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The Emerging Church, Part 2: The Bible, One Voice Among Many

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  Brian McLaren, the articulate, generally soft-spoken, most widely recognized leader in the Emerging Church states in his book The Church on the Other Side:

“...if we have a new world, we will need a new church. We won’t need a new religion per se, but a new framework for our theology. Not a new Spirit, but a new spirituality. Not a new Christ, but a new Christian.” 1

  Throughout history, when Christians developed a framework for their theology, they started with the Bible. In pre-modern times, and often in modern times, the Bible was viewed as revelation, and theology was based solely on God’s revelation to man as found in the Bible. Because of the influence of modernism, theology has at times been “warped” due to man’s use of rationalism (the principle or habit of accepting reason as the supreme authority in matters of opinion, belief, or conduct2) to determine truth. The text of the Bible became subservient to man rather than the other way around.

  With the advent of postmodernism, questions are being asked in the Emerging Church regarding the relationship between the Bible and truth. To understand the Emerging Church’s view(s) of Scripture and its relationship to truth, you must understand their concept of the interplay between community, story, and inspiration.

The Importance of Community in the Emerging Church

  There are two sides to the Emerging Church’s idea of community, one a goal-oriented side, and one a conceptual side.

  Brian McLaren offers us this somewhat utopian ideal of the goal-oriented side of an Emerging community:

But Jesus presents us with a dream (embodied in the group image “kingdom of God”) that is irreducibly communal, familial, and social. It is not just a dream of more and better individual Christians standing like isolated statues in a museum. It is a dream of a community vibrant with life, pulsating with forgiveness, loud with celebration, fruitful in mission.3

Brian’s view of the goal-oriented side of the Emerging community is shared by most in the Emerging Church. There is a large emphasis on community being something more, or other than, a group of believers that shows up for church each Sunday. They promote community, genuineness, and mission, in the sense that they spend less time on church meetings and potlucks and more time living out their faith in the world. Some have taken their message, and their churches, to the streets of the inner city. This is certainly a worthy goal.4

Our beliefs are intended to foster a way of life that in turn sends us into the world to serve God and our neighbors, so that God’s will may be done on earth as it is in heaven, and so that God’s kingdom may come.5

  The conceptual side of the Emerging Church community emphasizes a communal derivation of truth. As I discussed briefly in Part 1, postmodernists believe that truth is socially constructed. True meaning can only be derived within the context of a group. To quote Gibbs and Bolger from their book Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures,6 the book Brian McLaren calls “ far the best introduction to the whole phenomenon”7:

One cannot understand the truths of Christianity as an outside observer. One needs first to experience the embodied truth of the community.8

Dr. Bob Wright, quoting from Hauerwas and Willimon, states that Emerging Church advocates:

...believe it is a “mistake to think we can give...arguments to people who are ‘inside’ their own language...We encourage them to ‘come and see’ the truth of our story by ‘trying on’ the Christian way of life–by learning how we, members of the Christian community live, talk, and behave. That is, by becoming an insider in our community, they can learn to see the truth of our faith, even though they never could know its veracity from the outside.”9

Gibbs and Bolger comment:

It is not that postmodern people do not want truth per se, but whose truth? Often the one proposing, or more often imposing, “truth” is a person in power. Why trust that person? Instead, a better way to truth, in their view, is to hear the many stories and to discern accordingly, within the context of community.10

Notice in these quotes that the conceptual aspect of the Emerging community has taken on the identity of the postmodern worldview.

