"We see, in many a land, the proudest dynasties and tyrannies still crushing, with their mountain weight, every free motion of the Consciences and hearts of men. We see, on the other hand, the truest heroism for the right and the greatest devotion to the Truth in hearts that God has touched. We have a work to do, as great as our forefathers and, perhaps, far greater. The enemies of Truth are more numerous and subtle than ever and the needs of the Church are greater than at any preceding time. If we are not debtors to the present, then men were never debtors to their age and their time. Brethren, we are debtors to the hour in which we live. Oh, that we might stamp it with Truth and that God might help us to impress upon its wings some proof that it has not flown by neglected and unheeded." -- C.H. Spurgeon . . . "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:31, 32

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Monday, February 11, 2013

EMERGENT is REGURGITANT – Part Three:



By James Fire 

Scanning Mark Sandrette and his article, “Growing Pains”

1 Corinthians 2: 12-14  
12Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.
 13Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

 14But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

As mentioned previously, proponents of the ECM seek to dialogue and communicate with others within this movement (and with those of all the world religions) and by mutual consensus, it would seem, seek to discover spiritual wisdom in their ‘horizontal relationship’ rather than seeking that wisdom which is from God above (James 3: 14-18).

We know as biblical Christians what the source of ‘worldly wisdom’ is, and no doubt this source is integral to the very spirit of the Emergent Church Movement.

TAKING EMERGENT AUTHORS ONE BY ONE –

The first contributing writer we will look at is Mark Scandrette, who is a:

“…spiritual teacher, and executive director and co-founder of ReIMAGINE, a center for spiritual formation [contemplative spirituality and prayer] in San Francisco. ReIMAGINE sponsors city-based learning experiences, peer learning groups and The Jesus Dojo – a year long intensive formation process inspired [supposedly] by the life and teachings of Jesus. Mark is also a founding member of SEVEN, a monastic community working as teachers and advocates for holistic and integrative Christian spirituality. He is an Emergent Village Coordinating Group participant, having served on the planning team for the Emergent conventions and the annual Emergent Gathering. A dilettante poet and chef, Scandrette lives with his wife, Lisa and their three children in an old Victorian in San Francisco’s Mission District.”

Mr. Scandrette explains the emergent church as follows:

“It’s unfortunate and yet inevitable that words used to describe a phenomenon have so quickly become a label and brand name. Some of us chafe under the loss of independence and ‘street cred’, which results from becoming identified with a particular group – what some have called a ‘movement’. Others among us clamber to be included and huddle under the banner of what is perceived to be the hip new thing. For many of us the discovery that we are not alone, and the solidarity we find in the shelter of each other, has been life-giving and at times lifesaving.”

Remarkable, to say the least! Here we see once again, this craving for ‘horizontal relevance’ rather than ‘vertical veracity’, that is, seeking for a truth and spirituality and of the “solidarity in . . . the shelter of each other” among themselves rather than integrity (and solidarity!) in accord with God and His Word, His Spirit, His already established church of true believers, born again and indwelt of the Holy Spirit Who alone is “life-giving and at [all] times, lifesaving”. This is not some “hip new thing” but is the foundational history and spiritual reality of the church for the past two thousand years, and there is nothing that can improve on God’s creation since Pentecost, the body of Christ! The LORD Jesus Christ (not merely ‘Jesus’ as most EMC folk refer to Him as) is the only Way by which the church is born, lives, and is directed, motivated, influenced and practices the faith. Yet according to Scandrette, “The increasing visibility, perceived credibility, and for some, scandal, of the emerging church are threats to the spirit of what we mean by emerge – the primal humility, vulnerability, and passion of a search for a way with God together in the world we live in (emphasis mine).”

“The emerging church is a place where people have felt the freedom to explore questions and experiment with new forms of lifestyle and corporate practice. Often the questions have been about the essence of the Christ-message, vocation, the nature and form of the church, cultural and philosophical analysis, and the present agenda of God in the world.”

1 Timothy 6:3-5
If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness;

He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings,
Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.

