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Exposing the Emerging Church

The editors of B.A.N.A.S.H. believe that it is essential for God’s people to be well informed concerning the false teachings that are currently infiltrating the Church at an unprecedented rate. Sadly many Believers have little or no desire to gain knowledge about the many ‘isms’ that are confronting us at the end of this age. If the Lord Jesus Christ and His Apostles thought it worthwhile to have a knowledge of false teachings with the purpose of reproving them, then we too need to be equally well informed regarding error in order to effectively fulfil the scriptural command to reprove the unfruitful works of darkness. (Ephesians 5:11)

However, error is often difficult to identify because it frequently has some resemblance of truth within its teachings. Henry (Harry) Ironside was very accurate when he said the following: “Error is like leaven, of which we read, "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump." Truth mixed with error is equivalent to all error, except that it is more innocent looking and, therefore, more dangerous. God hates such a mixture! Any error, or any truth-and-error mixture, calls for definite exposure and repudiation. To condone [or ignore] such is to be unfaithful to God and His Word and treacherous to imperilled souls for whom Christ died.”

Due to the Emerging Church’s cunning ability to mix truth with error, God’s people need to be extremely discerning and well equipped in order to identify, expose and reprove the false teaching within the Emerging Church or within any other false religious system. There is no better way to sharpen one’s spiritual discernment than a thorough knowledge of God’s Word combined with the power of the Holy Spirit to facilitate a gracious and effective application of ....the Sword of Spirit, which is the Word of God. Ephesians 3:17.

The Source of Emergent Teaching & all False Doctrine:

"There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death." Proverbs 14:12.

Despite all of the clear biblical teaching regarding the futility of man attempting to find acceptance with God on his own terms, countless fools have sought to do so since the dawn of time. Multitudes in their puffed up pride and rebelliousness have repeatedly rejected God’s gracious way of salvation through repentance and faith in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ for His people’s sin on Calvary (substitutionary atonement). Consequently multitudes of man-made religions have evolved, which advocate good works in place of or in conjunction with God’s way of salvation. Any false religion can easily be identified by undertaking an assessment of its teaching on the substitutionary atonement; where Christ and His atoning work is rejected or not fully depended upon for salvation, works are always inserted as a replacement or as an add on. "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works lest any man should boast." Ephesians 2:8-9.

The Emerging Church is a modern example of such a man-made religion. Although it is a professing Christian movement of relatively recent years, in reality its commencement can be traced to Cain’s vain attempts to find acceptance with God through the development of a more ‘contemporary’ way to worship and find forgiveness of sin.

It must be pointed out that not everyone associated with the emergent movement would be in agreement with all of the traits highlighted within this article. However, anyone professing allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ must by necessity love His Word because Jesus Christ is the Word incarnate. "And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us." John 1:14. If such a love for God’s Word exists it will always be accompanied by a submissive obedience to its teaching and an abhorrence of the liberal teachings of the Emerging Church will naturally ensue. This abhorrence in turn would necessitate a separation from this apostate movement and prompt a condemnation of its pernicious teachings....something emergent associates who claim adherence to Reformed teaching have failed to do. (eg. New Calvinists like Mark Driscoll, Dan Kimball, Tim Keller etc).

  • ".....Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good." Romans 12:9.

  • "And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them." Ephesians 5:11.

  • "Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith that was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ." Jude: 3-4.

An absence of organised structure or doctrinal statements can present difficulties when attempting to scrutinize the make-up and belief traits within the Emerging Church. However, there is sufficient information available from the prominent proponents of emergent teachings to facilitate an analysis. Much of the following information has been gleaned from a website entitled ‘Building a Church without Walls’, which belongs to one of Northern Ireland’s foremost supporters of the emergent movement, Gladys Ganiel.

Traits within the Emerging Church:

A Conversation?:

Advocates of the Emerging Church prefer to describe this movement as a ‘conversation’ to emphasise its flexibility and willingness to embrace new ideologies as they arise; thus it is enabled to evolve alongside cultural changes within society as they occur; however, the authority of God’s immutable (unchangeable) and eternal Word is inevitably set aside in the process.

Social Justice:

According to Ganiel, the Emerging Church has gained popularity in America because evangelicalism in America has become politicised and contrary to the gospel. Perhaps in an effort to justify the necessity for the Emerging Church in Northern Ireland, Ganiel appeals to what Pete Rollins (formerly of IKON in Belfast) disparagingly describes as Ulster’s ‘Paisleyism’ (presumably this refers to the Free Presbyterian Church (FPC) since Dr Paisley was the founding member of this denomination!), which he claims is moralistic and focussed on sexual sin! This of course is untruthful and anyone wishing to find out exactly what this church teaches may do so by visiting any of the websites of the FPC.