  Complementing the idea of a community-derived truth is the neo-orthodox idea that the Holy Spirit can work without means. This type of thought, propounded by such postmodern Emergent theologians as Stanley Grenz and John Franke, is an unscriptural concept. Separating the Holy Spirit from the Scriptures allows for a culturally established theology, and ultimately, multiple sets of “truth.” To quote John Franke:

A nonfoundationalist approach to theology seeks to respond positively and appropriately to the situatedness of all human thought and therefore to embrace a principled theological pluralism. It also attempts to affirm that the ultimate authority in the church is not a particular source, be it Scripture, tradition, or culture but only the living God. Therefore, if we must speak of “foundations” for the Christian faith and its theological enterprise, then we must speak only of the triune God who is disclosed in polyphonic fashion through Scripture, the church, and even the world, albeit always in accordance with the normative witness to divine self-disclosure contained in Scripture.11, 12

You can’t have it both ways. Either define God based on the world or define God based on Scripture. There is no such thing as Mr. Franke’s “principled theological pluralism.” There is such a thing as a god disclosed only through the world: its called idolatry. Franke also speaks of “the voice of the Spirit speaking through culture,” “further light,” “the speaking of the Spirit is not bound up solely with the supposed ‘original intention’ of the author,” and “an open and flexible theology that is in keeping with the local and contextual character of human knowledge while remaining thoroughly and distinctly Christian.” In other words, according to this neo-orthodox view, the Holy Spirit uses not only Scripture, but also the Church and even culture to express different messages to various cultural sub-groups. According to Franke, “such a theology is the product of the reflection of the Christian community in its local expressions.”

  This neo-orthodox view is also reflected in the words of Emerging Church leader Tony Jones:

the beauty of the Spirit controlling the text is that it can, indeed, have different meanings in different times... and that the Spirit can use our own experiences and viewpoints to enlighten us to the meaning of the Word.13

Brian McLaren has similar thoughts:

In each case, from the many layers and facets of the Christ-centered gospel, new resources are drawn, and so the message itself changes because the message changes its context, which is to say that the message itself changes by addressing new situations and problems, opportunities in new ways...14

According to these Emerging Church leaders, the “message” of Jesus Christ can change if the truth of Jesus Christ is received in “polyphonic fashion” from multiple sources. I agree with Franke, we must “speak of ‘foundations’” for the Christian enterprise, but there is only one foundation:

built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,
Ephesians 2:20

  The Holy Spirit speaks through no other voice than that of Scripture. As long as, and to the extent that, the Emerging Church relies on a foundation other than the sole foundation of Scripture, theirs will be an unstable house. Truth for them has become “the reflection of the Christian community in its local expressions,” and can only be affirmed within the context of the group, and that truth is often found through “story.”15

The Importance of Story in the Emerging Church

  To help understand the importance of story, or narrative, in the Emerging Church, I’ll quote Emerging Church enthusiast Ben Sternke:

Christianity is first and foremost a story. It is a history. It is not a set of "timeless truths" or abstract doctrines that we tap into from week to week.16 It isn't a static system of truth, it's a dynamic story, an unfinished narrative that we live within, and a narrative that we have a part in working out, we help to move the story toward its conclusion.

When Christianity is conceived as merely "timeless truths", the goal becomes "getting to heaven when I die", and then we're left with not much to do until death.... But Christianity isn't primarily about going to Heaven, it's about seeing Heaven come to Earth. Unless Christianity is understood as an unfinished drama, there will be no inherent impetus for mission. But when Christianity is seen as a story, mission makes perfect sense; working out our salvation, learning to love more completely, stewarding the environment, and ridding ourselves of sin are natural out-workings of narrative theology. If we understand Christianity as a story, and read the Bible like the story it is, we realize that the story is going somewhere. And we are part of that story, we have a part to play in moving the story towards its conclusion. 17

More will be said about the missional aspects of the Emerging Church in Part 6, but for now, Emerging Church leader John O’Keefe will give his “take” on narrative:

The narrative helps define who we are and what we do - it is a core part of our DNA. No matter the story, no matter the ending, truth is in the narrative. All story is valid, all story, both individual and group, can add to the collective of the community. When we see life as simply a collection of story, we start to understand both our humanity and God’s divinity. The narrative allows for creative, adaptable, nonlinear thinking with group input and an interactivity based on transparency and a living worldview.18, 19

