Reposted Posted by Jonathan Keener on Tuesday, February 14, 2012 Under: Restoration

Over the last several days I have been led down a track that exposed me to some of the doctrinal conflicts surfacing within the "emergent" movement.  This rather quick glance into the life and struggles of this relatively young movement has left me feeling like there is really nothing new here at all.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the terminology “emergent church” I simply say, “google it!” You may also use the term, “emerging church” or a more recent experience I have had used the word “emergence”. sounds kinda like emergency or emergency room.

I like the idea of a local church taking on the role of a hospital, but I want my nurses and doctors to be equipped to help me with my sickness or injury, wouldn’t you?

The recent “emergent” rage that has captivated the American church the last 10 years has driven me to investigate this emerging division of the L-rd’s people. There have been brooding controversies that stem from statements that a very popular teacher, Rob Bell, doesn't believe in Hell, Virgin birth of Jesus, and inerrancy of scripture. Many of the young leaders I have worked with are stuck over which way they are to believe.  On the internet, Rob Bell is being labeled a "heretic".  This caustic label and associated distancing of the disciples of each camp is starting to create a sizable divide in the emergent church family. 

If you led to take the time and read through the various articles on the topics that are now rising to the surface of these brewing controversies, you will be sad to know, that what once was a simple and exciting spiritual awakening in the church, has now started to look eerily like the church community it was emerging out of. 

The division lands us on some old familiar territory set up by the previous generation.  Typical doctrinal and analytic disputes over predestination, role of women, sexuality, and method of leadership in the church, training of leaders, and many more have these emerging folks just as divided as we older folks were.  So an "emergent" movement that brought a sense of excitement to many of us, has now fast become business as usual, as our mortal enemy, satan, has employed his proven method of using our puffy egos and arrogance to divide us from within the walls of our faith communities.  Today, we now witness a "new" movement stuck in the quagmire of division, which in the end, whatever holy bullets it thought it would shoot at the powers of darkness to destroy it's strangle hold on the American church, have already fallen terribly short of their mark. 
What, my dear christian friends, will it take to get Christ's leaders to work in concert with Him and His Spirit at this time?  Many of the "on fire" believers seem to fall into the trap of looking for a “new” Moses to emerge that will save us, when all along, G-d the Holy Spirit was and is intended to occupy this most important role.  And why do we need the raw and real power of the Holy Spirit?  For the purpose of gathering the Bride of Christ for His glorious return.  What will it be for us and the future of Truth in North America?  Can it be that we will be this divided and confused on the day of His Return?  If our heart attitude does not change soon, how will the "real" changes in the core of evangelicalism happen?  Don't you think it is time for an overhaul of everything we call “church”?  So that the gospel of Jesus Christ can be seen in the luster in which it was initially presented?   I believe we have been faced with an awe inspiring responsibility to peel back, layer by layer, the onion of our unified struggle to understand the sound of Voice and the way of His Spirit to prepare for Christ's victorious return to planet earth.


Now that a sufficient amount of time has passed in this “emergent” church movement (hip, trendy, musically oriented church)... can we now start to absorb the content of its character?  We are able to assess these new leaders and their ministries in the clear light of their teachings presented so vociferously on the internet, and now, in light of church history and an honest reading of our bibles, we can put their words in proper perspective.  Thanks to youtube and internet blog sites, we are able in short order to gather a sense the pulse of their work in quick fashion.

To digest the content of “this cultural work” that has captivated the heart of what I call the emerging “911-generation” or what Barna calls generation Y, us boomers and GenX folks must take a deeper look at this division within the emergent movement to avoid falling into the ditch of newer is better.  This new move within the church of Jesus Christ deserves a honest, forthright, and real assessment by men and women who have lived through the brokenness of the movements that preceded effort to do "better" church and "body" life.

