“Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.” Jude 1:3-4
It has crept and slithered through America infecting countless victims. Its goals are compromise, ambiguity, tolerance, globalism, mysticism, and in some cases, universalism. Its path is destruction and its foundation is sinking sand.
The ‘Emergent Church’ is a movement of the late 20th and early 21st century that crosses a number of theological boundaries. Followers, participants, and those who identify can be described as evangelical, post-evangelical, liberal or post-liberal, reformed, neo-charismatic, and post-charismatic. It is part of the Cult of Liberalism.
They seek to live their faith in what they believe to be a “Postmodern” society. It is an untraditional network of individual believers and churches that prefer to be understood as a “conversation” or a friendship rather than an organization. What those involved mostly agree on is their disdain for fundamental Christianity and disillusionment with the organized, traditional, and institutional church.
The emergent, or emegring church favors the use of simple story and narrative in preaching style. Adherents often place a high value on good works or social activism. The hallmark of the emergent church is the liberal, new age aspect including the practice of contemplative monastic meditation and prayers. While some do emphasize eternal salvation, many in the emerging church emphasize the here and now (taking care of the earth, etc.) and reject the inerrancy of Scripture.
Regarding doctrine, these folks generally reject systematic Christian theology, the integrity of Scripture, and gospel exclusivity. They don’t believe Christianity is the one true religion and many associated with the emergent church promote homosexuality. Some deny the deity of Jesus Christ; they call for diversity, “unity,” and camaraderie among all religions, and they modify and expand their teachings. It is quite clearly and simply a war against the Truth.
At an emergent church workshop in San Diego about ten years ago, former national coordinator of the Emergent Village, Tony Jones stated:
“This is about our belief that theology changes. The message of the gospel changes. It’s not just the method that changes.”
What? I submit to you that Jesus never changed his message to fit the times! Sadly, too many believers are uninterested, uninformed, or just plain apathetic about the Bible and understanding the times we live in where relevance is emphasized more than repentance.
In a revealing comment about why Jones departed from the traditional Bible church, he described his younger days in a Protestant church like this:
“I’d say there was one word that summed up my religious life: obligation.”
Rather than seek Christ’s kingdom first and dig into Scripture, Jones decided to travel the world and see how other religions and worshippers found peace through prayer and meditation and he adopted other forms of spirituality in his pursuit of religion.
“The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” 1 Timothy 4:1
Jones is not alone. These influential men are best-selling authors in Christian stores, speakers at entertaining music festivals, popular on the political Christian Left, and well-known leaders in religious circles. They and their dangerous doctrines have invaded the true body of Christ. The goal in this expose is to provide a basic understanding as well as direct quotes from those who have done great damage to the Church, not to explain or refute each one in detail.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS
Here are a few more quotes from Tony Jones:
“In any case, I now believe that GLBTQ [Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Queer] can live lives in accord with Biblical Christianity (at least as much as any of us can!) and that their monogamy can and should be sanctioned and blessed by church and state.”
“I think the Bible is a f***ing scary book (pardon my French, but that’s the only way I know how to convey how strongly I feel about this).”
“Some people today may find it compelling that some Great Cosmic Transaction took place on that day 1,980 years ago, that God’s wrath burned against his son instead of me. I find that version of atonement theory neither intellectually compelling, spiritually compelling, nor in keeping with the biblical narrative.”
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. 2 Peter 2:1-3
Next, Tony Campolo is an author, professor of Sociology at Eastern College, former spiritual counselor to President Bill Clinton, modern mystic, popular religious commentator, and a leader of the progressive evangelical movement, “Red Letter Christians.” I remember hearing Campolo speak in California in the late 80s. I remember laughing a lot because he’s a great entertainer. He knows how to reach both young and old. His theology is more concerning than his presentation.
On June 8, 2015, Tony Campolo reiterated his support for the LGBTQ community, saying:
“As a social scientist, I have concluded that sexual orientation is almost never a choice and I have seen how damaging it can be to try to “cure” someone from being gay. As a Christian, my responsibility is not to condemn or reject gay people, but rather to love and embrace them, and to endeavor to draw them into the fellowship of the Church.”
He has concluded that it is “almost never” a choice? The fact is those within the medical, psychiatric, and scientific communities do not all agree with Campolo. Let’s clarify that we are to love all people and most believers try doing so; the difference is in accommodation. You can stand for God’s truth, love and accept someone without approving of their sin or lifestyle. A few more classic quotes from Campolo:
“Going to heaven is like going to Philadelphia… There are many ways…It doesn’t make any difference how we go there. We all end up in the same place.”
