The Playbook Of Emergent Church Apologists

It seems that since emergents cannot defend their positions biblically, it follows that they must resort to other tactics in order to deflect people from their weak and indefensible doctrines and ideas.  They have to have some sort of answer for those of us who are attacking their ideas– and I stress, not them personally.

For example, at the Richmond Examiner online edition, Nazarene pastor Scott Marshall attacked my post on the Trevecca labyrinth and retreat story, which is fine with me.  He is entitled to his opinion.  But it is the nature of his criticism that I question, and that seemed to come from the same old playbook that is used by those who love the emergent agenda. Here is what he said:

‘While there is a place to discuss differences, I don’t think this group of people–from what I have seen–are going about it in a kind or helpful way. For instance: the Concerned Nazarene’s website allows only comments that have been emailed and moderated to be posted. No dissenting opinions are listed. The Facebook fan page is the same. If they are “right”, why keep the discussion out of it? I wish they’d spend the time they are spending “defending” Nazarene doctrine on making disciples and serving the poor in their local contexts. As it is, they are doing little more than fear-mongering. To a person, the people who’ve brought it to my attention don’t know the discussion involved and so are naturally concerned. Based on the one-sided arguments, I’d be concerned too. The problem is that they’ve made the Emergent Church into a theological monolith and its anything but. Anyone who reads voraciously will tell you there is plenty to be listened to from those labeled Emergent, and plenty to discard. How is this different than ANY theological articulation? It’s not! As such, they are asking people to fear and tear down a straw man’.

As to the article about spiritual formation, I have two thoughts.

1 – Everyone who has studied spiritual formation will tell you its a tradition based on Scripture, not something directly out of Scripture. That is nothing new. The thinking is that all truth is God’s truth, so we embrace it wherever we find it (otherwise, we risk putting God in a box of our own making). If they are so against this sort of practice, then they need to leave their church buildings, never again be part of a denomination, never again read the Bible alone, and never again take a Faith Promise offering or host a visiting evangelist for a week of revival meetings. All of those are traditions based on Scripture. The logic is flawed. What’s more, meditation, silence and the like are referenced repeatedly in Scripture.

2 – From what I’ve read, I think the people need to leave the Nazarene Church and join the ranks of the Reformed tradition. I have nothing against that, I just think they’d be a lot happier there. The experts they interview I saw on the website were all Reformed. The view of authority of Scripture they espouse is Reformed, not Wesleyan (I read one scholarly article they referenced arguing otherwise, but that is a minority opinion at best). I say, please leave and make yourself happy. You are doing more harm than good by trying to stay and bring a foreign view into Wesleyanism. What comes to mind is the people Paul says to distance ourselves from–the argumentative and dissenters.

Some of their excuses or reasoning they use are right out of the Emergent Church playbook of demonizing the opposition.  By the way, the following phrase is getting rather worn out: “…we risk putting God in a box of our own making.” The old and tired, “you can’t put God in a box” statement.  Not sure which emergent first coined it.  Have you ever heard that before? Well, here are the Top 10 from their playbook:

1. Distortion of facts or outright misrepresentation.
If you go to the Trevecca post I wrote, you will see nearly 200 comments that were allowed.  Roughly half were comments that did not approve of my article, yet he says “no dissenting opinions are listed.” Really?  He also makes a similar erroneous case for our FaceBook page, neglecting to note that the FaceBook group specifically was set up for support of Concerned Nazarenes, and not for useless debate with emergents and their vain philosophies.

2. Forcing people to make a false either/or choice.I wish they’d spend the time they are spending “defending” Nazarene doctrine on making disciples and serving the poor in their local contexts.” Emergents often make this argument as if we can do one thing, but not do the other choice at the same time.  As if we must either defend doctrine, OR serve the poor.  What about if we do both?  It seems defending biblical doctrine is anathema to emergents, because that would bring their whole house of cards crashing down!  Doctrine is a four letter word to them.

3. Ad hominem attacks without support. “…they are doing little more than fear-mongering.” or “Based on the one-sided arguments..” Yes, throw these comments out when nothing else can work, including refuting what we are saying with scriptural support. Other commonly used words are” divisive”, “unloving”, “hateful”, “un-Christlike”, “Pharisees”.  They would not have liked Paul much if he was around today, would they? Yet he brings up Paul at the end of the comments.  (Which reminds me of this; humorous but dead on accurate).

