let me tell you something cool about this exegesis thing: Jesus is the only one who can give us an accurate exegesis of God. John tells us, “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” (John 1:18) Interestingly enough, the “has made him known” part is the Greek word ἐξηγήσατο or exēgēsato  Do you see it?

In a culture that is all inclusive and proclaims that all religions are the same, leading to the same God, and so forth; John’s assertion that Jesus is the only means by which we can gain the correct “interpretation” of who God is stands in complete contrast. Now we may not agree with what John states in the prologue of his gospel, but there is no doubt as to his meaning: Jesus alone reveals who God is. Like a Bible student “exegeting” a biblical text, Jesus is the one who explains God and leads us to the proper understanding of who God is.

The common euphemisms of, “Well, if that’s the way you see it, it’s true for you.” and “There are all kinds of truth, great that you have found yours.” are the battle cries of both subjectivism and contemporary existentialism. According to these mindsets, one does not  have to remain fixed upon any reality or even his own personal reality. “One must be willing to declare himself against his previous opinions”, as Nietzsche has stated. Or, as Kierkegaard said, “The thing is to understand myself… to find a truth that works for me… the highest truth attainable for an Existing individual [is simply] an objective uncertainty held fast in the most passionate personal experience.” Well, this may sound attractive and truly liberating, but how do these mindsets stand up against John’s claim that only Jesus reveals God?

It is also popular today, in our postmodern society, to claim that we do not even have the capacity to comprehend truth, reality or much less God himself. Before a person can be made to accept  John’s claim that Jesus is the only one who reveals God, he must first be convinced that the truth about God and reality (including morality and religion) can be known and that reality itself is not subject to one’s own personal perception. C.S. Lewis said, “The consequences of subjectivism and relativism of truth are destructive… to intellectual honesty and to life. For if truth is objective, if we live in a world we did not create and cannot change by merely thinking, if the world is not really a dream of our own, then the most destructive belief we could possibly believe would be the denial of this primary fact.”

Beginning in grade school, facts and figures are communicated through teachers that are, for the most part, accepted without question as truth. In their book I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be An Atheist, Norm Geisler and Fran Turek insist, “We also expect to be told the truth when we pick up a reference book, read an article, or watch a news story; we want the truth from advertisers and politicians; we assume road signs, medicine bottles, and food labels reveal the truth.” It seems that in every area of life, truth and reality are looked for and expected. We accept as truth that one plus one equals two, Columbus discovered America, and so on; however, when it comes to God, truth is defined as relative or even unknowable. Why this contradiction?    If a consistent paradigm is to be maintained one would have to acknowledge that just as the reality of mathematical equations and historical facts are knowable, the broader scope of reality, religion, morals, and even God can also be truly comprehended. Perhaps Augustine was right when he said that we love the truth when it enlightens us, but we hate it when it convicts us.

The gospel of John claims that Jesus is the only way to truly know who God is and come into relationship with him. As I previously said, we may not agree with John’s assertions, but it is indeed what he says. John’s statements are either true or false. There is no middle ground. So, what do we do about it? Come to Jesus, receive him, believe on his name, and you will know the truth about who God is. I like how the Apostle Paul put it, “See to it that no one takes you captive by means of philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells in bodily form…”

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OZmosis

Walking down the old “Roman Road” just wont do for those who have taken the yellow-brick road to Oz, and now reside somewhere over the rainbow.

In an ever undulating culture, only the Wind of the Spirit can communicate the steadfast reality of life in the Son.

Reciting a list of God’s attributes does little for those who, having seen through the sterilized facade of our dead religion, attribute to us no relevance at all.

Is it because we do not truly know Him ourselves that we doom a generation to invent heresies which provide them with the communion and intimacy they so desperately seek?  It’s so hard to tell them about Someone we don’t really know.

Have the “Cross” and the “Blood” become mere nails we use to secure our institutions against the intruding winds of change? It’s the Cross and the Blood which are to reveal the very love and life of God, not provide a manual by which we construct impenetrable religious strongholds where we hide safe from the chaos of the world.

Aunty Em is standing on the front porch pleading for Dorothy to come back home, but Dorothy Gale has been mystified by Professor Marvel and his crystal ball.

In a world inundated with parlor tricks, only the Power of the Spirit can demonstrate the reality of an almighty God.

Repeating the sinner’s prayer does little for those who, having seen through the hypocritical veil with which we cover our own sin, pray that we simply go away.

Is it the preoccupation we have with the lust of our own flesh that will doom this generation to a hell which we ourselves will barely escape? It’s so hard to tell the world about the beauty of holiness when we’re no different than they are.

Have “Sanctification” and “Righteousness” become nothing more than pharisaical labels used to keep out those “undesirables”? It’s the Church clothed in garments of white that is to invite an on looking world to glorify God, not push them away as if we’re afraid they might get us dirty.

