Friday, July 15, 2005

Emergent or Divergent?

With all the emphasis these days on the "Emerging Church" I cannot help but think of Paul's words to the Colossian believers when he writes that in Christ "are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (2:3). After all, isn't the emergent "conversation" really a pursuit of wisdom and knowledge, particularly as it relates to the role the church plays in our modern cultural and philosophical climate? Consider this: the very atmosphere into which Paul was injecting these words was not altogether different from our own. The believers in Colossae were being hard-pressed by false teachers who were advocating some type of pre-Gnostic notion that true wisdom was to be found in a knowledge higher than that of Jesus Christ alone. Similarly, the emergent movement supposes that there is something about the knowledge of God to be gained from those who are separate from Christ. But Paul roundly rejects that idea. For him the apex of wisdom and knowledge is "hidden" in and, therefore, only to be found in Christ--nothing more and nothing less.

In what sense are these highly sought-after commodities "hidden" in Christ? They are accessible only to those who themselves are in Christ, being hidden from those outside of Christ. (For Paul, to be "in Christ" requires that one embrace by faith the objective truth claims of the gospel message--namely, that God punished our sin in Christ on the cross and, correspondingly, credits to our account the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21), thereby declaring us to be justified in His eyes.) Therefore, only those who have been reconciled to God through the death of Christ (1:22) are in possession of true wisdom and knowledge. Embracing this gospel alone allows one to see the world aright.

This is what has always been so troubling to the world's sense of wisdom, be it in first century Colossae or twenty-first century America. The message of the cross seems so base, so foolish to the intellectual high-brows of the world. As Calvin has astutely observed, "the treasures are...hid under the contemptible abasement and simplicity of the cross." The world simply cannot believe that true spiritual wisdom comes to those who renounce their own efforts to attain to the knowledge of God, recognizing them as futile, and believe the message of the cross. And yet it is precisely through the "foolishness" of this message that God is pleased to save some, and thereby open up to them the treasure box of wisdom and knowledge (1 Corinthians 1:18-31).

And so it is with much of the "Emergent" movement. Not content with the wisdom made available through belief in the profoundly simple gospel message (in all of its objectivity and absoluteness), they go looking to the world to help them better understand who God is and what He has done. Of course, all of this is cleverly cloaked in the language of open dialogue and discussion, so as to blunt the reality that it is really a move away from the clarity of the biblical gospel. Tragically, in so doing they are trading the wisdom of God for the foolishness of unregenerate man.

Paul's reminders and warnings to the Colossian church are crying out to us today. "I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument" (2:4). Many in today's evangelical climate, I'm afraid, are being deceived. Only belief in and insistence upon the biblical gospel can provide the necessary defense against such captivating "philosophy and empty deception."


At 7:28:00 AM, Blogger Jared Wall said...

You are right on, and, by the way, excellent post! Paul definitley makes it clear that those who hear the gospel preached and do not understand it or embrace it do so because they are unregenerate, and to them the simple saving message of the gospel is mere foolishness. I find that the emerging conversation is more about a man centered approach to church. I have just begun to read "A Generous Orthodoxy" by McClaren, but I wrote a small review of the PBS article on the Emerging Church. Just reading that foolishness made me weep. When we see God in His holiness and sovereignty on His throne where He belongs, these base and foolish notions cause us to see how utterly needful we are of Him. The emerging church is more concerned with their own brand of eastern mysticsm, comfortable couches, and comfortable theology.

For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
1 Corinthians 1:18

At 9:55:00 AM, Blogger Paul said...


At 1:52:00 PM, Blogger Richard Goff said...

So much for Phil's "aren't I clever" blogspotting jab at your one vacuaous post.

Well done! It's good to see you up an running.

At 8:52:00 AM, Blogger Rob Wilkerson said...


Good observation. I'll link to this on my blog. Thanks.

At 7:30:00 PM, Blogger Diane said...

Your post was excellent. However, I would make one important observation. The emergent leaders are so diverse in their views, that I think it would be a good idea to find one who is the most Christ-centerd and Biblically centered and encourage the emergent followers to read that person. I think I've found that person in Dan Kimball. Have you read his book, "The Emerging Church?"

At 8:02:00 PM, Blogger Chris Pixley said...

I agree Diane; the emegent movement is so broad that it's difficult to address it with generalizations. Thanks for the book tip--I'll try to get a hold of Dan's book.


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