By James Fire
PRELIMINARY INTRODUCTION and EXAMINATION –
A few months ago I was perusing the site, Christian Book Distributors (CBD) and discovered an Emergent book (sadly, lots of these on CBD these days) by Doug Pagitt and Tony Jones entitled An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, Baker Books, 2007. It comprises a series of articles (25 in number) written by various Emergent advocates and leaders.
Realizing that most of all our articles for TTUF and its associate sites that focus on the Emergent Church Movement are based on critiques, evaluations and information provided by other Christian discernment ministries, I decided to ‘go to the horses’ mouth’ as it were and examine one of these books for myself.
I purchased this book (retail price was $16.99, but I got it for a mere $3.99 – so I felt good about spending so little on it) and once it arrived, began to digest it (talk about some serious indigestion!).
Once I started, jotting notes and Scripture references in the margins (a rather easy task as this was a trade paperback with wide margins), I quickly understood that I would have to address a couple of issues before diving into my own critique of these Emergent folk.
~*First of all, we all recognize the fact that this movement didn’t spring up spontaneously, though it seems to have since the mid 90’s, with very little mention of it prior; there were formative influences and factors that led up to it, stretching back to the 19th century. This movement makes the claim that because we live in a ‘post-modern’ world, the church must therefore adapt its methods and means of relating to the world with an equally post-modern approach to the Gospel and Christianity in general. Obviously what preceded the post-modern paradigm was the Modernist movement.
The Modernist movement was a time of human rationality, skepticism, and science with a materialist, evolutionist, non-spiritual world view. It was during this time that beliefs of a religious orientation were at the least marginalized or more likely disparaged and ridiculed as irrational and with no basis of relevancy regarding humanity that became increasingly secularized. Religion was something studied from a sociological, psychological and, or philosophical view and believed to be something that evolved from mankind’s supposed need for something ‘larger than himself’. The idea that “man created God in his own image” summarizes the Modernist view of religion rather succinctly.
It was during this time that the Bible came under the scrutiny of ‘Higher Critics’, who were predominantly (at the time) German scholars that saw the Scriptures as a product of humanity and not Divine in origin at all; authors of the various books contained in the Bible were denounced as their legitimate writers, miracles were seen as impossible, Old Testament history was largely perceived as mere stories and legend with no historicity whatsoever, Jesus was merely a Jewish sage who started his own religion and was no more divinely inspired (much less Divine) than any other religious leader in the world.
According to Canon Dyson Hague’s (Rector of the Memorial Church, London, Ontario) essay entitled “The History of the Higher Criticism” (the opening chapter found in The Fundamentals, edited by R.A. Torrey), the very term ‘Higher Criticism’ was not in itself a liberal view or movement, but was originally meant to denote an academic term that contrasted with ‘Lower Criticism’. Dr. Hague comments:
“One of the most important branches of theology is called the science of Biblical criticism, which has for its object the study of the history and contents, and origins and purposes of the various books of the Bible. In the early stages of the science, Biblical criticism was devoted to two great branches, the Lower and the Higher. The Lower Criticism was employed to designate the study of the text of the Scripture and included the investigation of the manuscripts, and the different readings in the various versions and codices and manuscripts in order that we may be sure we have the original words as they were written by the Divinely inspired writers (Textual Criticism, ‘Lower Critics’ and its scholars such as Beza, Erasmus, Bengal and [others of an entirely different sort like] Tischendorff, Scrivener, Westcott and Hort. . .)”.
“The Higher Criticism on the contrary was employed to designate the study of the historic origins, the dates, the authorship of the various books of the Bible and that great branch of study which in the technical language of modern theology is known as Introduction. It is a very valuable branch of Biblical science, and is of the highest importance as an auxiliary in the interpretation of the Word of God. By its researches floods of light may be thrown on the Scriptures.”
Dr. Hague proceeds to tell us that Higher Criticism was not at all initially a vehicle used by scholars to attack the veracity of Scripture from a liberal point of view; that this School was something that required the employment of “. . . so devout a spirit and so exalted a faith in the supernatural as the pursuit of Higher Criticism. It demands at once the ability of the scholar and the simplicity of the believing child of God. For without faith no one can explain the Holy Scriptures, and without scholarship no one can investigate historic origins.”
The School of Higher Critics was simply invaded and inundated with a preponderance of (German) liberal theologians who “. . . [have gone] in the direction of the subjective and of the conjectural. For hypothesis-weaving and speculation, the German theological professor is unsurpassed . . . they are so preoccupied with a theory that their conclusions seem to the average mind, curiously warped.” One reputable scholar wrote a letter to Descartes with this observation regarding such liberal thinkers of 19th century Germany: “When men sitting in their closet and consulting only their books attempt disquisitions into the Bible, they may indeed tell how they would have made the Book, if God had given them that commission. That is, they may describe chimeras which correspond to the fatuity of their own minds, but without an understanding truly Divine they can never form such an idea to themselves as the Deity had in creating it.”
