Book Review: “Reformation Women” by Rebecca VanDoodewaard

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A large majority of the most famous Protestant reformers are, indeed, men. There are many reasons for this, but it would likewise be a mistake to think that the Protestant Reformation was a movement instigated and propagated solely by men. Rebecca VanDoodewaard’s Reformation Women: Sixteenth-Century Figures Who Shaped Christianity’s Rebirth takes on the task of better understanding the role of women in the Reformation. While numerous women could possibly be selected, VanDoodewaard narrows down her research to twelve in particular. Some were fairly well-known, but others were virtually unheard of (to me, at least). At about 115 pages, this was a remarkably quick read. I finished more than half of it during down time on a weeklong missions trip, so it’s certainly not an intimidating size. For those interested in learning about women of the Reformation, who likewise want to be exhorted to Christian godliness, will find this concise book to be delightful.

By far, my favorite chapter was number one, which covered the life of Anna Reinhard. It is refreshing to hear of the personal details of what life was like for Anna and family in sixteenth century Switzerland, as the entire family pressed on to win people over to the Reformation. Many of VanDoodewaard’s citations are drawn from primary sources, though occasional secondary texts are referred to or quoted. VanDoodewaard makes it manifestly clear in her introductory remarks that she is not trying to follow the patterns of modern feminist historians, though she argues there is some good to be found in this recent historiographical movement. One thing that is probably most necessary to know from a historiographical perspective is the underlying motivation that VanDoodewaard seems to have in Reformation Women, namely, that this book is not merely to revise historiographical viewpoints of how women lived during the Reformation (in fact, that generally was not the case). And for that, professional historians might be a little disappointed. More so, this book could be lumped together in the “Christian Living” genre, since a great deal of emphasis is placed on finding these women  to be inspiring role models for Christian women today, and men as well. Furthermore, it is especially geared towards women in the “Reformed” theological camp. That is not to say that non-Reformed readers will find this book valueless, but there are noticeable criticisms of Catholics and Anabaptists that just did not seem to be as equally represented among those in the Reformed traditions. Overall, though, there is much to gain from reading Reformation Women, both for historical enrichment and spiritual encouragement.

***Disclaimer: Special thanks to Cross Focused Reviews for providing a free review copy. All opinions were my own.***

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History of Colonial Baptist Church (PowerPoint Presentation)

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Click Here to Download PowerPoint

Recently, I had the privilege of teaching a small Sunday school class at my church in Blue Ridge, Virginia. As the picture above denotes, I’m a member of Colonial Baptist Church, an independent Baptist congregation that has existed autonomously for several decades, though its origins lead back to the early 1800s. The topic I spoke on for a few months was “Church History,” beginning with the Early Church and concluding with an overview of North American church history, and even Colonial Baptist itself. To see the PowerPoint slides I used, click on the link above. Unfortunately, this PowerPoint only captures part of what I spoke on in class, but hopefully this will peak the interest of those familiar with this church.

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Book Review: “Ulrich Zwingli” by William Boekestein

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The names “Calvin” and “Luther” are surely familiar to anyone who has studied at least a little bit of church history. They were the major figures of what is now called the Protestant Reformation. However, there is more to the Reformation than Calvin and Luther. One such figure who has been overshadowed, yet is tremendously important, is Ulrich Zwingli of Switzerland. Now, for those who have taken a survey course on church history, or have studied a small portion of church history, Ulrich Zwingli is probably at least a little familiar. For me, personally, I have read a decent amount of material pertaining to Zwingli, but mostly from the perspective of observing what he did to and for the Anabaptists of Switzerland. When I was introduced to the opportunity of reading a full biography on Zwingli (“bitesized”), I was thrilled! And for good reason, Boekestein’s book is excellent.

This biography is composed of about 150 pages of text, and the pages are small, making this a brief introduction to Zwingli’s life. However, even with its small size, it packs a significant punch. The main stages of his life are covered, from his early life, to being a priest, to his clashes with the Catholic Church, to his disputes with the Anabaptists and Luther, and finally to his death and lasting influence. Boekestein’s approach is both sympathetic and evaluative, offering words of praise when such is due, and providing critical comments likewise. It was simple enough for a younger reader to understand, and not overbearing for even the busy adult. While other biographies about Zwingli exist, and would potentially add more detail, I think this is the perfect book for someone who is interested in Zwingli, who may not pursue being a Zwinglian scholar. I would highly recommend William Boekestein’s biography!

