Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Arrogance of the Emergent Church's "Mere Christianity" Fantasy

This is partially in response to Bryan Cross' recent post evaluating the recent "Evangelical Manifesto". He has more nice things to say about it than I would I think. I look at a rotten apple and I don't notice the parts of the apple that are still edible. To me, it's just that: a rotten apple! I throw the whole thing away.

One of my co-workers remarked "My church doesn't call ourself Catholic or Protestant or Baptist or anything... We're just Christian". Yea. You're just full of it. That's what you are.

I used to think the same thing of myself. I was just "Christian". In reality looking back, I can see how wrapped up in self-pride that statement is. It is _I_ who embody and personify true Christianity.

Christ isn't a member of Israel or one of Israel's sects: He's not a Pharisee or Sadducee etc... He is TRUE Israel. That's what we think of ourselves when we start talking like that. "I'm above being categorized into any certain systematic doctrine of Christianity. I am TRUE Christianity in the flesh." The attitude is unbelievably arrogant.


George Weis said...


I am not pro-Emergent Church. I would not align myself with their methods. This is a classic case of pendulum swinging in reaction to the staunch upbringing many of these people had in various traditions. What they are seeking I think is noble, but again human pride infects the idea.

I am indeed one who says, I am a follower of Christ. No other labels should apply. I am not seeking to align myself to any other but to Christ. Yes, I am influenced by the many ideas handed down through the centuries, but ultimately, I wish to be Christ's. I do not think that I embody Christianity in it's fullest. Anyone who believes that is chocked full of pride, or they should await being removed from the earth as they "walk with God". Well, obviously that is up to God.

There is a desire in many people to simply be a follower of Christ. Many like those who are a part of the Emergent Church movement want to be JUST Christians. What their motives are... who knows? According to what I have heard/read, I see some very questionable things in this group.

May the Lord teach us all to follow Him. Hopefully, no matter what church we belong to, we seek that if we are truly His.

Much love to you man! I hope your week is off to a great start. The name of your restaurant is a good one! Put a smile on my face!


R. E. Aguirre. said...

On the way home a few weeks ago from work I mounted the courage to turn on my local "Evangelical" radio station, KKLA and not to my surprise, they were interviewing the "founder" of this movement.

When asked by the host of the show why even attempt to make something new? The man answered that the biggest obstacle to Christianity is the institutional church. He then went on to cite the passages where Jesus condemns "man made traditions" and I then promptly changed the station.

The problem with this type of reasoning is that even to claim a "non-denominational" stance is affirming your denominational standard as it were, there is no such thing as a "neutral" church where the goal is only to preach and live Christ crucified. Pastors in these types of churches (Calvary Chapel's are notorious for this) draw heavily upon commentaries, monographs, etc from particular standpoints (such as an Anglican commentary or Baptist monograph on baptism). They then foist particular doctrine on their unsuspecting congregations as if they are "preaching from the Scriptures alone". Such ignominious tactics should be shunned by Christians.

To brother George, the question again is my friend how do you interpret the Scriptures? Should one start with "common sense" and try to "figure" out the deep sayings of Holy Writ? Or, should one start with considering the historical interpretive tradition of the church for 2000 years? I would think it is much safer to start with the latter.

R.E. Aguirre

"itaque fratres state et tenete traditiones quas didicistis sive per sermonem sive per epistulam nostram"

Kim said...

To brother George, the question again is my friend how do you interpret the Scriptures? Should one start with "common sense" and try to "figure" out the deep sayings of Holy Writ? Or, should one start with considering the historical interpretive tradition of the church for 2000 years? I would think it is much safer to start with the latter.

Exactly. It makes no sense that we have umpteen denominations, none of which are even perfectly agreed on the absolute core issues, much less the lesser ones. Are those issues important or not?

It's a never-ending reinventing of the wheel. Personally, I'm tired of it.

Doc Rampage said...

Tim, first, I suspect that your co-worker would not agree with the words that you put in his mouth.

Second, can you explain how the attitude that you attribute to your co-worker is different than yours? It looks to me that you are attributing your own attitude to your co-worker and then criticizing him for it.

r. e. aguirre, non-denominational churches do not ignore the historical interpretative tradition of the church. I think you will find most pastors of such churches are very familiar with those traditions and make use of them repeatedly. What they don't do is give those traditions the same level of authority as the scripture itself.

Thos said...

I would like to add to R.E.'s point on non-denominationalism often seeming 'denominational'. There are many non-denominational churches aligned with one another so that they share a common culture, and generally a common doctrinal position. But there is a wide enough variety amongst non-denominational churches to see the complete absence of a denomination's check on what is taught. Even with that said, I have never heard of a non-denominational church that came to generally Reformed or Lutheran conclusions.


