Archives For emergent

Posts from Jonathan Sherwin about the emergent church.

In studying the Reformation recently I am amazed at the work of God who in His faithfulness kept the church – His bride – on track. Now, historically I became queasy when Christians started talking about brides and bridegrooms outside of weddings. I have pictures of women (and, sadly, men too) thinking that they’re the bride and Christ is the bridegroom, which is just weird. But recently I’ve began to appreciate the idea a little more.

Ephesians 5:25 shows a man how he should love his wife: the same way Christ loved the church (i.e. became man, lived a life of rejection, humiliation, stress, pain and ultimately death). In essence, to man-up is to become Christ-like. A husband is to give his life for his wife, which is what Jesus did for the church. Which, as a side note, is one very good reason for believing in the church and not saying nasty things against it. Because in the words of one my professors, “The one way to really get a guy angry is to start sounding off against his bride.”

And Jesus did give himself for the church. He is in relationship with us, and he cares. So it’s no wonder that we had a Reformation, when we look at it from Jesus’ perspective. From our perspective, it’s nothing short of a miracle that the church could get back on track after doing an excellent job of losing it. But Jesus takes the relationship quite seriously. In his sovereignty he steered us back in the right direction.

Now, the Reformation started almost 500 years ago. Where are we today? I think of England. A once mighty, holy, pious nation that sent out missionaries to the ends of the earth and stood strongly for Jesus. I think of Scotland, which – after the efforts of John Knox – became known as a bastion for Biblical Christianity, in to which men were born that later went on to help shape the theological foundations of the United States. We barely find a shadow of the past alive today. Why? What happened? What disaster took place? Francis Schaeffer says this about the evangelical church in general …

“Here is the great evangelical disaster – the failure of the evangelical world to stand for truth as truth. There is only one word for this – namely accomodation: the evangelical church has accommodated to the world spirit of the age.

And let us understand that to accommodate to the world spirit about us in our age is nothing less than the most gross from of worldliness in the proper definition of that word. And with this proper definition of worldliness, we must say with tears that, with exceptions, the evangelical church is worldly and not faithful to the living Christ.”

Francis Schaeffer, The Great Evangelical Disaster

Francis Schaeffer wasn’t really accepted in England all that much, from what I can gather. By his time, perhaps, too many leading Christian intellectuals were of a liberal persuasion and had already devalued the word of God and rejected truth.

What we need today is men who aren’t going to cowardly succumb to the age of the day. We need guys to take a stand against all the ridiculous nonsense coming from inside the church and put God back on the throne. The Bible, once more, needs to be elevated to it’s proper authority. Jesus needs to be proclaimed unashamedly and boldly, as King of all – and Christians need to start living as if He really is King of their lives. John Calvin correctly understood that if Jesus really is Lord, then He’s Lord of all. We need to grasp this truth once more. We also need to pray, hard. We need to pray for our nation and for God to move. What we need, is another Reformation.

The last Reformation came at a cost. Many men lost their lives, their jobs and were kicked out of their countries. The cost again will be high. But is it worth it? I suppose the only questions really is: is God worth it? Will we man up and “get in the game” or will we melt into compromise and worldliness?

Sometimes I become depressed. What a job we have before us! But my God is an unchanging God. He’s the same yesterday, today, and forever. His promises never change and His word is true. When our courage fails, He is faithful. But now is not the time to melt to nothingness. Now is the time to stand up and boldly, loudly, unashamedly preach Jesus, Lord of all. There is hope for my nation. I am still proud to be British. Into this nation I was born, and for it I shall pray. Jesus, come for your bride. Bride, we need to awake and get to it.

I walked into a well-known chain of Christian bookstores in Bristol, England to enquire about the new biography of Francis Schaeffer. I couldn’t find the book on the shelves so I asked the attendant at the desk. The attendant asked for the details of the book and at the time I had forgotten the title so I said that it was simply the new biography of Francis Schaeffer.

The attendant looked a little confused and asked for a spelling. Fair enough – it’s not a common name really. But then they asked what he had done. I found out that then that they had not heard of Francis Schaeffer.

Francis Schaeffer has written 22 books, some of which have been very influential in Christian (and some non-Christian) circles – yet this book store didn’t have any titles by him nor had heard of Colin Duriez’s new biography on him. I’m not concerned about people never having read Schaeffer – I hadn’t until 3 years ago. What is more concerning is that a leading Christian bookstore which in my opinion has a responsibility to it’s readers to provide them with quality material, could not reference one of Christianity’s greatest thinkers of the 20th Century!

Our bookstores these days are filled with popular, enjoyable, easy-to-read works. If you look, there are some great books to be found here with depth and wisdom, oh yes, but they are far outweighed by what many see as spiritually-weak pop-books. On the subject of our reading as believers, Ravi Zacharias says this,

Is your own reading shallow or deep? The wonder that you will find in the shallow end can only be for a child. Swimming in the deep end is for the mature. If a follower of Jesus does not mature in his or her reading, the church could end up running the biggest nursery in the world.

Ravi Zacharias, Recapture the Wonder

So what is the responsibility of our Christian bookstores? Do they exist merely for profit, to shift as many products as possible? Or do they exist as resource-centers for the church to use so that we might grow in faith and maturity in Christ? The church in my country in so many ways is a nursery already. My hope is that as a church we will glorify our God with our minds, seeking to learn more to the glory of God in a humble act of worship.

