The Christ in Prophecy Journal

The Emergent Church: Defined


What exactly is the Emergent Church Movement?

Dr. Reagan and I, on our ministry’s television show Christ in Prophecy, had the pleasure of asking this question of Eric Barger of Take a Stand! Ministries. Eric is an authority on the cults, the New Age, and rock music today. From his past as a former drug addict and rock n’ roll musician who was deeply involved in the New Age movement, Eric has emerged since he gave his life to Jesus Christ to become one of today’s greatest defenders of Christianity in America. He joined us to talk about the greatest threat to the Church today — apostasy, particularly from the Emergent Church Movement.

Eric Barger

The Emergent Church Defined

Eric Barger: The Emergent Church Movement has only been around about 15 years, yet there are millions of people who have fallen into it, and many don’t even know it.

I want to caution people, don’t be hung up on the term “Emergent” or “Emerging Church.” We need to know what we believe and why we believe it first, but we also need to be aware that there are a lot of things being called Christian or being called acceptable inside Christianity around us.

The Emergent Church Movement is really based on the idea that we need to present the Gospel in a different way, or present Christianity in a different way to the world because we live in a post-modern society that can’t accept what truth is. We also wouldn’t want to talk too much about things that divide us. We just want to have an expression of Christianity that feels good to us.

When I say Post-Modernism, it’s the idea that truth is kind of a moving target. Some may be familiar with the term Epistemology which is kind of where we come to a place of figuring out what knowledge and truth are. But, in the Emergent Church Movement, it’s all about Relativism. You make up your own rules as you go along.

As I’ve examined the Emergent Church leaders, the single thing that I have seen over and over is that they use Christian terms that we can relate to, just like many of the cults do, but they have attached radically different meanings to those terms.

Dr. Reagan: It seems to me what we are really talking about here is the fact that society went through a period of time when people thought that the answer to all of man’s problems was science. Science was going to solve everything. Well, science didn’t. In fact, science has made it worse with atomic bombs and so forth. And so, we are in a sort of rebellion where people are claiming, “You know, science really isn’t it. We’ve got to move to a more mystical way of thinking that’s non-scientific and based on feelings.”

Eric Barger: The Emergent Church and Post-Modernism move hand in hand because the Emergent Church is supposedly a response to Post-Modernism. The people who first came up with these new church concepts, I believe they were genuinely concerned about so many of the 20-something and 30-something people leaving the Church and not coming back. They were trying to figure out how they could draw them back into the churches.

But, quickly the discussions started turning to the idea that maybe we don’t need to hold all the doctrines of the Church. Maybe some of those doctrines such as the doctrine of the Trinity or the doctrine of the Deity of Christ or certainly the doctrine of Hell can be done away with. Removing uncomfortable doctrines will draw those people back, they thought. So, it’s not just about a new way to present the Gospel, rather it’s about a complete change of what people think the Gospel is.

Dr. Reagan: Nathan, almost on a daily basis you are confronting Post-Moderns out there. Give us a feel for what a Post-Modern mentality is?

Nathan Jones: It is experiential in that truth is what you experience. You filter reality on how you yourself see things. So, if the Bible says that Jesus is the Son of God, well I didn’t experience Him in my life like that, so He must be an angel or something else entirely. That is how they come up with their truth. The Bible isn’t the absolute standard that is used in the Post-Modern generation.

Dr. Reagan: So, it is really a rejection of the concept of absolute truth. It’s more feelings. Your truth is your truth, and my truth is my truth. Actually applied, if you are going to discuss something like homosexuality you wouldn’t go to the Bible and ask, “What does God say about it?” You would instead ask, “What do you feel about it?”

Nathan Jones: Yes, it is the ultimate ego trip because you have become God. It is you who decide what is right and what is wrong. You can also live in a reality that totally conflicts with how the world works, and that’s fine with you. Everyone is just supposed to get along and tolerate each other’s ego trips.

Eric Barger: What you are saying right there also defines the New Age Movement. If you’re a New Ager, it’s all about you making up your own rules about what you think is right.