“Better get under cover, Sylvester. There’s a storm blowin’ up – a whopper, to speak in the vernacular of the peasantry. Poor little kid, I hope she gets home all right.”

“Goo Goo G’ Joob” (conclusion)

(Unfortunately, many New Age practices and beliefs have been adopted by many who call themselves Christians. It is my prayer that this series has brought to light the incompatibility of Christianity and New Age theology. This is the last segment of “Goo Goo G’ Joob,” and if you’ve not already done so; I hope you will take the time to read  parts 1&2 of this series.)

If the capstone of New Age theology is the divinity of man, the cornerstone upon which their theology is built would have to be pantheism. Indeed, it is the New Age concept of pantheism on which all New Age theology is built. In New Age theological pantheism, god is all and all is god. In fact, there is nothing but God. Consequently, in New Age theology, there is no distinction between the creator and the creation.[1] At the beginning of this discourse it was stated that various elements of New Age thought had integrated into modern ecclesia, and the concept of pantheism is one such example. Some “Christian New Agers” such as Matthew Fox have adopted a compromised pantheistic position. They believe that while God “may be found in everything, God is something more than the totality of all things. “[This form of] Pantheism attempts to retain Christian notions of a fundamental divide between God and creation, while at the same time emphasizing their unity and interactivity.”[2]

It has been said that the “force”as depicted in the Star Wars  movies best characterizes New Age pantheism in which nature is not only a manifestation of God; it is very much alive, and its life- force is considered one great organism. In Star Wars, Yoda declares, “My ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it and makes it glow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us…Feel the Force around you. Here… between you and me and the tree and that rock.”[3] Dr. Sandra Clifton agrees that this Yodistic Star Wars Pantheistic concept is crucial to New Age thought. In her book, New Age Lies Exposed: How to Stand Firm in God’s Truth she quotes Theologian and researcher James Herrick as saying, “…and pantheism is crucial to the New Religious Synthesis [Herrick’s term for New Age or New Thought]. Pantheism rejects the notion of God as personal or sovereign, instead finding divinity to be an impersonal force, energy, spirit, consciousness or mind in all things…The Other Spirituality’s god is a force to be managed, a potential to be tapped, a consciousness to be experienced.”[4]

Perhaps it is the New Age Pantheistic concept of intuitive epistemology that has extended its tendrils furthest into the modern ecclesia and consequently provides the most “danger” to orthodox Christian theology.  The New Ager would contend that since god is the ultimate truth and since god is in all things; truth can therefore be perceived in all things. Nowhere is this mindset more clearly depicted than in the Postmodern theological arena. In fact, Frederick Ferre`, author of Knowing and Value: Toward a Constructive Postmodern Epistemology, indicates that it is often the practice to view the term “postmodern” as synonymous with New Ageism.[5] Indeed, a common trait of both New Age theology and Postmodern theology is their reaction against Modern epistemology.

“The fundamental issue in the move from modernism to postmodernism is       epistemology– i. e., how we know things, or think we know things. Modernism is   often pictured as pursuing truth, absolutism, linear thinking, rationalism, certainty,  the cerebral as opposed to the affective- which in turn breeds arrogance, inflexibility, a lust to be right, the desire to control. Postmodernism, by contrast,  recognizes how much of what we know is shaped by the culture in which we  live, is controlled by emotions and aesthetics and heritage, and in fact can only be  intelligently held as part of a common tradition, without overbearing claims to being true or right. Modernism tries to find unquestioned foundations on which to  build the edifice of knowledge and then proceeds with methodological rigor;     postmodernism denies that such foundations exist (it is “antifoundational”) and insists that we come to “know” things in many ways, not a few of them lacking in  rigor. Modernism is hard-edged and, in the domain of religion, focuses on truth versus error, right belief, confessionalism; postmodernism is gentle and, in the domain of religion, focuses on relationships, love, shared tradition, integrity in discussion.”[6]

Many contend that it is the postmodern reaction against modernity that has fostered renewed spiritual interest which has taken on the form of New Ageism. In New Age / Postmodern spiritualism, these spiritualities are relativistic, and tend “to be subjective and syncretistic. Often pantheistic, or even pantheistic, they are not searching for the transcendent god “out there” but are rather on an eminent search within the practitioner to find the spirit within.”[7] And, according to the New Age Postmodernist, this search for truth can be achieved by any number of means.

