Well, it's time for another break in my already slow moving allegory. I have finished a few paragraphs in chapter #4 and will hopefully continue it tomorrow... well, technically today. However, I have a few things on my mind this evening that I would like to get off my chest. Franky, I'm really tired of a lot of things. As many who have gotten to know me over the past couple years may know, I like to talk a lot about the Emergent church.
Have any of you heard about the Emergent Church? If you've been around me, you probably have. If you haven't heard me mention it, you may have some vague idea of what it is. Unfortunately, this is one of the things I'm tired of. Not the emergent church, (though, yes, I am tired of that too) but the fact more Christians haven't heard of it. Some of the main leaders in this movement include men like Brian McLaren and Rob Bell.
Now I know that many of you have heard of Rob Bell. It's also likely that you've heard of the controversy surrounding his newest book, "Love Wins." What shocks me is that it took as long as it did for many mainstream lay Christians to realize that there just might possibly be some controversial things stiring in this movement. Once in a while I find a Christian who is eager for a battle to fight, and so when I mention a possiblity of bad teaching coming into the church, they get all hot and bothered. At the same time there are others who, when they hear that I might have a problem with one of these teachers, are quick to warn me that our top priority as Christians is love and unity... or something along those lines. Unfortunately, I find both of these responses irritating. Why? Because they have nothing to do with the "substance" of what I am saying.
After a recent encounter with some friends of a friend, where I had an opportunity to share my thoughts on Bell's new book, I heard some similar things yet again. The initial talk went well and people gave the issue some serious thought, however, afterward, word got to me that someone thought I was possibly being judgemental and that I should read Rob Bell's book before I speak. At that point I had read all of Rob Bell's other books (save "Drops Like Stars") and I had read a lengthy critical review of "Love Wins" by a writer that I've grown to trust very much. And so, I decided to not only buy "Love Wins" on my kindle, but also Brian McLaren's newest book "A New Kind of Christianity" which I had also heard negative things about from the same reviewer.
Surprise surprise, "Love Wins" was everything I expected it to be. The analysis had been accurate and for the most part I agreed with what the review had said. Not only that, but "A New Kind of Christianity" was even worse. I hope I'm not sounding overly judgmental, but yet again, my having to say even that is one of the things I'm tired of. Being judgmental is not the same as making judgments.
Some of you may want me to break down some of the theological issues that are upsetting to me in these books, but that's not my goal in this post. I may do it in the future, but right now I really would rather vent. Back in 2009 I had my fling with the Emergent Church. I read Rob Bell and others like him. I enjoyed the subtle rebellion in his writing. He made a few good points and asked good questions. He pushed the limits. However, when I got to Nyack, the fling ended. I decide to ground myself back in conservative theology and I haven't turned back. I learned a lot in my year and a half there, but most of it had nothing to do with the fact that my major was in theology. All it took was a few very insightful books.
I guess this is why my recent conversations have tired me out so much. Not so much actual exhaustion, but more a simple wish that people cared more about the central doctrines that are being called into question right under their noses. I'm sick of hearing people say that they're so impressed that I got a degree in theology and then saying they could never do it themeselves. Not so much because I think everyone should, but because they use this as an excuse to be ignorant.
What shocks me so often is that people respect my degree until I say something they don't like. "Yes I believe that What Rob Bell has written is heresy."
"You know you really should cut him some slack, He's you're brother in Christ you know."
I could give so many examples of this, but it's not worth the effort. My goal isn't to flaunt my degree, but to show people that they CAN have an opinion on what's true and what's not. All my degree has done is confirm that.
My goal isn't to show how much I know, but to show that there's a lot of truth out there. I'm tired of people pleading ignorance when I try to warn them of bad teaching. "Oh, don't worry, I don't read that guy anyways" they usually say. Often, all I can think is "Oh yeah? Well your Pastor clearly has and he's quoting the guy word for word in his sermons... not only that but you were eating up every word."
Honestly, all I really want is for more people to be inspired by some of the things I've been inspired by. I would just like them to read a few of the things that I have read. They don't need to go to college to do that.
So, do you any of you want to know what the real deal is on the emergent church? Then you can start here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=58fgkfS6E-0 . If you're too simpathetic towards Rob Bell to believe it's true, then read his book. I really mean it, READ IT. Then do the responsible things and read this response by Kevin Deyoung: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/files/2011/03/LoveWinsReview.pdf . If that doesn’t convince you, then read Brian McLaren’s “A new Kind of Christianity.” Seriously, read it. It will shock you, and if you’re not prepared it will make you question things that have been your bedrock foundations for your entire Christian life. Then you can read this response: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/files/2010/02/Christianity-and-McLarenism.pdf .
You might think some of these postmodern Christian writers are on the fringe and are far from influencing mainstream Christianity, but this is the attitude that is allowing their garbage to creep into the church little by little. Without responsible Christian theology, the thoughts presented in these books ARE the direction we are headed. So READ them, and READ their critics.
This process of reading challenging things as well as properly thought out and Biblical responses has revolutionized my life, and it all took place outside of the college classroom.
If you’re not willing to do this work, then please don’t tell me I'm judgmental, it’s beginning to wear on me. I know that Christianity is more than theology, but it’s not less than that. I know it’s more than doctrine, but it’s not less. I know it’s more than study, but it’s not less. I know it’s more than believing the right things, but it’s not less. As D.A Carson says, Damn all false antithesis to Hell. I refuse to choose between getting my theology right and being loving and spiritual. Jesus demands both from you and me and I prefer it that way.