Why I am Not Part of the Emerging Church – Part 4November 10, 2006
At a family retreat with my wife’s relatives, we came to the Sunday morning time when we had planned a Christian celebration. Among the family members, we had nine ordained pastors, two missionaries, three more who were involved in urban relief work and countless committed Christians. We represented 11 different denominations and countless approaches to worship, studying the Bible and prayer. Yet we shared the family link, that close blood tie to one another and the spiritual tie through Jesus. Blest be the ties that bind.
During the service, they played an interview made with Kathy’s “Oma” (95-year old grandmother). It was an interview done with her son recounting the events surrounding her wedding day . I can’t even begin to describe the soul’s delight at hearing this account. The ceremony contained elements we never see any more and traditions long-since discarded by a Modern society. But I will never forget what happened after they became man and wife.
Gunshots rang out in the courtyard of the house. Much like a similar scene in “Fiddler on the Roof” the Russian soldiers marched onto this farm in the Ukraine and demanded to have the highest courtesy shown to them. The young bride and groom hid in the barn, knowing they would be killed if found. Overnight, all their money was worthless, their land taken. Russian soldiers slept in their wedding bed with their boots on. They feared for their lives as finally the army burned the barn they were hiding in to the ground. Yet, through it all, God saved and preserved their lives.
As I raptly listened to this account, someone near me said, “They knew how to have weddings back then.” We all laughed at that. Obviously none of us would have traded their wedding for our own. Yet, we couldn’t deny the results. Their marriage lasted longer than 98% of our marriages today. All their children follow the Lord. Most of their grandchildren committed their lives to the Lord. Yet, would any of us want to pattern our weddings after theirs? I doubt it.
Believe it or not, this is the basis of my largest criticism of the Emerging Church Movement. They have a totally different view of the Bible than the traditional evangelical approach. They prefer to exalt the Narrative view toward interpretation and exegesis. The Narrative approach is a mindset similar to that we adopted listening to the recounting of the marriage ceremony. We were saying to ourselves “what a fascinating story and how meaningful to those who endured its scope. But what does that have to do with us today?”
McLaren, the Ooze and other websites and blogs create straw men of us evangelicals. They say that when we read the Bible we yearn for the Golden Oldie days of yesteryear, primarily those beliefs and practices of the first century Palestine. Though they would say the Bible has something to tell us, it is the narrative that is important, not the details. In the same way that none of us would have wanted to endure the ignominy of the Russian invasion, so too none of us need to live through the ethos of First century traditions and prejudices. I will give a few examples of this in a second.
The Emerging church says it has a great respect for the Bible. But their view on it is that it is the grandest of all narratives. Its pages are descriptive of God’s working with mankind and not prescriptive of how we should live and what we should believe. If you read even a few of their blogs, you are met by the approach to the interpretation of Scripture that ignores any real current application for the beliefs expressed by the Biblical writers. For example. According to both the Ooze and the OpenSource Theology websites, the passage in Romans 1 that speaks of homosexuality is helpful and revelatory only as far as its narrative value. What does that mean? It tells us that the first century church was populated with homophobes, few if any of which had any respect for the right to live out one’s sexuality. But it also shows that God worked with them and moved among these homophobes, helping them to see some of the difficulties a homosexual will have in a predominantly heterosexual world.
When Jesus talked about Hell in the Bible (or was it his Garbage Pit he was talking about), they would say the narrative account is simply reflecting the viewpoint of his day…that they saw the afterlife as a stark dualism of heaven vs. hell. What we need to glean from this is that the first century believer had a grand view of the afterlife and took it much more seriously than we do today. The narrative hermeneutics would lead the preacher to conclude that we need to be much more focused on the spiritual realm than Modernism was.
In essence, the Narrative approach to interpretation robs any strength from the Bible and eliminates all of its prescriptive elements. It becomes no more instructive to us than the Baghavad Gita, the Uppanishads or the writings of Hammurabi that are studied to understand the underlying culture of the writers. The Emerging Church might still claim that God had something to do with the writing of Scripture, but it would be difficult for them to conclude that it is anything more than an historical reference point in the continual working of God. Most Emerging Church leaders also subscribe to the Open Canon Theory. This theory postulates that the Bible was never truly finished and that many other writings are just as important.
So let’s all turn to the Book of Ted Turner. Within those hallowed pages, we find not the Ten Commandments but (in the words of Saint Ted) the “Ten Strategic Initiatives.