The real problem with the Emergent Church Movement is there’s a general lack of respect for the authority of the Bible. That’s the key problem. The Emergent Church would not be an issue if the Church was willing to have its Bible open and test everything that comes along, including what we say against the Word of God, to see if it matches up.

Dr. Reagan: I recently ran across one of the books in this movement called Velvet Elvis. Rob Bell who is the young writer and one of the leaders of this movement actually makes a statement in there that the idea that the Bible is all we need is absolute nonsense. He believes the Bible sounds good, but we need much more than that.

Eric Barger: Yes, Bell said the Bible sounds good, but it’s simply not true. See the way that he ended his statement?

When I wrote my first book back in 1987, I wrote it on paper with a typewriter, if you can imagine that in our computer world today. I remember the editor of my book came in after working with her for several weeks and she threw the manuscript down on the kitchen table and she looked at me and asked, “Do you really believe everything in this manuscript?” I answered, “Yes.” I had never seen the look that was on her face. She asked again, “Are you sure?” I replied, “Yes.” She warned, “Good, because once it’s in print you will have to defend it.”

When somebody writes in their book that the Bible isn’t all that we need, they are taking their stand, unless later they do a great retraction with repentance. Of course, Rob Bell would say that repentance isn’t about Christianity and that if somebody is teaching about repentance then they couldn’t be talking about Christianity.

In the next part of this series on the Emergent Church, Eric will explain their basic doctrines.

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ABOUT AUTHOR View all posts Author Website

Dr. Nathan E. Jones

As the Internet Evangelist at Lamb & Lion Ministries, Nathan reaches out to the over 4.5 billion people accessible over the Internet with the Good News of Jesus Christ. He also co-hosts the ministry's television program Christ in Prophecy and podcast The Truth Will Set You Free.

13 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Nathan,
    It seems you may have a little gotcha-glitch in your "Popular Comments" set-up.

    McGee Summarizes End Time Events just showed up on the list, which has neither a 'recent comment' nor a 'popular' count [6 comments]…

    You might want to go and have a short chat wif yer code-ghostwriter…

  • Sorry, meant "Popular Posts".
    I have an 'old age' excuse, yer still a young'un soz you'll have to come up with something more creative…

  • Hi Dr NoFog

    the popular posts is based on the number of hits. Although it only has 6 comments it is obviously being viewed by a lot of people who are not writing comments.

  • Thanks, DrNoFog, but site stats show Don McGee's a very popular read today, even if folks aren't commenting. "Popular Posts" and "Recent Comments" are non-related.

    I'll experiment with a few other widgets to see if we can get a better comments reporter.

  • "I see!" said the blind man, as he picked up his hammer and saw…

    Ok, no problemo, I'll go back to whatever it was I was doing.

  • I have 3 slogans to describe this article: 1. Is there "absolute" truth? BY GOD, there is! 2. When you appear before God, do not let your first word be oops! 3. God created man in His own image. New Age is man's attempt to return the favor. The bible has "proved" itself over and over again to be the "Supernatural" word of God and if you don't believe it based on your own "feelings", then you are just saying God is wrong. Not a good thing to do. The fatal mistake that all religions and nonborn again believers make is they underestimate the Holiness of God and overestimate the goodness of man. That is like dropping a man in the middle of the ocean where he underestimates the size of the ocean and overestimates his swimming ability. Both lead to death.

  • For me to understand the point of your article, overall, I think I need better understanding of your comment, "The fatal mistake that all religions and nonborn again believers make is they underestimate the Holiness of God and overestimate the goodness of man" which I read as a summation of the article. Your analogy notwithstanding, I'm afraid I do not know what point you are trying to make in the article, other than to say certain groups of "Christians" are wrong and you are right. While I may agree with your point of view, I believe we must be careful to speak truthfully while still speaking the truth in a loving manner. Nevertheless, in missing your point, I may be misinterpreting what I think you did say. That being the case, however, maybe you could elaborate which may help me immensely.

  • Ah ‘love’ is yet again being vomited up as an example of mans understanding of it.

    Wishy-washy emotionalism without so much as an inkling of what God demonstrates as love. Love hurts, but He put Himself in the firing line not withstanding.

