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New Attitude Day #3....Breakout Session....Justin Taylor

So on the second full day, instead of having 3 main sessions, in the afternoon we were allowed to pick our own smaller breakout session to go to. The choices were difficult. You had theological giant Al Mohler doing one as well as Mike Bullmore and Bruce Ware. I couldn’t decide between Bruce Ware’s on the Trinity and Justin Taylor’s on the emerging church. In the end, I went to Justin Taylor’s and I was so blessed by this wise man. It was great to finally hear in person someone who has influenced by life these past years. All I can say is. Praise God for self-proclaimed nerds like Justin Taylor.

The title was something to the effect of “The Emerging Church in the Post-Modern Culture.” He began by defining the Emerging church. The popular definition is “high-profile, youth-centered, contemporary music, and defined by increasing numbers.” He then wanted to make sure we understood the difference between the emerGING church and the emerGENT church.

The emergent church is an actual organization led by Tony Jones. Their website for those interested in it is emergentvillage.com They are a place that cultivates friendship through conferences and books. Leadership other than Tony would be Doug Pagitt, Spencer Burke, Brian McLaren, and Andrew Jones. The emergent church says that they are committed to God in the way of Jesus, committed to the church in all its forms (From Baptist to Greek Orthodox), committed to God’s world (following God into the world-explore and be a part of it), and committed to one another by loving and serving one another. So they are pro-Jesus, pro-church, pro-world, and pro-friendship

The emerging church is a church movement or a church conversation. Wikipedia defines it as such:

The emerging church or emergent church is a diverse movement within Christianity that arose in the late 20th century as a reaction to the influence of modernism in Western Christianity. The movement is usually called a "conversation" by its proponents to emphasize its diffuse nature with contributions from many people and no explicitly defined leadership or direction. The emerging church seeks to deconstruct and reconstruct Christianity as its mainly Western members live in a postmodern culture. While practices and even core doctrine vary, most emergents can be recognized by the following values.

These values include authenticity, missional living, narrative theology, and Christ likeness. They are against isolation and abstract doctrine.

Taylor is quick to point out that while these definitions are good, we need to remember the source. In defining these groups, we could go to the proponents, the detractors, or the confused. The above definitions are from the proponents of the emerging church (including the Wikipedia one, because Brian McLaren and other men helped form that definition).

So Taylor then turns to a book called “Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in a Post-Modern World.” This was written by two Fuller Seminary students named Eddie Gibbs and Ryan Bolger who spent 5 years interviewing emerging churches all across the nation and coming up with the similarities as an attempt to define this movement. In the book, they say that emerging churches are communities who practice the way of Jesus within post-modern cultures. They are followers of Jesus seeking to be faithful in their place and their time.

Taylor then says that since a goal across all emerging churches is to relate to the post-modern world, we need to understand what the post-modern world is. Consequently, we must also look a pre-modern and modern as well.

The pre-modern world is the world before 1700. To sum it up in two words would be “super-natural worldview”. People found truth by listening to religious leaders in religious institutions. Their ultimate reality was the spiritual world and community was more important than the individual. There was no analyzing on your own, no experimentation.

Modernism, summed up in two words would be “scientific world-view.” The focus was reason and logic.

Post-Modernism is typically said to have begun around the 1960’s. People began to question authority. It is subjective and individual truth. To sum it up in three words, Taylor called it “Question Authority World-view.” (Here Taylor told a story that really has nothing to do with anything but I thought it funny and wanted to relate it. He said that in college in Iowa, they had your typical feminist religion professor. On her car, she had a bumper sticker that said “Question Authority.” Taylor said he always wanted to write on it “Says Who?”)

Taylor encouraged us to remember that Biblical Christianity transcends all 3 of these world views.

Eric Simmons (one of the leaders of Na) made an excellent point about why Justin Taylor was such a good speaker on this subject. God has shown him the good and the bad in it. It was very balanced. This is where Taylor moved onto talking about the three movements within the emerging churches.

The first would be the relevants. These people retain all the essentials of the gospel. They are taking the gospel in the historical form but seeking to make it relevant to the culture.

The second would be the reconstructionists. They are retaining essentials but question the historical structure of the church and reconstructing it. This would be a group that would have a house church on Wednesdays.

The third view would be the revisionists. This is the group to be concerned with. (Brian McLaren falls in here.) They are questing and revising both the gospel and the church.

Taylor had said that before we evaluated the emerging church, we needed to understand it. Here we moved onto the evaluating part.

We began first by evaluating their view of the authority of God’s word. He first reminded us of a statement by JI Packer “A half-truth masquerading as a whole-truth becomes a complete un-truth.”

