“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.
“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