“…we want to see God at work converting society, converting the systems, so that there aren’t the racist overtones, the economic injustices, the polluting of the atmosphere.”
“I learn about Jesus from other religions. They speak to me about Christ, as well… I’m not convinced that Jesus only lives in Christians.”
“On the other hand, we are hard-pressed to find any biblical basis for condemning deep love commitments between homosexual Christians as long as those commitments are not expressed in sexual intercourse.”
“But the overwhelming population of the gay community that love Jesus, that go to church, that are deeply committed in spiritual things, try to change and can’t change…”
But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. 7 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, 8 and the two shall become one flesh; so they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” Mark 10:6-8
Brian McLaren is the founding pastor of Cedar Ridge Community Church in Spencerville, MD, he serves as a board chair for Sojourners, an emergent church leader and a founding member of Red Letter Christians.
“I don’t believe making disciples must equal making adherents to the Christian religion. It may be advisable in many (not all!) circumstances to help people become followers of Jesus and remain within their Buddhist, Hindu or Jewish contexts…”
“Yes, I find a character named God who sends a flood that destroys all humanity except Noah’s family, but that’s almost trivial compared to a deity who tortures the greater part of humanity forever in infinite eternal conscious torment, three words that need to be read slowly and thoughtfully to feel their full import.”
“For many Christians, their faith is primarily about what happens to people after they die. That distracts them from seeking justice and living in a compassionate way while we’re still alive in this life. We need to go back and take another look at Jesus’ teachings about hell. For so many people, the conventional teaching about hell makes God seem vicious. That’s not something we should let stand.”
“In this light, a god who mandates an intentional supernatural disaster leading to unparalleled genocide is hardly worthy of belief, much less worship. How can you ask your children…to honor a deity so uncreative, over reactive, and utterly capricious regarding life?”
“In the Bible, save means ‘rescue’ or ‘heal’. It emphatically does not mean ‘save from hell’ or ‘give eternal life after death,’ as many preachers seem to imply in sermon after sermon.”
Jim Wallis – is a leftist radical and lifelong political activist best known as the founder and editor of Sojourners’ Magazine, for which he accepted money from George Soros, who has financed groups supporting abortion, Islam, and atheism. Wallis supports same-sex marriage, adheres to big tent progressive “Christianity,” and has been arrested 22 times for acts of civil disobedience. He served as a spiritual adviser to President Obama.
“I don’t think that abortion is the moral equivalent issue to slavery… I think poverty is the new slavery. Poverty and global inequality are the fundamental moral issues of our time. That’s my judgment.”
“Jesus didn’t talk about homosexuality at all; the Bible talks about the poor again and again and again.”
“Christianity will be impotent to lead a conversation on sexuality and gender if we do not bodily integrate our current understandings of humanity with our theology. This will require us to not only draw new conclusions about sexuality but will force us to consider new ways of being sexual.”
“As more Christians become influenced by liberation theology, finding themselves increasingly rejecting the values of institutions of capitalism, they will also be drawn to the Marxist analysis and praxis that is so central to the social justice movement.”
“Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.” Acts 20:30
Rob Bell is the former pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, MI, a promoter of new spirituality and mysticism, and a former pop icon in the emergent church movement. Thanks in part to his liberal theology and to Oprah, Bell has been welcomed into millions of naive and unsuspecting Christian homes. Bell once described himself this way:
“I have as much in common with the performance artist, the standup comedian, the screenwriter, as I do with the theologian. I’m in an odd world where I make things and share them with people.”
Pastor Joe Schimmel wrote that Bell takes every possible liberty to “deny reality and to either explain Hell away or get everyone into Heaven, regardless of his or her rejection of God and the Gospel.” Bell tries to empty Hell of God’s holy wrath, and “he creates an exit door from the inside out and claims that Hell is merely what we make it.”
Rob Bell quotes:
“Repentance is not turning from sin. It is a ‘celebration’ of life in Christ. Anyone who tells you that you need to repent is not talking about Christianity.”
“Of all the billions of people who have ever lived, will only a select number ‘make it to a better place’ and every single other person suffer in torment and punishment forever? Is this acceptable to God? (from Love Wins)
“This participation is important, because Jesus and the prophets lived with an awareness that God has been looking for partners since the beginning, people who will take seriously the divine responsibility to care for the earth and each other in loving, sustainable ways.”
(And on page 178) “This God whom Jesus spoke of has always been looking for partners, people who are passionate about participating in the ongoing creation of the world.”
