Deep Church?

Kevin DeYoung takes a good long look at Deep Church by Jim Belcher.

As you know, Kevin wrote his own book about the emerging church movement, so he knows whereof he speaks.

he approached this new book with trepidation:

I am always skeptical of “third way” books anyways. Usually, the “third way” is basically the same as one of the other two ways, only a little nicer. In this case, I was expecting the third way to be emergent-lite with a less caustic attitude toward evangelicals. But actually Belcher was just the opposite. He is an evangelical–a traditional evangelical I would argue–who seems sound in his theology (he is a PCA minister after all), but wants to be non-traditional in a few ways. If I were titling the book I would call it “Why I’m Not Emergent, But I Like Many of the Emergent Folks and I Want to Do Church Differently Too.”

But he was surprised by it and liked it more than he thought he would.

As you can see, there is much to affirm in these chapters. Belcher understands the issues well and clearly rejects the worst of the emerging movement. His church sounds like a good church, and Belcher (whom I never met) strikes me as an honest, thoughtful, irenic pastor. I agreed with much more in this book than I thought I would. As a part of the PCA, Belcher is not only tied to the Great Tradition, but to the Reformed/Presbyterian tradition. As such, I imagine our theology is quite similar. We are on the same team. My agreements with him outnumber my disagreements.

Nevertheless, I have a few critiques for Deep Church. Let me mention four, each in the form of a question.

Go over to Kevin’s place and read those four questions as well as the rest of the review. Good stuff.


emerging church conversation

Here is an interesting interview by Trevin Wax of Robbie Sagers about the emerging church. Trevin is a blogger and Robbie is a PhD student and special assistant to Dr. Russell Moore.

Robbie has contributed a chapter to Evangelicals Engaging Emergent: A Discussion of the Emergent Church Movement (B&H, 2009).

here is a bit of the interview, but take some time to go read the whole thing.  very interesting stuff:

Trevin Wax: What will the long-range impact of the Emerging Church be on evangelicalism?

Robbie Sagers: That’s a very good question, and I think that only time will tell what – if any – lasting impact the emerging church movement will have on evangelicalism.

Part of that uncertainty is due to the somewhat shifting nature of evangelicalism itself; after all, what is an evangelical? (A question for another day, perhaps!)

Regardless, these last months certainly do seem to have indicated the demise of the emerging church movement, at least in terms of comparing it to the furor surrounding the movement in recent years. After all, fewer books are being published by self-identified emerging church adherents, less conferences planned, Emergent Village has been disbanded, and some of the movement’s key leaders are now deeply entrenched not primarily in the churchper se but rather in national politics–or, at least in one case, running for political office themselves.

I can tell you what I hope the long-range impact of evangelicalism will be. My hope is that conservative evangelicals, after having endured from some segments of the emerging church movement a challenge to doctrinal orthodoxy and orthopraxy, will avoid the temptation to a more-doctrinal-than-thou mentality that can be destructive to the soul. False teaching should be pointed out, yes, and corrected when possible. And there certainly is a place, biblically speaking, for sharp language in pointing out wolves among sheep. But such words should be spoken not with triumphalism, but rather with sobriety, in love.

Instead, I hope that evangelicals will discern humbly, through the lens of the Scriptures, those weak spots that led to some emerging church adherents’ exploitations of certain aspects of evangelicalism in the first place.

HT to Dr. Moore who adds:

Sagers is also correct to note that the criticisms of traditional conservative evangelical theology and spirituality and missiology is often on target in its diagnosis, if not always in its solution. American evangelicalism is indeed too captive to a story-less rationalism in both its academy and in its pulpits, just in different ways. The academy often seeks to replace mystery and paradox and narrative with syllogisms, true enough. Have conservative evangelicals in recent years often ignored issues of poverty, social justice, and the stewardship of the earth? Without a doubt. And evangelical churches often seek to replace story and water and bread and wine with principles, programs, ideas, and “worst of all” products to be bought and sold.

Emerging Church: RIP?

C. Michael Patton has written an obituary for the emerging church after 15 years.

It got some cries out, made some very good points, called for changed [sic], and then died. Its leaders are disappearing or have disassociated themselves from the movement. Publishers won’t even entertain books with this title. Those, like myself, who were very well acquainted with the “movement” get nauseous when the topic is even brought up. In fact, I am nauseous now.

Patton gives four reasons for the death, but I found number 4 to be particularly true.

