Saturday, March 7, 2009

I Don't Want Every Post To Be About Them, But....

Yesterday (via Justin Taylor) I read a retrospective of the last ten years of the Emerg* Church movement (also see the expanded interviews if you care). One story recounted there does a great job of illustrating exactly why I have a major problem with this movement. As an added bonus, the money quote is straight from the mouth of Tony Jones. Normally, when a critic of emerg* makes this claim it's dismissed as hateful nonsense, so it's great to see Jones unapologetically claim exactly what critics have been suggesting. Well, great that he's being honest about it, not so great that he actually believes it and teaches it.

Anyway, it's from a meeting between emerg* leaders Jones and Doug Pagitt and the most definitely non-emerg* and all-around awesome John Piper. They all work in Minneapolis (Pagitt 'pastors' or 'facilitates' (not sure which term they use this week) Solomon's Porch, and Piper pastors Bethlehem Baptist Church), and the emerg*s wanted to try to form some sort of coalition and work together. From the article:

But it appeared that John believed that there had to be some foundational theological agreement before any kind of partnership could be struck. Their conversation centered on the meaning of the atonement, specifically, the penal substitutionary theory. Tony and Doug did not believe that agreement on this specific doctrine was necessary for mutual endeavor. Tony used the incident to illustrate his Dispatch #7 in his recent book The New Christians:

Emergents believe that an envelope of friendship and reconciliation must surround all debates about doctrine and dogma.

Tony reiterated this principal in our interview with him: “It concerns me when leaders who were formerly friends of mine back away from me and from emergent because they find my theology too risky. I think that’s sin, plain and simple. Friendship should trump doctrinal differences, and I’m quite sure that Jesus would agree with me on that”.
So yeah. The emerg*s wanted to work together. Before doing so, Piper wanted to know that they at least agree on the heart of the gospel. The emerg*s didn't see the point in agreeing on the gospel. Why not just set such things aside and work together? Apparently to them, the gospel just isn't nearly as important as getting everyone to work together and be friends. (The same could of course also be said of "ecumenical" ideas such as ECT.) But the real meat comes from the Jones quote. Let's see, where to begin...

"It concerns me when leaders who were formerly friends of mine back away from me and from emergent because they find my theology too risky". I object to the term risky. Risk implies that there is a chance of either reward or consequence. That is simply not the case with Jones's theology. We know what the Bible says, we know what Jones teaches, and they are far, far apart. There is no "risk" involved in accepting his theology, any more than there is "risk" in putting your head in a hydraulic press and turning it on. We know exactly where it leads. Rejecting such a foolish course of action is not fear of risk, but an absence of stupidity.

"I think that’s sin, plain and simple." In the world of Tony Jones, standing firm for the gospel is sin. Got it. I'd be remiss if I didn't point out the irony of a man who has dedicated his life to promoting the denial of sin and an "anything goes" view of sanctification - because we can't really actually understand what the Bible says, and we can't know what truth really is, so who can say that something is a sin anyway, right? - calling something a sin. Apparently to Jones, the only real sin is believing the gospel as proclaimed by Jesus, attested by the apostles, and confirmed by the Father through signs and wonders and various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

"Friendship should trump doctrinal differences, and I’m quite sure that Jesus would agree with me on that.” Why should the gospel matter? Why can't we just be friends? Again, when concerned Christians claim that emerg* leads to such places, we are ridiculed as spiteful haters. So in a way, it's refreshing to see such an influential emerg* as Jones come right out and say it. (See another prime example here).

And of course, Jesus would agree with this. He has no concern for truth whatsoever, he's just interested in getting us together to hold hands and light candles and sing Kum Ba Yah. Well, let's see how this picture of Jesus just wanting us to be friends without regard to faith or practice lines up with scripture. Hmmm. Nope. Not here. Or here. Nah. Maybe... nope. What about... nuh-uh. No. No. Repeatedly and clearly, no. Well, I'm sure that somewhere in the world, there's a Jesus who agrees with Jones here. It's just not Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who Jones claims to worship.

Well, maybe Jesus thinks that what we believe is slightly important - you know, important enough to determine whether we spend eternity rejoicing in heaven or suffering in hell. But surely elsewhere in scripture there's gotta be license for what Jones wants to do, right? I mean, just because someone may deny the heart of the gospel, there's no reason we can't overlook that and be the church together, right? No reason we can't church up together and be friends just because they're totally off on the gospel. What say ye, Paul?

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel — not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
Well then. It seems that maybe friendship doesn't quite overrule the gospel. Huh. Of course, this quote is from the introduction to Galatians, where Paul takes the church to task for allowing false teachers to peddle their heresy. It doesn't matter if they're friends, or Paul himself, or even an angel. If they teach something other than the true gospel, they are cursed, and the church should not tolerate them.

I end with something tragically humorous. This post imagines what the response would be if Galatians was published in Christianity Today. Of course, as Dan Phillips points out, there's exactly zero chance that CT would publish something so good, so it would be merely fantasy. And the letters don't come close to matching the histrionics the perpetually offended crowd would no doubt produce. But it is a pretty accurate snapshot of the response whenever discernment is applied. Check the comment thread on any critical review of The Shack, f'r'instance. So it's humorous in that it captures the self-parody of the evanjellybean crowd so well, which completely expresses the "doctrine doesn't matter as long as we get along!" rubbish spouted by Jones. And it's tragic that this garbage has so completely infiltrated the church.


ben said...

your posts are usually enlightening and curiously funny, and can sometimes be, as seen here, sadly humorous...i'm glad we're working with a church-plant/friends who, yes, are reaching out to a creative, free-thinking, artistic and independent community, but are holding strong to the truth of Jesus Christ and the power and authority of the is challenging at times, and tempting to move towards the "friends of men" mindset, but when it comes down to it: nope -- lover of God first, thanks...

Tha Deuce said...

Your point here is exactly why I am not preaching for the Assemblies of God today. They used the excuse of "unity" to support poor, unbiblical (not necessarily anti-biblical) doctrine. I just couldn't do it because the doctrine had no base in scripture, but because they deemed it one of their core doctrines, their pastors MUST agree to it. I refused to preach an unbiblical doctrine from the pulpit...