Tuesday, April 2, 2013
The following article is a critique on the chapter “The Existing Church/Emergent Church Matrix” written by Emergent Leader Tim Conder.
Tim Conder is the pastor of Emmaus Way, an emergent community in Durham, North Carolina and remains a standing elder and friend of the Chapel Hill Bible Church, a fellowship he co-pastored for fifteen years. Tim is a member of the coordinating team for Emergent Village, a member of the board of directors of Mars Hill Graduate School, and the author of The Journey of Existing Churches into Emerging Culture (Zondervan, 2006). He is married to Mimi and they have two children Keenan and Kendall.
As has been consistently demonstrated in all of the articles thus far presented, the Emergent philosophy is very ‘horizontal’ in its perspective. Think about the various ‘gospels’ that are promoted today: The Green Gospel, the Social/Social Justice Gospel, the Liberal Gospel, the New Age/Spirituality Gospel, the Dominionist/Kingdom Now/Latter Day Rain Gospel . . . one thing (among others) that they all have in common is that they are all very ‘horizontal’ that is, they deal to a very large degree in focusing on change among human beings rather than change in human beings. They emphasize relational alterations between people and people groups and desire to bring about change (especially where biblical Christianity and world view is concerned) via consensus, dialogue and finding ‘common ground’ through the production of ‘stories told’ that are in their mind inspired in much the same way as the ‘stories’ people told in biblical times (in case you didn’t catch that, this is how Emergent folk refer to the Bible, the Holy Word of God!).
Such gospels and perspectives have very little, nothing in fact, to do with the living God in accordance with Truth. We understand that any relationship with the LORD must be one of worship and we must worship Him in Spirit and in Truth (John 4:24). Yet there are many within the ranks of the Emergent Movement that have found a home in the midst of such a belief system, and are actually “blessed” to be a part of this!
Tim Conder comments: “I have been privileged – no, downright blessed – to be a leader in Emergent Village and its organizational forbears for now approaching a decade. Like many in this community, though, my passion and enthusiasm for its values had greatly predated some of the first national gatherings on ‘Generation X ministries’ and ‘the postmodern church’ that served as public unveilings for what would become the emerging church movement. I have watched this community experience so many metamorphoses – from being virtually unnoticed to struggling to manage the interest generated, from predominantly deconstructing traditional Christianity to have a seat at the table in many institutional expressions of Christianity, from being defined by its ideological differences and eccentricities to being identified by the creativity and impact of its communities. . .
“My dual citizenship (mainstream evangelical church and emergent church) has come with a few costs . . .”
EPHESIANS 2: 13 - 20
13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;
16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:
17 And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.
18 For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.
19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;
The citizenship that all true believers have obtained has been as a result of no cost of our own, but by “the blood of Christ” and it’s to the kingdom of God that we owe our allegiance, not to any ‘dual-citizenship’ between more traditional denominations, mainstream evangelistic and the more heretical body of the Emergent Church/Village that espouses an extremely liberal, humanistic bias of the Scriptures.
They are in fact “deconstructing traditional (read that, biblical) Christianity” and that is the point of the Emergent Church – they rightly perceive that the biblical Gospel of Jesus Christ is highly offensive (and supposedly “not relevant” or ineffective) in this postmodern culture that has flourished in the seed bed of the American Public School system.
Secular humanism is the norm there, and evolution is taught as science fact, planted in the fertile minds of our youth (To understand the parameters of this evil environment that is our public school system and the goals of those who have developed it, visit TTUF’s series on this subject by using the search engine and type “EDUCRATS” – three articles will appear for your perusal); so that the Emergent Church has begun to reap this corrupt harvest and as well as this, has made a new set of clothes for such an anti-Bible society, tailoring it with treacherous heresy and an outright denial of the fundamentals of the faith (the Deity of Christ, the atonement of Christ on the cross, the creation account, etc.).
“The gulf of interest and trust between the emerging church and the landscape of existing churches of all traditions seemed immense and insurmountable” stated Mr. Conder, and for good reason: the two groups have entirely different foundations! One is founded upon the Rock, the LORD Jesus Christ and His Word (Matt. 16: 16-18; John 8:31; 14:6); the other is founded upon “philosophy and vain deceit of men” (Col. 2:8).
