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The Tragedy of the Submergent Church

Mar 22, 2013

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:
www.billmuehlenberg.com/2008/06/27/on-emergents-and-false-dilemmas/
www.billmuehlenberg.com/2011/04/16/on-emergents-postmoderns-and-epistemological-suicide/
www.billmuehlenberg.com/2012/10/16/emergents-and-the-importance-of-doctrine/

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: www.billmuehlenberg.com/2013/01/19/no-surprises-here-from-the-emergents/

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:
www.billmuehlenberg.com/2011/04/15/a-review-of-love-wins-by-rob-bell/
www.billmuehlenberg.com/2006/09/07/a-review-of-velvet-elvis-repainting-the-christian-faith-by-rob-bell/

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).

www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/03/19/which-famed-christian-pastor-just-issued-this-shocking-gay-marriage-endorsement/
www.charismanews.com/opinion/38743-rob-bells-recipe-for-spiritual-disaster

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19 Responses to The Tragedy of the Submergent Church

  • Rob Bell doesn’t know which way is up!
    Jenna Priest

  • I spoke to staff at Rob Bell’s office some years ago. They could not understand my dismay at his ideologies. A former New Age Follower, was I, over 25 years ago. I saw the writing on the wall in Bell’s veiled attempt to be all things for all people.! You are right, these left wing so called Christians in my opinion are a stench, white washed tombs, heretical to the scriptures, making scriptures say what they want as they take them out of context. Bill, thank God for you!! never give up writing as you feel incensed at the nonsense written and spoken today.
    Ilona Sturla

  • Thanks once again Bill, for keeping us up to speed on the ‘submergent’ church. I pray that you have a truly effective interaction with the YWAM students re homosexuality. That any students who are confused about the difference between accepting and loving homosexuals as people (which as you say, also includes loving them enough to graciously confront the truth about homosexuality) and standing with the Lord and His Word, regarding the sinfulness of homosexual practices, will open their hearts and minds to Biblical reasoning.
    Keep up the great work, Bill.

    Peter Magee

  • Thank you Bill
    It’s becoming a real challenge, well in my circles anyway, to stand up and say no.
    No I’m sorry but I don’t support the homosexual push to be “equal” and no abortion is totally out of the question.
    I personally experienced this last week from a long time friend, who always went quiet when I mentioned either of these two subjects.
    Finally she said after months, gays aren’t hurting anyone and although abortion is not very nice she said, we have to because the world is bursting at the seams with people.
    I ventured 7 billion people can fit into New York…..twice.
    She hung up.
    Daniel Kempton

  • The conservative (but not religious) Charles Murray said something similar and used a similar metaphor “I think the train has left the station”. It seems people are following the movement rather than standing on any kinds of principle.

    www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2013/03/charles-murrays-gay-marriage-surprise.html

    This issue is becoming more and more a secular/JudeoChristian divide, more so than even a Conservative/Leftist one. It depends on where you get your values.

    I suspect (conservative) Christians are going to find themselves more and more isolated on this, unfortunately.

    Damien Spillane

  • I hear so often that we need to update Christianity to get with the modern trends. Yet God says I am the same always. All I can see in this supposed update requirement is the loosening of the ties of all moral conscience, accepting that God needs an update and that anything goes. However I hardly think that is a good recipe for the future of the human race for when we have exhausted all our wants what then will we do?
    There was a film produced once where everyone could do as they liked but when they reached thirty years of age they ascended upwards within a tower of sorts in a flickering incandescent sparkle essentially to be killed or should I say terminated under the plan of the Elite. That surely is only a small step away from where we are now.
    Consider the logic of abortion/murder supposedly legal killing. Feminists have brought this in as a right and are even calling pregnancy or the birth of a child as violence against women. And yes they say they are sick of violence against women yet have no qualms about using violence against those that have no other protection other than the mother. Oh Lord what screwed up selfish thinking that is.
    The U tube Q & A you posted recently where a so-called reverend (Lesbian female) all dressed in white and with the help of the compare dominated all conversation against her views that homosexuality (the act) was in line with gods creation.
    One one occasion compare went on to insinuate repeatedly that another man of the cloth was forgetting about the monkeys from whence we supposedly came.
    Consider this, Some species have the in built protections against danger that their parents have. Worms regrow when cut in half or more. Lizards loose their tails in times of danger then grow another.
    If humans came up through the long evolutionary line of diversity I.e.From simple bacteria to the insect line to Lizards and mammals or animals and then to monkey’s then humans, how is it that the newborn human is virtually devoid of all these attributes and yet the bacteria within it’s small body is more intelligent that it.
    Simple. God allows a new life to be free of all preconditioned encumbrances with a clean sheet so-to-speak. The soul then traverses this life within the temple of the spirit (the body) with Gods given laws as a guidance to fulfilment either to be accepted or rejected by ones own free will. These Laws cannot be broken without consequence in this life or the life to come except by Gods Grace and Mercy to the repentant. Nullify that spirit and destroy the relationship between man and God and the human becomes just another animal pandering to it’s own perceived rights, wants and lusts regardless of others.

