(480) POSTEVANGELICAL, POSTCONSERVATIVE, POSTMODERNISM (Part 1) – Emerging Trends in the Church Today
CERTAINTY: A PLACE TO STAND (Part 1)
A very useful book by Dr. Grant Richison with a Forward by Dr. Norm Geisler.
Richison, G. C. (2010). Certainty, a Place to Stand: Critique of the Emergent Church of Postevangelicals (pp. 19–20). Grant C. Richison.
The book describes the rampant uncertainty in the church today. So much so that some of the most popular Christian teachers and leaders actually have their own brand of theology that teaches uncertainty as true doctrine.
Dr. Geisler states that “In a day when the evangelical trumpet is making an uncertain sound, every Christian leader needs to read this book. It shows the need to be anchored to the Rock in our efforts to be geared to the times. At no time in our generation has there been a greater need and a clearer call to return to a surer foundation than that which is laid for our faith.”
The book is a critique of the EMERGENT CHURCH of POSTEVANGELICALS.
Richison also promotes a few other books that will give the reader a view of the POSTCONSERVATIVE MOVEMENT for what it really is:
- The Evangelical Left by Millard J. Erickson (Baker Books, 1997)
- Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church by D.A. Carson (Zondervan, 2005)
- The Courage to be Protestant by David Wells (Eerdmans, 2008)
- Reclaiming the Center: Confronting Evangelical Accommodation in Postmodern Times edited by Millard J. Erickson, Paul Kjoss Helseth and Justin Taylor (Crossway Books, 2004) – critiques Renewing the Center by Stanley Grenz.
- The Emerging Church, Undefining Christianity by Bob DeWaay (Bethany Press International, 2009)
- Evangelicals Engaging Emergent: A Discussion of the Emergent Church Movement (B & H Academic, 2009) is a balanced book critiquing the emergent church movement.
- Why We’re Not Emergent (by Two Guys Who Should Be), by Kevin DeYoung and Tel Kluck (Moody, 2009).
It important to familiarize yourself with important terms that today are part of the common Christian vernacular. Throw in several words originating from Eastern mystical religions, your grasp of the contemporary language scene would be complete.
First, Richison differentiates postmodernism between philosophical and functional:
Philosophical postmodernism is a belief in a system; the function of postmodernity manifests itself in how people live their normal lives but without a clear understanding of the philosophy. Philosophical postmodernism gives no direct extrapolation to functional postmodernism; we find functional postmodernism in television, movies, and business. Not all postmodernity (the function) comes from postmodernism (the philosophy)
Certainty is lack of doubt about some state of affairs. Certainty admits degrees. Evangelicals do not affirm certainty about all things exhaustively. A proposition is certain if no other proposition has greater warrant than it does.
Absolute certainty is lack of any doubt. The Bible presents its thoughts with certainty, not tentatively (Luke 1:4; Acts 1:3). God’s Word is the criterion for truth. Certainty comes by an act of God through the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:4–16; 1 Thessalonians 1:5). Absolute certainty is the supernatural foundation for knowledge.
Postmodernism is a catch-all term that covers many ideas. At its base, postmodernism is belief in plurality: no one can come to ultimate truth because people come to truth from their own perspective.
Postconservatism is belief in postmodernism by evangelicals who are sometimes called “postevangelicals.” This is the belief system behind those in the emergent church who want to soft pedal truth.4
Emerging church is a broad term describing churches that seek to contextualize the gospel by method to postmodern philosophy. Not all emergent churches are postconservative in philosophy but are what we call “doctrine-friendly” or “truth-friendly” churches.
Emergent church is a particular term for an official network of contextualizers committed to postmodern Christianity. All their thinking is emerging; they do not claim certainty of truth. They deconstruct previous evangelical thinking about certainty and other essential doctrines of Scripture. They emphasize narrative theology rather than propositional truth. Presentation of Christianity is by missional living rather than by statements of the gospel. They presume that historic evangelicalism is non-authentic, not involved with non-Christians, obsessed with doctrine, and not operating by Christocentric living.5 This group is not “truth-friendly.”
Coherent truth is the basis of the emergent approach to reality, wherein facts and objective truth are not necessary and only a general coherence of an idea is needed.
Correspondent truth is the view that truth must correspond to facts, objectivity, and reality.
Missional is the term used for attempting to incarnate the gospel with personal and community testimony rather than presenting the gospel through propositions. Postconservatives use the word “missional” in the sense of “improving society now.” It is a way to correct society’s evils.
Proposition is that which corresponds to truth; it is the meaning of a declarative sentence. It is not an encounter, event, or personal experience. Biblical propositional assertions correspond to facts and reality.
Spiritual formation is not what evangelicals call sanctification, but it is rather the means whereby emergents use disciplines such as mysticism to make them feel closer to God. This is a non-biblical, extra-biblical idea. Many evangelicals use this term for sanctification and confuse terminology in doing so.
Foundationalism is an approach to reality that builds beliefs on givens. In the case of the Word of God, Christians build their beliefs on givens in the Bible. Emergents want to “rethink” everything. They do not operate on givens. It is important to distinguish the foundationalism of the Enlightenment from the foundationalism of the Bible. Biblical foundationalism does not rest on rationalism or empiricism but on the law of non-contradiction, the validity of the law of causality, and the reliability of sense perception. Without foundationalism we cannot establish truth by categories. Without the law of non-contradiction, it would be impossible to communicate adequately with others. Certainty does not require total understanding to know something for sure. To reject foundationalism is to reject rationality.
=> Just taking some time to understand what these terms mean and how they are used today in the church and by Christians in general is an important first step to understanding the direction the church is heading.
In Part 2, we will go into detail in how widespread these terms are being used by Christians who don’t have clue to their origins and how they are used today.