Emerging Church/New Spirituality: Part 3 (Postmodernism)


As we have said in the earlier parts of this series, the liberal Emerging Church has been deeply influenced by Postmodern ideas and one of its main aims is to find ways to reach the Postmodern generation with the Gospel.  Postmodernism has impacted its views on epistemology, which is the branch of philosophy that studies the nature of knowledge.  Put simply, it’s the study of how we know things or think we know things and on what grounds we base our claim to knowing if something is true.

Truth and the Bible

Since truth is a basic tenet of the Christian faith, how we arrive at this and on what it is based, is important.  For orthodox, evangelical Christians, the Bible is our sole foundation and underpins what we believe to be true, when understood with the help and leading of the Holy Spirit (who, Jesus said, would lead us into all truth).

John MacArthur in his book 'The Truth War,' says:

All truth therefore starts with what is true about God: who he is, what his mind knows, what his holiness entails, what his will approves and so on.  In other words, all truth is determined and properly explained by the being of God.

He goes on to say:

A biblical perspective of truth also necessarily entails the recognition that ultimate truth is an objective reality.  Truth exists outside of us and remains the same regardless of how we may perceive it.  Truth by definition is as fixed and constant as God is immutable.

The liberal Emerging Church on the other hand, as we will show, claims that experience is more important than revealed truth.  Tony Jones, a leading emergent, in 'Postmodern Youth Ministry,' says:

Stop looking for some objective truth that is available when we delve into the text of the Bible.

He also says on his 'Theoblogy':

Emergent doesn't have a position on absolute truth, or on anything for that matter.

In the Nov 2004 edition of 'Christianity Today,' Brian McLaren says:

Arguments that pit absolutism versus relativism, and objectivism versus subjectivism, prove meaningless or absurd to Postmodern people.

Objective knowledge is neither attainable nor desirable!?

Since we are not omniscient (all knowing like God) Postmodernists claim that our knowing anything is imperfect and this includes God’s self-revelation through the scriptures.  In other words we can’t be certain about anything, even to do with God.  Spencer Burke, another leading emergent, in his book 'A Heretic’s Guide to Eternity,' says:

I’m not sure I believe in God exclusively as a person any more.

Postmodernism, as we shall go on to see, supports this view and argues that objective knowledge is neither attainable nor desirable.

False and manipulative antithesis

D A Carson in his book ‘Becoming Conversant With The Emerging Church,’ claims that this is a major weakness in the Emerging Church’s Postmodern epistemology.  He points out that many Postmodernists channel the discussion into a false and manipulative antithesis.  He says:

The antithesis is this: Either we human beings can know something absolutely, perfectly, exhaustively - one might say omnisciently - or we human beings can at best glimpse some small perspective on something or other without any mechanism for discovering whether our perspective is an important part of the whole, a distorted view of the whole, or a skewed view of the whole . . . The antithesis is designed to drive everyone to a Postmodern approach to truth.  Since it can easily be shown that no human being or group of human beings ever gains a perfect and exhaustive knowledge of anything, then the antithesis declares that only one alternative remains . . .

So what is Postmodernism?

Peter Drucker a social ecologist and a key player in the development of the liberal Emerging Church, in the introduction to his 1957 book ‘Landmarks of Tomorrow,’ says:

At some unmarked point during the last twenty years we imperceptibly moved out of the Modern Age and into a new, as yet nameless era.  Our view of the world changed…. There is a new spiritual centre to human existence.

Postmodernism describes a particular way of looking at life - the lens through which our generation interprets the world and interacts with it.

Origin of worldviews

A worldview is formed when the movers and shakers, philosophers, politicians, theologians and intellectuals begin to reflect on the way life is and consider their response to it.  As they comment and write about their ideas they shape the way that others think about the world and a new way of looking at it becomes established.

A worldview normally takes time to become fully established and it wasn't until the 1980’s that the Postmodern worldview, which began to emerge around 30 years earlier, was finally recognised and embraced by our culture generally.

