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prov·o·ca·tion - something that provokes, arouses, or stimulates. pant - to long eagerly; yearn. a collection of thoughts intended to provoke and inspire. these posts are hoping to encourage people to think, especially Christians, and pant even harder for the waterbrooks of the Lord. If you are not a believer in Christ Jesus, I welcome your perspective and encourage your investigation on these matters.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

The "Emergence" of the Social Gospel?

Ken Silva of Apprising Ministries was written an article called "Emerging with the Social Gospel" in which he expresses some of the same concerns I have (see here , here, and here)about the EC Movement's articulation of orthopraxis. Kilva centers his article chiefly on Rob Bell's Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith. While I will not provide you with the entire text, let me share some of the comments I think are important: "The Emergent Church however, is downplaying–if not completely obscuring–the essential work done by Christ in the vicarious penal substitutionary atonement on the Cross, which then leads to a huge misconception concerning the primary mission our Lord has given to His ambassadors to seek and save the lost (see–John 20:21)." "The gross misunderstanding of the Kingdom of God which is taught by Emergent leaders does not take into account that this Kingdom of Heaven is only still here on earth in the Church–the Body of Christ–that is made up of regenerated men and women who are the called out ones that assemble to worship God in Christ." "It’s important for you to understand that “the gospel” in their theological system has been “repainted”/redefined back into the old Social Gospel of what Dr. Walter Martin referred to as “the Cult of Liberal Theology.” This secular humanistic distortion of Christ’s true Gospel, which at its core assumes that mankind is basically good, was originally taught by Walter Rauschenbusch and is more about making the world a better place than it is preaching the need for a new birth and a new nature." "First of all, while in Velvet Elvis Bell does acknowledge that “the image of God is deeply scarred in each of us” (p.150), and that “Jesus can repair” (p.151) this problem, the distorted view of man that is inherent in this counterfeit Christian Emergent Church movement becomes clear when he writes “exactly as I am, I am totally accepted, forgiven, and there is nothing I could ever do to lose this acceptance” (ibid.) This is why in the initial selection I highlighted Bell changed the actual quote from Christ Jesus from “repent” to “return.” You see, the Emergent Church has in its view that because people are still basically good then men of all religions can work together for the advancement of God’s Kingdom here on earth, and if somewhere along the way you decide to become a “follower of Jesus” (as they deem themselves) then this is perhaps better. If you are familiar with Brian McLaren’s book A Generous Orthodoxy you’ll know that there are those who in the Emergent Church who feel we shouldn’t necessarily try to convert people to Christianity, but instead we should “seek to encourage the growth of good wheat in all religions including our own, leaving it for God to sort it all out as only God can do” (p.255)." There is much more to this article which deserves reading and demands interaction by those who are both for and against the EC Movement. One thing is for sure, the Church of Jesus Christ does not need another made-up version of the social gospel, and I hope that the EC Movement will be careful not to fall into this false gospel.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe that when the gospel is hyphentated, it is destroyed. The beauty of the gospel of God is that it has many attributes. Social, salvific, liberation, traditional, etc... When we focus on only one of these, we take away the holism of the gospel energy.

As Tony Campolo and Brian Mclaren have said, culture neuters the gospel. But... but, in my opinion, those who rightly say that our culture has neutered the gospel, the y too may well have done the same themselves.

And haven't we all?

12/17/2005 04:23:00 PM

Blogger Timmy said...

The only way to netuer the gospel is to change it from what it already is. Tony Campolo's teachings poses a serious problem for the gospel. For instance, you ought to check out his article on Katrina called "Katrina: Not God's Wrath--Or His Will" found here


McLaren does the same thing in changing the gospel as well. In just the short time I have read his stuff, there are many serious problems that McLaren has with the gospel as expressed in biblical revelation. He calls it just a form of a missiological method (contextualization) while denying that it carries propositional truth (content.

Whenever you try to define the gospel through what you do, you encounter erroneous theology every time. The gospel is not expressed in what you do; it is expressed in who Jesus Christ is and what he has done for sinners. It is not in our hands to define or redefine. Our culture has not neutered the gospel. It cannot. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation to all who believe, and that will not change. What changes, as we have seen, is man's attempt to repackage the gospel to their liking to suit their "paradigms" and cultural context. This, my friend, is not just neutering the gospel, but preaching another gospel which Paul himself twice condems (see Galatians 1).

