A Kindler, Gentler Christianity
Vol: 29 Issue: 30 Thursday, November 30, 2017
One of the oldest tenets of military doctrine is best expressed as “Divide and Conquer”. It is a major theme of Sun Tzu’s “Art of War” has been taught at every military academy since and is the root and branch of all politics.
The strategy is so effective that it has become instinctive; nobody has to teach a kid how to divide and conquer. By the time he’s five, unless his parents are on the ball, he’s already an expert at it.
As a strategy, one can trace it all the way back to the Garden of Eden. Satan first drove a wedge between Eve and God, telling Eve that God forbade her the fruit of the tree of knowledge out of jealousy.
“For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5)
Division is the principle tactic of the Enemy, whereas the Cross calls us into unity.
“Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;”
Paul explains God’s structural outline for the Church Age, saying:
“And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:” (Ephesians 4:3-4,12,13)
Moreover, the Bible tells us that one of the things God hates most is disunity.
“These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto Him:”
So we count off the first six as things God hates. The seventh on the list, the Bible says, is an abomination unto God, so let’s tick ’em off directly from Proverbs 6:17-19.
- A proud look
- A lying tongue
- Hands that shed innocent blood
- A heart that deviseth wicked imaginations
- Feet that be swift in running to mischief
- A false witness that speaketh lies; and (drum roll, please)
- The Abominable Sin: he that soweth discord among brethren.
It is an Enemy tactic to divide and conquer. The Church is called to be unified in one Body and led by One Spirit according to the Word of God.
To accomplish that purpose, we’re told, He gave the early Church apostles and prophets and evangelists to spread the Gospel, and then pastors and teachers;
- For the perfecting of the saints.
- For the work of the ministry.
- For the edifying of Christ.
This work is to continue, the Scriptures say, until “we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.”
Let’s look once more at the passage — it’s actually in two parts. Do you see it? There is the ‘action’ part and the ‘result’ part. The action part is assigned to God’s workmen: perfecting the saints for the purpose of the ministry, to the edification of Christ.
The ‘result’ part is assigned to the Holy Spirit. When DO we all come together in unity of faith and knowledge, “perfect men” as measured against the full stature of Christ?
The answer should be obvious: on the day we stand before Him.
I got an email the other day from a subscriber who wanted to know more about the Emergent Church movement and how it fits into the end times scenario. But before I tackled it, I wanted to make sure that we’re all on the same page Scripturally.
When critiquing a new movement within the Body of Christ, one must do so with fear and caution. New teaching and Christian identity needs to be evaluated against the faith which was delivered to God’s people, “once, for all.”
The Emergent Church offers what it claims is a more ‘generous’ view of orthodox Christianity. According to one enthusiastic evaluation, the Emergent church rejects;
“the simplistic, biased and judgmental way they were taught to look at people in the world –many of whom seem more pleasant, humble and nice than the people from their fundamentalist Churches.
Reacting to this background, they are determined to transcend the separatist spirit of Christians who seem to have nothing more important to do than to defend how right they are and how wrong everyone else is.”
It does sound a lot like the traditional Church, doesn’t it?
There’s a joke about a Baptist who went to Heaven and asked St. Peter what was behind a high wall dividing Heaven. St. Peter answered, “One side is for Catholics, the other for Baptists.”
“Why the wall?” the Baptist wanted to know.
“Simple,” St. Peter replied. “They both think that they are the only ones here.”
The fact is, the Emergent Church reaches out with open arms of tolerance and acceptance to those they were warned to separate from by Scripture.
The Emergent Church has a lot of nicknames: post-conservative, post-evangelical, post-fundamentalist, to name a few.
It sees theology as a quest for the beauty and truth of God rather than a search for propositional statements, proof texts and doctrinal formulations —-used to measure those who are in and judge those who are out.
The Emergent Church views its doctrine as a kindler, gentler kind of Christianity.
It soft-pedals around harsh exclusionary doctrines like salvation through Christ alone or eternal damnation in a literal hell for unbelievers, or Scriptural condemnations of homosexuality.
It is the view of the Emergent Church that traditional churches are dying because they hold too tightly to Scriptural absolutes, which is why the Emergent Church is, well, emerging. That’s one way of looking at it.
The other is to argue that traditional churches are dying because they AREN’T HOLDING TIGHTLY ENOUGH, which gives rise to the kind of spiritual arrogance expressed by Emergent Church leaders in the name of humility.
So, which side of the issue am I on? I opened with warnings about spreading division, but it is clear that the purpose of today’s column is NOT to promote harmony between the Emergent Church and traditional doctrinal understanding.
When one reads most critiques of the Emerging Church, they are more invective and personal observations about the motives and intent of its leaders, like Rick Warren, or Brian McLaren or Edmund Burke, than they are critiques of the doctrine.
That’s not Scriptural, it’s not logical, and it only serves to marginalize the person making the critique.
Guys like Rick Warren aren’t evil men — they truly believe that they are doing the Lord’s work. They honestly believe that they are being led by the Holy Spirit. They are as sincere as I am.
It is just that they are sincerely wrong.
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” (2nd Timothy 4:3-4)
Sound doctrine is that which has been delivered through God’s Word. “Itching ears” want something more spectacular, like direct revelation from the Holy Spirit instead of the same old-same old traditional doctrine that the Emergent Church is emerging from.
And that is precisely the argument offered — that the Emergent Church is the one that truly reflects the teaching and intent of the Holy Spirit.
Charles Spurgeon captured the true spirit of the Emergent Church over a hundred years ago when he wrote,
“It seems odd, that certain men who talk so much of what the Holy Spirit reveals to themselves, should think so little of what He has revealed to others.”
It seems odd to me, too.
Featured Commentary: ACRONYMOLOGY ~J.L. Robb