Culture is narrative: All culture is narrative in nature, all culture. All culture express’ [sic] itself with words, symbols, and images. When Jesus spoke in parables he did so to express a cultural understanding of the story. He expressed his culture, via the narrative. When we understand that narrative is essential, and creative narratives motivates we can move along in the process.20

So truth for many in the Emerging conversation is found through community within the context of a culturally embedded story. That story is found in the stories of the Bible, interpreted by the reader’s own cultural settings, and the stories of the reader’s own lives. The concept of propositional truth is generally scorned.21, 22 “The Bible is not a database of pithy proof texts.”23 “As we had said before, we cannot simply ‘go to the book’. Truth cannot properly reside as a mere proposition on a page. Truth lives in persons and relationship.”24

  That last quote, “we cannot simply ‘go to the book,” causes many Christians to raise a questioning eyebrow. If community and story determine truth, where does the Bible fit in? It is that question that will be explored next.

The Emerging Church’s View of the Bible as it Relates to God’s Word

  In Brian McLaren’s book The Last Word and the Word After That, through his character Dan Poole, he states “I believe that the Word of God is inerrant....”25 That sounds great - totally in keeping with what Scripture teaches. He then goes on to say in the continuation of the sentence, “...but I do not believe that the Bible is absolutely equivalent to the phrase ‘the Word of God’ as used in the bible.” (my emphasis) Continuing two sentences later he says:

“I would prefer to use the term inherency to describe my view of Scripture: God’s inerrant Word is inherent in the Bible, which makes it an irreplaceable, essential treasure for the church, deserving our wholehearted study and respect...”

I respect my boss. I respect the president. The Bible I revere. It doesn’t contain the Word of God, it is the Word of God. If the Word of God is only inherent in the Bible, where is the list which shows us which part of it is actually the Word of God, and which part I can ignore or throw out? Since God didn’t provide such a list (because all of the Bible is the inerrant Word of God), that means the person making the statement must provide the list, placing herself or himself on God’s throne. That person has usurped God’s authority, making himself God, similar to the crowning of the Goddess of Reason in the Cathedral of Notre Dame which was discussed in Part 1. This type of reasoning leads to comments such as this one by Emerging author Neil Livingstone: “The book is not enough. Authority comes when people who have wisdom and love hold forth the words of the book to the world.”26

  In contrast, an orthodox outlook on Scripture is reflected by these two authors:

Biblical inerrancy and dogmatic authority are the same issue. Does God speak? Can His truth be known? Can His truth be stated in words which are understandable and binding upon the conscience? If not, there can be no gospel at all, for the gospel must be a promise with the authority of God Himself, or it loses its character completely.27

Every theologian should be able to see that we are here confronted with an aut-aut. Either we accept Scripture as God’s own Word and, emphasizing it as the sole source and norm of theology, teach doctrinam divinam, or we deny that Scripture is God’s infallible Word, distinguish in it between truth and error, and teach, in God’s Church, the “visions of our own heart,” the doctrina humana of our Ego. The divine authority which we take away from Scripture we necessarily assign to our own human mind. We are adrift on the sea of subjectivism. Human opinion occupies the rostrum in the Church. Theology is no longer theocentric [focused on God], but has become anthropocentric [focused on man].28

  Rejection of God’s Word as God’s Word is certainly not limited to the Emerging Church, being found in many parts of the mainline church as well, but it is rampant in the “squeaking wheel” portion of the Emerging Church.

