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Post Modern Evangelicals

May 4, 2011 8 Comments

A few years ago my wife began reading some books that were recommended by several youth pastors. After reading several chapters she made me aware of some troubling philosophies and doctrines that were perpetuated in these books.  In our search we found a common bond with several so called evangelical writers whom we now know are involved in the post modern “emergent” progressive church movement.

In the name of keeping the Church relevant many so called evangelical pastors and youth leaders have bought into the progressive post modern “emergent church”  movement. Those leading this movement do not just want to change the church’s methods, but want to change Christianity altogether. These men have not necessarily come from liberal schools, but have embraced evangelical Christianity.  They are among us and teach in our Christian colleges and universities, write books that are sold in our Christian bookstores and speak at our Christian conferences. Their message of helping the poor or caring for the environment and loving one another is a good thing but not a substitute for the gospel.

What they believe at first seems to be what we believe with a little twist , but after careful examination their message is destructive and contrary to scripture.

They believe Jesus is savior and yet preach a  message of universal salvation and tolerance.

The person most commonly associated with the post modern “emergent” movement is Brian McLaren.

Brian McLaren began Cedar Ridge Community Church in 1986 in the Baltimore Washington area and is a very popular so called evangelical speaker. In his book “More Ready Than You Realize” McLaren says “I don’t believe making disciples must equal making adherents to the Christian religion. It may be advisable in many (not all) circumstances to help people to become followers of Jesus and remain within their  Buddhist, Hindu, or Jewish contexts…

McLaren was recognized as Time Magazine’s “25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America”  Brian serves on the board for an organization called “Sojourners”.

Sojourners is a so called evangelical organization that is based on social justice and left wing political causes. The organization was
founded by Jim Wallis who is President Obama’s spiritual adviser. Wallis has received criticism for calling the United States a fallen nation in his 1976 book “Agenda for Biblical People”. Sojourners also receives money from George Soros.

Many “Postmodern emergents” will deny Biblical truth to fit a modern view of social justice.

Just recently Robb Bell, famous evangelical pastor of the mega Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids Michigan, published a book called “Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.” According to his book, Bell criticizes the belief that a select number of Christians will spend eternity in the bliss of heaven while everyone else is tormented forever in Hell. Bell goes on to say in his book “This is misguided and toxic and ultimately subverts the contagious spread of Jesus’ message of love, peace, forgiveness and joy that our world desperately needs to hear.”  This kind of rhetoric is becoming common to the post modern emergent pastor.

Another post modern thinker, Tony Campolo, motivational speaker and sociology professor at Eastern College is quoted to say “What I think I can say is, and this is where I get in trouble, I’m not sure that when this life is over that all possibilities for salvation are over.” He also says “… I am not convinced that the grace of God does not go further than the Christian community.”  He seems to believe that there are other ways to enter heaven.

In an exchange with now popular emergent post modern speaker Shane Claiborne , Tony Campolo speaks his mind when Shane asks, “Both Muslims and Christians are very evangelical in the sense of desiring others to come to faith in their God. When we talk about inter-religious cooperation, does that mean that we need to stop converting each other?”

Tony answers, “We don’t have to stop trying to convert each other. What we have to do is show respect to one another. And to speak to each other with a sense that even if people don’t convert, they are God’s people, God loves them, and we do not make the judgement of who is going to heaven and who is going to hell.”

To say that we are all Gods children is not in the Bible… only those who are born again are truly God’s children.  Secondly the first part of Romans teaches that they (who are outside the faith)  are without excuse.  For the so called evangelical Tony Campolo  to make these kinds of statements is counter to the teaching of Jesus and not found in the Bible.

Since Tony is such a good speaker with great charisma, many evangelicals have invited him to speak to large crowds all over the world.  Many are being deceived by his progressive “emergent” brand of Christianity.