We do so in love and with a desire to avoid all cost the pitfalls that now have us part of an evangelistic community boasting of at least 22,000 denominational streams and many other non-denominational streams beyond those, all revealing a “deep” division and weakening of the “Jesus” message He left us to preach.  He promised to help us after He penetrated the skies and sat at the right hand of the Father.  If you have listened to any of the teaching I have made over the last couple of months you will sense the direction that I see all this division is taking us – judgment!  Represented in fire, earthquakes, famines, and war will mark the next season of human history and all this spirit of division will melt away in the fire of His refining!

I know some of you who might read this assessment will jump to conclusions and say I have no right to assess this movement.  I have no real knowledge of the situation, my retort to you is a hearty, “I have been alive long enough to know the effects of bitter debate over christian doctrine!”  Time will prove this assessment right or completely off base, but I say it is time for lovers of Yahshua to stand up and ask the questions that we hope will eventually inspire “real” change!

Division carries a similar thread no matter what the argument.  The Bible says, “pride brings contention,” and this truth has been realized on a large scale in our time.  Interestingly, one of the main leaders likes the argument side of this debate and seems to enjoy running those in error, “off the road”  There seems to be a carnal delight in determining who is in and who is out!  My L-rd tells me to, “convict the gainsayers” not run them off the road.

Clearly we have been commissioned to gather in all those lame, halt, and blind Gentiles to the wedding feast of Yeshua, once he closes the door at the incredible feast, we let the L-rd and His harvesting angels sort out the wheat from the tares.


So as I started to dig through the current doctrinal debates of the emergent church movement, I gained some very good insight from the L-rd.  I have been listening to some of the teaching of a couple of the emergent church leaders, Mark Driscoll and Rob Bell.  I have taken a look at their movements which interestingly bear the same name (Mars Hill).  As I study these men, I am struck with similarity of their argument to the older theological arguments that already have been laid in generations past.  I see one wanting to return to the ancient paths set by our Hebrew forefathers and the other returning to the less ancient paths of the Protestant Reformation.

As the divide deepens, we walk along the edge of this sharp divide these two men tread and examine their developing schools of thought with a careful eye to the details of their discussion.  These theological lines are necessary to draw, but I believe, they should be handled with more surgical care and precision then our generation has handled them.  My generation (Babylonian materialist genX-Babyboomer generation) has incorporated a “modernist method” and has made several mistakes in handling theological dispute; we debated and fought each other in the “christian” camp with books and sermons to get our thoughts into mainstream evangelical thought. The idea that we can build better, faster, and stronger, like the 6 million dollar man of an earlier time.

As time has passed, fortunate for us, Our G-d has corrected aspects of our “modernistic methods” and enabled us to get back to caring about the essentials, things like people and biblical koinōnia, and eventually we saw past the face of our opponent’s argument and looked more clearly at our own frailty and realized what we had gotten wrong.  Sadly what I see today in the emergent community looks a lot like the conflicts hedged decades ago.  But this time, more labels, and more buckets


Having been raised in a family that was on the cutting edge of the emerging “reformed” movement of the 1960's, I feel the same spirit of division driving this movement that drove us with the exact same sad results soon to come.  They have no idea the silly arguments that broke off fellowship with the brotherhood of G-d people, but this current rhetoric, with its blazing hot and fast mode of communication will bring this “rising” generation of “reformers” quickly to its knees as their followers eat up their detractors.

For 15 years I sat at the feet of a great reformer of the previous generation, a person who played a major role in helping us draw the theological lines in the sand of our current debate.  This man happens to be my uncle on my mother's side.  I ate up his teaching and the teaching of his contemporaries through my twenties and thirties.

The results of his work and the work of his contemporaries (John Piper, D.A. Carson, John McCarthur, J.I Packer, John Stott, etc) has been of legend for our time.  Their “reformed” teaching has truly tapped into the root system of the American evangelical church of our time.  The resurgence or rebirth of the old-line reformed teaching of the Puritans and European reformers has been witnessed in our modern day version of evangelicalism.  But what does that mean for us today?  How will it ultimately impact this emergent church movement?  What I sense coming is a more complex seed or hybrids of faith expression that will need to be sorted and divided up later on by G-d's people.