**All opinions were my own, much thanks to Cross Focused Reviews for providing a review copy.**

Justin Martyr (Early Church Mini-Bio Series)

 photo credit: http://cs.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patristika

Series Intro: Jesus said that He will build His church, but does anyone care as to “how” He has done so? In an effort to help myself and online readers better understand the “Early Church,” I will be sharing brief research done in coordination with my graduate school work (as well as personal enrichment) on 10 important men and women in Christian history: Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Perpetua, Felicity, Tertullian, Irenaeus, Origen, and Athanasius. Join me in traveling back in time almost two millennia to encounter some of the most intriguing people you will ever meet, Christians who have left an indelible mark on church history.

– Justin Martyr –

We ended up in Asia Minor last post, hearing from both Polycarp himself as well as his followers. As shown, Polycarp died the martyr’s death for his religious exclusivism – his one and only “Lord” was Christ Jesus, not the emperor, not anyone else. In the second century, history tells us that just about 10 years after the martyrdom of Polycarp, another very important Christian was killed for the faith: Justin Martyr. He, of course, did not have a last name of “Martyr,” but was the recipient of such an honorary title later on.

Justin was born in approximately A.D. 100. To put this in perspective, the entire New Testament canon had just been completed less than a decade prior to his birth. He called the Roman city, Flavia Neapolis, his hometown which was formerly known as “Shechem” and is now “Nablus.” He was not born with the blessing of Christian parents, though they certainly sought to provide their son with rather impressive educational opportunities. His later letters portray a man with a deep grasp on popular philosophies of his day. In reading his extant writings, it is rather challenging if you do not have a strong background of knowledge in pagan religion. Indeed, these teachings were once part of his worldview. He delved into the teachings of Stoicism, Pythagoreanism, and then Platonism. To Justin’s dismay, however, none of these philosophies could truly satisfy his intellectual and spiritual needs. Finally, through the reading of how the Hebrew Scriptures anticipated a Messiah, and how Jesus Christ fulfilled the prophecies, Justin converted to Christianity.

There is a good reason why Justin earned the last-half of his name, Martyr. He certainly was not shy about his Christian faith, writing to both religious skeptics and governmental rulers. In my opinion, his “First Apology” is probably his best extant writing on explaining the Christian faith. What we find is that Justin confronts the emperor of Rome, trying to explain that it is unjust for Christians to be persecuted for their faith. Some have misinterpreted Justin to try to say that he teaches pluralism (specifically, that paganism is no different from Christianity). James White has a terrific video about that issue here. Suffice it to say that Justin Martyr was not teaching pluralism; rather, he was explaining that there is no just reason to martyr Christians when there are “general” similarities with pagans over certain doctrines, though in actuality, paganism is truly just demonic, according to Christianity. So, the specifics and foundational truths are immensely distinct, but there are general ideas that are similar. Why, then, should Christians be killed, especially when they are doing so much good for society? Well as it turned out, Justin himself, who argued for the legalization of Christianity and the freedom of worship, was indeed martyred in approximately A.D. 165.

What can we learn from Justin Martyr? We must be wise about “loving wisdom.” I would say that his Christology is a little too philosophical. In fact, he calls Christianity the “True Philosophy.” Perhaps one can argue that he was simply engaging his context, which was quite pagan. But nevertheless, this is a helpful reminder that Christian doctrine must draw out truth from the Bible and test the propositions of other worldviews by the Scriptures as well. Also, I think that studying Justin Martyr should remind people who live in a country of religious freedom to be extremely thankful. Likewise, those who live under a state of religious persecution should pray for their country to one day allow freedom (see also 1 Timothy 2:1-6). Allow me to end with this quote from this early church father:

“And when you hear that we look for a kingdom, you suppose, without making any inquiry, that we speak of a human kingdom; whereas we speak of that which is with God, as appears also from the confession of their faith made by those who are charged with being Christians, though they know that death is the punishment awarded to him who so confesses. For if we looked for a human kingdom, we should also deny our Christ, that we might not be slain; and we should strive to escape detection, that we might obtain what we expect. But since our thoughts are not fixed on the present, we are not concerned when men cut us off; since also death is a debt which must at all events be paid” (First Apology, ch. 11).

