Reformation Reversed: Emergent Church and the Undoing of Faith

“Christians are now the foreigners in a post-Christian culture… we need to view ourselves the way others on the outside see us.” –Dan Kimbal, They Like Jesus but not the Church.

“I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” –Jesus Christ (John 17:14)

I have heard many times that if Christianity is to survive, it must adapt to the changing world around it; Christians must “evolve” if they are to be accepted by those around them.  Usually this means things like rejecting the Biblical record of creation, Biblical precepts on gender and sexual behavior, etc. It also means that the underlying message of the Gospel — that Christ is the one and only Redeemer and that all men must believe on him for salvation — must be modified or adapted, or at least not held to as a fundamental tenet, to make it more palatable.

There is a movement — a strong movement — to “undo” the Reformation of 500 years ago and return Christians to a religion of mystical ecumenism, away from the doctrine of Sola Scriptura that so many believers lost their lives over those many years ago.  Certainly there is no overt movement to bring back the Spanish Inquisition (not that anyone would expect it), but the desire to eliminate God’s word as the sole authority by which a Christian lives and believes is as strong as it ever was under the guidance of Ignatius Loyola.

This new Un-reformation, led by charismatic leaders like Dan Kimball and Rick Warren, with nice titles like “vintage worship,” the “emergent church,” the “purpose driven church,” etc, seeks to do what all grand “doers” of religion in the past have endeavoured to do: build God’s Kingdom on Earth. They’ll have this kingdom now, not after Christ’s return, thank you very much. To that end, Christianity must be tempered with the wisdom of the world, with the Bible playing just a small part here and there for those folks who still hold to it, at least until they “die off” as Rick Warren once put it.

Roger Oakland has written a fascinating and sobering book: Faith Undone, exposing the “Emerging Church” for the return to mystical, man-based movement that it is. Oakland contends, and I agree, that this “new reformation” is simply another deception along the way to the end of this time and the return of Christ.

“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.” –1st Timothy 4:1

In order to bring about this man-built Kingdom of God, Emerging Church proponents see the Bible as a text that needs to be re-examined, and the foundational tenets of Christian theology as beliefs that need to be re-interpreted and modified in our “post-modern” world. The 21st Century Church, to them, is one that can not be contentious for anything, and must accept and adapt to all.

“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” –Jude 1:3 

In his book, Oakland describes the methods of this Kingdom building, and that they are, in fact, nothing new. Chief among the methods of the Emerging Church is to “translate” the Gospel with mysticism — centering prayer, contemplative prayer, ritualism, etc.

Oakland writes:

“I believe history is repeating itself. As the Word of God becomes less and less important, the rise in mystical experiences escalates, and these experiences are presented to convince the unsuspecting that Christianity is about feeling, touching, smelling, and seeing God. The postmodern mindset is the perfect environment for fostering spiritual formation. This term suggests there are various ways and means to get closer to God and to emulate him.” 

There can be no doubt that Warren and other Emergents regard the Gospel as an afterthought in their work.  In countless interviews, Warren touts his work as a good works movement to build build bridges between faiths (explicitly stating religion is irrelevant) and “healing” hearts. Their goal is unity at all costs — and all costs includes Scripture. That’s a far cry from the Jesus Christ of the Bible, who said:

“Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.” –Matthew 10:34 

The Emerging Church has no room in it for the divisive words of Christ, since they only get in the way of the unity required to build a Kingdom in his name.  Because of this, the place of Scripture, and of the Gospel, is completely lost. One Emergent Church leader said:

“Evangelism or mission for me is no longer persuading people to believe what I believe… It’s more about shared experiences and encounters. It is about walking the journey of life and faith together, each distinct to his or her own tradition and culture but with the possibility of encountering God and truth from one another.” –Pip Piper

As Oakland points out, this is a far cry from how the New Testament describes evangelism:

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” –1st Peter 3:15

By now just about everyone in the United States who calls themselves Christian has heard of Rick Warren, and by extension, the Emerging Church movement. But few really know what’s actually going on and why it has so much momentum. I highly recommend reading Faith Undone to learn the history behind this modern un-reformation.

History, especially Church history, has shown that so many of the world’s worst crimes have been done in the name of building God’s Kingdom.  This time is no different — though no inquisitors are killing those who won’t convert, the minimization and perversion of the Gospel is just the same, for the message of Christ the ONLY Redeemer is not being preached by these Kingdom Builders.

Rick Warren wrote in his book, The Purpose Driven Life:

“When the disciples wanted to talk about prophecy, Jesus quickly switched the conversation to evangelism… He said in essence, ‘The details of my return are none of your business.'”

Warren is simply wrong, because Jesus said much about his return and how to be prepared for it (Luke 12).  Warren also said in a speech:

“…God is going to use you to change the world. …I’m looking at a stadium full of people who are telling God they will do whatever it takes to establish God’s Kingdom ‘on earth as it is in heaven.'”