Dr. Hague briefly outlines the beginnings of the Higher Critics movement, but lists in broad terms its origins as follows:
1. The French-Dutch: speculative, if not skeptical, whose findings are axiomatic by the subsequent Schools; its prevailing authority was seen as Spinoza, the rationalist Dutch philosopher (Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, 1670).
2. The German: Proceeded where the French-Dutch movement left off with such prominent names as Eichhorn, Vater, Hartmann, DeWette, Vatke and Leopold George (both Hegelians) and Julius Wellhausen.
3. The British-American: populated by such liberal scholars as Dr. Samuel Davidson. Dr. Robertson Smith (Scottish). Dr. S.R. Driver and Dr. C.A. Briggs, among others.
All three Schools were dominated by rationalists and those who compromised the integrity of the Word of God and who were intent on influencing the church with their views and have done a rather complete job of it in our modern form of Christianity (consider for a moment all of the solid, reputable seminaries that were founded upon the Truth of God’s Word (Fuller for example, at least in its beginning) and its faithful study, but have since gone liberal, adopting a less than literal view of the infallible, inerrant Scriptures).
For your consideration have a look at these articles that explain some things about the Higher Critics, their foundation and views and what they have to say regarding the Scriptures:
Criticizing the book of Exodus
Wellhausen: Higher Critic, Religious Liberal Excerpted from The Seven Men That Rule the World From the Grave by Dr. David Breese.
“Religious liberals spawned by Wellhausen and others accepted biological evolution as a fact (we know that Westcott and Hort likewise found the theory “unanswerable”). They carried evolution to a next rational step: Man’s ideas have evolved upward from the primitive to the complex. And so, the religious liberal says that our ideas of God have evolved and are continuing to evolve. Religious change is the evolution of ideas, part of the natural order and survival of the fittest. We used to think of God as a judgmental ruler of the universe, but now know Him as a God of love. Hence, there is no sin of violation of God’s law. To the liberal theologian, sin is only lack of maturity, lack of proper evolution. The answer to sin is not the redemption of Jesus Christ, but education, man directing and controlling his own evolution. As mankind is enlightened, we will do away with war, hatred, famine and greed (see J.G. Machen, Christianity and Liberalism).”
For more on this subject, I highly recommend the book New Evangelicalism by Paul Smith; here is a review by Thomas Ice.
And another review from Anne Kisly, co-writer of TTUF:
When one ponders the above assertions, it becomes an easy task to see where the Emergent Church Movement gets its ideology from. Being devoted to such ideas means that the ‘evolvement’ of Christianity means that improvements apart from and transcendence above the doctrines and beliefs of biblical Christianity are not only possible, but also progressive.
Biblical narrative is reduced to mere story (whether factual or not is immaterial to the Emergent advocate, it’s the moral ideal that’s important, just so long as the application is palatable to Emergent sensibilities). Biblical truth becomes uncertain because such developments are always transitory and never fully developed because of continual religious evolution.
PETER DRUCKER and THE CHRISTIAN LEADERSHIP NETWORK –
There was much that happened between the 19th and 20th centuries that likewise affected Christianity, the church and the prevailing view of the Bible, but something immediately previous to the Emergent Church movement that was its very own seedbed was something called the Christian Leadership Network (CLN) founded by Peter Drucker.
For excellent information on Drucker, The CLN and the Emergent Church Movement (ECM), I submit to you the book by Roger Oakland Faith Undone.
According to Roger Oakland, Peter Drucker and his associates were the steering force behind the Christian Leadership Network, forerunner to the ECM:
“Contrary to what many believe, the current emerging church movement was not initiated by a group of disillusioned young people. In reality, the movement was largely the inspiration of a successful business guru whose ideas on an emerging church were catapulted into existence by other successful businessmen, and thus it became the influential religious force it is today. Backed by multi-million dollar corporations and entities, its very core has been influenced dramatically by those with mystical affinities.”
“To understand the significance of Leadership Network’s role in the Emerging church, we need to look briefly at the structure and makeup of that organization, which began in 1984 by Bob Buford. At the time Buford was the owner of a successful cable television company in Texas. With the help of Harold Myra and Paul Robbins of Christianity Today, Buford introduced Leadership Network as a ‘resource broker’ to churches, hoping to help leaders of ‘innovative churches’ connect.”
