Archive for November, 2010


There are actually three related movements in the so-called “post-modern church,” and all three are very dangerous:

1) The Emerging Church (evangelicals who still hold to at least a few biblical doctrines)

2) The Emergent Church (mainline/liberals who have basically abandoned all biblical doctrines)

The following blog of mine is a very brief summary of the differences between #1 and #2:


3) Emergence Christianity – started around 2005; includes speakers and writers who are basically New Agers, Universalists, and admirers of the Interfaith Movement. Examples are Brian McLaren, Doug Pagitt (a universalist), Phyllis Tickle, etc.

Discernment writer Ken Silva of Apprising Ministries explains how #1 and #2 are “morphing” into #3 – Emergence Christianity:


What’s really scary is that the lines are being blurred very quickly – Emerging Church fans and Emergent Church fans are becoming fans of Emergence Christianity speakers and writers.

What is also very disconcerting, is that many Christians have not even heard of these three movements. Even if they have heard of the three movements, they are not able to define them or differentiate between the three. This, in spite of the fact that the three movements are invading churches, colleges and seminaries in practically every denomination.

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I’m glad to see that the Chris Rosenbaugh/Dan Kimball interview is leading to a number of insightful blogs. Here are the most helpful ones I’ve found so far.

1) Apprising Ministry’s great blog explaining the Chris Rosenbaugh/ Dan Kimball interview and making a number of other points regarding Dan Kimball:


2) A Crosstalk blog entitled “Beware the Bridgers Part 1: Orthodoxy is More Than a Doctrinal Statement.” This episode of the show can be listened to at:


3) BetterThanSacrifice.org has a biblically sound blog that defines and discusses what exactly “orthodoxy” is (as opposed to how the Emerging/Emergent Church defines orthodoxy).  The blog is here:


4) Sola Sisters provides the transcript of a great Facebook conversation directly with Dan Kimball. This is EXCELLENT!! In this conversation, Kimball attempts to explain his endorsement of various contemplative practices:


5) Purpose Drivel refers to a “response to criticisms”, drawn up by a group of Emergent leaders (including Dan Kimball) to explain and defend their views. Check out Purpose Drivel’s link to the entire document. (I feel you should read the Emergents’ responses with a grain of salt – I do not believe they are being honest in their comments.) The blog is at:


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I am once again posting my opinions regarding a highly controversial Emerging Church speaker – Dan Kimball. (I’ve revised this blog post, toning it down just a tad and making a few corrections;  this is in response to some constructive comments from readers. I’m working on wording criticisms more tactfully, and on doing more research to verify facts before posting criticisms.)

In a previous post, I reposted a Crosstalk blog slamming Dan Kimball for being evasive in what he believes, and for not disassociating himself from New Age-ish Emergent/ Emergence speakers.

Now let’s turn to a blog by a fellow blogger, Neil.  In his blog you will read a debate taking place between Kimball’s followers and critics.  (I have provided the link at the bottom of this post.)  The blog deals with the debate over whether Dan Kimball is an “orthodox” evangelical. In the blog referenced below, Neil says:

[Chris Rosebrough has] come to the conclusion that Kimball is a Bible-believing Christian who holds to the uniqueness of Christ, the existence of Hell, the authority of Scripture, a denial of universalism… etc.  And even though Chris and Dan disagree on methodology… they look at each other as brothers in Christ.

[I am not conceding that I agree with Chris Rosebrough’s conclusions – I am just reposting the quote here to show what this furious debate is all about.]

These conclusions by Chris Rosebrough have generated a firestorm of disapproving responses from various Christians on the Internet, particularly within discernment ministries.  One of the most outspoken at this point is Linda Schlueter of Crosstalk, whom I quoted in a previous blog.

Regarding the blog by Neil, referenced below, what I find just as interesting as the blog is the responding comments. The  earlier responses from readers speak favorably of Kimball. But then my wonderful discernment brethren start putting in their two cents’ worth. And, boy, do they jump on Kimball’s positions! (Rightly so, I say.)

To all born again Christians who are concerned about the Truth of the gospel and the attack upon it, I would recommend taking very seriously the criticisms of Kimball. And don’t just take my word for it – research the criticisms of Kimball for yourself.