Anyone claiming that we can build God’s Kingdom on earth and ignore prophecy should read this warning:

“And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand. He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still.” –Revelation 22:10-11

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23 thoughts on “Reformation Reversed: Emergent Church and the Undoing of Faith”

  1. Thank you for standing strong in your faith and exclaming the inerrant, infallible Word of God. I am a single mom of a beautiful 6 month old girl and I, too, plan on homeschooling her. Faith Undone is a great resource for us as well as A Time OF Departing by Ray Yungen. Also I highly recommend any book by Dave Hunt. Judgement Day is a great resource as well as his many other books. Email me anytime, we can share our faith and or the recourses we use to search the scriptures daily.

    In Christ,
    Maria

  2. Thank you for your review of the book FAITH UNDONE and your comments on the emergent church. I too agree that this is a major deception that is being foisted on the real church of Jesus Christ and many don’t realize it because they don’t know the Bible or worse, don’t believe it is God’s Word. Thank you for this timely review. I also agree with Maria’s comment above that anything by Dave Hunt is most valuable and worth reading or watching.
    Sincerely,

    Mike Almon

  3. I am very convinced that what roger oakland shares is indeed of God..the Holy Spirit testifies that it is. I have come out of catholocism..JW and Mormonism…and been born again about 23 or so yrs. I listened to Dr Walter Martin..and also McGregor Ministries etc.
    That so set me free. Now I am wandering..sometimes thinking I am alone..but others on the net assure me that I am not alone and am on the right path…but I am praying for local fellowship…that is my hearts desire. the net is encouraging..but not the same as in person fellowship..God bless ya’s all…in Christ..Brenda

  4. I would like to comment on Prophecy..I too am told it is irrelevent….(sp(
    I know in Revelation it says..”blessed are those who read and understand the sayings in this book…amen…I see many changes in the church..before it was ok to share wrong errors in teaching in JW..now we are stopped in our tracks and told..God loves them too..we all don’t always agree..but we must love them?? I know we are to love those who oppose us and the gospel..but love also says we must tell the truth in love…well I believe you all know what I mean…that is how far we have slipped to anything goes…and go the way of the world…amen..hugs to all Brenda.

  5. I have attended serval churchs trying to find a good sermon; I found it hard to do, these so called Emergent Churchs do not preach from the Bible; they preach to the Bible; they will preach for a half hour on every day things and then revert to one verse in the Bible and takt that verse out of contex saying this is the way it is. If only people would read their Bible (KJV). As for me; I will stick to the faith of the Bible KJV. This was good enough for my saviour and it is good enough for me. You can’t change the true meaning of the Bible or God. Don’t people understand this??
    Thank you
    Charlie

  6. Praise God for your review. I sometimes feel all alone in my walk, I know many Christians who are following this “new way”. It is wrong and against our Lords word. I read my KJV and live by it and not mans interpretation of it!

  7. Forgive my ignorance but what is the emerging church movement? There have been so many ‘movements’ lately that I have lost track. Is this part of some chariamatic circles?

  8. Its so sad that Christians are being taught to have “religious tolerance”. To accept the different beliefs of others and just “love” them. What is so sad is that, we are loving them straight to hell by not showing them the errors of their false doctrines. We need pastors who will return to the preaching of the 10 Commandments. To preach the seriousness of sin and how seriously God must judge it. All roads do NOT lead to God. Jesus said: I AM THE WAY…no man comes to the Father except by ME! And that’s the BOTTOM LINE!

  9. If you do not love the true church , you do not love Jesus. The King James bible is the word of God and gives the only way of salvation. Our mission is not to set up a kingdom, but preach the gospel to all the world and God will call out a people to Himself. Christ will establish the kingdom when he returns. Thanks for the message!!

  10. I agree with you! Rick Warren’s books are misleading, and very dangerous to the Body of Christ. My wife loves her living Bible and Our Son loves the NIV Bible. And I have tried for years to get them to open their eyes to the King James Bible. But they have been sucked into the vortex of confusion, I pray often for my family and the Churches in this world. I really appreciate the way God has led you to do this newsletters and reviews and I Praise God for the insight he has given you through the Holy Spirit. I have read most of Purpose Driven Life and could not stomach it. Keep up the good work. May God continue to bless you.

  11. This is the first time I’ve ever seen Rick Warren equated — or even associated — with the so-called “emergent church” movement. Brian McLaren, and “A New Kind of Christian,” yes…. but Warren?? He’s a whole ‘nother thing. (“Seeker sensitive” and mega-church and “Purpose Driven” maybe… but emergent?). More on this subject here, for those interested:

    http://galatiansc4v16.wordpress.com/2005/10/11/rick-warren-and-the-emergent-church-i-told-you-so/

    @Pastor Waller: BTW, What was the “Word of God” before 1604? (…and last I heard, JESUS gave the only way to salvation….)