Way to go speaking up for yourself. I too want to align myself with none other than Christ. You and I get close to other Christians, and will inevitably be influenced in our views by them. But that's okay because they in some sense embody Christ, no? I mean, getting close to you may help me get closer to Christ. This is where I wonder if it isn't the same thing with the church. Maybe the way to get closest to Christ is through his church (however we come to view it).

When I started learning the Catholic apologist arguments, and was still thoroughly opposed, a major shift in my mind happened when I became convinced that there was at least something to the Catholic position on contraception. My pastor made sure we were on the pill when we got married. The Catholics remind us that it can cause unintended abortions, and go beyond that to discuss some deep moral principles. If I seek Christ alone, but am engaged in what may be sin, my search is inhibited, at least. My point is that the church can be more than a "label" applying to how you or I follow Christ. It can instruct us on the narrow road to victory. We use the Bible as a "label" too - "Bible-believing Christian". So you and I are followers of Christ as we read the Bible to express Him to us (and, I'd argue, colored by later interpretations, e.g., on the Trinity).


Let me play devil's advocate (I hate that expression): you may be personally tired of "it" (denominationalism), but that doesn't make it per se invalid. It could be the working out of sinful views in the Church, a way of exposing the holy remnant...

Peace in Christ,

Kim said...

I suppose you could be right, Thos, but it also seems to water down the gospel with each split and new denom/non-denom formed, don't you think? I've been a part of many denominations/non-denoms, and it seems like the effort is yes, to put Christ first in our hearts as new denoms/non-denoms blossom, but, I don't know, something is still lacking. It's this independent spirit, the lack of respect for authority that I think fuels much of denominationalism. It's very American.

Tim A. Troutman said...

George - Of course, we all want to follow Christ. Wouldn't following Christ lead to His bride rather that arbitrary redefinitions of His bride (see John Calvin). If we can't redefine Christ as "a deity in the sky who reads the Bible like me" why would we think we could define His bride as "the group of people on earth who read the Bible like me" (which is more or less what Calvin said about it).

R. E. Aguirre - I agree. Non-denomination ecclesial communities embody this type of arrogance / naive faith. We are to be babes in evil - not in thinking. A non-denominational community is only a very small denomination whose tradition goes back a few decades at most.

Kim - be careful not to fall in the Tiber, you're getting awfully close to the banks!

Doc - Good observation. I had started tagging a pre-rebuttal for this in the original post but then changed my mind - nah I'll see if someone brings it up. Yes, you're right I do the same thing.

Here's why it's not hypocritical. We say Catholicism embodies true Christianity - being Catholic is the true way to be Christian. The difference between us and Joe Blow Crossroads Ecclesial Flip Flop Community is that we can prove an unbroken line of hierarchal succession from Peter and the apostles - the Ecclesial Flip Flop Community can't even show an unbroken line of succession from the heretical reformers! There's at least a chance that Catholicism's claim is true - there is absolutely no reasonable chance that the "emergent church's" claims are.

And for your last point, what you said of non-denominational communities is false if there ever was a false statement made since Eden. But it could be, with some integrity, said of another branch of Protestantism: Anglicans. They don't hold tradition to be infallible but they do honor it for the most part (I'm speaking of traditionalist Anglicans here not the Episcopal mockery of orthodoxy). Non denominationalists etc don't honor tradition one bit. They reject Transubstantiation - even Real Presence, Regenerative Baptism, Mariology, Sacramental Theology etc... It's hard to have a meaningful dialogue when you're making such fantastic claims that are so far removed from reality it's hard to know where you're coming from.

Thos - Kim being sick of something doesnt prove that its wrong per se you're right.. But it might be nudging us in the right direction.
When we read the Scriptures and find none of what we see in Protestant denominationalism - we would be even more inclined to think that it was a helpful clue. When we study history and find that there have always been various factions orbiting or otherwise detached from the Catholic Church and that the Catholic Church alone extends herself to the apostles and the Church found in Acts 15, then we would be fully justified in thinking that this "being sick of it" wasn't just a knee jerk reaction to fallible humans doing fallible things but a Spirit driven call to return to the Ark Jesus built for us - the Church.

Kim - you're right - non-denominationalism and the emergent ecclesial community are both very American. In fact, they wouldn't survive the collapse of the Western world when and if it happens.

Kim said...

Tim, I've been wading in, son! Forget falling in! lol This Friday I go to my first Mass and Eucharistic Adoration. Your prayers would be appreciated.

What an invigorating conversation! Tim, I think you're right that the newer styles of churches would struggle if our civilization collapsed. There is so little (apart from Christ) to hold on to. But I will say that God is stirring up a desire for community amongst Protestant believers, and many newer churches are seeking to foster that community within themselves. That is encouraging. But on the other side of that coin, they are only toying with past traditions. It's that pick and choose salad bar mentality that really bugs me. Just a reflection of our consumeristic mindsets.

