Clap me in irons, then.

I recently came across a halfway hilarious, halfway disturbing post written by someone who obviously feels very threatened by theological patterns somewhat newer than those s/he subscribes to. It’s called the “EMERGENT HOT LIST!“–yes, in caps lock–here’s what the author, Kenny Oliver, had to say…

“After running into one situation after another while speaking to people of the dangers of the Emergent Church movement I’ve decided to create a list of philosophies and characteristics of the Emergent Church as well as authors, speakers, and historic figures which have had and continue to have a major influence on the beliefs and doctrines of those involved in this movement. This is not a commentary on the views or the people involved in the Emergent movement just a list for the purpose of identification.

“It’s important to understand the factors influencing this movement and to inform readers so as to help them discern whether or not the leaders in their churches are drifting toward these views, and if suspected to be so, prayerfully confront their church leaders and ask what the views of the church leadership are. In many cases the doctrinal statements of Protestant churches are very solid and biblically sound but unfortunately what is being taught from the Sunday morning worship service or in the youth groups may NOT be in line with safe biblical doctrine.

“If your church’s website recommends certain books and you discover a book by one of the authors listed below like BRIAN MCLAREN or DAN KIMBALL or if let’s say your youth pastor esteems authors such as RICHARD FOSTER and his book Celebration of Disciplines or teaches things similar to that of someone like ROB BELL, I would suggest you first read up on what this author believes and is teaching. Next you should pray and then approach your pastor and ask him to give you a reason why the church would endorse such books and/or teachings. This does not necessarily mean your church is headed toward Emergent but it is cause enough to question where their leanings might be.”

WOW. So guys, it’s Banned Books Week. Am I the only one who feels the irony here? What I see when I read these paragraphs is a lot of fear and a lot of self-assuredness. Someone wise once said that if (science/facts/asking questions) can destroy your faith, your faith wasn’t very strong to begin with. I can hardly think of anything sadder than desperately clinging to a belief that your head knows is wrong, but you have to, because if you let go, your whole world will disintegrate. Because of facts. Or a simple curiosity! What could be sadder than people purposely deluding themselves to their own detriment? I’m not saying that this blogger necessarily feels this panic, this mindset, but that’s how I perceive it: someone desperate to shut the world out for just a little longer, trying to bail out his sinking rowboat, thinking he can patch the holes if only his faith is strong enough. (And, oh yeah–“pastor” to him is automatically a male word. Who’s surprised?)

To continue, here’s the list of “Emergent Beliefs and Characteristics”–and what’s more, I’m going to bold the ones I’m willing to identify myself with (bold and a star for those issues I feel could use a little more clarification, or those I feel he has represented EXTRA unfairly). Beware! As the blogger says, “This is a list of warning.” :)

Redefine the Christian Faith to accommodate “post-modernity”
– *Redefining the doctrine of hell as not being literal
-God’s judgement interpreted as simply being embarrassed by your sin or an inability to gratify your desires
Reinterpreting the penal substitutionary atonement of Christ on the cross
Questioning the inerrant authority of scripture
The bible primarily as a “story” or narrative
Conversion as becoming part of “[God’s] story”
Planetary salvation (Restoring the entire earth to its original Creation and “rhythm”)
Proclaiming of the Kingdom of God being established on earth in present history more than the gospel of salvation
Proclaiming a “social gospel”
Defines themselves as “missional”
The Protestant Reformation as possibly an ongoing process
Believes Emergent could be a “Second Reformation”
Questions are esteemed higher than answers
Social and environmental activism
Anti-war and political liberalism
Promoting spiritual disciplines (meditation, fasting, contemplative prayer, breath prayers, centering prayer, labyrinth prayer walks, guided imagery, Lectio Divina, Ignatius Examen, stations of the cross)
Promoting the mystical, the sensory and the experiential
-*Truth is determined by cultural influences or tradition
Truth is not propositional
Teaching should be multi-sensory and creative rather than linear
Traditional preaching is replaced by discussion and dialogue
Reluctant to call homosexuality a sin
Occasionally use profanity to get point across
-May become worldly to reach the world
Life experiences determine theology and orthodoxy
Language is oriented around self–feelings, opinions, and attitudes
Community, relationships and unity are highest priorities
-*Uncomfortable with historic Christian orthodoxy as having an exclusive claim on truth
Tolerate ideological and theological differences, very inclusive and ecumenical

I think that possibly my favorite entry on this list is the last one. “They’re not like us–wow, they can actually accept people with different ideas! Let’s ban them and their different ideas!” One obvious downside to the self-proclaimed intolerant ideological system is that there are so many theological issues–how rare is it going to be to find someone who matches your ideology perfectly on every single point? And of course, those are the only people you can “tolerate.” (Which, by the way, I think is a very poor word choice for the ideas encompassed in “tolerance.” Maybe “accept” or “welcome” would be a better choice?) Which of course brings us full circle: this is why he wrote this list in the first place. To warn his fellow believers of the scary people who think for themselves! Oh no!