I just came across the cover article (thanks to D. Groothuis) of the recent edition of Christianity Today. It is a 5-page essay from William L. Craig presenting, in a condensed manner, the major philosophical arguments for the existence of God. In addition to presenting the arguments, Craig also underscores the importance of using these apologetic tools today, in the process dispelling some myths about post-modernity. I’ve quoted a few paragraphs below but I highly recommend to anyone to read the whole article.

**note the nod towards the emergent church at the end of the first paragraph

However all this may be, some might think that the resurgence of natural theology in our time is merely so much labor lost. For don’t we live in a postmodern culture in which appeals to such apologetic arguments are no longer effective? Rational arguments for the truth of theism are no longer supposed to work. Some Christians therefore advise that we should simply share our narrative and invite people to participate in it.

This sort of thinking is guilty of a disastrous misdiagnosis of contemporary culture. The idea that we live in a postmodern culture is a myth. In fact, a postmodern culture is an impossibility; it would be utterly unlivable. People are not relativistic when it comes to matters of science, engineering, and technology; rather, they are relativistic and pluralistic in matters of religion and ethics. But, of course, that’s not postmodernism; that’s modernism! That’s just old-line verificationism, which held that anything you can’t prove with your five senses is a matter of personal taste. We live in a culture that remains deeply modernist.

Otherwise, how do we make sense of the popularity of the New Atheism? Dawkins and his ilk are indelibly modernist and even scientistic in their approach. On the postmodernist reading of contemporary culture, their books should have fallen like water on a stone. Instead, people lap them up eagerly, convinced that religious belief is folly.

Seen in this light, tailoring our gospel to a postmodern culture is self-defeating. By laying aside our best apologetic weapons of logic and evidence, we ensure modernism’s triumph over us. If the church adopts this course of action, the consequences in the next generation will be catastrophic. Christianity will be reduced to but another voice in a cacophony of competing voices, each sharing its own narrative and none commending itself as the objective truth about reality. Meanwhile, scientific naturalism will continue to shape our culture’s view of how the world really is.

I am reading D.A. Carson’s ‘Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church’ at present. As I read it I’m drawn back into the present reality, which in all honesty, I’ve tried to block out. I don’t like the way that much of the western church is heading, I don’t like it at all but it feels to me as if this change is quite like an avalanche already under way and I’m just trying my best to get down the hill and out of the path as quickly as possible!

With that being said this comment is more of a pre-comment (I have yet to finish Carson). A reaction to what I already know. The last section of Francis Schaeffer’s ‘Escape from Reason’ keeps sticking with me. I should have posted about it when I was reading the book but it ties in well with my thoughts now. Schaeffer says this right at the end of the book:

“There are two things we need to grasp firmly as we seek to communicate the gospel today, whether we are speaking to ourselves, to other Christians or to those totally outside.

The first is that there are certain unchangeable facts which are true. These have no relationship to the shifting tides. They make the Christian system what is is, and if they are altered, Christianity becomes something else. This must be emphasised because there are evangelical Christians today who, in all sincerity, are concerned with their lack of communication, but in order to bridge the gap they are tending to change what must remain unchangeable. If we do this we are no longer communicating Christianity, and what we have left is no different from the surrounding consensus.”

Now as profound as this quote is, it is also upsetting. My book says ‘1968’ in the front flap. That’s 40 years ago. 40 years of warning. 40 years is surely plenty of time to block or re-route an avalanche, right? And so I feel a little discouraged. Dr. Schaeffer wrote plainly and simply and for what? I do not mean to be dour, although there is a certain amount of gloom about all of this.

Quite simply it seems to me as if Christianity has become “something else”; something indistinguishable from contemporary culture. I sometimes think that we might know too much of life, have too much knowledge. We should rethink our mission, which first and foremost should be centred on God and the finished work of Jesus on the cross.

Paul says in Galations 1:9,10, “As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! For am I now seeking the favour of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ. (NASB)”

I really think that the root of so many false gospels is the misplacing of God. If God is not centre then we will not fear Him but rather man. So our stand should be that we will not fear being an outcast, not fear not ‘fitting in’. This isn’t a throwing off of all culture or withdrawal from those Spheres of Life that are so important, but a dogged resistance to submitting to man instead of God.

I think the church in the past has become confused over this and thrown the baby out with the bath-water, so to speak. Christ must be shown in all areas of life and we must not be afraid to show Him whatever that means.

And in my ears I hear one of my professors words ringing out, “If we don’t realise we’re in a war, we wont know what prayer is for.”

“So it’s not surprising that the world would think that “all we need is love,” and we can do without the doctrine, since the world thinks it can do without Christ. Doctrine is where the religions most obviously part ways. Doctrine is where things get interesting-and dangerous. As the playwright Dorothy Sayers said, doctrine isn’t the dull part of Christianity, rather, “The doctrine is the drama.” Jesus was not revolutionary because he said we should love God and each other. Moses said that first. So did Buddha, Confucius, and countless other religious leaders we’ve never heard of. Madonna, Oprah, Dr. Phil, the Dali Lama, and probably a lot of Christian leaders will tell us that the point of religion is to get us to love each other. “God loves you” doesn’t stir the world’s opposition. However, start talking about God’s absolute authority, holiness, wrath, and righteousness, original sin, Christ’s substitutionary atonement, justification apart from works, the necessity of new birth, repentance, baptism, Communion, and the future judgment, and the mood in the room changes considerably. If postmodernism is simply a revival of modern romanticism (experience as sovereign), then it’s not very postmodern after all.”

Stumbled upon here, quoted originally from here.