The Tragedy of the Submergent Church

Error leads to error. Rebellion leads to rebellion. Heresy leads to heresy. Apostasy leads to apostasy. That is how things usually go when deception is allowed to take a foothold in the Christian camp. And we see all this perfectly reflected in what is known as the emergent church.

This progressive, trendy movement within Christianity takes pride in being cutting edge, with-it, and cool. But it is achieving this mainly at the expense of biblical orthodoxy. Indeed, it prides itself in decrying and dismissing the importance of truth, of doctrine, and of orthodoxy.

It foolishly thinks that if it jettisons the old biblical verities, and experiments with the new, the radical, and the hip, it will somehow bring in the masses and reinvigorate Christianity. Well, it may attract the masses, but it is not attracting them to biblical Christianity.

Indeed, all it is doing is leading a whole new generation away from the faith once delivered for all the saints. But I have written about this worrisome movement often before, eg:

In fact, so problematic is this movement that I have already written 30 articles about it. And as I have shown, when they start playing fast and loose with biblical doctrine, they soon enough start playing fast and loose with biblical ethics. Heterodoxy, in other words, usually leads to heteropraxis. Bad beliefs will result in bad living.

Recently I highlighted the example of Steve Chalke from the UK. His dismissal of basic Christian beliefs has led to his dismissal of basic Christian ethics. Thus he has come out championing homosexual marriage. I discuss all this here:

Now another big cheese figure in the emergent church movement has gone and done likewise. I refer to US mover and shaker Rob Bell. Sadly, he has been quite influential, but not in a helpful fashion. He has gone off the deep end far too often in terms of basic Christian beliefs.

I have written about Bell previously as well:

Now he is telling us there is nothing wrong with homosexual marriage, and to be Christlike means to dismiss God’s purposes for human sexuality and his intentions of marriage and family. This is what he just recently said: “Yes, I am for marriage. I am for fidelity. I am for love. Whether it’s a man and a woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man – and I think the ship has sailed and I think the church needs to just – this is the world we’re living in and we need to affirm people wherever they are.”

There you have it folks: just like the Beatles sang long ago, “all you need is love “. Well, that may be good enough for a pop group, but it stinks if you are claiming to be a Christian pastor. In biblical thought love of course means willing the highest good for the other person.

That means pushing them in the direction of biblical holiness, not secular sin. It means loving someone enough that you want them set free from their sinful and destructive lifestyles. It certainly does not mean abandoning them to a deadend journey which is only harmful, risky, and destructive.

If you really love a homosexual you will tell him the truth that he can be set free from his bondage. Biblical love most certainly does not mean lying to them, and allowing them to wallow in their sinful degradation. But in the mixed up and diabolical world of the emergents, love is whatever anyone says it is.

Forget about the Word of God and its clear instructions to us on this matter; let’s just make things up as we go along. Let’s just copy the world and do what it is doing. Thanks Bell, that is a wonderful direction you are leading us all in. He will have a lot to answer for when he stands before his maker and judge.

But I am not alone in my concerns here. American writer Michael Brown has also recently written on Bell and his delusions. Let me offer a few paragraphs from his piece:

“Of course, Bell is right that, to an extent, ‘the ship has sailed,’ and affirming same-sex ‘marriage’ is now the politically ‘in’ thing to do, as witnessed by the recent statements of former President Bill Clinton, Sen. Rob Portman and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“But what in the world does that have to do with right and wrong? If society has lost its moral bearings, should the church lose its moral bearings as well? Shouldn’t we rather swim against the tide of popular opinion and call the world to turn around?

“And since when do we drag down the teachings of Jesus, which were marked by divine authority and absoluteness, to meet the standard of ‘the world we are living in?’ Aren’t we supposed to challenge the world to live up to the standards of the Lord?”

But as Bell has been abandoning one biblical tenet after another, all this should not surprise us. When he rejected the biblical teaching on hell a few years ago, we knew it was going to be all downhill from there. Says Brown, “Over the last few years Bell, a best-selling author and former megachurch pastor, has steadily distanced himself from the mainstream evangelical community. Known for asking provocative questions and challenging the status quo, he amassed a large following that has been drawn to his non-dogmatic approach—an approach I call a ‘celebration of ambiguity.’

“To paraphrase this approach: Rather than the leader saying, ‘This is the way. It is proven and sure. Follow me,’ the leader now says, ‘Who am I to know? How can anyone be sure? Isn’t it narrow and small-minded of us to be so inflexible and dogmatic?’

“Somehow, young people in particular have rallied around this mindset, a mindset that has already lost its way before it even starts. Yet losing one’s way is celebrated, too: ‘The destination is not important,’ we are told. ‘It’s the journey that matters!’

“Personally, I would rather enjoy a terrible journey to heaven than a lovely journey to hell. Speaking of which, Bell’s 2011 New York Times best-seller Love Wins represented another departure from the evangelical mainstream. In the book, Bell suggested that, to a great extent, hell is here and now, and in the end, everybody will make it into God’s heavenly kingdom.”

Yep, if we are all going to be saved, then we can all live like hell now, since there is no hell awaiting us. And if there is no hell – which Jesus spent so much time talking about in his teachings – then I guess it really does not matter if we live like the devil. So it makes sense for Bell to cave in on homosexuality. Error is all of a piece. When you become deceived and reject one biblical doctrine, soon enough you will reject them all.

Well did Jesus warn: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ’, and will deceive many” (Matthew 24:4-5).

And rightly did Jude say: “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord” (Jude 1:3-4).

[1280 words]