A church focused on social justice has been tried by many before and has never yet had a favourable outcome. For example The Salvation Army, which started off being thoroughly evangelical, became so taken up with social activity that it has largely forsaken the preaching and defence of the gospel and has now become another victim of compromise and apostasy!

What proponents of a social gospel fail to recognise is that sin is at the core of every social evil; therefore attempting to address the consequences of sin without addressing the root cause, is as useful as applying a sticking plaster to a gaping, infected wound. When the Church fulfils its God given commission to preach the gospel and to feed the lambs/sheep, individuals are converted and sanctified; by the grace of God these individuals become the agents of change within society by sharing the gospel with others and through the undertaking of good works, their motivation being a delight in God’s Word and a desire to obey its every command, including the command to love ones neighbour and enemy alike:

  • "Jesus said unto him, thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." Matthew 22:37-39.

  • "But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Matthew 5:44.

Doubt Welcomed:

Emergent teaching welcomes doubt and views faith and doubt as two sides of one coin! Ganiel again quotes Peter Rollins who refers to doubt as a normal state; Rollins erroneously claims that Christ experienced doubt when he felt abandonment by God on the cross! But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. Hebrews 11:6.

Doubt and unbelief is sinful and to accuse Christ of this sin is blasphemy and an unmerited attack on The Lord Jesus Christ’s sinless perfection, Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth. 1 Peter 2:22.

Substitutionary Atonement Denied:

According to Ganiel, substitutionary atonement is wrong. She expresses agreement with Steve Chalks’ opinion that the traditional evangelical understanding of the crucifixion, which believes that God punishes an innocent victim in place of guilty, fallen, humanity, as a form of "cosmic child abuse". Ganiel also refers to Brian McLaren’s belief that there are a number of ways to look at atonement and being rigid on one way leads churches in different ways. (This is exactly what the absolute truth of God’s Word is intended to do!) This statement by McLaren betrays the true intention of the Emerging Church, which is strongly inclined towards the development of an all inclusive and united church; in the absence of any firm teaching combined and a very strong propensity to embrace different belief systems, this will be all the more achievable: undoubtedly the Emerging Church is contributing extensively to the end time apostasy prior to Christ’s second coming when there will be a merging of all (false) faiths in one world religion! "Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition." 2 Thessalonians 2:3.

How vitally important it is for the members of the truly united Church (i.e. the invisible church) to adhere unswervingly to the absolute truth of God’s Word! "Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus." 2 Timothy 1:13.


According to Ganiel there should be no attempt to win converts as it is not the job of a Christian to convert other religions. This of course is a serious contradiction of the Lord’s Great Commission to His Church: "And he [The Lord Jesus Christ] said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." Mark 16:15.

New Monasticism:

This is a so called ‘Protestant’ movement that is attempting to mimic aspects of the Roman Catholic monastic way of life within communities of lay people. It is strange that this is acceptable to the ‘anti-institutional’ Emerging Church given that monasticism is in essence institutional! However, it is not so surprising given the Emerging Church’s strong tendency to embrace the Roman Catholic mystical forms of worship associated monasticism which include contemplative practices (Lectio Divina), use of candles, icons, incense and images.

Emphasis on Personal Experience and Feelings:

The Emerging Church places great emphasis on subjective experience as opposed to objective truth. Therefore, it is not surprising that many emergent adherents are greatly attracted to the mystical New Age teachings that are becoming increasingly popular within professing Christendom and the major global religions. (e.g. Spiritual Formation, Contemplative Prayer, Lectio Divina,yoga etc). Placing personal human experience and feelings above the teaching of the Bible is nothing new; ancient Gnosticism and its modern counterpart, New Ageism, do this by teaching that God is everywhere and within everyone revealing Himself directly to the individual’s spirit; therefore the intellect does not need to be involved and the Word of God is rendered redundant! The following scripture verses are just a few among many that place immense value on the Word of God:

  • "Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of Me." John 5:39.

  • "And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself." Luke 24:27.

  • "And He [The Lord Jesus Christ] was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and His name is called The Word of God." Revelation19:13.

  • "I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name." Psalm 138:2.

  • "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth." John 1:14.

To reject or undermine the authority of God’s word is equivalent to denying the person and Lordship of Jesus Christ who is the Word incarnate (made flesh)!

