The Path That Rocks



Is, or was, the emerging church merely a passing fad primarily for bored yuppies smugly unhappy with their conventional suburban churches and pining for a spiritual theater more hip and supposedly more relevant? One Sojourners writer, quoting a blogger, credited emergents for their contributions to “women’s issues, conversations about sexuality, environmentalism, anti-foundationalism, [and] social justice.” But those “conversations” have been mainly only that. Not for nothing do emergents usually insist they are not a movement but a “community” or an ongoing “conversation.”

‘The Emperor’s New Groove’ was a favourite of ours when the kids were young. Now they are all adults, but we still find ourselves quoting Kronk or Ysma (his evil boss). Phrases like “wrong lever”, or “demon llama!!!!” may not seem at first glance to be very cogent, but it is amazing how many times you can use them appropriately throughout life’s crazy moments.

Firstly though I want to talk about the challenge to the Kingdom of God that the Emerging church is issuing. Contrary to the quote from the above article, the Emergent Church is not simply a passing fad. It may describe itself in soft-focus terms, but their agenda, or rather the agenda of the spiritual forces arrayed against us through them, is decidedly direct and specific. Often we don’t look much further than the outward packaging with new ideas (dress vs tights). Those who propose new ideas often use the false logic that anyone who disagrees with them is just afraid of them. For the immature in the faith and for those who are not working out their own salvation with fear and trembling, this jibe can be very disturbing. The first reaction is often to rise up and challenge it, which is exactly what the other person wants. If they can engage you in emotional polemic they can easily out-manoeuvre you through verbal intimidation, straw-man arguments and ad-hominem taunts. Rather than respond with anger and personal offense we need to be sure of what it is we do believe. We need to do some bible study, make sure we are confident in our own faith, and then realise that these new ideas being proposed by the Emerging church are not that new. They are re-packaged especially for the younger generation and it is the younger generation who are selling them, but essentially they are simply an attempt by our enemy to destabilise genuine believers.

The Emerging church is attempting to distract us with it’s own conviction that it has something we do not: coolness…relevance… They are distracting from the very important issue that they actually have no relevance or life at all when compared to the New Testament teachings of Jesus and Paul. This ‘coolness’ is simply a smug and self-confident front. If you are able to puncture the veneer of this vainglorious new generation of hip believers with the truth, the smugness tends to evaporate. What you see in it’s place is instability, luke-warmness and a lack of genuine integrity. They are in truth a mile wide and an inch deep, and as we all know, when presented with a vast expanse of water the first reaction is often to feel overwhelmed and think you can never cross it. When you realise that you can actually walk through it without getting even your ankles wet, you can relax. It is all a mirage, an illusion, and as Kronk has amusingly illustrated, all that is needed is a ‘begone’ and the confusion is dispelled. OK, maybe it will take a little more than that, but I want to help break the spell. I believe that the Emerging Church uses language, visual and sound technology and the leaven of lies and half-truths to first of all seduce and then overwhelm others in order to deceive and confuse us. It is all too easy to be influenced by what you see and what you think you see. In fact, the world uses these tools to change minds and influence behaviour through marketing, advertising and social media. They are powerful and world changing. They are not however grounded in scripture and in the kingdom of God. They are grounded in the ways of the Father of Lies, and they will kill your faith and shipwreck your spiritual life if you let them. The good news is that the truth will set you free. Or to be more specific, and cogent…..

31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

John 8 (NKJV)

Much of the emerging church preaches false doctrines of ecumenism, dominionism, the social gospel, the prosperity gospel and new age ideas of God in everyone. This is bad enough but it becomes worse with an attitude of smug arrogance. Many of the pedagogues of the emerging church put themselves at odds with the established church and or established church doctrines and claim victim status. They are being persecuted by the traditionalists (down with the old guard) because the traditionalists are not open-minded. The traditionalists are oppressive, antiquated and stuck in their ways. Yet although ostensibly the Emerging Church likes to rattle the cages of the Established Church, what they are really challenging is the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is not the Bible per se that they hate, but the word of God and its final, all-encompassing and over-arching authority. Generally, the Emerging Church is not a fan of the establishment, and let’s call the gospel of Jesus Christ the establishment for this argument. Their smugness and elitism, as with all rebellious and lawless thinking, is a symptom of their belief in their own ‘rightness’ and self-assurance. Yet our foundational belief as Christians, as believers of the full gospel of Jesus Christ, is that we have no basis for our own righteousness, and we come in humility before the Cross to acknowledge the authority, holiness and righteousness of God.

My problem is that the emerging church pin-up boys and girls are mostly of the genX and genY demographic and are influencing younger Christians in this same worldview.

I find it interesting that bloggers and authors like Rachel Held Evans for example proclaim earnestly that they want to speak for their generation as though the younger generation in the western world are not heard from. For those who are not familiar with Rachel here is a quick summary of her influence from the Eastern Mennonite University website in America

“ Rachel Held Evans, one of the most influential and quoted persons in the Millenial generation of Christians, has been spotlighted by NPR, Slate, BBC, The Washington Post, The Guardian (UK), The Times London, The Huffington Post and

Here is a quote from one of Rachel’s recent blog posts

As I watched my Facebook and Twitter feeds last night, the reaction among my friends fell into an imperfect but highly predictable pattern. Christians over 40 were celebrating. Christians under 40 were mourning.  Reading through the comments, the same thought kept returning to my mind as occurred to me when I first saw that Billy Graham ad: You’re losing us.

I’ve said it a million times, and I’ll say it again…(though I’m starting to think that no one is listening): 

My generation is tired of the culture wars. 

We are tired of fighting, tired of vain efforts to advance the Kingdom through politics and power, tired of drawing lines in the sand, tired of being known for what we are against, not what we are for.