“Pete Rollins of ikon (Belfast, U.K.) reports, ‘We have been actively engaged with  other faiths through the evangelism project. Evangelism has an important role but   is seen as a two-way process designed to open others and ourselves to God.’   Their evangelism project is the reverse of most forms of evangelism. They visit   people of other faiths and spiritualities and allow themselves to be evangelized in  order to learn more about other walks of life. ‘We deemphasize the idea that  Christians have God and all others don’t by attempting to engage in open two-way conversations. This does not mean we have lapsed into relativism, we still  believe in the uniqueness of our own tradition, but we believe that it teaches us to be open to all. We are genuinely open to being wrong about parts and perhaps all our beliefs- while at the same time being fully committed to them.’”[8]

And again,

“Spencer Burke’s community is prepared to learn from faith traditions outside the Christian field. There is a Buddhist family in their church. As a community, the church visited a Buddhist temple. They participated in a guided meditation with  this family. Burke celebrates the many ways God is revealed. He recognizes that the Spirit as been with these people all along. The community celebrates other  traditions, and they see them as beloved children of God.”[9]

In light of the two quotes cited above, both coming from leaders in the Postmodern/Emergent movement; it is clear that New Ageism and Postmodernism have a shared epistemology- one that cannot be embraced by the Christian.

New Age theology claims that every person and all reality is God, and therefore, any “truth” our inner selves discovers is God’s truth. By contrast, Christianity asserts that man and everything that has been created, both seen and unseen, has been created by the will of God and for his glory, that truth is found in the person of Jesus Christ, not by a realization of our own innate “Christ-consciousness.” One must therefore contend that despite the fact that many within Postmodern ecclesiastical circles have embraced various New Age tenets, an exploration into New Age epistemology and the way in which New Age theology elevates both man and creation to the level of deity proves that it is incompatible with orthodox Christianity.


 1. Ron Rhodes, New Age Movement, (Grand Rapids, Michigan- Zondervan Publishing House, 1995), 9.

 2. Daren Kemp, New Age: A Guide, (George Square, Edinburg- University Press, 2004), 57.

 3. Norman L. Geisler, Christian Ethics, (Grand Rapids, Michigan- Baker Academic, 1989), 339.

 4. Dr. Sandra Clifton, New Age Lies Exposed: How to Stand Firm in God’s Truth, (Alachua, Florida- Bridge Logos, 2009), 102.

  5. Frederick Ferre`, Knowing and Value: Toward a Constructive Postmodern Epistemology, (Albany, New York- State University of New York Press, 1998), xvi.

 6. D. A. Carson, Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church: Understanding a Movement and Its Implications, (Grand Rapids, Michigan- Zondervan, 2005), 27.

7. Lee Martin McDonald, William H. Brackney, and Craig A. Evans, (Macon, Georgia- Mercer University Press, 2007), 279,280.

 8. Eddie Gibbs and Ryan K. Bolger, Emerging Churches: Creating Community in Postmodern Cultures, (Grand Rapids, Michigan- Baker Publishing Group, 2005), 132.

 9. Ibid.

The Roots of the Emergent Church Movement (Full Documentary)

As I said in Postmodern Reflections (part 1) : The evolution of society from modernity into postmodernity has produced reverberations within the church that indeed may prove to be eschatologically significant. Throughout its history the church has faced many heresies. Counsels have been convened for the purpose of discerning truth and setting forth orthodoxy. But, how does the church minister to a culture that insists there are no absolute truths to be discerned. What is the response of the church to be to ones who can say that while God has indeed acted uniquely in the person of Christ, he is also present and active in other belief systems as well? As the church finds its very institutional foundations shaken to the core, its evangelical practices touted as archaic, and the very message of the cross held in contempt; the Emergent Church has risen to the forefront. Adopting a postmodern philosophy, the Emergent movement has reduced the gospel of the Kingdom to a call for community, social-justice, and political activism. The Jesus of the postmodern emergent “Christian” is nothing more than a community organizer intent on assisting men in living together in mutual inclusion as they discover the validity of their respective cultural context belief systems and the God who is at work within them.

With that being said (again), I came across this documentary and wanted to pass it along. This is a full length documentary entitled “The Roots of the Emergent Church Movement,” and I truly believe it will greatly benefit you. It is my prayer that you will take the time to prayerfully watch this film, and search the scriptures for yourself to see if these things be so.

 

Postmodern Reflections (part 3)

(As I have studied the Emergent/Postmodern Movement, another book I sought to have prayerful, objective interaction with was, D.A. Carson’s Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church: Understanding a Movement and Its Implications. What follows are various reflections I had during this interaction.)

The emergence of the Emergent/Postmodern Movement (EPM)  is perhaps the most significant event the ecclesia has witnessed in recent history. It is the opinion of this writer that the the EPM may very well be a precursor to the faithless, spiritually apostate, adulterous church which will emerge into prominent significance as eschatology is ultimately realized. It is therefore of the utmost importance that those within the ecclesia (the Church) be “conversant” with this movement and gain an understanding as to its implications.

