Friday, July 24, 2009

Quantum Eschatology

Part 7: The Emerging Church - Circa 1970*

"...[I]f you look at the metaphysical situation, there is a continental drift... the metaphysical center of the earth today... [is] India.
"North America... is moving towards the Far East. You see that not only in the California phenomenon, but in the new religious movements in America -- enchantment with all kids of Far Eastern practices -- the idea of developing the two sides of the brain simultaneously which has for many years been obvious to the Easterners....
"Well, what then could be a transformed society? We are very impressed. We have links with people who are looking at these areas.... We have with people who are thinking about a transformed society and they are exemplified by the Stanford Research Institute where there is a little group that's called the Social Science Research Unit and its led by a man you have in your prospectus here, Willis Harman. He is an engineer and he thinks about the future image of man so he's looking at some very fundamental changes.... I don't say that science would become the new god. It would be the thing that man looked at for the future.... I'm back to the California school... man wants to be... at the center. He wants to have a renewed image of himself. And the California school feels that the next 30 years or hundred years is going to be a period in which we'll restore this balance of inward man and outward man.... What we now must do is to try and look at the science paradigm that is deep in our system... and try and harness inward man to outward man."

- E.V. Newland, Evangelicals Face the Future**

"...[W]e must think new thoughts about the eternal gospel. I don't want to get in trouble in suggesting that we change the gospel, but that we ask ourselves: How can the old, old story be told in new, new ways to face the new, new realities?...
"I think we need to wrestle, in the light of what Mr. Newland has said tonight, with a new theology that takes in the whole person.... And I find myself more and more...believing that one of the great untouched frontiers of theology are the first two chapters of the book of Genesis....
"Christians ought to be on the frontier of discovering that may help us in the work of God to recover some of the things that human beings were capable of before sin entered the world.... Is there something in E.S.P.?"
- Gordon MacDonald's Response to E.V. Newland, Evangelicals Face the Future***

The Spiritualization of Science

The futurists of the 1960s and 1970s were characterized by their zeal to create “alternative future scenarios.” They had their own eschatology – mankind could rewrite its destiny. Science and technology could save man from his own certain destruction. And they believed that the formation of a global system of governance, using state-of-the-art technological, psychological and sociological methods of human control, could create a better planetary society.[19] They began to work hard at shifting the paradigm; shifting the focus from reason to relationships, from rational thinking to mysticism, from science to metaphysics. They also began to imagine that they could create a better man.

The New Age movement was directly connected to these early futurists. Marilyn Ferguson described this fact in her 1980 book The Aquarian Conspiracy: Personal and Social Transformation in the 1980s (J.P. Tarcher). She suggested that altered states of consciousness would provide the vehicle with which to re-mold beliefs and shape new values. There were mystical ways to facilitate the collective “emergence” of “a new mind” (p. 45), she wrote. Mysticism would enable people to be more easily anesthetized to accept change, i.e., “transformation.” But mysticism needed to become “science.” Willis Harman,[20] a leading futurist who was working in this arena, described it this way:

This emerging trans-modern worldview, involves a shift in the locus of authority from external to ‘inner knowing.’ It has basically turned away from the older scientific view that ultimate reality is “fundamental particles,” and trusts perceptions of the wholeness and spiritual aspect of organisms, ecosystems, Gaia and Cosmos. This implies a spiritual reality, and ultimate trust in the authority of the whole. It amounts to a reconciliation of scientific inquiry with the “perennial wisdom” at the core of the world’s spiritual traditions. It continues to involve a confidence in scientific inquiry, but an inquiry whose metaphysical base has shifted from the reductionist, objectivist, positivist base of the 19th- and 20th-century science to a more holistic and transcendental metaphysical foundation. [21]

The early futurists began reinventing science so that it would become a sort of spiritual alchemy. They experimented with the human brain and psychedelic drugs in their drive to alter human consciousness in hopes that it would further the evolution of the species. Willis Harman was even “involved in researching the cognitive and societal effects of LSD consumption.”[22] This may explain a strange comment by modern Emergent Phyllis Tickle: “There is a clear tragectory from Timothy Leary straight to the Great Emergence and our current disorientation about what exactly consciousness is and we are” (p. 98)

Pastor DeWaay delves into the pseudo-scientific philosophical foundation of the Emergent movement in Chapter 9 of his book The Emergent Church: Undefining Christianity, where he discusses Ken Wilbur and his “integral movement.” It is beyond the purview of this brief report to examine the Emergent revival of metaphysics in detail, but it is a fact that many New Age leaders have been attempting to create a “quantum spirituality”[23] for some time. And, there has been significant crossover into the evangelical realm for decades, especially via the activities of John Marks Templeton.[24] This drive for a new science is inextricably connected with the concept of evolution and eschatology. De Waay succinctly describes this heresy:

Evolution is Spirit manifesting itself in emerging levels of complexity and awareness. The reason evolution makes sense in this scheme is that either God is in the creation (panentheism) or that creation is a manifestation of God (pantheism). (p. 185)

New Age leader Barbara Marx Hubbard was an early futurist who articulated a similar view of quantum evolution in her 1993 book The Revelation. This book is her own rendition of a “new order of the future” (p. 63) in which “science and technology are a vital part of the [Teilhardian] noösphere” and the “planet itself is evolving toward a quantum leap” towards “conscious evolution.”[25] Supplanting the Bible’s book of Revelation, she spoke in her book of “Revelation” of a coming “Quantum Instant” of “Quantum Transformation,” which will be “an evolutionary selection process based on your qualifications for co-creative power,” and which would create “A New Heaven and a New Earth.”[26] There would be no Armageddon, just a “Planetary Pentecost”—a “great Instant of Cooperation.” She claimed that the “prophecy of John [in Revelation] can be avoided altogether.”[27] This would be the “gentle Second Coming of Christ through rapid evolution.”[28] This is not unlike Emergent leader Brian McLaren’s eschewal of what he terms the “jihadist Jesus” of the “Second Coming.”[29] Furthermore, in Hubbard’s utopian future there would be an integration of science and technology with this metaphysical evolution. She claimed that there are “evolutionary capabilities of the human race – space exploration, genetics, longevity research, psychic powers, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, atomic power… co-operating with God to build a New Earth, and New Heavens.”[30] In brief, Hubbard’s utopian future bears a striking similarity to the eschatology of the Emerging Church of today, a fact which raises serious questions.