This is not the 1950s. The young are heard from in every section of the media from the internet to reality TV. We hear your voices whether speaking singing, dancing, cooking, writing books or doing stand-up everywhere that it is possible to hear voices. In fact the younger generation has been heard from in every decade since the 60s. In Rachel’s case, if you read the Mennonite description of her career to date, you will see that she has a very wide readership, is being listened to by very influential people, including probably the most influential person on American television Oprah Winfrey, a 50 something. I think Rachel is maybe one of those types of people who like to create drama where there is none. She is being listened to and she is being widely distributed so others can listen to her. So what does she really want?

Like a lot of young seemingly mainly left wing politicians in this country, what you are saying is not resonating with the older demographic because frankly, we have been there and done that. The baby-boomer generation started the generation gap by protesting things like the Vietnam War, racism and sexism. What they spoke out about were genuine issues. The way they spoke out about it became overheated and probably more than a little tiresome for the previous generation who had already fought in the second World War and were emotionally exhausted, traumatised from 7 years of terrible and mind-numbing conflict and were sick of the continual turmoil. The war had not stopped the conflict. Had men and women died in vain? There always seemed to be something more to get in an uproar about, however righteous the cause. I will never forget my father, who had been a commando in the D-day landings and been badly wounded by schrapnel. He often would sit and watch the news and the look on his face was devastating. He would turn to the rest of his family and proclaim desperately “what is the world coming to”. Everything used to be so clear cut and understandable, now it was all falling apart. If the hippie generation wondered why nobody was listening to them, perhaps it was because they were so self-absorbed and focused on their own issues. Some of those issues were real and cross generational like racism, others were simply fuelled by drugs and the belief that the older generation had screwed up the universe and they were going to get it right.

Rachel Held Evan’s belief that the previous generation of Christians had ‘screwed up’ somehow and didn’t understand the need to embrace things like homosexuality as normal is taking things to a whole nother level. She has the same attitude at the baby-boomer generation, yet speaks as though this was all something new and revelatory and at the same time self-evident. She is getting frustrated that the rest of us aren’t getting her. She claims to be a Christian yet like so many emerging ‘believers’ they are not really sure what it is they do believe, they just know that they don’t want to go down the same path as the older generation.

The old paths are not what is holding Rachel Held Evans back. She, like many emerging church apologists is suffering from the issue of sin nature verses the Holy Spirit. They want to both embrace the flesh and the soulish nature and at the same time know God in the midst. That is not how this works. It has always been this way and always will. First you accept that we can’t have it our way, but God’s, and God’s ways are not determined by young minds re-interpreting the bible to make it mean whatever works for them.

We are not failing to hear the voices of the young people in this age. What the young fail to realise is that those who support the establishment are the young of 30 years ago who likewise tried to change the world by challenging the status quo. There is a lot to be said for institutions which can withstand the continual testing of younger generations who ‘just want to be heard’. The Younger generation who seem to be dancing to the Pied Piper’s tune of emerging church have a right to speak out on their own behalf, but they do not have a right to lead others down the broad path of destruction.

And in this I refer to the established church. When I say established church I am not talking about denominations or hierarchy, programmes, popes or priests and pastors. I am not talking about the institution of church which began with Constantine. I am talking about the kingdom of God, the body of Christ, those who believe in Jesus Christ as our Saviour, the son of God, the born again, the led by the Spirit and the bible believing word of God preaching gospel proclaiming and entirely annoying ‘fundamental-ists’ who refuse to allow the emerging church to poison all the wells.

Unfortunately, the blogosphere is a seductive beast. Somebody once said that Google is the great oracle of our time and likewise, blogs have an almost mystical appeal. They are an unprecedented means of publishing opinions which then garner popularity, praise and criticism based on their zeitgeist. You can be nobody in particular and become a celebrity overnight. In the same way, the emerging church has tapped into this celebrity culture and made media stars of its leaders and speakers. Rachel Held Evans is a perfect example of why the emerging church is so popular. She is young (in her 30s), female (and therefore empowered), engaging and puts her vulnerabilities out there. She is like a cast member of ‘Friends’ except ten years later. She engages others because she apparently tells it like it is, but all Rachel is doing is acting as a mouthpiece for the doctrines of the mostly older male vanguard. Previously I talked about the young speaking to the young. Emerging church leaders are a mixture of the young, and those seeker-sensitive types who speak to those younger than them in the same language. More specifically you are looking at the baby-boomer generation of Jesus freaks who became leaders in the wake of the 70s and 80s and are taking advantage of the power vacuum amongst the younger generation. They don’t act as parents or elders or teachers, they act as friends. This is all very comforting, and would be fine if they were simply just friends, but they aren’t. They are role models and they are leaders. They are leading these younger Christians down the broad path, or ‘the path that rocks’ rather than the path of righteousness.

And like Kronk, the younger generation are ‘sort of confused’ about what is right and wrong. In this video excerpt from ‘The Emperor’s New Groove’, Kronk, a minion of the evil Yzma, is listening to the discussion between an angel and demon on his shoulder. In trying to get him to go down the path ‘that rocks’, the demon has only two (rather than his stated three) points to consider. The first is that the angel looks stupid (ad hominem argument) the second is that the shoulder demon, is impressively athletic. As Kronk points out “what does that have to do with anything”. As the angel points out, maybe there is something to the fact that this demon is so good at standing on his hands. Even the elect are being deceived by the verbal gymnastics (as above so below) of those who wish to go down the ‘path that rocks’.

Rachel Held Evans appeals to the young and because she is a woman she is being accepted. Women are a perfect mouthpiece for the disillusioned, abused, minority groups out there who need acceptance. The GLBT community, those who grew up in authoritarian controlling churches and had authoritarian controlling fathers and pastors, women who are tired of being told they aren’t allowed to speak in church and many others. As a woman who belonged to all of these sub-groups except the GLBT (but had a mother and sisters who sympathised) I understand perfectly the appeal of the emerging church.