What are these questions that need exploring that we already don’t have the answers to in the Scriptures? What experimentation is required in order to achieve a lifestyle that is pleasing to our LORD? What new forms of corporate practice (assuming what is meant here is the church) need to be incorporated into what’s known as ‘church government’ as outlined in the doctrine of God’s Most Holy Word?
The Christ-message”?? The message of Christ is explicitly the Gospel, as well as that which is the canon of the entirety of Scripture (John 5:38-40); and these Emergent folk feel a need to pose questions about the Gospel, the church and utilize a “philosophical analysis” – based upon what philosophical basis? Philosophy is the “love of wisdom” but which wisdom is being employed here – God’s or the worlds which comprise of the writings of mere humans and their finite intellect and shall we say non-corporeal influences? What can they possibly shed on the eternal wisdom as granted to us freely by God in the pages of His Inspired, Inerrant, and Infallible Word?
…the present agenda of God in the world”? This suggests that His present agenda is in some form or manner different than the agenda He established for the church (Mark 16:15; Matt. 28: 19-20) at its inception, two thousand years ago? If this is the case, we haven’t heard anything from God on the matter, and there is not a single mention of any change in all the pages of the Holy Bible (which would no doubt have been documented in the prophetic portion, i.e. “a day in which a ‘new word’ would go forth to all the world.” Scripture is abundantly silent in such a regard!

“…doting about questions” from the reference in 1 Timothy is extremely interesting to this point: The word ‘doting’ is from the Greek word noseo, meaning “to be ill, to be ailing, whether in body or mind, hence to be taken with such a morbid interest in a thing as is tantamount to a disease, to dote, to be foolish, to be unsound.” Something Emergent authors have said themselves regarding their movement, “the questions are more important than the answers.” However, questions do not generate truth, they are the mere vehicle by which truth may be obtained if one inquires from a true source, but in themselves, they can never provide truth, which again in reference to the verse in 1 Timothy: “…perverse disputings…corrupt minds…destitute of the truth…” as well as the following passage:

2 Timothy 3: 7
Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth
.


Without objective, propositional truth one does not have any means of discerning truth from error; only subjective, emotional, sensual experiences with all their various sensations and effects, any one of which is perceived as just as valid as any others. This can only lead to mayhem and chaos and confusion – “a beautiful mess” as the editors of An Emergent Manifesto said. The LORD is not the author of confusion (1 Cor. 14: 33) nor of the evil works that are produced by such (James 3: 15-17). Without the given parameters and protection of Scriptures that define what is acceptable to the LORD and what is not, one is left to one’s own blind peril before a spiritual enemy quite able and willing to deceive (Interesting note: Most Emergent leaders rarely if at all mention the person of Satan as an actual being).

Mr. Scandrette speaks of younger entrepreneurial leaders and seekers who in generative friendship developed this movement and is “an improvised support system desperate for connections with others experimenting with new ideas about faith and community.

The one connection that humanity should be desperate for is to the True Vine (John 15), the LORD Jesus Christ; for in Him is life and that more abundant. Any who are outside of Christ are spiritually dead and without hope or redemption; experimentation with faith, incorporating “new ideas” is not just unwarranted, it is reprehensible, as it is highly suggestive that ‘faith is mutable and rightly so’, in order to suit the changing needs of an ever evolving humanity. Such couldn’t be further from the (literal) truth:

Titus 1:1-3
Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness;

In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;
But hath in due times manifested his word through preaching, which is committed unto me according to the commandment of God our Saviour;

The faith of God’s elect is directed to the “acknowledging of the truth” which is associated with godliness, and “in due time manifested His Word” of Truth, but there is no need whatsoever for “experimentation” with biblical faith. What’s wrong after all, with the old, biblically defined ‘idea’ of faith?