4. Blatant distortion of Wesleyan and Nazarene tradition.
Pastor Marshall said: “The view of authority of Scripture they espouse is Reformed, not Wesleyan.”  andYou are doing more harm than good by trying to stay and bring a foreign view into Wesleyanism.”
This is either an outright lie, or Pastor Marshall got his training at a very non-traditional Nazarene seminary, which may be the case nowadays.  John Wesley clearly believed in scriptural inerrancy; but emergents have a disdain for scripture which is mind-boggling, and makes me wonder how they get through the day without distrusting what God has promised us in scripture.  Their efforts to re-write history is consistent, but we will be just as consistent in challenging this fabrication out of whole cloth.

5. Suggesting that WE leave the denomination. Their thought is, “if you don’t like it, leave!”  He says: “I think the people need to leave the Nazarene Church and join the ranks of the Reformed tradition.” I would make a suggestion to Pastor Marshall: how about if all the emergents leave the denomination, so that they don’t continue to poison the minds of our children with their mystical doctrines and low view of scripture? Is he aware of the lives that have been disrupted by the emergent ideology and its false teachings and practices?

6. Vague Reasoning. “Anyone who reads voraciously will tell you there is plenty to be listened to from those labeled Emergent, and plenty to discard.” They say things like this, but never give the specifics as to what it is that should either be listened to, or discarded.  You can’t pin them down!  Whereas, I certainly will tell you where I clearly stand, Pastor Marshall. How about you?  In favor, or not in favor,of prayer labyrinths?

7. Stating that scripture proves their case, without using scripture to prove their case. “Everyone who has studied spiritual formation will tell you its a tradition based on Scripture, not something directly out of Scripture. That is nothing new.” Oh, really? How long has this been in the Nazarene tradition, including the use of such things as lectio divina, labyrinths, or retreats to Catholic monasteries?  I would love to have you explain that to us, as to how these have been long-standing Nazarene tradition, in the Wesleyan heritage.  Boy, did my dad miss something there?  And you are wrong, it is not a tradition based on scripture.

8. You are all nothing but a bunch of extremist fundamentalists or Calvinists. Reminds me of Dr. Boone’s analogy, and the likes of Rick Warren, who seem to have disdain for “fundamentalists”.  Such are the emergents, who use fundamentalism like a dirty word, who laugh at those of us who dare to say that we believe in scriptural inerrancy, or that Adam and Eve actually existed, or that there are absolute truths in the Bible.  If that’s the case, I am certainly glad to be called a fundamentalist!  And do you think only Calvinists believe in scriptural inerrancy?  Just read the Bible, sir, and you will find that it affirms that it is inerrant by its own testimony!

9. How dare you judge others?  Only God should be the judge. A weak, lame argument that is unscriptural.  It is ignorant of scripture at best, and disingenous most likely, in order to try to shut people up from questioning their very questionable ideology.  Pastor Marshall did not use this, but it is a common ’emergent playbook’ selection that is always refuted and fails, yet they keep coming back to it.  Is that not the definition of insanity?

10. Finally, a real classic which was not used but is common: You don’t have the educational background or degrees that we have. First of all, what about those who have even more education and studying than you, but who disagree with you?  And since when does having many degrees and years of study automatically equate to being spiritually wise?  This argument cannot stand the test of scripture either, for it is not intellectual reasoning or educational degrees that make us better Christians, it is the power of God’s word and the Holy Spirit guiding folks who are humble enough to admit they don’t know all the answers. or that they cannot understand everything about God, but they will trust who He is, and trust completely in His word.  Emergents have a hard time doing that.  (“ever learning, but never coming to the knowledge of the truth”)

I could list a few more, but this is fairly representative.  Emergents cannot get too far in conversation with us, because they cannot have a starting point as we do.  That is, they cannot state that scripture is the only and final authority for any and all debates as to what is right for our Christian faith and practice.  If they did, that would force them to leave out their own intellectual ideas and reasoning.  That would be unacceptable to them.

“Ephesians 4:14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.”


