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Useless Redeemer, Jesus is Mine?
In Defense of the Faith
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Wendy Wippel

Browsed the shelves at your bookstore lately?  Many of today’s alleged Christian writers were apparently Barney fans in their youth.

All the titles above, and many more like them (Rethinking Christianity, Rethinking How You Read the Bible, Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith, etc) are a product of a movement that has arisen, from amongst the evangelical context, called the emerging or the emergent church.  Roger Oakland, in Faith Undone (a must read if you haven’t) defines the commonalities of what is admittedly a loosely defined spectrum of individual churches:

Emergent church thinkers leaders call for a complete reinvention of Christianity and the church and claim that the old model is obsolete:  Erwin McManus, who has sold hundreds of thousands of books at Christian bookstores, said;

“My goal is to destroy Christianity as a world religion and be a recatalyst for the movement of Jesus Christ…people are upset with me because it sounds like I’m anti-Christian.  I think they might be right.”

Emergent church thinkers value experience more than Bible teaching: Brian McLaren, widely recognized as the predominant figure in the emergent church movement, says;

"No doctrine is absolute; doctrine must be considered only with personal experiences and traditions." 

Marilyn Ferguson calls experience "first-hand knowledge", while doctrine she labels as "second-hand knowledge and dangerous".  To emphasize experience in emergent services, seekers walk through labyrinths, burn candles and incense, and contemplate icons, but dismiss the bible.  McLaren calls the Bible a "scrapbook of memorabilia and says that “Scripture is neither authoritative… nor a foundation for faith".  He has also stated that “we must be continually aware that the “old, old, story” may not be the true, true story.”

Emergent church thinkers see many paths to God: Jesus as the sole way to God is too exclusive in the global village.  McLaren says;

“For too many people the name Jesus has become a symbol of exclusion, as if Jesus’ statement that “I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no one comes to the Father except through me” actually means “I am in the way of people seeking truth and life. I won’t let anyone get to God unless he comes through me." 

Dave Fleming says that;

“for too long the only conversation many people have had with those of different faiths is about conversion. We really must get beyond this… travel the road together as friends and seekers of the Mystery".

Dallas Willard, prolific Christian author, and many others have expressed the opinion that it is not necessary to know or call on the name of Jesus to be saved.

Emergent church thinkers see the role of the church being to bring about  the kingdom of God on earth: At the 2007 emergent church conference, “Imagine a World…a New Vision for God’s Kingdom on Earth” speakers Sherry and Jeff Maddock said;

“Our principal desire is to see God’s kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.  We believe this happens when God’s people are renewed around God’s mission of love and justice in the world.”

Emergent church leaders deny the doctrine of atonement:  (Too barbaric for this modern age.) McLaren says;

“The church has been preoccupied with the question, 'what happens to your soul after you die?' As if the reason for Jesus coming can be summed up in, 'Jesus is trying to get more souls in heaven, as opposed to hell, after they die…'.  I don’t think that the entire message… can be boiled down to that bottom line."

Alan Jones, a major emergent church author, says;

“The Church’s fixation on the death of Jesus as the universal saving act must end, and the place of the cross must be reimagined in Christian faith. Why?  Because of the cult of suffering and the vindictive God behind it."

He also calls the cross a “vile doctrine”.

What is that they have really re-imagined?

The Gospel.

I think God had something to say about that. 

First of all, the bible clearly says that Christ came to be the once-for all atoning sacrifice that takes away our sins. Jesus, in John 12:27, says with his own mouth that he came specifically for that hour. And, in what would seem to be anticipation of McLaren’s statements, Paul wrote in I Timothy 1:15;

"This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners."

Oh, I forgot. The bible is just a scrapbook of memorabilia. "There is no objective authority." (Tony Jones)

Bad habit, (I know) but I just can’t stop thinking of other things the Bible says.

Like:  "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek." Romans 1:16

Like:  "But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed."  Galatians 1:8

Like: "Anyone who …does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God… If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take them into your house or welcome them. Anyone who welcomes them shares in their wicked work."  II John 9-11 NIV

The bible clearly instructs us to hold fast to the Gospel as the power of salvation, to not accept any other gospels, and to have no association with those who deny the Gospel.

Unfortunately, a lot of the church doesn't seem to be reading their bibles.

Take Rob Bell.

Popular Christian author, whose NOOMA videos have been a mainstay in evangelical youth groups, released his first book in 2005: Velvet Elvis.  In that book he called the bible a human product and states that God could have done better.  In that book he states that he is rediscovering Christianity as an eastern religion.  In that book he says the we need to lose the desire to convert people (What about the Great commission…?)  He says that;

“We were born to manifest the glory—put on display, to show—the glory of God that is within us. You may be a dirt clod, but there is greatness and power and glory that resides in every single human being.”

That's a heretical doctrine called panentheism, which says God is in every person and we just need to realize that we are part of God.

It denies the need for a redeemer.  It denies the gospel.  It denies Christ.

He said all that in 2005.  But Christians still brought him into their homes by the hundreds of thousands in the form of his books.  Churches continued to buy his videos and books.
So much so that the Chicago Sun-Times named him the Billy Graham for the 21st century.

The "imaginings" of the emergent church aren't a fringe way of thinking.  They are the "cutting edge" of today's Christian thought. They are the dogma of tomorrow.

The Bible, seemingly (there I go again) seemingly foresaw this too: (Isaiah 65:2)

"All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imagination."  Romans 10:21 NIV

“...when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools."  Romans 1:21

Bell’s latest work you probably heard about.  He reimagined the existence of hell—effectively writing it out of existence, in fact-- in the work “Love Wins.”  It sold hundreds of thousands of copies in the first few weeks.

Millions of Christians have bought and read The Shack, which also teaches universalism (everyone goes to heaven) with no need for a redeemer or that “vile doctrine”, the cross.

Suddenly the statement Jesus made in the Sermon on the Mount-- "I never knew you”—is way more comprehensible.

Martin Luther observed that wherever God has a church, the devil seeks to build a chapel.

Way too many Christians can't even tell the difference.

About Wendy Wippel

Last week: Promises From the Pridelands



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