of babies and bathwater (part one) :: the emerging church

December 19, 2010

Lately I’ve been pondering the nature of several “babies and bathwater” scenarios with regards to Christian faith and leadership.  I think this is a natural outgrowth of my commingled passions for sound doctrine and unity in the Church.  Walking this line requires nuance, careful thought, prayer, grace, and honesty.

Knee-jerk reactionism and mud-flinging are perhaps more gratifying to our carnal side.  But the “immediate gratification” option is rarely the BEST option.

In any case, today I want to begin a series of posts that deal with nuanced topics in the Church.  Maybe this will be my first and last post in the series.  🙂  Time will tell.

The Emerging Church

Sure.  Maybe this is cheating.  I’m literally posting an assignment from my Basic Principles of Theology class with Dr. Fran Monseth at the Association Free Lutheran Theological Seminary, where I am currently enrolled full time. 

The bottom line is that I want to provide thought-provoking, biblically sound, and helpful information to those who are interested.  I think many people who read my blog regularly have questions about the Emerging Church – both what it is, exactly, and why we should care.  Therefore, I’ve provided a link for you to be able to download my brief examination of the Emerging Church, it’s philosophy and theological trajectory, and a biblical response (PDF).  Because this is a complicated and nuanced issue, there is really no short form way to cover the topic as a blog post.  The context of my studies here are conservative and apologetically Lutheran, so you can use that filter to understand my vantage point as we talk about the influence of the “emerging” or “emergent” church conversation.

I don’t claim this to be anything spectacular.  It’s just a paper.  But it may be helpful.  So, for those who are curious, here you go…

Click here to download  >>  THE EMERGING CHURCH _ jskogerboe

Discussion is welcomed and encouraged in the comments below.  I hope this brings some clarity and prompts you to know what you believe, and why that matters.  Thanks for reading.

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Psalm 24:7 & Luke 10:42 >> Like David, and Mary, I'm in pursuit of my one thing. I'm the Pastor at St. Olaf Lutheran Church in Montgomery, IL. Pastor, teacher, writer, communicator, designer, and drummer. I definitely got the better deal in my marriage to Amy. And I couldn't be any more proud of my five amazing boys. Deeply grateful.

11 responses to of babies and bathwater (part one) :: the emerging church

  1. Spectacular Josh. This has long been one of my peeves as well. I’m certain I will be sharing this. Kudos.

    • Thanks Scott. I appreciate it. This was one of those assignments I was really eager to tackle – to get a better handle on what all this “emergent/emerging” stuff is all about. It certainly helped crystalize my thoughts about the significant danger of false teachers like Brian McLaren… and Robb Bell, un fortunately, has lost pretty much all credibility with me, as well. I’ve gotten to the point where I think he is more dangerous to the faith than helpful… but again… babies and bathwater. I’ve learned a lot from Rob Bell, too.

      In any case, thanks for reading. I appreciate your voice in the discussion. Please distribute liberally. 🙂 Merry Christmas to you and your family!

  2. Great paper, Josh! Really appreciated your thoughts on this. I have to admit that some of those emergent church “leaders” have spoken a few words of truth that have deeply resonated with me and encouraged me. In many ways I feel an affinity for what seems to be their heart of outreach and yet I can’t feel I can recommend them or their theology. It merits further study, which I can definitely say I haven’t put into this subject. Yet. 😛

    It’s a tough thing to categorize, study and examine because it is so very broad…

    • Rachel, thanks for reading. 🙂 I can really relate to you. Both Dan Kimball and Rob Bell, for example, have inspired me, as well. But here’s the deal…

      Good intentions do not – EVER – make up for wrong theology. In other words, encouraging social activism and environmental harmony and a “Jesus with skin on” love for people is GOOD… unless somehow you are simultaneously communicating that this is what salvation really means, and that by participating in God’s new plan for a redeemed planet we are securing our collective salvation. That road leads people to hell. Forever. So good intentions and bad theology is DANGEROUS.

      I have a dream of being a part of a thriving church community that “contends for the faith” and stands strong doctrinally… AND is compulsive about serving the needs of the poor, orphans, prisoners, and loving our community. It seems most churches are either one or the other (and neither is a popular option these days). Don’t you think BOTH/AND is possible??