7 responses to “The Playbook Of Emergent Church Apologists

  1. Hi Manny: Why is it that we always get labeled as Calvinist’s?
    I am not a Calvinist myself just a biblical Christian.
    The Bible speaks for itself that it without error
    In order to hold that the Bible is the word of God, one must also hold that the Bible is inerrant–for such is the claim made throughout the Bible for itself. Numerous passages affirm inerrancy in all apostolic utterances, including both what to say and how to say it (Matt. 10:17-20; Mk. 13:11; Lk. 12:12; 21:12-15; Jn. 14:16-17,26; 16:12-13; Acts 1:5,8).
    Jesus gave his stamp of approval to the entirety of the Old Testament, even down to the “jot and tittle” (Matt. 5:18).
    Passages like II Timothy 3:16, Hebrews 1:1-2, I Peter 1:10-11, and II Peter 1:21 attribute the utterances and writings found in both Old and New Testaments to God– though conveyed by human authors.
    When Jesus said “scripture cannot be broken” (Jn. 10:35), he was affirming Scripture’s indefectible nature in even its most casual phrases.
    The Bible makes no distinction between “moral” or “religious” truth on the one hand and “historical” or “scientific” truth on the other.
    Paul alluded to Adam and Eve as literal, historical persons (I Cor. 11:8-9; I Tim. 2:13-14).
    Jesus treated Jonah in the great fish, the Flood, Adam and Eve, and Abel as historical fact (Matt. 12:40; 24:38-39; 19:4-5; Luke 11:51). Indeed, the fundamental facts of the gospel itself are rooted in and inextricably bound up with history!
    This was all written before John Calvin was even born to the best of my recollection (Im being sarcastic here folks).
    So the scriptures were declared (by its own testimony) without error as it was written and completed through the human authors inspired by The Holy Spirit.
    Which again last time I looked was BC (Before Calvin-more sarcasm here folks)
    The reason Emergents and other misguided over educated types will always,always,always,always (one more time) always play the Calvin card is they try to make it look like us dumb misguided sheeple are clinging to a doctrine (or thought) that is only perhaps 500 years old.
    Something new, or something borrowed, or something old (or something that makes Emergents blue-hence more sarcasm-sorry Manny Im on a roll).
    The folks that cling to the Calvin card number one do not understand scripture, and number two do not understand or know their history.
    But hey nothing new here ,Emergents and liberals are always rewriting history because they can’t handle the truth.
    Thats my rant and I’m sticking to it.
    Love to ya’ll

  2. Tim and Manny, thanks for helping to teach me more and more. it is unbelievable that a naz. pastor, caring for others souls,”called by God ” is so boldly arrogant to twist the HOLY word of the LORD.
    I’ve said it more than once but it needs repeating. the word of the Lord, the BIBLE is not up for renegotiation!!!!!! in short , GOD HAS SAID , and by the way IT IS FINISHED.
    I’d be scared half to death to call what God has said, not good, not relevant, in error, etc. Guess these emergent pastors know they are smarter than GOD. Maybe these pastors need to be reminded that it is the LORD< GOD who gives them the very breath they breathe. What a shameful attitude of pride they exhibit by widening GOD’S precious narrow way. they are doing exactly what the people did in the exodus.32 chapt.they want to make a god that will go before them . how prideful for them to believe they can remake a perfect plan better.
    I’ve an idea pastor Marshall, tell GOD he’s wrong in his plan of redemption and you have the correct one. Tim and manny I must say i really , really admire your patience. honestly they need to be fired for not upholding the naz. church articles of faith. on another matter if I might, could you post the email address of the naz. pastor that was fired for preaching the word of the Lord. I love to tell him I’m praying for him. thanks, in His service.

  3. Hi Mark,
    Thanks for your thoughts. It’s appreciated greatly.
    I think that soon, that pastor is going to probably make it public about their departure, and we’ll learn more about. At that point, I will see if it’s okay to pass on his email. In the meantime, I will send him your note that he is in your prayers.

  4. I am not sure what Pastor Marshall said that made you think he questions the word of God or that he (Marshall) has a different idea of redemption?

  5. Anonymous,
    I never stated that he questions the word of God, or that I think he does. Nor did I think he has a different idea of redemption.

    The point of the article was to point out what I have seen time and time again, the same old playbook used to attack folks like me who are clearly against the emergent church. The playbook has everything BUT scriptural, biblical defense of emergent ideology- because they cannot provide it.

