Accommodating the Culture

by Pastor Larry DeBruyn for Emergent Church, False Teaching

The author of Sex God endorses same-sex marriages [1]

Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” James 4:4, KJV

As one who has followed Rob Bell’s career for almost a decade, from the time he was the youth pastor at the church I grew up in, Calvary Church of Grand Rapids, Michigan, and then as the founding pastor of the Mars Hill Bible Church in suburban Grandville of the same city, I wondered when he, as he seemed so bent on being culturally relevant, would finally out what he really thought about same sex marriages.[2] Well, now he has, and not surprisingly, at least to me (I spotted him as a false teacher a decade ago, for false teachers always seem engaged to the culture more than to Christ), he recently endorsed same sex marriages in the friendly confines in of all places, the liberal Grace Cathedral in San Francisco during a forum held Sunday, March 17, 2013.[3] In this endorsement he has taken cue from political leaders (the President comes to mind, as also recently, Hillary Clinton), for they too are ever testing the political winds of fortune to see which direction they’re a’ blowing. When asked about his position on homosexual marriage, Bell stated:

I am for marriage. I am for fidelity. I am for love, whether it’s a man and woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man. I think the ship has sailed and I think the church needs—I think this is the world we are living in and we need to affirm people wherever they are.[4]
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“Reimagining” Conversion

by Pastor Larry DeBruyn for Emergent Church, Salvation

From Evangelical Revivalism to Emerging Ecumenicalism

But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. Paul, Galatians 1:8-9, KJV

Introduction
In that an aggregate of scholars, leaders and authors of the emerging church movement have been and are continuing to redefine Protestant and evangelical teaching regarding salvation (i.e., the atonement, justification and reconciliation), it should come as no surprise that the very meaning of conversion is now being re-envisioned or re-imagined. As an article recently posted on the Christianity Today website says,

It is not an overstatement to say that evangelicals are experiencing a “sea change”—a paradigm shift—in their understanding of conversion and redemption, a shift that includes the way in which they think about the salvation of God, the nature and mission of the church, and the character of religious experience. Although there is no one word to capture where evangelicals are going in this regard, there is a word that captures what they are leaving behind: revivalism. [1]

At the outset let it be stated that, as it became institutionalized in the American evangelical subculture during the 20th century, evangelical revivalism—defined as the “accept-Jesus” invitational system which includes such methods as altar calls involving raising a hand and walking an aisle, or accepting spiritual laws and then praying a “receive-Jesus” prayer—is not without problems when subjected the biblical template of conversion. [2] Over the last few decades revivalism has been criticized, even by “in house” evangelicals. [3] As critics of the revivalistic system point out, in the aftermath of such point-in-time conversions, long term spiritual fruit has often not been evident, despite concerted efforts at follow-up and discipleship.

But now within evangelicalism a new paradigm of conversion is emerging, a paradigm that places emphasis on baptism, spiritual formation, community and kingdom building on earth. As opposed to the old revivalism with its emphasis on becoming a Christian, the new paradigm of conversion emphasizes being a Christian (To this distinction, the New Testament’s emphasis upon both becoming and being a Christian can be noted, the emphasis upon the one not to exclude the other; See John 3:3, 7; Galatians 5:22-24; James 2:17; 1 John 3:17.).

To understand this “sea change” regarding the old revivalistic paradigm of conversion, the emerging church’s emphasis appears to be upon togetherness, discipleship and kingdom. As advocates express it, “Belong, then believe.” Or as they assess the real membership of the church, “Most are in, and few (if any) are out.” Thus in their eyes, the church ought to be, as much as possible, one ecumenical community—“Kumbaya, my Lord, Kumbaya!”

