I am deeply disturbed by the Emerging, Emergent, and Emergence movements’ refusal in most cases to provide a doctrinal statement. There are various reasons for this. But the end result is that it is very hard to pin down leaders of these movements on what they believe. Or DON”T believe! Perhaps they realize they would be slammed if they stated flat out – in writing – that they do not believe in Jesus as the only way to Heaven, eternal torment for unbelievers, etc.
Following is a blog which addresses some of the problems with the lack of a doctrinal statement. Although it is not addressed specifically to the Emerging, Emergent, and Emergence movements, it does allude to these movements at several points in the blog.
I have made several comments throughout the blog repost, by either bolding or adding comments in [bracketing].
The original blog can be found in its entirety at:
What does your doctrine say?
The 20th century is an interesting one from a Church history perspective. Its [sic] a time where we saw a massive shift in how we “do church”. With the onslaught of new technologies, new musical styles, and increased pressure from society to have our churches not “feel like church”, the sanctuary has gone from a house of worship to a house of rock. Our rock star worship bands raise the roof while people cheer and applaud the guitar solos which get flashed up on the giant video screen. Pews were replaced by stadium style seating, pastors resorted to power point presentation to get their messages across and Christianity was reduced to catchy slogans that you could fit onto a t-shirt, bumper sticker, or trash bag. All of these things I could consider to be dangerous trends in the church, many of them carrying over to the 21st century where post modernism has gotten its clammy hands on them, turning them into a big vague cloud of truth-less dust all the while proclaiming, “we are breaking the mold that our parents were stuck in!” Perhaps the most damaging trend of the 20th century’s brand of Christianity though was the decline of the doctrinal statement.
Doctrinal statements used to be at the heart of how Protestant churches operated. Everyone from the Lutherans to the Methodists had clear concise statements of faith addressing a whole array of doctrinal issues. Even the Anabaptists, a group of people known for their lack of consistent beliefs from sect to sect during the Reformation, were able to put together a statement of faith such as the Schleithem Confession (even if this document was more of a confession of what they do NOT believe…). With the rise of the “non-denominational” churches, the “independent” churches and the Charismatic movement of the 60s, a trend of doing away with such clear doctrinal statements arose. No more were churches willing to take hard stands on things like election, the sacraments, worship philosophies, and the like. Where churches once had doctrinal statements that were several pages long (or in some cases became books in and of themselves), we now find bullet point lists that cover the “basics”. We hear statements like, “the Bible is our doctrinal statement”. Never mind all those fuzzy details as to just WHAT the church believes about what the Bible says. No need to “divide people over the minors.”
That sounds like a good thing right? No more dividing the Body, no more petty debates around secondary issues, everyone can just come together and get along! No doubt unity in the Church is important, and no doubt Christians should be able to come together and worship the King and do Kingdom work. However, is unity truly being achieved and at what cost?
The fact is, unity in the Universal Church is no more a reality today than it was 500 years ago or even 2000 years ago. These trends have done nothing to unify the body and everything to confuse and stupefy it. Instead of having a local church that may or may not agree with another local church on a specific doctrinal issue, we have congregations full of people who simply don’t care or worse…don’t know what they believe. Its true that during the Reformation there were some venomous splits between groups like the Lutherans, the Calvinists, and the Anabaptists, but at least people knew what they believed and why they believed it. Their churches were willing to draw a line in the sand and say, “We believe the Scriptures teach this and if Scripture teaches it, it is worth us taking a stand even if it means we divide the Body. God’s truth must be preserved!”
The true cost of lack luster doctrinal statements is ignorance in the Body of Christ. People no longer know where their churches stand on issues, why they take the positions they take, or why they agree or disagree with such doctrinal issues. Churches boast that they believe in the authority of Scripture, yet they coward to take a stand on the truths that the Scriptures address.
John Owen once said, “ In the divine Scriptures, there are shallows and there are deeps; shallows where the lamb may wade, and deeps where the elephant may swim.” I can’t help but ask, if this is true then why be satisfied with a church that is only willing to address the shallows? If the shallows were all that mattered, then God would not have given us the deeps.