Incidentally, Rachel denies being part of the emerging church but either she doesn’t see who she is being influenced by or she is not being honest with herself. She is hanging out with the likes of Rob Bell, and attending conferences with speakers such as Tony Campolo and Brian McLaren. Evan’s views are very much in line with the emerging church, therefore she can’t really say she is not part of it. The fact that many emerging church writers and leaders don’t like to align themselves officially with the emerging church is something of a comment on the nature of the Emerging Church itself. They don’t want to offend anyone and they don’t like being pigeon-holed which makes them in their own eyes, amorphous and ‘part of the conversation’ which is a euphemism for “don’t label me cause I might change my mind”. This vague non-specificity is apparently very cool right now. It is better to have fluid views because let’s face it anyone with popular appeal generally ends up being proved wrong or fails publicly in some way sooner or later. If you have fluid views you can always say that you were ‘experimenting’ with whatever or whoever it is who ends up being publicly disavowed.

Here is a quote from one of her blog posts wherein she makes it perfectly clear that it is not politically correct for her to align herself with the Emerging Church.

As the book launch approaches, I’ve been warned by several advisors to avoid aligning myself with the “emerging church.” Identifying with this group will alienate potential readers, they say.  It will box me in and limit my influence, they say. It will subject me to unwanted criticism, they say.

While I’m no fan of labels—(and “emerging” or “emergent” can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people)— it would be dishonest for me to say that I have not been influenced by many of the writers and speakers that are associated with this movement. In fact, I’m currently reading Brian McLaren’s latest book, A New Kind of Christianity, and plan to include an interview with him on the blog later this month.

But then it is this deliberate commitment to changing ideas and experimentation which makes the emerging church ‘theology’ so destructive. They know what they don’t believe, they just don’t want to tell you what they do believe. It always comes back to the revolutionary goal of undermining the establishment without really having anything of substance to replace it.

As an aside here is Rachel’s blog comments policy…

“Comment Policy: Please stay positive with your comments. If your comment is rude, it gets deleted. If it is critical, please make it constructive. If you are constantly negative or a general ass, troll, or hater, you will get banned. The definition of terms is left solely up to us.”

It’s her blog, and she is entitled to delete whomsoever she pleases, its just that this policy is so emergent its not funny. OK, well it kind of is I mean I laughed. The last sentence says it all. “The definition of terms is left solely up to us.” This could quite easily be the motto for the Emerging Church, and if nothing else is enough to convince me that Rachel Held Evans is a voice in this community.

Emerging church doctrines however do not attempt to violently destroy the established church. In fact in many ways, the established church has done the destroying for generations. The Catholic church engaged in murder on a heinous scale, and destroyed anyone who didn’t recant their own egregious ideas or beliefs. The Catholic church has been psychopathic in its hatred of the outsider or the dissenter. The true church has always been killed or imprisoned by the establishment, and the emerging church is ironically becoming the very thing it thinks it is working against.

Who has the greatest growing church in the western world? The emerging church has the giga-churches, the air-waves, the music industry, the ear of politicians. In fact, we believe that the emerging church is simply another strand of the newly forming world church where there are no fundamentals of doctrine, no specific and strict beliefs, no exclusions, no sinners, no sin, no need to repent, no cross, no blood, no call to renounce the world, no boundaries. This new church includes all denominations, all religions in fact, and all ideas and theologies. The agents of this change are the emerging church leaders, the catholic church leaders, the new age leaders, and even the established protestant church leaders. All are falling prey to this non-doctrine doctrine and as long as you lay down your long-held bible based beliefs and join with the new world order, you will be accepted and loved. By the world. But as scripture tells us..

James 4:3-5

New King James Version (NKJV)

You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. Adulterers and[a] adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”?

As I said though, the gospel can’t be re-defined because it is beyond temporal or worldly understanding. It is the word of God who is eternal, and his word is eternal and unchanging. How then can you define or even re-define terms when those previous definitions become out-dated if God’s word is unchanging. People don’t change, there is nothing new under the sun (from the Solomon, world’s wisest man), and therefore the only point to re-defining Christianity, our beliefs, the gospel, or the tenets of our faith is to insert something in there that wasn’t before…yourself.


Further reading:

Willow Creek and the Socialist Agenda

*See this excellent article for the examination of the attitudes of leftwing politics in Australia



You Can’t Serve God and Mormon

Ligonier Ministries discussion

Steve and I listened to an informative video the other night.  It was a recording from the 2007 Ligonier Ministries conference.  I can’t post it because WordPress won’t let me but here is the link. It was a conversation regarding the errors of the post-modern liberal theology which has permeated the evangelical church over the last two decades.  The three men discussing this were Ravi Zacharias, R.C. Sproul and Al Mohler.  They were intelligent erudite and entertaining.  Each speaker in his own way had an eloquence which only professors at university who speak for a living could have.

We were enthralled and we also appreciated the wisdom of the combined years and experience that these men had.  Its actually a real shame that not many younger Christians appreciate the perspective that age can give.  The longer you live, the more you see because time has given you an understanding that you simply cannot have when you are younger.  It is almost impossible to explain that to a young person, and they will not appreciate what you are saying because you can’t until you age.  It’s a puzzlement.

I had heard of these men before but didn’t really know much about them.  As they were talking however, it dawned on me that their orientation seemed to be leaning towards Calvinistic beliefs. Sure enough, when I did some research, both Mohler and Sproul are firmly reformed in their theology.  Al Mohler is currently president of the Southern Baptist Convention in the States and is what is termed a ‘New Calvinist’.  R.C. Sproul  is a Calvinist theologian and founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries.  Ravi Zacharias is not a Calvinist I believe, but is well known as a speaker and author and apologist.

