The Squareoff: John MacArthur vs. Emergent

Orginally published on Tuesday, December 12, 2006 at 5:02 AM
by Todd Rhoades

John MacArthur has a new book coming out soon on the “Emergent” Church.  In it, he really takes the emergent church to task over many things.  But Dan Kimball, one of the outfront leaders in the EC movement takes issue with much of MacArthur’s leadership.  I think you’ll be hearing alot of this debate in the near future… take a read at Dan’s post here (it’s rather long); and be sure to check out his blog for other details on this subject.  You may not agree with everything (on either side of the issue) but it’s important to keep on top of things… Dan writes…

I rarely, rarely ever try to specifically talk about someone in a negative light, and I hope this isn’t negative against a person, but about their opinions. I received from a friend a mass letter going out to supporters of national radio preaching ministry. He sent it to me to read since the whole letter was about “the emerging church”.

I was really dismayed and saddened to read this letter he sent out. It was a fund raising letter for his radio ministry which I went on his radio ministry blog and found that my name was actually listed in his list of who he sees as emerging church leaders. So this became personal, since he mentions me on his radio blog and also raised my interest more in what he was saying in the letter.

Unfortunately, what I read in the letter was, in my opinion, hyper-exaggerations with nothing listed or a specific emerging church cited to back up his claims (at least in this letter). If I was a radio listener and didn’t know what the emerging church was about, after reading the letter I certainly would have my fear raised to find out how to avoid them as the letter says they are a “threat” and “the danger is real”. Many of the descriptions in the letter of “the emerging church” were ones that I commonly hear over and over again and most of them are much like a stereotyped cartoon caricature. Sadly, for the grandparents and parents and all those reading this letter, this stereotype is all they end up hearing which then forms their opinions. Let me show some examples of what he wrote in this letter:

“People who are drawn to the emerging church generally place high value on ambiguity and mystery. They reject the notion that God’s Word is clear, and anyone can understand its meaning. That means every doctrine you and I find precious is subject to new interpretation, doubt and even wholesale rejection. Everything is being questioned and deconstructed. Unlike the noble Bereans who used Scripture to test what they were taught and refine their understanding of the truth, people associated with the Emerging Church regard God’s Word as too full of mystery to warrant handling any truth in a definitive way.”

As I read this I am asking “What emerging church is he possibly talking about?” In our church, we actually use the Acts passage about the Bereans as one of our staple verses about what we try to do.  He says that the Bereans are commended as they used to Scripture to “test what they were taught”, so why is it wrong when emerging leaders continue to do what the Bereans did? I learned from this very radio preacher in my early years in ministry that I should not just accept anyone’s teaching but to constantly be looking into the Scriptures and testing everything as the Bereans did. That is what I see many emerging leaders doing, so I am not sure what is wrong with that. I will comment on his words about doctrine and mystery in the next section.

He continued:
“The result is a movement that thrives on disorganization, lends itself to mysticism, distrusts authority and dislikes preaching, feeds intellectual pride and recognizes few (if any) doctrinal or moral boundaries. You can see why the movement is so appealing to college-age people young people - it is fleshly rebellion dressed in ecclesiastical robes.”

Again, as I read this, I am thinking “Who in the world is he talking about? “ That is so unlike any emerging church I have ever been to. It is describing something that really doesn’t exist. When he says that emerging churches “dislike preaching”, I have been to a dozen or more emerging churches and in every single one, they had preaching for at least 30 minutes long, and usually more like 40 minutes, sometime 45 minutes. In every one of them, they may not all have been teaching through entire books of he Bible (but several do), but they were teaching long sections of Scripture, not just isolated verses pulled out of context. People at the emerging churches I have been to had Bibles themselves with them or provided for them. Several of them had teaching handouts or notes. I don’t know what he is saying that they don’t like “preaching”. They may not like angry forms of preaching, or pastors whose preaching is more about being moral police to the world than about being a follower of Jesus type of preaching, or preaching that is not based out of the Scriptures but out of the pastors opinion - but to say that emerging churches don’t like preaching? I can only assume he has never actually been to an emerging church. I only see a renewed hunger for the Scriptures and teaching in emerging churches. Many have participation in preaching where questions are asked (like Jesus did in His teaching) so the learning and retention goes higher than just a one-way presentation. Many emerging churches I know offer theology classes and I don’t know what he is talking about when he says “they don’t like preaching”.