Evangelicals Face the Future

At the top of today's post are several quotations that come from the first “Consultation on Future Evangelical Concerns” held in Atlanta, Georgia late in 1977. The references to the “California Group” and the “Stanford Research Institute” pertain directly to Willis Harman. There was a subsequent Consultation held a year later in Overland Park, Kansas where Willis Harman was actually invited to make a presentation on the topic of “A Utopian Perspective on the Future.” The papers presented at these two consultations were published in two books.[31] These Consultations were attended by mainstream evangelical leaders of high repute, and they were sponsored by the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College.

Willis Harman's presentation to the evangelical leaders called for a “new” science, which he had termed “noetic” science, a Gnostic science, based on his research into the paranormal and the human brain. He listed such things as hypnosis, remote viewing, precognition, psychokinesis and psychic phenomena. He called for more scientific research into the “the world of inner experience,” meaning psychic phenomena. All this could create a future utopia:

This new “noetic” science would eliminate the apparent contradiction between the experiential understanding of Hindu, Moslem, and Christian. For the first time in history we see emerging a growing, progressively funded body of empirically established experience about man’s inner life – particularly about the perennial wisdom of the great religious traditions and Gnostic groups. For the first time there is hope that this knowledge can become… the living heritage of all mankind. [32]

Man's mind and his spiritual “inner life,” were being connected to the “experiential understanding” of Eastern religions, “perennial wisdom” and Gnosticism. The remarks at the beginning of this post indicate that certain evangelical leaders were already adopting this worldview, and were even suggesting that theology needed to be reformulated to accommodate this “noetic” science. Willis Harman's remarks to evangelical leaders were basically left unchallenged. In the years to come, many of the evangelical leaders who attended these Consultations would go on to work on inventing new theologies. They initiated projects that would re-shape Christian theology into these futuristic and esoteric images of man and his destiny. It is no wonder that Emergent leaders today, such as Phyllis Tickle, can boldly announce that the paradigm has now shifted, that evangelicals are standing at the threshold of “The Great Emergence” – which is nothing less than an evangelical convergence with New Age spirituality.


This brief article just barely skims the surface of many substantial research topics pertaining to the Emergent movement’s history and theology. In the months to come the Discernment Research Group will be writing on these topics. Pastor Larry DeBruyn is currently publishing a scholarly theological refutation of the “quantum spirituality” concept which will be distributed via Discernment Ministries.

To understand more of the history and theology of the Emerging Church movement, Pastor Bob DeWaay’s book The Emergent Church: Undefining Christianity is a useful resource. We are particularly pleased with its references to Dr. Francis Schaeffer—the book analyzes the Emergent movement within the context of the postmodern existential “escape from reason.” DeWaay has taken care to defend the Gospel against these heresies at every juncture. The book is scholarly, well-organized and easy to read.

The Truth:

"And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers." (Luke 10:5)

*Part 7 of this ongoing series on the history of the Emerging Church movement is the final excerpt from the Discernment Newsletter, July/August 2009 (Vol. 20, No. 4) posted at This Herescope article contains paragraphs of additional documentary material, and has amended the original article with links and quotations.
**Evangelicals Face the Future: Scenarios, Addresses, and Responses from the "Consultation on Future Evangelical Concerns" held in Atlanta, Georgia, December 14-17, 1977, Edited by Donald Hoke (William Carey Library, 1978). E.V. Newland's Address to the Consultation was "Social Relations and Alternative Future Paths," pp. 75-83. Emphasis added. The comments about the "California school" refer directly to Willis Harman and his activities.
***Gordon MacDonald's formal Response to Newland at the Consultation, Ibid., pp. 84-90. Emphasis added. The reference to E.S.P. is Extra Sensory Perception, which was an area Willis Harman was researching in his "mind" research. One can see in these remarks the rudiments of the Emerging utopian eschatology that holds that man can reverse the effects of the Fall, thereby bypassing the Armageddon scenario and Judgment Day and restore Paradise on Earth.

19. See Ervin Laszlo’s A Strategy for the Future: The Systems Approach to World Order (George Braziller, 1974). Also see this post:
20. Willis Harman was invited to speak as a presenter at the second Evangelical Consultation on the Future in the late 1970s. A series of Herescope posts in September and October 2005 covered this topic in detail (follow links). Harman's esoteric viewpoints were not refuted; in fact the second consultation was set up in such a way as to prohibit this. See footnote 31.
21. This quote appears in a Herescope post published May 20, 2009 summarizing a paper published by Dr. Martin Erdmann that provides substantial historical documentation for this topic. It is entitled “The Spiritualization of Science, Technology, and Education in a One-World Society” and is published in the European Journal of Nanomedicine (2009 Vol. 2:31-38)
22. Abstract, ibid. To understand the full context of the brief remarks in this article pertaining to this topic of Willis Harman, see Dr. Erdmann's complete article. Also see Herescope posts September and October 2005 which discuss in detail Willis Harman's influence over evangelical leaders in the late 1970s, including his advocacy of a new metaphysical science paradigm. See footnote 31.
23. Emergent leader Leonard Sweet authored an intellectually incomprehensible book called Quantum Spirituality: A Postmodern Apologetic (SpiritVenture, 1991), which exemplifies the Emergent heretical beliefs being talked about in this article. Note that Bob DeWaay warns that “I find that Emergent Church leaders do their best not to be understood, suggesting that being clever, coy, contradictory, or even provocative is a better way to help people emerge from old categories of thought into new, synthetic ones” (p. 10).
24. The enormous weight of facts backing this statement will be the topic of future Herescope posts, Lord willing.
25. Barbara Marx Hubbard, The Revelation: Our Crisis is a Birth (Foundation for Conscious Evolution, 1993), p. 30, 31, 43. Warren Smith, in his book Reinventing Jesus Christ: The New Gospel (Conscience Press, 2002), first exposed this woman’s crossover New Age/New Spirituality agenda, her frightening “selection process,” and her futuristic “Armageddon Alternative.”
26. Ibid, p. 101, 103, 111.
27. Ibid, p. 147, 162.
28. Ibid, p. 165.
29. See these two Herescope posts: & McLaren wrote in his book Everything Must Change (p. 146) that: "The Jesus of one reading of the Apocalypse brings us to a grim resignation: the world will get worse and worse, and finally this jihadist Jesus will return to use force, domination, violence, and even torture - the ultimate imperial tools - to vanquish evil and bring peace."
30. Ibid, p. 171.
Evangelicals Face the Future: Scenarios, Addresses, and Responses from the "Consultation on Future Evangelical Concerns" held in Atlanta, Georgia, December 14-17, 1977, Edited by Donald Hoke (William Carey Library, 1978). An Evangelical Agenda: 1984 and Beyond: Addresses, and Responses from the "Consultation on Future Evangelical Concerns" held in Overland Park, Kansas, December 11-14, 1979 (William Carey Library, 1979). The Discernment Research Group first broke this story in September 2005 in a series of posts that ran into October 2005. One can look through the posts to read more details about these consultations. and
An Evangelical Agenda: 1984 and Beyond, Willis Harman, “A Utopian Perspective on the Future, ”pp. 27-37.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Envisioning Emergence