  12. Oh wow, I’m so thankful to have found this website while reading comments at Lighthousetrailsresearch.com. I too read the KJV, Dave Hunt’s and T.A. McMahon’s, Ray Yungen’s, and Roger Oakland’s books! If anyone has not read Warren Smith’s, Deceived on Purpose The New Age Implications of the Purpose-Driven Church, you’re in for an eye-opener big time. I, too, have not been able to find a local church. Anyone out there from the Little Rock, AR area???
    True believers who have received the love of the truth are few and far between anymore, huh? Oh, it breaks my heart… God bless you all.

  13. The “Word of God” prior to 1604 was in the manuscripts of the Masoretic (O.T.) and Textus Receptus (N.T.) texts, and the translations out of those texts into various languages (such as the Reina Valera, etc.).

    Modern Bible translations certainly do diminish or seek to eliminate the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ and the fundamentals of the faith. You don’t need to be a Hebrew or Greek scholar; just spend a few hours honestly comparing an AV and an NIV Bible, going line by line, particularly in the New Testament, and see for yourself. Whole words, phrases, even chapters have been eliminated from the NIV under the guise of “modern scholarship” and “modern textual criticism.”

  14. Brandon,
    Came across your website looking into CIS for my mac….thank you for your honest comments regarding CIS. Appreciate your updated comment posted on jan 2006. I’ve been vacillating between third party cartridges or investing in a CIS. Thanks to you I have my answer…third party cartridges( at least for now). I am fairly new at the computer and the price of ink is way out of line, I’m designing cards ( Christ centered) and I have more trail & error prints than good ones right now.. any savings is welcome!
    I am equally impressed and thankful for your CHRITian testimony!!! Praise HIM & HIM alone. My husband & I are in complete agreement with your above article.
    2 Thess 2:3 does say the apostasy does come first… We believe the hour is late and ” our redemption draws nigh”…
    Bless you & your family and His ministry through you!
    Susan

  15. Given the *process* of canonization of scripture, and the order of its writing, the quote of Revelation about “this book” are not clearly relevant to the entire canonized bible. For one thing, the “this,” when written, clearly referred to the book of the revelation itself, since there was no canonized or accepted collection of scripture at that time. Thus, “this book,” meant, simply, the book of the revelation itself. Secondly, there is not agreement that the book was the last written of the canonized books. If this is true, as it may very well be, then even if we allow “this book” referring to the collection of scriptures, we have the problem of the books written later not being covered by the statement.

    Also, regardless of Warren’s statement, Warren is clearly *not* considered by emergent church proponents a part of that movement’s leadership, nor by most a part of the movement at all.

    The early reformers were not reforming from mysticism, but from corrupt catholicism. Thus any return to mysticism is not in and of itself an undoing of the reformation. Also, the early reformers spoke of being “reformed and always reforming.” If what is being “reclaimed” is right, then it is form of further reformation, just as the early reformers spoke of going *back* to apostolic worship, so speak the emergent proponents.

    The bottom line is that we must embrace that which is true, and you have only discussed that which some say is not true, rather than directly dealing with the truth or untruth of the emergent propositions.

    Overall, the book, and this blog, rely mostly on what other men say, and on very biased interpretations of proof texts, rather than engaging in any real theological or intellectual inquiry. I would say that those looking for a helpful critique of the emergent church movement have to look further than this site or the book being promoted.

    Grace and Peace,

    ~ Mark

  16. As a practicing Christian I have been asked to leave a number of churches for just asking if you are teaching this why is this in the Bible. I have not been to a church in 5 years because of this. Recently I came to the conclusion after reading one of their books that the jw’s are making Jehovah into the antichrist with their teaching. Finding Bible believing Christians is hard in this day and age. He that endureth unto the end shall be saved. So endure my fellow Christians in spite of the new age movements which go back to the serpent in Eden. Love in Christ Jesus; Ronald

  17. Really appreciate your article, I have been researching Purpose Driven/Emergent/New Apostolic Reformation/Kingdom Now/Dominion Now Movements since the early 1990s, even changed seminaries because of these, as a former Catholic, I am suspicious of anything/anyone who does not line up perfectly with God’s Word, unfortunately SBC now stands for S-lowly B-ecoming C-atholic.
    Because of Christ, Addie K. Miller

  18. An update, since my last comment, my husband and I have had to leave our (Baptist) church of 13 years(he was the worship leader there) because of the false doctrine being taught from the pulpit, after trying the biblical way of addressing the problem, we had no alternative but to resign our position since no one would heed our warnings, including the deacon board, a few months later is when Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins hit the bookstores, Bell was one of the warnings we had offered to the church, the pastor of our former church has since left, the flock has been scattered, as the church flounders, recently we joined one of the very few churches in the area that continues to preach solid biblical doctrine…(becoming a rarity), I am appalled as I speak to “Christians” at how the Reformation is being over-turned leading everyone back to the Roman Catholic Church…(as a former Catholic, I refuse to go back there!)through the deceptions of Rick Warren’s Market Driven & Brian McLaren’s Emergent movements….we should take to heart the warning in I Timothy 4:1-3…..Because of Christ, Addie K. Miller

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