A few more  thoughts.  The fact that we are debating Dan Kimball shows that many within evangelical churches still wonder where he is coming from. Many born again, biblically sound evangelicals still view Kimball as putting up smoke and mirrors. These impressions are reinforced by several of Kimball’s practices: 1) being evasive at times regarding his true theological beliefs, 2) discussing matters with opponents privately rather than out in the open, 3)  endorsing practices perceived as New Age-ish (such as candles, incense, and the labyrinth), and 4) spending  a great deal of time informally with Emergent/ Emergence speakers Brian McLaren, Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt, etc.

There are a few discernment ministries out there  which are defending Kimball, or at least speaking of him in relatively favorable terms. This is my impression of these discernment ministries: they seem to be enthralled by Kimball’s charming personality, after spending time with him and carrying on phone conversations with him. Or, perhaps they just don’t understand the theologically murky Emerging Church movement. Come on, you discernment ministries that are endorsing Kimball. As discernment ministries, your job is to examine Kimball’s BELIEFS  and TEACHINGS and compare them to what the Bible says – it seems to me you have kowtowed to his charming personality and informal, “cool” church style.

Here is the blog I mentioned originally, showing the debate between Kimball’s defenders and critics:


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To start off this blog, I must say I am FURIOUS with Dan Kimball and other Emerging speakers of his ilk. As I described in a previous blog, the denomination I grew up in (the EFCI) will soon be having Dan Kimball as keynote speaker at their Friends Youth Summit 2010. Following is my blog on this:


It is theologically schizophrenic Emerging rascals like Mr. Kimball that are leading the EFCI youth down the road to Hell. Emerging Church leaders may be thinking they are helping our youth grow closer to Christ, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Dan Kimball is hard to pin down regarding what Christian doctrines he truly believes. Also, he refuses to disassociate himself from false teachers – and it is difficult to pin him down on WHY he associates with them.

Consider the following blog by Ingrid Schlueter at the Crosstalk blogsite. I am copying and pasting the blog in its entirety. NOTE – I have emphasized certain sections by bolding them.

To Ingrid Schlueter: Ingrid, it appears to me that Dan Kimball is showing the traits of a true “Bridger” (I like your use of the term – it seems very appropriate). Kimball is trying to make his teachings palatable to both sides of the church aisle – born again Christians as well as New Age seekers and worse. Thank, thank you, THANK YOU, for admonishing Mr. Kimball on behalf of the rest of us. This is what we need to see more of – erroneous individuals being addressed directly rather than being criticized behind their back. May God bless you and strengthen you on the front lines, Ingrid!

Click on the following link to read Ingrid’s original Crosstalk blog. Additional comments have been posted at the blog since I copied and pasted it to here:

Phil Johnson on the Dearth of Conviction in the Emerging Church

Posted by Ingrid Schlueter in Emergent Church, Featured Articles, Religion on November 21st, 2010 | 17 responses

In 2007, Phil Johnson wrote a very helpful piece on the emerging church. In light of recent discussion of emerging pastor Dan Kimball, what Johnson writes is important.

I’ve suggested recently that postmodernists always run in a straight line back to the notion that we should avoid making truth-claims with finality, clarity, or settled assurance. Everything (and of course I’m speaking in practical terms here, because absolute statements are deemed impolite in these postmodern times)—practically everything is supposed to remain perpetually on the table for debate and reconsideration.

Here’s the kind of thing I’m talking about:

In a recent symposium on the Emerging Church movement (Mark Driscoll [et al.] Listening to the Beliefs of the Emerging Churches [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007]) Dan Kimball says the only doctrines he is really sure about these days are a short list of credos generally agreed upon by Christians and spelled out in the Nicene and Apostles’ Creeds.

See if you don’t think Kimball’s perspective contains a classic echo of the kind of thinking I am suggesting colors the typical postmodern mind. Read the post here at Pyromaniacs.

Commenting at the Crosstalk Blog is not a right, it is a privilege. Crosstalk Blog staff reserves the right to reject any comment that is found to be offensive or otherwise unaccaeptable for any reason. We will not tolerate the following: abusive or profane language, objectionable links, off-topic remarks, and bickering with other commenters. Thank you for respecting this policy.