I also don’t know what he is talking about when he says they “thrive on disorganization”. Most emerging churches I know have leadership structures, teams, multiple home communities or house churches in addition to the weekend gatherings - which cause a need for a great deal of organization, leadership, accountability and structure. There might be some very small organic type of emerging churches out there that can be disorganized, so maybe he is thinking of some of them? But the ones I know are highly organized, even more so than many other churches because they involve more people in decision making than just the senior pastor, so it causes the need for a more organized structure than just a top-down type of structure. So, again - in my experience I have not seen a single emerging church which “thrives on disorganization”, quite the opposite.

When he says they all “lends itself to mysticism” - again, in every emerging church I have ever been to I have never seen any “mysticism” in how I imagine he is thinking of it. There is no mantras or mindless chanting or rubbing crystals or whatever he may be thinking. There is a lot of prayer in emerging churches, so maybe he is equating praying in worship gatherings with “mysticism”? I don’t know.

He says that emerging churches “recognizes few (if any) doctrinal or moral boundaries”. Again, I am surprised he didn’t take the time to go on some of the web sites of emerging churches - as he would have discovered that within a few mouse clicks he could have found that on almost every emerging church there are very clear “This is what we believe” doctrinal statements listing specific theological beliefs held to by the church. So where he is getting the information that most emerging churches don’t hold to doctrines? All the emerging churches I know believe in the inspiration of the Bible, the Trinity, the atonement, the bodily resurrection, and salvation in Jesus alone. You go on their web sites and you quite often see the Apostle’s Creed or Nicene Creed listed. So to say emerging churches don’t have doctrines is very incorrect. There may be an isolated few that don’t, but the majority do. Put this to the test and go look on some emerging church web sites, and you will easily see why he is wrong with this.

He says that emerging churches recognize “few if any..moral boundaries” and that is why “it is so appealing to college-age people - it is fleshly rebellion..”. Again, who the heck is he talking about here? The emerging churches I have been to call people out on sin and un-Jesus-like behavior regularly. They confront those who are not taking care of each other, or being greedy and hoarding to themselves, or when they are not involved in the social justice the Bible so clearly speaks of that we should be involved with, or about repentance from all types of sin issues. I was just at an emerging church who called people to repent and allowed them to get on their knees in repentance. In our church a few months ago we taught a whole message on repentance. I listened on-line to a series in an emerging church that was on sexual purity and sex being designed within the covenant of marriage and sharing how sex outside of marriage would be sin. We did a whole series on this in our church and just 2 weeks ago in the sermon taught our position on homosexual practice. I don’t see emerging churches ignoring sin or repentance. So, I am wondering who where are these stories coming from? He doesn’t list a single emerging church who does these things, he simply paints a picture of mystical, anti-preaching, anti-doctrinal, anti-organization churches in a broad stereotypical way.
There was more to the letter, with similar things. But I better stop here, as this is already a very lengthy post. I seriously am not trying to be defensive, but it is hard not to when I see my name on the list on his web site, and the assumption is then all leaders listed are in churches like he described in the letter.
I would have hoped that the pastor would have done his research, visited emerging churches or called and asked leaders to describe what they do, or what doctrines they hold to. I think he would have learned from D.A. Carson’s over-generalization in his book on the emerging church of how he narrowly portrayed the whole emerging church according to one or two leaders instead of the whole of everyone - as so wonderfully pointed out in a recent lecture by theologian Scot McKnght.  Scot actually has been to emerging churches and knows many of the leaders, so his critical analysis was really insightful of the book D.A. Carson wrote.
As Scot McKnight pointed out, “the emerging church” is not about one, two or three people. I travel a lot and I talk to a lot of people in what I would consider as missional emerging churches all across the country. There may be a very small percentage that possibly are ones this pastor would be concerned about, but the majority, not the minority, of “emerging churches” are absolutely nothing like he described. To his defense, perhaps this information was done by ill-informed students or others giving these descriptions of churches that don’t really exist, or if they do they are the rare ones, not the norm.
For those with concerns or for those who hear all these descriptions of “emerging churches” like the one in this letter, I would lovingly like to challenge you to to please actually check the sources of who is telling you about them. When someone starts saying with authority “This is what the emerging church is like..”, ask them if they have ever been to one. When I read all these very weird things said about emerging churches, ironically it is never based on anyone actually visiting one. When I ask someone where they heard these descriptions of emerging churches, it all comes from other sources, who have never been to an emerging church either.