Right. On to the list of damned authors and thinkers…

N.T. Wright
Brian McLaren
Henri Nouwen
Dallas Willard
Richard Foster
Donald Miller
Tony Campolo
Rob Bell
Dan Kimball
Doug Pagitt
Erwin McManus
Gregory Boyd
Andy Crouch
Tony Jones
Chris Seay
Leonard Sweet
Shane Claiborne
Brian Walsh
Miroslav Volf
Brennan Manning
Walter Brueggemann
Dr. Robert Webber
Steve Chalke
Alan Mann
Matthew Fox
Tom Hohstadt
Ryan Bolger
Spencer Burke
David Bosch
Eddie Gibbs
Tilden Edwards
Marcus Borg
M. Scott Peck
Jacques Derrida
Karth Barth
Søren Kierkegaard
Carl Jung
Thomas Merton
Thomas Keating
Cynthia Bourgeault
C. S. Lewis
Sue Monk Kidd
Anne Lamont
Rowan Williams
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Madam Guyon
Jürgen Moltmann
Dietrich Bonhoeffer
William Blake

And what list of scary Emergent people would be complete without a special subcategory for “Preferred Catholic Mystics, Desert Fathers and Monks”?

St. John of the Cross
Ignatius of Loyola
Peter Faber
St. Francis of Assisi
Juliana of Norwich
Thomas Merton (yes, I also noticed he’s listed twice)
Meister Ekhart
Basil Pennington
St. Teresa of Avila
St. Thomas Aquinas
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (him too)
Richard Rolle
The Cloud of Unknowing (anonymous monk)

Hm. Yeah. I’ve never met ANYone so fearful of new ideas introduced into Christian thought that s/he warned of THE DANGERS OF C.S. LEWIS.

Attached are a few of my favorite comments (or quotes from comments), as seen on the original page…

“This list reminds me of the things I saw growing up that warned parents of the ‘satanic’ bands their children might be listening to. And much like those, it’s garbage. What is it that you have against letting people decide for themselves? I mean, come on, N.T. Wright and Dallas Willard are leading people astray? Most Christians would be a lot better off for reading either of these fine men’s books.” -Phil Miller

“Do you have a clue what you are saying? Are you upset that they are doing church slightly different than you see fit? Does it bug you that they are reaching out to people who may otherwise never walk through the door of a church? How many of these guys have you actually sat down with to find out for yourself what they are really about? How many of these guys’ books like Chris Seay or Rob Bell have you read?” -JP

“What I want to know is that if all these guys are dangerous, does that mean you anti-guys are safe. If I talk against you are you going to chalk that up to you being persecuted for His name’s sake. In that way you use scripture to justify your platform. If they are 100% wrong, are you 100% right? If they are misguided in their use of scripture, then do you have it pegged down? You are the good and correct, and they are the evil and false…” -seeker101

“If you really would like to spend your time better, perhaps you need to spend your time doing less critiquing and more loving like Christ. You talk about truth, but remember, Jesus said “I am the truth!” So truth cannot be contained in propositions and cannot be known exhaustively! If you think you can know God exhaustively, you are guilty of idolatry. Spend less time trying to arrive at certainty and more time humbly living out the love of Christ in your life.” -anon.

“ your profile under your favorite music you list Richard Wagner, who could very well be one of the most anti-Christian composers ever to walk the planet, and then you list Bob Dylan, who I imagine would fit in well at an ‘Emerging’ coffee house. I’ll take my chances reading Bonhoeffer and C.S. Lewis.” -anon.

“Perhaps instead of ‘reading up on what that person is teaching’ one should actually read some of the books and find out for oneself what an author is teaching. Just a thought.” -Jennifer

“There’s only one thing on that list that troubles me: the item ‘anti-war and political liberalism”….Christians are to be peaceful; they are not to repay harm with harm. No exceptions were made. There exist no clauses for exceptions such as ‘if you were hit first’, or ‘if your assailant does so in the name of a false god’, or ‘if you wear a uniform’. If Scripture is not enough authority for you, then consider further the examples of the martyrs, who, rather than taking up arms against their persecutors, went peacefully to their (often very unpleasant) deaths…Opposition to warfare is just about as traditionally Christian as one can get. And unbelievers see the hypocrisy of the Church, with its cheering for war, and spit on its God. Make absolutely no mistake: this pro-war attitude of the modern conservative-in-name-only Church makes Jesus a byword among the heathen, and you may rest assured that if the Church does not soon repent, it will be chastened severely for dabbling in this heresy.” -anon.