As this writer has immersed himself in the study of the EPM, he has discovered that the premise on which the movement is founded is predicated on the fact that the world has evolved from a modern to a postmodern society, and conversely; the church must change with the times.  A big part of the way times have changed is the way we understand truth. This writer finds himself in agreement with D.A. Carson as he states in his book Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church: Understanding a Movement an Its Implications:

“The fundamental issue in the move from modernism to postmodernism is epistemology– i. e., how we know things, or think we know things. Modernism is often pictured as pursuing truth, absolutism, linear thinking, rationalism, certainty, the cerebral as opposed to the affective- which in turn breeds arrogance, inflexibility, a lust to be right, the desire to control. Postmodernism, by contrast, recognizes how much of what we “know” is shaped by the culture in which we live, is controlled by emotions and aesthetics and heritage, and in fact can only be intelligently held as part of a common tradition, without overbearing claims to being true or right. Modernism tries to find unquestioned foundations on which to build the edifice of knowledge and then proceeds with methodological rigor; postmodernism denies that such foundations exist (it is “antifoundational”) and insists that we come to “know” things in many ways, not a few of them lacking in rigor. Modernism is hard-edged and, in the domain of religion, focuses on truth versus error, right belief, confessionalism; postmodernism is gentle and, in the domain of religion, focuses on relationships, love, shared tradition, integrity in discussion.”[1]

While this writer would agree that postmodernism has definitely replaced the modernistic paradigm which has been prevalent, it is postmodern epistemology that reveals the apostate characteristics which lurk in the heart of the EPM. As Carson points out in his book the danger that presents itself to those involved in the EPM is that of becoming submerged in the surrounding culture to the point of hopeless compromise.[2] EP epistemology is derived from the surrounding culture and its cries for reformation are directly related to its understanding of postmodernism.[3] In other words, the tendency in the EPM is to reject any absolute “truth statements,” and all of theology therefore becomes a subjective narrative in which each individual must find his place. Those within the EPM place a great deal of credence upon tolerance (with the exception of those who disagree with them), hesitating to call anyone wrong. Their preaching and Bible study reflect the importance they place upon the “life-narrative”[4] which conversely emerges from their epistemology.

In his book, Carson applauds those within the EPM for their desire and ability to read the surrounding culture. “Just as the apostle understood that his moves from culture to culture brought implications for how he went about his preaching (even though his constant resolution was to preach Christ crucified, I Corinthians 2:1-5[5]), and just as thoughtful missionaries learn the same lesson as they step from one culture into another, so also must the church of God when it stays home and the culture in which it is embedded changes. That is something the [EPM] understands.”[6]

This writer recognizes, along with Carson, that the EPM does indeed perceive the surrounding culture with far more clarity than many who make up the traditional church, but while the cultural comprehension of the EPM promotes a much needed desire for change and reevaluation; it often appears that the EPM is more in love with the deconstruction of the instituional church than it is with the One who said he would construct his church.

“One of the striking commonalities among its [Emergent] leaders is the high number of them who come from immensely conservative or even fundamental backgrounds. When they describe the kinds of churches from which they spring, a very high percentage of them have emerged from a tradition that is substantially separated from the culture. These churches often lay considerable emphasis on getting certain doctrine, often cast in the fundamentalist mode, nicely constructed and confessed. The passage of time has moved these churches farther and farther from the very different directions being pursued by the broader culture, and sensitive and concerned individuals within such traditions finally make a break, not least for the gospel’s sake. It becomes a mark of freedom to have a glass of wine and watch some movies that our former ecclesiastical friends wouldn’t approve.”[7]

Carson points out that those within the  EPM insist that those who are traditionally evangelical are “hard-nosed and inflexible because it constantly thinks in truth-categories and does not perceive the legitimate place of experience- not least the fact that the personal experience of the knower plays a part in what he or she thinks is the truth.”[8] This writer has always considered himself somewhat off the beaten path of what may be labeled traditional western Christianity; however, even one who questions the long held traditions of the modern ecclesia, most assuredly understands that while strict adherence to the historical-grammatical hermeneutical method of biblical interpretation warrants renewed discussion, experience alone cannot be counted upon as the ultimate criteria whereby biblical truths are interpreted. Carson rightly points out that:

“Of course, truth and experience do not have exactly the same sort of footing. Truth itself, rightly understood, may correct experience, but not the other way around. On the other hand, experience may prompt us to revise our previous understanding of the truth. Truth in the Bible is often propositional (though it is often more than that), but mere knowledge of merely propositional truth does not necessarily save us: just ask the Devil himself. Both truth and experience, wrongly functioning in our lives, can be corrupting; our memories of experiences may easily become idolatrous, making it necessary to turn our backs on some of these memories (Philippians 3:13-14), and knowledge may become that which puffs up while love builds up (I Corinthians 8:1).”[9]

Indeed as Carson points out in his commentary on II Peter 1:1-21 our experience must be: grounded in God’s transforming power, attested by spiritual growth and productivity, and attested by our unflagging perseverance.[10]

Carson explains that those in the EPM claim that Christian leaders have to recognize that changes in the culture signify that a new church is emerging, and that there must be a willingness to leave behind forms of thought and modes of expression that no longer communicate to this emerging generation.[11] This writer would agree that Christian leaders must adapt to cultural change as to the modes of communicating the gospel; however, it appears that many within the ranks of the EPM have allowed changes within culture to blind them to the reality that the gospel itself does not change, but creates its own relevance within whatever culture it is preached.