Today, men like Mark Driscoll, C.J. Mahaney, Tim Keller, and others carry the previous generation's reformation renaissance forward within this emergent movement with a more relaxed look.  But it is still the same old monster that I served for almost 30 years of my life.  The old wrinkly-faced doctrines of the reformed movements of the last 400 years of American life, now have been revived and now we take a look at them in a more contemporary package nice and shiny ready for mass production.  But wait a minute; do we really want to carry the debate of yester year forward on these tracks?  

Right before our eyes, reformed teaching is being re-made to fit our very fast-paced and organically-connected world and culture, and sadly, tied to this movement is the added feature of a “replacement” theology for the nation of Israel that will curse the rising generation.  By forsaking the apple of G-d's eye, Israel, her people, and G-d's holy city, Jerusalem, they will find themselves cursing that what is essentially the father of our faith – Abraham and His natural and spiritual seed.  For Abraham represents both.

The cyber-space world they seek to control is in every way a “new” universe and they are poised and ready to move this old-line agenda along this relevant mode of teaching G-d people, complimentary to their teaching, is the old-line argument the bristles underneath their leadership.  Are they really wearing clothes of the Messiah or are they trying to convince us to something?  The constituents argue like cats and dogs, as though there is no tomorrow.  What will really bring us together?  I say, let's look at Abraham and the patriarchs; let's go back to the ancient places and landmarks to find our way and our unity!

Why do I care about what is happening within the emergent church and this divide occurring between some of their very gifted and influential leaders?  Well, for starters, the time clock of G-d has us all on some very shaky ground.  His Judgments are about to fall, we must understand the times and the seasons of G-d.  We have not acted like nice little christian boys and girls over the last 1700 years.  We let control and governmental positions impact our simplicity and our brotherly love.

Secondly, this emerging division will impact the psychology and spiritual fabric of the rising generation.  Our spiritually awakened youth will feel, naturally, that they must “take a side”, and I sense that this decision to take a side vexes them greatly, and I don't think they can explain why.  I believe they will not be able to understand the level of their vexation until sometime passes by and a personal inventory of their emotions is gathered and sober reflection starts to take place. 

Personally speaking, I write today out of the fire of my own refining, which Christ
initiated in me.  With no choice of my own, I was brought into these arguments from the early days of my childhood; I was saturated in the reformed argument and associated pride of, “I am right, you’re in the wrong” camp.  I speak from the standpoint of a father of seven children.  Also from the perspective of a man who has sought to minister to many young leaders in our ministry here in Pilot Mt, NC.  We live in a place where these arguments have yet to latch onto the rank and file of the typical church attender in our area.  These lines don't even make sense to them, therefore, the categories we create with this effort to define our theology is not understood at the basic level.

I speak and write from the way using G-d as an argument and out of this pain and out of the reality of my own mistakes, and under the tutelage of the risen L-rd, I speak to inspire a different approach.  By His sovereign hand, He has enabled me to walk by a much more simple faith.  A child-like faith in Him, His word, and His personal promises over my life mark my life today. 

I have learned not to lean on a so-called iron clad doctrinal support system or charismatic leader.  No, this won't do, I would rather lie down at the feet of Yeshua Jesus, and His promise to never forsake me and my family.  This personal struggle defines our ministry, Livin Lattes Intl Fellowship; it has become the outgrowth of living in the world since 1964, listening to and playing a part in the debate and associated wrangling over the character of G-d, the plan of redemption, and the achievement of a working ecclesiology.  In the end, all we are seeking to do is answer the same question, “what does it really mean to saved!” and “What in the world does the L-rd G-d Elohim think of us?”