Part 6: The Emerging Church - Circa 1970*

"...[T]he vision that God reveals is likely to evolve and become clearer over time.... We are all called to be open to God's leadership, to respond even when the pathway to the destination is unclear, and to be prepared for God to reveal more of his plans as the journey continues. In the context of developing a vision, congregations need to be as clear as possible in their understanding of God's vision, but they also must be willing to reexamine the vision throughout the change process."
- Leading Congregational Change, p. 61**

By Sarah H. Leslie

“God’s Dream”

Early futurist Kenneth Cauthen focused on a utopian “New Age” as the ideal future in his 1971 book Christian Biopolitics: A Credo & Strategy for the Future. He proposed that “utopian thinking” be based on a common “eschatological vision” – an “image of the future” (p. 60), citing Frederick L. Polak’s two-volume work The Image of the Future.[12] Cauthen suggested that “to dream new dreams, to create new utopias of the mind, and to project new images of the future appropriate to the emerging conditions of the year 2000 may indeed be—as Polak claims—our one best hope” (p. 67). To “dream dreams” became Cathen’s rallying cry throughout the book, and he even hearkened back to Martin Luther King’s famous speech (pp. 70, 145). He linked such dreams to the “birth of a new vision, a new consciousness” (p. 149) in the Teilhardian sense of a collective dawning (“emerging”) cosmic consciousness of mankind.

Fast-forward to 2009. Dreams, images, icons, symbols, meditations, chantings, labyrinths – anything but God’s Word – have become fully operational in the modern Emergent movement. All serve as a means to an end. Mysticism and experientialism do not simply supplement Scripture, they replace it. “This mystical theology is a denial of the fallen nature of man,” notes Bob DeWaay in his new book The Emergent Church: Undefining Christianity, and mysticism “suggests that all humans can find God” by engaging in these extra-biblical activities (p. 125).

The modern Emergent movement has adopted the idea of a common “dream” for the future. Many leaders use the motif of “God’s Dream” for describing this future utopian kingdom of God on Earth that they are trying to co-create. This is another point of convergence with the New Age movement, which has used the term “God’s Dream” in the same way. Evangelicals and New Agers using this theme include Lou Engle, Robert Schuller,[13] Desmond Tutu, Sri Chimnoy, Sun Myung Moon, Shane Claiborne, Delirious?, Leonard Sweet, and many others.[14] (By the way, DeWaay offers his readers an excellent theological refutation of this extra-biblical concept of “God’s Dream.”)

Experientialism is the foundational principle behind all of this dreaming and visioning. The purpose of an experience-focused faith is to change values and attitudes, and open up the believer to an acceptance of new “truths.” This was well articulated in 1971 by Cauthen. His own brand of the “theology of hope” was rooted in “clarifying images which illuminate experience as it is critically interpreted by reason” (p. 113). What he meant is that “feeling and intuition” (p. 150) should take precedence over rational thinking, reason and biblical Truth. He wrote that “the Bible is not to be regarded as an arbitrary dictator of dogma, nor as an infallible source of truth” but, rather, that the “final test… of religious truth is the intuition of the individual person” (p. 114). He recommended that “there is a particular need at the present to focus attention on utopian dreaming as a way of shaking us loose from obsolete ways of thinking and opening us up to those ideas, attitudes, and values that are appropriate for the future” (p. 122). He suggested that people who hold to these powerful visions of a utopian future “are the probable agents of redemptive social change” (p. 132). He called for a “theology of the Spirit” which would “emphasize freedom, the creation of the new, and the fulfillment of the creative process” (p. 138). Such a “theology of freedom… looks with radical openness to the future for new truths and values…” (p. 138). Cauthen’s experience-based theologies bear remarkable resemblance to the postmodern Emergent Church of our era.


Pastor DeWaay does an excellent job of scouring the Emergent chronicles for evidences of “deconstruction.” “Deconstruction” is a philosophy that de-emphasizes the Word of God, and claims that no one can really know the Truth. It fits hand-in-glove with mysticism.

An excellent analysis of “deconstruction” was written by Samuel Blumenfeld in 1995, as part of his scholarly refutation of the “whole language” style of teaching reading that resulted in illiteracy. Blumenfeld explained how “deconstruction” obliterates the fact that words have meaning, de-emphasizes written language by claiming that there is no “truth” in it, and declares “the impossibility of determining absolute meaning”[15] in a text. He wrote:

But not only do the whole-language deconstructionists reject the concept of the absolute word—the logos—but they reject the very system of logical thinking that made Western civilization possible. They not only reject the Bible, they reject Aristotle’s A is A. Their new formula is A can be anything you want it to be, which can only be the basis of a pre-literate or non-literate culture in which subjectivism, emotion and superstition prevail as the means of knowing. That, of course, is simply a form of insanity—the inability not only to deal with objective reality but to recognize and admit that it exists. A mind so inclined is a mind that will lead its owner to destruction.[16]

The Emergent Church is at the vanguard of this type of deconstructionism. It discounts the Word of God, mocks exegetical preaching and teaching, and emphasizes dialogue (“conversation”), mysticism, symbology, community (“relationships”), and various “spiritual disciplines.” A recent, related fad in the evangelical mission world is “orality,” which is telling stories about the Bible instead of teaching Scripture itself. This cheats the listener out of the precious ability to hear or read God’s Word.

The foundation of this new heresy is said to originate from Walter J. Ong, who wrote a book entitled Orality & Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word (Methuen & Co., Ltd., 1982)…. The premise behind this book is that humans need to return to their earlier (evolutionary) primitive heritage of myth, fable, story, image, symbols, icons, etc. The written word is degraded. The spoken word and image are said to be more closely connected to the human "consciousness." This author means "consciousness" in the sense of Carl Jung's pagan pseudo-science of "collective unconscious." Story, myth and image are therefore seen as closer to pagan spirituality. The author notes the "magic power" inherent in the written word and states that "Literacy can be restricted to special groups such as the clergy." [17]

Indeed, Carl Jung and his concept of a “collective unconscious” is often invoked by Emergent leaders as justification for their use of mythologies and imagination. But, they are also seeking a “new revelation.” The Great Emergence credits Jung’s popular disciple, Joseph Campbell, for his “disestablishment of what is called ‘the Christian doctrine of particularity’ and ‘Christian exclusivity.’” Author Phyllis Tickle explains, “That doctrine and principle, in duet, hold that Jesus and Jesus only is God-among-us and that there is no salvation for humankind anywhere anytime independent of belief in Jesus” (p. 67).