4. Heretical Tolerance Theory: Oh, and then there was that. The Emerging church refused to stand up for anything. As the old song goes, “You have to stand for something or you will fall for anything.” The Emerging Church fell. It ran out of fuel. It called on everyone to leave their base and fly with them. Many of us came along for the ride. The problem is they never did land anywhere. They just flew and flew. They wanted to wait five or ten years to decide who they were. In the meantime, the fuel ran out. They did land and it was (mostly) not on friendly ground. From there they definitively cried out against Evangelical orthodoxy kicking us in the most sensitive areas: Abortion, Atonement, Justification, Assurance – and then there was the attempted burial of our belief that homosexuality was a sin. Oh, did I mention the attacks on Hell and the Exclusivity of Christ? They quickly moved from an insightful teen who might have some good things to say to crowd of disconnected enemies on the attack.

fascinating stuff from someone who thought of themselves as emerging.

Hat tip to Vitamin Z, who adds:

I think I just have a hard time taking seriously a movement that just seems to be a recycled version of early 20th century liberalism. We all know where that led us. If it has something new to offer, it will probably last the test of time and at that point let’s take it seriously and talk about it.

All I can add is that when one of your leaders rejects foundational doctrines like Original Sin and openly embraces heretics like Pelagius without any pretense, then your movement is going nowhere fast. When your followers snarkily encourage critics to “let the Bible speak for itself” while they call its language with which they disagree “extreme imagery,” then you know the movement is in a seriously incoherent state and probably not long for this world as a cohesive force of anything.

James MacDonald’s blog

James MacDonald is the senior pastor at Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago. He is currently in California undergoing radiation treatments for prostate cancer, but he is still updating his blog.

he recently did a video post on songs that Harvest Bible Chapel won’t sing. Good stuff. like Jonathan Dodson, James is also of the opinion that God is not our boyfriend.

James also has some interesting thoughts on how Brian McLaren is like his palm pilot.

he also takes on the idea of “reaching our culture.”

Hey, not just at our church but around the country as I travel . . . why does it seem that most of the people talk talk talking about reaching the culture are doing such a meager job of it. Why is it that from frustrated old college professors to angry young mega church haters, the vast majority of people waxing eloquent about their passion to penetrate the culture with the gospel are bearing such scanty, sparse, spartan, even scarce fruit? By fruit I mean actual living breathing men and women turning from sin and self and embracing Jesus Christ as Savior and Master of their souls.

He then discusses three things that people mean when they talk about reaching culture:
1. They mean reaching people very different from themselves.
2. They mean reaching secular people who have no interest in God.
3. They mean reaching cool people who make them feel cool.

Go read his post for the discussion under each bullet point.

James concludes by pointing out that across cultures, people come to Jesus for the same reason:

1) I thought my life was going great ’til God dropped a ‘boulder’ (some point of acute need) on me and I saw how pointless, empty, dark, or dismal my future was without Him.
2) A caring person intersected my life with true compassion just as my heart opened to the reality that another round of self repair was not going to fix anything.
3) the good news of Jesus Christ’s love and forgiveness was given to me boldly and plainly and I opened my heart by faith to what I finally knew I needed most of all.

BONUS: as long as we are poking around the James MacDonald blog, don’t miss the entry on “Jesus: the New Wine Tasting!”

Ok, that’s not what really bugs me. What truly sets me back is the growing number of people who seem to be doing that with Jesus. Sampling and smelling the parts of his nature that appeal to them and ignoring the things they find less to their taste. Getting together in little huddles around a candle and consuming the comforting while ignoring so much much of what is compelling and commanding. “Ohhh, let’s crack open a bottle of the ‘middle ages Jesus,” as if we really have any substantive clue about what Christ was doing in people and how they followed him, in say, 1147AD. “Can’t you sense His melancholy walking through this damp castle calling out in the corridor to people hiding in the shadows of biblical illiteracy?” Ah no, no I’m not sensing anything at all.
We all need the same thing. We desperately need to journey away from our prejudicial/familial view of Jesus Christ. We need to come back to the biblical center, where He is known in all His fullness without bias or historical blockage. Down with Eastern Orthodox Jesus, down with Emerging Jesus, down with western world anti-supernatural dead bible church Jesus, down with mainline watered down secular pseudo scholarly sentimental Jesus, down with Roman Catholic pomp and circumstance we have him and you don’t Jesus, and down with heartless self-interested felt need corporate mega church Jesus. Down with gospel Jesus and OT prophecy Jesus, and Pauline Jesus, as partial sketches of the total biblical Christ. God help all of us to stop tasting and sampling and swirling Jesus in the glass of our own preferences. Only the light of total biblical revelation is bright enough to expose the darkness of our own stagnant thinking about a Christ who is caricatured by what we find most pleasing to our own perspectives.