17 Responses to “Phil Johnson on the Dearth of Conviction in the Emerging Church”

  1. Hi Ingrid,

    This was from over 4 years ago that you are pulling up here.

    And I would suggest reading the comments on this entry too. I had dialogue with Phil to show him specifically from books and even that back where I wrote much more detail of doctrine and beliefs. I ended up talking to Phil on the phone as well which cleared many things up after this post.

    I would encourage you to listen to Chris Rosebrough’s two podcasts where he addressed this as well from this past week. He did a follow up about discernment ministries needing to discern each other that you might find helpful.


    • Ingrid Schlueter says:

      If Phil Johnson has retracted his concerns expressed in his post, let him remove this post and state why. Until you stop your Nicodemus behavior (going by night) and having private conversations with key people to convince them of your biblical soundness, you’re going to have problems, Dan. Did you ever wonder why John MacArthur doesn’t have to run around blogs trying to explain why a book he wrote 4 years ago is no longer valid? Ever wonder why everyone knows exactly where MacArthur stands on basic issues of theology and practice? It’s because he says what he means and lets the chips fall, Dan, that’s why, and he does it in plain, unmistakable English. Either you are pathologically incapable of writing a clear sentence and meaning what you say and should get out of the communication realm, or you are deliberately blowing fog into the clear teachings of Scripture. You tell me which that is Dan, if you can give a straight answer.

    • Paula says:

      Dan you said repeatedly on Chris’s show that you haven’t changed what you have taught for what, 20 years? yet every time someone brings up a blog post or something from a few years ago that is your first defense. You can’t have it both ways, unless you’re deliberately trying to evade radar.

  2. The book was written over 4 years ago and it came out in January 2007 which is almost 4 years is what I was meaning. If you ever have direct questions about my beliefs, my writings, what we teach in our church – always feel free to ask me questions. I am on a retreat on and going on vacation tomorrow, but please feel free to contact me if you would like in 3 weeks. Thank you Ingrid!

    • Debra says:

      Hi Mr. Kimball:
      You had Brian McLaren forward your book the Emerging Church. Brian McLaren attacks the Bible in several areas and denies cardinal doctrine. Why do you still sell it on your website when the guy is a lie peddler and you are still making money off it making him look great.

      Just sayin’.

    • Paula says:

      > If you ever have direct questions about my beliefs, my writings, what we teach in our church – always feel free to ask me questions.

      That’s not how it works either Dan. Either you plainly confess Christ before all, or you don’t. I see more evidence that you are worried about ‘mean’ Christians than the gospel, because THAT is what you chose to make a public statement about. You expect us to take these people that are “interested in Jesus” seriously? They are interested in an idol of their own making. No wonder they despise Christians. Certainly some Christians may have treated them badly, and that’s inexcusable. But that just reinforces them in the extreme self righteousness that they already have. I am sure if they were made aware of their own shortcomings they would be quick to say “well no one is perfect, why are you so judgemental?” But they have no qualms about judging Christians for being imperfect.

  3. Dan,

    You seem to rely on private conversations a lot to settle concerns about your positions. Why not in public?

  4. David says:

    Is Leonard Sweet a spiritually trustworthy Christian teacher in light of the Bible and its authority? I didn’t ask if you had different perspectives, I’m asking if he’s spiritually trustworthy to follow.

    • Paula says:

      I’m kind of wondering why Chris R decided to downplay the Len Sweet connection by just saying that he taught at the same school as Dan attended… as if they had no connection. Is that what Dan told Chris? If he did and if that’s true, then Len should stop lying about his being Dan’s doctoral advisor.

  5. Martha says:

    Dan, are you disclaiming what you wrote in those books written 4 years ago? If so, are you still receiving residuals from the sale?

  6. amanda says:

    The Bible was written thousands of years ago, but God does’t change His mind, so it’s still a reflection of Him.

    That said, when an individual is in the public eye and making public claims of one sort or another, and then changes his views or adds to them, it is safe to assume he still holds the same views unless he has made public proclamations to refute or add to his previous views.

    Defensiveness doesn’t tell anyone what your current views are, Mr. Kimball. Please state them clearly and they will spread like wildfire across the Net.