Within the ranks of the Emergent Church there is a widespread rejection of organised religion and a dislike of doctrinal statements of faith, which are viewed as institutional, restrictive and moralistically absolute; these elements would of course hinder the open dialogue deemed necessary for the progression of this movement. This inclusive ideology has given rise to a most liberal interpretation of the Bible and such open-endedness can produce only one outcome - a denial of the absolute truths and contained within God’s Word and consequently an undermining its authority!

Traditional church buildings and formal forms of worship are often shunned in favour of informal meetings in pubs, cafes, old abandoned churches for atmospheric effect, rented accommodation or urban spaces like the Titanic Quarter in Belfast where the ecumenical/emergent organisation called ‘The Dock’ meets once a month. Sadly many traditional churches are beginning to adopt elements of emergent practices and it is becoming popular in otherwise sound evangelical churches to replace the pulpit with a stage from where a speaker seeks to ‘entertain’ their audience under the guise of preaching the gospel; thus a personality or even a drama group becomes the focus of the congregation’s attention and the centrality God’s Word is set aside - all in an effort to provide people with a more relevant and up to date presentation of the ‘gospel’! What an affront to God’s appointed way of reaching and saving sinners: “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” 1 Corinthians 1:21.

Irreverent contemporary music (rock, hip hop, rap, country etc) and ‘worship’ songs with meaningless and repetitive/hypnotic lyrics are often adopted within emergent worship. Psalms and hymns based upon the Word of God with the capacity to engage the intellect and spirit in reverent worship of the Lord are regarded as old fashioned and have no welcome within most Emergent Churches.

Casual/informal and often immodest dress is adopted by many churches with emergent tendencies; orthodox forms of worship are shunned in favour of a relaxed and irreverent approach to ‘worship’. Open ended discussions are favoured as opposed to a single man teaching ministry; it is therefore unsurprising that the heretical ‘Alpha Course’ is very popular in churches with emergent tendencies; dancing and drama as a means to deliver the ‘gospel’ are also common place.

Engagement in worldly or casual methods of worship are not supported by the scriptures and have more in common with the shameful pagan worship engaged in by the children of Israel at the foot of Mount Sinai: "And when Moses heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said unto Moses, There is a noise of war in the camp. And he said, it is not the noise of them that cry for being overcome; but the noise of them that sing do I hear. And it came to pass, as soon as he came he nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing: .....And when Moses saw that the people were naked; (for Aaron had made them naked unto their shame among their enemies:)" Exodus 32: 17-18 & 25.

Moses’ response to the departure from true religion and worship that he witnessed is a good example on how Believers should respond when unscriptural forms of worship are employed within churches: "Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the Lord’s side? Let him come unto me." Exodus 32:26.

May the Lord give His people the grace to respond Moses’ ultimatum like the sons of Levi by taking their stand outside the camp of apostasy along with the Lord Jesus Christ! (Hebrews 13:12-13)

The traditions of men have little value and are invariably unscriptural (like the vain traditions of the Pharisees, Roman Catholicism and other false religions); worship of God must always be in agreement with God’s Word. Therefore, scriptural worship will be traditional in nature if it is undertaken in accordance with the principles set forth in God’s Word. "Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle." 2 Thessalonians 2:15.

Missional, not Missionaries:

The emerging term ‘missional’ is based on the mistaken belief that Jesus Christ was incarnated into the culture of this world and therefore each Christian is commissioned to do likewise. For that reason it is not surprising that emergent ‘Christians’ are very often partakers of the many sinful pleasures that our modern Western culture offers like imbibing alcohol, night clubbing, rock/pop concerts, immodest fashions, fornication, and other equally sinful pursuits!

Mark Driscoll gives his interpretation of ‘missional’: “Jesus’ incarnation is in itself missional. God the Father sent God the Son into culture on a mission to redeem the elect by the power of God the Holy Ghost. After his resurrection, Jesus also sent his disciples into culture, on a mission to proclaim the success of his mission, and commissioned all Christians to likewise be missionaries to the cultures of the world (e.g., Matt. 28:18-20; John 20:21; Acts 1:7-8). Emerging and missional Christians have wonderfully rediscovered the significance of Jesus’ incarnational example of being a missionary immersed in a culture” (Confessions of a Reformission Rev. Page 26).

The Lord Jesus Christ came to seek and to save sinners out of their sinful cultural settings; indeed He often challenged and rebuked the vain cultural traditions of the Pharisees and Samaritans. (Matthew 15:1-9; Luke 6:1-9; John 4:9 & 20-23). Christ lived a sinless life in complete conformity to the Law of God; to immerse himself in the cultures of this world would have required Him to commit sin, something He could never do! "For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens." Hebrews 7:26.