Mr. Conder states further: “. . . the existing churches and the emerging church has given me a vision for the future matrix of relationships between existing churches and the emergent community and the missional possibilities for this potential friendship.”
Behold, the Hegelian Dialectic in action! This phenomena is used prodigiously among political, religious, economic and civil authorities and bodies; one takes a thesis, say biblical creationism and then an anti-thesis as ‘scientific’ (more like scientism really) evolution and then merge the two in a synthesis: theistic evolution.The same can be said for another Hegelian Dialectic that is becoming more popular these days: thesis – Christianity; anti-thesis – Islam; synthesis: Chrislam.
So this matrix that Mr. Conder envisions is yet another merging of these two (somewhat) opposing views of traditional churches (more or less compromised, apostasized, homogenized with heresy) and the emergent church (same thing but more blatant and lauded by people of other religions and religious leaders like the Dalai Lama) and merging these into the sinister synthesis of what the Bible declares as the Whore of Babylon.
REVELATION 17: 5-6
5 And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
6 And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.
Something we have probably all realized by now is that the Emergent Church heavily endorses something that has been brought about by Roman Catholic (“desert fathers”) that is now called contemplative prayer (spiritual formation), an exercise in the occult that belongs to the “mystery” or “esoteric” schools of many different societies throughout the ages. Thus the appellation of this “Mother of Harlots” that includes “Mystery” and “Babylon” is most telling.
This Emergent Church Movement will eventually bring about the formerly biblical churches to Rome and find union with the Roman Catholic Institution, which in itself is Babylon and will incorporate the world’s religions into a singular whole or ‘Babylon’; ready for the false Prophet to take the lead in bringing adoration to the Beast (Revelation 13: 8, 11-18).
There are times when one finds clarification about objectionable views and beliefs directly from the mouth of opponents to the Word of Truth and this is the case here with Mr. Conder:
“These missional possibilities have not always been apparent. The early relationship of the existing church and the church emerging in postmodernity can be characterized by a series of dramatic collisions. Just a partial list of these ecclesiological struggles would include sharp collisions in ethics, epistemologies (the nature and understanding of truth), theology, [the] gospel, mission[s], biblical interpretation, leadership, spiritual formation, and the nature of the Christian community.”
These collisions are apparent in any Hegelian Dialectic and certainly no less in today’s churches that are gravitating towards emergent beliefs and practices; the thing is, in an ordinary automobile collision, there are still two vehicles with certain levels of damage; yet in these sort of ecclesial collisions the biblically viable church is the one damaged and the emergent counterpart is the one that absorbs it into itself, creating a whole apostate system.
The gospel of the church of Jesus Christ is not at all the gospel of the emergent church; their method of epistemology is wholly counteractive of what this system of study is for the true church, which believes that truth is real, propositional, clearly recognizable and understandable and immutable in all eternity. The emergent church believes none of these things, or at least not within the biblically defined parameters.
Here is a chart that Mr. Conder has constructed that demonstrates this even further.
Mr. Conder relates a story that involves a “gifted volunteer” who was working for him in the days when Mr. Conder was a youth pastor. He struggled with the amount of attention given in sermons at the church on certain issues (eternal salvation and the lifestyle of those who embraced this salvation), while others were not dealt with at all: social issues like “. . . the environment, racism, poverty and other systemic injustices. . .”
Where in the Scriptures does it speak on the duties of the church having to do with the environment? Certainly we are to be good stewards of all that God has given to us, and this would obviously include our planet, and each of us must be responsible with how we use resources, proper disposal of trash, etc. However, corporately as the church, we are to “be about [our] Father’s business” which is the salvation of souls, the discipleship of saints, being salt and light in a corrupt society; this applies on an individual level as well – and this is also the allocation for personal conscience regarding how involved we should be concerning the environment.
Other issues like poverty – the church has long been the source of charity throughout history and even at such recent times and tragedies like Hurricane Katrina, it was the churches that stepped up and helped those in need when our own Federal (FEMA) government botched their seemingly half-hearted efforts.