  7. Chaz says:

    Hey Dan, a few days ago U just spoke at a conference with Mark Batterson who wrote this on his blog.
    “Can’t wait to listen to and hang out with some of my favorite speakers and friends: Matt Chandler, Christine Caine, Kerry Shook, Dan Kimball, Jud Wilhite, Dino Rizzo, and Tullian Tchividjian.”

    Batterson’s recommended reading list is incredibly dangerous if you believe in the Bible. What is your spiritual defense for not telling anybody to watch out for what Batterson is promoting. U think new in Christ people should be reading James Redfield’s Celestine Prophecy? Have you seen that new age website? HE is saying these books are must reads. See his list here. Why would you keep appearing with someone without saying a word to protect God’s sheep? Your supposed to be a pastor and your ok with James Redfield’s Celestine PRophecy? Geez Louise.


  8. Paul Huston says:

    Assent to orthodox doctrine and belief is not the issue here. Although I do not know you personally, the F4F really didn’t show anything except that you may be OK here. The issue, as you know, is your association with heretical false teachers, men who hate the gospel and hate Christ. Your public association with these guys requires a public rejection to the same degree of thier teachings concerning the gospel. Is having a book on your church website that includes writings by Brian McClaren really excusable because “those who take the time to know you know the truth”? Instead of crying out for the cleaning up of discernment ministries do your church and the church at large a service and stand up for gospel truth, especially in regards to false teachers you are associated with either by choice or not.

    • Ingrid Schlueter says:

      Thank you, Paul. Dan, your call to have discernment ministries “lovingly discern” themselves cannot be taken seriously when you cannot even discern and clean up the emerging church or your own ministry. The conferences you speak at and those you write books with and the things you link to on your blog are Exhibit A of why your claims of orthodoxy are believed to be meaningless. Unless your life lines up with your claims, you are presenting a lie. You can attempt to undermine and marginalize those of us who are saying this, as can Chris Rosebrough, but as Shakespeare once wrote, “The truth will out.”

    • Ingrid Schlueter says:

      Fun with heretics! Dan Kimball posts about fun he had at universalist Doug Pagitt’s house. They stayed up till 3am. Oh yeah, also, Brian no-penal-substitutionary-atonement McLaren and Tony original-sin-is-a-depraved-idea Jones was there too. A good time was had by all. ) But Kimball is orthodox – a podcaster said so. They’re just friends. What’s the big deal, right?


      Here’s Kimballs friend Jones’ attack on original sin.

  9. Ingrid Schlueter says:

    Note to Dan Kimball – until you answer the specific questions I raised in my short post in the comment section and those of the other readers, I will not allow you to post your multi-paragraph comment that attempts to convince people of your orthodoxy. You haven’t answered any of the issues I raised, but true to form, are smoothly slipping out of it. We are not going to dialog here, because you refuse to answer the issues put to you clearly regarding your speaking and writing affiliations. You said you couldn’t answer questions on FB because you were writing a book, so I’ll let you get to that.

    • Paula says:

      I would say Dan can post that at his own blog, and I hope he will, so that his friends over there can read what he really believes. I sure don’t get even the very sparse orthodox statements that he gave on Chris’s show (that even a Roman Catholic or Mormon could agree with) when I read posts over there.

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Here is a two-part series of clips, of John MacArthur discussing the Emergent Church.

Note – this is DIFFERENT content than the discussion between Phil Johnson and John MacArthur on the Emerging Church, which I provided excerpts of in a previous blog.


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(revised 07/25/13)

The late David Wilkerson was a well balanced, discerning Pentecostal preacher in my opinion. I thank the Lord that David Wilkerson expressed his outrage about the Emerging/Emergent/Emergence Church movements. He gave a lengthy warning about the Emerging church movement in his newsletter “Seeking the Face of God,” November 7, 2005. The newsletter can be found in its entirety at:


Bro. Wilkerson discusses the Emerging Church towards the end of the newsletter. You can locate this section by copying and pasting the following phrase into your Internet browser search window:

There is a new movement today called the “emerging church.”

Following is an audio sermon excerpt which corresponds with this newsletter. The wording of David Wilkerson’s sermon excerpt is somewhat different from the newsletter. Note the concern and righteous anger in David Wilkerson’s voice. Thank the Lord for the late David Wilkerson!


David Wilkerson on the Emergent Church movement from Michael Helders on Vimeo.