I can say with the utmost honesty that His “way” of training me is way beyond what I learned at the feet of the reformed movement.  By running in the way of chasing a very real Jesus, I have learned far more of Our immense and way beyond rational thought Leader – King Jesus!  As I have learned to love Him personally, I have learned that He wants to be My friend, therefore, I love Him more personally and gain valuable understanding from Him and His Spirit.  He said, “If you love Me, then keep My commandments, and My commandments are not grievous”.  

Jesus has become much more than a cogent thought process as one would learn a science or a history book.  He has become the “Heart” and the “Life” of all things.  He is so merciful to us, so kind, yet we find ourselves being so severe on those who “ask” uncomfortable questions of word and His message.  We live in a different time, a time when the average young adult knows very little of traditional christianity, and much more of humanism and spirituality of the ancients.  Why then would we shrink away from the tough questions of Yahweh?  Their inquisitive minds must be enabled to ask the tough questions, they live in a broken world and a broken home.

This divide between Mark Driscoll and Rob Bell is very real and necessary.  It points to the sickness of our woefully sinful human nature and it reminds us again and again, that, without the illumination of the Holy Spirit, we lack any “real” understanding of His Ways.  We are so in need of His grace and life to learn of Him.  Yet we have been sub-consciously trained to learn of Him in the Greco-Roman way, this wasn't our choice, we have inherited this method from our parents and their parents. 

Way back when, our Jewish forefathers were afraid to admit they were Jews during the 4th century, Constantine made a Jew feel like a Christ-killer.  In order to survive, many changed their surnames just to be able to function in this new world run by the bifurcation of Greek philosophy and biblical words.  Their Jewish culture was attacked forthrightly; we dumped to the side a culture that brought us the oracles of G-d Almighty.  The Jewish culture has somehow maintained its distinctness from that of the world, what about christianity?   

The 1st century church was in every way a “Jewish-Yahshua-Jesus” culture.  But once we stepped into education and government in the 4th century, we lost that very special and precious anointing of being part of the Rabbi Yahshua's way.  Today, our broken youth want that “simple” community-based way of Christ back.

Through our effort to slice a few atoms off the top of argument to refine it, as many of these young leaders seek to put their associates in buckets to explain their views to their followers, we, at the very same time, place ourselves in another bucket separate from them, yet we continue to operate in the same culture, and seek to accomplish the same goals – preaching salvation in the name of Jesus, to lead men back to Him, their Creator and Redeemer.

If we force ourselves to travel in just our lane of doctrinal expression, we will not so easily switch to another without reaping heaps of controversy among our own followers.  We gathered them around a set of doctrines; they will make we stick to the plan or they will knock us off our high horse as quickly as they placed us there.  Being right operates with a sharp edge. 

Though these men label things with “new” theological terms, but little has changed in our hearts, we like our buckets... even though G-d hates them!  The L-rd is calling us to enter into a new season marked by a homogeneous blend is what Christ purchased His body to be.  We haven't come close to entering the door of primitive christianity; a place where Jews and Gentiles learned how to eat together.  A place where Muslims, Jews, and Christians should be coming to a place of seeing our distinctive and very real connection in Abraham.  Who closer to Abraham: A materialistic american or a dedicated religious Muslim? 


One day soon Christ Jesus will get this beautiful concert of community He so longs for His redeemed People.  I believe this will happen at a distinct point in the future, prior to the prophesied outpouring of His wrath on the nations who refuse to honor Him as King. 

When His redemption draws nigh and He is finished with things here on earth, He will wrap up this age and quickly ushers in the next age in sovereign glory and perfect control.  Then His Kingly authority over all us will enforce real and true community, He will drive away all that is currently against Him and His will.  When we really understand His blood was shed to connect us, and, one day, His blood will inextricably do “just” that when we see, through sovereign power a glorious blend of diverse humans surrounding His Glorious Presence.

Go to Part 2