This open-ended, Christ-denigrating view of redemption is not new. Cauthen had already suggested in 1971 that there “may be other ‘sons of God’ in and through whom supplementary or corrective revelations may come” (p. 134-135). This is a classic New Age teaching – that Jesus is just one of many cosmic “christs.” In the Emergent eschaton there is an open pantheon – room for any new revelation, and even a new “Jesus.”[18] Deconstruction ensures that there is a deliberate dumbing down of the people in the pews so that no one can know the Way, the Truth and the Life.

DeWaay places the Emergent focus on mysticism into the theological context of “undefining grace.” In this new worldview, personal revelation or spiritual experience become predominant since one can no longer determine the content or meaning of what they are reading in God’s Word. Taking this to its logical conclusion, the Emergents teach that “all paths lead to God in a saving way” (p. 133). DeWaay expresses the grave concern that the “result is that they lack the fear of being deceived by spirits” –

When they use breathing techniques or other means of altering their states of consciousness, whereby one is open to the world of spirits, their naïve assumption is that if the resulting experience makes one feel closer to God, the worshipper must therefore be closer to God. (p. 133)

He warns that the

“Emergent Church has no defense against these spirits because they have no authoritative Bible to guide them to true beliefs and practices where they would meet God on His terms.” (p. 134)

To be continued. . . .

The Truth:

"If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul." (Deuteronomy 13:1-3)

*Part 6 is excerpted from the Discernment Newsletter, July/August 2009 (Vol. 20, No. 4). Herescope is posting the entire article as part of a series. The Herescope version includes additional documentation in the form of links added to the text and its quotations. The text has been slightly altered.

**Leading Congregational Change: A Practical Guide for the Transformational Journey by Jim Herrington, Mike Bonem and James H. Furr, is a key book published in 2000 (Jossey-Bass) that articulated how to manipulate congregations for transformational change. "Visions" were a significant component of this strategy. This book includes a workbook for training purposes. It was interconnected with Leadership Network, Rick Warren's Purpose-Driven plan. See for more details. Emphasis added.

12. See the brief description here:
13. See this Herescope post:
14. See this Herescope post: Ex-New Ager Warren Smith first observed this “God’s Dream” phenomena and wrote a chapter about it in his book Deceived on Purpose: The New Age Implications of the Purpose-Driven Church.
15. Samuel Blumenfeld, “Whole Language: Deconstruction in the Primary School,” excerpted from The Whole Language/OBE Fraud (The Paradigm Company, 1995) pp. 149-166. Posted with permission of the author at The whole language method of teaching reading is not based on phonics, sounding out letters. Rather, it is based on images, symbols and pictures. It results in rampant illiteracy. See for exhaustive historical documentation pertaining to this topic.
16. Ibid.
17. Orality is connected to deconstructionism. See
18. See this herescope post: and note that Emergent leader Brian McLaren has openly associated with the World Future Society

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Emerging Towards Convergence

Part 5: The Emerging Church - Circa 1970*

"After emergence comes emersion."

—Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man (Harper, 1965), p. 309.

By Sarah H. Leslie

The Emergent/Emerging Church movement is heading towards a crash collision with the New Age movement. In fact, it may already be happening before our very eyes. The Discernment Research Group has reached the inescapable conclusion that this is intentional and it has been planned for over a generation.

In brief, there has been a crossover of personnel, organizations, doctrines, methods, and agendas going back at least 40-50 years. Constance Cumbey, who first exposed the New Age movement and its Theosophical roots in her groundbreaking book The Hidden Dangers of the Rainbow, has been writing a series of reports on the earliest examples of this crossover for her blog ( and her column. Through our own research we have discovered that there was an earlier Emerging Church movement, which was initiated in the late 1960s and early 1970s, which bears remarkable resemblance, crossover and correlation to its newer counterpart. This early history is currently being recounted in an ongoing series of posts on the Herescope blog.[1]

We know that the current Emergent Church is a marketing phenomenon, set up as an official movement by Bob Buford’s Leadership Network, a historical fact which we documented in a series of Herescope posts in 2005 and 2006.[2] From its very inception in the 1980s Leadership Network imported a number of leading New Age business “gurus” as “experts” – holding nebulous (if any!) Christian credentials. They trained an entire generation of evangelical “leaders” on the latest tactics of psycho-social change theory, substituting it for genuine Holy Spirit revival. These business “gurus,” some of whom had open New Age beliefs, included such notables as Margaret Wheatley, Peter Drucker, Jim Collins, and Ken Blanchard. Many spoke at a 2000 Leadership Network conference “Exploring Off the Map” which launched the Emergent Church movement.[3]

From our research we also know that the Emergent Church was set up to be a vanguard, a forerunner, to propel the postmodern evangelical church towards a paradigm shift in theology, structure, methodology, and purpose. As such, it has been rushing headlong towards an open convergence with the New Age movement. Emergent leader Phyllis Tickle has termed this “The Great Emergence,” which is the title of her 2008 book announcing the “birthing” of a “brand-new expression of… faith and praxis” (p. 17) which will ultimately “rewrite Christian theology” (p. 162).

Important details about both the history and theology of the modern Emergent movement can be found in Pastor Bob DeWaay’s recently published book The Emergent Church: Undefining Christianity (2009). This book summarizes the basic doctrines and practices of the movement, and gives an account of a few key leaders.

Emergent Eschatology

Pastor DeWaay recognizes the defining issue for the Emergent movement as eschatology:

While Emergent Church leaders differ on nearly every Christian doctrine, one belief they hold in common—the one that unifies their movement—is their eschatology. Emergent theologians and church leaders reject God’s final judgment in favor of His saving of all humanity and creation into a tangible paradise in which all will participate. (p. 13)

This view of eschatology is also a key doctrine of Dominionism, and is therefore linked to the concept of “building the kingdom of God on earth.” This eschatological worldview proclaims that there isn’t going to be a Judgment Day, and teaches that man can facilitate the return to pre-Fall paradise conditions on Earth. This view of the future subliminates the Cross, ignores scriptural prophecies about the endtimes, and positions man into godlike status as a “co-creator.” Obviously, in such an eschatological scenario there is no Heaven nor Hell.

