Emerging Conversations

Emergent Village blog has a summary of articles about the recent dust up occasioned by Mark Driscoll’s criticism of some in the “emerging church conversation.”

I finally got a chance to listen to Driscoll’s talk. Here’s a good report of what he said that got the EV folks upset:

Driscoll previewed some of the research he compiled on the increasingly liberal views of the left-leaning Emergent Village, to be published first in the Christian Research Journal and subsequently as a book by Crossway.

Although Driscoll’s church, which is not affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, has held a New Year’s Eve service with champagne, he said Emergents are rewriting what it means to be a Christian by abandoning substitutionary atonement when they avoid speaking of the cross in reference to sin.

Driscoll said some Emergents like Brian McLaren prefer to “plead the fifth” when asked if the practice of homosexual acts is compatible with the Christian faith. Driscoll said when McClaren was asked about his position on homosexual “marriage,” his answer was, “‘You know what? The thing that breaks my heart is that there is no way I can answer it without hurting someone on either side.’ To which I would respond, ‘Now you have hurt God.’ God is in heaven and He has spoken to this issue with great clarity.”

Driscoll also noted McClaren’s endorsement of the Jesus Seminar, an academic group that denies the historicity of the resurrection. This view diminishes the impact of Jesus’ crucifixion on a sinful society and negates the need for His substitutionary atonement for sin, Driscoll said.

“There is nothing that we have to offer apart from the person of Jesus and His work on the cross,” Driscoll said. “So if the cross is lost, Christianity is lost, and hope is lost and Christ is lost. That means that, ultimately, we are lost. So this issue of the atonement is incredibly important.”

Driscoll said some of those he analyzed also support controversial doctrines such as open theism and process theology; they hold to a “trajectory hermeneutic” that allows doctrine to evolve; they shift from a complementarian to an egalitarian view of male leadership in biblical matters; and some even deny the virgin birth.

“Might I submit to you if you are thirsty for insight on theology you not drink from the toilet even though there is water there,” he told the conference crowd.

Borrowing from Stetzer’s method of categorizing emerging church leaders, Driscoll placed McLaren, Doug Pagitt and Rob Bell within the “revisionist stream” identified with the Emergent Village, while Dan Kimball and “Blue Like Jazz” author Donald Miller are in a milder “cool church crowd” labeled “relevants” who “are not necessarily trying to rewrite theology, but offer innovative methods of ministry.”

A third stream, the “relevant reformed,” are “confessional, contextual, cool Calvinists,” Driscoll said. “That’s my team,” encompassing the Acts 29 Network and such leaders as C.J. Mahaney, Josh Nelson and Matt Chandler who engage in expositional Bible preaching and teaching that is theologically motivated. Driscoll said some are slightly charismatic in that they raise their hands “and sing songs that aren’t on the cutting edge of the 18th century.”

Driscoll said this more orthodox group agrees that old ministry methods aren’t working as the world has shifted from the assumptions of modernity. They are concerned that churches are struggling, he said, and that lost people are not coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus in the numbers they would envision.

What are the issues that concern Driscoll in the “Emergent Village” crowd, as represented by McLaren, Pagitt and Bell? A fuzziness toward homosexuality, a weakening of Scriptural authority, support for Jesus Seminar folks like Marcus Borg, a diminished understanding of sin and of the necessity of redemption, a tendency towards Process theology and panentheism (weakening the distinction between the Creator and the creature), “theological evolution” (the idea that we are more enlightened today than Jesus or Paul). He also notes Rob Bell and Brian McLaren‘s recommendation of New Age author Ken Wilber.

His critics meanwhile refer to him as a “neo-circumcizer.”

Sounds to me like Driscoll is on the right track.

Another critic of Rob Bell’s view of the Trinity and the virgin birth.

From Emergent Village: Tony Jones accuses Driscoll of paying too much attention to footnotes–but he does think they are teaching very different theologies.