In constructing this network, Buford consulted with Peter Drucker and eventually brought in the prominent voices of what is now the Emergent Church movement: Doug Pagitt, Brian McLaren, Chris Seay, Tony Jones, Dan Kimball, Andrew Jones and many, many others.
“Drucker was born in 1909 in Austria . . . and rose to a position of great respect for his contributions to management and business . . . he was greatly influenced by existential philosopher and mystic Soren Kierkengaard and referred to him as ‘a prophet’ and being so impressed with [him] he studied Danish in order to read Kierkengaard’s yet untranslated works.”
Drucker stated himself in his book Landmarks of Tomorrow (1957) in its introduction “This Post-Modern World:
At some unmarked point during the last twenty years we imperceptibly moved out of the Modern Age and into a new, as yet nameless era. Our view of the world [has] changed . . . There is a new spiritual center to human existence.”
“We thus live in an age of transition, an age of overlap, in which the old ‘modern’ of yesterday no longer acts effectively . . . while the new, the ‘post-modern’ . . . effectively controls our actions and impact.”
“We still need the great imaginer, the great creative thinker, the great innovator, of a new synthesis [Hegelian idea] of a new philosophy. This is a new view, different alike from the traditional.”
Roger Oakland observes: “Words like ‘purpose’, ‘emergence’, ‘new frontiers’, and ‘disciplines’ fill the pages of Landmarks of Tomorrow” and also states: “Drucker felt a strong bond not only with Kierkengaard but also with a pantheistic/mystic named Martin Buber (1878 – 1965) who embraced the teachings of Hasidism (Jewish mysticism). Buber believed that a ‘divine spark’ exists within every human and within everything in creation. He spoke of the relationship which ‘must exist between individuals and everything on the planet’ and has said of himself, ‘Since 1900 I had first been under the influence of German mysticism from Meister Eckhart [mystic]. . . then I had been under the influence of the later Kabalah [also Jewish mysticism] and Hasidism’.”
Drucker established the Leader to Leader Institute (1990) as “an interspiritual thought forum which to this day includes Buddhist sympathizers, globalists, evangelicals and New Age sympathizers.”
Both Drucker and Bob Buford were instrumental in bringing many so-called Christian leaders into the Christian Leadership Network, including Leif Anderson, pastor of Wooddale Church (where Doug Pagitt served as youth pastor):
“The only way to cope and be effective during this period of structural change in society is to change some of the ways we view our world and the church. It is what some call a paradigm shift – a new way of looking at something. Such a shift will allow us to view our chainging world with new perspective. It is like a map. Old maps from 1950 may have sufficed before the construction of interstate highways and the expansion of major cities, but new maps are needed now. Likewise, we need a paradigm shift for the future.”
Leif Anderson, A Church for the 21st Century (1992)
Others involved with the CLN are Erwin McManus, Leonard Sweet (futurist, professor of Evangelism at Drew University, New Age sympathizer and author of many books such as Soul Tsunami and Quantum Spirituality (here is a review of this book by Lighthouse Trails ministry)Brian McLaren and others.
MORE MYSTICS to MESMERIZE the ECM –
Another mystic that heavily influenced Drucker and as a result influenced CLN and EMC (in the form of contemplative spirituality) is Martin Buber; Roger Oakland states that “...mysticism is the very steam that drives the emerging church [and is] the real danger of the movement. Interestingly, today’s evangelical leaders often quote and refer to Buber (like Max Lucado in his book Care for the Common Life where he quotes Buber as saying “a divine spark lives in every being and thing.” The Way of Man, 1950). Also by Martin Buber:
Ecstatic Confessions: The Heart of Mysticism –
“There is no God apart from the world, nor a world apart from God . . . In the highest mystical ecstasy the Ego experiences that it has become God . . . Why not? . . . There ceases to be a difference between the world and myself, That I became God, why not?”
Emergent author and leader, Tony Jones (former Protestant youth pastor) fellow editor of the book to be examined, An Emergent Manifesto of Hope) wrote the book, The Sacred Way: Spiritual Practices for Everyday Life. He visited the Jesuit Communication Center in Dublin, Ireland and spent time at Taize, a contemplative ecumenical community in southern France:
“I voraciously read authors and books that they didn’t assign in seminary: St. John of the Cross, St. Theresa of Avila . . . I took a long hike in the Red Mountains of Utah with a shaman. . . Centering Prayer grew out of the reflections and writings of the Desert Fathers . . . The pray-er is encouraged to choose a simple monosyllabic word like “love” or “God”. Maybe it’s that there’s something mystical and mysterious about these ancient rites, like we’re tapping into some pre-technical, pre-industrial treasury of the Spirit.”
In an article entitled The Emergence of Mysticism in the Emergent Church Ron Rhodes encompasses the breadth and width of how mysticism is replete in the ECM and is invading the evangelical world like a destructive tsunami.
