Invalidation can come in many forms.
You can be ignored or you can become enmeshed. You can be attacked or you can be minimised. Whichever way you are invalidated it is always abuse. It is abuse because you are being told that you do not matter, that your opinion, your personhood has no import, no impact on the people around you, that you are in effect invisible. You are being abused because the person abusing is the person with the influence and authority. There is a power imbalance. There is nothing more damaging to a human being than to be informed by the human beings they value the most that they are themselves value-less. It creates a deep feeling of insignificance, powerlessness and depression. Unfortunately, in churches, it also gives people the erroneous idea that God himself disapproves of them because the hierarchy disapproves of them. This is the idea. In the most abusive environments, the hierarchy stands in for God and therefore any communication with the congregation is purported to be from God himself. If you buy into this idea you start to believe that the human being you support as pastor or elder is the conduit through which your relationship to God is realised. Their acceptance becomes God’s acceptance, their disapproval becomes God’s disapproval.
Different church hierarchies tend to use different methods.
A patriarchal and authoritarian structure has more heavy handed methods of invalidating. Generally they choose to invalidate the opposition without by isolating their group and any criticism from those within by abusing their members. Women in general and wives in particular are seen as a threat in these structures. They are a threat because the wives are far more perceptive than their husbands, and they have an intimate relationship with them. They know all their dirty little secrets. So in order to control them women will be invalidated by being handed a gender role defined, they decree, by scripture. Often these structures claim to be ‘the truth’ and they will therefore invalidate all other denominations as ‘other’, or in some cases ‘irrelevant’. John Macarthur recently decreed anyone not reformed as ‘basically irrelevant’ and another reformed pastor added ‘and wrong’. This kind of fascist approach to faith is not what we see in scripture. The disciples knew the truth, they preached a true gospel and they condemned preachers of a false gospel, but they did not murder those who opposed them as Calvin did, or shut down genuine questioners in the church. It seems all of Calvin’s children have a similar mindset to himself minus the bloodshed. But this is just one denomination. We have seen similar attitudes in other types of churches, notably those who embrace Latter Rain theology. But plenty of Baptist or even Pentecostal churches have this kind of heavy handed approach. There are always of course the independent groups or minor cults. It seems to come down to the spirit behind the church itself rather than the denomination, but there certainly are some denominations which lend themselves to this attitude.
On the opposite end of the scale, the emerging seeker-sensitive church takes a different approach. Their attitude to dissenters is just as self-righteous and just as invalidating but they are often much more subtle. Rather than take on other Christians they are apt to take on ‘the world’ although how much change they are actually effecting with their political and social activism is yet to be ascertained. This is their stated aim. They are not interested in being changed from within by Christ, they are more interested in changing things around them; in particular political or social problems such as poverty which they say is the responsibility of the church. It is easy to see that their theology is skewed in this way in order to avoid actually being accountable to other believers and to God. If they keep the focus on changing the world, they appear to be both engaged in the world and therefore powerful, and also ‘doing what Jesus did’ ie. feeding the poor. What they inevitably refuse to accept is that Jesus’ message was not ‘feed the poor’ it was ‘be saved from out of this perverse generation’. That has always been God’s message to His people and to the rest of the world. He came to save our souls, not feed our bodies, although obviously He has also promised to feed us as a good Father and a good Shepherd. For God though, relationship with Himself through His Son is the essence of His message.
In our experience the emerging approach to any opposition or even casual questioning is to either pretend you don’t exist or to embrace you in a warm fuzzy ‘we love you anyway’ conversation. Here I should point out that others including ourselves have also experienced rudeness, rejection and shunning from individuals in the emerging church. So they are not without their clumsy and immature attempts to avoid dealing with questioners. The face they present to the world is a much more benevolent one. They want to disarm you and help you to understand that they are not about conflict, they are about peacemaking. So the conversation becomes moot and you are left hanging, wondering what just happened. In effect, this is a form of enmeshment and gaslighting. They convince you that you are the problem not them yet the genius behind their approach is that they maintain an almost hypnotic insistence that they are simply interested in embracing your views along with everyone else’s. It is impossible to argue with somebody who refuses to recognise the differences between two opposing ideas. We are all the same, each person is valid, and in this apparently egalitarian theology what they are actually doing is invalidating everyone. Its like that statement ‘everybody’s special’ which essentially nullifies the meaning of special – that which embodies the idea of different, or out of the ordinary. If you change the meaning of special so that it actually means ‘the same’, then the word has lost its specific meaning. Covertly changing the meaning of language has always been one of the methods that cults and or political movements have gained traction with their ideas. It’s a classic bait and switch. It not only destabilises their followers, it confuses the enemy, and produces cognitive dissonance, an important ingredient in manipulating the masses.