Another very popular progressive evangelical is Shane Claiborne. Shane studied under Tony Campolo at Eastern University. He was moved by Tony’s progressive social gospel message. He spent ten weeks with Mother Teresa in India then started an organization in Philadelphia to minister to the poor. Even though he works with the poor, his brand of Christianity does not line up with scripture. For example he says “Rarely are people converted by force of words…maybe we will find a mystical union of the spirits as (saint) Francis (of Assisi) did.” Both Mother Teresa and Francis of Assisi were devout Catholics and not necessarily born again believers.

He also expressed his friendship (during a concert at the LifeFest Musical Festival) and his alignment with Jim Wallis (the founder of the progressive liberal Sojourners magazine).

We first heard Shane speak at the National Youth Workers Convention. His unique theology shocked many of us and yet we found that he has become a pied piper among many evangelical youth workers.

These men are among a few so called progressive “emergent” type evangelicals who advocate a works oriented universal social gospel. Their departure from scripture appears to be unnoticed or diluted because of their popular book writing and public speaking. Their ability to sell their message to the masses is troubling.

The Bible warns us in Galatians 1:6 “I  marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel” KJV

I tell young people all the time that it is important we  know our Bible so well that when a person teaches false doctrines we can spot
it right away and not buy into it.

When you hear of the Emerging church , the post modern Christian or the progressive movement be aware of their teachings and philosophies. It may sound good, but it’s message is not from the Word of God.

So what do you think?  Tell us in the message board.

About the Author:

Rev. Mark S Witt was 12 years old when he felt God calling him into full time youth ministry. After graduating college in Ohio with an education degree, Mark taught part-time at Liberty University while studying youth ministry. Mark has served in several pastor and youth pastor positions. In 1976 he and his wife Debbi began Teen Quest. Serving as the Executive Director of the ministry, Mark has a passion to see teenagers accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior, grow in their faith and begin to share the message of Jesus with other students in their high schools and ultimately throughout their lives. Mark lives in Somerset, Pennsylvania with his wife Debbi. Together they have two grown children and six grandchildren.

Comments (8)

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  1. Reaper says:

    This is very well written & I agree that we need desperately to remain in prayer & vigilance through knowing the Word better than we ever have- ” Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:41

  2. bjm says:

    As a youth pastor who loves the ministry of Teen Quest, it is with great caution & care that I have decided to post this message; but it is also with deep conviction that I encourage you not to be too critical of the “emergent” movement, or to make blanket statements that could be perceived as discrimination. At 48 years old, having had many bumps and bruises (not to mention residual deep scars) from judgemental, intolerant Christians who are supposedly standing on the truth of the Bible but who are, in fact, being governed by far more worldly things, that I became more discerning about truth and the deep complexity of scriptural truth. The mind and plans of God are far more complex than mere humanity can grasp! I have watched as “Christians” have abandoned Biblical directives of love for more worldly, corporate models in church governance! Greed and the almighty dollar (how full are the collection plates?); or worse yet, instead of meeting people where they are (ie, Jesus taught that it was the “sick” who need a doctor) and loving them to a place of growing spiritually, disposing of people because they haven’t become yet “holy enough” to be an acceptable part of Christian fellowship. (Do we really welcome sinners, or just “sinners like us?) In a very discouraged time, I was seeking for answers, hoping that someone would see the same illness in the organized church that I was witnessing! It was then that I found Brian McClaren’s “A New Kind of Christian” trilogy. This three book series wanders through a pastor’s struggles with the real world in which he lives. The issues he and people he pastored were encountering were at times obviously sinful, but at other times they were, at the very least, genuine moral dilemmas. He found that his brand of “religion” simply didn’t provide the answers. It was then that he met a friend who helped him to look far more deeply into the word and mind of God. It was there that he found revelation, renewal and the strength to continue. In reading Brian McClaren’s books, I found the same hope for renewal. I also was able to craft and embrace a philosophy for ministry that is far more based on the Love to which Christ calls us (through His GREATEST COMMANDMENT)

    What to do with a student that is struggling with sexual identity? What to do when a gay couple comes to our church? What to do with a woman who is being abused by her husband…who just happens to be a church officer? What to do when a student who has a beloved teacher who is Jewish, and asks, “Are you saying that Mrs _______ will go ‘down there’ because she doesn’t celebrate Easter?” Thumping the Bible and being pharisaical about rules and traditions is not going to help these people with their dilemmas. We must first and sometimes only, exercise love and leave judgement to the Lord. What Biblical support do I have for that philosophy? Romans 1 & 2 are quite clear about putting us in our place! After listing a litany of sins in Romans 1, Paul opens Romans 2 with a clear warning!