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In a previous blog, I mentioned Tony Jones as one of the persons Emerging speaker Dan Kimball is associating with. Check out Tony Jones’ ever increasing New Age thinking. I am including some excerpts here from a blog by Tony Jones – the entire blog can be found at:


One of the first issues that PT addressed was the terminology that has been so bandied about in this conversation. I, as usual, took issue with it, saying that the conversation about emergent vs. emerging vs. emergence vs. missional is an internecine debate, and that it will be historians a century hence who will 1) decide if we’re worthy of a name, and 2) decide what that name is.  But I will say that after spending the week talking about such things with Phyllis, and her erstwhile daughter-in-law, Mary, I’ve had a bit of a change of heart.

[Like Tony Jones, I also try to make a distinction between the Emerging Church movement, the Emergent Church movement, and Emergence Christianity.]

My usual struggle with the term “emerging” (think Scot McKnight and Dan Kimball) is not that it’s associated with a more traditional, evangelical theology. My problem is that it’s not a term associated with the very metaphors that have been so resonant to those of us in the movement, viz., emergence theories in science.

Emergence science (think Phillip Clayton), lends us words in the family of emergence and emergent. While this may seem a silly semantic difference, it actually changes the nature of the conversation significantly. Whereas “emerging” implies something coming into view and becoming prominent (a relatively simple process), “emergent” is something (or a group of somethings) arising and existing only as a phenomenon of independent parts working together, and not predictable on the basis of their properties (an impossibly complex process).

So, what I’m saying is that maybe, just maybe, the idea of “emerging” does better fit those persons and groups who feel more comfortable with conventional evangelical theologies, and “emergent” is more appropriate for those of us more interested in following the various theological and philosophical rabbit holes that present themselves to us.

This is where Phyllis comes in. She claims that all such movements are a part of “Emergence Christianity,” which itself is subsumed by the broader global emergence — the massive, overarching cultural shift, often called globalization — taking place everywhere, right now. It is, she claims, inevitable that Christianity would be swept up in the changes that are shaking economics, politics, science, education, and every other sphere of human endeavor.

[emphases mine]

So, all this to say that I’m coming around to Phyllis’s POV. Emergence Christianity may be the best term for those of us interested in talking about the meta-religious shifts taking place right now, rather than the more parochial concerns of the “next evangelicalism” or the “rebirth of the mainline” or something like that.

Read more: http://blog.beliefnet.com/tonyjones/2009/07/looking-back-on-cornerstone-ph.html#ixzz15nfxMZUR

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Dan Kimball is one of the most popular Emerging Church speakers. He is accepted by many evangelical churches, colleges and seminaries. And compared to Emergence Christianity leaders Brian McLaren, Doug Pagitt, Tony Jones, etc. he does appear to be more biblical.

But not so fast. Check out the following blog by Ken Silva – it is an excellent critique of Dan Kimball’s so-called evangelical stance:


And the most revealing article I’ve seen so far showing Kimball’s connections with Emerging, Emergent, and Emergence names:


More articles:








An additional link showing close associations between  Dan Kimball, Doug Pagitt, and Tony Jones:


And note the following blog, which includes responding comments from Dan Kimball himself:


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[blog under construction]

Addendum 07/14/11: For whatever reason, the Crosstalk website links no longer are working. However, Googling on the search string [“Crosstalk” “Bridgers”] will still bring up other articles about this Crosstalk radio show by Ingrid Schlueter.
Following is a definition and expose of Emerging and Emergent “Bridgers.” I have copied the article in its entirety. The original is at:


Beware the Bridgers

Posted by Ingrid Schlueter in Emergent Church, Religion on November 13th, 2010 | 19 Comments

Tuesday’s Crosstalk Show will be a look at the “bridge people” of spiritual deception. The work of subverting the Gospel can’t occur without those who attempt to bridge the gap between biblical Christians and emerging spirituality teachers. “Bridgers” are the authors and leaders with well-polished doctrinal statements who cannot be faulted on paper (or their websites) for believing heresy. Their role is different than that of the  obvious Wolf that openly stalks its prey.