It followed the worldview known as Modernism and to fully understand the Postmodern worldview we will need to understand Modernism (sometimes referred to as The Enlightenment) and even the worldview that preceded that – the Pre-modern worldview.

Please note that these are not precise chronological time periods.  There is considerable overlap between each:

i    Pre-modern:

This, for our purpose, refers to the Judaeo-Christian era up to around the 18th century.  During the Pre-modern period most people believed that God existed and that he knew everything; therefore all that they knew came from God and his self-revelation.  Reality centred on God’s existence, attributes and character.

Christianity claimed to have exclusive knowledge.  It also claimed that no one could come to the Father except through Jesus his son.  In Judaeo-Christian and non-Judaeo-Christian societies in the Pre-modern world access to and experience of the unseen realm, angels and demons, together with miracles, were readily accepted and anticipated.

ii    Modernism (or the Enlightenment):

With the advent of the Modern age or Enlightenment which began around the beginning of the 18th century and lasted until about 50 years ago, all this changed.  The Enlightenment was a philosophical, intellectual and cultural revolution creating a worldview that stressed the benefits of reason, logic, criticism, pre-eminence of scientific thought and freedom of thought over doctrine and creeds, blind faith and superstition.

Modernism represented the pursuit of truth, absolutism (certain actions and beliefs are definitely right or wrong), linear or logical thinking (step by step approach – opposite to creative thinking), rationalism (the theory that the exercise of reason, rather than experience, or spiritual revelation, provides the primary basis for knowledge) and certainty (the assurance or conviction that something is clearly established).

Modernity, in simple terms, was characterised by the belief that truth exists and that the scientific method is the only reliable way to determine truth.  The Modern mind discounted the idea of the supernatural and looked for scientific and rationalistic explanations for everything.  According to John MacArthur in his book 'The Truth War':

Those presuppositions gave birth to Darwinism, which in turn spawned a string of humanistic ideas and worldviews.  Most prominent among them were several atheistic, rationalistic, Utopian philosophies - including Marxism, fascism, socialism, communism and theological liberalism.

Overconfident rationalism, human conceit and arrogance characterised the Modern era.  Influenced by Rene Descartes (the father of Modern philosophy) and his well known principle ‘Cogito, ergo sum’ (I think, therefore I am), man was placed at the centre and God was no longer a ‘given.’  During the Enlightenment it was held that the history of mankind was one of progress; that human life and character could be improved through education and reason.

Scientists, during this period, tended to be deists.  Deism, which originated in England in the early 17th century, rejected orthodox Christianity and asserted that reason (not revelation or the teaching of any specific religion) could find evidence of God in nature (proving that God had created the world, but then left it to operate under the natural laws he'd devised).

Many theologians, particularly in Germany, began to study the Bible in a critical way and so many Christians, intimidated by their so-called higher knowledge, were no longer as confident about the Bible as in the Pre-modern era.  As a result, many Christians become liberal in their outlook, doubting things like the miracles, the virgin birth and so on.  Faithful Christians were concerned about this and started to call the church back to its fundamental beliefs.  This is where Evangelical Fundamentalism was born.  It was a reaction to liberalism.

Whilst the eventual demise of Modernity and the resulting blow to rationalistic human arrogance was someting to celebrate, what was to replace it was not, as we shall now go on to see. 

iii    Postmodernism:

We’ll spend a little longer on this than on the previous two periods since this worldview, which, as we have said, arose around the middle of the twentieth century, significantly impacts the beliefs and practices of the liberal Emerging Church.

A new worldview desired

Postmodern philosophers and theologians believed that modernism had led to arrogance, inflexibility, an elevation of reason, the need to be right and the desire to control, and so a new view of reality (or worldview) was needed.  Postmodernism therefore reflects a loss of confidence in the power of human reason and scientific inquiry to understand the nature of true reality.  Postmodernists also argue that Modernity brought us to the brink of disaster (the world was not the safer place in the middle of the last century that Moderns had expected it to be) and therefore they reject the idea of progress.