    I never said what you implied with this question.

  6. Brian McLaren (A leading voice in the Emergent Movement.)does not believe in any of the atonement narratives because he has no need for one. Brian McLaren believes that there is no need for an atonement narrative because there is nothing to atone for. That is why Brian McLaren can say that the cross is false advertising for God because the cross is an atonement narrative and there is no need for one. That is why Steve Chalk can say that the cross is cosmic child abuse because there is no need for a sacrifice to bring us back into right relationship with God. They reject the idea that we are separated from God to begin with. If we are not separated then we do not need to be reconciled. To them Christianity is just another spiritual narrative, one of many, that we have clothed the “truth” that we are all interconnected spiritually. God is all and God is in all. We are God. We just have to recognize that this is true. Just empty your mind of all conscious thought until you find that point of light, or essence of God, that is within everyone and you will know that I am you and you are me. You will see this truth for yourself and meet your spiritual guide . It doesn’t matter which spiritual narrative you use as long as it leads you to this truth. That’s why it’s “ok” for a Christian to go to a Buddhist for instruction in prayer – because we have lost most of our understanding of how to enter into this altered state of consciousness within the Christian faith tradition necessary to make contact with our spiritual selves, our true selves. We need help from those who have not lost this practice. We don’t need to convert anyone to Christianity because there’s nothing unique about it. We just need to teach people the Jesus way so that they too can see that we can all live at peace with one another. They don’t have to convert; they can be a Buddhist Christian, or remain a Muslim, or whatever. It doesn’t matter. The emergent movement now makes sense to me. Now I understand why Rob Bell leaves out the purpose of the cross at his Poets, Prophets, and Preachers seminars; it’s unnecessary.

    The emergent movement cannot be defended Biblically because it is based on the assumption that there is no need for atonement which is pretty much the sum and substance of the entirety of scripture.

    By the way: How does one go about “making disciples” (point 2) if they don’t know the teachings?

  7. Hi Manny –
    I’m writing to clarify some of my comments and your comments in return. From what I can see, you took some of my comments out of context and weren’t privy to their genesis. In the interest of charity, I’m writing to clarify and express my pastoral concerns about the Concerned Nazarenes.

    1 – I wasn’t writing directly in response to your article. I recieved an email from a friend Jim Leasure emailed about his online article. My response was directed toward what I’ve seen of the Concerned Nazarene group to date. I had no idea my comments would be shared online! (To clarify, I would have written the same thing had I known they were to be posted online!), My reason for the comments is pastoral: I’ve had people come to me asking if they should indeed be “concerned.”

    I can see how you assumed it was “an attack” against your article, but it was that, an assumption. So you know, I thought I was emailing my friend who was going to share his thoughts with Jim. I’ve since read your several of your blog entries (and attendant comments) to familiarize myself with your positions. I want to make sure I have an accurate understanding of your thoughts before addressing them.

    2 – My comments about you not allowing comments were directed toward what I’ve seen on the Concerned Nazarenes website. I didn’t look at it exhaustively, so if comments are allowed there, I stand corrected. I found your blog after Mr Leasure emailed my friend asking him if I’d like to comment on your post. On visiting your blog, I was surprised to find my email interchange being publicly skewered. I’m a big boy and can certainly handle that, but it seemed in bad taste given your assumptions (and near accusations, ascerting I was possibly being dishonest).

    3-You lumped me into the Emergent camp without knowing me, reading anything I’ve written or having a conversation with me. From what I’ve read of your posts, it seems you’ve created a monolith called ‘Emergent’ in which everyone who disagrees with you thinks exactly the same thing. As I have Reformed friends, Emergent friends, Fundamentalist friends, Baptist friends…I know that’s not true for ANY group!
    Its psychologically naive about human nature to assume everyone in a certain camp believes and holds to the same things. For the record, I don’t consider myself Emergent, or Post-Modern. At the risk of sounding simplistic, I call myself a follower of Jesus.

    4 – You are correct that John Wesley held Scripture to be inerrant, as did virtually every major orthodox Christian figure prior to the late 1800’s. The problem is that he did not define it the way you are defining it. You are defining it according to the outcome of the Modernist/Fundamentalist debates at the turn of the last century: a reaction to the growing encroachment of reason over faith. “Inerrant” became a watchword among that group to help them reiterate faith over against reason. What happened is that their actions furthered the rift. I find it interesting that when I read people very antagonistic against faith (e.g. Christopher Hitchens, etc) and fundamentalist Christians–they hold the same view of Scripture. You may see this as “proof” of your position, I see at as an error in Mr Hitchens understanding about the nature of Scripture.

