Part 3 in a series.
 
Note: Since the writing of my last post Scot McKnight has directed me to his extremely informative article in Christianity Today titled “Five Streams of the Emerging Church”.  You might read it for more on the movement from one of its apologists.  He, unlike several of his contemporaries, candidly points out some of the flaws within the movement (although I think that McKnight treats the concerns he raises with kid gloves). 
 
emergent Jesus
I don’t like hunches based on hearsay evidence. 
 
Even the so called “experts” are guilty of minimizing, ostracizing and even ignoring what they don’t have a handle on.  It’s easy.  Take doctors for instance; what they don’t want to acknowledge, what frightens them, and what they don’t care to look for often gets discredited and goes untreated.  We all do this very sort of thing when it comes to that which we don’t understand.  Rather than look under some rocks ourselves we tend to prefer the heavy lifting be done by others for us.  
 
The are more aspects about the ECM that I don’t understand than ones I do.  But there are things I am beginning to uncover.  That being said, I’m no genius so I’ll be leaving it to the experts to issue the final analysis.  I am going to report what I see and what I see is a movement that is young, energetic, and pregnant with contradictions and potential fatal flaws which are already ripe for the picken’ (yeah, I know, the evangelical tradition has its problems too).  I ask myself, “Are those who are critical of the ECM delusional, or are those who lead the movement guilty of theological treason?”  There are some pretty serious criticisms being tossed around by the likes of David F. Wells—to some I would consider to be nothing more than pessimistic alarmists who demonize every movement besides the one they swear allegiance to.  Rather than pile on I have decided to do my own research and draw my own conclusions.
     
As long as I live I’ll never forget the diagnosis, “You’re fine, it’s most likely in your head.”  Now, I will readily admit that I am a head case and my friends will all verify that statement.  But this was different.  I had been sick for an entire month and felt as if I had suddenly come down with a wicked strain of some super flu from the Congo and was dying at the age of 34 .  My body was beginning to break down quicker than a Nolan Ryan fast ball used to take in getting to a catchers mitt.  
 
I was reminded of my year and a half battle with Lyme Disease the other day when I stumbled upon a story about the controversial Morgellons Disease.  Ker Than writes, 
   
Reports of a mysterious medical condition are cropping up across the country but doctors are divided on whether it is a real disease or all in their patients’ heads.
   
Called Morgellons Disease, patients who report having it describe sensations of creepy-crawlers beneath the skin and fibrous filaments oozing out of open wounds.
 
Interest in the disease was recently rekindled after afflicted Texas teenager Travis Wilson committed suicide about a month ago.
 
…Despite increasing reports of the condition, many doctors have barely heard of the disease and many treat it with a heavy dose of skepticism.
 
Michael Giradi, a dermatologist at the Yale School of Medicine, had never heard of Morgellons but when its symptoms were described to him, he was reminded of another disorder that is well known to doctors.
 
“They just renamed it,” Giradi told LiveScience. “We just call it delusions of parasitosis.”  ~LiveScience, May 2006
 
If Jesus meant what he said when he stated “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18, ESV).”… and the emergent church movement is a part of that, more power to them.  The “rock” Jesus is speaking of certainly isn’t Peter, and isn’t even The First Church of Jerusalem.  The “rock” Jesus speaks of has everything to do with the revelation of who Jesus is (bear in mind, Jesus had just asked his disciples who others said he was and then asked who they said he was, to which Peter answered “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”).  Notice Jesus didn’t say “I will build a Protestant Reformation and the gates of hell…” or, “I will build an Emergent Movement and the gates of hell…”.  He didn’t say the church would take over America, he didn’t say that there would be a mega-church on every corner, and he didn’t say that we and our message would be well received (see Luke 21:17 and Luke 6:26 ).  Notice as well that he doesn’t say “I’m putting you guys in charge so don’t drop the ball, it’s up to you to map out the future ’cause it’s in your hands.”
 
So last week I was looking over a brochure for a conference called “Christianity 21” (sounds more like a conference for realtors) promoted by both Tony Jones and his pastor Doug Pagitt (two prominent leaders within the ECM).   Here’s a small excerpt: 
  
Christianity21 will utilize a variety of presentation techniques and mechanisms, allowing the presenters a great deal of freedom and artistry in their presentations. With 21 minutes each presentations will utilize different formats and use various media. While all of the presenters are women, this is not a women’s-only event. In[s]tead, we simply believe that it’s time that women get the microphone and set the course for the future of Christianity.
  
You’ve got to be kidding me. So, what you’re telling me is that it’s time that women get the microphone and set the course for the future of Christianity?  I didn’t get the memo.  It has almost a “Word of Faith” ring to it.  Setting the course for the future of Christianity is a pretty tall order I would think.  How do these women sleep at night, knowing that what they say will change the course of Christianity (these women must take themselves pretty seriously!)?  We’re talking heavy weight championship of the universe stuff.  I wonder what Christians on the other side of the world think about missing out because they can’t make it to Edina, Minnesota in October—but would like to have a say in the future of Christianity?  If a group of males were to say such a thing in this day and age can you imagine the outcry?  (Contrary to what some may insinuate, Caucasian Anglo-Saxon Protestants are not the founders of Christianity but merely participators—and evangelicals are much to blame for this misconception.)
 
