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The Emergent Gospel

  See the Emergent Church Podcasts for an mp3 download of this study.

But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it!  - 2 Cor. 11:3-4

Our primary concern when we evaluate a modern movement or teaching is to determine if it teaches a different gospel.  Does the emergent church preach a different gospel?  How should we answer those who would call themselves post-modern Christians?  This study seeks to evaluate the emergent gospel.  This can be challenging because the emergent church doesn't claim to proclaim the truth.  They merely want to engage today's culture in a "conversation".  Remember, they are opposed to the idea that any one person or group of people have the corner on truth.  This is problematic in itself.  However, in listening to some Rob Bell pod casts, I have noticed a kind of "invitation" to something.

Modernism is the idea that man can access absolute truth through rationalism and science.  Emergents are post modern in that they reject this modern or enlightened ideology.  However, there is a thread of enlightenment ideology that has been carried forward by the emergents.  This idea can be called the "freedom of the self" or the "autonomous self" where man is free from authority, moral norms, absolutes, and able to determine his own meaning.  In post-modernism, objectivity is downplayed and subjectivity is stressed.

This has drastic consequences on the content of the emergent message (or shall we say "conversation").  When objective propositional truth is downplayed and subjectivism is emphasized the message largely becomes therapeutic, moralistic and man centered.  "The five solas come out of a theological world where God is sovereign.  The psychological world ... is a world where man is sovereign." - (White Horse Inn discussion with David Wells "The Courage to be Protestant").

Rob Bell's message "The Ultimate Groove" is an attempt to share the Emergent conversation and offers tips on how to start this conversation with others.  Emergents encourage people to ask questions.  Today, we are going to question Rob Bell's gospel (I mean conversation).  Note, "The Ultimate Groove" is an old 2004 MP3 recording that I received from a friend.

According to Rob Bell Questions
The chief mission of Jesus is to show us who the Father is like, to show us that God is love.According to Romans 3:25-26, why was the Son sent by the Father?  Did Jesus need to die to express love?  What necessitates an atonement? Note that this is also called the "moral influence view" of the atonement, largely taught by liberal so called Christians today.
The cross is an expression of God's generosity.What else was the cross an expression of?
Jesus miracles were intended to express the oneness of God.According to Heb. 2:3-4 what was the purpose of Jesus miracles?  What was it confirming?  Hint, it wasn't just a conversation.
We are not inviting people into a religion, we are inviting people into how reality is.  Jesus exposes us to the deepest levels of our existence.Lets give Rob Bell the benefit of the doubt and assume he is talking about our deepest level of how we "should be".  Smells a lot like good old fashioned moralism at best, new age at its worst.  If Christianity is simply helping people improve morally, how is this different than all other religions?  In fact, Rob Bell is inviting people into a religion.  But it isn't Christianity.  IT IS WORKS!  What does Romans 4:5 say that contradicts this?
Seekers exist and if they dig long enough they will run into God.What does Romans 3:10-12 say about seekers.  What are people really seeking according to 2 Tim. 4:3-4?
We shouldn't try to convert others to some system of thought but should focus on demonstrating reality (love, generosity, etc.)According to Romans 1:16 say has the power to save?  Does our lifestyle have any power?  What must happen first before anyone can come to the truth (Titus 3:5).  According to 1 Cor. 1:18-25 what is the message of the cross before regeneration and after?
God is like a song that has been playing forever (the eternal jam).  People are starting to hear the music.  There is a part of the song for us to play.How is this synergistic?  Who is sovereign in this metaphor?

A Better Metaphore:

Rob Bell's metaphore of "The Ultimate Groove" is flawed because we are "dead in trespasses and sins" (Eph. 2:1) and unable to make musical harmony with God.  Bell's synergistic gospel that reduces the work of Christ to a morality play can not save anyone.  This fits right in line with Bell's denial of God's wrath.  No wrath leads to no propitation for wrath.  No propitiation leads to no substitutionary atonement.  In fact, there is no need to atone for sin.  We are left with nothing but the old "moral influence" theory of the atonement, propagated by liberals for years.

Actually, I would love Bell's metaphore if he switched it around a bit.  Bell has it all wrong.  We aren't the one's who play the instruments.  We are the instruments and God plays us.  (By the way, I can't take the credit for thinking of this.  A deacon in our church mentioned this while we were going through the study)

Conclusion:

The emergent church has done a good job of being honest with their questions.  However, these questions stem ultimately from an absence of faith and repentance.  Deep down, they question the God of the Bible because they hate the God of the Bible (i.e. a God of holiness, justice, wrath that demands a perfect obedience necessitating a vicarious atonement).  Rob Bell preaches a false gospel that has been preached from the beginning of time, a gospel of works based on an idol fashioned in the hearts of evil men.

Author: Dave Stevens (See the Emergent Church Podcasts for an mp3 download of this study)
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