What’s being lost in the confusion being sown in the evangelical camp by the Emerging Church is that this movement clearly had a beginning. The discernment work Herescope is exactly right when they tell us:

Do not be deceived. The “emerging church” movement did not spontaneously erupt. It was a well-funded and well-organized movement from its very inception. It appears to have been fashioned by a handful of corporate business leaders who wished to create a counter-cultural evangelical movement. The intended purpose appears to have been identifying and recruiting potential young leaders for comprehensive indoctrination. One of the chief outcomes has been the further degradation and deconstruction of traditional Christianity. (Online source)

Emergent Guru Brian McLaren himself writes:

Emergent grew out of the Young Leader Networks, which was launched in the mid-90’s by Leadership Network, a Dallas-based foundation. Doug Pagitt, Chris Seay, Andrew Jones, Brad Smith, and others were involved before I was, and they did a great job of setting a tone and direction for the emergent conversation. (Online source)

And Andrew Jones aka “Tall Skinny Kiwi” tells us more about Doug Pagitt, the man Leadership Network chose to assemble the Terranova Project, which would eventually morphe into the emerging church and Emergent Village:

Doug is probably my best friend,… Doug was the youth guy at Leith Andersons church for 10 years. I met him when he worked for Leadership Network and spent his time flying around the country, complaining about hotels and seeing what God was up to among the next generation. That led to a group of guys called the Young Leaders, among whom I am proud to have been associated – like being a Muskateer except there were 10 of us…

Doug threw conferences around the country that changed the conversation away from ministries that were hopelessly modern and disjointed, towards the fact that we are ministering in an era of a radically different worldview – that of postmodernity. (Online source)

The fact is that the majority of the “10” in this Terra Nova Project, which is the root of this “well-funded and well-organized movement” that set the “tone and direction for the emergent conversation”, were/are largely neoorthodox in their approach to the Bible. I refer you to Rob Bell and Karl Barth, where I cover some of this in regard to Emerging Church icon Rob Bell.

And there’s a good lay level overview of neo-orthodoxy in Neo-Orthodoxy: An Emergent Overview. But here is where we have uncovered the crucial flaw that leads to the corrupt theology and the confusion of the Emergent Church, a cult of a postliberal theology.

Now in chapter 3 of Why We’re Not Emergent Kevin DeYoung correctly points out concerning the most noted neo-orthodox theologian:

Seventy years ago Karl Barth argued, “The Bible is God’s Word to the extent that He speaks through it.” At the time, Barth was calling liberalism back to the Word, which was a good thing, but he pioneered a new approach in establishing biblical authority, which was not as good.

The Bible, according to Barth, was not itself the Word of God, but as God spoke in and through the Bible, it became for us the Word of God. The Bible is only “derivatively and indirectly” God’s Word, he wrote. The authority of the Word, therefore, resides not in the Scriptures that contain the very words of God, but in Him who speaks through the words of the text (78, 79).

However, the problem with this view is that what God is saying in Bible would now depend upon what the reader feels the Lord may, or may not be saying. In other words, Barth is saying that the Words of Scripture contain messages from God, whereas the proper view of Holy Scripture is that the Bible itself is the message.

And this is a huge difference because Barth’s wrong view ends up in a very highly subjective and existential understanding of Holy Scripture, which does not take into account the corrupted reasoning of human beings resulting from the Fall. So what you end up with is the same kind of relativism you would see on the panel of a talk show.

Round and round we go with no objective way to say definitively which view on a given subject is correct. DeYoung then goes on:

This neoorthodox view of Scripture is, wittingly or unwittingly, the view of many in the emerging church. [Dave] Tomlinson explicitly relies on Barth, noting appreciatively that “Barth spoke of the Bible becoming, rather than being, the Word of God.” The late Stan Grenz, one of the most influential theologians in the emerging church movement, wrote, with John Franke, something similar: “As we noted earlier, it is not the Bible as a book that is authoritative, but the Bible as the instrumentality of the Spirit; the biblical message spoken by the Spirit through the text is theology’s norming norm.”

According to Grenz and Franke, the text has its own intention, which begins in the author’s intended meaning but is not exhausted by it. We must start with the original meaning of the text, but we are not bound by it. For God has spoken, but He still speaks. The words of Scripture, therefore, are not the norming norm but the Spirit speaking through the Scripture becoming the Word of God. (79)

But the critical question which needs to be considered with this subjective approach to the Bible by the Emergent Church would be: How does one know when/if a particular text has now “become” the Word of God? Answer: The reader will then decide if it does. When we factor the corrupt human nature into the equation we now have a recipe for picking and choosing the parts of the text we like while simply disregarding those we don’t.

And you better believe that the Christian had best start with “the author’s intended meaning” because 2 Timothy 3:16 instructs us that God Himself is the Author of Scripture. But as I previously pointed out in the aforementioned piece on Rob Bell and Karl Barth, what Satan is actually doing through these deceivers in the Emerging Church is confusing the issues surrounding sola Scriptura and the doctrines of verbal inspiration and plenary inspiration of the Bible.

Finally, in what follows from DeYoung you should be able to see how this faulty view of Scripture in the Emerging Church flatly contradicts the Reformation doctrine of sola Scriptura. In Emergent theology the text of the Bible is no longer the authority for the Church as the Reformers taught, instead—just as with apostate Roman Catholicism—what becomes authoritative is actually what the Church aka “community” decides is the Word of God:

As a result, theology, for many in the emerging church, becomes something different from speaking the truth about God as revealed in Scripture. The task of theology, in the emergent model, is to express communal beliefs and values, to set forth that community’s particular “web of significance” and “matrix of meaning.” Christian theology, therefore, is the task of speaking about the God known in the Christian community. The church is really the new foundation.

Christian theology is done by and for the Christian community as an ongoing conversation among those who have been encountered by God in Christ and are attempting to clarify a mosaic of beliefs that comprise the interpretive framework of the community that the aforementioned encounter called forth. Confusing, isn’t it? That’s actually one of the flaws of the neoorthodox/emerging view of Scripture. (ibid)

And Apprising Ministries reminds you that the Lord has already told us something with crystalline clarity about the matrix of mystification — for God is not a God of confusion but of peace (1 Corinthians 14:33, NASB).