That Other Standoff


Is it almost Thanksgiving? You’d never know it from the various wars erupting all over the Christian blogosphere as one faction yells to the other faction,Standoff “Oh yeah, well what about this!”

Yes, I’ve participated, but I’ve tried to be as civil as possible. I’m not trying to establish a beachhead. I just desire that other people understand the faction I’m tenuously a part of, especially since mine seems to be on the small side as factions go.

The cessationist/charismatic debate on the surface has tended to be civil. I think that the default faction leaders, David and Adrian, have done well. There have been a few gashes, but I’m not seeing any severed limbs lying around.

But there’s another war out there and this one has turned grisly: Emerging Church vs. Traditional Church. The rhetoric on both sides is so dense that it’s approaching depleted uranium stage. This week brought out the mustard gas and biowarfare as Emerging Church proponent Justin Baeder attempted a domain rustling by securing “” in an effort to put the spoofing screws to Traditional Church proponent Carla Rolfe of Emergent No at “”

Two words: Truly Lame.

While the cessationists and charismatics appear to at least be listening to each other so far, the Emerging Church (EC) vs. Traditional Church (TC) battle has degenerated into a hatefest. I’m halfway tempted to pronounce a pox on both their houses. (I’ve previously blogged about this issue here, here, and here.) The sad part is that there are people on both sides of this EC/TC war whom I appreciate, and the truly thoughtful folks on both sides are not as heinous as they are portraying the other side to be. In many ways, both sides there are attacking the same fringe elements that are under assault in the charismatic/cessationist debate.

But assaulting the weirdos is easy. I’m a charismatic and I’m fed up with the fringe within the charismatic movement. (I’m even more fed up that the fringe may be taking over!) When examining the war going on between the EC and TC camps, each side has every right to be hacked at the lack of Christlikeness in the other side, but then we all know what Jesus said to the group ready to stone the woman caught in the midst of adultery.

I’ve got zero diplomatic skills, so if I tick someone off here in either the EC or the TC camps, I apologize in advance.

This is what the Bible says:

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
—Mark 12:28-31 ESV

Earlier this week, Ingrid Schlueter of Slice of Laodicea, one of the TC blogs that is most fiercely battling the EC, had this to say about Traditional Churches:

There is, without doubt, a shortage of biblical love and concern on the part of church members in Bible preaching churches today. There is a reason that emergent churches and mega churches with small groups are attractive. There is no more empty feeling in all the world than having attended a church service as a visitor and leaving without a kind word being spoken. In my husband’s and my search for a church for our family in an area where good churches were in short supply, we found this again and again. At one point, after attending a church for almost a year, I said, “Tom, we could be in an advanced stage of rigor mortis in the back pew and I doubt seriously that anyone would notice.” … After moving to a new state, we visited one church where we needed directions. I went to the church office and said, “Excuse me, we’re just visiting and we need to find out where to put our children for Sunday School.” The woman looked me up and down rather cooly, and gestured vaguely down the hall. “Someone will help you down there.” She said. This, folks, was a small church. But I was new and uninteresting looking and that was that.

I don’t think I can add anything to her disappointment. Far too many Traditional Churches, filled with people who adore God and love the Scriptures, are getting the first part of Jesus’ two greatest commandments right, but are missing the second. Doctrine has no strength unless it’s put into practice. It’s not enough to be able to cut down every heretical anti-lapidarydipsydoodlearian out there with the Truth of the Scriptures. Yes, that has extreme value and must be guarded, but if we do not love the very people that the Lord Jesus died for, all the doctrine in the world will sit idle in our hearts, gone begging for someone, anyone to put it into practice for the disenfranchised of the world.

Ingrid’s lament is even more tragic, since it should be second nature for us to at least love the rest of the Body of Christ, even if we have difficulties with extending the love of Christ to the lost. Yet how can we do the latter, as the Lord Himself showed us, if we can’t even love our brothers and sisters in Christ?

Does the EC do this better than the TC? Probably. That need to be part of a loving community greater than oneself is one of the reasons that the EC is gaining adherents. The people who don’t normally get called to the wedding party are being handed an invitation. The Traditional Church needs to understand this and repent.

Now as open as Ingrid was about failures of the TC, I’ve searched high and low to find someone within EC ranks who was willing to take on the fact that the EC plays fast and loose with a lot of Scripture, muddying just about every doctrine it touches. With Open Theism increasingly discussed within the EC (but not in those exact terms, since the EC doesn’t desire to have exact terms about anything), one wonders if they’re doing the second commandment right, but are unraveling the tapestry that spells out that the first commandment clearly. What the TC does well—speaking to sin, holding up the cross, affirming the inerrancy of Scripture and its authority—the EC outright mangles, with many of the leading lights in the EC giving depositions on doctrine in the same manner that Clinton asked us to rethink what the definition of “is” is.

For this, the TC has every right to hold the EC’s feet to the fire, but the EC won’t stand for it. I won’t go into all the sites posting doctrinal fallacies attributed to the EC (and they are legion), but suffice it to say, it’s hard to think of the EC in any way other than a reactionary movement that can’t form a coherently Biblical reason for everything it supposedly believes. What other outcome, other than rank heresy, can be expected from the EC if it continues to deconstruct the Scriptural base on which it’s supposedly founded. The oldest lie in the Book is, “Did God really say…?” The Emerging Church needs to understand this and repent.

All this makes me tired.

Why is it incongruous to think that we can have solid doctrine that holds up the full revelation and personhood of the Triune God while ministering Christ to His Chosen and the lost around us? When those two are melded in purpose, isn’t that The True Church? Emphasizing any part of the whole revelation of the Gospel over any other part is a recipe for disaster, yet somehow Traditional Churches and Emerging Churches are doing their best to cook up such a mess.

And we wonder why the Church in the West is failing.