Hesitations Regarding The Emerging Church

Posted: January 20, 2009 by Josiah Batten in Emerging Church, Reform, The Church

I’ll be honest, I like some of what the so-called “Emerging Church” is doing.  Reform of our modern Church practice is long over-due.  We in the Church can no longer afford to have a Christianity centered around politics.  Christianity is a relationship with God Almighty. It’s not a means by which we tip elections, and faith is not defined by political activism.  The Church should be a living organism rather than an organization.

These things are good, and these are some of the reasons I like the Emerging Church movement.  But there are some negatives which I believe are so important that I have trouble labeling myself an Emergent.

The first problem I see with the Emergent Church is its roots in postmodern thought.  Everything is viewed as an experience; the quality of a service is measured by the subjective feelings it causes one to have.  The main rule of Emergent Hermenuetics seems to be “Interpret to make yourself feel good, view the Bible through the lens of your experience.”

This, my friends, is dangerous.  We need not sacrifice sound Biblical teaching in order to achieve ecclesiastical reform.  In fact, I believe a return to sound Biblical teaching would cause the greatest ecclesiastical reform we’ve seen in 400 years.  The Reformation and the modern Pentecostal movement were both founded on an overarching conviction that the Church was not functioning as it was meant to, and these convictions were rooted in a sound Biblical hermenuetic.

Now I know most Emergents have a deep respect for the Bible, but that doesn’t change the fact that most postmodernism is influencing how they interpret it.  Emergents call for ecclesiastical unity while embracing hermenuetic subjectivity.  This is self-defeating.  At least Evangelicals, from Pentecostal to Baptist, have all agreed on certain foundations for interpreting and applying God’s Word, and any debate centers around who is better applying those rules and who is presenting a clearer view of Scripture.  With Emergents such dialog is not even possible, because each person interprets the Bible according to whatever makes them feel good.  This, of course, is rooted in postmodern thought; in their attempt to say “there are no authorities” people like Brian McLaren make themselves the new authorities.

I don’t understand why we would even want to interpret The Bible, or any other book, based upon our subjective experiences.  The fact is there are objective meanings to what is written in the Bible, and we must interpret literal passages literally and figurative passages figuratively.  We should interpret according to what the author intended, not according to what makes us feel good.

The second thing, and this is closely related to the first, is the Emergent Church is very seeker-sensitive.  The Emergent Church doesn’t want to offend anybody, it wants to exclusively to things that make people feel good and “at least get them in the door.”  Why get them through the door?  If any way is an appropriate way to God then why bother with evangelism at all?

First, the corporate gathering for worship is not intended for the non-believer.  The saints gathering together for worship and fellowship is meant for… well… the saints.  Granted, there will always be unbelievers present, and we must acknowledge that, but reaching the unbeliever is not the primary purpose of corporate worship.  Corporate worship and fellowship is meant for the edification of the Body.  If we bring one unbeliever in he may accept Christ. If we get 50 believers into the presence of God, and they are convicted to evangelize, we may have 50+ people accept Christ through the witness of those believers.

Secondly, seeker-sensitivity assumes that man kind is looking for God.  R.C. Sproul is right when he says man kind is not looking for God, man kind is looking for the benefits God provides while running as fast and as far as he can from God.  We are Christ’s ambassadors, let us present the Gospel. We must bring it to the unbeliever; the seeker-sensitive movement wants to force the unbeliever to look for it.

Lastly, I should like to point out that the Emergents often demonstrate an extreme selfishness.  Just to present one example, I love apologetics.  I’ve been told by Emergents that we don’t need apologetics, we don’t need a reason for our faith, we don’t need arguments, we don’t need to engage skeptics in debate or answer their questions.  This type of reasoning doesn’t acknowledge that our faith is rooted in the historical fact of Christ’s resurrection, and if there is no resurrection our faith is in vain (I Corinthians 15:14).

And another thing, maybe I personally would do fine without apologetics, but the skeptic will not.  Even if I’ll believe in Christ without the Kalam Cosmological Argument, some skeptics will not.  Their souls are just too important for me to selfishly tell them “you don’t need a reason”.  Who are we to tell a skeptic that?  It requires a great degree of selfishness and laziness to use faith as an excuse to not engage skeptics on their own ground.  Not to mention it is mandated that we love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind.  We must be prepared to give the reason for what we believe, and we must be prepared to do this with gentleness and respect (I Peter 3:15).

For these reasons, I am hesitant to jump on the Emergent Church bandwagon.  I realize not all Emergents believe the same thing (which, in my opinion, is pretty good evidence of the postmodernism the movement is rooted in).  I do not seek uniformity in our beliefs, but there are certain things we just can’t compromise.  I’m all for ecclesiastical reform, but we need not surrender truth to achieve this.

God bless!


  1. I am a Christian Apologist based in India. It has been good to visit your blog today.

    The Emergent Church has many good things in It. Even false cults have many good things in them. Thus, as you rightly point out, it is not time yet to jump on to this bandwagon.

    Johnson C. Philip, PhD

  2. sweetswede says:

    Dr. Philip,

    I’m glad you enjoyed reading, thank you for your thoughts!

    God bless you as you faithfully continue building up the Body in your work as an apologist (see Acts 8:27-28)!


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