Church History Tip: While I think the name Justin “Martyr” is an easy reminder in and of itself as to whom he was and the part he plays in church history — that he was martyred for his faith — I think it is also helpful to keep in mind that he is usually referred to as the first “apologist” of Christianity, post-New Testament times. I believe it is important to remember why he was martyred: he was a strong defender of Christianity. He needed to be “dealt with.” It’s no secret that many of modern-day Christian apologists are also quite influenced by Greek thinkers (Aristotle especially). So, try to keep in mind the influences of Justin Martyr, so that you can remember whom he influenced.

Clement of Rome (Early Church Mini-Bio Series)

Series Intro: Jesus said that He will build His church, but does anyone care as to “how” He has done so? In an effort to help myself and online readers better understand the “Early Church,” I will be sharing brief research done in coordination with my graduate school work (as well as personal enrichment) on 10 important men and women in Christian history: Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Perpetua, Felicity, Tertullian, Irenaeus, Origen, and Athanasius. Join me in traveling back in time almost two millennia to encounter some of the most intriguing people you will ever meet, Christians who have left an indelible mark on church history. 

— Clement of Rome —

The first of eight “mini-bios” will be focused on a letter, rather than biographical material, since most of what we know of this man comes from his epistle, First Clement, and later church tradition. An important notification to make at the beginning is that when you hear the name “Clement,” there might be some confusion. In fact, even the early church had some trouble. The most famous “Clements” are Clement of Rome and Clement of Alexandria. However, Paul wrote to the Philippian church, noting a fellow-laborer who possessed the name Clement as well (Philippians 4:3). One of the earlier writers in Christian history, Origen, linked the man in Philippians to actually being Clement of Rome. But that was almost definitely an historical blunder (see The Catholic Encyclopedia, paragraph: “Identity”). So there is Clement from Philippi, Clement of Rome, and Clement of Alexandria; confusing the Clements is easy to do. But let’s settle down for this post and just focus in on Clement of Rome.

The Roman church was definitely important in the early church, though the same could be said of other cities: Alexandria and Antioch, to name a couple. We do know that Clement was an ecclesiastical leader in Rome. At this time, however, there is not enough evidence to prove that Clement operated as the “sole” bishop of Rome, a monoepiscopate (one bishop). Tertullian (a church leader in the late 2nd century) records that the Apostle Peter ordained Clement of Rome. But being ordained as a bishop/pastor is wholly different from operating as pope, or even as having bishopric authority over other local churches besides his own (though he certainly did have the authority to speak to them as a fellow Christian). What we do know is that Clement provides some of the earliest insights into the early church thanks to his letter to Corinth, the lone extant document written by Clement of Rome, also called “1 Clement” (a writing called “2 Clement” was most likely written by a different individual). Let’s consider, then, the document of 1 Clement.

Clement actually does not mention his own name in the letter, but early Christian evidence leads us to believe that this letter was written by the hand of Clement (on behalf of the Roman church) to Corinth. Why did Clement decide to write this letter? The recurring theme of the letter is that there is “jealousy” within the church, particularly that there have been severe problems in the removal of pastors when there were no justifications for doing so. Clement writes in paragraph 45, “For we see that ye have displaced certain persons, though they were living honourably, from the ministration which had been respected by them blamelessly” (translation by Lightfoot and Harmer, 1891). Speaking more harshly in just a couple of paragraphs later, Clement states, “It is shameful, dearly beloved, yes, utterly shameful and unworthy of your conduct in Christ, that it should be reported that the very steadfast and ancient Church of the Corinthians, for the sake of one or two persons, maketh sedition against its presbyters.” These are strong words, suitable though for the corruptions that have persisted.

The letter as a whole goes as follows: Introduction — reminder of their past characteristics — examples of Old Testament, jealous instigators of trouble [such as Cain vs. Abel] and New Testament victims of jealousy — the availability of repentance through Christ — the examples of those who have found salvation in Christ — extra-biblical illustrations of how God desires peace, not conflict — the plea to live righteously — the present problem in Corinth — closing prayer for Corinth — hopeful outcome.