There is some validity in the Postmodern view since it can be said that Enlightenment thought had led to a rejection of revelation and succumbed to an unwarranted optimism and arrogance.  Carson points out that Modern thought has been shown at times to be wrong:

After all, many things that have been labelled ‘scientific’ that time and distance have proved were not: phrenology, Marxism, Aryan superiority, phlogiston, and much more.

A defining moment: the 60s

Before looking at the Postmodern worldview in more detail, we’ll take a quick detour to explain how this worldview took hold.  Those of us born in the mid 20th century will quickly realise the part we played in shaping it!

Most would agree that the decade of the 60’s was significant.  For those with eyes to see, this was a defining period in history.  A radical shift was taking place in how people viewed themselves and the world around them.  Many had lived through the nightmares and restrictions experienced as a result of two world wars, and were no longer confident that the Modern view of the world was right.

A new generation was growing up, and God’s goodness and mercy to their parents through two world wars was fading fast from the national consciousness.  We also believe that it's possible something was shifting in the Heavenlies and the restraining power we read about in 2 Thessalonians 2: 7 was removed, opening up a new era:

For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way.  And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendour of his coming (2 Thess 2:7-8)

For many, oblivious of any demonic activity, it was an exciting time to be alive.  The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Rolling Stones and other poet philosophers were beginning to challenge perceptions and changing mindsets through their songs.  They opened the door in the West to drugs and Eastern Mysticism.  The long awaited Age of Aquarius was believed to be breaking in.  The media was quick to promote their ideas.  They were the 'movers and shakers' of the time.

The slogan ‘Make love not war,’ the hippies' counter culture, the pill and sexual freedom, the use of drugs, the 1967 Abortion Act, the legalising of male homosexuality, Hari Krishna chanting - it was all happening in the 60’s.

Everything was up for grabs and the status quo questioned.  No one trusted or respected anyone but themselves.  They were heady days indeed.  Unfortunately, there was a failure to discern the true nature of the rebellion and lawlessness that was being released in the West.  Today, with the benefit of hindsight, it can be seen that they were not such good days.

At the same time, the pagans, occultists and New Agers were having the time of their lives.  They took the opportunity to make real progress.  Theosophist Alice Bailey’s demonically inspired ten point strategy (including kicking God out of schools, allowing abortions and homosexuality and destroying the Christian family model) to set people free from what she called ‘Christian restrictions,’ epitomised their thinking.

Her final point, to persuade the Christian church to endorse all the other nine points, was the greatest plank in her strategy.  Today, when we can see how the church at large has clearly endorsed her plan, who can deny that a new worldview has taken hold and that the pagans have gained the upper hand!  OK, end of detour.

According to John MacArthur in his book 'The Truth Wars':

Postmodernism in general is marked by a tendency to dismiss the possibility of any sure and settled knowledge of the truth.  Postmodernism suggests that if objective truth exists, it cannot be known objectively or with any degree of certainty.  That is because (according to Postmodernists), the subjectivity of the human mind makes knowledge of objective truth impossible.  So it is useless to think of truth in objective terms.  Objectivity is an illusion.  Nothing is certain, and the thoughtful person will never speak with too much conviction about anything.  Strong convictions about any point of truth are judged supremely arrogant and hopelessly naive.  Everyone is entitled to their own truth.

He goes on to say:

Therefore Postmodernism's one goal and singular activity is the systematic deconstruction of every other truth claim.  The chief tools being employed to accomplish this are relativism, subjectivism, the denial of every dogma, the dissection and annihilation of every clear definition, the relentless questioning of every axiom, the undue exaltation of mystery and paradox, the deliberate exaggeration of every ambiguity and above all the cultivation of uncertainty about everything.

. . . Postmodernism therefore signals a major triumph for relativism - the view that truth is not fixed and objective, but something individually determined by each person's unique, subjective perception.  All this is ultimately a vain attempt to try to eliminate morality and guilt from human life. 

