The “Emergent Church” (Part II)
November 18, 2005 3 Comments
(Continued from Part I)
Since Nooma DVDs were the first place I heard “Emergent Church” ideas expressed I watched more of them to see if the humanistic worldview I had noticed in “Dust” was a thread which ran throughout. About half of the ones I’ve viewed have had elements of post-modernism, humanism, relativism or some related philosophy. Briefly, here is what I noticed:
“Bullhorn” – Synopsis from Nooma: God loves everyone, so a Christian should, too. In fact, Jesus said that the most important thing in life is to love God with everything we’ve got and love others the same way. But it’s not always easy to love everyone around us, is it? Sometimes we strongly disagree with other people’s political views, religious beliefs, behaviors or something else, and it makes it hard to love them when we feel like we’re right and they’re very wrong. But Jesus doesn’t separate loving God and loving others. So maybe that best way for us to show our love for God is actually by loving other people no matter how hard it sometimes is. Maybe it’s the only way.
While this one has a good message about the importance of loving others it contains disturbing elements. It dismisses the seriousness of sin and the importance of repentance and focuses on loving people just the way they are. The implication is that it’s really not necessary to tell anyone they are a sinner and in need of God’s redemption because, “God loves us just the way we are.” In fact, this Nooma leaves the viewer with the notion that everyone’s religious ideas are of equal value and there’s really no need to get into all that doctrine and theology that bogs religions down.
“Trees” – Synopsis from Nooma: We want to know why we are here. If our lives really matter. How our religion is relevant to this life today. We want to understand what significance this minute, hour, week, month, and year has to our lives. To our world. We need a God who cares about this life, in this world, right now. We want to understand why everything we think, everything we say, and everything we do matters. We don’t want to just sit back and wait for something to happen or someday to come. We want to know if all the choices we make now will shape our world and lives for eternity. Because we want our lives to have meaning today, and our lives today to have meaning forever.
This one challenges the viewer to have an eternal perspective. That’s good. It also implies that our good works are really what matters. It implies that we are the same as Adam and Eve, in that we have the ability to live “good” lives if we choose to. The implication is that there was no “fall” and the doctrine of original sin, if not outright denied, is minimized.
“Rhythm” – Synopsis from Nooma: What does it mean to have a relationship with God? What does it look like? For a lot of us it’s a hard thing to fully understand. If God is an infinite spirit with no shape or form, how can we possibly relate to that? And what about Jesus? He said he came to give everyone life in its fullest. He came to show us how to live. Maybe it’s through trusting Jesus and living the kind of life he taught us to live – a life of truth, love, justice, compassion, forgiveness, and sacrifice – that we have a relationship with God. Maybe the way we live every day, every single choice we make, determines how in tune with God we are.
This one contains a heavy “new age” feel with regard to spirituality. Knowing God is like participating in a song and all we need to do is “be in tune.” The way to “be in tune” is to just love one another, do good things for one another, etc. and that’s enough. It completely ignores God’s revealed Word to us as a means of knowing God. It doesn’t mention Jesus Christ as the means of reconciliation between God and man or even a sinner’s need for salvation. If I didn’t already know Rob Bell professed to be a Christian I sure wouldn’t know it from this.
You may have noticed that I used the words “implied” and “implication” a lot. That’s because Bell leads the viewer toward certain conclusions without actually making firm statements. It’s a characteristic I’ve learned is a trademark of the Emergent Church movement.
The philosophies of this age were prevalent in several (not all) of the Nooma DVDs. The ones where it was not prevalent contained valuable messages that can and should be applied to a Christian’s life. But knowing that the post-modern element is present is enough for me to post a huge WARNING sign over anything with Rob Bell’s influence.
I also became curious to see how deep these philosophies ran within the broader “Emergent Church” movement. Could it be that Rob Bell is the rogue member of the movement and his worldview is the exception among emergers and not the rule?
I’ll address that question in Part III.