  To further fog the Scriptural battlefield, some in the Emerging Church claim that the Bible was written by men only, not by God. Rob Bell, an Emerging Church leader, opines in his book Velvet Elvis: “Now I think the Bible is the most amazing, beautiful, deep, inspired, engaging collection of writings ever.” Often, when theologians have referred to the Bible as “inspired,” they meant that while the apostles and prophets wrote the words down, in their own unique styles, they were guided by the Holy Spirit, so that every word they wrote was exactly as God wanted it. They were writing the words of Godverbal inspiration.29 Rob Bell’s definition of “inspiration,” however, seems to have undergone a “radical” redefinition,30 as illustrated in this interview of Bell and his wife:

...they found themselves increasingly uncomfortable with church. “Life in the church had become so small,” Kristen says. “It had worked for me for a long time. Then it stopped working.”31 The Bells started questioning their assumptions about the Bible itself– “discovering the Bible as a human product,” as Rob puts it, rather than the product of divine fiat. “The Bible is still in the center for us,” Rob says, “but it’s a different kind of center. We want to embrace mystery, rather than conquer it.”

“I grew up thinking that we’ve figured out the Bible,” Kristen says, “that we knew what it means. Now I have no idea what most of it means. And yet I feel like life is big again–like life used to be black and white, and now it’s in color.”32

  No wonder it’s in color! Their “discovery” has liberated them from the authority of the Bible! Now they can rewrite Scripture and doctrine into whatever color they want – whatever works. The old Adam does cartwheels and handsprings when he hears this kind of pastoral philandering. Human sinful nature, the old Adam, needs to be drowned daily, not to be spoon fed false doctrine.

  Rob’s Scriptural infidelity leads him to make statements such as these:

And the more people insist that they are just taking the Bible for what it says, the more skeptical I get.

Which for me raises one huge question: Is the Bible the best God can do?33

This [the early church’s determination of the 66 books as the canon of Scripture] is part of the problem with continually insisting that one of the absolutes of the Christian faith must be a belief that “Scripture alone” is our guide. It sounds nice, but it is not true.34

  Others in the Emerging conversation also share Rob Bell’s human authorship perspective. Brian McLaren, while claiming the Bible is inspired by God, at the same time says that “...Scripture is something God has ‘let be,’ and so it is at once God’s creation and the creation of the dozens of people and communities and cultures who produced it.”35

Emergent author Neil Livingstone has this to say:

This, then, is how he [God] has produced the Bible. He works in people’s lives, and then sets them to talking and writing about it. When the people write down their passions, visions, call to holy life, and their interpretations of how God is working in history, and when the believing community around them says “Yes. This is what God is saying to us”, then God is pleased. He is succeeding...

If God had simply dropped a book from heaven into our laps, or used his human creatures as dictation devices, can you see how that would have undermined his whole purpose in speaking to us? But what we see in the Bible is itself an example of the outworking of God’s purposes. It’s done by people in true partnership with the illuminating Spirit of God...

The God of the Bible is so excited about creating a common life with his human creatures that he went much farther than writing a book with them....

So, the God of the Bible is the kind of God who would hand us a book that is written by humans.36

According to Mr. Livingstone’s view, the Bible is written by men, but they had a “partner” – a little like a “ghost writer.” But it wasn’t a collaborative effort. Mr. Livingstone claims that God produced the Bible through men’s “interpretations of how God is working in history,” a neo-orthodox view. This statement directly contradicts what the Bible says of itself:

knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation.
2 Peter 1:20

Notice also that he says “It’s done by people in true partnership with the illuminating Spirit of God.” There is a big difference between “illumination” and “inspiration.” All Christians receive “illumination” through Christ, who illumines their spiritual darkness.

for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light
Ephesians 5:8

to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.'
Acts 26:18

The prophets and the apostles, or more properly the very words they wrote, on the other hand, were inspired by the Holy Spirit.37, 38

""And as for me, this is my covenant with them," says the LORD: "My Spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your offspring, or out of the mouth of your children's offspring," says the LORD, "from this time forth and forevermore."
Isaiah 59:21


And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.
1 Corinthians 2:13


And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.
1 Thessalonians 2:13


All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
2 Timothy 3:16


For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
2 Peter 1:21

  I get the distinct feeling that Mr. Livingstone is doing a little postmodern doctrinal remodeling. He has obscured the line of distinction between the prophets and apostles and the rest of us. By his way of thinking, the Scriptures are the equivalent of a Christian’s journal entries describing their spiritual experiences for the month. The Scriptures become an uninspired book.

