First of all, I’d like to say to any discouraged atheist leaders, if you fear that your message isn’t getting through, cheer up! Leaders in the Emergent Church have got it loud and clear and they’re passing it on (and getting paid for it, no less) to 100's of thousands of eager listeners.
A couple years ago an atheist expressed surprise that I had some favourable thoughts regarding the emergent church. I’ve been reading here and there over the years about the emergent church and some of what I read is encouraging; emphasising that which has perhaps been downplayed too much in some evangelical circles. Other parts are down right humorous as emergent leaders try to sound, well, very much like modern or should I say, post-modern atheists.
For example, for both emergents and atheists:
. Each group is made up of those who have been hurt, and the many more who wish they had been hurt by a mainline church.
. For both, teaching or saying something as though its a fact and then saying, "I might be wrong," is a sign of humility.
. The Bible is not authoritative for daily living.
. Both want to throw off the shackles of the Church; or more importantly both feel the Church as a shackle.
. God’s Wrath and Judgement need not concern us.
. God’s Wrath poured out on sinners would be an injustice and prove that He is not a God of love. “[Evangelicals teach] God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life, and if you don’t love God back and cooperate with God’s plans in exactly the prescribed way, God will torture you with unimaginable abuse, forever,” MacLaren. This quote is so close to what you can find on numerous atheist blogs that either atheists have quoted Maclaren or he is quoting atheists.
. Both say that original goodness, not original sin is our natural state. Total depravity is “biblically questionable, and profoundly unhelpful.”
. Because of the last point, both downplay the importance of the Christian God and salvation. After all, the journey is more important than the destination.
. Christianity, as traditionally presented is exclusive, us / them, in / out and it’s not good.
. Truth probably does not exist, at least not in a form that humans can discover.
. Tolerance has come to mean that someone’s behaviour / lifestyle may be offensive or wrong but - whatever.
. I don’t need God / salvation in order to be a good person.
. We’re going to make the path of acceptance so wide that you can’t even see the ditch on either side. We’re going to make the gate of acceptance so wide that you can’t even see the doorposts.
. Both glorify living in a perpetual state of doubt.
. Both agree that Jesus, if he existed, was a good man
. Both agree that the best we can do is copy Jesus’ behaviours
. Both agree that the most important point of life is to live right and love others
. Post-modern thinking only applies to the Christian religion. The rest of life goes around the course driven by logic.
. Over the years I’ve labelled many, many people as functional atheists. These are people who live as though God doesn’t exist. Emergent leaders live as though God does not and perhaps cannot reveal His nature and character to us and therefore they worship, or journey toward a figment of their imagination.
Oh, and the funny parts? In the excellent book, “Why We’re Not Emergent” Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck say, “aren’t some of the new names [used by emergent leaders] going to be obstacles to faith more than invitations? Won’t many seekers find that we are trying a bit too hard when we have:
. “Fusion Services” instead of worship singing
. “Hire Experience Designers” instead of Pastors
. Call our Church buildings “Incubators for kingdom-inspired, creativity, and social action.”
. And at what point does sitting on the floor talking about the Bible, while calling it “an impromptu but extended tete-a-tete between church members that focuses on the intensity of interpersonal communication” sound more profound than it really is? p.154-155
My guess is that after Rob Bell and Peter Rollins et al. have sold as many books, and taken in as many offering plates that they can manage, they’ll join the ranks of John Loftus and Bart Erhman. As Rollins states, “[Emergents] remain dubious concerning what we believe about God, to the point that we disbelieve the God we also believe in, “holding atheism and theism together in the same cradle of faith”
Rollins “How (not) To Speak To God
If, in a decade or two giving up on a thirst for a healed and forgiven relationship with Creator God is true for the leaders of the Emergent Church - what of their followers?