Cultural superiority

Postmodernism, rightly it must be said, rejects the Modern assumption that ‘our culture’ is superior to all others.  Postmodernity is generally more sensitive and respectful to the diversities of cultures in the world.  It’s also open to thinking in a nonlinear way and as we know, intuitive leaps in imagination have played a huge role in science as scientists have thought ‘outside the box.’

Backlash against reason and truth

However on the downside, there is the backlash against reason and truth which is now widely promoted in higher education.  The argument runs that every time somebody claims to have the ultimate truth (especially religious truth), it ends up repressing people and so it’s best to make no claims to truth at all.

Rejecting objective and transcendent truth

Rejecting objective and transcendent truth is the basis of Postmodernity.  In essence, Postmodern ideology declares an end to all ideology and all claims to truth.  Postmodernists believe that what we know is shaped by many things including the culture in which we live, our experience, emotions, subjective feelings, heritage and traditions.

Reality and truth as social constructs

Postmodernists do not see humanity as an ocean of individuals, but think of humans as local communities which produce ‘social constructs.’  In other words, we do not exist or think independently of the community in which we live, so we can't have autonomous access to reality or truth.  Social constructs are generally understood to be the by-products of countless human choices made within each separate community - not laws resulting from the divine will or nature.  Someone has said: 'Social constructs and social contracts are what keep society functioning as a shared consciousness and allow us to communicate meaningfully with one another.'

Reality or truth therefore turns out to be a ‘social construct’ or a paradigm which must be constantly re-affirmed in order to continue.  This process also allows for change: what justice is and what it means can shift from one generation to the next, as can a community’s views on abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, free speech, Christianity, etc, as we have witnessed in Britain over the last half century.  The search for an overall objective reality is therefore rejected.

Local narratives: no all-embracing worldview

Postmodernists say there is no hope therefore of discovering one absolute and universal truth that unites humanity (such as that presented by the Bible).  In the place of objective truth and ‘meta-narratives’ we find ‘local narratives,’ or stories about reality that work for particular communities - but have no validity beyond that community.  The Postmodernist resists the idea of an all-embracing worldview.

Personal morality is part of the social construct

Personal morality is also part of the social construct and cannot be imposed on other communities who operate by a different set of values.  In other words, what may be right for one community could be wrong for another.  Child sacrifice, the stoning of adulteresses, severing the hand of a thief and freedom of speech would be examples of different communities holding differing views.

Relativism rules

Right and wrong are therefore reduced to what is expedient, practical, and helpful, but don’t correspond to some universal moral law to which all humans are equally obligated, as the Bible teaches.  In other words, relativism rules the day – truth and moral values are not absolute, but relative to the individual or group within which they originate.  Relativism is the doctrine that knowledge, truth, and morality exist in relation to culture, society, or historical context, and are not absolute.

A rejection of propositional truth

Postmodernists reject propositional truth (a proposition is simply a statement that can be either true or false) and believe that they can only experience what is true for each community.  Indeed, Postmodernists reject the whole language of truth and reality in favour of image and literary terms like narrative and story.  It's all about image and interpretation, not about what's real or true.

All claims to ultimate truth, they argue, are essentially tools to justify power.  That's why in Postmodern culture, the person to be feared is the one who believes that they can discover ultimate truth.  Of course they refer here to conservative evangelicals, orthodox Jews and Muslims!  The greatest threat to the Postmodern worldview therefore, as they see it, comes from the monotheistic religions (religions with only one God).

Openness without the restraint of reason and tolerance without moral appraisal

To the Postmodern mind therefore the dogmatist or absolutist is naive and dangerous.  Rather than dominating others with our version of reality, they tell us that we should accept all beliefs as equally valid.  Openness without the restraint of reason, and tolerance without moral appraisal are the tenets of Postmodernism.

Celebrates diversity, multiculturalism and religious pluralism

Postmodernism coincided with the coming of the Internet, the explosion of information technology and the emergence of the global village.  Postmodernism therefore celebrates diversity and multiculturalism (different cultures in one society).  It also celebrates religious pluralism (the conviction that various religious groups should be allowed to thrive in a single society).  All religion, in their view, is the fruit of cultural dynamics and therefore all religions are equally valid.