The role of the Bridger is that of the Judas Goat, famed for attracting sheep to slaughter. The Judas Goat is not the actual  instrument of death. It attracts the sheep to the place where it will be slaughtered. So while a Bridger will not stand in a church and teach from his pulpit or at conferences that there is no literal hell or that the substitutionary penal atonement of Christ was Divine child abuse, he will favorably quote from the books of those who do teach that. Or he might ask a Wolf to endorse his latest book on the back.

The Bridger will speak at conferences with these same Wolves and have photos taken with them. He will quote, selectively, from the Wolves and throw in the qualifier that he “doesn’t agree with everything the guy teaches or writes”, but he has found so and so’s book on leadership really helpful.

When you go to the Bridger’s website, however, and click on his doctrinal statement, confusion begins. The Bridger is Trinitarian. He believes in salvation through the work of Christ on the cross. He believes we all have sin. He believes in God’s grace. He ascribes to the Apostle’s Creed. The Bridger doesn’t fit on the heterodoxy chart. He must be OK after all.

This is increasingly the way error is disseminated. Flagrant heretics like Brian McLaren are not difficult to spot. His open denial of cardinal doctrine raises red flares to anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of Scripture and belief in its authority. The enemy of souls is not so stupid as carry error forward only on the backs of the ravening Wolves. He needs the Bridgers. He helps them find useful dupes among Christian apologetics leaders whose egos are flattered by a sense of importance in being chosen to “dialog” with a them. Chummy photos are taken. Credit is given where none is deserved. Warm handshakes occur, private late night phone calls are exchanged, remarks are made over coffee…and another Bridger is given credibility publicly, successfully providing a gateway to error for those who are taken in.

I believe that just as believers are called to specific jobs in the church, the enemy of souls has assigned jobs to those in the hierarchy of spiritual darkness. There are high level roles and less visible roles. The end result for which they work is the same: the destruction of the biblical Gospel and the promotion of a spirituality that is anti-christ.

We cannot afford to be naive in this hour of growing spiritual delusion. We who are believers in Jesus Christ and who hold fast to the bedrock truths of Scripture cannot afford to give an inch to the Bridgers. Satan works in the area of pride and Christian leaders who have not checked that impulse in their hearts and who lust after credibility as  bloggers, apologists, speakers, authors or teachers can unwittingly become the dupes of the Bridgers.

In the book of Nehemiah, we see the response recorded when Sanballot and Tobiah came to “dialog” with God’s people. Several times they sought to stop the work of wall building that was underway. The response sent back by Nehemiah to the troublemakers down below was short and clear: “We are building a wall. We cannot come down.”

That must be the response of bloggers, podcasters, radio broadcasters and authors when they are invited to “dialog” about spiritual things with emerging church teachers. Truth is not to be debated with false teachers, it is to be proclaimed. That is our role, like the Apostles of old, in the the middle of this encircling spiritual darkness. May God keep all of us faithful.

Tune in Tuesday at 2pm C for the Crosstalk Show on this topic. Update: Listen to the show here.

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I have been trying to locate the doctrinal statements held by Emerging churches. As it turns out, many DO NOT HAVE doctrinal statements. This seems very bizarre to me – one of the first things I check out when visiting a church for the first time is their doctrinal statement. Even if the church does not stick with its doctrinal statement, at least the visitor has an idea what the church perhaps believed in the past.

The lack of a doctrinal statement should immediately throw up a red flag for any attender. I am providing excerpts here from a Crosstalks episode entitled “What’s So Dangerous About the Emerging Church?”, a discussion between Phil Johnson and John MacArthur. The transcript of the entire episode can be found here:

JOHN:   You know, I would be so bold as to say this, I don’t…I don’t even think a person should go to a church that isn’t answerable to a doctrinal statement.  If you’re going to a church that doesn’t have a doctrinal statement, you need to get out of there because you’re at the whim of a guy who can invent anything he wants any time. This entrepreneurial approach to the church is a very serious breach.  “We need to hold to the faith once for all delivered to the saints.”  There needs to be accountability to a mature godly eldership that aren’t just guys raised by the entrepreneurial leader in the church.  We need to be…we need to be faithful to a doctrinal statement, to historic doctrine, to what has been stated through historic doctrinal creeds.  This flash in the pan, invent your own deal entrepreneurial approach to the church is very, very serious.    You know, in Calvin’s day if you preached without being ordained, they put you in prison, they were so protective of the truth.  I don’t think people should even be in a church unless that church is anchored to a historic doctrine and there are…there is an association with or a fellowship with.  That’s one of the reasons we have the Shepherds’ Conference, there’s so many independent churches that we need to network these guys so they sense accountability to other preachers and other teachers who hold to sound doctrine. They need that accountability as well as that fellowship and that association.  And the thing about the Emerging Church is there are no rules, there is no doctrine and there’s no official connection, right?

