Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Question Posed To Me About the Seemingly Contradictory Liberal and Conservative Aspects of the Emergent Movement

One should read this update/caveat to these posts for the whole story.

I was asked the following questions, and I tried to respond to them -- albeit probably unsuccessfully. Here are the questions followed by my answer:

  1. I was reading the article and I noticed that it referred to the emergent church as being "conservative evangelical" This is the first time that I have read anywhere that the emergent church was considered conservative evangelical. Perhaps you can help me to understand this.
  2. My question is, has Warren publicly promoted any of these or is he still just propping up these false teachers and speaking differently in the pulpit? There are many solid apologists who defend Warren like Richard Abanes and Hank Hannagraf, so I'm very confused about this man.
A couple things. I was asked to clarify the use of "conservative evangelical" in connection to the Emergent movement in the opening of my earlier post. Fair question, as is the other about Abanes and Hanegraaff. Most consider this type of movement identical to the liberal theology dealt with by J. Gresham Machen referenced in his book Christianity and Liberalism. Mark Driscoll considers this movement from which he "emerged" to be very liberal as well. In fact, I encapsulated the "conservative evangelical" for a couple of reasons. The first being that the pastor in which I built that list from the books he passed on to me defended Tony Jones as a conservative theologian. Remember that Tony has said the following (see picture, click to enlarge).

After mentioning that Tony had said these things, the personal relationship he had with him was discussed as proof for this. So this was mentioned in "quotes" to make sure that those who know the back story of me leaving this church that are still at the church can click that this theology is not conservative. That's number one. Secondly, many of the leaders considered to be intellectual thinkers in the conservative evangelical movement should truly not be considered such in their understanding of theology and the Bible. Here is a great example that hits close to home for this arm-chair apologist. I love J.P. Moreland! His book, Scaling the Secular City, is a must for any honest skeptic or true apologist. However, he advocates this meditation as we see here in this excerpt from David Cloud's book, Contemplative Mysticism: A Powerful Ecumenical Bond -- and please keep in mind that in the terminology of the emergents, solitude and silence have different meanings that when we think of Jesus going off to achieve solitude. You almost need that "cult" glossary that Walter Martin speaks of:
He has written on apologetics and social issues and is a fellow of the Discovery Institute, which defends intelligent design. In recent years he has been promoting contemplative spirituality.

The Lost Virtue of Happiness: Discovering the Disciplines of the Good Life (2008), co-authored by Moreland and Klaus Issler, promotes contemplative practices. It says that "solitude and silence" are "absolutely fundamental to the Christian life." (p. 51). Moreland and Issler recommend meditating at Catholic retreat centers, meditating on pictures and statues of Jesus, and repetitious prayers.

Following are some excerpts:
  • "In our experience, Catholic retreat centers are usually ideal for solitude retreats. ... We also recommend that you bring photos of your loved ones and a picture of Jesus. ... Or gaze at a statue of Jesus. Or let some pleasant thought, feeling, or memory run through your mind over and over again" (pp. 54, 55).
  • "[W]e recommend that you begin by saying the Jesus Prayer about three hundred times a day. ... When you first awaken, say the Jesus Prayer twenty to thirty times. As you do, something will begin to happen to you. God will begin to slowly begin to occupy the center of your attention. ... Repetitive use of the Jesus Prayer while doing more focused things allows God to be on the boundaries of your mind and forms the habit of being gently in contact with him all day long" (pp. 90, 92, 93).
Moreland is opposed to an "overemphasis" on the Bible:
"In the actual practices of the Evangelical community in North America, there is an over-commitment to Scripture in a way that is false, irrational, and harmful to the cause of Christ. And it has produced a mean-spiritedness among the over-committed that is a grotesque and often ignorant distortion of discipleship unto the Lord Jesus. ... [The problem is] that the Bible is the sole source of knowledge of God, morality, and a host of related important items. Accordingly, the Bible is taken to be the sole authority for faith and practice" ("How Evangelicals Became Over-Committed to the Bible and What Can Be Done about It," Evangelical Theological Society speech, quoted from "Contemplative Proponent J.P. Moreland," Lighthouse Trails, Nov. 21, 2007).
We don't know who Moreland is referring to when he talks about "a mean-spiritedness among the over-committed." That is a popular strawman. But we do know that the Bible itself claims to be the sole divine revelation to man and it is able to make the man of God "perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Timothy 3:16-17). It is obvious that if the Bible can do this, nothing else is necessary. It appears that Moreland wants to loose himself from the Bible's restrictions and launch out into the wide world of mysticism.