“Is Jesus emergent because he promoted spiritual disciplines such as meditating on scripture and fasted? Do all of these authors/pastors subscribe to all of these “qualifications”? If I am missional and reaching people for Christ, am I emergent? Being against war is considered heresy? People involved in the ‘social gospel’, such as those helping widows and orphans in Africa, are emergent? So many questions…and for a guy who hasn’t read each author he is calling emergent (or influencing the emergent crowd), you are making a lot of bold claims.” -Nathan

“the words ‘witch hunt’ come to mind here….add this guy!…what about so and so!…Let’s not forget him…he practices voodoo too!” -anon.

“I wonder what would happen if the church became missional? If the church decided that, oh I don’t know, caring for the people of the world, making sure they had food to eat and clean water to drink, not trying to run them down with dogma, using scripture as a battering ram, and taking environmental initiatives as a call to be good stewards of the resources we were given. Maybe if people were shown the love God has for them rather than what the church has been doing for the better part of the last century, there might actually be people wanting to become Christians. Besides, one of the greatest revivals in history took place when the ideas of enlightenment were embraced. Read the accounts of John and Charles Wesley. Postmodernism is not something to be feared, but we as Christians need to learn how to relate to the postmodern culture.” -anon.

“Hey, what a list of good people, I think I should join them! Thank you!” -Reinald

“Ok first of all, emergents LOVE reading Lewis. and second of all, even more surprising they also love reading the Holy Bible.” -Vivian (imagine that!)

“I guess the sad thing is, lists like this and the black-and-white, this-or-that statements contained in this post demonstrate a complete lack of effort to understand the true meaning of the ideas and writings of the ‘villains’ of the emerging church. As someone far closer to the emergent side of things than that of my Southern Baptist roots, your words on the movement hold very little weight for those of us who understand it. The way they sound to me are comparable to how the section on Christianity in a college religions course would to you. What you’ve written reads like a politician summarizing the stances of an opponent. Unfortunately I don’t think this is the kind of discourse that will benefit both sides of the conversation–but at least it will solidify your ‘base.’ (But is this really the road you want to walk down–creating a list of indicators to find people out? Seems eerily similar to how we handled Communists 50 years ago….)” -Dusty

“This information is extremely misleading….” -Jeff

“I didn’t make the list? That’s a shame.” -Matt Scott

“Thanks for adding a few authors to my must read list. You got the making of one heck of a witch hunt here. Thanks for the hate but you didn’t do much but embolden the enemy here bud.” -LandonSandy (I second THAT emotion–the lengthened reading list, I mean. I don’t, however, consider myself an enemy.)

And then, one commenter goes over and above by tacking some other “danger warnings” to the master list…

“-Accusation of ‘bibliolatry,’ or worshiping the Bible
-Pitting love against truth, claiming a ‘hermeneutic of love’
Exclusively relational discussion of salvation over and against legal or objective
Discussion of the cross as exemplary rather than atoning
Inclusive language versus exclusive (e.g. ‘Christ follower’ rather than ‘Christian’)
Resistant to (and resentful of) labels (sometimes even of ‘Emergent’)
‘Deeds not creeds’
-*Highly defined by reaction against yesteryear’s megachurch movement
Value on innovation and novelty
Skeptical of certainty
Particular emphasis on reaching those burned by religion
Neo-Orthodoxy-like redefinition of terms (like inerrancy, or othodoxy)
Accusation of doctrinal contamination with Greek thought
-*Value on tension as a teaching tool” -Travis

PS–if you have a bone to pick with me now, or if you’d like me to clarify some of my views on these topics, comments are always open. :)


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2 Responses to “Clap me in irons, then.”

  1. noldorianstar Says:

    …is it wrong that this made me laugh? And wince? And cry to God “WHYYY!?” all at once?

    And it reminds me of this episode at church a few months ago:

    Steffi: "Wasn't that video we watched in service about how we should be more generous as we've become lethargic in giving, you know, the video clip by Rob Bell, so–"
    Other Person 1: "He's such a heretic. Rob Bell, that guy."
    Steffi: "…okay then."

    I don't know Rob Bell enough to know whether I agree/disagree on everything he says. But really now. Paranoia much? ^_^

  2. talialovesyou Says:

    We watched that video at my old church one time. :) Of course, it was when the younger, hipper pastor was filling in..haha. I love Rob Bell! If you liked the video you saw, it’s worth your while to check out his other ones or some of his books. Velvet Elvis is outstanding..I haven’t read his others yet (they’re always checked out–ha) but they’re on my list!

    I think this kind of witch-hunting finger-pointing paranoia really is very sad. People are becoming so dogmatic and insistent that they’re missing their own point..

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