During your WCF class last Sabbath, someone asked you whether you considered the Emergent Church to be a true church? Could you briefly explain what the Emergent Church is?
First of all, we should realise that the “Emergent Church” is not really a church, but a movement, or a “conversation” as some of its participants might prefer to call it. It comprises mainly pastors, writers, and church members who share a common sentiment that we live in a postmodern era where in order to stay relevant, the church must emerge to meet the needs of the people by moving away from ‘cold hard doctrine’ and ‘institutional practices’ to a warmer, more subjective and flexible way of ‘doing church’ and expressing the faith.
That said, we must understand that the movement is not really monolithic, but is in fact quite diverse since there is a common aversion to anything objective amongst the proponents.
There are two main streams, which may be known as (1) The Emergent Church Movement; and (2) The Emerging Church Movement. Broadly, the Emergent Movement is more radical and seeks to reformulate theology in terms that are more acceptable to the so-called post-modern man. Proponents of the Emergent Movement would include Rob Bell, Tony Jones, and Doug Pagitt. The Emerging Movement, is not as radical, but seeks mainly to reformulate the way that Christians express their spirituality and “do church.” Proponents of the Emerging Church Movement include Mark Driscoll and Scot McKnight.
As a whole, the movement emphasises experience over knowledge. One of their common sayings is that “It matters not so much what you believe, but what you experience.” It tends to view the institutional church, and orthodox theology and ordinances with disdain; and would rather put a lot of emphasis on feelings, morality and human interactions. In this regard, it is essentially a reemergence of 16th century anabaptism together with their anti-establishment individualism, and their me-and-my-bible ideals and mysticism.
Is the Emergent or Emerging Church a true church? Well, in the first place, it is not a church. In the second place, it is not a positively consistent movement. And in the third place, it would be fair to say, I think, that much of what emerges out of the movement would have nothing in common with historic Protestant Theology, and can hardly be recognised as Christian, or as biblical by consistent, Bible-believing Christians. And it is not surprising that the movement has become a hotbed of heretical and liberal ideas just like the Anabaptists of the 16th century Reformation.
Will anything good come out of the movement? I personally doubt it. It appears to me rather that while trying to make the church relevant, the proponents of the movement have so maimed those parts they touch that they are destroying biblical Christianity in the lives of some who profess faith in Christ. Just as the children of Christian mystics often end up as liberals, it would be surprising if the children and students of those who hold to the emergent and emerging movement do not end up being liberals who have no part in the Kingdom of Christ. Let all who fear the Lord beware: