Questions-Answers Emergent Church

Q: How do we counsel the young people who are really into technology – what should we tell them?

My own personal conviction is that there is nothing that is neutral.  Every premise, every assumption has consequences.  So you ask me, is science neutral?  Technology – is it neutral?  I would say that nothing is neutral.

Q: How do we talk to practical atheists?

The scientists would not agree with you.  When they make observations, they won’t pray to God.  They work as if God is not there – practical atheism. The existentialists say they don’t want God to be their judge.  No judge, no accountability.  [Some young Christians say] there is a judge, but He’s not there in everyday life – when they face problems.  What’s your comment?

If I asked these people, “What’s the meaning of life?  Why are you here? What is the ultimate objective of your scientific investigation?  What is the basis by which you conclude your life is a success or a failure?”  If they were honest they’d say, “I have no answer for any of these questions.”

It would be at the very margin of their thoughts.  They don’t have these kinds of questions.  People today are creating a virtual world. They can move the globe.  They plot GDP statistics, health statistics, etc.  This is their reality.

That’s the point: reality is defined by experience, and it’s defined by me.  It still leaves the question: who decides what is good and what is bad?  In the final analysis, you ignore the purpose, but purpose has got to be at the heart of your work.  So why are you doing it?  To eliminate poverty?  Make the Internet available to every one?  Create a utopia?  If so, who gets to define what utopia looks like?

Q: How is data related to Gnosticism?

Do you think that these people today think they have a superior view on the world?  They may think they have the right way of understanding the world, because of their way of gathering data, but it wasn’t data-driven in John’s day, was it?

In Gnosticism, data is always the result of investigative experience.  We know that in science, investigation and experimentation result in betterment, but when you do this in the moral realm, you produce moral ruin.  These people will never accept this idea.

Q: How do we minister to people in this day of the Emerging Church?

So are you saying that this emergent church phenomenon is so widespread, that our ministry is not to seek out these people but rather seek out other people?

No.  Seek out overcomers from this philosophy.  I have no idea to what extent this view is present in churches in Asia, Hong Kong, Beijing, etc.  I’m simply saying that the battle has already been lost here in the US.  I’d never encourage any of you here to engage in the battle [i.e., try to change the institutions.]

So if our spiritual life is always in the process of growing, I can’t expect people have a purely biblical view?

Right.  I can’t even have one myself, even though I’ve spent all of my adult life trying to do so.  You can’t smell good when you live in a cesspool.

Q: Who are the people most likely to embrace the Emerging Church?

There are two groups of people most susceptible:

  1. Amillennialists – they believe that the objective of the Church is to change society.  However, this time, instead of trying to legislate morality by trying to help get laws passed, they’re going to get involved in the system to correct the needs – like global warming, etc.  They will be involved in a political agenda, but it will not be a political agenda born out of a legalistic reading of this book, but it will be born out of how we define right and wrong today.
  2. Charismatics – they say that reality is through experience.

Q: So how do they define truth or right and wrong?

Both would say that truth is not defined by dogmatism.  It’s defined by experience.  For example, if we visited a slum in Calcutta, we’d agree it’s wrong and we should do something about it.  That becomes our basis for relating with each other – a definition of right and wrong by which God leads the community.

Another example is the golden rule [Mt. 7:12].  Everybody agrees with the golden rule.  The violating of the golden rule is how we define hypocrisy.  Most of the commandments in the Bible are not affirmed by reason or conscience.  Jesus said God is against divorce.  The religious leaders said, “Wait a minute!  Moses gave us bills of divorcement – from God!”  Jesus said it wasn’t that way from the beginning.  So divorce is not affirmed by reason.  Suppose a guy leaves his wife and 6 kids.  Most people would say this is bad.  However, if a younger couple is constantly arguing, many people would say it’s OK to divorce.  It seems reasonable.  I suggest that most of the commandments are like that.  Therefore the emergent church says if we are going to satisfy our conscience, why bother using the Bible?  They think it’s archaic (古式的).

Conscience or reason do not tell you that you can’t take a brother to litigation, nor do they tell you that your wife should not speak in church.

Q: So what Bible commands do they accept?