One can easily notice when reading 1 Clement how drenched this letter is with the Scriptures. Often not just a phrase or verse is quoted, but large sections. Clement was clearly well-versed in the Bible, but Clement knew that Corinth was familiar with God’s Word as well; they just didn’t want to obey it. Clement of Rome was obviously a very compassionate man, his words tell the story of a Christian leader who desires this church to be restored to proper fellowship. As Galatians 6:1 speaks of the necessary humility for one administering church discipline, Clement’s words echo a similar attitude: “These things, dearly beloved, we write, not only as admonishing [from the Greek word “noutheteo”] you, but also as putting ourselves in remembrance.” Indeed the people of Rome have the same hope as those in Corinth: forgiveness through Jesus Christ. In conclusion, the following words from Clement ring ever so true to us as they did in the first century A.D., and may they be believed in churches who have gone through, or are going through, similar struggles: “Let us fix our eyes on the blood of Christ and understand how precious it is unto His Father, because being shed for our salvation it won for the whole world the grace of repentance. Let us review all the generations in turn, and learn how from generation to generation the Master hath given a place for repentance unto them that desire to turn to Him.”

Church History Tip: Clement of Rome vs. Clement of Alexandria, how to tell between the two? — though I don’t hold to the Roman Catholic view of apostolic succession, just try to remember that Rome was a big deal early on in church history. Clement “of Rome” lived before Clement “of Alexandria.” So if you’re a chronological thinker, try to equate “earliness” with Rome. But if you’re not a chronological thinker, but are geographical or ideological, consider how Alexandria was known for being very academic (Philo lived there, the famous “Library of Alexandria” was housed there, etc.). Clement “of Alexandria” was very philosophical in his approach to Christianity, as I will venture into when discussing Origen, but Clement “of Rome” was very Scripture and history focused.

Book Review: “Church History, Volume 1: From Christ to Pre-Reformation” by Everett Ferguson

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Like a lot of other seminary/graduate school students, I have used Justo Gonzalez’s The Story of Christianity, Volumes 1 & 2 as one of the main texts for my basic church history studies. Those volumes are tremendous resources indeed, but due to the many angles one can view history in general, and church history in particular, it is both insightful and enjoyable to read from other church historians. I was floored by the recent opportunity to read Everett Ferguson’s volume on church history, thus I shall like to provide a brief book review.

One of the greatest things about Ferguson’s volume is that it reads like a “church history” and “historical theology” text. By that, I mean that Ferguson follows the narrative of church history, but at the same time takes time to follow the progression of certain doctrines. It was quite interesting to gain insights into some of the practices and beliefs of those early years of Christianity, both of orthodoxy and even heresy.

The length of the book (over 500 pages) covers the beginning of the Church in the 1st century until the “Pre-Reformation” years. If you are interested in the second volume, author John Woodbridge handles the “Pre-Reformation” to the present, both published by Zondervan and from what I’ve read, both are quite good. Due to an unexpected time of transition in my life within the last several weeks, I unfortunately had to skim most of Ferguson’s volume, but in the moments of closest examination I can say with great assurance that this was both enjoyable and scholarly. The two can be hard to manage together, but I believe Ferguson accomplishes just that.

One criticism of the book I’ve read from a couple of other reviewers was that it was somewhat difficult to read, that it didn’t seem to flow well. Every reader is different and so I would not attempt to be the comprehensive voice of all those interested in this book, but I would say that at least personally, I found the book to be comprehendible in both content and form. For those who have not touched much of church history or historical theology, perhaps this volume as the first step would be a little too much, but that of course would be based on the person.

Overall, I believe “Church History, Volume 1” by Ferguson would be an excellent addition to one’s personal library, whether he/she be an historian, theologian, pastor, missionary, student, or simply a believer in Jesus Christ. There will probably be moments where he steps on your toes a little (depending on your doctrinal background), but the material is presented in a rather objective (this is what happened) fashion rather than a persuasive (this is what you need to believe) one. There is a lot to like from this volume by Everett Ferguson, I give it a sincere recommendation.