Tim A. Troutman said...

Yes and many church leaders (not only Protestants) will explicitly compare the Church economy to consumerism without any shame. My friend who is a PCA elder told me of a conversation he had with another elder (or deacon I cant remember) my friend pointed out that they weren't (as the PCA 'church') "selling a Jesus experience as if it were a product". They guy said "I know".....pause..... "well you know in a way we are".. That was in a tiny, conservative branch of Protestantism - forget mainline mega communities.

As I said though, this problem isn't limited to Protestantism but Protestantism in general seems to not even recognize it as a problem and therefore it is more prevalent there and nothing significant is being done to stop it (its the nature of the beast, you can't really do anything to stop it).

It's like having capitalism in a city-state society and wanting something else.. You'd never be able to stop it. Protestant denominations are suffering from spiritual capitalism. (I'm not saying anything political here against capitalism I'm fine with it in secular government.. but as Jesus warned His disciples that the gentiles had their idea of government and authority.... "not so with you")

Also worth noting here is that Jesus always talked about the "kingdom of God" and never the "republic of God". American Protestantism (and some of this is infecting American Catholicism also) treats the Church more like the latter than the former.

Principium unitatis said...


You're making my screen get blurry.

That's such wonderful news. I'm so very happy for you, and I rejoice with you. (And I think some angels and saints are rejoicing too!) We welcome you home with open arms.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Anonymous said...

Renee said:

Here is something of interest I ran across. Feel free to use personal interpretation.



This verse means every day in every century until the end of the world.

I believe that verse would mean unbroken continuity until the end of time. Wouldn't you agree?


Anonymous said...

Renee said:

One more for thought

If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand."
Mark 3:24-25

Tim A. Troutman said...

Good stuff Renee.

Kim said...

Awww, I'm glad you're moved, Bryan. There's so little reason to resist that pull.

George Weis said...


This post turned into something fun. I had forgotten about it.

Thos- I believe in general we are on the same page. I am not saying there is "nothing to it" in regards to the Catholic Church. I am thankful for their strong stand on life, as I believe every follower of Christ should be. I see both Old Catholic men and protestants walking around planned parenthood here in our city, and that is a noble cause for hands to be locked.

I know what this statement will bring, but here goes... What if we allow scripture to interpret scripture? Now, that being said I am not willing to throw out history... yet, it has yet to be fully mapped out how that position stands on it's own two feet. I don't see the unending seamless line in the traditions of the CC. I see a long seamless line, but I see some problems too.

Sometimes I feel that joining the CC would be an easy way to close the case so to speak, but in my reading, I see problems with that. It is tempting in more than one way, yet I do not stand convinced, and major things hit me square in the face. Again, though my prayers are with you, that the Lord would lead you and your family into all truth. Tim would say in a heartbeat, "THAT MEANS YOUR HEADED IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION" ;) I love him for it haha!

Take care everyone. May Christ be glorified in your lives. May He be preeminant in everything!


Anonymous said...

Renee said:

Forgive me for the length. I read this on another site and thought that it speaks for itself.

1521, Martin Luther started the Lutherans when he broke away from the one true Church that had already existed for 15 centuries. Prior to this time, the false doctrine of "Sola Scriptura", or "Bible only", had not existed, and neither had the false man made doctrine of "Individual Interpretation" of Holy Scripture.
1521, Thomas Munzer started Anabaptists by breaking from Lutheranism in the same year.
1534, King Henry VIII started the Church of England. (Anglican)
1536, John Calvin, teaching predestination, formed the Calvinists.
1560, John Knox, who studied under Luther, started Presbyterians.
1582, Congregationalists started by Rob Brown, as a branch from Puritanism.
1609, John Smyth formed the Baptists. They have severely splintered since then.
1739, John Wesley started the Methodists, in a split from Anglicanism.
1774, Theophilus Lindley started Unitarians.
1789, Samuel Seabury started Episcopalians.
1793-1809, Churches of Christ had four separate founders.
1830, Joseph Smith founded the Mormons in Palmyra New York.
1860, William Miller, a farmer, started the Adventists.
1863, Ellen Gould White started the Seventh-Day Adventists.
1865, William Booth started the Salvation Army.
1875, New Age was started by Helena Blavatsky. *COL 2:8
1879, Mary Baker Eddy started Christian Scientists.
1879, Charles Russell started the Jehovah's Witnesses.
1895, French Abbe, Alfred Loisy and English Jesuit, George Tyrrell started Modernism.
1900-1920, conservative Episcopalians, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and Methodists,
formed a consortium, and started Fundamentalism.
1901, Pentecostalism was started in the United States. It has since split into many independents.
1914, Felix Manalo started Iglesia ni Cristo.
1930, Independent Churches of America (IFCA), was formed by a consortium of churches.
1952, L. Ron Hubbard started the Church of Scientology.
1965, Chuck Smith began Calvary Chapel.
1968, Disciples of Christ, started as a splinter of Churches of Christ.
1974, Ken Gullickson started the Vineyard Christian Fellowship.
20th century. Assemblies of GOD, and other splinter Pentecostal groups, are some of hundreds of new sects founded by mere men.