New link in the sidebar

I put a new link over to the right to this excellent page on Resurgence. It is an excellent refutation of doctrinal errors that some leaders are making in an attempt to be culturally relevant.

I post here again Driscoll’s summary words on the topic.

if you have time, here is the page where you can download the full message that Mark was teasing in this video. It is very good stuff.

we have to be culturally relevant, but we also have to contend for the faith.

Is it possible?

Is it possible to combine elements that the emerging church is using to connect with the culture, with correct doctrine? are they antithetical? or can they be complimentary and fill the gaps in each other’s approach? Must we choose one or the other?

Here is a review of a performance of the Church Basement Road Show. Robert Sagers concludes his review with these questions:

….what is it about the emergent church that is so attractive to so many in our churches? Perhaps it’s the fact that so much of what leaders from within the movement have to say is right, and true.

What if our churches began to preach the whole counsel of God as a narrative of redemption, a story that is good specifically because it is a story that is true? What if we began to declare the full-orbed gospel of cosmic reconciliation in Christ, without de-emphasizing the reality of personal enslavement to a personal devil and the need for personal evangelism and personal repentance of personal sin and personal faith in the risen Lord?

What if we began to preach and display grace, truth, and love as fully embodied in the person and work of Jesus Christ, without abandoning the fact that the Spirit of this same Christ has breathed out every jot and tittle of the Bible–making every word of Scripture equally grace-filled, truthful, and loving? What if our churches were characterized by great love for God and for one another, without casting aside the need for confessional fidelity? And what if we began doing even more good works in Jesus’ name, proclaiming that the impetus for such works is the life, death, resurrection, and promised return of our King?

After attending “The Church Basement Road Show,” I am more convinced that if more of our churches did these things, it would be even easier to dismiss certain aspects of the emergent church as heresy and some of its leaders as marginalized false teachers. For Christians have good news to proclaim, and if some of the emergent church’s challenges to contemporary evangelicalism drive us back to greater fidelity to the faith once for all delivered to the saints, evangelicals can be thankful indeed.

Is it possible?

regulative principle of worship

Before yesterday, I had heard of the regulative principle of worship, but I hadn’t paid any attention to it. I knew that Timmy Brister had made it the number one question on the ask Mark Driscoll anything contest, but I had just casually read through the comments without paying attention. It was like somebody was talking about the finer points of mechanical engineering tolerance limits of various metals. I understood the individual words, but not the sense of them together.

Yesterday a friend of mine pointed me to a review of The Emerging Church by Dan Kimball. I had mentioned that I read this book back in 2003 and that it had started the process of waking me up to some of the problems of “church” as it is done today. My friends love me and want to keep me straight. I sincerely appreciate the help and the encouragement. It is an awesome thing that we have when we can have a role in goading each other to love and good works and to come alongside one another when we fall.

Anyway, I am reading the review and it is pretty good. I agree with most of it. Then I hit this paragraph:

Kimball’s perspective on church life is also problematic. Underlying all of his thinking about worship is the mistaken notion that our style of worship is completely neutral. But the Bible indicates that we are simply not free to worship God in any way we see fit in our corporate gatherings. The 2nd Commandment makes that quite clear, as do Exodus 32:1-4, Deuteronomy 4:15-19, and II Samuel 6:3-7. We are permitted to worship God only as he has prescribed in his Word. We may really want to finger-paint in our churches services, but God has not commanded us to finger-paint so we should not. In addition, many Christians have thought it unwise to use crosses and pictures of Jesus in worship, fearing that it would be impossible not to venerate the object or picture itself. In addition though pagans, deists, and pantheists enjoy them, Christians have generally though that nature scenes are inappropriate for Christian worship.

I read the verses contained in the quote. And this “…but God has not commanded us to finger-paint so we should not.”

Anybody see any issues with those verses being used to support this conclusion? anyone?

Then I started googling. Wow. I have now found a whole nother area where people get to be weird, prideful and look down their nose at the rest of christianity.

This fellow does the best job I found of putting the best foot forward on the Regulative Principle of Worship There are many others who are much less able.

Here is Mark Driscoll’s take on video, and here is the podcast version.

Go study it for yourself. Tell me what you think about the idea that because God has not commanded finger painting in worship, then we should not finger paint. Before you get too sure of an answer, God also never commanded the use of microphones, electric lights, amplified music, air conditioners, pianos or even announcements. Just sayin’. Even the hard core believers in this principle who show up singing the Psalms without accompaniment will probably do so in an air conditioned room with electric lights, and they might even make announcements of upcoming events in the life of their church.