For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek (Romans 1:16, KJV).

An Exciting Fellowship With Unbelievers

In his article Emergent Christian/Jewish Leaders Meeting, Doug Pagitt, a prominent spokesman within the Emergent Church movement and pastor of Solomon’s Porch, writes: “In January I am part of a very exciting meeting. There is a counter part to Emergent in the Jewish community – young rabbi practitioners who are pursuing new ways of worship and faith in the world.” And “in the world” they certainly are; Pagitt then shares the text from a Press Release about this “very exciting meeting.” In it we read:

Emergent Christian, Jewish Leaders in First-Ever Meeting

LOS ANGELES, MINNEAPOLIS — Synagogue 3000 (S3K) and Emergent have announced a ground-breaking meeting to connect Jewish and Christian leaders who are experimenting with innovative congregations and trying to push beyond the traditional categories of “left” and “right.” This will be the first conversation that brings them together to focus on the enterprise of building next-generation institutions. Leaders from across the United States will gather during the inaugural session of the S3K Leadership Network’s Working Group on Emergent Sacred Communities, which takes place January 16-17, 2006, at the Brandeis-Bardin Institute in Simi Valley, California.

Prominent Emergent Christian theologian Brian McLaren (_A New Kind of Christian_) has met with Synagogue 3000’s leadership three times in recent months to discuss shared concerns, particularly surrounding attempts by younger Christians and Jews to express their spiritual commitments through social justice. “We have so much common ground on so many levels,” he notes. “We face similar problems in the present, we have common hopes for the future, and we draw from shared resources in our heritage. I’m thrilled with the possibility of developing friendship and collaboration in ways that help God’s dreams come true for our synagogues, churches, and world.” (http://pagitt.typepad.com/pagittblog/2005/12/emergent_christ.html)

A couple of things are helpful here as we attempt to wrestle with the slippery rhetoric excreted from the serpentine Emergent Church movement. As I stated at the outset, Pagitt is acknowledged as one of the more respected leaders in this “innovative” group that’s “trying to push beyond traditional categories.” And his quoting from this press release without any further qualification also allows us to see that Brian McLaren is considered a “prominent Emergent Christian ‘theologian.’” As such then, McLaren is speaking for many within this movement, so we may justifiably use him as a primary source regarding the doctrinal beliefs and practices of this schismatic emerging from the shadows cult.

So what does McLaren have to say here? “I’m thrilled with the possibility of developing friendship and collaboration in ways that help God’s dreams come true for our synagogues, churches, and the world.” One can’t help but wonder exactly what are these “dreams” God has that we need to help “come true” for Him? And wouldn’t it also strike you as rather odd for a supposedly born again Christian pastor-teacher to refer to “our synagogues”? It is beyond question that these are places of worship for those who practice the world religion of Judaism. Yet our, as in we are united together in working for the Kingdom of God, is exactly what we just read our Emergent Church “theologian” tell us.

The question that needs to be asked here is: Where do we to find this kind of “friendship and collaboration” in the New Testament witness of the historic orthodox Christian Church to “help God’s dreams come true for our synagogues, churches, and world”? We don’t; ah, but it sure is a good sell to younger adults and the impressionable youth of postmodern America isn’t it? As we read a little further on in the press release it becomes a little clearer who these “emergent” groups are truly aimed at:

According to Emergent-U.S. National Coordinator Tony Jones, this meeting has historic possibilities. “As emerging Christian leaders have been pushing through the polarities of left and right in an effort to find a new, third way, we’ve been desperate to find partners for that quest,” he said. “It’s with great joy and promise that we partner with the leaders of S3K to talk about the future and God’s Kingdom.”

Not only are many Jewish religious communities looking to the experiences of Christian innovators, especially in the context of worship that engages the unaffiliated, but they are seeing a similar paradigm shift from the Baby Boomer individualistic seeker mode to an emergent Generation X/post-GenX search for spirituality in community. S3K Director of Research Shawn Landres, himself a GenXer active in an emergent Jewish congregation, said, “We hope to learn from their experience and also to build bridges by engaging and challenging one another.” (ibid.)