    Knowing John Wesley’s catholic heart, his desire for charity (“if your heart is as my heart, give me your hand”), his intellectual curiosity (professor of logic), his comments about Scripture (paraphrase “show me the way to heaven–how I may land on that happy shore”), I think it’s logical to assume that he would hold the stated Nazarene position on Scripture: That it contains everything necessary for faith and salvation…and that he would not insist or attempt to go beyond that. As he said “the person who reads only the Bible doesn’t really read the Bible.”

    What’s more problematic is that there have been a varied understanding throughout the history of the Church on how to interpret and understand Scripture. For example, do we accept the early Church’s allegorical interpretations? There has not been a monolithic understanding (again, per the Modernist/Fundamentalist debate) about inerrancy…as much as those in inerrantist camp want to believe it.

    1 – What are you leading in the church? How are your marriages (if you are married)? How are your children? Are you following the pattern laid out in 1 & 2 Timothy about being good husbands (kind of the core requirement for church leadership!) Are you living out James 1 (caring for orphans and widows) and Matthew 25 (caring for the least of these)?

    I understand that we are to watch our life and doctrine closely–persevere in them so that we might save oruselves and our hearers. True and good and right. But we are also to DO WHAT THE SCRIPTURES SAY! Jesus’ ending statement in the Sermon on the Mount is on the importance of doing what he says (not debating what he says) as the foundation of life. As an example, and I don’t use this to skewer, Jesus says that if your brother offends you, go to him first. You didn’t. You published my comments for the world to see.

    I ask those questions about your lives because I don’t know. Are you simply espousing ideas and not actually leading people, discipling people and loving people in the context of the local church? Or are you disconnected from local fellowship and service to your community and thinking your comments are solving a great and pressing world problem? Or some mix in the middle? Jesus, and his brother James (and all the OT prophets) all put an emphasis on doing what he says!! One of the primary places we do this is with the least and the lost. Are you??

    From my chair, you are making us–Christians–look like fools who only argue among themselves. Take the example of one of the early Quakers who in an effort to get his Christian brothers to look at the evil in their hearts that allowed them to keep slaves, went around talking to them one on one about what they were doing and effected great change!

    2 – There is a stubbornness in your responses that seems beyond reason. I identified with Dan Boone’s comments and the comments of Tyler (don’t recall the post). They both tried reasoning, but you came back and essentially said–“We’re right, just read the Bible and it will tell you.” That is a form of interpretation! And you seem blind to it. That concerns me greatly. John Wesley’s quadrilateral applies here. Scripture is the floor we stand on–reason, tradition and experience form the legs of the stool of practice.

    3 – My comments about you leaving the denomination were not meant as dismissive or polemic. I just think you’d be happier among the Reformed tribe! I have zero problem with them (in fact, was at an Acts 29 Church planting network thing the other day)…they are brothers in the Lord, and I think you would find great fellowship there. That one of the frequent comments said “I’ve finally found an independent, fundamentalist Baptist church where I’m happy” (quote from memory, so possibly not exact) only proves my point!

    4 – I’m not willing to engage in long repartee about this issue. As seems obvious from the many comments, I’ll be written off as “one of them” and my arguments will be refuted by what you already “know” to be true.

    That spirit is what concerns me. Accept your humanity. Trust Jesus. The Scriptures point to Jesus, not themselves! As Martin Luther said, Scripture is the manger in which Christ is laid. I think this is why you keep wondering why people say you are committing Bibliolatry–you talk more about the Bible than Jesus!

    Some suggested reading:
    Dynamics of Spiritual LIfe: An Evangelical Theology of Renewal by Richard Lovelace (published in the 70’s from a Reformed perspective. Outstanding book!

    Counterfeit Gods by Tim Keller, Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. Also an outstanding book.

    The Divine Conspiracy, by Dallas Willard, Southern Baptist philosopher from USC. One of the Christianity Today’s books of the year about a 10 years ago.

    Praying this post is a kairos moment for you.

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