Apprising Ministries told you in posts such as Big Tent Christianity Is A Postmodern Progressive Liberalism about this new form of Progressive Christian theology—Liberalism 2.0—a theological poison, which they’ll often refer to as “big tent” Christianity (BTX) or sometimes Emergence Christianity. You need to realize that this is what Living Spiritual Teacher and leading EC guru Brian McLaren began laying out systematically in his last book A New Kind of Christianity

If you’re at all following the development of the sinfully ecumenical Emergent Church aka the Emerging Church it would be pretty hard to miss the uncanny resemblance BTX has to the original cult of liberalism, and its own offshoot Progressive Christianity. Having long studied liberalism myself, an ill-fated attempt to be relevant to its modern culture now having given way to postmodernism, I can tell you that what we’re dealing with here is the same doomed strategy to come up with a verison of Christianity compatable for this pouty postmosern set.

Yet it’s all really rooted in a lack of faith in the all-sufficiency of Scripture fueled by the Church Growth Movement that’s produced pragmatists like seeker-driven Purpose Driven Pope Rick Warren. As Dr. John MacArthur has correctly pointed out:

in the church, there has grown to be among church leaders a great preoccupation with what I would call “worldly management technique.” With all of the books being written on successful corporations and successful styles of management and leadership and so forth, the church has perked up its ears and gone after that really as if it were the very life of the church. There are many who bow, as it were, to the gods of worldly management technique. Churches are learning those kinds of methods as if they were the keys to building the Kingdom of God.

And in a very subtle way, this is an attack on the adequacy of Scripture, as if to say, “Knowing the Word of God and understanding its principles and the principles taught therein related to the growth of the church is not adequate and we must go to the management techniques and the systems of success the world uses in its corporate environment and transfer those to the church if we want the church to really grow and develop.” I believe this is a subtle attack on the sufficiency of the revelation of God for the matter of the growth and development of the church. (Online source)

In articles like Richard Rohr And The Emerging Church As The Third Way I’ve told you that those involved in constructing the big tent of this spiritual circus of BTX, such as the Transforming Theology network team of Dr. Philip Clayton, see themselves as teaching a “third way” ala Hegel’s dialectic; a sythesis now being birthed through its purer form of progressive Christianity. Below Christian apologist Mike Oppenheimer offers a concise definition the Hegelian dialectic as he explains: 

Traditionally, this dimension of Hegel’s thought has been analyzed in terms of the categories of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. Although Hegel tended to avoid these terms, they are helpful in understanding his concept of the dialectic. The thesis, then, might be an idea or a historical movement. 

Such an idea or movement contains within itself incompleteness that gives rise to opposition, or an antithesis, a conflicting idea or movement. As a result of the conflict a third point of view arises, a synthesis, which overcomes the conflict by reconciling at a higher level the truth contained in both the thesis and antithesis. (Online source

I’ve also pointed out before that this BTX Emergence Christianity project was initally launched by McLaren, Clayton, and Tripp Fuller[1] and among those touting BTX are spiritually nefarious names like progressive/liberal theologians Harvey Cox and Tony Jones—progressive theologian in residence at the church of universalist Emerging Church pastor Doug Pagitt. As a matter of fact Jones just recently contributed the foreword to Transforming Christian Theology, which is the latest book by the aforementioned panentheistic process theologian Philip Clayton. Now from the recently concluded Big Tent Christianity: Being and Becoming the Church conference we see that BTX even involves people who deny the Deity of Christ outright, ie. Who He is, like uber-liberal Living Spiritual Teacher Dr. Marcus Borg.

Only in the postmodern Wonderland of Humpty Dumpty language, where words don’t retain their actual meanings, could one who’s still dead in their sins (cf. John 8:24) be considered in the church. This is the heart of the matter; there is no wiggle room here in the actual Christian faith concerning the Person and nature of Christ Jesus of Nazareth, one either believes, or they don’t. Despite this wide gate (cf. Matthew 7:13) of BTX, even some so-called progressive Christians are a little leery. For example, over at The Progressive Christian in her piece BTX in Phoenix: Big, Bold, Exciting and Scary editor Cynthia B. Astle tells us that “for the past 72 hours” she was ” in Phoenix at the Big Tent Christianity event” and came away “exhilarated and a little bit scared – but hopeful.”

She says that also among the sponsors of this BTX event were “the Arizona Foundation for Contemporary Theology and the Emerging Desert Cohort, a unit of Emergent Village.” Having personally attended this conference Astle wants to give us her “impression of this inaugural gathering for what may become a series of meetings around the country.” This is precisely the plan of the BTX crew; then Astle says:

Big Tent Christianity, or BTX as it has come to be known, brought together two segments of American Christianity: Progressives and Emergents. Many things about these two groups were different, most notably their ages and where and how they practice their faith. What they share, however, is far more powerful than any surface differences. Both are in love with the holistic gospel of Jesus Christ in which salvation is not an insurance policy for the hereafter, but instead means following the way that Jesus taught for living eternally in the here-and-now. (Online source)

First of all, this is a classic red herring being put forth by way too many professing Christians today, which is: Salvation is not an insurance policy for the hereafter because those who believe that have no interest in the here-and-now. Here’s how you dismantle that faulty premise: 1) Unless one has personally responded to God’s only Gospel (cf. Galatians 1:6-9) of repentance and forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ Name and been saved by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in the finished work on the cross of Christ alone, they have no hope of following the way of Jesus; and 2) after preaching that Gospel—the primary mission for the regenerated Christian—the secondary aspect of the Gospel is to assist their fellow man (cf. Matthew 25:31-40). You see, no one is saying salvation is only about escapism from responsibility in this life.