PHIL:   Right.

JOHN:  It’s completely amorphous, every guy does exactly what he wants to in his own eyes. And that is very, very dangerous.  And when one of those guys comes along and says, “Well we do it our way and they do it their way,” that’s really dangerous stuff.  You mean to tell me that you got it right after 2000 years?  You’re the guy who got it right? Can everything in the past, dump everybody in the present, it’s your deal, you’re doing it your way.  I think God has been faithful to protect His truth and to pass it down through the centuries in the hands of gifted, godly men and churches and it’s articulated in creeds and doctrinal statements and books and things like that.  These guys don’t want anything to do with that. They want the freedom to shape their own Christianity to suit their own whims.

PHIL:   A few years ago, it’s probably been fifteen years ago, so this was before there was ever any idea of the Emerging Church on any kind of wide scale, you wrote an article called, “What does it mean to me?” where you critiqued the common practice of people in Bible studies to sit in living rooms full of people and just go around the room and each person says what does this verse mean to me.  You critiqued that trend. Doesn’t it seem that the Emerging Church is actually just the institutionalization of that methodology?  That’s what…

JOHN:   Yeah, I guess with the exception that we don’t know what it means so maybe we should say the Emerging Church is what I think this might mean to me.

PHIL:   Remove all the dogmatism from it.

JOHN:   Yeah.

PHIL:   Is this…do you think this is another fad that will quickly go away, or what do you think the long-term ramifications…

JOHN:   It has nothing to do with the Bible.  It has nothing to do with the true church.  It has nothing to do with real Christianity.  It has nothing to do with the Holy spirit and therefore it has nothing to do with God.  Is that a fad?

Sure it’s a fad.  It’s just more pop religion.  Does that mean that these people none of them are Christians?  I think there are probably some people in here…in this kind of movement who may be Christians who are seduced by this in their ignorance they are the children tossed to and fro, carried about by every blowing wind of doctrine, which is a terrible situation. And then to elevate that as if that’s real spiritual nobility is sad.  But I think it is faddish because post-modernism is faddish.  It will have a short shelf life, shorter than ever because everything exhausts itself faster in an explosive media environment.  Because you run everything to its limit, you exhaust every option faster.  You’ve got thousands of years of pre-modernism, hundreds of years of modernism, maybe a few years of post-modernism and I don’t know what is going to come next.

PHIL:   Maybe the Lord will return.

JOHN:   Yeah.

PHIL:   In fact, as you look toward the future, just the past generation or so, the Evangelical Movement, particularly in America but really worldwide, has been ravaged by a series of these fads.  The Seeker-Sensitive Movement, and all the various fads like Purpose Driven books and Jabez books.

JOHN:   And what’s in common with all these, Phil?  What’s in common in all these is the downplaying, if not the absolute disappearance of theology.  That’s what’s common to all of them, whether you’re talking about the Willow Creek which is the Seeker thing back up one generation to Schuller, or back up one generation to Norman Vincent Peale, back up one generation to Harry Emerson Fosdick and take it back to the great Presbyterian controversy in the U.S.  Harry Emerson Fosdick who denies Scripture is the father of Norman Vincent Peale, who is all positive thinking.  He is the father of a neoorthodox named Robert Schuller who uses the lingo that sounds familiar but infuses it with all different meaning.  He told me that personally in his own conversation with me.  The father of Schuller is Norman Vincent Peale, the son of Schuller is Delhivos(??) who buys in to methodology rather than theology which gives birth to Rick Warren which gives birth to the Emerging Church.  And a common thread in all of it is the downplaying, the depreciation, the diminishing of theology, of biblical interpretation and the priority of the Word of God verse by verse being taught and being preached.

