My critical sources were: D. A. Carson’s Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church: Understanding a Movement and Its Implications (Zondervan, 2005) (Amazon) – which is the “must have” of the group, R. Scott Smith’s Truth and the New Kind of Christian (Crossway, 2005) (here), and Millard Erickson, Editor of Reclaiming the Center: Confronting Evangelical Accommodation in Postmodern Times (Good News Publishing, 2004) (here).
But if you don’t want to read hundreds of pages, or waste money on books you’ll never read again, just visit these three excellent websites and read these documents – it will take you less than an hour.
All of the above – and then some – is where I got my “information on and experience of” the emerging church. Audio files are available on many of the websites, both for and against, and you can find more information than you can digest, in just a few minutes of looking around – which is why I bothered to give you the links. See for yourself.
“Emergent” is a term in need of a qualifier. It’s roots are in the postmodern rebellion against modernity. It’s use by people not in the postmodern camp is intentionally confusing. When a person says they are “emergent,” I’m immediately suspect because of the origin and common use of the term. You should be too. Perhaps “emergent” should be qualified the same way “evangelical” is. Maybe we should ask, “Are you a conservative emergent or a progressive emergent?”
Now that that’s out of the way…
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Here are three questions to “out” someone either already in or starting to dabble with all this Emergent-PoMo stuff. (“PoMo is inside lingo for “post-modern.”)
1. If Christianity is not objectively true, if the Bible is not the inerrant Word of God, if the Cross is not the greatest expression of Divine Love but an example of “divine child abuse,” if one can merit heaven without a having a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, if God doesn’t hate sin, if wrath is not an attribute of God, if there is no personal devil and if a conscious and eternal hell is not real, then… Why be a Christian?
D. A. Carson says, “I have to say, as kindly but as forcefully as I can, that to my mind, if words mean anything, both McLaren and Chalke have largely abandoned the gospel.” (Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church, p. 186.)
This question on theology is really the only question you’ll need. But, if you have the time, also expose their liberal views toward radical Islam, American exceptionalism, and gay marriage.
2. If radical Islam is not evil, if appeasement and surrender are the best responses to military aggression, if there’s nothing we can do to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, or al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, or any other terrorist organization from murdering innocent civilians, if we can’t prevent another terrorist attack on American soil or anywhere else, and if you believe living as a dhimmi under sharia law and having your grand-daughter forced to wear a berka is no big deal, then… Should we surrender to al Qaeda now so that we can have “Peace For Our Time?”
3. If morality is culturally defined, if the Bible must be “contextualized” by each successive generation, if sins must be understood in cultural context, then… Is homosexuality a sin? Adultery? Fornication? Abortion? Infanticide? How about driving SUV’s? Not buying carbon offsets? Smoking? Capitalism? Low tax rates on “the rich?” Would you support a Protection of Marriage Amendment or a Gay Marriage Amendment?
Bottom line: I’ve never come across an emergent that is a political and social conservative, let alone a theological conservative. This whole movement isn’t about reaching the world for Christ. It’s about advancing a liberal social and political agenda in the name of Christianity. Don’t fall for it.