“So which shall we choose? Experience or truth? The left wing of an airplane, or the right? Study or service? Evangelism or discipleship? The front wheels of a car, or the rear? Subjective knowledge or objective knowledge? Faith or obedience? Damn all false antitheses to hell, for they generate false gods, they perpetuate idols, they twist and distort our souls, they launch the church into violent pendulum swings whose oscillations succeed only in dividing brothers and sisters in Christ. The truth is that Jesus Christ is Lord of all- of the truth and of our experience. The Bible insists that we take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ.”[12]


            1. D. A. Carson, Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church: Understanding a Movement and Its Implications, (Grand Rapids, Michigan- Zondervan, 2005), 27.

2. Ibid., 44.

3. Ibid., 42, 43.

4. Ibid., 26-31.

                5. This is where those within the Emergent movement diverge from Christianity. They have ceased preaching Christ crucified and opted instead for a “gospel” of cultural relevance.

6. D. A. Carson, Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church: Understanding a Movement and Its Implications, (Grand Rapids, Michigan- Zondervan, 2005), 47.

7. Ibid., 86.

                8. Ibid., 218.

9. Ibid., 219.

            10. Ibid., 219-229.

11. Ibid., 12.

12. Ibid., 234.

Postmodern Reflections (part 2): “Emergentcy”

As I have previously stated in part one of Postmodern Reflections, these pericopes are taken from a paper I originally wrote (with a few editions) for a “Contemporary Issues in Theology Class.”  I have spent countless hours studying the Emergent Movement, interacting with Emergent Postmodernists (“EPs”) and studying postmodern philosophy as it pertains to the Church, but;  the book Emerging Churches: Creating Community in Postmodern Cultures by Eddie Gibbs & Ryan K. Bolger,  which I poured over with prayerful objectivity, really put the Emergent/Postmodern “Christian” perspective in focus. Those who know me know I am not a traditionalist and while I found myself in agreement with some of Gibb’s & Bolger’s’ observations, this book served to confirm what I believe regarding the Emergent/Postmodern movement. I am convinced that while one must be careful not to lump all “EPs”  into one basket (indeed, it is impossible to do so), the Emergent/Postmodern “Christian” movement is perhaps the most dangerous, deceptive heresy the body of Christ has ever encountered. My intention in sharing this information is not to be confrontational or hurtful to individuals, but rather to exalt Jesus, “sound the alarm,” and to provide the saints with information that they may be better equipped for the work of ministry.

EMERGENTCY

To be frank, reading the book, Emerging Churches: Creating Community in Postmodern Cultures, left this writer with the feeling that he had just read a book written by 1960s counter cultural hippies still somewhat altered by their latest ingestion of LSD (and yes I have), who had nevertheless thought it would be a good thing to expound upon their view of religion.  It would appear that even some from within the ranks of the Emergent/Postmodern movement would agree. “Andrew Jones (Boaz, U.K.) says, “I am sure there are many parallels with biblical and ancient forms of worship [although he lists none, he is sure], which were more interactive and participatory than Reformation models. But for a more immediate link, I believe a lot of the thinking came from the 1960s counterculture, which is where almost all elements of emerging church can find some roots.”[12] Indeed, the Emergent/Postmodern movement bears many similar characteristics of the 1960s protest movements, and it should be noted that many observations made by the “EPs” are valid in that they have recognized and responded to the stale hypocrisy of institutionalized religion in much the same way the counterculture of the 1960s recognized and responded to the stale hypocritical institution of American government.

Reading this book, one is struck by the fact that there is little to no reference to the Bible, little to no clarification as to what  would be considered  solid theology and absolutely no exaltation of the Lord Jesus Christ at all. Ironically, it is suggested that the reading of Paul should be suspended while focus should be placed upon the life of Jesus,[13] all the while Gibbs and Bolger report that one cannot really be sure who Jesus was given that he lived in a different time and place and deciding which of his activities were merely cultural expressions versus those that were legitimately inspired by the gospel of the kingdom is difficult at best.[14] The Jesus presented by the “EPs” has been deconstructed to nothing more than a social activist bent on relieving the oppressed and marginalized of society in sweeping programs of social-justice.