The Emergent paradigm shift is already happening. This eschatological worldview is now becoming widespread and is subtly being incorporated into most major “mainstream” evangelical ministries, missions, and organizations. A few examples we have noted on the Herescope blog include N.T. Wright,[4] the Lausanne movement,[5] Ralph Winter,[6] Transform World,[7] Dutch Sheets and Bill Hamon,[8] and many Latter Rain leaders.[9] Exemplifying this shift, a recent article in a publication called ConvergePoint, put out by the Baptist General Conference, describes this group’s transformation initiative in these terms, “My personal joy was compounded culturally by the fact that the word converge happens to appear in the Portuguese Bible in Ephesians 1:10: ‘…to make all things converge together in Christ, things in heaven and earth.’”[10]

This eschatological worldview has serious ramifications for all of Christian theology. DeWaay explains:

…[T]he possibility of future judgment and punishment of those who do not believe in Christ’s death on the cross and His shedding of blood to avert God’s wrath against sin is either denied or not discussed in Emergent/postmodern theology. (p. 149)

Theology of Hope?

Pastor DeWaay identifies Jürgen Moltmann’s book, Theology of Hope, first published in 1964, as a seminal document forming a foundation for the Emergent Church movement’s revisionist, evolutionary eschatology. Moltmann was influenced by Marxism and the philosophies of Georg W.F. Hegel. Moltmann’s eschatological “hope” is “headed toward the kingdom of God on earth with universal participation” (p. 23). DeWaay explains that “Emergent/postmodern theology is based on the Hegelian idea that contradictions synthesize into better future realities…. Moltmann took Hegel’s ideas and created a Christian alternative to Marxism (which is also based on Hegel’s philosophy) that he called a ‘theology of hope’” (p. 30). Emergent church leaders who hearken back to Moltmann include Brian McLaren, Doug Pagitt, Stanley Grenz and many others.

DeWaay makes the case that, according to the “theology of hope” promulgated by Moltmann and his Emergent disciples, “the truth will only be known with certainty in the future” (p. 39) Therefore, this uncertainty results in the corollary heresies that “God is re-creating the world now with our help” and “the world has a universally bright future with no pending, cataclysmic judgment” (p. 40).

Evolutionary Eschatology

The root theology undergirding all Emergent eschatology is evolution. A generation ago, certain Christian leaders took the ideas of Moltmann and began to fill in the outlines for his “theology of hope.” They also got their ideas from a group of so-called “secular” futurists, who happened to hold a Teilhardian evolutionary worldview.[11] Today we might classify these futurists as New Agers.

Modern Emergents hold a remarkably similar worldview to these early futurists. Phyllis Tickle, in her book The Great Emergence, writes approvingly of Darwin’s evolution theory, saying that it was “the tipping point that sent us careening off into new cultural, social, political, and theological territory” (p. 64).

While researching the early Emerging Church movement we came across a seminary theologian, Kenneth Cauthen, who wrote a book in 1971 entitled Christian Biopolitics: A Credo & Strategy for the Future (Abdingdon Press). It was the premise of Cauthen’s book that Jürgen Moltmann didn’t go far enough; that his “theology of hope” was incomplete because it was focused “too exclusively in the context of society and history and has neglected the natural and cosmic setting of the human enterprise” (p. 102). Cauthen proposed a “Christian biopolitics” – an “ecological principle” that would connect nature and society so that Moltmann’s “theology of hope” could become “cosmic.” He called for the “recognition of the centrality of an evolutionary perspective” (p. 109). We don’t know the full extent of Cauthen’s influence upon postmodern evangelicals, but the theological changes he anticipated bear remarkable resemblance to Emergent thought and practice today.

As a member of the World Future Society, a group formed in 1966 with strong ties to the New Age Theosophists, Cauthen articulated an “ecological model for politics and theology” (p. 106) that would facilitate a “transition” leading to global “transformation.” He proposed that “we take the New Testament conception of the consummated Kingdom of God as a symbol of the transcendent goal of history” (p. 131), a theology which would eliminate a future of either Heaven and Hell. And he suggested that “man is indeed becoming like a god…that science and technology are putting power into the hands of human beings that have traditionally been reserved for the gods” (p. 140). He summarized his views as follows:

The message of the church during this period of world transition should be framed in utopian-eschatological terms, stressing the power and purpose of the Divine Spirit to bring all men into the ecstatic joy of a New Age, while the ministry of the church is basically to create a community of persons who can cause, celebrate, and cope with the changes that are required to bring humanity into the promise of the planetary society. (p. 124)

Cauthen was not happy with Moltmann’s social gospel “theology of hope.” He said that was too connected to the here and now in building the kingdom of God on Earth. Cauthen proposed that Moltmann’s ideas needed a “cosmic” and “utopian” aspect that would give people a “magnificent vision of an ideal future” with a “new consciousness” that would prove to “be more sensuous, ecstatic, erotic, earthy, bodily oriented, festive, playful, feminine, idealistic, utopian, mystical, sacramental, hedonistic—in sum, a quest for joy in the wholeness of body and spirit” (p. 150). Amazingly, this is a pretty accurate picture of the modern Emergent Church’s quest for a better future.

To be continued. . . .

The Truth:

"Who is there among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God." (Isaiah 50:10)

*Part 5 is excerpted from the Discernment Newsletter, July/August 2009 (Vol. 20, No. 4). Herescope will post the entire article as a series this week. The Herescope version will include additional documentation in the form of links added to the text and its quotations.