    As Jesus protected His Word against the false worship of His Father, he picked up the ‘love bound’ merchants and threw them bodily out of His Fathers house along with their tainted gear. (Bet that hurt)

    As Jesus defended His word against it being twisted by the Pharisees. He railed on them and called them such un-lovely names such as ‘you children of snakes. (bet that hurt too)

    Defending the Truth of the Word is a vital but thankless task all done with the ‘say it as it is’ method the Love of God portrays.

    It takes genuine love to defend God’s Word while all the ‘loved up’ sycophants ooze and dribble their protests as they cast their stones with gusto.

    Yes lets TRY and be nice and kind with others, all right and proper – but don’t mistake that as a demonstration of God’s Love.

  • The problem with demonstrating God's love in blanket form to everyone we meet and/or come in contact with is that it's so very nebulous to begin with and oft times the blanket just doesn't fit!

    And that's why we MUST be lead by the Spirit of Jesus Christ moment by moment, for only He knows how to demonstrate love in us and through us to everyone we meet. Sometimes that love is gentle and kind and at other times it is tough and prickly. But we in our own strength don't know what's what in any given situation; hence, our need for Christ!

  • Thanks for your reply. Certainly thankful for the first part of your reply. As I said, I did actually enter the house for many months, observing family life before saying anything.

    What I have said is based on observing how the regulars respond to visitors. I have not been impressed. Especially when I see the way love is betrayed.

    You are correct that we need to expose, highlight deception in the church and may need to be tough. But there is being tough and there is being arrogantly nasty. A big difference. I am sorry if u think im being rude. "love is not rude" I am just try to show that tough love is also courteous, gracious, tender, patient, kind (at the same time). "Let your speech be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everybody" Colossian 4,6. I see little of that type of talk by some, here.

  • Author Terry James once pointed out that satanic rage has spilled over into the Body as the end draws near for him, and combined with the tension of the world ever increasingly falling apart around us, they've certainly added to we believers growing more irratable and focusing our guns on each other. Even in these bleak times, we need to remember to maintain the unity in Christ that Jesus and the Apostles called us to live out.

    Smacked, I apologize if you feel things have been tense here on the blog. I state the above reasons and solution. We also need to be forgiving if we have a good, enriching debate over a particular topic, which we do have a'plenty here. The purpose should always be to edify, which is the motivation of us all hopefully.

    Thanks, Gang!

  • Hello Gobsmacked

    May I point out the obvious?(Kindly)The blog is not ‘speech’.

    In writing, the vital ‘tone of voice’; as well as ‘body language’ are both absent. Also the blog is multi-national, and what is acceptable to one, will be an offence to another of a different culture.

    I confess my US friends have startled me on many occasions by their expressions. That’s life! Sulk or grin, I say; so I try to grin and not take myself too seriously and try to give others the benefit of the doubt when I’m unsure.

    How we are feeling as we read can also affect the way a ‘remark’ is taken. It is as much about the one reading a comment – as the one that wrote the comment.

    One blogger I know was always accusing others of being harsh and un-loving; but it was really down to that blogger and the way he chose to interpret what was written. When he was feeling irritable or annoyed, he imputed his own mood into another’s comment. He was very quick to take offence and jump to the wrong conclusion which would result in confusion all round.

    ( knowing nod, thoughtful expression and a half smile of irony) :-

    God bless.

    Hello Nathan
    Can’t agree with Terry James opinion on this! It isn’t ‘satanic rage’ at all; it’s about the old nature vs. the new nature in all of us. It’s down to individual choice to ‘abide’ in Christ or follow the ‘old man’. We must take responsibility for all our actions, not conveniently put the blame on Satan. It’s another version of ‘the devil made me do it’ syndrome. Imo.

    Big hug and wide smile 😀

  • What is truth?
    Break it down and its ultimate meaning is 'that which is reliable'.
    Emotions are notoriously unreliable. All man made philosophies or belief systems will crumble against this fundamental meaning, and be seen as error.
    Truth is beyond fallible man's ability to establish; we are dependant on God's revealed truth.
    But I am probably preaching to the converted.


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