But hindrances exist to the realization of community, hindrances involving essential biblical and Protestant teachings (Remember, the heart of the word Protestant is the word “protest.”). So in order to induce feelings of “togetherness,” there’s a movement adrift to deconstruct and then redefine those essential Reformation teachings that pose barriers to building community. In order to reach a consensus of faith which most, if not all Christians, can agree on, core beliefs concerning the Cross must be altered. Key teachings (i.e., doctrines which are to be believed) must be re-imagined or re-envisioned to fit a “community” template, especially as they regard the atonement, justification, reconciliation and finally, the very meaning of conversion itself. Amidst the “sea change” engulfing evangelicalism, we now give attention to the re-envisioning that is going on with these crucial doctrines in order to make them fit a togetherness template.
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Theater Church

by Pastor Larry DeBruyn for Emergent Church

Spectacles, Stories and Diminishing Scripture

“And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, ‘The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play’.” (1 Corinthians 10:7, NKJV)

“Believers, Beware!” EXODUS THIRTY-TWO may soon be coming to a theater-church near you!

Remember when after exiting Egypt, as Moses received the Law from God on Mt. Sinai above, the nation of Israel partied and worshipped a false god in the camp below? Forgetting how Jehovah had redeemed them from captivity by working signs and wonders on their behalf, the people demanded of Aaron:

Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him. (Exodus 32:1, NASB)

The idolaters, it seems, could not stand to wait (boring!!!) in faith for Moses to come down to them. They needed something contemporary, something visual, something sensual, something fresh. So finding himself to be an accommodating user-friendly and seeker-sensitive leader, Aaron caved in the crowd’s demands. They needed gods they could see and touch, and above all else, “feel.” So Aaron called for donations. The people, mostly women and children, brought him their “sacrifices of praise.” After smelting the jewelry, Aaron fashioned an idol. Magically he later explained to Moses, the calf just jumped out of the fire (See Exodus 32:24.). Then, as High Priest, Aaron called for a celebration of praise to be held the next day to honor their new golden bull of a god. That’s the kind of worship that happened in the wilderness (emphasis upon “wild” in wilderness) then; and that’s kind of worship occurring in the church of “what’s-happening-now.”
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“Deliteralizing” the Bible: from Plato to Peterson

by Pastor Larry DeBruyn for Emergent Church

Scripture amidst the Shadows

Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.”
The Apostle Paul to the Colossians (2:8, KJV)

“Truth did not come into the world naked, but in symbols and images.”[1]
The Gospel of Philip (Gnostic)

Introduction
          Increasingly, evangelical-emergent leaders are viewing the Bible as “metaphor”—to be constituted of less than literal language from which the reader subjectively derives spiritual meanings. To fully grasp the sense of God’s Word, the reader must do so through the lens of the metaphor.[2] This “new hermeneutic” asserts that ignoring the nuances of metaphor makes the Bible unintelligible. For example, Eugene H. Peterson (well-known composer of The Message) states in Eat This Book, that “if we do not appreciate the way a metaphor works we will never comprehend the meaning of the text.”[3]
          The issue confronting Bible readers is not whether the Bible contains metaphors (As any good literature, it does.), but whether the Bible is metaphor; and for students of God’s Word, there’s a world of difference between understanding that Scripture contains metaphors and assuming Scripture is metaphor.
          At the outset, let it be stated that this writing does not concern itself with the art and science of biblical interpretation, a discipline known in Bible colleges and seminaries as “hermeneutics.” There already exist excellent guides addressing the discipline far better than I am capable of.[4] Rather, in a pastoral way, this writing will seek to explain the philosophical underpinning of why evangelicals increasingly embrace the Bible as metaphor. In my thinking, viewing that God’s Word is primarily couched in metaphors has come about for reason of philosophy’s influence upon the Christian worldview and upon the source of the Christian faith, the Bible. As it did to late Judaism and in the early church, Plato’s ancient philosophical worldview appears to again be influencing how emergent-evangelicals are viewing Scripture.
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The Coming Kingdom: Evolution or Revolution?

by Pastor Larry DeBruyn for Emergent Church

McLaren’s Jihadist Jesus and the Second Coming

Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” Jesus, Matthew 24:29-30, KJV

