In the past few weeks I have read several books on varying themes. One is Charles Colson's recent book, The Faith. As all his writings are, this one is to the point and strategic for our day. His basic assertion is that our culture and our evangelical culture is included, does not value truth or creed. This drift away from historic doctrine has serious ramifications and implications. I happen to agree with Colson strongly.
In recent years I have been exposed to the Emergent Church Movement and its emphasis on relating to a post modern generation. I find some of the emphases in this movement appealing. I also have great empathy for post moderns who find the typical evangelical church experience, from which many of them come, unfulfilling and unappealing. Post moderns are troubled by the use of resources in many evangelical churches today. They are troubled by the hypocrisy they see concerning faith and practice. I am sure I help to contribute to it at times.
I also have some concerns about this movement and Colson's book articulates my concerns well. In seeking to "connect" with post moderns and to relate to them, I have a concern that experience, conversation, and story telling have taken the place of truth and proclamation. Several of Colson's statements really resonate with me. Here are a few:
"But understanding the way an audience thinks does not mean converting to the way that audience thinks, especially at the expense of truth." Right on the money I think. Story telling may truly be a great way to relate to the post modern. Doctrine does not need to be dry and dusty. When creeds do not develop into deeds, then indeed there is a problem. However, the fault is not with the creeds. It is the creed that gives nobility to the deed. The creed properly understood is what motivates one to become involved in deeds. Effort may be misplaced if it is not based on true creeds.
"This conception of church life and the failure to teach doctrine do nothing less than institutionalize agnosticism – the inability to know the truth – within churches themselves." This statement felt like the stab of a knife to me. It seems so strong. And yet, when I think of my own exposure to the Emergent Movement, I have to admit that I have observed this "institutional agnosticism." There truly seems to be a slippery slope. It is in fact difficult to define with precision exactly what the Emergent Movement believes which in itself contributes to this "slippery" notion. There is no clear theology or belief system. It varies from one group to another. A revised understanding of salvation results in a kind of universalism. Sometimes I hear the expression, "You're in unless you deliberately choose to be out." I cannot accept this idea. At other times I have heard emergent leaders express their own skepticism and doubt about various other historical orthodox beliefs. As much as I find it painful, that does sound like a form of agnosticism to me.
I hope to share other ideas from Colson's book in the next few weeks and desire that what I write will cause you to think and consider carefully. In my mind these are critical issues. When I think of the exhortation in Scripture not to be conformed to the world, I have much more fear that we conform to the world in its thoughts and values rather than in its practices and activities. How we think is more critical and so foundational.
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This article was written by a friend of mine.