It was the same thing during 9-11, and other devastations. There are scores of Christian charities that send multiple millions of dollars to the poor and needy the world over (both Anne Kisly and I are sponsors to help deprived children overseas and bring them aid spiritually, intellectually and physically.
What about racism? This is really a non-issue once a person comes to Christ and is spiritually transformed from sinner to saint, from child of darkness to child of light. I have personally known people who were horribly bigoted and hateful towards others because of skin color and, or religion – but once these came to Christ, such hateful beliefs and motivations were stripped away and there was genuine, Christ-like love for people that were once hated! Such is the miraculous, transformational power of Jesus Christ and His glorious gospel!
Yet the emergent church sees these as issues that need to be dealt with; and how would they go about dealing with these issues, through such carnal methods as education and social action?
These social problems can’t be solved directly or with lasting results and even if they could be – such would be a short lived victory that would end at death and without saving grace would send all unrepentant participants in ‘social action’ to an eternity in hell.
Mr. Conder stated of a colleague of his, one that shared more ‘traditional’ beliefs (I might presume by this he means biblical of the orthodox kind) that [his] real issue “is defined by doctrinal boundaries and a shared confession of primary beliefs. In his mind, the study and affirmation of doctrine catalyzes spiritual formation. Theological systems guide our theological inquires and biblical interpretation. Our doctrinal foundation shapes personal ethics and absolute propositions about truth.”
Such a statement obfuscates and degrades what the Bible says of itself, that this is the very Word of God and should be received as such by all Christians (1 Thess. 2:13) who recognize that Jesus Christ is the Word Incarnate, and that this Word inspired the writers of Scripture by the Spirit of God; it places the wisdom of this Holy Book down to a level of “theological systems” which guide interpretation, when in fact we must recognize that the Inspired Scripture alone, which is the very Word of God guides our interpretation.
Christians no matter what level of authority they may (or may not) possess has no authority to interpret Scripture as they see fit (2 Pet. 1: 19-21); we let the context of the entirety of Scripture to interpret the individual passages, or put in another way, we allow Scripture to interpret Scripture. I’ve often said when leading any Bible study, in encouraging the saints gathered there to engage in their own personal study, and when they do – they have the best set of commentaries possible when they examine any one book of the Bible; sixty five other books in fact to provide insight and commentary on the book they’ve decided to study, and those are the other (sixty five) books of the Bible!
This is not to say that “theological systems” are invalid, just the unbiblical ones are! We must never take any such system for granted, but as with any and all teachers who might provide such systems, we are duty bound to “search the Scriptures daily to see if these things be so” (Acts 17:11).
That is one of the trademarks of the Emergent Church; that while they may give lip service to the inspiration of Scripture and show some (usually) small level of respect for the Bible, their view of the Holy Word is almost always rather low; quite the opposite of God’s view of His own Word, which He exalts about even His most Holy Name (Psalm 138:2)!
“The existing church must find its way into the emerging culture to retain its missiological credibility or perhaps even to survive. The emerging church’s formation is delayed despite significant demand for its presence and passions, by the opposition of the established, existing church,” says Mr. Conder.
I can sense on a very subtle level a kind of threat (unintentional in all likelihood) thinly veiled in these words. There are many aspects of these statements that I take serious issue with:
1) The word “must” used for the existing church to find its way into emerging culture for starters; the church of Jesus Christ “must” not follow or obey or receive counsel from anyone or any “theological system” other than the LORD Jesus Christ and His written Word, for it is Christ Who is the Head of the church (Eph. 5:23; Col. 1:18) and her Redeemer (Gal. 3:13; 1 Peter 1:18). He paid for us with His own blood (Acts 20: 28) and therefore no one has even the slightest authority to dictate terms to her, particularly those whose counsel runs counter to the Word.
2) The church has never found credibility in the eyes of the world; her words were never heard by those who belong to this world system under Satan, just as our LORD told us. Only those who are “of God” will hear our words, but those who are not, will never hear us, but hate us (John 15: 18 – 25; 8: 46 – 48).