In recent years, Christendom’s thinkers have offered a smorgasbord of ideas and theories about Jesus, thus begging the question—will the real Jesus please stand up? If one pays attention to the Jesus revisionists, we are left with the impression that nobody really understood Him, not even the Apostle Paul. To some, Jesus is a white Caucasian, and to others He’s a black African. To some, He was a revolutionary, and to others a pacifist. To some, He’s a prophet, while to others He’s a Gnostic. From teacher to magician, Jesus, it seems, can become almost anyone to everyone—a man for all seasons. So, it is supposed, if we earnestly “quest” after Him, we might discover the authentic Jesus. However, Jesus “makeovers” usually require that disparate parts of the biblical record be affirmed on the one hand, and denied on the other. But amidst all this “Jesus questing,” the believer can take solace in knowing that controversy over Jesus’ identity is not new (See Matthew 16:13-20.).

As he embraces “the nonviolent Jesus of the Gospels” (the Jesus of “love and grace”), one Christian leader now debunks what he labels the “jihadist Jesus” of the “Second Coming” (the Jesus of “violence and domination”). According to Brian McLaren, “the Second Coming Jesus”—once held by an evangelical consensus to be one of the five fundamentals of the Christian faith—needs rethinking.[1]
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His Name is “Jealous”!

by Pastor Larry DeBruyn for Emergent Church

How God feels about cheatn’ hearts.

For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God: Lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go a whoring after their gods, and do sacrifice unto their gods, and one call thee, and thou eat of his sacrifice; And thou take of their daughters unto thy sons, and their daughters go a whoring after their gods, and make thy sons go a whoring after their gods. Thou shalt make thee no molten gods.” Exodus 34:14-17

Someone once defined jealousy as a feeling of displeasure that comes over us when we hear about the success of others. Because a tendency, whether conscious or subconscious, resides in all of us to project our faults to others, to ignore our flaws, but condemn the same in other persons (Matthew 7:1-5), any thought about God being jealous can be troubling. Yet “jealousy” helps to define God’s character, and it may be surprising to know that for Him, jealousy is not the negative quality that we might presume it to be.[1] In the Law, God even goes by the name, “Jealous” (Exodus 34:14).

Caution therefore, ought to be exercised before considering that our emotions equate to God’s. We should not project His divinity to be like our depravity. How we feel below does not tranfer to how He feels above. We need to let God be God. We should allow His revelation, the Bible, to speak for Him, about what He means when He repeatedly declares, “I, the Lord, your God, am a jealous God” (Exodus 20:5; See Deuteronomy 5:9; 6:14-15a; Joshua 24:19.). We should not paint God in our image. If we dare malign God to be as we are, then the inference can be idolatrous. So how should we understand divine jealousy? To understand God’s jealousy, the analogy of marriage may be helpful.
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Love Loses

by Pastor Larry DeBruyn for Emergent Church, Quantum Spirituality

The Quantum Spirituality of Rob Bell: A review of “Love Wins”

Rob Bell, Love Wins: A Book about Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived (New York, NY: Harper One, 2011) xi + 198 pages, Acknowledgments and Further Reading. The back cover blurb first states and then incredulously asks: “God loves us. God offers us everlasting life by grace, freely, through no merit on our part. Unless you do not respond the right way. Then God will torture you forever. In hell.” Huh?

Recommended by a who’s who of emergent leaders, Rob Bell’s book Love Wins has, as it is calculated to do, stirred-up controversy. Recently, Time ran a front cover story on it. [1] Eugene H. Peterson lauds the book as being born out of a “thoroughly biblical imagination,” and a book “without a trace of soft sentimentality and without compromising an inch of evangelical conviction in its proclamation of the good news that is most truly for all.” (Front Cover Flap). Open theist Greg Boyd calls the book, “bold, prophetic, and a poetic masterpiece.” (Back Cover Flap). Andy Crouch sees Bell as “a central figure for his generation.” (Back Cover).
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Everything is not Spiritual

by Pastor Larry DeBruyn for Emergent Church

A Critique of Rob Bell’s Pan-Spiritual Worldview.