An Evaluation and Critique of the Emergent Church

  1. Introduction

According to Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck, “Defining the emerging church is like nailing Jell-O to the wall” (16-17). Perhaps the most difficult aspect about this topic is the vast amount of differences existing among those who have at one point called themselves part of the Emergent Church but no longer do, those who currently call themselves Emergent Church, and those who shy away from the term Emergent Church, though are quite similar in theology and practice to those professing to be in this movement. Some have tried to divide the terms “Emerging” and “Emergent” Church to separate orthodox from the unorthodox; however, this is also a big problem because men like Brian McLaren and Doug Pagitt have adopted both terms and have essentially used them interchangeably. After observing the different members involved in this discussion, it is certainly clear that there are both evangelicals and liberals who are labeled as Emerging or Emergent. Therefore, since this overview is relative to the Emergent Church, it is important to properly clarify how this movement differs from the Emerging Church, what these members primarily hold to doctrinally, what are some commendable characteristics, and then certainly a critical analysis. Upon clarifying and critiquing this church movement, it will be overwhelming clear to see that the Emergent Church is indeed an unorthodox church movement, different from the Emerging Church, and should be properly understood in light of modern-day ecclesiology and church movements.

2. History of the Emergent Church

In the process of sorting through the Emergent versus the Emerging Church movement(s), a brief tracing of history will most likely clear up the foggy air of distinguishing one from the other. Back in 1997, a group of church leaders joined a networking ministry for reaching postmodern culture called the “Leadership Network” (Driscoll). After speaking at multiple conferences within the Leadership Network, eventually Mark Driscoll decided to leave the network based on two reasons. First, Driscoll reasoned that he should spend more time in Seattle where his recent church plant had been established. Secondly, and more significant, he left because he had “serious theological differences with some men on the team and was concerned about their drift from biblical truth” (Driscoll). Eventually, these “men on the team” that Driscoll alludes to, such as Doug Pagitt, Brian McLaren, and Dan Kimball left the “Leadership Network” and established what is called the “Emergent Village.” Therefore, it seems fairly reasonable as to why confusion exists between distinguishing an Emerging Church leader from the Emergent Church. Especially, when unorthodox men like Brian McLaren try to label themselves still as “Emerging” when he does not belong with pastors like Mark Driscoll and Matt Chandler who unwaveringly preach the Gospel as stated in First Corinthians 15. Overall, while there is probably some overlap of the two movements, some really helpful research has been made to more easily distinguish a church leader who is either Emerging or Emergent.

3. Clarification of Church Movements – Emerging vs. Emergent

Of all available charts, articles, and books, both Ed Stetzer and Mark Driscoll each have made helpful contributions for identifying both movements. Stetzer, a Baptist missiologist, categorizes this rather large movement into three areas: Relevants, Reconstructionists, and Revisionists. Relevants are “deeply committed to biblical preaching, male pastoral leadership and other values common in conservative evangelical churches” (Stetzer). Reconstructionists “think that the current form of church is frequently irrelevant and the structure is unhelpful. Yet, they typically hold to a more orthodox view of the Gospel and Scripture” (Stetzer). Revisionists are the liberals in the Emerging/Emergent Church movement, according to Stetzer. He says, “Revisionists are questioning (and in some cases denying) issues like the nature of the substitutionary atonement, the reality of hell, the complementarian nature of gender, and the nature of the Gospel itself.” Similar to Stetzer, though a little more distinct, Driscoll organizes this movement into four categories: Emerging Evangelicals, House Church Evangelicals, Emerging Reformers, and Emergent Liberals. As Driscoll mentions in his article, “What the first three lanes have in common is theological orthodoxy.” Furthermore, as each description signifies, there are differences related mostly to practice and less significant doctrines. For example, the Emerging Evangelicals are not making as much as an impact as the others. Mark Driscoll says this movement is often “doing little more than cool church for hip young Christians.” A considerable difference from among the other two orthodox lanes is that Emerging Evangelicals are neither significantly involved with house churches nor are they specifically Reformed in theology. Secondly, House Church Evangelicals, as the name suggests, propose changes in methods of reaching the culture by utilizing “more informal, incarnational, and organic church forms such as that of house churches” (Driscoll). Some of the most well-known and respected members of this “lane” would be George Barna, Frank Viola, Neil Cole, and Shane Claiborne. One common problem in this movement, though it may not exist in a lot of the leaders and advocates of the House Church Evangelicals, is that a lot of the “disciples” can be internet terrors of arrogancy against popular leaders who pastor large, institutional churches. Mark Driscoll specifies that the common critique of House Church Evangelicals is their “disgruntled” attitude toward institutional or mega-churches, yet their methods for reaching people can also be hindered due to a lack of size. Thus, this can be counter-reacting to their original goals of reaching the culture in the first place. Ben Witherington further discusses this issue in his blog when critiquing the book, Pagan Christianity?, written by George Barna and Frank Viola. Certainly, house churches can be effective, and in some areas of the world, a necessity. However, the belief that churches can “only” be planted and utilized in homes can simply be a hindrance to reaching people with the Gospel when setting limits according to these extra-biblical boundaries. The third lane of churches, Emerging Reformers, is perhaps the strongest and strictest on doctrinal issues and has been successful in church planting. Many Emerging Reformers draw their theology from present-day Reformed theologians and pastors such as Wayne Grudem, D.A. Carson, Timothy Keller, Matt Chandler, John Piper, and plenty of others (Driscoll). There is no question that the Emerging Reformers are balancing conservative, theological beliefs while utilizing creative ways in reaching out to the unsaved in the most Biblical fashion among all three orthodox lanes. Finally, the dividing line between the first three lanes and the fourth lane, Emergent Liberals, is clearly manifested in their theologically unorthodox teachings. As seen, though there might be some overlap in “methods” of reaching people among all four lanes, the “message” of the Gospel is quite different in the fourth lane alone. Thus, it is important to take into consideration the doctrines and characteristics of the Emergent Liberals.