“What if tomorrow someone digs up definitive proof that Jesus had a real, earthly, biological father named Larry, and archeologists find Larry’s tomb and do DNA samples and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the virgin birth was just a bit of mythologizing the Gospel writers threw in to appeal to the followers of the Mithra and Dionysian religious cults that were hugely popular at the time of Jesus, whose gods had virgin births? …Could you still be a Christian? Is the way of Jesus still the best possible way to live?” (from Bell’s book Velvet Elvis)
“When people use the word hell, what do they mean? They mean a place, an event, a situation absent of how God desires things to be. Famine, debt, oppression, loneliness, despair, death, slaughter—they are all hell on earth. Jesus’ desire for his followers is that they live in such a way that they bring heaven to earth.
“Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” He said to them, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.” Luke 13:22-24
Next, Doug Pagitt is another leader in the emergent church movement. An author and pastor of Solomon’s Porch in Minneapolis, Pagitt was asked, “Is homosexuality incompatible with Christian faith?” He replied:
“NO. Being Gay and Christian is not a contradiction in any way.” (But wait, there’s more!)
“The inerrancy (of Scripture) debate is based on the belief that the Bible is the word of God, that the Bible is true because God made it and gave it to us as a guide to truth. But that’s not what the Bible says.”
“God is constantly creating anew. And God also, invites us to be recreated and join the work of God as co-(re)creators… Imagine the kingdom of God as the creative process of God reengaging in all that we know and experience… When we employ creativity to make this world better, we participate with God in the recreation of the world.”
“[T]he early evangelists recognized they could help the Jesus story make sense if Jesus was seen as someone who was chosen to appease the wrath of God – hence, the ‘anointed one’ who could do what no one else could do…”
Finally, Shane Claiborne is an author, co-founder of The Potter Street Community – formerly The Simple Way, a graduate of Eastern University and is a part of The Alternative Seminary in Philadelphia, PA. Like Tony Campolo, Claiborne is a Red Letter Christian. He is a leading figure in the New Monasticism movement and is featured in the documentary “The Ordinary Radicals.” He is an environmentalist and wrote the foreword to Ben Lowe’s “Green Revolution: Coming Together to Care for Creation.” He once stated that he “gave up Christianity to follow Jesus.”
In the words of Shane Claiborne:
“There are extremists, both Muslim and Christian, who kill in the name of their gods.”
“So for those of us who have nearly given up the church, may we take comfort in the words of St. Augustine: ‘The Church is a whore, but she’s my mother.’ She is a mess and has many illegitimate children. But she is also our momma…” (from Irresistible Revolution)
“But if you tell me I have to be born again to enter the Kingdom of God, I can tell you that you have to sell everything you have and give it to the poor, because Jesus said that to one guy, too. But I guess that’s why God invented highlighers, so we can highlight the parts we like and ignore the rest.”
If you’re like me, you had to look closely at some of the above quotes; something about them seems a little off. This can test our ability to judge between truth and error. Spurgeon once said, “Discernment is not a matter of knowing the difference between right and wrong. It is the difference between right and almost right.”
How did we get to the point where many of these liberal, emergent ideas and teachings have blended in with truth and sound doctrine? How have they slithered their way into modern Christianity? The answer goes back to the book of Genesis and the original sin of Adam and Eve. Remember how the serpent deceived Eve by questioning God? (“Did God really say…”) He then encouraged them to disobey God as he declared, “You will not surely die…” (Genesis 3:1-4)
All it takes is a seed of doubt and invitation to sin. Many progressive leaders and deceivers question absolute truth and promote ambiguity and confusion. No wonder these men are so popular – they’re going with the flow of pop culture. Paul warned about conforming to this world (Romans 12:2).
False teachers have been around since the early church days. The major issue with the emergent church is that they reject the authority of Scripture. These teachings were not accepted by evangelical Christians overnight. We can trace the rapid advancement of the emergent church to the late 80’s and 90’s, when people began talking about how to modernize and re-create church to be more attractive to the unchurched.
Heck, Robert Schueller actually went door to door in the 1970s in California asking people what they wanted in a church – and he then set out to give it to them. How is that biblical? Who decided it is better to attract the world by giving them what they want instead of what they need – salvation and sanctification resulting from repentance of sin and growth as a disciple of Jesus?
Going further back to the hippy flower-power days of the 1960’s, the new fad was all about peace, love, free sex, and rebelling against authority. Absolute truth and Biblical standards were questioned and labeled as too rigid, leading some to moral relativism which is an ethical judgment. It is the claim that no ethical system is better than another, and rests on the belief that morals and values are subjective.
Some churches responded to the 60’s rebellion by trying to convert as many as possible and accepted them as they were. ‘Come as you are’ was the new slogan. Jesus does meet people right where they are, but there’s an important distinction: He loves people too much to leave them that way, and unlike the emergent church, His message never changes!