The emerging church would say that the bible is a story, not a fact back. Taylor said that the bible is both/and not either/or. They emphasize only the story, not the doctrine and scripture is both. They neglect the details. But God is in those details. All scripture is God breathed. There was not one word extra. Functionally, they are undermining the authority of Scripture. It may at times, be difficult to see how but he reminds us of the story of Adam and Eve in Genesis. The Serpent (Satan) says to Eve, “Did God really say ‘You may not eat from any tree in this garden?’” (Genesis 3) Satan did not begin with a lie, but with a question. If approached, he could easily say “I didn’t say anything. Just asking questions. Just asking questions.” Satan starts with planting a seed of doubt against God’s orthodoxy. He said that he loved the Na theme of Humble Orthodoxy. He said that he thinks that the emerging church has hi-jacked the term humility. They consider themselves humble because they say “Well, I cannot be sure of truth. What I think is only right for me, not necessarily for you and that is something you have to decide for yourself.” The world looks at this as humble; humble does not equal uncertainty. You can be arrogant in your uncertainty. Humility is about submission. Also, just because you are humble, does not mean you have correct orthodox. He said that there is not an equal sign between humble and orthodoxy, but instead there must be a double sided arrow between the two. They are not equal to one another but are instead necessary for each other.

We then examined their view of the Cross. He made the statement “Atonement is bigger than just substitutionary atonement.” The emerging church will typically never say whether this is true or false, but just that atonement is bigger than that. He quotes Steve Chalke who is to England what Brian McLaren is to the United States. This is from Chalke’s book “The Lost Message of Jesus Christ.”

The fact is that the cross isn’t a form of cosmic child abuse—a vengeful Father, punishing his Son for an offense he has not even committed. Understandably, both people inside and outside of the Church have found this twisted version of events morally dubious and a huge barrier to faith. Deeper than that, however, is that such a concept stands in total contradiction to the statement that “God is love.” If the cross is a personal act of violence perpetrated by God towards humankind but borne by his Son, then it makes a mockery of Jesus’ own teaching to love your enemies and to refuse to reply evil with evil.”

To be honest, after Taylor read this passage, I was so blown away that I didn’t take many more notes on the section of the Cross. I feel like if I try to reconstruct what I THINK I remember him saying it will be totally of, so let’s just move to the next point.


The next point was truth and knowledge. The emerging church’s idea of truth is that absolute truth does exist but that only God knows the absolute truth, therefore it exists but we don’t have access to it. Taylor says that exhaustive knowledge is often confused with certain knowledge. Just because we don’t know ALL there is to know about God does not mean that there aren’t things we CAN know about God. Doubt is not a virtue or something noble to be chased after.

The final point was concerning sexual ethics. Even now in England, the emerging church is question whether sex before marriage is really a sin and Taylor says it won’t be long before that is a prominent question over here. However, he chose instead to focus on homosexuality-specifically McLaren’s point on the subject in his recent book “A Generous Orthodoxy.”

“Frankly, many of us don't know what we should think about homosexuality. We've heard all sides but no position has yet won our confidence so that we can say "it seems good to the Holy Spirit and us." That alienates us from both the liberals and conservatives who seem to know exactly what we should think. Even if we are convinced that all homosexual behavior is always sinful, we still want to treat gay and lesbian people with more dignity, gentleness, and respect than our colleagues do. If we think that there may actually be a legitimate context for some homosexual relationships, we know that the biblical arguments are nuanced and multilayered, and the pastoral ramifications are staggeringly complex. We aren't sure if or where lines are to be drawn, nor do we know how to enforce with fairness whatever lines are drawn.

Perhaps we need a five-year moratorium on making pronouncements. In the meantime, we'll practice prayerful Christian dialogue, listening respectfully, disagreeing agreeably. When decisions need to be made, they'll be admittedly provisional. We'll keep our ears attuned to scholars in biblical studies, theology, ethics, psychology, genetics, sociology, and related fields. Then in five years, if we have clarity, we'll speak; if not, we'll set another five years for ongoing reflection. After all, many important issues in church history took centuries to figure out. Maybe this moratorium would help us resist the "winds of doctrine" blowing furiously from the left and right, so we can patiently wait for the wind of the Spirit to set our course.

The line that blows me away is “If we think that there may actually be a legitimate context for some homosexual relationships.” Much of the leadership of the emerging church seems to embody the idea of 2 Timothy 3:7
“…always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of truth.”

Lastly, we looked at the Alternatives, beginning with a Humble Orthodoxy. Humility is rightly viewing the greatness and grandeur of God. We don’t become humble by hating ourselves and our sins more but instead by viewing our Big God as He is. We must be humble not because we are dumb but because we are undeserving recipients of God’s grace.

Next he said we needed to have Contextualized Confessionalism. Contextualized means we must adopt our communication of the gospel without losing its essential character. He used an example that Tim Keller used. That is the hand shake versus the Holy Kiss. Both are expressions of brotherly love, but in our culture today, a Holy Kiss between two brothers would not express what it expressed back in the days of the early church. So our brothers in Christ present their love for one another in a handshake or a hug rather than a kiss. Still practicing a biblical idea but without confusing appearances. The confessionalism refers to confessing and believing the reformed truths (Sola Scriptura, Solus Christus, Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, and Soli Deo Gloria).

Lastly, we must speak the truth in love.

Ephesians 4:15

15Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ…

When we present our biblical truths, as Josh Harris asked the first evening, do we present our truths in arrogance or in tears?

He closed with a solid quote from Tim Keller to the effect of “We don’t have their level of communication with the culture and they don’t have our doctrine and theology.”

I linked you on my blog. I need you to show me how to get separate categories like "Blogs I Read" "Friends Blogs," etc.

Good post about the Justin session by the way. It seems like it was a good session

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