In many ways, the emerging church theology as a whole is about enmeshment. They wish to do away with opposition entirely. They don’t like to declaim their beliefs, they do not have a ‘theology’, there is no right and wrong and everyone’s ideas are valid. Or so they say. In actual fact they are invalidating not just individuals but whole faith systems by homogenising all faiths into one. There are no more boundaries there is just this apparently loving whole which revolves around….well they don’t like to define what it revolve around but often it is their Jesus, who in fact is not the biblical Jesus but a synthetic amalgamation of eastern and western mysticism which is embodied in an impotent, unilateral Jesus. In fact, this Jesus is the forerunner to the Antichrist who will be worshipped by all religions. If you buy into the emerging church anti-doctrine doctrines, you will inevitably lose any biblical perspective that you originally had. The emerging church is actually a political tool of the movers and shakers of this world which uses the Marxist and Hegelian doctrines and methods of social and political change. Hegel stated:
(the state)‘has the supreme right against the individual, whose supreme duty is to be a member of the State… for the right of the world spirit is above all special privileges (source)
This is a quote from the same source above which describes Hegelian philosophy.
The Hegelian dialectic is the framework for guiding our thoughts and actions into conflicts that lead us to a predetermined solution. If we do not understand how the Hegelian dialectic shapes our perceptions of the world, then we do not know how we are helping to implement the vision. When we remain locked into dialectical thinking, we cannot see out of the box.
Hegel’s dialectic is the tool which manipulates us into a frenzied circular pattern of thought and action. Every time we fight for or defend against an ideology we are playing a necessary role in Marx and Engels’ grand design to advance humanity into a dictatorship of the proletariat. The synthetic Hegelian solution to all these conflicts can’t be introduced unless we all take a side that will advance the agenda. The Marxist’s global agenda is moving along at breakneck speed. The only way to completely stop the privacy invasions, expanding domestic police powers, land grabs, insane wars against inanimate objects (and transient verbs), covert actions, and outright assaults on individual liberty, is to step outside the dialectic. This releases us from the limitations of controlled and guided thought.
The emerging church above anything is a political force being used by the powers that be to manipulate and control the Christian church. We are being manipulated into taking a political stand when Jesus did not tell us to be political. His kingdom is not of this world, and when He returns very soon to claim His own, He will not be making any political statements. His is the power and the glory forever and ever amen. Therefore, our eyes should be on the returning King and not on changing the world which needs must deteriorate. We cannot stop the sinking ship. We are urged to love our neighbours, to minister to our brothers and sisters, and to love our enemies. We do not gain anything in God’s Kingdom by endorsing political manoeuvres by religious leaders or by fighting social battles to help feed the poor. Yet this is the agenda of the emerging church. You don’t count unless you are poor and either unchurched or of a different religion. People of this nature are, by definition, more virtuous and need greater recognition and help than any Western Christian. Yet the very people who espouse this idea are western Christians. What is this but invalidation on a mass, and political scale.
In essence, and this is an exceedingly ironic fact, the emerging church purports to be the antidote to the patriarchal and authoritarian church theology and methods of preceding ages. The leaders present themselves as non-authoritarian yet wise. However they still lead megachurches as professional Christians. Their target is the younger generation who have not yet been established in traditional theology and are still easily persuaded. They convince even older Christians that the idea of an imposing and angry God who ‘murdered his son on the cross in an act of barbarism’ is not biblical, that God is in essence Father Christmas and does not want to punish anybody in an eternal hell. They therefore, in order to uphold this ‘theology’ need to invalidate the historical and biblical Christ and remake Him into a clappy-happy loving peace-nik neo hippy who embraces everybody and does not impose any expectation upon his people.
In essence, the emerging church invalidates everyone who does not agree with their version of the truth. This is the same problem any hierarchical system has, they just have different agendas. While many hierarchical church systems preach the gospel, they present a straw man god who is the ‘angry god’ that emerging church leaders love to impune.
There you have two sides to the argument. The dialect is complete and you must choose which one you embrace.
As for me and my house we will serve the Lord. Jesus Christ is neither a hippy nor a policeman, He is the Son of God, himself God and the creator of the universe, the saviour of all mankind who brings to us the gift of eternal life. He neither condemns us nor tells us we don’t have to change, nor does he endorse socio-political ideologies. He is not a change agent, He enables us to be born again. He does not change our flesh, He makes us wholly new. Neither approach is right, both approaches invalidate the individual, the theology of the Bible and the gospel of Jesus Christ and blaspheme Jesus himself and His cross.
God does not condone abuse, nor does He endorse false doctrine. A false teacher is twice accursed and their end is destruction, and we are told not to even greet such a one. It is starting to look as though the life of a genuinely born-again believer and son of God in this world is that of a weary but determined soldier fighting the final battle before the return of Jesus Christ.
My encouragement is to stand fast, hold your ground and resist the Devil and he will flee. That is our battle, that is our calling. Jesus is coming! Hallelujah!