“If nothing else,” Scandrette says, “we find ourselves in a time when old categories and traditional boundaries are breaking down and new connections are being made. I think of the fifty eight year old suburban bricklayer I met for lunch last year who ventured into the city to talk about the stirrings of his heart and his search for a way of life with Jesus beyond the dogmas of his conservative church tradition…”

Note again, the phrase is almost always, “the way of Jesus” or “a way of life with Jesus” – never in all of the pages of this book is the LORD Jesus Christ described as Himself being “the Way”. 

Also, I am compelled to ask where did Scandrette lead this bricklayer (if anywhere) “beyond the dogmas of his conservative church tradition” if those “traditional boundaries” are the Scriptures themselves and the truth that they reveal? Man made traditions are, of course dispensable; biblical boundaries are non-negotiable! What right does anyone who claims to be a Christian have in leading themselves, others and, or the church at large “beyond” what the Word of God declares, when the Holy Scriptures ought to be (and are!) sufficient for all of our needs (2 Peter 1: 1-3)?! More than this, leading beyond what the Scriptures provide for “…life and godliness through the knowledge of Him…” will bring one into spiritual error because the Bible itself is the exclusive ‘truth-source’ in this world. Everything else in reality is a lie to one degree or another.

A very wise and elder pastor friend of mine on Facebook reminded me that the foundation for any building will determine the size and shape of that building. Just so, the foundation, the Rock of the church is the LORD Jesus Christ – He determines the size and the ‘shape’ of the church. To go beyond the Head of the church, the Word Incarnate is to allow the size and ‘shape’ of the church to mutate and get much larger (and strange) than it should be, thus we have such parables as the mustard seed that mutates beyond being a mere bush, into a tree such that the fowls of the air (demonic spirits!) can lodge comfortably in its branches, or leaven (yeast; a biblical type for sin) in a lump of dough that leavens the entire lump (Mark 4:31-33; Matt. 13:32-34).

Scandrette throughout his article turns to the reader and implores them to break out of traditional boundaries and belief systems and to ‘emerge for themselves’ because no one can do this for them:

“You should not think that the ‘real’ emergence is happening elsewhere. You are invited to embrace your own celebrity – recognizing the importance of your own journey over simply being a fan of others – and cultivate a local culture of faith-seeking. To address spectator tendencies, I give this unsolicited advice: no one can emerge for you: Make your own life. Host your own emergence. Stop reading so many books [like this one maybe?] and blogs [ok, so no more TTUF?]. Start your own conversations, and be a caring friend. The most important conversations happen between people who have the potential to live out their story together.”

This is quite frankly an ego-centric, humanistic celebration of self, in the service of self, for the happiness of self versus the biblical mandate of death of self via the cross of Christ and living out Christ’s life (not my own) in me (Gal. 2:20).

Paris Reidhead’s well known sermon, Ten Shekels and a Shirt addresses this quite eloquently. http://www.ellerslie.com/BHT-The_Glory_of_God.html. The complete sermon can be heard here: http://www.sermonaudio.com/playpopup.asp?SID=10180222445

There is a sliver of truth in Scandrette’s statement though; for too long Christians have made church meetings and the life of the believer into a ‘spectator sport’ sitting in the stands – actually the pews – and watching the ‘professionals’ do it, and expectantly so. It’s the pastor’s job to study the Bible (wrong!), it’s the pastor’s job to do all the teaching (wrong!), it’s the pastor’s job to do all the evangelizing (wrong!), it’s the pastor’s job to exhort the brethren (wrong!), etc. Any pastor of any church is only one member of the entire body of Christ and not the entire body. The LORD desires to use all of us in the work of His kingdom, but churches today, if seen as actual bodies are suffering from a kind of quadriplegic state, mostly paralyzed in any practical life by the power of Jesus Christ. What can be done to remedy this situation? As I’ve often said before, “Prayerlessness brings paralysis to the body of Christ.”
We must begin with prayer: prayer of repentance, prayer of seeking out God, of His divine direction in seeking and studying the Word of God for ourselves (rather than depending on Sunday morning and week day night services, recorded teachings, and Internet and podcasts alone).