  To put the ideas of those who share this view of “inspiration” into perspective, I could just as well claim that this article is “inspired” in the same manner and to the same extent as Scripture. Any Christian who writes on Christian topics could make the same claim – which is the way Scripture is viewed in some parts of the Emerging Church.

The Bible - Subject to “Interpretation”

  When God’s Word is viewed as man’s word, the Bible is reduced to one voice among many. Since the Bible is no longer considered by many Emergents to be inspired in the historical orthodox sense, it is viewed more as one of the co-captains of the team. This Emerging viewpoint is reflected by the following quotes from participants in the Emerging conversation:

The biblical story of God is told and contributed to39

...I stand as part of a triangle of interactions. There is my self, my community, and the Bible. All the elements interact with one another in ways that strengthen the fabric of the whole.40

The Bible is an “authoritative community member.”41

All of this undermining of Scripture leads to the inevitable claim that the Bible is difficult to understand and has to be “interpreted”:

...we are handling a New Testament whose letters are out of chronological order and whose books are divided up into chapters and verses. This makes understanding the social-historical context and setting of the New Testament writings virtually impossible to grasp. And it opens the door to such spiritual hazards as isolated proof-texting to “prove” doctrines and theological systems.42

He [Jesus] is giving his followers the authority to make new interpretations of the Bible.43

...the Bible is open-ended.

It has to be interpreted. And if it isn’t interpreted, then it can’t be put into action. So if we are serious about following God, then we have to interpret the Bible. It is not possible to simply do what the Bible says. We must first make decisions about what it means at this time, in this place, for these people.44

Emerging Church leader Spencer Burke completely subverts Scripture:

So how do I interpret this particular Scripture? ...I don’t believe it can be used to argue that Christianity is the only true religion. First, Christianity as a religion didn't exist when Jesus spoke these words [John 14:6]. Compounding this point are two additional facts: no one actually recorded Jesus' words at the time he spoke them, so we have no proof that they are indeed his words, and what he did say, he said in Aramaic, which means that nothing in the Bible as translated into any other language can be taken literally anyway.45

  The Bible is clear in and of itself - it doesn’t need “interpretation.” No doctrine is in dispute because of a lack of biblical clarity. Conscientious Christians, when stumbling upon a difficult passage, rather than offering up their own “interpretation,” use the prudent method of referring to another passage related to the topic that is easily understood to illuminate the initial passage - Scripture interprets Scripture.

  The Word of God is not a dark, impenetrable book, but a lamp to my feet and a light for my path (Psalm 119:105). The words of Scripture are not inscrutable, rather they give understanding to the simple (Psalm 119:130). Paul tells Timothy that all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). The Hebrews were admonished for not knowing and understanding the Scriptures (Hebrews 5:11-14). We are able to understand the Scriptures from childhood (2 Timothy 3:15).

  Praise God that He has given us a wonderfully clear book that provides us with all that we need to attain forgiveness, life, and salvation, and join the Psalmist in singing:

How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Psalm 119:103

  With the abandonment of Scripture as the inspired and inerrant Word of God, community, story, and biblical “interpretation” have supplanted the clear Word of Scripture. Where the Bible was once the sole source and norm of theology, for some it is now no more than “...the non-fictional story of God’s involvement with people...” and “...the lenses through which we look to better understand our world and our lives.”46 The Emerging Church is turning to other avenues to discover God, including experience. It is this topic that will be considered next in The Emerging Church, Part 3: The Experiential Road.