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Hebrews 13:8
During the 80s, successful business executives were already mentoring church leaders on how to build their church and grow their ministry. Nowhere in Scripture does it teach Christians to model the church after the world! Austrian-born Peter Drucker was one of the men who, along with New Age business gurus Bob Buford and Ken Blanchard, promoted this alliance between the secular business world and evangelical Christian churches.
America’s most influential pastor, Rick Warren, has called Drucker his mentor. And yet in a 2001 interview, Drucker denied being a born-again Christian. Drucker was a disciple of philosopher and mystic, Soren Kierkegaard, and was also influenced by Zen Buddhism. At a 2005 Pew Forum on religion, Warren proudly stated, “I’ve spent twenty years under his tutelage learning about leadership from him….” I’m not suggesting Warren is not a Christian. His influences, however, should be noted. By the way, Drucker believed that in the twentieth century, the rise of the corporation was the “most significant sociological phenomenon” of the first half – and the development of the mega-church was most significant in the second half of the twentieth century.
The overall effect of the emergent church may be hard to evaluate, but its influence is probably much greater and more devastating than we know. Many churches began watering down the true gospel in an effort to lure potential new members and not offend people. Some Pastors and church leaders simply wanted to increase their market share, so to speak. The “mega-church” and seeker-friendly or seeker-sensitive movement began to grow and a skim milk diet replaced the meat of God’s word. Many Pastors became CEO’s and sermons resembled mini-seminars. The follow-up or discipleship training also took a back seat, and lots of baby Christians went back out into the world without a solid biblical foundation.
Those decades also brought us the development of the Christian music industry. Most of the industry pioneers were authentic, God-fearing, and ministry-minded, but I wonder if they would approve of Christian music as a whole today? In some cases, bands are more into the entertainment aspect than writing about Scripture and building up the body of Christ. Biblical truth became irrelevant to young Christians and grace was way over-emphasized.
“You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” Galatians 5:7-9
Many churches in America now have beautiful buildings, sports facilities, coffee shops, bookstores, great music and sound systems, state of the art lighting, and good drama or video presentations, but how much of their service time is spent preaching the solid truth of Scripture? Many seem to put more of an emphasis on programs keeping people within their own walls or on entertaining the flock rather than feeding them God’s Word. Well, at least the youth are kept happy and occupied.
Young people like to take action for a cause, and many works-based efforts call for organizing, social or environmental action and partnership with government agencies and other religions/leaders. This is a clever way to lure those who are not as mature in the faith.
Another controversial message being promoted is that of social justice, which in its modern use is apostasy. Apostasy means a departure from the faith or one who denies the fundamental doctrines concerning the person and work of Jesus Christ. (Wallis’ Sojourners mag for example, puts more emphasis on the environment, immigration, “income inequality,” and poverty than on the Gospel, salvation, repentance, and sin.) The Bible does not teach that the church must work with government or world leaders to implement man’s solutions to our deepest needs and problems. We can no longer deny the fact that humanism, liberalism and secular-progressive influence is alive and well -not only in government, education, media, corporations, and the entertainment industry – but in the Church.
In 1995 for example, Jim Wallis founded ‘Call to Renewal’ for the purposes of advocating for leftist economic agendas such as tax hikes and wealth redistribution to promote social justice. He himself stated, “That’s what the gospel is all about.” In 2005, Democratic Senators (including Harry Reid) met with Wallis to devise clever ways to use religious language to pull evangelical voters away from Republicans.
According to TraditionalValues.org, Wallis was hired to fool Americans into believing secular liberals had found “religion” in part by sprinkling references to God and faith into their speeches. Wallis has criticized America’s Judeo-Christian heritage, capitalism, conservative Christians, and jumped on the race card express saying, “would there even be a Tea Party if the president of the United States weren’t the first black man to occupy that office?”
I first learned about Jim Wallis in 2010 when he was invited to give his message at a Christian music festival in Wisconsin called Lifest. (Organizers have also had Tony Campolo, Shane Claiborne, author of The Shack, William Young, and others.) Wallis, a progressive Democrat, was given the main stage to preach on unity (read: uniformity). He promoted his politics, criticized Fox News and conservative talk radio, and then called conservative Christians ‘divisive.’
Robert Meyer wrote about this in a Renew America column stating:
It is interesting that secularists who otherwise wish to absolutely separate church and state, anxiously merge them back together if such a union can be used as a pretext for promoting a leftist political agenda… As Obama’s spiritual advisor, Wallis wanted to cast a pejorative pall on those who vocally oppose Obama, thus sneaking a political message into what was thought to be an apolitical presentation.
