Emerging church leaders Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt, and Mark Scandrette have gone on a summer road tour across the US as we reported on May 22nd in our article, Emergent Road Show Receives Sponsorship From Major Organizations.
In a June 19th posting on the tour blog, Tony Jones asks the question, “What in the world are we doing?” This is a valid question. Jones says the tour is a rendition of evangelism 100 years ago. The three men dress up in the style of that era, and Jones says: “barnstorm the country with our message and our books.”
While Jones admits there is an element of “goofiness” to their plan, he says their mission is “deadly serious.” “We think that the church — even Christianity — needs an overhaul,” Jones states.
Lighthouse Trails believes this tour will mislead many people. For three emerging leaders to say they are impersonating evangelists from a hundred years ago is a frivolous parody at best, and a mockery of godly believers of the past and the God whom they served at worse. The great evangelists from the past were for the most part Christians who held fast to the Word of God and did not compromise its truth and authority. But not so with those who lead what is known as the emerging church. In a recent book by Tony Jones (one that is indicative of many of the movement’s leaders), The New Christians, Jones illustrates this very clearly.
In Christians, Jones degrades the authority of Scripture several times in the book. A theme for that book would go something like this:
Emergents say they believe in truth, but they define it as something that is always changing and being refined, can never be grasped, and enfolds all beliefs, except the ones that insist there is only one truth.
As is typical with many emerging church books, The New Christians emphatically tries to convince readers that the “church is dead” (p. 4), at least church as we have known it. Jones uses several analogies to describe present day Christianity, such as it being like the nearly-obsolete pay phones, or a dying old growth forest, or compost (rotting vegetables). He says we can almost hear the “death rattle” of “America’s church” (p. 5).
Ultimately, what one will come away with from Jones’ book is that Jones (and all emergents, he says) believes that truth cannot be pinned down and set in concrete. What is true for today may not be considered truth tomorrow. And he isn’t talking just about negotiable societal and cultural ideologies. He is talking about doctrine too. In fact, that is really the point he wants to get across in this book. Emergents love the Bible, he says, but they are not going to be so arrogant “[t]o assume that our convictions about God are somehow timeless” and to think they are “establishes an imperialistic attitude that has a chilling effect on the honest conversation that’s needed for theology to progress” (p. 114).
This progression of theology that Jones speaks of is not limited to areas of theology that are often and legitimately debated by Christian scholars. No; Jones says even the doctrine of atonement cannot be set in stone. He says it is “arrogant and a bit deceptive” (p. 77) to suggest that there can be any one understanding of atonement. He was referencing the difference between a traditional Christian pastor versus Brian McLaren, who has called the doctrine of hell and the Cross “false advertising” for God. 2
Jones states that to “try to freeze one particular articulation of the gospel, to make it timeless and universally applicable, actually does an injustice to the gospel” (p. 96). He says we must “refigure our theology” (p. 104) and that “emergents” are “looking for a Christianity that’s still exploratory” (i.e., theology is flexible – p. 108) and “a gospel that meshes with our own experience of the world” (p. 110). “Theology is not universal, nor is it transcendent” (p. 112), he claims, but it is “temporary” and we “must carry our theologies with an open hand” (p. 114).
Doug Pagitt and Mark Scandrette would resonate with Jones’ spirituality. The three of them were authors in the book, An Emergent Manifesto of Hope. Of that book, Pagitt says it “provides a rare glimpse inside the emerging church.” This “rare glimpse” actually lays out the agenda of the movement, and in essence An Emergent Manifesto is the emerging church’s coming out of the closet tribute. Pagitt says Emergent is a “call to friendship … with the world” and this “friendship” is a “dangerous leap” in which many ways have been created to connect (p. 19). Throughout the book, these ways to connect become quite obvious. While other terms in the book are used, the concepts behind them are interspirituality (all religions coming together), panentheism (God is all creation), universalism (all are saved), and mysticism (the means by which this connecting takes place).
In this “sense of interconnection,” the book states:
[R]enewed popularity of the “kingdom” language is related to the emerging global narrative of the deep ecology movement – a consciousness and awareness that everything matters and is somehow interdependent (p. 27).
New Age sympathizer, Leonard Sweet (in his book Quantum Spirituality) calls this the Theory of Everything. This theory not only says that all creation is connected but that it is all inhabited with Divinity (God).
Universalism is a pronounced theme in the book as well. Manifesto calls salvation “a collective experience.” A Manifesto poem illustrates this:
Not only soul, whole body!
Not only whole body, all of the faithful community!
Not only all of the faithful community, all of humanity!
Not only all of humanity, all of God’s creation!(pp. 82-83)
The spirituality of the emerging church is really no different than that of occultist Alice Bailey. In her book, The Externalisation of the Hierarchy, she states:
He [the “Coming Christ”] will move to restore the ancient spiritual landmarks, to eliminate that which is nonessential, and to reorganize the entire religious field–again in preparation for the restoration of the Mysteries. These Mysteries [mysticism], when restored, will unify all faiths. (p. 573)
In view of the emphatic promotion and use of mysticism in the emerging church and the interspiritual leanings, any discerning believer should find Bailey’s statement alarming. This is no 19th century evangelistic doctrine. Rather it is an age old lie that began in the Garden of Eden. Jones, Pagitt, and Scandrette are way off when they say they are imitating these past saints.
The three emerging leaders plan to visit 32 cities, 6 of which they have already done. As we stated in our May report, the tour has received sponsorship from some very large organizations: Compassion International, International Bible Society, Jossey-Bass (the men’s publisher), Zondervan, and Christianbook.com. While it appears that the emerging church is receiving financial and other support from mainstream evangelicalism, we are compelled here at Lighthouse Trails to issue a serious warning about this tour.