Working Together In The Kingdom Of God

Here Emergent Church leader Tony Jones informs us they are active together “in an effort to find a new, third way” for this “Christian” movement to talk about “God’s Kingdom.” And now apparently we have emergent Jewish congregations who wish “to build bridges by engaging and challenging one another.” The true Christian needs to ask here: “What exactly are we ‘encouraging and challenging one another’ to do?” The answer is: The Emergent Church leaders are going to work closely with these Jewish leaders in an attempt to find ways to work together in bringing about “God’s dreams” for His Kingdom on earth.

Which brings us back around to ask the crucial question: What is the actual mission that the Risen Lord–Christ Jesus–gave His Church (emerging or not) while we are still here upon His planet? Was it to work together with other religions to bring about God’s dream of a utopian Kingdom of peace and brotherhood of man here on earth; or instead, are we to follow the Example set by Jesus Christ of Nazareth and later proclaimed by His Personally selected Apostles as taught in the text of the Bible and implore [men] on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:20).

In fact, if we look at more of the particular passage of Scripture in 2 Corinthians where the above quote originates, it should become obvious to all who wish to see that real followers of Jesus should first be involved in preaching Jesus Christ and Him crucified (see–2 Corinthians 2:2) because this is the only way they could ever hope to see “God’s dreams come true” for those who still are outside of His Kingdom:

For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.

And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation. (2 Corinthians 5:14-6:2)

Now let’s stop and think this through: The fact that someone in the last verse quoted here needs to come to the realization that “now is the day of salvation,” should then make it evident to anyone who understands the English language that there is something from which they need to be saved. O yes, I do know that it’s terribly old fashioned to talk about this subject in these enlightened postmodern days. And indeed ‘tis true that it’s being rejected by more and more “Evangelicals,” for instance John Stott, but it still seems that there is the Biblical doctrine of the eternal conscious torment of all who are not in Christ in a literal place that our Creator Himself called Hell.

The Apostle Matthew–our eyewitness–reports that Jesus of Nazareth clearly said that all of mankind who die apart from a saving relationship to God through Christ are cursed, and their final destination will be the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41). And I’m afraid you will find no mention that they had previously had been busy “developing friendship and collaboration in ways that help God’s dreams come true for our synagogues, churches, and the world,” nor will you see “a new, third way” of all religions working together to usher in the brotherhood of man and the Kingdom of God. Although apparently they will appeal to Christ that they were laboring under the impression that they were doing much for Him (see–Matthew 7:21-23).

Now let me show you where all the foolishness of these emergent compromisers is actually leading us:

S3K and Emergent will convene pioneering rabbis, pastors, artists, and leaders who are reaching out to the unaffiliated and others who are not attracted to mainstream congregations. An open discussion with leading clergy in mainstream synagogues will address the relationship between the congregational establishment and emerging groups. An evening lecture program will feature Emergent scholar Ryan K. Bolger (_Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Communities in Postmodern Cultures_), in dialogue with two renowned experts on Baby Boomer religion, Steven M. Cohen (_The Jew Within_) and Wade Clark Roof (_A Generation of Seekers_).

S3K Senior Fellow Lawrence A. Hoffman, (_Rethinking Synagogues: A New Vocabulary for Congregational Life_, forthcoming 2006) stressed the importance of building committed religious identity across faith lines. “We inhabit an epic moment,” he said, “nothing short of a genuine spiritual awakening. It offers us an opportunity unique to all of human history: a chance for Jews and Christians to do God’s work together, not just locally, but nationally, community by community, in shared witness to our two respective faiths.” (ibid.)