4. Doctrine and Beliefs of the Emergent Church

If distinguishing the lanes between orthodox and unorthodox Emerging/Emergent Church lanes was not confusing enough, then surely attempting to identify the doctrines and beliefs of the Emergent Liberal Church will cause some confusion and difficulty. Upon looking at their doctrinal statements, it can be tough to point out a church that is Emergent Liberal. However, there are commonalities in this lane which can help one decipher this movement as unorthodox. First of all, there is usually an incredibly vague, if any, dividing line between orthodoxy and orthopraxy. When Brian McLaren introduced his book A Generous Orthodoxy, he said that his belief system “sees orthopraxy as the point of orthodoxy” (31). However, McLaren also was quoted in an interview to say that “Orthodoxy itself is practice…So ethics comes first, then doctrine comes second, and witness flows out of that” (www.modernreformation.org). Though McLaren is subtle in this, essentially what he is saying is that doctrine does not significantly matter, but rather how one lives. This form of forsaking doctrine for “spirituality” is simply a modern-day form of what men like Jakob Beohme, George Fox, and Emanuel Swedenborg tried to accomplish in the 17th-18th centuries. Like Emergent Liberals’ writings from Brian McLaren and Rob Bell, Jakob Boehme’s writings were not understandable and were “subject to various interpretations” (Gonzalez 198). This leads to the second issue of Emergent Liberalism, which relates to their doctrine of the Scriptures. Without a doubt, Emergent Liberals “like” the Bible (DeYoung and Kluck 69). Doug Pagitt says, however, that the Bible  is “not reduced to a book from which we exact truth, but the Bible is a full, living, and active member of our community that is listened to on all topics of which it speaks” (32). According to this line of thinking, the assumption is “since words are only symbols, the truth in the Bible must be seen as ambiguous and in need of constant reinterpretation” (DeYoung and Kluck 82). Clearly, this postmodern way of thinking puts authority not in the inspired, revealed Word of God, but in the individual. Thus, truth becomes relative to the person, rather than having a sustained belief that, as Jesus Himself proclaimed, God’s Word intrinsically is “truth” (John 17:17). Finally, unlike the vague sayings in certain areas of the Emergent Liberal Church, it is abundantly clear that these men and women have discarded the Gospel. Brian McLaren, for once, does not even make this a hidden fact. He said in Christianity Today, “I don’t think we’ve got the gospel right yet…I don’t think the liberals have it right. But I don’t think we have it right either. None of us has arrived at orthodoxy” (Crouch 37-38). In contrast to this statement, the Bible actually does tell us what the Gospel is in I Corinthians 15:1-4: “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” This is the good news, and it is not about saving the planet, performing good works, or anything else. What postmodernists need is not a mysterious, social Gospel proposed by the Emergent Liberals, but the Gospel proclaimed by the Apostles and the Orthodox believers throughout the centuries.

