The emerging church, its philosophy and direction, is illustrated by Chris Seay of Ecclesia (Church) in Houston, Texas. The emerging church is all about living as I please, about not being restricted by old biblical mores.
Seay is a third generation Baptist pastor and the author of Faith of My Fathers: Conversations with Three Generations of Pastors about Church, Ministry, and Culture.
In this book Seay describes how that his father and grandfather pastored traditional Southern Baptist churches. His grandfather pastored Magnum Oaks Baptist Church in Houston for 28 years but it closed its doors in 2002, soon after he retired.
Seay implies that the problem with such churches is that they are not adapting to the changing times. He claims that a new way of doing church is necessary today: an emerging church for an emerging generation. The answer, he believes, lies along the lines of Ecclesia. It is a non-judgmental, inclusive, hip, artsy, liturgical type of church. Its mission statement says: “Culture is met, embraced, and transformed. ... Beauty, art, and creativity are valued.”
Seay likes to think that the emerging church isn’t changing anything of essential substance, but in fact it is a departure from the faith once delivered to the saints.
Seay’s Baptist forefathers believed that Scripture is the infallible Word of God, but the young emergent pastor has rejected that position, believing that the Bible contains many errors (Faith of My Fathers, pp. 81-86). Seay says: “I love the Bible, and I believe it’s perfect in every way IT NEEDS TO BE. But I serve a living God, not a canon” (p. 86).
Liberals love to attempt to cover their unbelief with high-sounding words, like honoring the living God more than a paper god. In fact, though, it is impossible to serve God acceptably or even to know anything for certain about God apart from the Revelation He has given in Scripture, and that Revelation claims to be infallible. If it is not, the Bible is a lie and we are stumbling in darkness rather than walking in light. The apostle Paul, who claimed to write by divine revelation, said that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16). The true believer accepts this testimony and thanks God for it. The believer does not honor the Bible above God, but he knows that he does not know how to honor God acceptably apart from the Bible and he sees no contradiction between honoring God and honoring Scripture.
Seay’s Baptist forefathers believed in holy living and holy preaching, but the young emergent preacher has rejected a strict biblical morality and moral preaching. He says, “The early church did not jump up and down and say, ‘You’re immoral.’ ... [The Bible] never says to fight for personal morality. ... I am not an ambassador for morality, nor do I long to see the world become a more moral place” (Faith of My Fathers, pp. 146, 148).
In reply to Seay’s challenge about jumping up and down and saying you’re immoral, I seem to recall a man named John the Baptist who lost his head because he told a political leader that he was committing adultery! Ephesians 5:11 commands us not only to have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, “BUT RATHER REPROVE THEM.” Further, God has commanded the preacher to “reprove, rebuke, exhort” (2 Timothy 4:2) and to “exhort, and rebuke with all authority” (Titus 2:15).
Seay makes the following amazing statement that reveals just how spiritually wrong and dangerous the emergent thinking is:
“I still think one of the great fallacies of Christian thinking is this kind of garbage in/garbage out mentality. You know, I remember being 16 years old and being taught that kind of thing. ‘Stay away from culture because what you think you will absorb. See, your brain is a sponge, you’ll absorb whatever you hear and see’” (Chris Seay, “The Dick Staub Interview with Chris Seay,” Christianity Today, Sept. 1, 2002, http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2002/septemberweb-only/9-23-21.0.html).
The freedom that the emerging church envisions is freedom to listen to raunchy music, watch raunchy movies, dress as one pleases, frequent bars and filthy rock concerts, dance, drink, gamble, cuss, and commit homosexuality. Yet this is not true freedom; it is a recipe for spiritual bondage. The Bible warns, “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners” (1 Cor. 15:33), and, “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11).
Seay loves to watch R-rated television programs and movies, such as Soprano. He describes the hero of this unclean movie, the mobster Tony Soprano, “cursing up a blue streak, as a throng of naked women with near-perfect bodies crowded around him,” yet Seay says that he always turns back to the program (“The Dick Staub Interview with Chris Seay,” Christianity Today). Seay’s mind is so permeated with this filthy TV series that he wrote a book “The Gospel According to Tony Soprano” to “explore the many reasons why the hit series has connected so deeply with viewers, and expose the mysteries of faith, family, life, and God that permeate the show” (from the back cover of the book).
The fact is that a result of man’s fall and the corruption of the world and the domination of the devil over it (2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:1-2), the believer is exhorted not to love it.
“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2).
“And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Ephesians 5:11).
“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).
“Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4).
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (1 John 2:15-17).
Every evil thing in the world is to be rejected. We are not to be conformed to any of its unholy ways, and the standard by which the world is to be measured is God’s Word. Everything pertaining to the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life is to be rejected, and that covers a lot of territory in this sin-cursed world! We are to apply this standard to fashion, music, literature, art, movies, photography, you name it. Everything in this world is to be weighed by God’s holy standard and everything evil is to be rejected.
Ephesians 5:11 says that not only is the believer to have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, he is also responsible to reprove them. That is the very thing that worldly Christians consider “judgmental” and hateful and decidedly uncool.
Even those things that are questionable are to be rejected, because “he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23).
Seay’s Baptist forefathers separated from Rome, believing it to be the Harlot of Revelation 17. The young emergent preacher, though, has adopted a broadminded ecumenical position. He believes “it’s possible for people to have bad theology and still know Christ” (Faith of My Fathers, p. 86). He refuses “to take a noisy stand against their position, showing impatience, showing judgment, and causing division.” He says, “As for navigating theological differences, I let most of them go…”
To the contrary, the believer is commanded to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). It is impossible to have the mindset of fighting for the one revealed faith and be ecumenical at the same time. These are contradictory programs. Fighting for the faith is a divisive thing that invariably ruins ecumenical harmony!
The New Testament is filled with warnings about false teachers. Jesus warned about them during His earthly ministry (Mat. 7:15-17) as well as in His messages to the seven churches following His resurrection and ascension (Rev. 2:2, 6, 14-16, 20-23). The apostle Paul warned about false teachers repeatedly (1 Cor. 15:12; 2 Cor. 11:1-4, 12-15; Gal. 1:6-9; 5:7-12; Phil. 3:17-21; Col. 2:4-8, 20-23; 1 Tim. 4:1-3; 2 Tim. 3:5-13; 4:3-4). Peter warned about them (2 Peter 2). John warned about them (1 John 2:18-27; 4:1-3). Jude warned about them (Jude 3-19).
To be on the outlook for false teachers and to be diligent in comparing every teaching with Scripture in order to know whether it is true or false is contrary to the broadminded emerging church philosophy.
SEPARATION: THE HEART OF THE ISSUE
At the heart of the issue of the emerging church is the doctrine of separation: separation from the world and separation from theological error. This is the doctrine emergents most despise. This is the doctrine that limits their freedom to love the world and to hold a broadminded ecumenical philosophy.
The child of God that loves God’s Word and refuses to despise that Word will not be led astray by the emerging church.
“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them” (Romans 16:17).
“Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away” (2 Timothy 3:5).
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).
“If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness ... from such withdraw thyself” (1 Timothy 6:3-5).
“Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us” (2 Thessalonians 3:6).
“And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Ephesians 5:11).
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