      Hence the “babies and bathwater” series. I think mature believers can be discerning. Reading “The Emerging Church” by Kimball for me was like 90% YES! and 10% YIKES! The 10% REALLY matters, but I want to hold onto some of that 90% mindset – to the degree that it doesn’t conflict with Scripture. But the Word of God is the bottom line authority. It always must be. And a lot of these guys are fired up, inspired, passionate advocates for change… and that includes changing their interpretation of what God has said.

      Bottom line for me: read, think, pray, and USE CAUTION. Sometimes their logic is close enough to the truth to sound and feel really right. But a “little bit wrong” on the law and gospel truth is a path that will lead people AWAY from God eventually. USE CAUTION.

      Thanks Rach. Bless you and your glorious family.

  3. Amen, Josh!
    The following Scripture resonated within my own heart as I read your paper.

    2 Timothy 4:1-5 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; (2) Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. (3) For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; (4) And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (5) But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.

    Josh, although we are of different denominations I am so thankful for your ministry. I have personally come to believe that the saints of heaven are looking down on our lives. This conclusion is the only way I can reconcile the doctrine that every hidden thing in our lives will be open and known with the total forgiveness of the sins of the saints never to be brought up against them again. I believe this is the true meaning of Hebrews 12:1. I bring up this off subject point simply to say that if I am correct then I believe the Apostle Paul himself is up in heaven cheering you on. You are living his advice to Timothy who was encouraged to “Preach the Word” and stand against heresy. My view on this may be subject to debate but of this one thing I am certain; the Lord Jesus himself is looking down with a smile on His face. May God richly bless your ministry as you proclaim His Word with honesty and integrity.

    • Thank you so much for the encouragement Paul! I’m being reminded daily here in Seminary of the foundational importance of looking to God’s Word for our unshakable standard. When modern day theologians start proclaiming a “new way” to think about the Bible and what it says and what it means, I see great danger. And when those voices are influential, it is important to defend the truth. But my own thoughts are of no greater value than anyone else’s. I’m praying for the Holy Spirit to make His truth clear. To God be the glory!

      Merry Christmas to you and your family!

  4. Yes, that’s cheating. When I was in seminary we didn’t have websites to post to… okay, now I’m good. Had to get that off my chest.

    Good paper. Good thoughts. Salvation=belonging. Christianity=belonging with a few Jesus-related terms here or there. Emergent Church? Not good. Emerging Church principles? Can learn something. Well done.

    I especially like the baby/bathwater thing. Back in the day I played a game I called “The Google Orthodoxy Test.” I Googled a name/concept/term and if 50% or more of the first 10 hits were a negative use, I deemed it heterodox.

    Not really, of course, but I found it a fun procedure. At the risk of sounding snooty or negative or something, people in general and followers of Christ in specific don’t do much critical thinking anymore. It’s a shame.

    God tells us to use discernment, not just to say “That bad!” or to swallow something with the right buzz words hook, line and sinker. Thanks for encouraging us with the same.

    Now get back to studying.

    • Thanks Wade. 🙂 I’ve never played the Google search game of which you speak, but it sounds like fun. Yes, when it comes to babies and bathwater it seems that the church often either chucks the whole batch, baby included, or they aren’t really all that worried about the dirty bathwater. I think we need to do what Jesus said when it comes to loving God…

      “With all our heart… with all our MIND…” We need more critical thinking and discernment in the church, I believe. As long as the bedrock – the truth of the Word – remains unquestioned. If we give up ground on the inerrancy and divine authority of Scripture, the foundation of our faith crumbles.

      Thanks for reading. Half the reason I post this stuff is to make sure sharp theologians like you keep my thinking accountable to a scripturally sound framework. I appreciate you. Now stop distracting me… I’ve got studying to do. 🙂

      Merry Christmas to you and to your great family and to your church family, too!

  5. Enjoyed the paper. It is a rare thing for a class assignment to be that relevant, pertinent, etc. Well… at least for me it is. 🙂

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