Ravi Zacharias in particular was very droll and charming and had a way of speaking which made you want to hear more.  He was more of a story teller than anything I think.  Their strong distaste and concern for the errors of post-modernist theology were helpful to us as we realised that the problems in the Emerging church have actually been around for many decades, even centuries.  Sproul even playfully suggested that Satan was a post-modernist since his lie to Eve “Did God really say?” was the essence of emerging thought.

But even as we listened to these gentlemen, something was not sitting right with me.   The more I listened to them, the more I realised that in actual fact a lot of their statements were wrong.  We are not Calvinists, and don’t agree with the five points of Calvinist theology, believing they are neither defensible nor biblical.  But while I previously mentioned the wisdom and experience these men have, there is also a disturbing arrogance which came with it, and its not the first time I have seen this.

John MacArthur, a popular Reformed pastor with his own Bible commentary, is another Calvinist of this stripe.  Yet there are many who have left his Grace Community church believing it is a cult due to the way they are treated and the utter refusal to brook any dissension.  These are two of the biggest pointers to spiritual abuse.  If pastors will not discuss concerns with members of the congregations or even visitors to the congregation, they are not allowing for the possibility of error.  And even if they are not in error, they should still be able to converse civilly with those who disagree with them or have concerns.  Not so John Macarthur.  There are more issues that I have with Mr. MacArthur’s theology and that of John Calvin, but I don’t want to talk about that here.

I wanted to mention how much these men were name dropping.  They talked about the various universities they had taught at and the various people they knew and it was like a very subtle competition. But you could see that they revelled in the fact that they were well known and sought after speakers.  There is nothing wrong with being famous, but it seems no human being can cope with it for too long without it going to his head.  My concern was that their fame had changed who they were as Christians. There was little in the way of humility and some of Sproul’s jokes were disrespectful to God’s word and fairly tasteless.

Added to this, there seemed to be a marked sense of being in a good ole boys club. and not only that but that they recounted incidents in which they had changed their minds on issues within a day or so of some great man or other telling them that they disagreed with them.

Al Mohler mentioned that he had held very strong egalitarian views on women in the church when he was at University and when he had stated these views to a visiting complementarian speaker whom he very much admired, he immediately (overnight) changed his viewpoint.  This speaker had told him that his (Mohler’s) views were an embarrassment and immediately Mohler decided to look into why it was that his hero of the faith felt this way.  When a young man changes his mind that quickly because a famous man tells him to, you can be sure that he doesn’t really know what he believes.  You can’t do a thorough study of either approaches to the subject of women in the church overnight, and in order to really understand what the Holy Spirit is saying to the church on this matter, you need more than a few hours prayer.  Mohler claimed that he had not been influenced at all by the words of the visiting speaker, yet evidence would tend to suggest otherwise.

Likewise Ravi Zacharias who seems to have slid into false teaching very quickly, told the story of his invitation by the Mormon Church to speak at the LDS Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City in 2004.  Initially he said he turned it down, he did not explain why this was.  But then he apparently was accosted by everyone from his wife to famous Christian authors and pastors like James Dobson, psychologist and founder of Focus on the Family and Charles Colson former counsel  to President Richard Nixon. These are not minor Christian celebrities. All of them told him to accept the invitation to speak, they told him that it was necessary for him to be there, presumably to preach the gospel.  Now not once did Zacharias mention what God wanted him to do, he was completely focused it seemed on what everyone around him, especially influential famous men, wanted him to do.  I do not believe he should have gone to preach there since scripture tells us to have nothing to do with false teachers. Not only that but Ravi Zacharias has a history of ecumenist preaching and attempting to ‘dialogue’ with false teachers, as though being friends will make other people more open to listening to what you have to say.  It didn’t do a thing for the Middle East conflict and will never do so.  You can’t be friends with people who hate your guts and want to destroy you.  It is the same when you are talking to a cult which has had a strong presence in the U.S. for many years and actually believes it is a Christian church.  They are not.  Ravi Zacharias was not preaching the gospel of repentance from sin, he was trying to compare notes about what they do believe.  They do not worship the same God or the same Jesus.  Why on earth would a cult want Ravi Zacharias to preach to them in the first place.  There is something profoundly disturbing in the fact that a false religion likes a particular Christian apologist’s messages. That tells me that Zacharias’ preaching is far too watered down to actually do anybody any good.

It is important to recognise a number of things here.  You can be preaching a false message and still be a great speaker and a charming person.  You can be preaching a false message about one issue and a true one on another issue.  And thirdly, even if, like Mohler and Sproul your theology is deeply flawed, you can still have biblical beliefs on a number of issues such as the person and ministry of Jesus Christ.  It is even more proof that we need as Christians in these last days, to test the Spirits, to keep our bibles with us at all times, and to do some research if we sense within our spirits that something just doesn’t sound right.

When Steve and I were in BCF, there were a lot of times when I knew something was wrong, I just couldn’t put my finger on what it was.  It wasn’t until we left that we were able to understand the gravity of the error. It’s too easy to sit passively and be entertained or informed, but you must always have your critical thinking cap on, first of all dowsed in the blood of Jesus Christ so that you will have the mind of Christ and you will know whether what you are hearing is right or not.

The Resistible Revolutionary


Shane Claiborne’s understanding of the gospel seems a little skewed.

Here’s a quote of his from his book ‘Irresistible Revolution’.

“For even if the whole world believed in resurrection, little would change until we began to practice it. We can believe in CPR but people will remain dead until someone breathes new life into them. And we can tell the world that there is life after death, but the world really seems to be wondering if there is life before death”.

And another one..

“Sometimes people call folks here at the Simple Way saints. usually they either want to applaud our lives and live vicariously through us, or they want to write us off as superhuman and create a safe distance. One of  my favourite quotes, written on my wall here in bold black marker, is from Dorothy Day: “Don’t call us saints; we don’t want to be dismissed that easily”.