3) Mr. Conder talks about the church “surviv[ing]” and expresses concern that she might not unless she changes her “missiological” position. Not to worry Mr. Conder, the church of Jesus Christ was founded upon Himself, the Rock (Matt, 16:18) – and she will most certainly survive without any emergent assistance (rather flourish more properly without its corrupting influences! 1 Cor. 5: 6 - 8), even though the gates of hell would seek to prevail against her. There is no need of emergent wisdom when we have that superior wisdom that if sent to us who ask for it, from the LORD Himself (James 1:5, 14-18; see also 1 Cor. 2: 12-14; 3:18-20; 2 Cor. 1: 11-13; Eph. 1: 8, 17; Col. 1:9; 2: 2-4).
4) Mr. Conder observes that “the emerging church’s formation is delayed . . . by the opposition . . . of the church” and to this might I respond with a hearty “PRAISE THE LORD!” because if this is the case, then we can at least find some comfort that the church hasn’t lost all of her ‘saltiness’ (Matt. 5:13) in staving off the corruption of doctrinal “leaven” (Matt. 16: 6) that is permeating too many church fellowships!! The interesting thing about “leaven” or yeast as we call it, is that when mixing it, one cannot use water that is too hot or cold; too hot and the yeast will be destroyed. Too cold and it won’t activate, and yet if the water is warm, “lukewarm” one could say, then it flourishes and grows with incredible speed (Interesting also that salt is a substance that helps to arrest the growth of leaven)! Consider the words of the LORD Jesus Christ to the church of Laodicea:
REVELATION 3: 14-17
14 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;
15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
Needless to say that a compromised, lukewarm church that has left their first love is the fertile and quintessential breeding ground for apostasy!
5) Who is it that is demanding the “presence and passions” of the emerging church? For the most part, Postmodernists who disparage the idea of absolute truth, of the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture, of the Divine claims of Jesus Christ and His virgin birth and glorious resurrection; those who are concerned with the here and now to the exclusion of eternity.
A couple of articles from TTUF that the reader might consider in dealing with the claims of Jesus Christ and some of the issues disparaged by the ECM are as follows:
JESUS IS GOD
CHRIST's COURT - SOON IN SESSION
Those who are making such demands care more about social action than salvation, about reformation of the wrong kind of spirituality rather than repentance from sin as defined by the Law of God (and not political correctness); they care more about cleaning up the environment than cleansing themselves from evil works.
These are the sort that are demanding such a “presence and passion” from the emergent church, they who “earthly things” (Phil. 3:18-20). For myself, I much more prefer the presence and passion of the Holy Spirit and of the precious Word of the LORD Jesus Christ!
6) And as for “opposition” there is much to say! The fact that Mr. Conder recognizes that there is an opposition between the Emergent Church Movement and the established evangelical church reveals the truth of the matter; simply that there is something substantial and significant to oppose!
Those who love the Word of God, the very Word of Truth, who understand that there is an objective and absolute Truth to know, believe and obey will never seek to compromise or mediate the Truth.
Jesus Christ said of Himself that He is the ROCK, the ROCK of the church; in passages in the Old Testament, such words as “the Rock of our salvation” recur with regularity (Deut. 32:15; 2 Sam. 22: 3, 47; Psalm 18: 2, 46; Psalm 62: 7; Isaiah 17: 10 and others).
The Scripture also states in the Old Testament that if an altar is to be built of rock, it must be unhewn rock (in other words used ‘as is’ without any embellishments) and if any would use a carving tool to shape it into something other than it already is, that rock is invalid for use in worship (Exodus 20:25).
Now in the New Testament, we worship as the altar of Christ, represented in the worship of the saints, but we cannot ‘alter this altar’ by seeking to change the image of Jesus Christ as given us in the Scriptures. Any who seek to bring “another Jesus” (2 Cor. 11: 3-4) by altering Who Jesus is, what His Word means, what His mission was, is and will be – if we do this, we pollute who Jesus is and such a Jesus, an ‘altered’ rock is invalid!
And we the saints of God will always and ever oppose those who seek to change JESUS the ROCK of our SALVATION and HIS LIVING WORD sent to us His church!
On the one hand Mr. Conder finds the state of the church deplorable which seeks to increase membership by raffling off cars and motorcycles and creates competitive methods to stir up existing members to seek out prospective ones. On the heels of this protest he states:
”The notion of a pure gospel unaffected by culture blinds us to circumstances where consumerism or competition with other fellowships have driven ministry decisions, occasions when wealth or physical beauty have been unspoken criteria for leadership positions or even the tragic situations when institutional forms of prejudice or racism have gone undetected. We’re all guilty on some level!”