The laziness in most churches, the downright apathy seen in them is what has turned off (at least in part) some of the youth of this generation who actually want to participate in the functioning of the body. It’s horribly unfortunate that they have left these churches only to seek out and join other groups that are Emergent and unbiblical.

“The most important conversations happen between people who have the potential to live out their story together (and being “friends”)”?

No one is disparaging the value of friendship, and conversations that cultivate such, but what has this to do with spiritual reality? I can develop a conversation and friendship with an atheist – how is that spiritual? Even friendship cultivated between an actual born again believer in Christ Jesus and a religious person will ultimately end at death whereupon the Christian will be transported to heaven, and the religious person to hell. What then is the eternal value of this “potential to live out their story together”?!

Scandrette quotes one Evan Howard, author and ‘spiritual director’ as saying:

“Spiritual conversion, rather than being a singular event [as the LORD Jesus taught us in John 3:3-5?] is more accurately described as a series of distinctive epiphanies (for example, a conversion to the role of the Spirit, a conversion to social justice*, a conversion to contemplative practices** and so on)… These progressive awakenings can sometimes create a sense of grief and regret. . .”

* - A euphemism for socialism, as is the term “progressive”
** - An Occult meditative practice.

This is the sort of encouragement Scandrette is giving to his readers? For those who would have Jesus to embrace socialism (there are many Socialists who claim that Jesus Himself was a Socialist!) and occult techniques for contacting spiritual, read that demonic, entities?!

Here is one thing that Scandrette says that I whole heartedly agree with (and please take note that there are some rather uncommon acceptations on my part to some of the statements that these Emergent writers make. As mentioned before, they sometimes can accurately assess the problems within evangelical Christianity, but their solutions are completely unacceptable because they are quite simply unbiblical):

“Our constructions of faith and practice are dismantled and, at times, destroyed so that we can approximate a more coherent and integrative orthopraxis – good theology and good living.”

Would to God that people now belonging to emergent groups would allow their ‘faith’ in such things as this movement itself endorses and any practice of such things would be dismantled and replaced with a more proper orthopraxis as found within the confines of Scripture.
There are some that have told me that my spiritual viewpoint is far too narrow; that I need to have a more open mind in regards to Emergent teachings and philosophies. My answer to them is invariably, “Oh, I have a very open mind… it’s as wide as the width of my open Bible, but it goes no further!”

In no way, under any circumstances or biblical mandate is the church ever encouraged or directed to engage in “. . . the present availability of the kingdom of God [as] in terms of God’s agenda to remake and restore all of creation, ‘good news’ is something that is as much inhabited as it is believed” as Scandrette suggests.

The restoration of creation – i.e. this fallen world with its decaying earth and deteriorating animal kingdom falls under the direct intervention of Christ the King when He comes to this world as its rightful Ruler and then shall “the wilderness shall blossom as a rose” during this 1000 (Millennial) Reign (Isaiah 35:1-2).

Rom. 8: 18-25 18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
19 For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.
20 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,
21 Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.
23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
24 For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?
25 But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.

“In many quarters there is a quest to recover a more primitive understanding of the life and teachings of Jesus and wrestle with how to live according to his teaching in a contemporary society. Jesus is taken seriously both as Savior and Teacher [but not LORD?!] for life,” says Scandrette. He continues: “Perhaps interest in theologies of the kingdom of God is related to the contemporary quest for holism, integration, and a sense of interconnection. My colleague, Dr. Linda Berquist, has suggested that renewed popularity of the ‘kingdom’ language is related to the emerging global narrative of the deep ecology movement – a consciousness and awareness that everything matters and is somehow interdependent.”

There is enough here to comment on, that I could take the remainder of this article just to address each point!

This quest is a waste of time; any understanding of the Scriptures and the life and teachings of Jesus requires no quest or ‘primitive understanding’. It only requires the Holy Spirit indwelling the believer Who will guide us into all truth (John 16:13; 1 Cor. 3:16). No such wrestling is required either, merely obedience to the will of God, regardless of what contemporary society may dictate or find acceptable.
It’s been said before that IF JESUS ISN’T LORD OF ALL (our lives) THEN HE’S NOT LORD AT ALL! I agree with that sentiment.