I flicked through “Irresistible Revolution” at our local bookstore the other day. I was going to buy it, but after finding quotes like these on just about every page, I wondered whether it was worth it.  I found Shane’s attitude of superiority off-putting.  Apparently nobody in the church but Shane and his fellow Red Letter Christians are getting it right, and this is never a good place from which to speak to other believers.  I spent a couple of decades in a cult which had the same exclusivity  and taught others to shun the outsiders.  It’s this exclusion of others that gives you a sense that you are right with God. It is so incredibly easy for people to fall into this delusion.  It’s why there are so many churches like that.  But Mr. Claiborne has fallen into the same trap. Unfortunately nobody can tell him that, because he seems superbly at ease with his critics, almost encouraging them. A person who has come to this place of sublime ignorance of his own fallibility is in a  dangerous place.  It is a place where you are so sure you can never be deceived, yet it is almost always the hallmark of those who actually are deceived.  It makes me think of  this quote from the character Sheldon Cooper from TV’s “Big Bang Theory”

“Howard, you know me to be a very smart man. Don’t you think that if I were wrong, I’d know it?”


I want to deconstruct the above quotes.  When I left the cult we were part of, I had to look again at the books and literature we had to read, written exclusively by the cult leaders, and understand what they were actually saying, as opposed to what we thought they said.  What I found was actually pretty revealing.  It opened my eyes. So much we took for granted actually wasn’t there.  What was there however was a horrendously boastful and arrogant assumption that not only were the leaders always right but any wrongdoing could simply be determined to be dealt with by themselves.  They were never accountable to anyone, least of all the people they destroyed.   I began to study other writings, such as those of George Orwell.  His “Politics and the English Language” is very good, it shows how words can be used to manipulate people’s minds and emotions.  This kind of language is common in politics, but just as common in advertising, religion, social movements or anywhere where human beings want to influence others.

I want people to think about what is being said, even if it is coming from a genuinely likeable Christian guy who looks a little groovy and seems to know how to fix the world.

Let me just say that I am aware I am taking these quotes out of a much larger context, but I have  studied Shane Claiborne’s message in other mediums and read exhaustive critiques of the book “Irresistible Revolution” by others. Mr. Claiborne I think has made his message clear.  These snippets are more about decoding language than they are about looking at Shane’s larger works, I think they are good examples of how his language is symbolic of a confusion of theology and a deliberately non-biblical gospel. Shane wants to start a revolution, not preach what has been preached before. He wants to remove landmarks and create new ones, not follow the ways of Paul and the other apostles.

First of all “How can we worship a homeless man on Sunday and then ignore one on Monday”.

Let me show you why this language is so powerful.  Like I said, the visual image of Shane is not that of a dangerous person who wants to lead you down a dark path.  He looks like a college kid even though he is now in his forties.  So you are lulled into a sense that here is a guy who knows a thing or too because he is not pretentious, nor is he a stuffy religious leader or pastor. He is not ‘pastor Shane’, he is just Shane. So we listen to Shane speak because not only is he not stuffy and pretentious in a religious way, he has kudos.  He is well known, people want to hear him speak, he must be saying something important.

But let’s look at what he says.  First of all he poses a question.  It is a question which puts people on the back foot because it uses language which nobody connects with church.  Jesus, a homeless man?  Yeah, I suppose he was. So if this statement is true then so must the other one be.  Yeah, we worship a homeless carpenter and then ignore a homeless drunk guy the next day.  You feel humbled, despondent, depressed even.  Boy, I just don’t know how I can call myself a Christian. But look at Shane, he lives with homeless people and the poor, he must know what he is talking about, I should be like Shane.  How could you argue with that?  An appeal to consider the plight of the homeless based on who Jesus was.

But wait…

Actually Jesus was not homeless.  He had lived with his family for 30 years as a carpenter, probably supporting His mother and  younger siblings after Joseph died.  His choice to leave home at 30 and begin his ministry was deliberate, and he did not have a home because the bank foreclosed or because he had been thrown out by his wife or because he could not afford one or because he was a drug addict.  He did not have a permanent home because His ministry was to move amongst the Jewish settlements preaching the gospel. He went and stayed with friends often, or asked to stay with those he talked to. He was not homeless, as in sleeping on the streets.  Everything he did was deliberate and was the will of the Father. I don’t think you can say the same thing about the guy in the street.

Neither was Jesus ‘a  homeless man‘ in the same way the guy in the picture is.  Jesus first of all is the Son of God, not just a man.  Claiborne seems to major on Jesus humanity and forget that He is holy, perfect righteous and just and not just a guy we follow.  So the message that Jesus is the same as the guy on the street is false and misleading.  We don’t worship a man, we worship God, and Jesus himself said to the Pharisees that if you can’t accept that Jesus is the I AM then you can’t be saved.

The question also implies that all Christians ignore homeless people.  This is not true either.  I find Claiborne’s sweeping statements about his brothers and sisters in Christ to be condemnatory.  The amount of emphasis he puts on actually living amongst the poor rather than doing what you can at the local soup kitchen etc is rather dishonest.  Shane can pick and choose how he responds to his own situation in whichever way the Holy Spirit guides him.  I don’t think it is Shane’s role to act as the Holy Spirit in people’s lives and giving others guidance on how to live.  Giving is done in response to the Holy Spirit, not some man who places himself in the position of being the leader of some kind of revolutionary new world religion which is replacing the tired old Christianity which people over 40 preach about.

