Dan Kimball, a pastor at Vintage Church and a leader in the Emerging/Emergent Church Movement, has blown a fuse over MacArthur’s critique of the ECM. The title of his blogpost is Please Don’t Stereotype The Emerging Church, and is very fascinating to read – especially the comments that follow the post proper.

Kimball cries “foul!” regarding MacArthur’s analysis of the movement, and in so doing fulfills John’s predictions almost uncannily to the letter, almost. Almostly almost almost. How many times can I misunderetsimatingly use the word “almost.”


When I read Kimball’s several-paragraph-long complaint, I was struck by how prescient MacArthur’s (and Koukl before him) caveat concerning his analysis has proven to be:

With that as background, let me attempt to give you something that approximates a definition of this movement—this thing—that we all agree resists any kind of precise definition.

Some important disclaimers. I hope you won’t be surprised or dismayed when people who are devoted to the emergent subculture point out that my description of their movement is an oversimplification. They are also going to complain that some of the things I criticize don’t apply in every exhaustive detail to every person or every congregation in their movement.

Remember: I know that, and I have already acknowledged it. But I still think there’s great value in giving you a description of the broad contours of the movement, and that is what I am going to try to do.

Some in the movement will complain that I haven’t read enough of their literature; I haven’t interacted enough with the right emergent bloggers; or I haven’t visited enough of their gatherings to be a competent critic of their ideas.

All I can say in response is that I have read as much literature from the movement’s key writers as I can get my hands on; I have interacted directly with people in the emerging movement as much as my time and schedule will permit; I have already put many of my criticisms of the movement in the public arena repeatedly, and I have invited (and received) lots of feedback from people who are devoted to the movement. I have done my best to be fair and complete. And I assure you that I will continue to study the movement.

But I don’t agree with the notion that in order to be a reasonable and credible analyst of a movement like this, you have to remain neutral indefinitely and never become a critic. There is simply too much in the movement that warrants criticism.

As I said, I just want to be candid and clear for you. I wish time allowed me to be as nuanced as I would normally like to be. On the other hand, I think a tendency to over-nuance and over-qualify everything has already spoiled some otherwise potentially helpful critiques of this movement.

Admitting that I’m sure not happy with MacArthur whenever he starts to plunk out critiques of those of us who don’t actually think the Spirit went MIA at the close of the “Apostolic Age”, or that God created the majority of the human race specifically for the purpose of stoking the fires of hell, so I’m quite certain it’s not pleasant for an ECM-type to read his critique of the ECM, I note with fascination that it sure seems to me at least that Kimball pretty much missed John’s point and launched into a “nuh-uh! nuh-uh!” session which ultimately fails to deal with MacArthur’s central premise (that the ECM on aggregate sets aside or outright jettisons the doctrine of the perspicacity of Scripture) and ironically proved MacArthur’s point in his disclaimer cited above.

One of the most stunningly irritating thing about the ECM that I’ve found – again, in aggregate – is the “moving target” nature of the debate; any time anyone attempts an analysis, they’re answered with the increasingly untenable line that “you really don’t understand, you’re painting with a broad brush, yadda yadda yadda…”


Sounds a lot like the univerally tired Calvinist objections to non-Calvinists critiquing their soteriology (e.g., White’s classic oh-so-close-to-ad-hominem dodge of Bryson’s critiques).

Let’s just say, the more I read, the less impressed I am with the majority of the ECM…

Anyway, Kimball’s post is worthwhile to get an ECM dude’s view of things.