They accept some of the 10 commandments, but not most.  For example, “Honor your parents.”  They’d say you only have to honor your parents if they are honorable.  Covetousness appears reasonable, and as Paul said in Romans 7:7, it is not identified by the conscience.  So certain kinds of stealing may be wrong, but not all.  For example, they say, “If my family is starving, why call it wrong if I steal your bread?”

Q: How do we relate to these kinds of disobedient people?

2 Tim 3:5 says to turn away from these people.  Do we treat people in the emerging church this way?

Because it’s not a unified thing, that’s something we have to decide on our own.  But we are best served by at least understanding it.

Q: How are attendance numbers related?

The churches in which people go away feeling good about themselves usually grow in numbers, but the churches that preach the truth are the churches that at shrinking.  Institutional Christianity is no different from any other institution in life in that numbers are very important.

Q: Did the Emerging Church spread due to cultural adaptation or rather deception?

Is it the emerging church concept an active thing in which the Church said, ‘we want to adapt to the culture’, or was it a passive thing in which they were in the cesspool and they were deceived?

The former, very much the former.

Q:  How is entertainment related?

Our whole society seems to revolve more and more around entertainment.  I wonder if that’s crept in and caused us to focus on ourselves and not on others.  Is that mixed in?

Very much so – I think it’s a key component.  When I was a kid, if I wasn’t learning, it was my fault.  Today, if my grandkids are not learning, it’s the teacher’s fault. When I was a kid, there was a very sharp distinction between learning and entertainment.  Today, that distinction is blurred.  Entertainment has as its focus experience.

Q:  How is reason related?

One of the most insidious [harmful but enticing (陰險的)] parts of the Emerging Church is that it is reasonable.  It’s awfully appealing. It’s hard to argue against reason.

Yes, and I would say amen and amen to that, but at the same time, you have increasingly an illiterate body of Christ – Biblically illiterate, that is.

Q:  So what is the value of reason?

Reason’s first job spiritually is interpreting the Bible.  You can’t interpret the Bible without reason.  I’m not depreciating [devaluing] reason.

But that reasoning is not based on experiential knowledge.

It doesn’t eliminate that.  It’s not antithetical [opposite] to experience, it’s just got to fit a certain priority.  That is, the clear teaching of scripture trumps [i.e., is always higher priority than] my experience.  It’s the Supreme Court.

But experience does have its own role in our lives, such as giving us a feeling of assurance.

Yes.  Yes.  Good illustration.

Infiltration of the Emerging Church in Denominations

If we were to map the infiltration of the emerging church worldview, is it not only a collecting [or merging] of views, but also an infiltrating of denominations with their ideas?  Like Anglicans accepting homosexuality?

Yes.   A pastor in my denomination, Robert Schuller, in Orange County [by Los Angeles] – he was one of the leaders in the mega-church movement – it’s called the Crystal Cathedral [home of The Hour of Power (權能時間)] – they recently had a conference calledRethink.  The purpose of it was to re-orient ourselves to this kind of thinking.

Q: Do they say, “I’m a part of this church”?

It would not be church in the sense of an organization that you join.  It’s a worldview you embrace.  I pout the words emergent church in Google, and one of the sites that came up was the Emergent Village, which is their organ of communication.  So if you want to know what they are thinking you can go there.  At the bottom I found the sponsors include Intervarsity, Zondervan, World Vision just to name a few.

Q: Is it “emerging” not “emergent”?

I’m not an authority on this.  It’s just that it’s so obvious from 1 John and 2 John that this is the same fundamental problem.  There are important differences, but the same basic mindset. 

Q: Wouldn’t you say that their purpose and goal is actually noble?

They’re trying to reach the post-modern audience by making things more relevant.  You could even say there’s an evangelistic endeavor trying to do so, right?

Yes.  That’s what makes it insidious [harmful but enticing (陰險的)].  There’s a lot of truth in it.  If you wanted to counterfeit money, you wouldn’t make a $39 orange bill.

A lot of these people are very loving, very fellowship-oriented.

Yes.  Agreed … I wanted to give a backdrop to 1 John.  Gnosticism has been alive in well throughout church history, and it is certainly alive and well today.

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