Also from the ministry of Amos 3:7, Richard Bennett, former Roman Catholic priest, now born again believer in Jesus Christ wrote an article: Can Mysticism Lead to God?
If you would like to read more about “contemplative prayer”, simply type this phrase in the search engine of The RED PILL Consortium for several articles on this subject.
The ROMAN CATHOLIC CONNECTION –
There are many that assert (Roger Oakland among them) that the Roman Catholic Church, via it’s Jesuitical Jesus Society is subtly leading Protestants and Evangelicals back into the fold of the Holy Mother Church (Roman Catholicism) by means of this movement (ECM) which they themselves initiated covertly.
Certainly there are a number of Christian leaders who are promoting Roman Catholic and ‘early church (desert) fathers and their dogma as something entirely compatible with fundamental, biblical Christianity. Among these is Robert Webber.
The affinity for such practices as candles, incense, bells, icons (statues for the purpose of veneration of various (Roman Catholic) saints), darkened sanctuaries, chants (as in Gregorian), making the sign of the Cross, etc. have found their ways into the ECM – but why incorporate such things unless the intent is to create an ecumenical unity with Rome? These ‘ancient-future’ ways as Robert Webber described them are heretical practices that those in the ECM view as ‘vintage Christianity/spirituality’ and are eagerly employed as a valuable means of achieving spirituality that has “been lost” for all these centuries and only recently re-discovered by seekers and leaders within the ECM.
The following article on The RED PILL Consortium deal with this:
Holy Ways or Heresies?
Roger Oakland’s own article regarding this subject and the connections between Rome and the ECM:
“While I do not plan to comment on the entirety of McLaren’s explanation of what the Emerging Church is, or is not, I will attempt to deal with one particular topic that few Emerging Church critics are exposing. This is the area dealing with what McLaren calls the “post-protestant-pro-catholic-contemplative-mystical” form of Christianity. It is this aspect of the Emerging Church that troubles me the most.
“To set the record straight, my introduction to the Emerging Church, followed the research I did for the book Another Jesus? The Eucharistic Christ and the New Evangelization. In the process of doing the research for this book, I became aware of the Roman Catholic “new evangelization program” to win the “separated brethren” back to the “Mother of All Churches.” When I saw the numerous experiential attractions being promoted by the Emerging Church (candles, icons, statues, prayer stations, incense, liturgy, the sacraments, particularly the Sacrament of the Eucharist) it became evident to me what was happening. Another road to Rome was being prepared. Few seemed to be aware. Some, who were aware, simply did not care.”
This connection has even extended to the Calvary Chapel movement and the likes it’s the founder’s son, Chuck Smith Jr. (Who has been removed from CC ministries, and yet there are other CC churches that seem to be gravitating towards a friendly, open approach and acceptance of the Roman Catholic Church; for example, this article from TRPC: Roman Catholic Infiltration).
I have submitted this information (in the above article) in email several time to the CC pastors mentioned, and to date I have never received a response from any of them, and William Boykin continues to speak from pulpits and platforms of CC ministries).
“For example, consider the following quote taken from [Chuck] Smith [Jr.’s] book, There Is a Season:
“The postmodern church will very likely see a revival of rituals ceremonies and sacraments. In their zeal to cut out anything superfluous from Christian faith, the Reformers streamlined the seven holy sacraments of Roman Catholicism and reduced them to just two: baptism and the Lord’s Supper… Postmodern Christians already are revisiting the discarded sacraments, and we have much to gain by looking again for the sacred, worshipful aspects of marriage, repentance and confirmation as a rite of passage. The non-rational element of rituals and ceremonies appeal to the postmodern soul.”
READY FOR ANALYSIS –
With all this said, laying a preliminary foundation for the examination and critical analysis of the beliefs, statements and directives by these twenty five contributing writers of the book, An Emergent Manifesto of Hope we will proceed in the following series of articles in the hopes that more light will be shed on this pervasive movement that is leading too many into apostasy and perdition.
One of the primary reasons for this series (when so much has already been written about the dangers of the ECM) is that this phenomenon has become so diverse and expansive; it’s not always recognizable when one is examining this neo-dogmatism and identify it as emergent.
Each of the twenty five writers present a different view of ‘what is emergent’ and by taking a look at these, our ability to ‘I.D.’ these ideologies within the overall ideology of the ECM will become relatively easier for us common people who love God and His Holy Word and are unwilling to compromise one iota of Holy Writ and desire to remain pure from any seductive entanglements that would steer us away from our First Love which is JESUS CHRIST, our LORD and SAVIOR!
See Also: Part 2, Part 3, Part 4