The Emergent Church Movement and Humility Misinformed

Monday, June 19, 2006

One of the most striking features of the ECM is their commendable striving after humility. The most admirable quality in a follower of Jesus, it is the one unattainable yet obligated character for every disciple.

The thing about humility is that it demands open-mindedness. You might be wrong. It's always possible. Like it or not, we truly do not know everything, and did not at any time, including the teenage years. Our minds bear the taint of sin as long as they rest in our fallen bodies.

However, humility, and the open-mindedness it produces, doesn't necessarily mean we have to change our view on something. It appears, at least to me, that for the ECM they wrongly connect humility with the necessity of a changed view. If that means changing from what is wrong to what is right, then great! But changing our views may also be indicative of nothing more than theological instability. That said, there's a fine line between true humility, and humility misinformed.

There's no virtue in always being on the road to discovery. There's no desirable quality in always walking the theological journey. Why? Because you never make it to a destination with humility misinformed. Moving from the obligation of humility to the fruit of open-mindedness does not mean we must travel down the path of constant theological change, always traveling but never arriving.

Those in the ECM might want to consider how unfair it is to create an atmosphere or environment around believers which leads them to believe that if they are not changing their theological views constantly then they are not being open-minded, and therefore neither are they being humble. Ouch! That's an arrogant statement, reflective of humility misinformed.

If you are not confident that you have at least come to a conclusion on a significant theological point say, on the nature of the gospel, then it will be impossible to believe it such that you live it, preach it, lead others to it, and die for it and by it. A hallmark of stability in leadership is not constant change. Compassionate conviction is.

So why should "modern" evangelicals be pummelled with accusations of evangelical modernity just because they haven't changed their views? Especially when those views can be and have been demonstrated as legitimate and sound through historic orthodoxy and consistent hermeneutics and exegesis?

Here's what one blogger (empty rhetoric) had to say...obviously they are important enough words to repeat here, for they are said better than I can say them.

"...certainty is important. Not in the sense of arrogance, in the sense of confidence. There are things that we can know about the Bible. There are things that we can be sure of. Nothing that we will ever discover in theology, for instance, will ever indicate to us that God is in some way evil or sinful. I know of no emergent church folk who would argue that God is evil, nor do I expect any to in the future. But the fact of the matter is, in addition to knowing things like “God is not evil” we can also know a great deal of other things. What much emergent church literature attempts to combat is the false certainy many have in particular doctrinal issues about which the Bible is purposefully vague, but they also often challenge things that I think need not be questioned. Certainly speaking of the “emergent” movement in such a manner is somewhat unfair, as they are not unified in any particular way, but such generalizations are, I think, accurate, at least for the msot part. No doubt some would point out that there are many emergent church members who would agree with the above sentiments, and I would not challenge them. As a whole, however, I find that in their well-meaning attempts to question that which has not been previously questioned, the emergent church often comes dangerously close to making serious doctrinal errors- errors that threaten valuable portions of the church...

"Attacking evangelicals will never allow for civil dialouge. What is perhaps most troubling to me about the emergent church is that they often (certainly not always) treat the evangelicals with which they disagree more harshly than they should. I appreciate many of the critiques that come from the emergent church, especially on our lack of involvement in social justice issues, but I have seen attempts to reform such deficiencies go tremendously awry when well-meaning emergent church members involuntarily lapse into the false humility of “open-mindedness”. I certainly don’t think that an open mind is a bad thing, however, I think that perhaps the pretense of it becomes a wall behind which postmoderns in general often attempt to hide. This, I think, is unfortunate."

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