5. Commendable Characteristics of the Emergent Church

Emergent Liberals make it quite clear that their purpose of existence is to help people. The Emergent Village’s purpose statement reads, “We believe the church exists for the benefit and blessing of the world at large; we seek therefore not to be blessed to the exclusion of everyone else, but rather for the benefit of everyone else” (www.emergentvillage.org). Rob Bell, an Emergent Liberal pastor in Michigan places a strong emphasis on using the church to help others (www.marshill.org). However, as Leonard Sweet has mentioned in an email to Ed Stetzer, the Emergent Liberal Church “has become another form of social gospel. And the problem with every social gospel is that it becomes all social and no gospel. All social justice and no social gospel.”

6. Dangerous Heresies of the Emergent Church

The first dangerous heresy to mention leads back to the previous paragraph’s mention of the Emergent Liberal’s purpose statement. There is something, or specifically Someone, missing in their Ecclesiology: God. He just is not there. This is what happens when a church movement becomes all about people, instead of being about a people gathered for His glory. Though it was already criticized, the second dangerous heresy is the distorted message of the Gospel. Al Mohler questions, “If we cannot know what the Gospel really is — if we cannot know the Gospel on any definite terms — how can we know a false gospel when we see one?” Without question, the Gospel message is indeed clear. Relating to the Gospel message, men like Brian McLaren, Steve Chalke, and Alan Jones regard the doctrine of the substitutionary atonement as a form of “cosmic child abuse” (Driscoll). The Bible teaches a different story, however. According to II Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Additionally, I John 2:2 says, “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” The opinions of the Emergent Church are constantly in disagreement with what the Scriptures teach. Therefore, it is fully suitable to declare that this movement is indeed unorthodox.

7. Conclusions

What started out as a movement among individuals wanting to reach the postmodern culture has turned out to be a confusing but definable movement, including orthodox as well as unorthodox proponents. It is without question that the Emergent Liberal Christians have forsaken the Gospel, given way to postmodern thought on many matters, and are simply more of a hindrance to the Christian faith than a help. Reaching people with the Gospel of Christ should be on the hearts and minds of every orthodox believer. However, sacrificing core doctrines such as the substitutionary atonement and the Gospel message is never a legitimate option, even within a postmodern society. After observing all of the lanes within the Emerging/Emergent movement, it would probably be safest just to step aside from grabbing ahold of labels in a certain lane within the Emerging crowd. Even if one is conservative in doctrine, prefers the method of house-churches, or is confident in Reformed teachings, the confusion already existing in this movement should hinder one’s goals of taking part in one of the Emerging lanes. Thankfully, Jesus Christ is not just a good example for spiritual living, but is the eternal Son of God who has atoned for our sins and is worthy of our worship. Additionally, the Church exists first and foremost to worship God because all things were created for His glory (Isaiah 43:7). It is a wonderful privilege to be a part of the Church that Christ purchased with His blood. In conclusion, then, it should also be of utmost importance that the Church would stand firm in orthodox, Biblical, and clearly-taught doctrines that identifies the true believers apart from the heretical teachers. Church movements come and go, but God’s Word never changes and is firmly trustworthy for all generations.

Works Cited

Crouch, Andy. “The Emergent Mystique.” Christianity Today (2004): 37-38. Print.

DeYoung, Kevin and Ted Kluck. Why We’re Not Emergent. Chicago: Moody, 2008. Print.

Driscoll, Mark. “Navigating the Emerging Church Highway.” Christian Research Journal 31.4

(2008): 1-10. Web.

“Faith A La Carte? The Emergent Church.” Modern Reformation. July-Aug. 2005. Web. 19 Feb.

2012. <http://www.modernreformation.org&gt;.

Gonzalez, Justo. The Story of Christianity: Volume 2. Peabody: Prince Press, 2004. Print.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001.

McLaren, Brian. A Generous Orthodoxy. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006. Print.

Mohler, Albert. “AlbertMohler.com.” AlbertMohler.com. 23 Mar. 2011. Web. 01 Apr. 2012.

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