Epistemology (how we know things) is one of the hinge points of the “EP” philosophy. Page after page of this book is filled with quotes from the leaders of the Emergent/Postmodern movement who insist that truth is narrative instead of absolute, and they are absolutely sure because they possess a certain esoteric knowledge that only those who have been delivered from the evil dogma of modernity can possess.  The writers insist that “it is not that “EPs” do not want truth per se, but whose truth? Often the one proposing or more often imposing truth is a person in power. Why trust the person? Instead, a better way to truth, in their view, is to hear the many stories and to discern accordingly, within the context of community.”[15] Ironically, it is only those within their own context who can properly define what constitutes an authentic community, and even more ironic is the inference that it is only the “EPs” context that can be trusted to define truth if truth can indeed be realized at all.

While this writer finds himself in agreement with the “EP” assertion that the present ecclesiastical form must change and is itself, in many ways, a hindrance to the gospel; he cannot accept the “EPs” total syncretism of both “secular” and “sacred” community. If Gibbs and Bolger are to be believed, the emergent movement sees no difference between sacred and secular. One “EP” is quoted as saying, “My pagan friends are church for me as well. While with them, I spend time with Jesus because he is with me.”[16] The “EPs” see church in its present expression as a place in which spirituality is contained and confined.[17] The “EP”, while maintaining that God has acted uniquely in Christ, insists that one is only looking through “a glass darkly” and that “we could be wrong.” To the “EP”, church is experienced in the totality of life,  while understanding that even other religions themselves have much to teach Christians.[18]

Spencer Burke’s community is prepared to learn from faith traditions outside the Christian field. There is a Buddhist family in their church. As a community, the church visited a Buddhist temple. They participated in a guided meditation with this family. Burke celebrates the many ways God is revealed. He recognizes that the Spirit as been with these people all along. The community celebrates other traditions, and they see them as beloved children of God.[19]

One can only hope that God will have mercy upon Mr. Burke, granting him repentance in order that he may truly come to faith in Christ and be given a chance to reach those he has led astray with the truth of the gospel of Christ.

When one is exposed to the pseudo intellectual, snobbish double talk of the “EP” he becomes accustomed to catch-phrases and flowery speeches of pomp and fluff, devoid of any authentic spiritual Christ-centered content.  Such exposure to such nonsensical rhetoric has led this writer and an associate to invent a game in which the goal is to start a conversation and respond back and forth using absurd statements amounting “to much ado about nothing.” For example, the following comment appears to be deep and lofty, but close scrutiny will reveal it to be absolutely meaningless: “The immediate context of cultural ramifications must be considered if one is to adhere to the overriding sense of descriptive narrative that the so called theological implications render. The Code of Hammurabi can be cited when a Lutherian mandate is placed upon the discerning of principle over precept which in all actuality signals a departure from orthodoxy.” (Capiche?)

It is hard to imagine that one who can string together such a line of pure malarkey as cited above would be surprised at anything he might read. However, this writer was admittedly flabbergasted when he read such comments as these in Gibb’s and Bolger’s book:

Pete Rollins of “ikon” (Belfast, U.K.) reports, “We have been actively engaged with other faiths through the evangelism project. Evangelism has an important role but is seen as a two-way process designed to open others and ourselves to God.” Their evangelism project is the reverse of most forms of evangelism. They visit people of other faiths and spiritualities and allow themselves to be evangelized in order to learn more about other walks of life. “We deemphasize the idea that Christians have God and all others don’t by attempting to engage in open two-way conversations. This does not mean we have lapsed into relativism, we still believe in the uniqueness of our own tradition, but we believe that it teaches us to be open to all. We are genuinely open to being wrong about parts and perhaps all our beliefs- while at the same time being fully committed to them.”[20] One is lead to believe that perhaps the “EPs” intend to redefine  the meaning of the word committed, for how can one truly commit to that which he doubts?

Term Redefinition is a prevalent practice among the “EPs.” For example: The “EPs” claim that contrary to modernity, they teach that the church should be inclusive and welcoming to all . While it is true all churches should be welcoming to those who would come to them, when encountering the “EPS”; one must discern as to whether or not the terms welcoming and inclusive have been redefined into meaning that all men are a part of the Church. One must make sure he understands what is truly meant when the “EP” speaks of  atonement, salvation, church, etc “EPs” redefine orthodoxy as meaning holding to the uniqueness of Christ.[21] Unique? He is the Son of the living God and we have peace with God through the blood of his cross!

The emergence of the Emergent/Postmodern movement is perhaps the most significant event the ecclesia has witnessed in recent history. It is the opinion of this writer that the “EPs” are a precursor to the faithless, spiritually apostate, adulterous church which will emerge into prominent significance as eschatology is ultimately realized. It is therefore of the utmost importance that those within the ecclesia be “conversant” with this movement and gain an understanding as to its implications.