    Dennis Newland

  • Jesus said “those who love the truth heareth my voice”. I’ve heard Bell’s voice and it doesn’t cut it.

    No one cares if same sex couples want to formalise their relationships. It is when their adult centred wishes trump the needs of children and a child is DELIBERATELY DEPRIVED of it’s biological mother or father in a bi-paternal or bi-maternal relationship that the transgression and audacious destruction of family begins. This is treating children as a commodity and is a gross violation of a child’s human rights. Tragically shadowy political powers are pushing this distopian new order on us as scientism has convinced them God is dead.

    Jesus has told us of the WAY by which we should live. All these people who have broken families, or who want children but who SPURN the natural law by which a child is conceived are ignorant of the code and the clergy has done little to enlighten them. It only takes one partner in a relationship to transgress and the other partner is often helpless to save the relationship. Hostility flares and neither is prepared to make the effort to reinstate peace and minimise conflict. Bell says that the cultural norm does not work and we need to open relationships up to other permutations to affirm what has happened to them in their lives. Why should the followers of Christ who observe a HOLY communion ritual in remembrance of Christ become unmoored from the original inception of their faith at the behest of secularists.

    It seems to me that secular humanists need to find their own, completely different religion, since they are not interested in Christian faith as it is.

    Love is never a selfish thing.

    Rachel Smith, UK

  • “When you see the ‘abomination [the homosexual priest] that causes desolation’ [the culture of death] standing where it [he] does not belong [at the altar] – let the reader understand – [today’s reader] then let those who are in Jerusalem [the Church that fosters him] flee to the mountains [the biblical community]. Mk 12:14.

    B T Walters

  • The Church is to be the pillar of truth in the world – not the place where people get their free ticket to hell, because truth is not spoken out
    Barb Hoc

  • I for one am not despairing at the situation that people like Rob Bell exist and that many others are falling into error. We should continue to tell people that God created male and female and that this is affirmed by the fact everybody has a mother and father. It is not rocket science. I believe that if many Christians had the right questions asked of them on this subject, they would actually quickly wake up to the deception.

    The reality is that even if the prohibitive verses about homosexuality did not exist in the Bible, you would still have to reject it based upon what Jesus said:

    “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said,‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Mt 19:4-6)

    I see no remote accommodation for homosexuality there whatsoever. Those who claim that this verse is not instructive about homosexuality might consider that Jesus is using a quote which says nothing about divorce directly either – to answer a question about that subject! If divorce is not part of God’s original design, then homosexuality sure ain’t either!

    Furthermore, didn’t Jesus actually raise the standard on what constitutes adultery? (Mt 5:27-30) And also mention sexual immorality in Revelation 2:14 & 20? What moral code do you think Jesus was referring to, considering the seven letters to the churches are peppered with Old Testament references? (eg. Jezebel, Balaam, “the key of David” – Isa 22:22) And funny how those who want to ignore what Leviticus says about homosexuality would bristle at accepting bestiality or incest (also condemned in those verses). Why the double standard?