Shane is taking upon himself a position and an authority that God did not give him. He is nobody’s pastor except those who fellowship with him. Otherwise he is simply a commentator, a guy with an opinion.  Somebody who is connected with others who have a name like Mother Theresa.  Lots of people have worked with Mother Theresa and they don’t all write books and go on speaking tours claiming to be ‘irresistible revolutionaries’. There is no ‘new move’ or ‘revolution’ other than the one that certain people wish to produce. But then this has always been the way with any revolution.  There are the revolutionaries, the agitators, the behind the scenes guys who get a hold of others like the university students (read Tailor of Panama it describes the whole thing) and the young seminary students who are tomorrow’s pastors. And then there are the plebs, the unaware, the moral majority who are just trying to eke out a living. Revolutionaries are rarely the dispossessed, they are the rich elite who agitate the easily manipulated (young idealistic impressionable).  That’s how revolutions start, and they end with bloodshed, always and the reorganisation of the universe. Order out of chaos has always been the method of the revolutionary. Out with the old order, in with the new. But hey, he’s a likable guy, its only the doom merchants who spew bile against likable guys. Nobody else minds, they are just happy to be part of something great.

And last but not least, the question uses the royal ‘we’. He says ‘we’ but he means ‘you’. He says ‘we’ to take the edge off his judgement of apparently all Christians. If he includes himself it means he is a Christian too. If he doesn’t include himself and says ‘you’ he excludes himself from Christianity.  He has to say ‘we’, it confirms the solidarity he has with his audience. However if you look at what he is saying, he can’t possibly include himself in this.  If he accuses himself of worshipping Jesus on Sunday and ignoring homeless people on Monday then he is denying everything else he has told you about himself and his community.  He doesn’t really mean himself or he would have to repent and in humility change the way he does things.  He has already told you he lives amongst the poor.  He already does the things he thinks everyone else should be doing.  So this is not a ‘we’ statement any more than “so where are we going for our holidays” is from a shop assistant who just sold you a suitcase. She is being patronising, so is he.

Shane is in a position of responsibility, being the leader of a community, an author and a teacher.  He is in a position of power and authority especially in the eyes of Christians.  It is also the reason why so many dislike Shane’s approach, and his message.  Shane likes to think that other people just don’t get him, and he encourages his followers to believe this to.  Its not that his critics don’t get him, its that they don’t reflect back to him the image that he wants them to see.  So while Shane is insisting that his way is Jesus’ way, in fact, it is not.  It is simply Shane’s way. It’s why you have to really listen and really read what he has said and not just assume things because he uses scripture intermingled with powerfully emotive language.  Really look at what he is saying.

“Sometimes people call folks here at the Simple Way saints. usually they either want to applaud our lives and live vicariously through us, or they want to write us off as superhuman and create a safe distance. One of  my favourite quotes, written on my wall here in bold black marker, is from Dorothy Day: “Don’t call us saints; we don’t want to be dismissed that easily”. (my emphases)

Here Mr. Claiborne is making sweeping statements again.  “Usually”, meaning all the time, it is the normal thing, other people who see his community and want to applaud them and apparently live vicariously through them.  Even if he does say so himself.

This is a hugely narcissistic statement. Shane is saying that ‘people want to be me’ because they think I am superhuman. Really? So there are not just people who walk through and go ‘good for you guys like what you are doing’ and walk away and forget about them? Apparently others also want to live vicariously through them.  This is another extreme statement. How do you know that is the case?  And if so, why is it the case?  Only cults have these kinds of extreme reactions.  Nobody wants to ‘be’ the pastor down the road at the local Baptist church even if he is a great guy who helps people.  Nobody wants to ‘live vicariously’ through Christians they know even if those people are Christ-like.   Paul said ‘imitate me as I imitate Christ’ but not even Paul wanted others to be him, as he said later when he castigated those who were ‘of Paul’ or ‘of Apollos’.  Shane doesn’t actually say in this paragraph that living vicariously through them is a bad thing.  He has an almost ‘aw shucks’ response to these statements.  Yet even his rebuttal of these attitudes in the last sentence of the quote “don’t call us saints” is weird.  Dorothy Day was another political and social activist and journalist and became a Catholic. Her understanding of the word ‘saint’ is not what the Bible teaches. We ARE saints, the bible calls us saints.  It’s just a word meaning believers.  We are all saints.  And saints or not, nobody is dismissing anyone.  There is a really strong contradiction going on here.  One minute Shane is saying people want to be us, next minute he is saying don’t dismiss us. Nobody is dismissing Shane Claiborne and his works however he wants to skew this.  They are very definitely making a huge fuss about him as he has already stated.

There are some serious concerns in even these two simple quotes.  I haven’t touched on the other quote I mentioned. Shane states that even if the whole world believed in resurrection, nothing would change until you practiced it. OK, resurrection isn’t practised it just is.  One minute you are dead, the next you are alive.  You don’t have to do anything for somebody to realise something has changed.  When Lazarus was raised from the dead, people knew about it. Its why we know about the story two thousand years later.  When Jesus was raised by the Holy Spirit, His resurrection was reality changing.  We are raised to new life and we are called to walk in the Spirit, to put off the flesh and to walk in the Spirit.  The believers at Pentecost were immediately empowered by the Spirit and Peter in particular preached a powerful life changing sermon and thousands were saved in one day!  THAT is the power of the gospel.  Its Jesus who does the changing and its Jesus who gives the increase. It wasn’t Peter who was trying hard to be something, he simply changed. We don’t have to ‘do’ anything in order to prove that there has been a massive change in us.

I am reminded of a guy I knew at my church when I was a teenager.  He used to be a career criminal, a biker, a drug dealer, a vicious thug and generally nasty piece of work.  When he got saved, he had to be extradited back to Melbourne for trial.  The judge took one look at this guy, Terry his name was, and said ‘you’ve changed’. This judge knew Terry as he had come before him many times previously. Yet the judge could see straight away that something was different about Terry. So much had Terry changed that his very short stint in jail ended up seeing dozens of hardened criminals saved. These were all men who knew Terry.  They knew what kind of person he was.  When he got saved, his face changed, his nature changed, his habits changed, he was a new creation.  That whole prison was changed because of Terry and he continued going back to prison to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Now Terry runs a church which helps the poor, the druggies and the down and outs.  He has set up a service which provides free food.  Not just for ‘the poor’ but anyone who needs a helping hand including the white middle class that Shane Claiborne seems to enjoy deriding. Nobody sees Terry’s work as being  useless or pointless or ‘not enough’.  Yet to Shane Claiborne, this kind of things is not acceptable.  I could go on and quote a number of things Shane has said in his books and speeches, but the heart of it is that he wants to condemn his fellow Christians because in his eyes, we are not doing what we should be doing.