                12. Eddie Gibbs and Ryan K. Bolger, Emerging Churches: Creating Community in Postmodern Cultures, (Grand Rapids, Michigan- Baker Publishing Group, 2005), 196.

13. Ibid., 48.

14. Ibid., 49.

15. Ibid., 68.

16. Ibid., 108

17. Ibid., 99.

18. Ibid., 117-134.

19. Ibid., 132.

20. Ibid.

21. Ibid., 133.

Postmodern Reflections (part 1)

NLI Ministries was begun with an earnest desire to minister the gospel of Jesus. While I most definitely do not even  pretend to know it all,  I do know that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life; and that no one comes to God (the Father) accept through him. I am absolutely convinced that knowing Jesus is in fact eternal life itself (John 17:3) . His love, his fellowship, his mercy, his beauty, the salvation he offers is truly life eternal!

 I am obviously limited in knowledge, beset about with weakness, and (like all who are in Christ) in the process of “having been being saved,” I nevertheless must be true to the calling God has place upon my life to preach/teach. Technology (i.e. the internet) has provided a wonderful medium through which one can reach multitudes he would otherwise be segregated from, and, while I am not so arrogant as to think everyone will be interested in what I have to say; I must share what the Lord places  upon my heart.

These pericopes entitled Post Modern Reflections are actually from a paper I wrote for a Contemporary Issues in Theology class. It is my desire in sharing these segments that Jesus be revealed in the hearts of those who read them and that the saints be equipped for ministry.  (Sorry about all the footnotes, but IT’S THE LAW!!)

INTRODUCTION

            The evolution of society from modernity into postmodernity has produced reverberations within the church that indeed may prove to be eschatologically significant. Throughout its history the church has faced many heresies. Counsels have been convened for the purpose of discerning truth and setting forth orthodoxy. But, how does the church minister to a culture that insists there are no absolute truths to be discerned. What is the response of the church to be to ones who can say that while God has indeed acted uniquely in the person of Christ, he is also present and active in other belief systems as well? As the church finds its very institutional foundations shaken to the core, its evangelical practices touted as archaic, and the very message of the cross held in contempt; the Emergent Church has risen to the forefront. Adopting a postmodern philosophy, the Emergent movement has reduced the gospel of the Kingdom to a call for community, social-justice, and political activism. The Jesus of the postmodern emergent “Christian” is nothing more than a community organizer intent on assisting men in living together in mutual inclusion as they discover the validity of their respective cultural context belief systems and the God who is at work within them.

While many recognize the death throes of the modernized institutional church and call for an Incarnational ministry paradigm, instead of incarnating Christ in multicultural sociological locales, the culture itself is being incarnated within the “church” which in essence is a form of humanism. The postmodern philosophy adopted by the Emergent Church, when stripped of all its pompous arrogance and theological double talk, is basically humanistic universalism and devoid of anything one could honestly refer to as Christian. While the Emergent movement is correct in pointing out the failure of institutionalized Christianity, and the need for evangelical reevaluation; the disconnect from authentic Christianity has occurred at the point where they no longer consider the cross of Christ as the focus of the gospel, but embrace a form of syncretism which allows for a multi-faceted redemptive process. In fact, one wonders if the postmodern “Christian” would prefer self-actualization to redemption altogether.

Books like Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Communities in Postmodern Cultures by Edie Gibbs and Ryan Bolger, and, All Things To All Men, by Dr. Ray Ashmore serve as a window into the postmodern “Christian” construct howbeit from differing perspectives. What is the Emergent movement? What does an Incarnational ministry look like? And, what will the American church look like in the future? We shall seek to find an answer to these questions in the following pages.

INCARNATIONAL MINISTRY

Dr. Ray Ashmore’s All Things to All Men: Developing an Incarnational Ministry Transforming Historical Traditions Adapting to Contemporary Culture hinges upon I Corinthians 9:22 in which the apostle Paul says, “I have become all things to all men that I might by all means save some.” All of Ashmore’s contentions flow from the assertion that just as Paul became (incarnation) all things to all men during his apostolic ministry, even so; a church which has found itself becoming increasingly irrelevant in a postmodern society, must itself change it’s structure and practices if it is to be a means to redemptive ends.[1]

One of the imageries Ashmore uses to express his “Incarnational paradigm” is the pilgrim/incarnation motif.  Ashmore explains:

The images of “pilgrimage” and “incarnation” have much in common. Both indicate movement, direction, and a dwelling in some land where one is not “at home.” The pilgrim, in order to get along with the natives who inhabit the land and in order to accomplish his intended end, adopts at least outwardly the ways of the people among whom he sojourns. [One is reminded of I Corinthians 9 again.] And yet, those ways, while shaping the pilgrim for a time, are not his lasting possession. The pilgrim encamps, but then continues onward in search for his first vision and final home.[2]

While this writer believes that he understands the intentions of Ashmore’s “incarnational pilgrim,” he nevertheless must argue for more clarity in the employment of the term “incarnate.” It would seem that many, especially within the ranks of the emergent movement, view the aspect of incarnating ministry as taking on the characteristics of the culture in which they are ministering instead of incarnating the person of Christ within said culture.