Christianity not superior to any other religion

Postmodernists do not consider Christianity to be in any way superior to any other religion – neither do the leaders in the liberal Emerging Church incidentally, as we shall go on to discover.

A Christian Worldview equals a Biblical Worldview

As Christians we should not be shaped by any of these worldviews – we should have a Biblical Worldview.  That, incidentally, is an 'absolutist' statement which the liberal Emerging Church would cringe at!  To orthodox evangelical Christians however the idea that we should have a Biblical Worlview should seem obvious, but as we shall show, the liberal Emerging Church despises any idea of a Biblical Worldview.  In fact, it has an extremely low view of scripture.  For example, Tony Jones from his blog at tonyj.net, February 26, 2008 and Postmodern Youth Ministry, says:

Maybe some evangelicals should tear the book of Romans out of their Bibles and read a Romans-free Bible for a few years.  Then they can paste it back in . . . Stop looking for some objective truth that is available when we delve into the text of the Bible.

It goes without saying that a Biblical Worldview is shaped entirely by the Bible, since this describes how things came into being, why they are like they are now, and where they are going.  A basic biblical outline includes our belief:

*    That the world was created by an awe-inspiring transcendent God who is separate from his creation
*    That man fell through sin in the Garden of Eden
*    That the nation of Israel has a place in the purposes of God
*    That Jesus (the Son of God) came to earth, born of a virgin – known as the incarnation
*    That Jesus died on the cross for our sins – he paid the price for our redemption and then rose to life again on the third day and returned to Heaven
*    That Jesus will return for his bride the church and reign and rule over the nations from Jerusalem – known as the Consummation and Millennial reign

We could add a number of other related features including:

*    An acceptance of the supernatural
*    An awareness of evil and a personal devil
*    A belief in absolute truth
*    An acceptance of biblical authority
*    The Lordship of Jesus
*    Concern for the saving of individuals

Only if we hold to a Biblical Worldview can we be sure to remain free of deception.

The impact of Postmodernism on the liberal Emerging Church

Let's consider the impact of Postmodernism on the liberal Emerging Church.  In his book ‘The Church on the Other Side,’ McLaren says:

But for me . . . opposing it (Postmodernism) is as futile as opposing the English language.  It’s here.  It’s reality.  It’s the future. It’s the way my generation processes every other fact on the event horizon . . . Postmodernism is the intellectual boundary between the old world and the other side.  Why is it so important?  Because when your view of truth is changed, when your confidence in the human ability to know truth in any objective way is revolutionized, then everything changes.  That includes theology . . .

Reinvent yourself for the 21st century or die

In his book ‘Soul Tsunami,’ Leonard Sweet says:

Postmodern culture is a change-or-be-changed world.  The word is out: reinvent yourself for the 21st century or die.

Put another way, the old ways of ‘thinking, ‘evangelizing’ and ‘doing’ church will not work in a Postmodern world.  The thinking of the liberal Emerging Church centres on how the church can most effectively relate to and communicate with a world that in their opinion scorns Modernism and evangelicalism with what it sees as its moral absolutism, epistemological certainty and theological dogmatism.

A belief that theology must change

Tony Jones in 'A New Theology for a New World ' a workshop for the 2004 Emergent Convention in San Diego, says:

We do not think this (Emerging Church Movement) is about changing your worship service.  We do not think this is about . . . how you structure your church staff.  This is actually about changing theology.  This is about our belief that theology changes.  The message of the gospel changes.  It’s not just the method that changes.

A low and unbiblical view of the Bible

The liberal Emerging Church, in our view, has a dangerous, low and unbiblical view of the Bible.  It does not see the Bible as the final authority for truth, beliefs, practice or objective revelation.  The main object of the liberal Emerging Church’s attack on the Bible centres on the perspicuity (clarity and lucidity) of the Scriptures.