These stereotyped descriptions about “the emerging church” going around like the ones written in the letter are like an urban legend. They are stories and caricatures that developed on the internet and repeated so many times over and over in various circles that it eventually becomes thought of as a fact. The Scriptures say in Matthew 12:36 that one day we will have to give an account to all the words we say, and I think we should be choosing our words very carefully when we accuse people of almost being heretical, like the letter pretty much was doing.

I just get so weary of these types of things. At the conference I blogged about in the last post, the same questions arose. I am all for always, always wanting to hear from people if something is going astray somewhere with me or our church, so I can be in constant check. So I never want to discount someone coming with an outside perspective and I always be open to listening. But these are the consistent caricatures that aren’t too helpful, since they are so over-exaggerated.

If you know me, you might be surprised I wrote this, as I normally don’t get defensive and I apologize if any of this is not coming out as loving. I am trying to write in love as best I can - but maybe by posting this, some may hear that they shouldn’t believe all the hear about the emerging church until they check one or two out themselves or talk to a leader themselves to see if letters like this one have truth or not or are about isolated churches or leaders and not the majority which aren’t like what is normally depicted.

This past summer we had two students from the seminary the pastor teaches at show up at our church for a visit. Afterward, one of them said “This is nothing like we thought it was going to be.” And they said how at the college the stereotype written about in the letter is what they hear on campus.
So, if there any critics or people who have these impressions of emerging churches, talk to one of us. Ask us questions. Visit our churches. You might be surprised when you actually find out what our beliefs and practices actually are. You’ll probably go after visiting one “Where is the mysticism? Where are the new-age mantras? How come people here are reading Bibles? I didn’t know you had sermons? You seem very organized, not disorganized and filled with chaos and rebellious like I heard. Your core theological beliefs are like the core beliefs at our church, I didn’t know that?” etc.  You might be shocked that all the stories you hear about what most emerging churches do, are not real for the overwhelming majority, but more of an fictitious overblown stereotype that has developed.

I am being redundant, but next time you read on the internet or hear someone speaking on “the emerging church” and what it is like, ask them: “How many emerging churches have you actually been to? Where have you actually seen them doing these things you are describing? Have you actually seen in an emerging church people chanting and practicing Buddhist meditation?  Have you been to an emerging church that didn’t have preaching? Or are these simply things you heard somewhere? If you did see them, what specific churches have you seen these things in? Is it one church or only one or two church leaders you are then making a conclusion it is the same for everyone else? Have you asked the leaders of emerging churches for doctrinal statements to see what they actually believe, or do you lump everything in together as assume the majority of emerging churches believes the same thing?” Be a Berean and test those who are teaching things about “the emerging church” to see if what they are saying is actually true.