Christianity isn’t up for redefinition regardless of some of the nonsense that is being propagated.  Jesus (aka theleader) laid out in clear terms what his church was about (you can read about it if you have a New Testament).  When we decide that it’s up to us to define what the work and characteristics of the Kingdom will look like we certainly can’t possibly be taking our cues from headquarters.  And if that snippet above from the “Christianity 21” conference is any indicator about where the ECM intends to go, I don’t need to read any more.  This may be just one example (and a glaring one), but it really is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the runaway theology (or should I say postmodern philosophy?) going on within the ECM.  I was already suspicious due to the movement’s general consensus on such doctrines as original sin, which are suspect at best.
 
From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer.  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.  All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.  Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.  For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.  ~2 Corinthians 5:16-21, ESV (italics mine)
 
“Us” meaning each and every one of us who has been reconciled to God has been given this “ministry of reconciliation”.  Male and female both (see Galatians 3:28).  But now all of a sudden some conference is going to announce that men need to step aside and be quiet so the women can “set the course set the course for the future of Christianity”?  Notice Paul doesn’t insinuate here or write elsewhere that we should meet up at coffee houses and map out the future of Christianity.  Am I alone when I say that it rings a bit assumptive (and scary) when any group arrives on the scene two thousand years after the fact and announces that it’s going to define the  future of the movement of which they claim to be a part of (not all emergents would go so far but there is plenty of emergent “conversation” to make one wonder)?  We don’t decide the future of our own lives much less that of Christianity (see Proverbs 16:9 and Acts 1:6-11).  God will employ who he employs to do his bidding (race, background, and gender aside).  And God can “set the course” just fine, thank you very much.  
 
If there is a litmus test for any church movement it’s not whether we create another set of distinctives, principles, or core values that solicit the approval of the culture at large.  What makes a church movement truly a part of the greater “ecclesia” isn’t an agenda, the leadership, its doctrinal statements, or its missional activities (and it isn’t even that the community may indeed be “counter-cultural”; i.e. set against the world but for the sake of it as Charles Colson contends in book “Being The Body.”  Barbara Brown Taylor, an author and a professor of religion at Piedmont College, gets at the heart of what I mean when she writes, “…The church is where people say yes both to God and to one another. The church is where Christ turns our water into wine. The church is where people come to die and rise again in new life. These powerful warrants become even stronger when the church is set against “the world.” The world is where prodigals squander their inheritance in loose living. The world is where the rich get richer while the poor get poorer. The world is where Pilate decides who lives and who dies.”).   
 
The one characteristic that sets a local church (or a church movement) apart from any other entity is whether Jesus is the center of attention within that community—or not.  The church as a whole isn’t a movement as much as it is a gathering of God’s people for his namesake—a people who proclaim his reign, his righteousness, his rule, and his salvation.  It’s the kingdom of God, not the kingdom of anything or anyone else.
 
There been much banter back and forth about the future of Christianity and many scholars have offered their two nickles worth.  Well, I’m no scholar but I can say this: If “the course for the future of Christianity” is in our hands, hello extinction.  We soil the linens, we ought to leave the future in God’s hands.  And besides, God’s been using women just like he’s been using men to do his work long before some 120 disciples met in Jerusalem.  There isn’t supposed to be any “I’m a male so sit down…” or “I’m a female so move over…” anyways.  Equality in Christ means we all take a back seat to him.  As for oppression demonstrated by white males (and there’s been plenty to go around), God has his way of dealing with abuses.  It’s not for us to set up our own version of “Christian reparations”. 
 
When it comes to leveling the playing field, God’s got the justice department handled and he will set all things in order in his time.
 
Let conclude this 3rd post in a series by saying that the church has never been about a “liberal”, a “reformed”, an “emergent”, or a “neo-evangelical” agenda.  The church is solely about its King as I have tired to lay out here.  Paul writes, “And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent (Colossians 1:18, ESV, italics mine).”  Not in most things, but in everything. 
 
If Jesus theMessiah is to be preeminent as Paul stated then it’s his church—not Buddhas, not Joseph Smith’s, not Mohammed’s, not yours, and not mine.  The road is narrow according to Jesus after all, it’s us who broaden it (see this article quoting Marcus Borg).  Like it or not, there isn’t a plethora of avenues to God (hint-hint, Jesus is the avenue).  Jesus leaves no questions about who the gate is who leads to life (see John 14:6).  Multiple ways what to “what you call God” don’t exist (according to the scriptures, that is of course, if we are still using those as our song sheet).  
 
Jesus will build his church.  And irregardless of what some postmodern pundits have to say about the state of the church, Jesus meant what he said.  There is no back up plan, his mission of reaching all people groups will be accomplished.  The poor will always be with us no matter how serious we are about eliminating world hunger.  This world is passing away.  False teachers will continue to surface.  And not everyone who says to Jesus “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven.
 
Thoughts?
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