    1 You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. 2 Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. 3 So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? 4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?
    5 But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 God “will repay each person according to what they have done.”

    To use just one example from the blog above, the author quotes Tony Campollo “Tony answers, “We don’t have to stop trying to convert each other. What we have to do is show respect to one another. And to speak to each other with a sense that even if people don’t convert, they are God’s people, God loves them, and we do not make the judgement of who is going to heaven and who is going to hell.” Having heard Compolla speak, I suspect that in fuller context the point being made here is similar to the point Paul was making when the Jewish Christians were insisting that Gentiles needed to be circumcised and follow Jewish dietary rules. For example, many Messianic Jews still observe the feasts and holidays of Judaism faithfully and still embrace Christ as their savior. In fact, their feasts now take on much fuller meaning as they see their fulfillment of meaning in Christ. I agree with Compollo that we are all God’s children – or at least, we are all God’s creation and therefore we are under his care and have the potential to spend eternity with Him.

    Case in Point: Romans 11: All Israel Will Be Saved
    25 I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, 26 and in this way[e] all Israel will be saved. As it is written:
    “The deliverer will come from Zion;
    he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.
    27 And this is[f] my covenant with them
    when I take away their sins.”[g]

    28 As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies for your sake; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, 29 for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. 30 Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, 31 so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now[h] receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you. 32 For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.

    I appreciate the writing of Brian McClaren, Phyllis Tickle and others who call themselves “emergent” because they are willing to wrestle with the tough questions and admit we don’t know all the answers. They are willing to have uncomfortable conversations but leave judgement outside the door. The intro to Brian McClaren’s Generous Orthodoxy says… “Why I am missional – evangelical – post/protestant – liberal/conservative – mystical/poetic – biblical – charismatic/contemplative – fundamentalist/calvinist – anabaptist/anglican – methodist – catholic – green – incarnational – depressed yet hopeful – emergent – unfinished CHRISTIAN. I love the concept that this author recognizes his flawed and unfinished human condition but is on a quest and search for deeper things.

  3. Osu45 says:

    bjm,
    Everything in my heart as I read; you expressed in your response. If only we weren’t so afraid of the process and the struggle by which we can come to fully live out the good news, the gospel that we can’t begin to assert that we fully understand.

  4. drich says:

    Right on Mark. What drives me as a Christian sharing my faith and just not good works is that there is a real hell and Jesus said himself, “I am the Way, the Truth, the Life and no man comes to the Father but by me” John 14:6 We must do both – share the Gospel and do good!!! . . . without judgement.

    Giving the Gospel is not judging others, but conveying God’s Word so that they might go to heaven. It’s an act of love for them. We must read the Word, know the Word, embrace the Word.

    Be careful when reading other’s books. Only the Bible is pure Truth!

  5. EBR says:

    I know that I am about three weeks late.  But I have been chewing on this for awhile and I wanted to state my thoughts clearly about this post.

    My issue with what I have read here is with the automatic labeling of post-moderns with a “bad” label.  Post-modernism is the rejection of modernism.  Post-modernism is not the rejection of the Gospel.