    It is beyond belief that anyone could say they love God, yet get this subject wrong, when it almost could not be plainer. To affirm any deviation from heterosexuality in sexual conduct would be to call Jesus a liar and God incompetent. (and insult your parents!) Verses like the ones in Leviticus or Romans remove all doubt, but in one sense aren’t required to draw a correct conclusion about sexuality. You can do that purely based on the words of Jesus alone.

    But apparently in Bell’s mind when there is a conflict between the sexual feelings of someone he knows and the commands of God backed up by 100% physical evidence, the latter loses. Pathetic and sad. Bell claims to be for ‘love’, but he certainly isn’t loving God first!

    And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mk 12:28-31)

    Note the order, because Rob Bell seems to have the numbering 1 and 2 the wrong way round.

    Mark Rabich

  • I am always a bit suspicious when a church or Christian organisation or movement has a fancy name, or a name that implies thast they are right and others are wrong. They may say they are new, emergent, messy, Spirit-filled, foursquare, octagonal, or that they are the last word in counselling, understanding prophecy, prosperity for all, and so on. Sometimes they turn out to be biblical and sane, but often they do not. Such titles as “the churches in Galatia” were good enough for Paul.

    I know it’s not that simple today, but I think we must beware of fancy names.

    David Morrison

  • I used to go to a emergent type of church in the suburbs, people lovely etc. Bell’s DVDs’ were shown at the 10am Service often. I really have to confess – I had no idea what he was talking about. Gimmicks and false theology only last a season.
    I know that people are after spiritual food where the Gospel is preached and why those churches that do are growing. No gimmicks just the never changing Gospel to the ever changing world. Examples include a lot of young Catholics attending Latin Mass and a number of Evangelical Anglican churches.
    Wayne Pelling

  • Yes it is a good one Nina

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Very helpful point Wayne Pelling – preach the gospel and someone will turn up to listen. The truth doesn’t change. St Paul said he preached Christ crucified. The great temptation seems to be for the priest to preach himself; in which case he could be acting for and on behalf of the evil one. The devil does not want to hear a sermon on Christ crucified and I must say that I haven’t heard one on that topic for many years either so he is pretty much getting his way; at least in my [catholic] church.
    B T Walters

  • BT Waters

    That is a pity. You might have one of the older priests – who studied during the flower power era. I have heard others say that the Seminary down here in Melbourne is turning out priests-who do preach the Gospel.

    Wayne Pelling

  • Bill,

    Emergent is liberalism that has been injected with 21st century botox in order to make it look fresh and new.

    Church is redefined to mean – A community of Christians and non-Christians who live together without distinction, without leadership or discipline or doctrine, trying to emulate the character of Jesus without stressing the gospel requirements of repentance of sin and faith in Jesus that enable the life of Jesus to be lived by the power of the Holy Spirit.

    The gospel is denied and is redefined to mean “A God without wrath bringing men without sin into a kingdom without judgement through the ministrations of Christ without a cross.”

    Joshua Bovis

  • I recently read a quote from John Bunyan’s treatise, entitled, ‘Sighs of Hell’ that I believe we can apply to the emergent church….”How many souls have blind priests been the means of destroying by their ignorance? Preaching that was no better for their souls than rats-bane to the body. Many of them, it is to be feared, have whole towns to answer for. Ah! friend, I tell thee, thou that hast taken in hand thou canst not tell what. Will it not grieve thee to see thy whole parish come bellowing after thee into hell? crying out, ‘This we have to thank thee for, thou wast afraid to tell us of our sins, lest we should not put meat fast enough into thy mouth. O cursed wretch, who was not content, blind guide as thou wast, to fall into the ditch thyself, but hast also led us thither with thee.'”

    Bobby Oliver

  • This is the best piece I have read concerning liberalism coming into Christianity. I have had trouble putting it into words before, but this summarized what is wrong in Christian circles perfectly. Liberal Christianity is not Christianity at all, for it seeks to “modernize” and “change with the times” those essential Christian teachings that line up with the Bible. Bill said it very well and I have heard numerous others and apologists say the same thing: when you change your position on one essential doctrine of Christianity, you eventually think you can change anything about it that you want, which, sadly, is where we are today. Very few denominations hold to the Bible as the inspired, inerrant Word of God anymore, and it shows in their theology and their lifestyle practices.

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