Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The Emerging Church Pt. 2

As I was browsing the web I was led to an article on Rob Bell:Repainting Faith: Dynamic pastor publishes book, who is the Pastor of the 10,000 person Mars Hill Church outside Grand Rapids Michigan. I do not know if Rob Bell considers himself Emergent, see CT article, or not but he does appear to reflect the end of the Emergent church that is worrisome.

What sounds very much like the reader response view of interpretation, there is nothing new under the sun, is his seeming fluid interpretation of scripture which would mean scripture holds no timeless truth if it can be interpreted based on culture, and other surround elements. Below is from the article:

"It is not possible to simply do what the Bible says," Bell writes. "We must first make decisions about what it means at this time, in this place, for these people."

He also uses the straw man of the abuse of scripture to support his thought.

Noting the Bible has been used to defend slavery and mistreat women, he writes, "sometimes when I hear people quote the Bible, I just want to throw up."

Unfortunately it is the ability of the reader to interpret based on his personal context that leads to this. Thus just how he would like to see scripture leads to the abuse that makes him want to vomit. So a KKK member can read scripture as he likes in the context of his time, place and people and end up with decidedly perverse results.

While Rob does not, as far as I have seen, speak for the Emerging church his understanding of scripture seems to reflect the thoughts of the various articles and bloggs of a segment of the Emerging church conversation that I heave read lately.

The move to somehow seem more loving by not declaring that absolute truth exists leads to a myriad of errors. The least of which is the exclusivity of Christ as savior. When dealing with this issue Rob seems uncertain:

What does that mean for salvation? Bell says it's a question he's wrestling with.
"I think you have to begin to ask questions about whether Jesus died for everybody or just a few," he said. "I challenge the notion that the cross is just for a couple people who happen to say some particular prayer or happen to be in some sort of inside club. I think it goes way bigger."

We do need to wrestle with scripture but that does not mean it needs to change but we need to change to its meaning, even if the truth found is uncomfortable. His wrestling with the issue of the cross is something he needs to do, we all do, but what does that mean for those he preaches too. It is not a matter of us all coming to our own conclusions but we need to come to God’s conclusion.

I did not mean this to be a Rob Bell bashing but it was just that in one article I see reflected so much of the wrong side of the “conversation.” There is a side that is asking questions that need to be asked and answered and I will focus on that next time.

Grace and Peace,



andrew jones said...

what is your opinion of the hundreds of house churches that form part of the emerging church in USA?

i know they are much smaller than rob bells church but do you think they hold a similar view?

Tony said...

Hi Andrew:
I was only speaking in generalizations, not always a good thing but sometime necessary, as a call to be discerning about what we do. Now this is my opinion, but if one holds to much of what Brian Mclaren I would have much to worry about. Overall any movement needs to be looked at as often they spring up as a response to something and often the response can be worse than the thing responded to. I do see a need for reformation in the church away from the current mega church model but that does not necessitate the need to review the gospel and reinterpret it. I am always amazed when people seem to think they have found something wrong or new and in essence say those before them were blind.

This all said if a small church, or for that matter a large church, is considered emerging each instance needs to be looked at individually. I have been listening to Mark Driscoll some and I do not think, I am not certain, he would consider himself emerging but others would include him in that group. The point being is that much of what he does and believes contradicts those in the emerging church, and he even says this. So again not all the churches should be lumped together.

In my reading I would say a tell tale question to ask is what is their definition and understanding of truth. Since many of the emerging church leaders seem to shy from admitting there is absolute truth that is applicable to all.

Thanks for your comments. I hope I do not sound too dogmatic but the whole nature of a blogg leads one to pint their thoughts which is a good thing. The bad is thoughts can be misunderstood if not clarified.

Grace and Peace,


Thomas S. Barnes said...

Yes, Mark at one time was running w/ these guys but once they started questioning Essential Christian Doctrine he split ways w/ them. I think (and I do mean think) that people identify the 'Emerging' church differently than the 'Emergent' church. The Rob Bell's & Brian Mclaren's of the world would be associated w/ the 'Emergent' church; and the Mark Driscoll's of the world have a vision for being missional and the 'Emerging' church.

Just my 2 cents.

In Christ,

Thomas S. Barnes

Tony said...

Thomas; I would agree, in general, about Mark Driscoll. However I do think in reading much of what he writes that he may carry some “emergent” baggage when he interprets scripture. He seems to be a little loose with text at times and his attempts to be relevant are at times a little too over board. One thing I have found over the years is that if you just exposit scripture as it is in front of us it will be relevant. I have been preaching through Genesis for over a year or so and I am always amazed at how relevant it is if I just put forth what is in the text.

Thomas S. Barnes said...

Yes, totally agree. I cut my teethe on Mark Driscoll when I first became Reformed, that is not to say I am more scholarly, wise or spiritual than Mark. He just has some ideas that I do not share ... such as contexulization (being relevant for today), I believe scripture is relevant just as it is. I still listen/read some of his sermons/blogs from time to time.

Loving reading over your blog.

I am still working on getting my blog set-up but you can find it here:

Keep the articles coming.

Blessings in Christ,