Ashmore is careful to point out that the church is not the institution we know as “church” today. Wholeheartedly agreeing with Ashmore at this juncture, this writer found the definitions of “institution” and “institutionalize” provided in A.T.TA.M. (All Things To All Men) both enlightening and amusing. Sadly the characteristics of “being regimented, unimaginative, and becoming apathetic” do indeed describe the disposition of many within the “church” today.[3] Ashmore rightly points out that while the church may indeed utilize certain aspects of institutionalism as tools, it is never the institution itself.[4] It would seem that the Western church has ceased being the carpenter who wields the tools, and has become instead, the tool that is being wielded by an institutionalized conglomerate bent on pursuing business as usual.

One can infer from Ashmore’s jargon that he perceives the “church” as having an “identity crisis.” Ashmore sees the church as organic, a living body joined to Christ which utilizes structure and order while guarding against the usurping of it’s identity by patterns of worship, denominational affiliations, and organizational structure.[5] Ashmore likens the western church to one whose true identity is obscured by wearing a Halloween costume. In the case of the ecclesia, tradition and institutionalism have usurped the church’s true identity. One can see that it is this stringency regarding tradition, order, and institutional structure which has prohibited the church from adapting cross culturally. The church must be willing to be flexible when it comes to the non-essentials if it hopes to fulfill the great commission.

The institutional church has been accused of not being in touch with the post modern culture of today’s society.  Along with Ashmore, this writer would agree that it is critical for the church of today to be able to distinguish between culture, tradition and biblical imperatives.[6] The church must endeavor to discern what is merely of cultural and traditional relevance versus biblical principles that are constant and congruent in all cultures and at all times. The church is in need of many sons of Issachar who are able to discern the times and instruct the church in the way that it should go.[7] Ashmore contends that one cannot know what the church should do until he possesses an understanding of the times in which he lives and the wisdom to lead under the leadership of Christ. One must be able to understand the cultural context and how to apply biblical principles therein.[8]

One key to understanding Incarnational ministry as well as Ashmore’s book is understanding the importance of being able to differentiate between biblical principles and precepts. Ashmore defines biblical principles as a living thing that transcends time, culture, and contexts.[9]  Barring any employment of quantum physics and the like, the mathematical principle (equation) 2+2=4 is true throughout time, culture and all contexts of human involvement. The message of 2+2 does not need to be changed to make it relevant for it is a principle which, by definition, creates its own relevancy. In this writer’s opinion, the 2+ 2 principle is a good illustration of what Ashmore endeavors to communicate in regards to Incarnational. Indeed, while the basic message that 2+2=4 will not change the, the way this concept is conveyed may vary and require “incarnations” in various cultures. One may communicate 2+2 with bananas in one culture, while in another; dollars would be a more preferable means by which to relate the principle. The message remains the same whereas the means of communication may vary according to cultural context.

One of the ways Incarnational ministry is hindered is related to the tendency ministers have to confuse principles with precepts. Ashmore insists that principles are the foundations for precepts and speak to the heart and mind, conversely; precepts are always derived from principles and not the other way around.[10] To make this point clear Ashmore uses Mathew 5:27-28, “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’ [precept];  but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” According to Ashmore the underlying principles contained within this verse are covenant faithfulness, oneness, and love. “The precept defines the appropriate behavior as an outworking of the faithfulness principle.”[11] One can easily see how pharisaical adherence to precepts could indeed hinder Incarnational ministry. If one were to confuse precept with principle, ministry in cultures different from one’s original context would prove difficult at best. One may view behavior counter to a personal understanding of a precept to be in violation of a principle when in reality it is only perceptual behavioral displayed within a certain context.

As Christians find their way in a postmodern culture they would do well to discern, as Ashmore apparently has, that institutional traditionalism based upon the precepts of man must give way to an Incarnational ministry motif based upon biblical principles.


                1. Ray Ashmore, All Things to All Men: Developing an Incarnational Ministry Transforming Historical Traditions Adapting to Contemporary Culture, (USA- Imparting Life Ministries, 2010), rear cover.

               2. Ibid., 15.

               3. Ibid., 21, 22.

               4. Ibid., 2

5. Ibid., 29.

               6. Ibid., 39.

7. Ibid., 40.

               8. Ibid.

               9. Ibid., 95.

             10. Ibid., 105.

            11. Ibid., 106.