Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Emerging Chaos

The back panel of the latest issue of the ‘Reachout: ministry to the cults’ newsletter advertises two books. The first is ‘Faith Undone’ by Roger Oakland. The advertisement for this book reads:

Is the emerging church just a passing fad, a more contemporary approach to church, or the discontented grumblings of young people looking for answers? Grounded in a centuries old mystical approach, this movement is powerful yet highly deceptive and it draws practices and experiences that are foreign to Biblical Christianity. The path the merging church is taking is leading right into the arms of an interfaith perspective….

The second book is called ‘The Other Side of the River’ by Kevin Reeves (definitely no relation!) and this book tells of one man’s experience with a movement that calls itself ‘The River’ and this claims…

… to be spreading the kingdom of God through signs and wonders. Sometimes referred to as the River rival, the Third Wave of the Latter Rain, this movement is marked by bizarre manifestations, false prophecies and esoteric revelations. Warnings of divine retribution keep many adherents in bondage; afraid to speak out or even question those things they are taught and are witness to. The Word faith movement, Holy Laughter, Emphasis on the humanity of Jesus over His deity and experience versus scripture are just some of the topics discussed in this book.

I don’t know whether Reachout did it deliberately but these two books are manifestations from the same underlying malaise. My experience of charismatic evangelicalism is that ‘Later Rain’ restorationism is just an extreme manifestation of something that can be seen, albeit in less intense forms, in many charismatic connections. Emerging church is, in my opinion, a reaction against some of the excesses of Charismatic Christianity. A case in point is a leader like David Tomlinson of ‘Post Evangelical’ fame whose ideas are linked with emerging church. Tomlinson came out of the Charismatic restorationist movement after reacting against its authoritarianism and its management by 'spin'. (e.g. 'Sin Spin' - the practice of explaining away failure by accusing someone of lacking faith or causing 'spiritual blockage')

So why didn’t those who emerged out of charismatic excesses see ‘the light’ and fall into the arms of the traditional and strict and particular ‘Bible based’ evangelicals? They, of course, have their own problems: legalistic, didactic, traditional, stuffy, dowdy, out dated, unwilling to change their conception of ‘biblical’ worship or give countenance to people’s experiences, and above all, only too willing to limit God’s Grace to their own culture. The emerging church Christians had nowhere to emerge to but into their own experimental churches. In short, evangelicalism had sold them short. There may be dangers in what they are doing, (particularly their mysticism – probably a hang over of Charismatic days), but it cannot be any less dangerous than the extremes of evangelicalism that limit God’s Grace.

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