Please don’t make a conclusion or talk about “the emerging church” based on reading or hearing about only one or two people and think the whole “emerging church” is all the same. Even the leaders you probably are critical of always are saying they don’t represent everyone. None of represents everyone. But, please ask us questions, please visit our churches. Don’t fall into believing urban legends or over-generalizations without checking them out. Please don’t stereotype the emerging church anymore.

Oh Lord Jesus. Come quickly. What a mess we sin-tainted human beings create. Please forgive us all.

SOURCE:  http://www.dankimball.com/vintage_faith/2006/12/saddened_by_joh.html

FOR DISCUSSION:  So… where do you weigh in on this subject?

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  There are 85 Comments:

  • Posted by Daniel

    The emerging church conversation is very wide.  I can easily understand why MacArthur would be upset with its more ‘liberal’ fringes--but the movement cannot be painted with one broad brushstroke.  Kimball is quick to point out that the vast majority of congregations which claim an ‘emerging’ label are actually fairly conservative, and intensely structured and personal.
    Unfortunately, I fear MacArthur’s letter will be more widely read than Dan’s response…

  • Posted by kent

    I confess I am one who has a positive view on the emergent church, and I also confess I am not enamored with John MacArthur. And maybe this what every new movement has to work through, but I am weary of the scare tactics and and the dire warnings from those who have no first hand knowledge of the topic they are covering. I also have woner how much of this is fund raising tactic. If you scare them they will pay.

    Are there excesses in the emeregent church? Sure just like there are excesses in the evangelical world. Ever run into a hyper legalist? Let them explore and grow, let them stretch and make mistakes like we all have to do. There are enough high qualiy people in the mix to provide self-correction. And if we keep attacking them how are they ever going to be able to listen to us? Apparently we cannot listen to them

    How much of what has been writen by DA Carson and now this book has been run through the grid of John 13: 34-35. Is this how we love one another? I don’t think so.

  • Posted by

    I agree with Kent that I think much of this is scare tactic, based on broad generalizations.  I went to MacArthur’s website and read his 2 postings about the emerging church.  The people he specifically names as being part of emergent are:  Brian McLaren, Spencer Burke, Eddie Gibbs, Tony Jones, Dan Kimball, Kyle Lake, Erwin McManus, Doug Pagitt, Chris Seay, Leonard Sweet, and Mark Driscoll.  I have read the works of several of these authors, and most do not espouse what MacArthur accuses them of.  And in the case of Erwin McManus, he has specifically denied being emergent.  You would think someone as dedicated to scholarship as MacArthur would be more careful.

  • Posted by Leonard

    I would not be classified as a MacArtherite, Tony Jones, Brian McLaren and Doug Pagitt all concern me in their thinking.  They come across as leaders with their feet firmly planted in mid air.  The problem is that the Emergent is exactly that, EMERGING.  As such it needs to be watched, encouraged and instructed and teachable. 

    My biggest struggle with the emergent group of leaders lies in their view of the authority of scripture and their hostility and disrespect for things not Emergent. 

    As for MacArther, he does this a lot.  he writes book to counter what he perceives are problems influencing the church.

  • Posted by

    I like Kimball.  I like MaCarthur.  They both bring something very valuable.  But shoudn’t we wait for MaCarthur’s book to become available, read it ourselves, see if we understand it, agree or disagree on our own terms, and THEN discuss what Kimball / we think?

  • Posted by Daniel

    Just a clarification: the book may not be out yet, but MacArthur’s letter (and Kimball’s response) is.  It’s the letter which is under discussion.  Not the book. 
    In the letter, MacArthur makes some pretty bold claims about the ECM.  I think Kimball does a good job of questioning John’s source.
    My two cents.

  • Posted by

    John MacArthur is mean and he is divisive.  He raises up disciples who are mean and divisive in their local communities and elsewhere (I know . . . a generalization, but consider some of his disciples who have participated here on MMI).  A few years back he wrote a book to bring down all the seeker churches.  I read it and was sickened by it.  He has chalked up thousands of words speaking against RW, BH and Purpose Driven Ministries.  He doesn’t limit his attack to ideologies he disagrees with; he names people, calling those with whom he disagrees “threats to the faith” and “false prophets” (as he did here.)