1. See these Herescope posts: & & &
2. It is because of the documentation you will find in these posts that we can freely interchange the term Emergent and Emerging when discussing this movement: & & & &
3. See & & & &
4. “Heaven Is Not Our Home: The bodily resurrection is the good news of the gospel—and thus our social and political mandate,” N. T. Wright, Christianity Today, 3/24/08, See also: which discusses this article.
5. Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, Lausanne Occasional Paper No. 30: “Globalization and the Gospel: Rethinking Mission in the Contemporary World, 2004,, states: “Gospel, or euvangelion, is understood in its fullest sense as the “good news” that Jesus Christ, the King of Heaven, has come, not only to save individuals from hell, but to restore his kingdom • which is nothing short of the entire world and all of creation. As we shall see, “globalization” leads us to consider anew the words of the Lord’s Prayer: “Father, thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.” The mission of the church, accordingly, is to be a living sign to the world that its King has indeed come to restore his kingdom. In the words of the New Testament scholar, N. T. Wright, we are to be for the world what Jesus was for Israel — and, we are able to carry out our mission because of what Jesus did for Israel and the world. Understood this way, we are to be the King’s heralds announcing throughout the cities and outposts of the kingdom the “good news” that he has come, he has defeated the rebellious powers of sin and death, and through the power of his Spirit, and he is working through the church to put his world to rights.”
6. See the articles with documentation at & & &
7. See the article posted at where the Transform World Covenant states: "Scope of the Gospel: As Creator, God is Lord of all, and, therefore, his redemptive concern is comprehensive—seeking to heal and restore 'all things' by means of Christ's atoning sacrifice on the cross (Gen. 1:31a; Rom. 8:18-23; Col. 1:19-20). The church’s calling is to witness to the kingdom of God in its fullness (Matt. 4:23; Mark 1:15; Luke 4:18-21). To be faithful to the gospel the ministry of the body of Christ must be holistic—encompassing the whole person—spiritual, physical, and social, and all human relationships—with God, with others, and with the environment (Gen. 1:26-28). Anything less than concern for all spheres of life is to misrepresent the all-encompassing Lordship of Jesus Christ over the world."
8. See the article posted at and note that C. Peter Wagner ties this to Dominionism. Also see and the accompanying quotations that connect this eschatological worldview with the Manifest Sons of God cult.
9. See this article and note the Hermeticism evident in the “as above, so below” feature of this eschatology of building heaven on earth:
10. “What does ‘Converge’ mean?” Jerry Sheveland, ConvergePoint, Vol. 1, No. 3, April-May 2009, p. 12.
11. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the French Jesuit philosopher/priest, proposed that just as man had evolved from monkeys, there would be a new species of man that would EMERGE, which he called homo noeticus. His evolutionary beliefs form the foundation of the New Age movement. As nearly as we can tell, he was the first to use forms of the word “emerge” to describe the spiritual formation of this new species. Wikipedia ( accurately summarizes his beliefs as follows: “In his posthumously published book, The Phenomenon of Man, Teilhard writes of the unfolding of the material cosmos, from primordial particles to the development of life, human beings and the noosphere, and finally to his vision of the Omega Point in the future, which is ‘pulling’ all creation towards it. He was a leading proponent of orthogenesis, the idea that evolution occurs in a directional, goal driven way. To Teilhard, evolution unfolded from cell to organism to planet to solar system and whole-universe (see Gaia theory). Such theories are generally termed teleological views of evolution. Teilhard attempts to make sense of the universe by its evolutionary process. He interprets mankind as the axis of evolution into higher consciousness, and postulates that a supreme consciousness, God, must be drawing the universe towards him.”

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Theater Church

Spectacles for Spectators
By Pastor Larry DeBruyn

And do not become idolaters as were some of them.
As it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink,
and rose up to play.”
(1 Corinthians 10:7, NKJV)

“Believers, Beware!” EXODUS-THIRTY-TWO may soon be coming to a theater near you!

Don’t we remember how as Moses was receiving the Law from God on the mount above, the nation of Israel was worshipping gods in the camp below? “Come, make us a god who will go before us” they had demanded of Aaron. “As for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt,” they disdained, “we do not know what has become of him” (Exodus 32:1). The idolaters, it seems, could not stand a ho-hum waiting in faith for Moses to come down to them. They needed something more, something new, and something "now." So finding himself to be an accommodating user-friendly and seeker-sensitive leader, Aaron caved in to the demands of the crowd. They needed gods they could reach out and touch, and above all else, feel. So Aaron called for donations. The people, mostly women and children, brought him their "sacrifices of praise." After smelting the jewelry, Aaron fashioned an idol and then called for a celebration of praise to honor the golden calf the next day. That's the kind of worship that happened then; and that's the kind of worship happening now.

Simulating Sinai

Were the accommodating Aaron a leader in a contemporary church, he would have called for the worship team—a drummer, lead singers, and guitarists—to be assembled, the electrical crew to ready the “sanctuary” with the newest audio-visual equipment including multiple giant screens on which to project a fast paced collage of images, and the sound techs to coordinate the flashing strobe lights with the pulse of the drum beat, and to time the release of a fireworks display that would flash, bang, and belch forth smoke as the worship reached a frenzied climax. All of this, and perhaps more, could be employed to recreate the narrative of Israel's Sinai experience (See Exodus 19:18-19; Exodus 32:17-18.).

“Kicking it up a notch!”

But to what has become a tired and predictable way of doing contemporary church, an even more entertaining way is being proposed. To use the words of a cable TV comedian-chef, The Church of the Spectacle now desires to “kick” the recipe for doing worship up another notch, to add more “bam” to the worship experience.

Believing that the way most pastors communicate the Gospel is too “mummified,” one young Emerging ex-pastor has assembled a cast and crew to present to audiences of church leaders and workers what he calls Story. Note: the title is not The Story, but just Story. Story is just another of the ongoing narratives of the Gospel metanarrative. Used in the formation of compound words (like metanarrative), the word meta is “a learned borrowing from Greek meaning ‘after,’ ‘along with,’ ‘beyond,’ ‘among,’ ‘behind,’ and often denoting change . . .”[1] A key idea in defining the word metanarrative is, “denoting change.” To the Emerging church, it’s all about the synthesizing story below to affect the evolving story above. The narrative on earth--story--influences the metanarrative above--The Story. The comprehensible experiences of the continuing story below mystically contribute to the incomprehensible, but still evolving, metanarrative. The change is necessary for as the emerging pastor states, “story-telling, along with passion, is greatly lacking in churches and ministry today.”[2] But just what is Story?

Inspired by the imaginary tales of C.S. Lewis, emerging ex-pastor Ben Arment remarks of his version of Story, that, “I believe in the power of stories. Stories captivate us. They awaken our hearts and release our imaginations.”[3] So he is assembling a number of “master” communicators to one stage for what he calls a “theatrical conference experience.” Scheduled to debut this fall, Story will, in addition to the master communicators, “feature music, drama, comedy and interactive exchanges with attendees. The goal is to create a place where Gospel communicators can be inspired to be better and more effective at what they do.”[4] Arment explains, “We’re setting it in the context of a theatrical environment to play up the storytelling elements of the Gospel to make it more exciting, more appealing and draw out the essence of what our story is . . . think of it as a dinner theater.”[5]

The “theater” approach to doing church raises questions both to the means and the message whereby the Christian faith is communicated.