Certainly that is true to some extent, at least perhaps where church function is concerned; there are those who ask “Where is the position of a ‘senior pastor’ mentioned in Scripture? Or “Sunday School” or “Youth Group”? The simple answer is that there isn’t any to be found; that these are Western derivations found in the church. Does this mean that the LORD can’t use such functions and positions? No, I don’t believe that this is the case, however we must be careful in understanding what is explicitly found in Scripture for the direction the church is to follow and what is not found, and where it is not found, we must weigh soberly its ramifications.
As for a “pure gospel” unaffected by culture, it has been my personal experience having gone abroad and ministering the Gospel to Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and New Agers alike, that this message is universally applicable and needed no such alterations, nor was it in itself altered in order to accommodate these different cultures. The Gospel message is a ‘one size fits all’ as far as its presentation is concerned – and that would also include the ‘Generation X’ and Postmodern populace! As stated previously, the only reason why Emergents want to change the Gospel, and the very heart of the church of Jesus Christ is out of a misguided belief that in order to affect this generation we must reach them where they are at. The problem with that is that the present generation along with these groups just mentioned have been inundated with public school indoctrination and most especially evolution; along with this, a steady diet of humanism, values clarification and situational ethics, being taught that truth is relative and personally subjective according to the individual.
We cannot suit this generation by tailoring the Gospel in order to fit their views! What must change is NOT the GOSPEL and the collective Scripture of the WORD of GOD nor our view of it as the church! What must change is the heart of this generation in a spirit of meekness and repentance; we as the church must expose the LIES of evolution (I prefer the spelling ‘evilution’ myself), and relative truth, and the amoral ethics that have permeated our society.
NOTHING BUT THE PURE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST CAN AND WILL DO THIS! In order to bring this pure Gospel, unaffected by our culture, we must simply remain faithful to what the Word of God dictates in the parameters of the Good News of Jesus Christ!
We cannot afford to ‘dialogue’ away the Gospel by meeting and associating with other groups that are opposed to the Gospel, nor can we establish a consensus to compromise this Word of God.
“In a climate of theological openness, emergent passions would certainly have greater credibility because of the sheer volumes of persons who share them,” states Mr. Conder. So there can be credibility by popularity, even if those “sheer volumes of persons” are wrong as the Scriptures prove true? This is the very stuff of Laodicea, where the “rule of the people” dictates ecclesial policy instead of the Head of the Church, Jesus Christ and such can never have any credibility in the eyes of God – nor in ours who love Jesus Christ and His Truth.
So ends this final section of this treatment of this book An Emergent Manifesto of Hope; of course there is a lot more said in this book than what I have examined in these five parts, but the essential spirit of the ECM has been exposed sufficiently so that the biblical reader will understand the basic framework in which this movement operates.
I believe, as does Anne Kisly, co-writer of TTUF, that this Emergent Church Movement is a tool used by Satan to amalgamate and blend what was the faithful evangelical church into an apostate body that will itself merge with the Roman Catholic Church (which is absorbing Protestant denominations in increasing degrees - and form what we know the Scriptures refer to as a one world religion (See Revelation chapters 17 and 18).
Now that there is a Pope who is of the Jesuit discipline, we can only expect this process to be expedited in these last days before the return of the LORD JESUS CHRIST. He has already sought for a greater presence in Israel for Roman Catholicism.
It is the expressed and heartfelt prayer and hope of TTUF that those who are born of God’s Spirit, and who love and follow His Word will remain vigilant and prayerfully determined to stand against any and all emergent and apostate philosophies and directives. Faithful no matter what the cost; even if we must stand against the authorities in our churches (meekly, not arrogantly), even if we lose friends and allies, even if we are labeled as “unloving and divisive and judgmental”, even if it means our persecution or (perhaps eventually) the forfeiting of our lives!
Our lives are the LORD’s any way, to do with what He desires, so let us hold fast to the Word of Truth at any and all costs! AMEN!
Posted by James J. Fire at 11:51 PM