    Perhaps I’ve missed it, but I don’t hear the same tone from those he attacks.  Even Dan Kimball’s rebuttal letter doesn’t attack MacArthur as a minister of the gospel.  Most simply ignore him, which, IMO, makes them stand much taller than their attacker.

    Long before the emerging church, some mainline churches and denominations began to drift theologically.  The process created a differentiation between them and more theologically conservative churches and denominations.  But no one went on the attack (unless I missed it).  I don’t recall a campaign by conservative churches and pastors to bring and end to the Lutheran and Methodist denominations who had become a “threat to our faith” Today, we might be tempted to lump all Episcopals into the same pot, but most grace filled and clear thinking Christians resist because we know an Anglican or two who loves Jesus and cares about historic Christian orthodoxy and holiness.  Even if we don’t, we know the sin of generalizing and stereotyping.

    John MacArthur is pompous and arrogant, and in my opinion, much more damaging to the universal church than those he attacks.  His influence is broad, and he uses it to invite people to put their pastors and leaders under an impossible microscope by feeding them unfounded and even incorrect information (as he did with this letter).

    So . . . do you wonder how I feel about this issue? 

    (Were we supposed to talk about the emerging church or the methods used by JMac to articulate his concerns?)


  • Posted by

    Wendi I totally (and very humbly) agree.  I am a “recovering fundamentalist” and it never ceases to amaze me how some feel the need to attack anyone who doesn’t agree with their way of biblical indoctrination (yes - lets be honest and call it what it is).  What’s wrong with reading the Bible on your own and coming up with a different interpretation or theory on “hell” than what your pastor learned in his seminary class and attempted to indoctrinate you with?  Maybe the Bible wasn’t really meant to be the “encyclopedia britanica” and define every doctrine with precision?  Maybe being a Christian isn’t really about focusing on doctrine at all?  Maybe it’s simply living a life patterned after Jesus Christ?  Having come from a fundamentalist background, and currently reading many books by the authors MacArthur is busy attacking, I can tell you where the real danger comes from, and it isn’t from those gracefully on a journey to discover the mysteries of God.  It’s from those who believe they’ve got it all figured out.

  • Posted by Josh R

    I think both sides have valid concerns. 

    The traditional churches have a risk of pridefully believing the Bible, and leaning way too much on their “own understanding” of it.

    Emergent Churches have a risk of questioning everything that rubs them the wrong way, and being in no way humbly and sacrificially obedient.

    I enjoy listening to MacArthur, but I take him with a pretty big grain of salt.  His concerns are usually valid, but his brush is much too wide.  I doubt that anything is different in his books.

    If I have an attitude that he is scolding, I should usually at least pray about it.  Often times my heart is changed.  Not necessarily by what MacArthur said, but because whatever attitude I held, I didn’t hold as humbly and prayerfully as I did before I prayed about it.

  • Posted by

    I used to think both sides have valid comments, but I’m starting to not think so anymore. It’s starting to sound like the criticism against “modern” or “contemporary” forms of music, where the critic makes gross generalities based on experiences of others or other hearsay.

    I have been exposed to a lot of “emergent” thought like Kimball, McLaren, McKnight, Don Miller, and others… I just don’t get it. I have some concerns about some of their statements to be sure, but I have concerns about stuff that Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, T.D. Jakes, and others who are decidedly not “emergent” have said.

    This is seeming more one-sided to me all the time. MacArthur should be careful… He could hurt his credibility in the long run with stuff like this.

    PS Wendi… no.... tell us how you REALLY feel. wink

  • Posted by Todd Rhoades

    Thing is, Peter… I don’t think that MacArthur will lose any credibility in his camp.  In fact, all I’ve read on their side is the cheering him on, “I’m glad he said that” type thing.