PHIL:   Exactly.  It’s left the Evangelical Movement without any kind of boundaries or definition though.  There is no coherent, cohesive movement called evangelicalism anymore. That word has lost its meaning.

JOHN: Sure…sure.

PHIL:   So what do you see as the future?

JOHN:   Well what could it be if you don’t…if theology isn’t the issue?  Then now evangelical as a word describes a broad kind of undefined, non-specific connection to Christianity.

PHIL:   And every man does what’s right in his own eyes.

JOHN:   Right.  But the bottom line is, just look at any kind of movement, whatever it is, and see if historic sound doctrine and faithful exposition of the Word of God is at the center. And if it’s not, you’ve got problems. Even if it looks like a traditional church, right?  You’ve got traditional churches where they still sing some old gospel songs and the preacher preaches a 30-minute evangelistic message. Those people may have no more discernment than somebody in an Emerging Church cause there’s not a substantial theology, there’s no a faithful exposition of the Word of God at any kind of depth.  And so that contributes to people’s susceptibility to these other movements which the style of which is more appealing.

Okay, let’s say you’re an 18-year-old kid or 20-year-old kid, you’re at the university, you’re up to your neck in post-modernism, but you’ve gone all your life to, let’s say, a Baptist church where you hear the same old evangelistic sermons, you sing the same old hymns. And you watch people live a sort of superficial Christian life and you grew up…and it was a little bit legalistic and maybe it was…it was not powerful, you know, and the Word of God wasn’t captivating, and all of a sudden along comes a guy at school and takes you off to an Emerging Church and they’re smelling things and doing candles and it’s cool and the guy’s really anti-church and he’s whacking all the stuff that you thought was dumb about your church, and it’s just…he’s shredding your experience…and you’re saying, “Yeah, yeah, that’s exactly right, I hated that organ and that old soprano singing every other week.  It never had any effect on my life.” And you buy in to the deception of this thing. That’s who they’re capturing.  I don’t think it’s nearly as appealing to the non-churched people as to the marginally churched young people. In fact, most of the leaders in the Emerging Church Movement are those guys that grew up in a traditional church that didn’t have a lot of depth or breadth and they reacted to the superficiality and somewhat maybe even the legalism of it.  They’re the ones that have been the architects of this thing.

PHIL:   You know, I think most of our listeners, the majority of them are lay people in churches where within the next few years, if not already, they are going to be under pressured to adopt and embrace some of the methodology and style and coolness of the Emerging Movement.  How would you counsel them to respond if in their church there are leaders who are promoting this kind of thing?

JOHN:   First of all, I would say this, if your church is really committed to sound doctrine, if it’s really committed to the exposition of Scripture, it’s going to be committed to historic theology. And in itself that…that should have some control because it’s going to revere the past.  It’s going to honor the past. And that becomes some kind of a controlling factor.

If you’re in a church that is just grabbing every new fad that’s coming down the line, they’re more committed to methodology than they are to theology.  There may be some exceptions to that, but to me methods are a non-issue.  It’s…it’s…it’s about the Word of God and where there is a church anchored to the Word of God, they make changes very slowly because they revere the tradition, they revere the historic theology, they revere the Word of God and their changes are conformed more by that.  So if your church is jumping on every bandwagon, the real issue there is that there’s a lack of that great depth and continuity of holding to historic doctrine and that the sound teaching of the Word of God that should be the controlling factor.  It’s a symptom when churches jump quickly from one fad to another.

And I’ll tell you how it happens, it’s so sad.  It happens very often in the transition among pastors because it’s hard for pastors to make that shift. So the pastor leaves and somebody says, “Let’s get a guy who is on the new edge.”  He comes in, these guys are very ambitious, they want to build the mega church, all their heroes have big, big, big effective deals. They come in, they can’t pull it off in their town, you know, Visalia, or Hocus-Pocus, Texas, they can’t pull it off. So they shred the church in a year or two and then they leave.  And then the church is sitting there, having been led down the primrose path like the Pied Piper and they’ve all walked off the end of the pier.  And they don’t know where to go. That’s the scenario.  But what holds the church is that strong, strong biblical doctrinal foundation.  When it’s not there, it’s very hard to prevent those trendy things from captivating people. And they do it with good intention…we’re going to win more, reach more, and all that.

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