In his book Kingdom Triangle: Recover the Christian Mind, Renovate the Soul, Restore the Spirit's Power, Moreland again recommends contemplative meditation. He urges his readers to practice centering prayer by focusing "the center of your attention on your physical heart muscle" (p. 159). In this book Moreland recommends Richard Foster and the late Roman Catholic priest Henri Nouwen.

(pp. 316-317)
Dallas Willard and others whom we have viewed as conservative, should now be considered "conservative." Ray Yungen in his book, A Time of Departing: How Ancient Mystical Practices are Uniting Christians with the World's Religions, talks about David Jeremiah for instance:
.....While it is disconcerting to see David Jeremiah using Peter Senge and Calvin Miller as examples of those who have "secrets" for the rest of us, it is Jeremiah's favorable quoting of Sue Monk Kidd that I find most disturbing of all. As I have shown, Monk Kidd went from being a Southern Baptist Sunday School teacher to a contemplative prayer practitioner. And yet Jeremiah quotes her from When the Heart Waits in a manner that would give her credibility with his readers.

In this particular book of Monk Kidd's, she describes her journey to find her true self through the writings of Thomas Merton and other mystics. This ultimately led her to embrace the following beliefs in her next book, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, which incidentally was already in print when Jeremiah quoted her in his book. Monk Kidd states:
As I grounded myself in feminine spiritual experience, that fall I was initiated into my body in a deeper way. I came to know myself as an embodiment of Goddess.
Mystical awakening in all the great religious traditions, including Christianity, involves arriving at an experience of unity or nondualism. In Zen it's known as samadhi. . . . Transcendence and immanence are not separate. The Divine is one. The dancer and all the dances are one.
The day of my awakening was the day I saw and knew I saw all things in God, and God in all things.
(p. 187)
Yes, thee David Jeremiah that wrote Invasion of Other Gods, a great book on the early influence of New Age on the church, who is now himself quoting a wiccan/neo-pagan positively. A couple of years ago Francis Beckwith, while President of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS), stepped down to reconvert to Roman Catholicism. While I wrote about this in a more positive light in 2007 (yes, Dr. Beckwith found the time to stop by and comment on my meager post)... I wouldn't have been so nice now. In fact, I am looking forward to reading his book (when I have the time) Return to Rome: Confessions of an Evangelical Catholic for clues that I am only now coming to grips with. I bet he, the leader of conservatism in Evangelical theology then, left after some time practicing this "centering prayer"/"contemplative prayer."

Look, put another way, as Roger Oakland aptly points out in his book, Faith Undone: The Emerging Church... a New Reformation or an End-Time Deception, there is a unifying factor to the emerging church and this new mysticism. That is:
Contemplative spirituality is a vital element of the emerging church. In fact, wind is to a sail boat what contemplative prayer is to the emerging church. Without it, there is no momentum—it is woven into the very fabric of the emerging church's ambience.

(p. 81)
This movement has reached far and threatens to undermine a large portion of the "church universal" if not discussed at the donut and coffee bar at our churches. We need to be able to equip ourselves with what is coming on the horizon, before its too late. Also, conservative (truly conservative) churches must be ready for the influx of people like myself looking for a more solid foundation to transplant to.

I hope I asked the question asked of me in the PM and of SolaSaint... although I doubt it eased any troubled feelings about such great men compromising on the written word. I wish to quickly note here that this movement found its strength in the writings and movement of neo-orthodoxy/open-theology. It is the "parents," if you will, of this newer younger movement.

The Big Four


This post is dedicated to the following Scriptures about defending and fighting for the essentials:

If you do not know what the difference between Law and Gospel is, I encourage you to listen to a critique of a Dallas Willard Q and A with students:"Is Dallas Willard a Christian"