    It will empower his base all the more.


  • Posted by Leonard

    I think Big Mac has some valid points concerning the authority of scripture and the interpretation of scripture.  Having read McLaren and listen to him, talked with him personally and having read Tony Jones stuff coming out of the Emergent Village, there are some very scary words coming from the Emergent.  It is with concern that these guys are admired and looked up to by people who adopt their position because it is their position.  I think the same can be said of MacDaddy and his followers.  I pastored a classically emergent church for 8 years, I get where emergent thinking comes from.  I actually think within the Emergent church are some really cool elements but I am concerned that it is primarily a white, educated, middle to upper-middle class movement.  Sort of like the Jesus movement of the late 60’s and early 70’s.  people rejecting their parents ways, creating their own and then being angry at some form of religious expression.  Everything JONNYMAC says of the Emergent someone said of the Jesus movement.  In hindsight I see the Jesus Movement at something used greatly of God. 

    However the remaining elements of the Jesus movement when all washed away are Calvary Chapel, Contemporary Christina Music, Vineyard Churches and Jesus people USA.  Of course the ripples are much greater but not bad stuff to wash out of what was called heresy and a trivialization of the Word.  Just my thoughts. 

    By the way Wendi, There is a difference between being rigid and mean.  I would say mean and divisive are not true descriptions of him.  I would say that his rigiditiy, that comes from conviction and study ,often comes across mean and divisive.  But I really believe that he is concerned for the nutty stuff that is coing from the Emergent.  I also think his rigidity cannot allow him to move past and open his mind to other thinking.  He sees himself as a steward of his influence and feels like he must say something.  Contrast him to Josh MCDowell and, who says the same stuff all over the place and you have someone who has figured out how to speak in the language of our culture verses someone who comes across as trying to bring our culture back to a different era when EXPO Preachers ruled the pulpit and everyone read the classics.

  • Posted by Linda

    I think it’s similar to what Mark Batterson wrote about in his wonderful book, In A Pit with a lion On A Snowy Day.  Batterson said we must unlearn things as much as to learn them.  For instance, Jesus said,

    (Matt 5:43)"You have heard that it was said,

    ‘Love your neighbor[h] and hate your enemy.’

    44But I tell you:

    Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

  • Posted by

    I agree Todd, MacArthur’s crowd is indeed cheering him on.  It that was all they were doing though (cheering him), it wouldn’t be as harmful as I believe it really is.  I’ve heard him on the radio and read his statements like; “if your pastor mentions reading . . .” “when you hear words like . . .” insert any of his unsubstantiated and generalized attacks.  The audience of his writing and teaching ministry has primarily been average Christians (as opposed to pastors and church leaders).  Thus, his criticism of everything seeker, purpose driven, emergent, relevant, post-modern . . . invites people to question their leaders.  They begin expressing their distrust at small group or in their SS classes.

    I know I must not make assumptions that this is a pattern everywhere, but I do speak with some painful experience.

    A few years back our staff decided to do 40-Days of Purpose.  All (we thought) were excited.  Board agreed.  But there was a big group of MacArthurites among us.  Several were considered leaders.  One was a graduate of Master’s College and had taught there for several years.  He was also what we called a resident teacher of a large adult SS class (about 125 members).  Unbeknownst to us he began using his teaching platform to question our decision.  In many private conversations he called RW a heretic who is a threat to the church.  People in his class had other networks; choir, children’s ministry, benevolence.  The underground dissention grew, all while we blindly kept our heads down and focused on the work of pulling off a 40-days campaign. 

    Of course, the reasons are much more complicated than can be described here, but eventually about 100 families left the church - - - primary reason was that leadership was taking the church down the slippery “seeker church” slope.  Evidence cited: our decision to have a 40-days campaign and be a host site for the Willowcreek Leadership Summit. 