    What I would like to propose is neither post-modernism nor modernism are adequate as a framework to discuss the Gospel.  Modernism is completely based upon the ideas of logic and scientific observation.  Under rule of modernity, we dealt with numerous theologians (Rudolf Bultmann is one of the most famous) that attempted to deny the physical resurrection of Jesus.  Why do they reject the resurrection?  It is illogical and can not be reproduced in a science lab to be observed (have you ever seen some come back to life?).    
    Also under the rule of modernity we encountered the great debate concerning the formation of the canonical gospel writings.  Form and Redaction Critique took hold because we could not deal with the idea that these writings were supernaturally inspired.  Needless to say, modernity has its issues if one is going to embrace the truth that we believe about the Gospel.

    Post-modernity has its issues as well. Post-modernity, in general, holds that the only universal truth is that there are no universal truths.  However, “post-moderns” are much more open to believing in the supernatural and are considerably more willing to reject the idea of atheism because they have witnessed that science and logic can not answer every problem the world is facing.  For example, we have been attempting to fight HIV/AIDS for 30+ years.  We have spent billions of dollars on research and medications in order to defeat this disease yet we have not done it.  Science has not eliminated war.  Science has not eliminated the fact that 1 billion people in our world do not have access to clean drinking water.  Science has not eliminated prejudice, discrimination, hatred, racism, hunger and the digital divide.  Post-moderns believe that there is need for supernatural intervention in order to make this world a better place.  Evangelicals would say this, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on EARTH as it is in heaven.”

    I urge you to please not immediately label post-modernity as a “bad” thing.  It is not any more or less evil than the modernity that it rejects.

  6. Gary says:

    I agree with your article warning others about the emerging church movement.  They teach another gospel, plain and simple.  A summary of their gospel is this: God wants you to help people and make the world a better place but don’t worry about sharing the gospel of salvation thru Christ because God could never send anyone to Hell if Hell even existed.  The emerging church movement eliminates the need for salvation and sanctification and just focuses on service (As far as they are concerned service is how you are saved and sanctified).  On the surface these false teachers may appear to be teaching truth but when you dig deeper and follow their theology to its logical conclusion they are teaching a false gospel that is contrary to scripture.  If you don’t beleive this then do some research for yourself.

  7. Reaper213 says:

    Noone is hiding these people- it’s called making an accurate observation based on their actions & teachings. If you see a man walking wildly down the street with a butcher knife, blood stained shirt & wild look on his eyes toward a group of school children playing unawares, what will most likely be your conclusion? Do something to protect the children. Why? Because you’re making an accurate observation about the man wielding the knife. I guess according to your standard we should wait & see what happens cause we don’t want to be judgemental… Do we really want to take that kind of risk?

  8. Scott Blose says:

    Amen, Mark! I believe exactly as you do. What people do is they seem to deny all or part of God’s Word-the bible as truth. They seem to only take and agree with the parts of it that support their message and/or what they want to hear/believe, while subverting the parts of it that they don’t want to believe. People really don’t want to believe in hell or the lake of fire and brimstone, but our Lord Jesus Christ talked about hell more than he talked about heaven. The emergent/post modern church seems to be teaching that all good people go to heaven and only the really bad ones go to hell. I have heard it called the church of the last days and the church of Laodocia, but before I will group it with Laodocia I will study more in the bible; but I will say that just as the bible says that it is seeming to bring all the people of the world together in a one world religion and this I believe is to be the one world religion that is present during the tribulation to come. Those that support this movement seem to forget that in Ephesians 2:8-9 that we are saved by grace through faith and not of ourselves and that this is the gift of God and not by anything that we do/have done/will do. We are not to boast as we have done nothing to attain our eternal salvation, but we are to show the love of Christ and let our light shine for others to see so that we might be able to share Christ with them. We are not saved by works, but are saved unto good works so that we might share the love of Christ with the rest of the world that are still lost and help them to come to salvation through believing on him and accepting him and their Lord and Savior. Those that don’t accept what the bible says and accept all that it says deny the truth and have been blinded by Satan himself to the truth as they have accepted something else as truth and anything that isn’t truth really is a lie. People who subvert the truth, the truth is still the truth, just like as much as one may really want to believe that one plus one equals three-no matter what they think and try to make one plus one equal to three; it only equals two and always has and always will

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