Written by Scott Diekmann

Continue to Part 3

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To jump from the endnote number in the text to the actual endnote and vice versa, click on the respective endnote number.
All quotes containing italics are those of the quoted author unless otherwise noted.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.


1.     Brian D. McLaren, The Church on the Other Side (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998, 2000) 14. Thanks to Mike Oppenheimer at Let Us Reason Ministries for pointing out this quote.

2.     “rationalism,” Unabridged (v 1.1), Random House, Inc., 08 Feb 2007, <>.

3.     McLaren, Other Side, 35.

4.     This topic will be discussed further in “The Emerging Church, Part 6: A Social Gospel?

5.     Formerly on the Emergent Village website,

6.     I had hoped that this book would present the Emerging Church in a balanced, scholarly fashion. My hopes were rapidly dashed. While it is comprehensive, it is nothing more than an “infomercial” for the Emerging Church.

7.     Brian McLaren, interview with R. Alan Streett, “An Interview with Brian McLaren,” Criswell Theological Review, 3.2, Spring 2006, 7, 10 Mar 2007

8.    Eddie Gibbs and Ryan K. Bolger, Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005) 125.

9.     Bob Wright, “The Emerging (Emergent) Church”, 15; quoting Stanley Hauerwas and William H. Willimon, Resident Aliens (Nashville: Abingdon, 1989) 46-47. Available for download at: <>.

10.   Gibbs and Bolger, 68.

11.   John R. Franke, “Reforming Theology: Toward a Postmodern Reformed Dogmatics,” 15, 01 Mar 2007

12.   Only Scripture has the authority to establish doctrine, not the Church, and certainly not “the world.” The Church can speak no word, article of faith, or doctrine on its own, but only faithfully speak Christ’s Word as found in Holy Scripture.

13.   This quote was taken from page 26 in chapter 3, “Brian McLaren, Tony Jones, and The Emerging Church,” of R. Scott Smith’s book Truth and the New Kind of Christian: The Emerging Effects of Postmodernism in the Church (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2005) in its pre-publication form, available here:
<>, 01 Mar 2007.

14.   Leonard Sweet, Andy Crouch, Brian D. McLaren, Erwin Raphael McManus, and Michael Horton, The Church in Emerging Culture: Five Perspectives, ed. Frederica Matthewes-Green (El Cajon: EmergentYS Books/Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 209-210.

15.   There is more than meets the eye in the community/group consensus aspect of the Emerging Church. The transformation they speak of is not always a transformation of rebirth through the Word; it is sometimes a transformation due to the Hegelian dialectic process, and other forms of behavior modification. If you’re interested, here are several articles that deal with this topic:
a) Orrel Steincamp, “Cross Over To The Otherside,” The Plumbline, 9.2, March/April, 22 Mar 2007 < >.
b) Berit Kjos, “Re-Inventing the Church - Part 1,” Kjos Ministries, 22 Mar 2007 < >.
c) Berit Kjos, “Re-Inventing the Church - Part 2, Kjos Ministries, 22 Mar 2007 <>.

16.   I agree with Ben that Christianity is not a set of “abstract doctrines.” Christianity is doctrinal, but not primarily abstract doctrines. [The following is adapted from Dr. Francis Pieper’s discussion on doctrine as it relates to modernism. Notice how modernism and the Emerging Church share the same characteristic in this case - dismissing doctrine. Text enclosed in quotation marks are direct quotes from Dr. Pieper.] “The Word spoken in the very beginning about the Seed of the woman, who would crush the head of the Serpent (Gen. 3:15), what is it but doctrine?” The entire Old Testament was written, as the Apostle Paul assures us, for our learning in Romans 15:4. The Greek word he uses for “learning,” is didaskalia, which means doctrine, learning, or teaching. Jesus engaged in teaching. He teaches from the ship (Luke 5:3), on the mount (Matt. 5:2), in the synagogs (Luke 4:15), and as He went about the land (Matthew 4:23). The great commission is about teaching (Matthew 28:20). “Paul declared, taught, publicly and from house to house, all the counsel of God (Acts 20:20, 27). Teaching the saving doctrine was his chief business, and he tells his successors in the ministry that it must be their chief business....the Apostle John deems the adherence to the doctrine of Christ of such great importance that he instructs the churches to deny Christian fellowship to all who do not bring the doctrine of Christ (2 John 9-11). When in spite of all this modern theologians insist that Holy Scripture must not be regarded as “doctrine” nor received as a ‘manual’ of the Christian religion, it is evident that their conception of the Christian religion is diametrically opposed to that of Christ and His Apostles and Prophets.”
Francis Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, Vol. 1 (St. Louis: Concordia, 1950) 70-71.

