The Duty And Danger of Opposing The “Emergent” Movement

The following article was posted at Nazarene Church Has Lost It’s Way.  It was written by Rev. William E. McCumber, Nazarene pastor and former editor of Herald Of Holiness (Holiness Today).  Rev. McCumber serves as a senior pastor at a Nazarene church in Gainesville, GA.
Click here to visit his website.

THE DUTY AND DANGER OF OPPOSING THE “EMERGENT” MOVEMENT

The duty is simple. The gurus and leaders of this emergent movement, conversation, dialogue—call it what they will—do not base their teachings and writings upon Scripture but upon their own opinions. They do not submit to the authority of the Bible but seek to impose their authority upon the Bible. They dismiss the clear witness of the Bible to itself as the inspired Word of God. When this has been done the witness of the Bible to God, to Jesus Christ and to salvation from sin is rejected outright or dangerously distorted.

As a consequence, to them Jesus is no longer “the Way.” He is “a Way,” and all ways lead ultimately to God and heaven. Devotees of other religions are not to be converted to Christ. Instead, we should encourage them to blossom fully in the soil of religious beliefs they have already chosen. Our goal is not to make them Christians, but to encourage them to be the best they can be within the structures of belief and behavior of their ancestral faith. That is unscriptural and untrue, whoever says it.

It is true that some who form the listening audience when these emergent leaders are paid (by our institutions with our tithes and offerings) to expatiate upon their concept of truth do not accept all they offer. They insist that they are putting an orthodox spin upon it all, and clinging to God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, insisting upon salvation through Jesus alone, and giving lip service to the unique authority of Scripture for faith and life. Why in the world should we pay someone to voice opinions we then have to caution against and recast in order to use?

These who listen to the emergent gurus claim to be mining the emergent movement for structures of thought and strategies of engagement that will help them reach increasing numbers of people for Christ. If you keep tabs on them, however, you will find that the longer they preach and teach the closer they come to the beliefs of those gurus who want to dismantle historic, Bible-based Christian doctrines.

Leaders of the emergent movement claim to have no interest in theology or doctrine. They try to sell themselves as men and women concerned only, or at least mainly, with discovering ways and means of gaining attention to and involvement in genuine Christianity. Despite their disclaimers the emergent movement is creating theology and disseminating doctrines and making converts to their re-interpreted and inoffensive Christ.

The duty of opposing them arises out of their rejection of the authority of the Bible.

The danger in opposing them is more subtle. I’ve spent over 30 years as a pastor and another nine as a college teacher. I know that in our denomination there is a strong and stubborn streak of anti-intellectualism. Some of our people, including some of our preachers, seem to think that ignorance is a fruit of the Spirit.

The same God who created us as emotional beings also created us as rational beings. To go to church and unscrew your head in order to have some acute feel-good experience is to slander true worship.

The danger is that we shall allow our opposition to heresy to be voiced only or chiefly by leather-lunged fanatics instead of informed and reasonable proponents of what John Wesley called “good old Bible religion.” We cannot effectively oppose false teaching by merely turning up the volume. Noise level, even happy noise level, is no substitute for “reasonable service.”

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Over 69 Years of Service

W.E. McCumber has served the Church of the Nazarene for over 69 years as preacher, college professor, revivalist, conference speaker, radio speaker, writer and magazine editor. He has served as senior pastor of First Church in Gainesville, Ga. since 2004. Many of his books are available through various outlets, which include Nazarene Publishing House and Barnes and Noble. On Palm Sunday he celebrated the 68th anniversary of his first sermon.

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15 responses to “The Duty And Danger of Opposing The “Emergent” Movement

  1. Though I know we have our differences of belief, McCumber gets it right here about the Emergents. This is the kind of material that will give you a good case in your cause.

    Peace,

    Andy Forsythe

  2. manny,
    if you enjoy w.e. mccumber, a book i recently read that i think you would enjoy based on your posts, that is if you haven’t read it already, is a book called “this Jesus”. mccumber is an excellent writer.

  3. The anti-intellectualism sentiment that Brother McCumber speaks of probably grew out of the fact that many of the holiness giants of the past were people that God used in spite of their lack of education.
    We are in danger of having the reverse problem in our day…That God could use men and women of our generation to do great things in spite of our degrees obtained from morally bankrupt religious institutions.
    All new Nazarene ministerial candidates are forced to sit under the canopy of Nazarene
    centers of higher learning. Thank you Brother McCumber.

  4. Ash,
    I have a few copies of the book, This Jesus. I liked it much, and agree, that he is a very good writer. I enjoy reading his articles at his website.

  5. When I came into the church, (in the 60’s) ministers that I knew who had earned a college degree drew from that knowledge and never flaunted it as a badge of superior knowledge, unlike what we are seeing today. It was a tool rightfully used to divide the Word of Truth.
    Today’s ministers who are going to our Universities and Seminaries I challenge to have the same dedication to truth and humility as those who have gone before them.