The Means

Arment states that, “I think communicators largely have lost the imaginative qualities of the Gospel.”[6] When taken to the excess, human imagination can become spiritually dangerous. Imagination becomes the inspiration for innovation which can end in idolatry. As Paul explains the devolution into pagan idolatry, "Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. . . . [and they] changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four footed beasts, and creeping things" (Emphasis mine, Romans 1:21, 23, KJV). It is exactly at this point that the entertainment of "theater" involving the creativity of music, drama, comedy, and image, enters into the realm of idolatry, for as Jesus explained to the Samaritan woman, "But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers" (John 4:23). As Hunt warns,

Having left the God as revealed in nature and conscience, one is left with his own imagination to recast God as he pleases. People worship the God of their own mind. The rejecter moves away from light and into darkness. At this stage a person is not searching for God, groping for Him as it were, but rather creating a worldview in which to live so that the weight of guilt does not have to be felt. [7]

To guard against idolatry’s intrusion into the national life of ancient Israel, the Lord gave the first and second of the Ten Commandments to the nation—“Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness that of any thingis in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth . . .” (Exodus 20:3-4). To discourage human creativity from leading to idolatry, the Lord specified exactly what would be allowed in the construction of the Tabernacle to honor His name and house the Shekinah presence (Exodus 26:1 ff.). Presumably His concern was that creativity would lead to idolatry. This explains why altars were to be built with uncut stones—“And if you make Me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stone; for if you use your tool on it, you have profaned it” (Exodus 20:25, NKJV). As Paul told the Athenian philosophers, “Being then the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man” (Acts 17:29). Herein is the foreboding danger for the theater church.

The Message

The name of the production is Story. The ex-pastor and now-producer implies that Story is a continuing narrative of a greater metanarrative. The relationship of Story to the Emerging church’s evolving metanarrative of spirituality, and the implications of it for the authority of Holy Scripture in the church, needs clarification. I offer my take.

To Emergents, the Bible is viewed to be a recorded compilation of various individual’s experiences with God. These story-narratives form part of a greater story that exists beyond human comprehension, the metanarrative. In and by itself, the Bible is not The Story, or metanarrative, though it makes a significant contribution to it. The metanarrative lies above and beyond the Bible, which is comprehensible. Thus the stories in the Bible function as invitations to readers to enter into the spiritual experience of the developing metanarrative which, when entered into, allows persons to experience God in a fresh new way, and like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Ruth, David, Solomon, Esther and the prophets, make their contributions to the evolving metanarrative. Individual stories don't necessarily, though they may, carry meaning in isolation from the stories of others. But people from all faith groups--animist, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish, etc.--are invited and encouraged to compare and exchange narratives with one another to discover the mutuality of their spirituality, the creative and innovative ways in which God works in their lives. As Eugene Peterson says,

We want a spirituality that is world-embracing, all-experience-encompassing. Our sense of life is huge--we are in touch with Asians and Africans and Slavs, with Native Americans and South Americans. We are finding out about the remarkable spiritualities in Australian bush aborigines and the people of South African Kalahari. How can we be satisfied to be people of one book? [8]

Or as Elaine Pagels puts it,

What I have come to love in the wealth and diversity of our religious traditions--and the communities that sustain them--is that they offer the testimony of innumerable people to spiritual discovery, encouraging us, in Jesus' words, to 'seek and you shall find'. [9]

To summarize these views: Like a motivational speaker, the biblical narratives serve to inspire and invite persons to experience God, to enter into the narrative to discover if perchance, God might work in them as He did with the biblical characters. Though not inspired, the Bible does serve to be an "existential-inspirational" stimulant for spiritual seekers. The stories of the Bible invite readers to "experience" God in a fresh way, and make their contribution, however small, to the evolving and changing metanarrative, The Story of God's continuing dealings with spiritual people from all religious groups.

In part, this scheme of spirituality may explain why Emerging Christians speak so adoringly about the narratives of the Scriptures, but do not equally embrace their didactic counterparts; because for them, doctrines, confessions, and creeds imply a fixity and finality to The Story. Thus, two young non-emergent authors write: “Defining the emerging church is like nailing Jell-O to the wall.”[10] Later, they observe: “The emerging church thrives on eschewing definition, of itself and of its theology.”[11] This is to be expected because for the emerging church, doctrines imply definiteness about belief and spirituality which they, in their postmodern bent of mind, disdain. Any claim of "definiteness" would limit and impede their spiritual interchanges with the devout from other faith and religious narratives. For purpose of supplementing the grand metanarrative with their own faith journeys, emergents need their spirituality, as that of others, to be in flux, not final, so that together, all might come to worship at the shrine of their personal and mutual experiences.

Admittedly, the “narrative” form of literature (i.e., the Gospels) comprises the greatest portion of Holy Writ, but it does so as the counterpart of the didactic or teaching form (i.e., Paul’s epistles). Both forms complement each other. For example, the Gospels (narrative) inform us that Jesus died and rose again, while Paul’s letters give theological explanation as to why Christ died and rose again. In other words, the didactic elucidates the narrative. Thus, the Bible is more than just a collection of inspirational “stories.” The Bible really does inform us concerning the culminating salvific work of God in the world (See Hebrews 1:1-2; 1 Peter 1:20; Jude 3.). As the record testifies, there is finality regarding the incarnation and the redemption wrought by Christ (John 1:14; 1 John 2:2).

Paul, The 'Unhip' Communicator

Paul would have eschewed and avoided doing ministry by incorporating the glitzy pizzazz and cool communication after the manner of a theater church. Upfront, he informed the Corinthians, "For Christ sent me . . . to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect" (Emphasis mine, 1 Corinthians 1:17, KJV). In this regard, the apostle tells us that, "The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds; Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ . . ." (Emphasis mine, 2 Corinthians 10:4-5, KJV).

Bringing together “master communicators” to Story contradicts the manner of Paul’s ministry, for about his ministry the apostle related

I . . . did not come [to you] with excellence of speech or of wisdom . . . For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. . . . And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom . . . that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (Emphasis mine, 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, NKJV)

Then Paul later wrote about “feedback” he received from his audiences—“For his letters,” they say, “are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible” (2 Corinthians 10:9). Thus it can be observed that even in the apostolic age, audiences were more attracted to style than substance. So. with Story and its “master communicators” and theatrics, one must think that the medium will corrupt, if not obstruct the message.