12/18/2005 02:10:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding your original post; At what point is it appropriate to say that the EC movement has fallen into false gospel? How far must things go? It seems this has already occured.

12/19/2005 04:00:00 PM

Blogger Timmy said...


Could you give reference to your belief that the emerging church has fallen into a false gospel? I am not defending the movement, but I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt at this point. I would be interested in hearing your reasoning by your comments. Thanks!

12/19/2005 06:23:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll try to articulate my reasoning. If the EC movement is obscuring the salvation message, as I believe the quote from Ken Silva stated (first paragraph), then isn't that false teaching and therefore a false gospel?

It would seem that if an unsaved person attends an EC church, for example, and walks away without a clear understanding that the purpose of Christ blood on the cross is salvation and is a free gift of grace b/c of His love for us... then what good is the message? What good is a movement that blurs lines? Isn't this simply another trick of Satan's to undermine Christ's death on the cross?

I realize you are not defending the movement. I've learned much about it from your blog and the links on your blog. You have an awesome blog, by the way. You mention you are giving them the benefit of the doubt. Would you elaborate on why that is.

Hope my reasoning is clear and not creating confusion.

12/20/2005 02:30:00 PM

Blogger Timmy said...

The reason I give "them" the benefit of the doubt is because "they" constitute a not-so-defined group of people. While there are some in the EC who would disagree with Silva, I think there would be some who would agree. I guess you could say that there are some hard ECers and some soft ECers.

I also realize that this is a very influential and broad movement which deserves careful critique. I cannot write them off immediately unless I have first throroughly researched and evaluated their premises, beliefs, positions, etc. For me to do now would cut off any opportunity to engage the EC movement as well as not allowing me to learn about what the EC is all about. I admit, I am rather new to the whole deal, although I was at a YS (Youth Specialties) meeting in 2001 with Tony Jones and Dan Kimball.

If you have had a chance to read some of my comments on other blogs (Steve McCoy's and Joe Kennedy's for example), you will see that I am not engaging in "evangelical appeasement" as some good evangelicals have when it comes to calling the EC and their leaders out on false teaching and such. They call themselves evangelicals, although I do not know to what degree or in what sense this is proven to be true. This is what I am looking to see. Just who is the EC?

I think from the ecumenical approach the Emergent (I have now realized that Emergent is not the same thing as emerging) has taken with S3K, it has opened the eyes of many evangelicals in the EC.

Finally, let me say that I think that there is some very valuable and important things which the traditional or orthodox church can learn and benefit from the EC. For instance, they have recovered the need for a healthly orthopraxis which has long been suppressed by hardline fundamentalism. We should care about world hunger, AIDS, poverty, sickness, disease, etc. - enough to do something about it. We should care for the widow and orphan for this is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of God. Our hearts should be broken for a broken humanity. That being said, our social efforts in no way replaces the gospel of Jesus Christ proclaimed through preaching biblical truth. I also do not think that embracing postmodernism is going to do anything but let to cultural captivity as well.

So that is my initial thoughts. I appreciate your input and interaction. Let's learn and grow together and ask questions along the way. You can count on me trying my best to understand the issues, ask sincere questions, probe deeply, and make controversial statements (hence why would my blog be called Provocations and Pantings?). In the meantime, let's listen to those in the EC and give them an opportunity to have fair hearing, genuine dialogue, and candid conversation for the benefit of everyone interested. Thanks again, and I hope to hear from you again soon!

12/20/2005 03:19:00 PM

Blogger Timmy said...

One more thing, be looking in the near future for some postings of my research in the past couple of weeks. I will be posting a bibliography, a listing of EC blogs, key leaders, key points, etc. I hope that will help!

(I am leaving for Ecuador the 2nd of January for a couple of weeks, so I will try to have it completed before then.)

12/20/2005 03:22:00 PM

Blogger Call Me Ishmael said...

I have tried to summarize McLaren's book at:

I trust it is not a total failure.

12/25/2005 08:31:00 PM


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