Propositional and transcendent truth is scorned

Influenced by Postmodern ideas about language, meaning, subjectivity and truth, they question whether the Bible is clear enough to justify certainty or dogmatism on any point of doctrine.  As a result, propositional and transcendent truth is scorned as an outmoded vestige of Modernism.  They argue that if there’s a real God out there, we finite beings have no means of knowing it, or him, with genuine certainty.  To claim anything more would be to abandon Postmodernism and would mean being intolerant.

Historical context

Many within the liberal Emerging Church will argue that the Bible needs to be interpreted ‘in its historical context’, and that doctrine (not just church practice) needs to be re-written for today.  In ‘A New Kind of Christian,’ McLaren says:

We want the Bible to be God’s answer book.  The only people in Jesus’ day who would have had anything close to these expectations would have been the scribes and the Pharisees.

This reflects how the Emerging Church views evangelicals.

Rejecting the Bible as the foundation for truth and sin

Rejecting the Bible as the foundation for truth has serious consequences when it comes to sin, which is presumably why sin no longer forms a major part of the liberal Emerging Church’s vocabulary.  When evangelicals speak of being right or wrong on certain matters, support any form of exclusive claim for Christianity, or uphold rigorous standards of morality, they are dismissed by the liberal Emerging Church as arrogant and intolerant.

Guilt is part of the old system

Within Postmodernism, as we have already said, no truth or morality is considered normative and so no person or scripture can authoritatively tell Postmodernists what is true or right.  Rob Bell at the Wiltern Theatre, Hollywood, Nov 2007, said:

Anytime someone makes you feel guilty about how you are living, that is part of the old system (pre-Christ).

Homosexuality is an acceptable practice

Homosexuality is an acceptable practice to many within the liberal Emerging Church.  Tony Jones on his Same Sex Marriage Blogalogue, says:

I now believe that GLBTQ (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Questioning) can live lives in accord with biblical Christianity (as least as much as any of us can!), and that their monogamy can and should be sanctioned and blessed by church and state.

The liberal Emerging Church rejects a universal moral law such as that found in the Bible.

Rejecting biblical revelation has implications for evangelism

Rejecting biblical revelation also has implications for evangelism.  The Postmodern Emerging Church no longer believes that people come to faith in Jesus in response to the preaching of biblical texts, through reason or because of the cumulative effect of historical and archaeological evidence.  Evangelism that focuses on arguments, evidence, logic, proof and the ultimate threat of hell, is no longer considered valid or effective.

In its view, these are the lingering tactics of a church in bondage to a Modernist approach to human knowing and thinking.  Instead, they describe evangelism as conversation, friendship, invitation, companionship, challenge and opportunity.  Liberal Emerging Church leaders put ‘belonging’ before ‘becoming’ whereas evangelical Christianity insists that one must first become a Christian before belonging to the community of faith.

Emergent authors contend that we should invite people to belong, welcome them aboard, take them into our story and that of the local Christian community, and the 'becoming' may follow.  They define a Christian by their focus and movement toward Christ rather than being based on a set of shared beliefs and values.

In his book 'Velvet Elvis,' Rob Bell says:

So this reality, this forgiveness, this reconciliation, is true for everybody.  Paul insisted that when Jesus died on the cross, he was reconciling ‘all things, in heaven and on earth, to God.’  All things, everywhere.  This reality then isn't something we make come true about ourselves by doing something.  It is already true.  Our choice is to live in this new reality or cling to a reality of our own making.

The Bible not viewed as inerrant or authoritative

The liberal Emerging Church treats the Bible as narrative, as a beautiful inspiring collection of works that leads into the mystery of God, but is not, as we have said, viewed as inerrant or authoritative.  Some refer to it as a ‘conversation partner.’  Like all true Postmodernists the Emerging Church rejects reason, objectivity and transcendent truth in favour of experience, emotions, image, narrative and subjective feelings.  At Belifnet.com Rob Bell says:

The Bible itself is a book that constantly must be wrestled with and re-interpreted . . .Bible interpretation is colored by historical context, the reader’s bias and current realities.  The more you study the Bible, the more questions it raises.  It is not possible to simply do what the Bible says.