Four decades ago one liberal theologian wrote that the Scriptures were only authoritative

. . . insofar as it provides clarifying images which illuminate experience . . . Theology within this framework articulates the meaning of the inherited tradition of the Christian community in the light of empirical knowledge supplied by the sciences. It makes use of the resources of the philosophical community and of other religious traditions. It seeks to incorporate insights available from literature and the arts. [12]

After stating good theology will use any contemporary source that will assist “in making sense out of the meaning of human life,” the theologian goes on to state that

The Bible . . . is not to be regarded as an arbitrary dictator of dogma, [or] as an infallible source of truth . . . in religion . . . Rather [the Bible] is self-authenticating as an especially rich treasury of ideas, symbols, ideals, and models of God and man. . . . The Bible is to be believed because it actually functions to make sense out of experience . . . The final test . . . of religious truth is the intuition of the individual person. [13]

The issues of spirituality raised by Story could, and perhaps should, ignite a controversy similar to that which besieged the Byzantine church from the middle of eight to the middle of the ninth century (717-843 AD). Then, “The dispute involved church and state over the presence of paintings, mosaics, and statutes in churches . . ..”[14] In those centuries they contended over their images. In this century, we perhaps ought to be contending over the imaginings aroused by theater church which, without conscience, employs “music, drama, comedy,” and much more.

It is impossible to see how the emotiveness of theater church will serve in any way to promote the mind of Christ in believers by reining in our thoughts in to the obedience of Jesus Christ. So “Believers, Beware!” EXODUS THIRTY-TWO may soon be coming to a theater near you!

The Truth:

"Also, thou son of man, the children of thy people still are talking against thee by the walls and in the doors of the houses, and speak one to another, every one to his brother, saying, Come, I pray you, and hear what is the word that cometh forth from the Lord. And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness. And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not. And when this cometh to pass (lo, it will come,) then shall they know that a prophet hath been among them." (Ezekiel 33:30- 33)

1. Laurence Urdang, Editor in Chief, The Random House College Dictionary, Revised (New York: Random House, Inc., 1988) 839.
2. Lillian Kwon, “Improving the Storytelling of the Gospel,” The Christian Post, Fri, Jun. 26, 2009 Posted: 06:46 PM EDT ( “Story” is geared toward anyone who communicates the Gospel, including pastors, children's leaders, teachers, authors, and those in the creative arts team or worship team.
3. Ibid.
4. Ibid.
6. Ibid.
7. Arthur W. Hunt III, The Vanishing Word, The Veneration of Visual Imagery in the Postmodern World (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2003) 161.
8. Eugene H. Peterson, Eat This Book, A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2006) 44.
9. Elaine Pagels, Beyond Belief, The Secret Gospel of Thomas (New York: Random House, 2003) Inside flyleaf of the hard cover edition.
10. Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck, Why We’re not Emergent (By Two Guys Who Should Be) (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008) 16-17.
11. Ibid. 78.
11. Emphasis mine, Kenneth Cathen, Christian Biopolitics: A Credo & Strategy for the Future (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1971) 113-114. My thanks to Sarah Leslie for supplying this citation.
12. Ibid.
13. Peter Toon, “Iconoclastic Controversy,” The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church, Revised Edition, J.D. Douglas, General Editor (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1978) 498.
(Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2006) 498.

Monday, July 06, 2009

"The New Thing"

Part 4: The Emerging Church - Circa 1970

To the Lord of the Church
and all of His faithful people
who are helping Him to create
"the new thing" in our time.
- Author's Dedication, the emerging church [1]

In the Foreword to Bruce Larson and Ralph Osborne's 1970 book the emerging church (Word) the authors expand upon what this strange phrase, "the new thing," would mean in defining the emerging church movement. The authors anticipated that the 1970s would be "an era of chaotic change in the Church" and also "a day of new beginnings." They wrote:

We hear a sound of hope, a calling forth of a newly emerging Church, a demand for priority and commitment, and a word of instruction as to what the Church is to be. That voice ... speaks... of new goals, considerable resources, and fresh strategies for the 1970's.

The authors spoke in the Foreword of a "new vision of God," a "new strategy," and "new forms" for the institutional Church. This, they said, would be based on compromise, writing that "the mark of the emerging Church will be its emphasis on both-and," meaning that they would "not choose up sides" theologically. They said that they would be "blending the dynamic of a personal Gospel with the compassion of social concern." Note how they described this early emerging church:

In the emerging Church, due emphasis will be placed on both theological rootage and contemporary experience, on celebration in worship and involvement in social concerns, on faith and feeling, reason and prayer, conversion and continuity, the personal and the conceptual. (Foreword)

Adopting the evolutionary progressive stance so essential to the postmodern emergent worldview, the authors wrote that

From its earliest beginnings until now, the Church has been in the process of becoming, and it shall always be so. If the Church is true to its Lord, it may never properly say that it has "emerged." In both the past and the present, the Church is in a process, moving toward a fulfillment of its calling. (Foreword)

The authors therefore state that they reject the concept of "renewal" and would adopt instead this concept of "the new thing," citing Isaiah 43:19: "Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert." Let the reader note that the Isaiah verse is translated "a new thing," but the authors use the phrase "the new thing." In biblical eschatology these verses have to do with the coming Messiah and the New Testament. But that is not what is meant by these authors.

In addition to all of their many usages of the term "new" pertaining to a "radical shift" in church structure and function, the authors wrote that a church needs to be able to change its "goals and strategy" to "become receptive to the new thing that God is trying to do...." (p. 139-140, emphasis added). While denying that they are interfering with "Biblical revelation," the authors assert that this "new thing" is all about God giving "new orders":

the nature of God as revealed in Jesus Christ and the New Testament most clearly indicates that God can do once again a new thing and give new orders to His people. (p. 141, emphasis added)

Furthermore, the authors invoked Carl Jung's evolutionary views to suggest that the church "dream authentic dreams and see great visions," and that families in the church "dream a new dream of what God is doing." They described this "dream" as being "God's new thing for them" (p. 144, emphasis added).

And, not surprisingly, the authors concluded the book with another contradictory set of assertions. They claimed that when the Church begins "to ask God for an authentic dream or vision, living out that new thing will not include destroying what has been" (emphasis added). Yet, they hoped that as the "new emerged," the old would be "diminished."

To dream is not to destroy, but to build. The edifice that results from dreaming quietly overshadows the old, and in time the old may pass away. (p. 151)

To sum up, "the new thing" for the newly forming church in 1970 included new revelation. And in the context of this evolutionary worldview, it was intended that the formation of the emergent church would progressively supplant the old church order. Today, 39 years later, we can see how successful this planned and orchestrated paradigm shift has been.

What does the phrase "the new thing" actually mean? Stay tuned to the next post in this series. . . .

The Truth:

"There is no new thing under the sun. Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? It hath been already of old time, which was before us." (Ecclesiastes 1:9b-10)

Part 1: The Emerging Church - Circa 1970
Part 2: Early Experimental Emergents
Part 3: Retro Emergent