17.   Benjamin Sternke, “Narrative theology and the missional church,” ben’s blog, 01 Mar2007< narrative_theol.html>.

18.   John O’Keefe, “Church 3.0, The Upgrade,” next-wave magazine, Nov 2001, 01 Mar 2007 <>.

19.   I enjoy reading what John O’Keefe has to say. I don’t always agree with him, but I give him credit for saying what he thinks. He is indeed “genuine” and “authentic.” Some of the Emerging Church leaders are not genuine and authentic, in part because they are unwilling to take a stand on doctrinal issues. They dodge answering question that might “offend.”

20.   John O’Keefe, “church xp, the up-grade - part two, creativity;” formerly available at <>.

21.   There are many types of literature in the Bible. To say that one type is of more importance than another would seem to violate the meaning of 2 Timothy 3:16, which states that all Scripture is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. Emerging Church authors often criticize the mainline church for a modernistic approach to theology based solely on propositions and abstract doctrines. Lutheran pastor Harold Senkbeil refutes that accusation by espousing narrative: “It’s no wonder Jesus was always teaching in parables. Ordinary language just wouldn’t do justice to the things He had to say. And so He spoke in story and analogy to describe realities far deeper than human eyes could see. They were the hidden realities of the kingdom of God.”
Harold L. Senkbeil, Dying to Live: The Power of Forgiveness (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1994) 92.

22.   John C. Poirier points out the “down side” of narrative theology. I quote him in part because I think he makes a valid point, and also for “entertainment value.” Better get out your dictionary: “On a strictly literary level, of course, narratives are not incompatible with propositionalism, as they are normally read as sets of propositions set in historical sequence. But when scholars and theologians point to the presence of a (literary) narrative as a warrant for a narratological understanding of truth (that is, an alethiology in which the truth is unsettled until an act of interpretation), they not only are committing a blatant non sequitur, but they are pulling up the propositionalist underpinning of the apostolic kerygma [the Gospel]. The problem is that serious-minded people (like Richard Hays) make this move all the time. They don’t explain how such a move can be made rationally. They just do it.”
John C. Poirier , “An Emergent Village Affirmation of Faith?” Online posting, comments #12, 06 Jul 2006, Jesus Creed, 01 Mar 2007 <>.

23.   Neil Livingstone, “How can you trust the Bible?”, 9, 01 Mar 2007

24.   Livingstone, 10.

25.   Brian D. McLaren, The Last Word and the Word After That: A Tale of Faith, Doubt, and a New Kind of Christianity (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2005) 111.

26.   Livingstone, 10.

27.   Rolf Preus, “Luther Revisited: The Doctrine of Justification Is Still the Issue,” Christ For Us, 01 Mar 2007 <>.

28.   Pieper, Vol. 1, 62.

29.   “Divine inspiration was that agency by which God supernaturally communicated to the intellect of those who wrote not only the correct conception of all that was to be written, but also the conception of the words themselves and of everything by which they were to be expressed and by which He also instigated their will to the act of writing.”
John Theodore Mueller, Christian Dogmatics, quoting Baier (St. Louis: Concordia, 1934) 102.