Because there were many good bands and speakers there, some people tried defending his appearance stating the over-used analogy, “don’t throw out the baby with the bath water.” So, lets reason here: because of some good music and other speakers, it’s okay that people happened to hear a false gospel as well? Having Wallis there was a mistake. It divided churches and ministries as a result and also exposed the worldview of festival organizers. It would have been a different story had there at least been a Christian conservative present to debate or refute Wallis and in fact, that was suggested prior to the fiasco. Lifest stuck to their guns and argued that those who objected to Jim Wallis were the divisive ones.
We can just agree to disagree, right? Sorry, that may be fine when dealing with petty arguments between friends or family, but when it comes to deceiving people with false doctrines, we can’t simply look the other way. Shouldn’t we care when truth is misrepresented? But this is exactly what progressives and those in the emergent church do and have done for decades now. Unfortunately, people most often side with those conforming to culture and oppose those who are contending for the faith.
In fact, Brian McLaren once made the list of the 25 most influential people in the evangelical church according to Time Magazine. ‘Evangelical;’ they keep using that word. I do not think it means what they think it means! And Christians living hypocritically don’t help the cause.
It is a serious issue because his teachings seem to reject the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the work on the cross, and dilutes what the Bible says about Heaven and eternal life. McLaren is changing Biblical doctrine to fit his own ‘We Are the World’ type of theology, which, similar to Rob Bell, stomps out the reality of Hell and the fact that Jesus became our substitute on the cross in order to redeem us. He doubts the reliability of the Bible and yet, he has been one of the more influential people on the church in America? No wonder we’re sinking like the Titanic.
Many of today’s youth have been raised in a culture (and sadly in some churches) where feelings, fun, and sensitivity matter but sound doctrine and the truth of God’s word aren’t a priority. This invites the justification of sinful behaviors and tolerance of sin. Our culture has redefined the word ‘tolerance’ to mean love, unconditional grace, warm fuzzies, and the acceptance of not only the sinner but the sin as well. We must not mistake God’s loving-kindness and patience with our understanding of tolerance; God is never tolerant of sin, disobedience, and rebellion.
Without the Holy Spirit working in our hearts through the preaching of Scripture, there can be no conviction. Without revelation of sin and conviction, there can be no repentance leading to forgiveness. We shouldn’t be surprised that many young Christians have their spiritual foundations built on the sand. The Lord Jesus Christ said something very serious about those who cause little ones to stumble. He said in Luke 17:2 that it would be better that a millstone would be tied around the neck of the one who caused them to sin. These guys have no business teaching Christian theology and it’s amazing that so many ‘believing’ consumers buy into their feel-good, motivational doctrine. Part of their gospel is one of a social worker putting their faith in man (humanism) and government.
Dr. Walter Martin, founder of the Christian Research Institute, sternly warned about liberal theology and the emergent church saying,
“It is a cult because it follows every outlined structure of cultism; its own revelations; its own gurus, and its denial—systematically—of all sound systematic Christian theology. It is a cult because it passes its leadership on to the next group that takes over—either modifying, expanding or contracting—the same heresies; dressing them up in different language, and passing them on…it denies the authority of Scripture, it ruins its own theology. And it ends in immorality; because the only way you could have gotten to this homosexual, morally relativistic, garbage—which is today in our denominational structures—is if the leadership of those denominations denied the authority of the Scriptures and Jesus Christ as Lord…Test all things; make sure of what is true (see 1 Thessalonians 5:21). I’m not being harsh; I’m not being judgmental. I am being thoroughly, consistently, Christian; in the light of historic theology, and the holy Bible.”
So what should we do? Since not enough Christians know the dangers and the extent of the emergent church movement and their radical teachings, we need to promote awareness starting with what is true. We need to dig deeper in to the Word of God than ever before and know it so well that if we hear a counterfeit message, we’ll recognize it immediately! We need to talk to our pastors and Christian friends. Liberalism, humanism, and secularism are growing cancers in both church and culture so let’s not ignore the causes.
Let’s get out of our comfort zones and take a stand for Christ. The spiritual battle rages all around us and the enemy is on our doorstep. Satan has been at work at a church near you spreading his deceptions. The good news is that we are on to his schemes. Mature believers know that the emergent church teachings are contrary to the gospel of Christ. So suit up in the full armor of God and pray for discernment. Light dispels the darkness and the darker the times, the brighter the light of Christ.
Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. Romans 13:11
“Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.” Revelation 3:11
*This article has been UPDATED with more quotes, links, and news articles: originally published in 2010 at Good Fight Ministries here: