On a side note: I received a copy of Jim Belcher’s new book today from IVP, “Deep Church”—a third way beyond emerging and traditional.  I’m looking forward to reading it (he looks to be someone who understands the rift and yet offers solutions and hope).
emergent-jesusSacred cows surely need tipping from time to time.  And as Michael Spencer (aka the Internet monk) says, some even need barbecuing.  But as I continue this short series on the emergent movement, the question I want to pose is this: Does that mean our entire theological frame work needs re-engineering?
There have been movements within Christendom since the days of the early church, some useful and some detrimental.  Agree with the cause or not, Luther and the reformers made a lasting impact.  It’s safe to say that the Protestant Reformation and much of what ensued (i.e., the Radical Reformation, Anabaptists, etc.) was about calling the church to return to its origins.  Instead of deconstructing the church so much, they saw their mission as one of reclamation.  
Charles Finney is the father of modern day American evangelical pragmatism (in which techniques and results are valued over truth and in turn we make up our own truth), hyper-revivalism and sensationalism (where emotions run the table and trump solid doctrine), and what has been termed as “decision theology” (which leaves God’s sovereignty at the door and places salvation in the hands of man, see Jonah 2:9). The teachings and lack thereof espoused by Finney have sadly done more damage than can be measured.  
And then there was the “Jesus Movement” with its “Jesus people” which became groovy in the late 60’s and 70’s (which has more or less morphed into the mega church movement according to Michael Horton).
The criticisms that have been laid against Christianity are as diverse as they are plentiful.  I have enough sense to know that everything done in the name of “Christianity” by our forefathers over the course of the last two millennia hasn’t always been good.  There were mistakes and some even reprehensible (we can’t be so foolish to believe that we are above the same kinds of infractions today ourselves).  Augustine and Luther would certainly retract a few things if they could go back and do and say things a bit differently.  Even with their towering intellects, both were victims of their own hubris.  But they gave us rich and meaningful contributions nonetheless. 
Some of our tools definately need sharpening and some may even need replacing, but to burn down the tool shed strikes me as foolish.  Now, I am aware that identifying the “emergent church” can sort of be compared to swinging at a piñata with both of your hands tied behind your back.  Nonetheless, the sense I get is that the hardliners aren’t rethinking Christianity as much as they are attempting to redefine it.  And I realize that much of the “emergent conversation” begins with questions.  Questions can be most helpful and quite constructive I will agree.  But questioning things such as whether or not Jesus’ death on the cross was vital in securing our very salvation is ludicrous.  One may ascribe to the notion that “no question is a stupid one”, but as far as I am concerned that is just a teachers crutch used to avoid having to insult someone.  Asking constructive questions is one thing but there’s nothing admirable about asking questions just for the sake of asking them.  And there’s nothing commendable about challenging the tried and true, assuming something is true. 
But if it’s the acclaim of the greater culture we are pursuing instead of what the late Francis Schaeffer called “true truth” (that is the truth found only in Jesus Christ)—then what’s the sense of talking truth?  Fifteen years ago I read David Wells’ book, “No Place for Truth”.  At the time much of what he was saying went over my head I will admit (not to mention I was too busy putting together youth rallies at the time).  But today I see in clearer terms what he was getting at.  You don’t have to agree with everything David Wells was saying back then, but he makes a solid case in terms of his current concerns with the emergents in this interview with Christianity Today.  Much of what Wells was challenging 15 years ago were the corners of evangelicalism which were thin on biblical doctrine and heavy on methods and programs (if my memory serves me correctly, my copy of the book is currently in a storage unit so I can’t refresh myself with his gem of a book).  It is the emergents flippant attitude concerning doctrine that I find reminiscant of Wells’ earlier criticisms (my opinion I realize). 
A few years ago when I first learned of the so-called emergent movement the 1st verse to pop up in my head was Proverbs 22:28, “Do not move the ancient landmark that your fathers have set.”   It’s the still the 1st verse that pops up in my head today.  I started this series of posts by stating that I am aware that some of my brothers and sisters in Christ are neck deep in the movement so it’s not my intention to sabotage or attack.  I just think there are some questions which are silly and others which need answering.  Notice the verse doesn’t say “Don’t ask questions about the landmarks nor attempt to uncover more effective means for reaching the lost.”  The emergents do ask some needed questions.  There are things that must change with the times. 
But it must be stated; there are those things which don’t change with the times, and truth will always be one of them.