One last thing about Terry.  He is well respected and recognised, but he is an old campaigner.  He is a conservative evangelical.  He got saved in the Assemblies of God church in Brisbane, and people in Australia have seen his face a few times in the media as they all seem to like him and treat him as the real deal Christian.  Yet, strangely, nobody tells Terry that he is a superman. When people look at Terry, they see Jesus, because Terry still looks like a scary biker.  He is a big teddy bear and a very genuine Christian.  But nobody wants to ‘be’ Terry or live vicariously through him. So what’s the difference between a man who loves Jesus and reaches out to the community in love and is seen by unsaved people as an actual Christian, and a man who has to convince others by teaching and writing books that he is a totally radical revolutionary for God.  What is wrong with just being an unassuming person whose life was changed by Jesus. Maybe Shane hasn’t met enough Terrys to realise that THIS is what it means to be saved.  Jesus already changed the world, and they don’t want to know Him.  What Jesus does is change people’s hearts and then through those changed hearts, other people are changed.  Not much has changed or is going to change because of the efforts of people who don’t really know what they believe and are trying desperately to get others to believe they are special.

I don’t think Shane Claiborne understands the gospel. It makes me tired.  I don’t think he knows Jesus as well as he thinks he does. I don’t think anyone can talk the way he can about the church if they love it with their whole heart the way Jesus told us to.  “Love the Lord your God and your neighbour as yourself”.  Loving your neighbour doesn’t just mean the poor.  If your neighbour happens to be poor then you can help them. But giving people stuff doesn’t mean you are a great Christian or that you have been transformed by the power of the blood of Jesus.  Genuine transformation is its own advertisement.  It always has been, for centuries before Shane was born and will be again until Jesus returns.  I don’t need somebody like Shane to tell me how to live, and I don’t like, even from a cursory glance what Shane preaches.  I don’t believe he has been transformed or that he understands the new life of Christ or he wouldn’t say these things.

If people are wondering if there is life before death  they need to see the new life of Jesus Christ.  Not in your works, but in the actual difference in your face.  There is a difference in people who know Jesus because the Holy Spirit has made them a new creation. I can testify to this for myself and others I know who have been changed by Jesus. I have seen and heard many testimonies from brothers and sisters who were miraculously saved and changed.  It is this change which makes others know and see the powerful reality of Jesus Christ. If you have changed, then you will do things differently. But the change comes first, then the actions.  People like Shane have always tried to make it the other way around, and all they do is lay heavy burdens on believers who try and get it right in order to impress others. The key to all of this is understanding your sin and the cross.  We don’t worship the cross, we worship Jesus. We just understand the substitutionary atonement of the cross in that Jesus’ sacrifice was necessary to take away the sin of the world. I don’t think Shane understands this at all, not in a personal way, because I don’t think he knows Jesus.

I have seen men who have this kind of power before.  Plenty of people want to follow and imitate charismatic men who manipulate and shame others in subtle and clever ways. The followers almost NEVER blame the leader for making them think they have to do stuff to be saved, they mostly blame themselves.  They try real hard to get it right, to impress the leader and to look good to others, but in the end they are dead spiritually because they have put the leader in the place of the Holy Spirit and their faith in Jesus, and Jesus alone has been eroded. People who follow Shane seem to do so with utter devotion. Shane can do nothing wrong, nobody is allowed to criticise Shane because if you do then you are part of the fundamentalist traditional church who just want to shut him up because they ‘just don’t get it’.  That too is dismissive and trite.

I don’t see Shane Claiborne preaching the gospel to people and seeing them saved.  I see Mr. Claiborne trying to get in the way and tell everyone else in the church not just how to ‘do church’ but how to ‘do life’.  I don’t find this either revolutionary or irresistible, in fact I find it rude and abusive.

Absolute Truth ?…. Absolutely

Swamis Winfrey and Bell deep in private emergent conversation being broadcast to millions

‘Two men say they’re Jesus – one of ‘em must be wrong’ – Mark Knopfler

Those who say there is no such thing as absolute truth will be the first to be outraged at somebody else’s lies about them. When people say there is no such thing as absolute truth it is a subjective statement. There is no absolute truth to them. Which is fine. Except the proponents of this idea rarely keep it to themselves, they want to ensure everyone else believes it too. What disturbs many Christians is that the people asking these questions about absolute truth often identify as Christians.  Are they deluded? Or are they not born again?  Either way, they do not have the truth, so they don’t recognise the truth.  We are being taught as a church not to question the post modernist emerging church preachers and writers, because if we do, we are to be dismissed as hopelessly traditional.  This is a loveless doctrine, a cruel message to those who believe they are brothers and sisters.  Don’t discard other believers, but don’t kid yourself either. There are such things as false brethren. Scriptures tell us there will be many whose love of God will grow cold towards the end.  If you change the goal posts however, and insist that the Bible is no longer an authority and God’s word is what they believe it to be, they can say whatever they like. In their own churches. Just don’t expect everyone else to simply fall in line, or accept the insult that you are ‘not relevant’.

Much Emerging Church theology,  is imbued with this version of ‘truth’. It is in fact the foundation stone upon which further false teaching is raised.The Bible no longer retains its God ordained place as the inerrant Word of God except for those who want to use the parts of the inerrant truth that apply to their personal agendas. To them,  Jesus’ words  are important, but only some of them. Jesus’ words are also more important than other parts of the Bible, and from what I have read of the origin of this phrase ‘Red Letter Christians’ by Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo, the concept of ditching the bits which are not ‘relevant’ is not a problem. In fact it’s kind of hip, cool and radical. And relevant. Relevant is important.