Some have wandered away from . . . a sincere faith and turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm. (1 Timothy 1:5-7, NIV)

Among emergent church leaders there exists a growing trend to merge the secular with the sacred, the unspiritual with the spiritual. By emergent evangelicals, reality (Everything that Is) is increasingly becoming viewed to Be one gargantuan and monistic whole. For example, Rob Bell has stated that “everyone is spiritual.” He says,

Maybe you’ve heard somebody say, “I’m just not into spiritual things.” Are you . . . are you a human being? Yea! Too late! The issue is not whether you’re a spiritual being, or you have a spirituality. The issue is whether your eyes are open and you’re aware of it. You cannot deny what is central to your make-up as a human being. In the Hebrew language there is no word for spiritual. If you would have said to Jesus, “Jesus, how’s your spiritual life?” What? What do you mean? Because to label one area spiritual is to label areas not spiritual. It’s absolutely foreign to the world of the Scriptures. It’s absolutely foreign to the worldview of Jesus. The assumption is that you are a fusion of two realms. And a human being occupies a totally unique place in the universe . . . Everything we do, we do as an integrated being–one-hundred percent physical, one-hundred percent spiritual.

To prove his everyone/everything-is-spiritual templet, Bell quotes Colossians 3:17 where Paul states, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus . . .” He then concludes,

What were they saying? Every act is a spiritual act. It’s whether or not you’re aware of the implications of what you’re doing. [1]
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Apostolic Authority: Then and Now

by Pastor Larry DeBruyn for Emergent Church

Was the appointment of Matthias apostolically errant?

Jesus therefore said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained”. Jesus, John 20:21-23, NASB

As liberal and emergent Christians seek out a new paradigm for doing church—in their estimation the old one has miserably failed—they exalt the authority of Jesus on the one hand—that’s good—but diminish the authority of the Apostles on the other—that’s not good. To emergent liberals, the apostles stand as obstructers to the kingdom building that Jesus envisioned and taught about. [1] So in questioning apostolic authority, they assume that, in contrast to Jesus, the apostles were only human and as such, made mistakes in their understanding of the meaning of the kingdom and their governance of the early church; and because they didn’t get it right yesterday, we should not assume that their writings have it right for today. In such a way, modern emergents question apostolic authority.
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Jesus Talk

by Pastor Larry DeBruyn for Emergent Church

What might it all mean, and where might it all lead?

Therefore I make known to you, that . . . no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:2, NASB

Amongst pan-evangelicals nowadays, there’s a lot of talk . . . talk . . . talk . . . going on about “Jesus,” the name that bespeaks the humanity of the historical person known by that name. The best selling religious allegory The Shack humanizes Jesus as a relatively unattractive Middle Eastern Jewish man with a “big nose” who functioned as the retreat center’s repairman. [1]

At face value, there is nothing wrong with portraying Jesus as human. In Jesus, God became incarnate. Paul the Apostle wrote, Jesus was “made in the likeness of men . . . [and] found in appearance as a man” (Philippians 2:7-8). Christians cannot deny—though Docetism, an ancient heresy in the early church, taught that His body was not real, that He only “seemed” (Greek, dokein) to have a body—Jesus possessed and possesses a genuine humanity. To counter the false teaching of Docetism, John the Apostle wrote that “the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us,” and that “many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh” (John 1:14; 2 John 7). For reason of His incarnation, no true Christian believer denies Jesus’ humanity. But with all this “Jesus-Jesus-Jesus” talk, believers ought to be concerned that a Christ-identity crisis is going on amongst professing evangelicals as they attempt to deconstruct the traditions surrounding Jesus in order to discover the authentic Jesus of the primitive gospel.
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