He also says:

Sometimes when I hear people quote the Bible, I just want to throw up.

Theology constructed from human experience, not divine revelation

Indeed, the liberal Emerging Church believes that theology must be constructed from human experience, not divine revelation.  For them there is therefore no overarching authority that determines the shape of theological vision, doctrine or ethics.  They disdain statements of faith, definition and doctrinal boundaries and reject any concept of certain, objective, and universal knowledge.

Rejection of meta-narratives (big picture worldviews)

For this reason they reject meta-narratives (big picture worldviews).  To a Postmodernist (implied by Brian McLaren in an open letter to Chuck Colson) a meta-narrative ‘implies domination, coercion, eradication of opponents and the imposition of beliefs or behaviours on minorities against their will.’  He points to German intellectuals under Hitler who were transformed by a meta-narrative into killers or accomplices.

Oppose any form of Christendom

Postmodernists generally oppose any form of Christendom, which they see as the creation and maintenance of a Christian nation by ensuring a close relationship of power between the church and its host culture.  They want the church to be at the margins - moving from a place of privilege in society to one voice amongst many.

The liberal Emerging Church sees dominating belief systems, including Christianity (they will refer to the Crusades) as responsible for millions of deaths, torture, loss of freedom and dignity.  They see all support for absolutes and claims to ultimate truth as essentially tools to manipulate others and exercise power over them.  This is why evangelical Christians, who claim to have ultimate truth based on the Bible, are so reviled by the liberal Emerging Church.

Jesus is the only truth (abstracted from the totality of biblical truth)

The liberal Emerging Church claims that Christianity is about a relationship and not about affirming a set of biblical propositions or truths.  They claim that Jesus is the only truth (abstracted from the totality of biblical truth) and following him, in their view, is not believing the right things but simply living the right way according to the code of conduct agreed within their particular community.

Liberal Emerging Church married to Postmodernism

In embracing Postmodernity the liberal Emerging Church, in our view, has lost its distinctive Christian identity by submerging itself in the Postmodern culture, hook, line and sinker.  By shaping its theology to suit culture, it has married itself to Postmodernism and this is every bit as dangerous as earlier liberal scholars’ marriage to Modernism with its rejection of revelation and the supernatural.

In his book ‘Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church,’ D A Carson says:

The emerging church movement’s understanding of Modernism seems too reductionist and wooden. . . . If Modernism boasts of how much of reality it understands, Postmodernism boasts that it understands nothing of reality.  Neither the absurdity of its dogmatic epistemology nor the implications of genuine advances in knowledge will compel the strong Postmoderns to modify their position. . . .That brings us to the central problem with the emerging church’s response to Postmodernism.  Apart from occasional asides, emerging writers and preachers are so busy telling us how culture has changed that their response has offered very little critique of the changes.  It vehemently denounces Modernism, but offers nothing very penetrating when it comes to Postmodernism.  In particular, it has wrestled unconvincingly with the related matters of truth, certainty, historical witness, and even with the nature of the gospel itself.

Sensitive to culture

Whilst we believe that Christians should be sensitive to culture and be willing to vary their approach to reach those within it, we mustn't alter the Gospel to fit the worldview of any given culture.  When Paul addressed the Athenians on Mars Hill (Acts 17) he engaged the pagan mindset (in an earlier form of Postmodern culture) but he also taught them why they were wrong.  He didn't sanctify the altar to the unknown god or say that pagans have things to teach us.

The liberal Emerging Church, on the other hand as we shall go on to show, believes that we have much to learn from pagans.  Postmodernity, in rejecting transcendent truth, will in our view, ultimately lead to anarchy and nihilism (life has no objective meaning or purpose).  Wherever a society lacks transcendent authority, it will be governed by whoever can gain power and there will be no constraints upon that person or party.

Go to Part 4 of this series for more understanding concerning the New Spirituality . . .

The liberal Emerging Church has been deeply influenced by Postmodern ideas and one of its main aims is to find ways to reach the Postmodern generation with the Gospel

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