  6. I’ve not replied to a post for a couple of months, and likely will not again. I feel I owe it to my friend Dr. McCumber to speak to the complete misinterpretation of his “warning” at the end of the article. Rev. Rick, you could not have more completely misunderstood his point. You’re certainly welcome to your disdain for education, but this is not Dr. McCumber’s concern.

    Read these words of his once again,

    “I know that in our denomination there is a strong and stubborn streak of anti-intellectualism. Some of our people, including some of our preachers, seem to think that ignorance is a fruit of the Spirit.

    The same God who created us as emotional beings also created us as rational beings. To go to church and unscrew your head in order to have some acute feel-good experience is to slander true worship.

    The danger is that we shall allow our opposition to heresy to be voiced only or chiefly by leather-lunged fanatics instead of informed and reasonable proponents of what John Wesley called “good old Bible religion.”

    Dr. McCumber rightly warns against the poorly informed and undereducated who build emotional arguments based more on fear, baseless accusation than good scholarship and reasoned biblical understanding.

    I don’t know anyone as well educated as Dr. McCumber who could get away with a term like “leather-lunged” but that’s Bill.

  7. Apparently Rev. McCumber is opposed to heresy, including that of the emergent movement. I respect his focus on the word of God as authority for us, and I particularly like this quote:

    “They do not submit to the authority of the Bible but seek to impose their authority upon the Bible. They dismiss the clear witness of the Bible to itself as the inspired Word of God. When this has been done the witness of the Bible to God, to Jesus Christ and to salvation from sin is rejected outright or dangerously distorted.”

    This is a clear explanation of what the emergent church movement is based on. I agree with that assessment, which Is what I and many others have been saying for a while now. I appreciate his voice, and all other voices, which are rejecting this movement.

  8. Gene fine job on taking Dr McCumbers words and distorting them
    “Dr. McCumber rightly warns against the poorly informed and undereducated who build emotional arguments based more on fear, baseless accusation than good scholarship and reasoned biblical understanding.”
    Do you mean good scholarship and reasoned biblical understanding from the likes of Bratcher and Oord among teachers who distort biblical truth as well as history and science?
    If Bill McCumber is really a friend of your perhaps you should listen to his wise words.
    Tim Wirth

  9. To further clarify, Gene, Bill is aware of our fight against through one of our founders Sue Butler. So if you are calling us undereducated or poorly informed I can assure you we do know how to rightly divide the Word of God as well as do our homework. Just because many of us do not have the education some of our opposition have it does not mean we are poorly informed.
    I can assure you we are not.
    Many of you which have degrees upon degrees have not a clue on what you are speaking about and even worse do not have a clue on what Gods Word states.
    The second point is the scariest part.
    Tim Wirth

  10. “I have more understanding than all my teachers,
    For Your testimonies are my meditation.” Psalm 119:99

  11. Tim, I am not “calling” anybody anything. I’m not suggesting that Oord and Bratcher have it right, or that yourself or others who post here are “undereducated or poorly informed.” My only intent was to clarify Dr. McCumber’s point. You are right to embrace his perspective on the dangers of the Emergent movement. I think he’s on target.

    Again, I only wanted to call attention to what seemed a clear misreading of Dr. McCumber’s “second” warning. Nothing more.

    That said, I’m disappointed by the defensiveness of your response.

  12. Gene, with your known love of the heretical writings of Thomas Merton (an author I am very familiar with), I would say your statements are disingenuous at best.
    Tim

  13. Gene:
    Brother McCumber’s words are clearly a call to
    apologetics in the modern day world. In your statement you said “Dr. McCumber rightly warns against the poorly informed and undereducated who build emotional arguments based more on fear, baseless accusation than good scholarship and reasoned biblical understanding.” So would you say that Brother McCumber was speaking against the likes of Uncle Bud Robinson, John and Bona Fleming…etc?
    Does reasoned Biblical understanding only come by sitting under the teachings of a professor? Are only those who have a Degree from a nazarene educational institution qualified to defend the faith?
    You thoughts appear to be an interesting twist of Brother McCumbers intent.

  14. Gene Schandorff said, “Dr. McCumber rightly warns against the poorly informed and undereducated who build emotional arguments based more on fear, baseless accusation than good scholarship and reasoned biblical understanding.”

    If people who follow Jesus and believe his words as recorded by the unschooled ignorant disciples then that is a title I am proud to wear.

    John 1:46
    “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip.

    Luke 9:26
    If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

    Romans 1:16
    I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.

    2 Thessalonians 3:14
    If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed.

    2 Timothy 1:12
    That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.

    1 Peter 4:16
    However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.

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