30.   The word “radical” is frequently encountered in Emerging Church literature, sometimes as a kind of anti-modern enticement. Here are three examples:
1) “ understand the gospel in terms of Jesus’ radical, profound, and expansive message of the kingdom of God.” Formerly available at
2) “...‘kingdom of God’: a life that is radically different from the way people are living these days, a life that is full and overflowing, a higher life that is centered in an interactive relationship with God and with Jesus. Let’s render it simply “an extraordinary life to the full centered in a relationship with God.”
Brian D. McLaren, The Secret Message of Jesus: Uncovering the Truth That Could Change Everything (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2006) 37.
3) “This entails a radical doctrine of embodiment of God in the very substance of creation.”
Leonard Sweet, Quantum Spirituality: A Postmodern Apologetic (Dayton, OH: United Theological Seminary, 1991) 125. Available for free download at: <>.

31.   Pastor Gary Gilley quotes Michael Kruger: “What are the postmodernists’ criteria for ‘truth’? Simply what works. ...they define their ‘truth’ by more pragmatic concerns: What makes me feel good? What solves my problems? What is attractive to me?”
Gary Gilley, “Postmodernism - Part 2," Southern View Chapel, Think on TheseThings articles, 8.8, Nov 2002, 01 Mar 2007 < >.

32.   Andy Crouch, “The Emergent Mystique,” Christianity Today, 48.11, Nov 2004, 36. Can be viewed at <>, 01 Mar 2007. Thanks to Tim Challies at for pointing out this quote.

33.   Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005) 44.

34.   Bell, 67.

35.   Brian D. McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I am a missional+evangelical+post/protestant+liberal/conservative+mystical/poetic+ biblical+charismatic/contemplative+fundamentalist/calvinist+anabaptist/anglican+ methodist+catholic+green+incarnational+depressed-yet hopeful+emergent+unfinished CHRISTIAN (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004) 180.

36.   Livingstone, 3.

37.   John Theodore Mueller quotes R. W. Hiley: “This miraculous operation of the Holy Ghost [divine inspiration] had not the writers themselves for its object,–these were only His instruments and were soon to pass away;–its objects were the holy books themselves.” Mueller, 102.

38.   Not a few of those in the Emerging Church claim that the Bible is “inspired,” but use the term in the neo-orthodox sense. To quote Theopedia: “The Bible is said to contain within it an inspired witness, but it is a mistake to identify Scripture as the Word of God; Jesus, the person, is the Word of God. The Bible can become the Word of God only when God so chooses to use it as the Word of God in someones [sic] life. Therefore, the actual text and words of Scripture are not the Word of God. Instead, it is an instrument to communicate the true Word of God - Jesus - to those whom God chooses to reveal it to....While Neo-Orthodoxy claims to hold many of the orthodox doctrines of the faith, it radically departs in the most critical area - the authority and inspiration of the Scriptures. Without the Scriptures as literal truth there is nothing to guide them but one’s own experience and philosophy. Hence, it is difficult to find any doctrinal consistency among Neo-Orthodox theologians, even with regard to critical things such as the nature of the atonement.”
“Neo-Orthodoxy,” Theopedia, 01 Mar 2007 <>.

39.   “Our Dreams” page, Solomon’s Porch, 28 Feb 2007

40.   Livingstone, 5.

41.   Doug Pagitt, “The Emergent Church and Postmodern Spirituality Debate,” CD-ROM, Session Three, Minneapolis, Twin City Fellowship, Jan 2006

42.   Frank Viola, “Will the Emerging Church Fully Emerge?”, 01 Mar 2007 <>.

43.   Bell, 50.

44.   Bell, 46.

45.   Spencer Burke and Barry Taylor, A Heretics Guide to Eternity, (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2006) 107. Thanks to Rick Steroni at for pointing out this quote.

46.   “Worship Elements” page, Solomon’s Porch, 01 Mar 2007
< worship_elements.html>.

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