Let’s start off the month of December with a bang, shall we?

As you know, John MacArthur has been posting on his blog a series of articles on the Emerging/Emergent Church Movement. These have in my opinion proven to be a very important contribution to the ongoing “conversation” regarding the ECM and the ECM’s underlying philosophical premise: Postmodernism.

John’s analysis so far has, in my opinion, been absolutely, utterly, an unqualified masterpiece. Keeping in mind that he is no friend of the ECM, his critique of the movement and its epistemological underpinnings is very, incredibly incisive.

He posted the 4th installment today, and it just rocks. Some highlights:

Incidentally, Postmodernism itself is not easy to define, but in general it refers to a tendency to discount values like dogmatism, authority, absolutism, assurance, certainty, and large, commanding, exclusive worldviews—which postmodernists like to label metanarratives. Postmodern values would include things like diversity, inclusiveness, relativism, subjectivity, tolerance, ambiguity, pragmatism, and above all, a view of “humility” that is characterized by lots of qualms and reservations and uncertainties and disclaimers about whether anything we hold in our belief system is really true or not. Those are the very same values that are usually held in high esteem in the “emerging church movement.”

By the way, the suggestion that we try to deal with truth in non-propositional form is not anything new with the “emerging church movement.” It’s an idea that was floated as one of the key tenets of neo-orthodoxy at least 65 years ago or more. I would argue that the assault on propositional truth ultimately entails the abandonment of logic completely. It is an irrational idea. Francis Schaeffer said the same thing. He regarded neo-orthodoxy’s attack on propositional truth as the theological equivalent of suicide. He said when we abandon rationality in that way, we have crossed “the line of despair.” We might as well abandon the quest for truth itself. And in effect, that is the result of the postmodernist perspective.

Some actually believe the “emerging church movement” is so much the polar opposite of modernism that when you criticize their movement, they will accuse you of blithely and unthinkingly buying into the errors of “modern” thinking. They will often label you a “modernist.” And among other things, they will accuse you of parroting a brand of philosophical foundationalism that owes more to Rene Descartes and Cartesian foundationalism than it owes to the Scriptures. Lots of naive people have been drawn into the movement by sophisticated-sounding philosophical arguments like those. That claim is based on the assumption that postmodernism itself represents a correction of the philosophical errors of modernism, rather than just a further step in a wrong direction.

So my assessment of the “emerging church movement” is that far from being the antithesis of modernism, this sort of “evangelical postmodernism” is really ultimately nothing more than Modernism 2.0.

Far from being antithetical, the two movements are ultimately just one and the same. The “emerging church movement” is this generation’s version of what our grandparents knew as modernism—updated in some ways, but ultimately, it’s essentially the same. Postmodernists today are using the same arguments and the same strategies that the modernists of the Victorian era employed. The results will be exactly the same, too.

Absolutely, utterly, 1000% correct.

One thing, in fact, that I have noticed about the leftward-leaning majority of the ECM (like McKnight, MacLaren, Bell, Jones, et. al.) is that their worldview has troubling echoes of Kierkegaard’s existentialism. Specifically, the emphasis on a “chastised” epistemology resonates powerfully with Søren’s concept of the “leap of faith“.

And again – the more I read about the ECM, the more I’m convinced that after it’s blown around a bit, stirring things up and such, it will ultimately blow back out again. It has no staying power. It exists to accommodate a perception of current culture and so it will pass when the current cultural climate inevitably shifts as the pendulum swings back again.

The Word remains.

Advertisements