    Many of these folks were just like the seminary students who attended Dan Kimball’s church.  Having never really experienced a “seeker” or “purpose-driven” church, they bought a line (which started with MacArthur).  They were persuaded that anyone who uses particular language or methods should not just be questioned, but should be branded a heretic and run out of their churches on a rail. 

    That Leonard, is why I find him mean and divisive.  Does that make sense?

    BTW – I have some disagreement with some of the emergent discussions.  But what I appreciate about most of these guys is that rather than tell me what I must think, they challenge me to think.  I happen to believe that most of our people have enough intelligence to think for themselves, and then, with the guidance of the HS (perhaps through some counsel from their pastoral leaders), they will find their way to truth.


  • Posted by


    I agree with almost everything you say.  About JM’s letter and books and on most other topics.  John McArthur should focus on the Kingdom and not on his own personal agenda.  One thing I have to disagree on is when you say:

    “Long before the emerging church, some mainline churches and denominations began to drift theologically.  The process created a differentiation between them and more theologically conservative churches and denominations.  But no one went on the attack (unless I missed it).  I don’t recall a campaign by conservative churches and pastors to bring and end to the Lutheran and Methodist denominations who had become a “threat to our faith”.

    The Institute on Religion and Democracy is, IMO, doing exactly that.  They’re on the attack.  Not necessarily trying to bring an end to the denominations, but attempting to lead right-wing conservative takeovers of the mainline churches, either thru reformation or schism.  The primary domestic target of IRD has always been the progressive politics of the mainline Protestant churches.  In their literature they talk about covert action and guerilla tactics, they have “Action Committees” targeting the mainline churches; Presbyterian Action, UM Action, and Anglican Action.  They are on the attack, by their own definition.

    Many believe that the IRD and Ultra-conservatives have already succeeded in taking over the largest Protestant denomination in the nation, the Southern Baptist Convention, and is using it effectively to advance its social and political agendas. 

    My problem with all this isn’t the prospect of reformation in the mainline churches, it’s that it being driven from the outside, instead of from inside the churches, and that it’s being done for conservative political and social reasons, not theological or religious reasons.

    But about most everything else, I agree with you.

  • Posted by Daniel

    </i>What’s with the italics??
    Hopefully Todd can sort this out… HTML to the rescue!

  • Posted by

    It looks like Wendi started it.  wink

  • Posted by Todd Rhoades

    fixed it!  smile

  • Posted by Derek

    I have to agree with Wendi (and others) in reference to John MacArthur. When I joined a charismatic church in the early 1990s. I had some “no-fun-damentalists” encourage me to read McArthur’s Charismatic Chaos. I read it years later and I had the same response that Dan Kimball did. I kept asking myself: “What kind of charismatic church is he talking about?” I have not given MacArthur much attention sense that time. I think the flaw in MacArthur’s research is that he lacks in-depth, first person research. IN Charismatic Chaos, he drew up a “straw man” based on every wacky charismatic phenomenon that had every been written about or re-told and he sold that as a picture of THE charismatic movement. It sounds like he is doing the same thing with the emergent church.


  • Posted by

    I can see the lines being drawn as we blog. I agree with Wendi and Todd that J Mac followers will eat up the theological assertions as fact without investigating the facts. Those “emergent” preachers have a fairly wide range of theology. It is mainly that their books and services look fairly similar that they are cast together. The one thread that keeps all those “emergent” leaders together is the size of their vision and their capacity to speak to one another in a civil and caring manner. J Mac has done the same to “Christian Psychology” in the 80’s and Seeker Sensitive in the 90’s. The greatest shame is that those in the house of God cannot talk in love, which was suppose to be the identifying feature of Jesus disciples.  This hostility towards other Christians is a large reason many don’t want to deal with us. And at times I can’t blame them. Sticking with only orthodoxy is a great challenge. How many of these who disagree have the apostles creed in their statement of faith, yet they find so many other areas to disagree.