Yet I categorically disagree with this notion that “kingdom language” can be equated with any kind of ecology movement.

As Christians we realize that we are indeed stewards over all that the LORD has given us, including this planet. Each of us must do our part as responsible stewards in protecting the environment and being conscientious in conserving energy, recycling, picking up litter, and generally being ‘tidy’. However, we also know that such endeavors are incredibly short term as solutions for our planet, because one day this old world will pass away and God will create – note that: GOD will create a new heavens and a new earth (2 Peter 3:10-13). Does He require any assistance from us or asked us for aid in establishing His kingdom? None whatsoever, because He will inaugurate the kingdom Himself upon His arrival (Dan. 2: 34, 44; Rev. 19:11-21:7); we are only called upon by the LORD to invite others to become citizens of the kingdom by being born into it via Jesus Christ (John 3:3-5).

Of course those of the Emergent movement think very little of prophecy, and consider it little more than Hebrew poetry and allegorical symbols; they place a far greater emphasis on rolling up their sleeves and making the kingdom of God here on Earth with their own blood and sweat and tears.

However the King Himself shed His blood and tears in the Garden of Gethsemane and later at the cross, paving the Way of the Kingdom road with His own blood to the Father.

Finally, we have time for just one more quote and rebuttal (though Mr. Scandrette’s article goes on for another four more pages):

“We live in a time when many people are waking up to the realization that the work and message of Jesus are about the future and the present, and represent the potential for significant healing in every dimension of life. We are recovering from a legacy in which religious experience and devotion have been significantly separated from the domain of every day life. Often our legacy habits perpetuate a limited view of what is spiritual so there is a need for new practices and perspectives. Embracing the reality of the kingdom means that everything matters and that all life is sacred. Spiritual leaders are being challenged not only to articulate a message of ideas well, but also to live, providing a compelling example to those who follow them.

“Many participants in emerging conversations long for a sense of greater integration between belief and practice, local and global, inward and outward, the individual and a sense of place within a local community and culture…”

While it certainly is true that many churches and large segments of (if not entire) denominations have made the Bible academic; seminary and Bible students are entirely orthodox, but with no spiritual life in them (thus the term dead orthodoxy’) and for all their religious learning, it doesn’t make an impact in their lives or in their world.
This is a complaint of the Emergent Church regarding evangelical Christianity, and I am hard pressed to disagree in many (certainly not all) instances; Christianity was never intended by its Founder, Jesus Christ to be so spiritually minded that its of little or no earthly value. Of course spiritual matters are never to be eclipsed by physical wants or even needs, or ecological or philosophical, political and social issues. We must seek first the kingdom of God and all these other things that we have need of, our Father promised to provide for us.

This is indeed a “limited view” of spirituality, because we observe and comply with what the LORD Jesus tells us is spiritual, and godly and holy (Titus 2;11-13; Rom. 8:5-7; Col. 1:9; Rom. 1:4 and 6:19) – and not some ecumenical sense of spirituality. Yet, as far as “a need for new practices and perspectives” there really is no such need; only a return to “the old paths” (Jere. 6:16) of biblical sufficiency both in the Word of Truth and in the Spirit of Life, working in conjunction in the life of the believer so that Jesus is revealed through us and glorified (2 Cor. 3:3-4; 4:6-7, 10-11; 1 Thess. 5:23; 1 Peter 4:14).

“Embracing the reality of the kingdom” therefore doesn’t mean “that everything matters” but rather represents the requirement (but also the JOY!) of seeking, hearing and obeying God’s Word and it’s resultant blessing in our lives, if only in bringing praise, honor and glory to our Beloved LORD Jesus Christ!

Here ends the first treatment of these articles found in the book An Emergent Manifesto. We will continue with further treatments of some of the other contributing writers soon! In the mean time, may the LORD bless you abundantly as you rest in the Gospel in all its simplicity and saving grace!

See Also: Part 1 , Part 2 , Part 4

 

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