The Cross is the Crux

That I might preach error is a terror to me, a terror I rejoice to carry with me into the study.  I pray daily that I not stray into error, and thank God that I do so, believing it to be some of the good He brought out of my bad.   I praise God that a movement that once looked so attractive to me now deeply saddens me.  I am speaking of the emergent conversation.  If you are clueless, good for you, but if you have ever wondered about Brian McLaren, Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt, Rob Bell, Donald Miller, Spencer Burke, or Dan Kimball I highly recommend you read Why We’re Not Emergent by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck.  If you were going to read a book on the emerging church, read this one.  Here is a sampling:

This is maybe the biggest difference between emergent Christianity and historic evangelical Christianity.  Being a Christian – for Burke, for McLaren, for Bell, for Jones, and for many others in the emerging conversation – is less about faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ as the only access to God the Father and the only atonement for sins before a wrathful God, and more about living a life that Jesus lived and walking in His way.

Remember spoiling the gospel?

5 thoughts on “The Cross is the Crux”

  1. It is essential to go to the original source and not form an opinion about something based solely on a critique. I see little value in reading books that simply reiterate your own beliefs and tell you what you want to hear – it strikes me as a bit self-congratulatory. I recommend reading Rob Bell’s “Velvet Elvis,” Brian McLaren’s “A Generous Orthdoxy,” etc. to see what the emerging church is really about. Then form an opinion based on a careful consideration of these ideas as the emerging authors actually present them. Most importantly, read these books with an open mind and be willing to seriously work through some of the tough questions instead of quickly rejecting or ignoring anything that might challenge your existing beliefs. For example, here is Brian McLaren on the gospel (Brian is answering the questions):

    Q: Hold on. That bothered me too. You wrote, “Which reminds us that none of us has a complete grasp of the gospel…. It’s very dangerous to assume you’ve perfectly contained the gospel in your little formula.” I think with all the other change going on, one thing we’ve got to hold firm on is the gospel.
    A: What do you mean when you say “the gospel?”
    Q: You know, justification by grace through faith in the finished atoning work of Christ on the cross.
    A: Are you sure that’s the gospel?
    Q: Of course. Aren’t you?
    A: I’m sure that’s a facet of the gospel, and it’s the facet that modern evangelical protestants have assumed is the whole gospel, the heart of the gospel. But what’s the point of that gospel?
    Q: What do you mean? I guess it’s so that people can spend eternity with God in heaven in an intimate personal relationship as opposed to … the alternative. You don’t seem to agree.
    A: Well, for Jesus, the gospel seemed to have something to do with the kingdom of God.
    Q: Which is the kingdom of heaven, which is going to heaven after you die.
    A: Are you sure about that?
    Q: Aren’t you?
    A: This is exactly the point I was trying to make in the article. Many of us are sure we’re “postmodern” now with our candles and hipness and so on, but we haven’t asked some important and hard questions – not about postmodernity, but about modernity and the degree to which our theology and understanding of the gospel have been distorted or narrowed or made “gospel lite” by modernity.
    Q: If you were intending to make me feel better, you’re not succeeding.
    A: Well, I hope you’ll at least think about this. And search the Scriptures, you know, to see if there’s any validity to the question I’m raising.


  2. Austin,

    I have read emerging literature; I just counted 15 books in my office. The authors include Rob Bell, Mark Driscoll, Dan Kimball, Brian McLaren, Doug Pagitt, and Donald Miller. I have listened to many sermons by Bell, a few by Brian McLaren and have listened to both Tony Jones and Donald Miller in person. When people have asked me about the emerging movement I have referred them to these books. I too think you should read them if you want to be informed and find out what they are about. I also think that the emerging church is making some legitimate critiques of western Christianity. There are some things they are saying that we should listen to. The authors of Why We Are Not Emergent give them credit in the proper areas. I think they accurately represent their views of the emerging church. Not everyone has time to wade through a lot of books nor wants to; and to those people I say if you want to read one book, the book I would recommend above all others, the one the fairly represents their theologies and in my opinion biblically addresses their faults while crediting their strengths, then I would read this one.

    Finally, while many emerging leaders do not out rightly deny penal substitutionary atonement, which
    is the heart of the gospel, they so elevate “living” the kingdom that the gospel is shadowed, hidden, or lost altogether. Should we feed the poor, care for disaster victims, clothe the homeless, and welcome the outcast – absolutely. But, “if in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied.”


  3. Just for the record, my post was directed toward anyone willing to read more than one book on the subject, not you in particular. I know you’ve read all of these guys because I’m pretty sure you introduced me to several of them over the last couple of years, at least Rob Bell and Donald Miller.


  4. Here is an interesting blog post by Derek Webb that I think echoes exactly what Brian McLaren said in the interview I posted:

    “This is the work of following Jesus — to love and care especially for those whom it is difficult. It is therefore never a political position to be on the side of the poor. Working for justice in all areas of society is not peripheral to the proclamation of the good news of Jesus; it is central. His message was not that of the individual salvation of men and women, but of the “being made right of all things.” While this certainly includes the stories of men and women, that is such a small part of the whole. It’s a story about our families, our environment, our governments, our neighbors, about the whole of what God has made. And proclaiming half the truth as the whole truth is no truth at all.”


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