  • Posted by

    DanielR –

    Well you just provided me with an interesting education about the IRD and their action committees, etc.  Too his credit, at least JM and the other anti-seeker, anti-PD, anti-emergent types are focusing on what they believe to be some kind of a breach doctrinal orthodoxy.  They could well liken themselves to the early reformers.  But if the IRD indeed has the agenda you describe (political and social reform), their work is even more distasteful (can I say mean and divisive?)

    But doesn’t JM have the same problem as the IRD in that he’s trying, as an outsider, to change every church that has embraced any amount of PD or “emergent” thinking.  Why is it his business whether our church did 40-Days of Purpose?  Who died and left him in charge of sound doctrine in all our churches?  Isn’t there enough “reforming” to do in Sun Valley?


  • Posted by


    You’ll probably get a variety of opinions about the IRD, just like everything else.  My main problem with them is that they are outsiders.  That and the fact that their agenda is not theological reformation, but rather social and political in nature.  They feel that if they can reform the mainline denominations, the mainline denominations will better support their vision of democracy.

    They are much behind the pending schism in the Episcopal Church, and whether you agree or disagree with where the Episcopal Church is going/what they are trying, I think their problems and disagreements should be worked out “in house”, not influenced by outsiders.  I have some friends in the Episcopal Church and while I disagree with some of what they do, my heart aches for them in what they are going thru.

    I for one will keep trying to get my own house in order before trying to tell others how to put their houses in order.  John McArthur seems to see all of Christianity as his “house” that he needs to put in order.  I think that is presumptuous hubris on his part.

  • Posted by

    What’s really scary is the “fault-finding, accuser of the brethren” spirit that this type of accusation reaks of.  I would be fearful of anyone proclaiming they have the corner on God and His Word.  It was the religious leaders of Jesus’ day (Pharisees, Teacher of the Law), that were offended by Jesus’ actions to the point of saying he was a heretic, blasphemous and doing the work of Satan himself.  Their power and authority was threatened by Him because in their eyes, they had it all figured out, and here comes this guy, claiming to have the real truth and doing things so unorthodox, and they completely missed Him, then had him crucified.  Jesus blasted those who lived that kind of self-righteous, pious, judgmental lifestyle, which is how so many of those condemning the emerging church come across as.  Historically, with every new move of God, there are those, who have built a tradition around their way of doing things, that come out and condemn it, because it goes against the way they do things.  Time will tell that God is very much in the emerging church movement, but fallible humans are too, so we need to have grace in the midst of God’s movement as we progress, those things that are not of God, will fall away and die.  It’s easy to manipulate people with scare-tactics such as these.  So many people are so filled with fear that they will grab ahold of what they consider solid ground, just because this powerful figure or that powerful figure said this or that.  The problem is that we are not looking at Jesus as our solid rock, but our way of doing things and our way of believing.  We must embrace unity, not uniformity; diversity, without division; all this within the Body of Christ, because we are all Christ-followers first.

  • Posted by Leonard

    So when is it okay to say, that is not right, that is not accurate or biblical?  We know we don’t like the way BigMAC says it, but when am I my borthers keeper in regards to truth and theology?

  • Posted by Derek

    Leonard—I think a better way to do it is through dialogue. I have not read JM thoughts on the Emergent Church, but my assumption is that he has not spent time in dialogue with leaders in the emergent dialogue, which is what the emergent guys are all about anyway. THere is not EMERGENT CHURCH, rather as they say, they are a conversation. It would be better for JM and others who catch a wiff of heresy to spend time in conversation with those who reek of unorthodox positions. I think that a more relational apporch gives you the opportunity to understand the context behind the ideas proposed by the emergent guys.

    As we see in Dan Kimball’s post, he is already in a defensive position and so JM has probably ruined any kind of opportunity to sit with Kimball over a cup of organic milk and talk about the issues.


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