Did GOD examine and approve the plans for all, or for even one, of these splits in His Body?

"You shall not do as we are now doing; here, everyone does what seems right to himself..."
Deuteronomy 12:8, Judges 17:6, Judges 21:25
Isn't this the mindset of a lot of people today?
"I will do my own thing."
"What 'feels good' for me is right for me."
"It does not matter which Church I belong to."

A persons personal opinion has no bearing whatsoever on doctrinal truth.

"Has Christ been divided up?"
1Corinthians 1:13
If there were only one Church then Christ would not be divided, right?

"He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters."
Matthew 12:30

"And knowing their thoughts Jesus said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then shall his kingdom stand?""
Matthew 12:25-26
Isn't this exactly what is happening to non-Catholic ecclesial communities? They are imploding due to these never ending splits. The splinters are getting smaller and smaller, and eventually if this keeps up, each member theoretically will be his own ecclesial community.

Did any of these people receive authority from GOD to form their own ecclesial communities?

Did any of these people receive authority from Holy Scripture to form their own ecclesial communities?

George Weis said...


That was a fun list :D

Don't you wish you had all those names and numbers in your head for easy ref. at any time? I know I do.
I wish I was a walking database of info. But I suppose we all unless amazingly gifted will have to utilize resources from time to time.


Anonymous said...

Renee said:

Can anyone give the exact date and an exact name for the start of the Catholic Church ?

Tim A. Troutman said...

30 AD - Pentecost :D

R. E. Aguirre. said...

-Response to Doc:

"r. e. aguirre, non-denominational churches do not ignore the historical interpretative tradition of the church. I think you will find most pastors of such churches are very familiar with those traditions and make use of them repeatedly. What they don't do is give those traditions the same level of authority as the scripture itself."

Well Doc, I must disagree with this point. I have been a member and/or attended the following churches at one point in my life, Calvary Chapel, Reformed Baptist, OPC, PCA, CRC, RCUS, REC, before I returned to the historical church of Christ (that I was baptized in at birth and was confirmed and took my first communion in), namely Catholicism. So I speak from experience when I say that most Protestant pastors either no very little about or are directly hostile to, church tradition. The sole unique experience I had was in the REC (Reformed Episcopalian Church) which it valiently tries to hold to some form of historical liturgy and a serious recognition of the fathers.

- Kim. I am glad to hear of your first attendance of Mass. What a fruitful experience indeed is Catholic liturgy when you come out of the dryness that is Protestantism.

- Response to George:

I know what this statement will bring, but here goes... What if we allow scripture to interpret scripture? Now, that being said I am not willing to throw out history... yet, it has yet to be fully mapped out how that position stands on it's own two feet. I don't see the unending seamless line in the traditions of the CC. I see a long seamless line, but I see some problems too."

Well George, the "problem" with letting "Scripture interpret Scripture" is two-fold. First, it is not how the Church has historically interpreted the Scriptures. The hermeneutic of history as it were, has been to hear Scripture from the voices of the regula fidei. Be patient and let the quiet voices of the fathers unravel the sacred mysteries of Holy Writ. Secondly, Scripture is not as "easy" to understand as Protestants claim it is. Contra Luther - I challenge any farm hand to explain to me correctly any pericope from Revelation or to show me the Trinitarian formulation as codified by the Catholic creeds from Scripture alone. That's the catch George. Scripture is by definition deep and Holy. The greatest theological minds of history (St. Augustine, St. Aquinas, etc) say the same thing. Scripture takes a community of God to interpret correctly - all we say is that this community has been doing it for 2008 years now.

R.E. Aguirre

Anonymous said...

Me not my wife


30 AD-Pentecost is good and the name of the man who started The Church was Jesus Christ.
Anyone have another date or more importantly another man who started The Church please post

I think we all will be praying for you as you go to your first Mass and Eucharistic Adoration . As you visit the Lord today may he Bless you and fill you with his hope and love.


Doc Rampage said...

Tim, I said that they use the interpretative traditions, not the traditional doctrines.

Tim A. Troutman said...

Doc - point taken. You have to forgive us Catholics - we can be overzealous sometimes as you have noticed I'm sure :)