The cultures of this world, having been developed by men who are sinful and rebellious by nature, are more than often worldly, pagan and idolatrous; the Lord Jesus Christ never commissioned His followers to immerse themselves in them; to do so would require Christians to participate in the very things which the Bible clearly commands them to avoid:

· "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." 1 John 2:15.

· "And be not conformed to this world: but be yet transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." Romans 12:2.

The unconverted have little or no respect for those who profess allegiance to Christ yet present with an outward appearance and lifestyle that makes them appear to be every bit as much the child of Satan as they are!

No Biblical Separation Practised:

Since the Emerging Church encourages its members to immerse themselves in the cultures of this world, it is hardly surprising that it does not teach biblical separation and tends to view those who practice it with contempt! Rejection of biblical moral absolutes combined with a liberal ‘all inclusive’ philosophy, removes the requirement for the emergent ‘Christian’ to practice separation from anything or anyone!

Separation as taught in the scriptures is not only intended to expose error and compromise within the church, but it also sets forth God’s desire for His redeemed people to be separated unto Him for His glory:

· "Be ye holy; for I am holy." 1 Pet 1:16.

· "....that we, being delivered out of the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear. In holiness and righteousness before Him, all the days of our life." Luke 1: 74-75.

The Second Coming and The Nation of Israel:

Many emergent teachers are scornful regarding those who obey the biblical teaching to wait, watch and pray for the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. The following quotes by emergent adherents Rick Warren and Tony Campolo indicate their opinions on such people:

“If you want Jesus to come back sooner, focus on fulfilling your mission, not figuring out prophecy.” (Rick Warren, PDL, pp. 285-286)

“Tony Campolo says that Christians who “make a big thing of their claim that we are now living in the final stage of church history prior to the second coming of Christ” have been the cause of “extremely detrimental” consequences. They “discount the Sermon on the Mount,” they don’t care about the needy, and they have had such a negative “impact on geopolitics,” which Campolo says “can lead only to war.” (Faith Undone, p. 160, quoting Campolo, Speaking My Mind)

Both quotes taken from an article by Roger Oakland in the Lighthouse Trails Research Website.

Roger Oakland accurately describes the deceptive role of the Emerging Church at the end of this age:

“In the Bible in the Book of Revelation, it says that Satan will deceive the whole world (Revelation 12:9). The emerging church movement has three essential elements that are consistent throughout the movement that may help this great deception to occur":

1. The embracing of mysticism.

2. The belief that the kingdom of God will be established on earth BEFORE Christ returns.

3. The rejection of eschatology (the study of the end-times and Bible prophecy relating to it).”

Pre-millennial teaching is particularly despised by emergents:

Teachings associated with the ‘Reconstructionism’, ‘Dominionism’ and ‘Kingdom Now’ movements are commonly accepted; all of these heretical teachings on the second coming give assent to the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth prior to Christ’s return, where social order, peace and harmony will prevail. Such teachings have much in common with the New Age movement’s expectation of a future period of enlightenment for mankind, known as the ‘Age of Aquarius’. These false perspectives contradict the explicit teaching of scripture, which foretells a falling away (apostasy) prior to the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ; the ‘utopia’ anticipated by false emergent eschatology will indeed occur under the reign of the Antichrist, who will usher in an unprecedented, albeit short reign of wickedness. "Let no man deceive you by any means; for that day shall not come, except there be a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition." 2 Thessalonians 2:3.

Replacement Theology (RT) is also greatly favoured within emergent circles. This false teaching emanates mainly from post-millennialism, which regards Israel as disinherited from the Covenant that God undertook with Abraham because of the Jew’s disobedience and rejection of the Messiah; RT teaches that the New Testament Church has now replaced Israel and inherited its blessings. It is impossible for the immutable God of heaven to renege on His Word, although it is true that blindness in part has happened unto Israel, "until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in." Romans 11:26. If it were possible for the Lord to break His Covenant and cast off Israel, how could anyone who has trusted in Christ for salvation have assurance that they would not be cast off?

· "Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin." Romans 11:1.

· "And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is My covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins....For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance." Roman 11: 26-27 & 29.

This article has provided just a few of the trends currently manifested within the Emerging Church and this list is by no means exhaustive. We trust that our readers will be motivated to scrutinise the subject in greater depth. May the Lord in His mercy awaken His slumbering Church and alert them to what is going on around them.

"I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry." II Timothy 4:1-5.

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