The question we need to ask here is this: Who are they “reaching out” to, and where are these people supposed to go once they are reached? The answer is found in the next paragraph when we are told about “the importance of building committed religious identity across faith lines.” Well, these people will be encouraged to join either one of these “two respective faiths,” wherever one’s “religious identity” may take them. Our “new kind of Christian,” Emergent Church theologian Brian McLaren has already told us as much in his book A Generous Orthodoxy when he says:

I don’t believe making disciples must equal making adherents to the Christian religion. It may be advisable in many (not all!) circumstances to help people become followers of Jesus and remain within their Buddhist, Hindu, or Jewish contexts. This will be hard, you say, I agree. But frankly, it’s not at all easy to be a follower of Jesus in many “Christian” religious contexts either (p.260).

Following Jesus Without Being A Christian

Did you catch that, our Emergent Church theologian is clearly telling us here that it is actually possible for people to be a follower of Jesus and not even have to bother with being a Christian. However, in contrast to McLaren’s counterfeit Christianity, it has always been the task of the Church of our Lord to go out into the world that is lost and to preach Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sins. And as the great defender of the faith Dr. Walter Martin would say: “If you don’t believe that the world is lost, then why on earth are you even bothering to call yourself a Christian?”

You may also recall that it was this message that lead to Paul being stoned and left for dead after preaching the Gospel of Jesus as the only Savior of the world within Jewish synagogues. And it was also this same message that had once led to the crucifixion of Christ Jesus of Nazareth at the behest of some Jewish religious leaders who happened to take exception to our Lord telling them that they are not in the Kingdom of God by practicing their religion–or any religion for that matter. And so my question as this New Downgrade No-Controversy continues to fester remains the same: How in the world can you possibly be considered an Evangelical Christian and then not preach the “evangel” that Evangelical Christians preach?

So I went to my personal bookshelf and consulted Millard Erickson’s fine work Christian Theology regarding where our word “evangelism” comes from and I found “the key New Testament words with reference to the gospel, euangelizomai and euangelion,… invariably denote good tidings” (p.1070). And then I happened to grab my personal copy of Systematic Theology, Dr. Wayne Grudem’s excellent textbook as I enquired further what the correct approach should be for the Christian regarding those in other world religions such as Judaism or Islam. Grudem makes the key point when he says that the “doctrine of the gospel call is important, because if there were no gospel call we could not be saved” (p.695).

And that is what is so wrong with this unbiblical approach in the upcoming Synagogue 3000 (S3K) and Emergent meeting; the call to respond to the Gospel won’t be issued, and as Grudem warns God “doesn’t save us ‘automatically’ without seeking a response from us.” As He is also right when he points out that all men must “receive Christ as Savior and rest our hearts in Him for salvation” (ibid.). Remember it is written: “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12, NASB). Then verse 10 informs us what this one Name is – Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

Why this issue hits so close to home for me is that for the past five years I have personally been active in evangelizing youth as a bi-vocational pastor, and as head football coach at the local high school. The Lord be praised that last year I had the privilege of praying with then sixteen-year-old Ryan to receive Christ as his Lord and Savior. Later that year, right in the study hall I supervise I also had the joy of leading his friend fifteen-year-old Nick to the Lord. Both are very active in sharing their faith and they are members of the little house church that I under-shepherd for Christ.

This past week Nick and Ryan let me know they are going to be having an all-night prayer vigil to pray that God will send revival into His churches in Claremont, the little rural New Hampshire community where we live, so that more people might come to be saved from spending an eternity in Hell. And I wonder, what might have happened if I hadn’t been willing to challenge them with the true Gospel of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit? How tragic if instead, they had been brought to someone who believes the distorted “gospel” of Brian McLaren and the seducing spirits of the Emergent Church?

For in the end, what then are we to make of these words from the Apostle Paul, who was himself a Jew–and a former Pharisee at that–who personally received the Gospel of Jesus Christ from the Resurrected Lord Himself? His heart was breaking for his own people when he wrote:

Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. Moses describes in this way the righteousness that is by the law: “The man who does these things will live by them.” But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’’” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).

But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? (Romans 10:1-14)

Are we really expected to believe that Emergent Church leaders like the “new kind of Christian” Brian McLaren know more about the true Gospel of Jesus Christ than the inspired Apostle Paul himself?