People like Astle, whom we would assume is a sincere and well-meaning person, have it exactly backward; which is to not have the Christian faith at all, but rather, a form of humanism advancing its own social agenda. Before saying I’m unloving to say so and playing the hater card, consider that when the Apostle Peter tried this tactic Jesus—pure Love in human flesh—said to him — “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (Mark 8:33). The fact is that, despite their all noble intentions the Purpose Driven/Seeker Driven camp and the Emerging Church form of progressive Christianity—which neither progressive nor Christian—are but arms of the aforementioned pragmatic Church Growth Movement.

Astle continues by telling us that “apparent differences” within BTX “might seem too great to converge toward their common passion.” Well, if the Lord tarries, because these so-called differences have nothing to do with the historic orthodox Christian faith, you’ll see them quickly dissolve away for their common good i.e. the love of self (cf. 2 Timothy 3:2). You know, if you look carefully you won’t find that there simply aren’t any adherents to the Biblical Christian faith in the discussion within BTX. Astle goes on to share some of the differences between the two major factions around BTX:

Progressives tend to be associated with denominations, particularly mainline Protestant denominations. They are the faithful remnants of the Social Gospel movement of the past century. By and large they are devoted process theologians (a trait they share with some of their younger Emergent cohorts). (Online source)

You need to realize mainline Protestant denominations, which are not Protestant—let alone Christian, were mortally wounded by the cult of liberal theology long ago; and as she said, they preach the humanistic Social Gospel with the panentheistic mystic mush god of process theology quite similar to Open Theism. Astle is correct when she tells you progressive universalists are devoted to the destructive “historical-critical theological method” of the Bible and to the pro-gay agenda of “inclusiveness especially for LGBT people.” Then Astle yells us that “Emergents tend to” be less denominational and:

They tend to be younger, although the Emerging movement now has its own wise elders… You can recognize them by their…many piercings, their fondness for beer over wine, and some truly eye-popping tattoos… They eschew dogma, wrestle with scripture, drop F-bombs like rose petals, love rock music, slam poetry and visual art. They put their own assiduous concern for social justice into practical works without need for denominational structures. (Online source)

Lovely; the key point to understand here is that both the old school modern progressives and the new postmodern progressives eschew the same dogma; namely, proper Biblical Christianity. This is why you’ll see them all coming together under this big circus tent of self-love. Astle suggests that if we “mix these two groups together” we end up with “a heady brew of Christianity.” No, what we have is the forging of a new version of religious progressivism trying to pass itself off before the largely Biblically illiterate visible church as a legitimate form of Christianity. She continues:

As with the great truths of faith, the only way to describe the experience is through metaphor. Thus, if being in “regular church” resembles a sip of communion wine (even grape juice for the Methodists), then being at Big Tent Christianity was like drinking a full pint of “Jimbo Baggins’ whiskey stout,” the dark and dangerous home-brewed beer served at BTX’s after-hours mixer. Jarring at first, then downright headspinning. (Online source)

I’ll leave aside what seems to violate Ephesians 5:18, note carefully how Astle slips in her own progressive view ala Marcus Borg that “with the great truths of faith, the only way to describe the experience is through metaphor.” In other words, we don’t take the cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith such as the Deity of Christ and His Virgin Birth literally; well, neither do many of the Emerging Church folks in BTX. So you see, they already have more than enough common ground to skate out together onto the very thin ice of this new form of progressive Christianity. That’s why for Astle “BTX was big and bold and flavorful” even if “ragged around the edges” with plenty of lukewarm Laodicean spirit (cf. Revelation 3:16):

and sometimes in the middle as well, profoundly thoughtful, thought-provoking and spiritually uplifting without being sanctimonious. I’m struggling to restrain my enthusiasm at the event’s implications, because we don’t know that BTX was the start of something, or even the beginning of the start of something. We live in uncertainty and amibiguity about it. (Online source)

You just read the literary equivalent of Jell-o; seriously, anyone who thinks the Apostles and the early martyrs gave their lives for “uncertainty and amibiguity” really needs to have their theological head examined. Astle then wraps up her recap of BTX:

Big Tent Christianity in Phoenix had an air of sanctity about it, a Spirit blowing through its semi-organized proceedings like the rush of Pentecost. This was the first national BTX gathering after a couple of pilot events, so more such events could occur across the country with sponsorship. If one occurs near you, I encourage you to go and judge for yourself. You will meet Christians you don’t know who are totally unlike those you meet in church on Sunday, and you will meet Christians just like yourself. Either way, you, too, may get a glimpse of a scary and exciting future for the Church. (Online source)

Note she writes that BTX had a spirit blowing through it; indeed it did, but it was not the Holy Spirit, because this event is in line with 2 Corinthians 11:4 — if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough. It doesn’t make me popular to point it out; but then again, sometimes the truth hurts. By the way, have you ever noticed that those around the Emerging Church embrace ambiguity and uncertainty concerning the cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith; and yet, when someone loke myself criticizes their warped and toxic teachings suddenly they become clearly certain that I’m wrong.

In closing this, for now, I’ll tell you I do find myself in agreement with Cynthia Astle when she says of BTX that within we “may get a glimpse of a scary” future of the church visible. Sadly, the neo-liberal cult of the Emergent Church is a serpent that’s swallowing up more of mainstream evanjellyfish than you may even realize. That said, if you’d like a classic example of just how spiritually obtuse this BTX perversion of the Christian faith truly is, I’ll point you to tweet today the Emerging Church TransFORM Network:

(Online source)

As you can see, the link leads to the video below, and obviously, Mark Scandrette is considered within the Emerging Church to be a primary source as to what BTX Emergence Christianity is all about.


[1], accessed 2/13/11.

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