Mostly, emerging church ideas have appealed to those disaffected by traditional church.  I know how these people feel, I spent 15 years in a religious cult and when we came out, we were extremely disaffected.  We have spent many years since rebuilding our faith from the ground up; the ground of Jesus Christ and Him crucified, not the ground of heretical theology or eisegesis.  I am sorry but there is no other way around this.  You can’t have subjective theology.  We spent 15 years being immersed in one man’s subjective theology. Coupled with intense brainwashing techniques and the daily threat of losing one’s salvation, we came to view the Bible as prison bars, and did not partake of the wondrous gospel of freedom and salvation.  After we exited the cult, we found it too easy to move towards emerging church theology. It sounded so different to the equally heretical authoritarian savagery we were used to. After about 12 months however we began to smell a rat.  We have since learned to study the Bible, research the ideas and not just accept them, and compare them to what the Bible actually says.  It’s hard work, but at the cost of your spiritual walk, you tread carefully.  We have wasted too much time assuming a pastor actually knows what he is talking about, or the printed page would never contain error because the writer is a ‘christian’.  We have since learned there is a huge difference between a follower of Jesus and a man who is born again.  There has to be a change, a transformation.  If that man’s life does not add up, if his words sound great but his actions speak volumes which contradict the words, these are red flags.  Attend to them, they are important.

For many Emerging church authors there is an overemphasis on ‘living as Jesus did’, yet there is also a terrible lack of genuine understanding of theology. Apparently Bible study is only for people who know what they are talking about, like many of these pastors and authors.  They actually present post modern gnosticism.  You have to come to them to understand the truth because they know stuff you don’t know.  This is the lure of the cult.  They will always give themselves away by majoring on minors, thinking they are offering you something new and different.  All they are doing is offering you something different to the actual gospel. Selling everything you have to give to the poor is good. Repenting of your sin not so much.   Did Jesus tell everyone to sell everything and give to the poor, or only that rich guy? Funny how some emerging church preachers take the alleged giving to the poor mandate and forget the ‘don’t do your good works before men’ mandate. It kind of casts aspersions on the speaking tours and authoring books thing not to mention the mega-star status in certain churches that some preachers have, and Tony Carpool (drat autocorrect – you know I am going to leave it there)  in particular is probably one of the most well known Christians on the planet. Especially to Bill Clinton for whom Tony was the ‘go-to’ guy for moral dilemmas.  Which is kind of embarrassing I would have thought. Its a shame most politicians and high profile religious leaders don’t have the normal level of sensitivity to embarrassment the rest of us have.

I recently read this blog post from Rachel Held Evans (an emerging writer) who laments how difficult it is to try and be Shane Claiborne (an emerging leader who set up a ‘new monastic community’) whose big push is focused on living with and ministering to ‘the poor’.   She tried and she tried and it didn’t work.  I think there might be a message here for people like Shane, an author and popular speaker who seems to attract young people like Rachel because Shane appears to be living in such a ‘radical’ way. So she follows men and finds that following human beings makes you crazy, because inevitably, man-made teachings and communities will fail. Sure you can learn a thing or two from these guys, but as Rachel admits, its more than that, she is wasting her life in a repeating spiral continually trying to hoist herself up with being ‘of’ somebody else rather than simply being a daughter of the most High. She is not living a life supplied by the Truth, Life and Way called Jesus Christ, she is following a man who kind of seems like Jesus, but who manifestly isn’t, especially as a Red Letter Christian who denies that the word of God is Truth.

We don’t subscribe to sweeping prescriptions from people who claim to be Christians but actually mock and deride genuine believers because we believe in Hell, Judgement, Salvation by the blood of Jesus and Repentance from Sin. According to Rob Bell we are irrelevant.   John Macarthur, the epitome of a conservative fundamentalist mega-church pastor with similar enviable credentials to Mr. Carpool and friends,  claims we are also irrelevant because we are not of the Reformed tribe.  Or more specifically the Reformed variety who believe John Macarthur to be the epitome etc.  You can’t please all of the people all of the time. .

In fact it’s kind of ironic.  John MacArthur is a creditable nominee for the position of Emerging Church Anti-Matter Man. Yet his position on relevancy is the equivalent of Rob Bell’s.  They keep using that word.  I don’t think it means what they think it means.  Relevant to what or who?  To God?  It would take a massive amount of arrogance to reject more than half of the body of Christ simply because they don’t accept John Calvin’s flower power theology, especially when Calvin himself would be taken for a pathological homicidal maniac if he killed 50 people just because they didn’t agree with him in today’s paradigm (another emerging hip word).

Those who claim there is no absolute truth clearly know nothing about mathematics, physics or geometry. If the truths contained within these sciences are not absolute and unchangeable, we would not be able to build skyscrapers, fly planes, make computers or heal sick people.  Sure we get it wrong, which means that we don’t know all the truth there is to know about those things.  It still proves that there are a lot of absolute truths we can work with, with absolute certainty.  Ask Oprah, who while still cheerleading for apostate ‘progressive’ pretend Christian leaders (like Rob Bell and Karl ‘leather’ Lentz), maintains that there are some things that she knows for sure.  Oprah, my friend, that’s absolute truth.  You need to work out whose side you are on.


There are absolute facts which are true which do not change and will never change. Like God’s word (Isaiah40:8). Therefore there is absolute truth. All of life is based on rules and laws which are based on absolute truth. Killing another human being is wrong. Those who do so are arrested, tried in a court of law and sentenced. This is just one of the absolute truths which govern our society. If we had no absolute truth, society itself would devolve into The Lord of The Flies with nukes. More importantly, the police do their work based on the innate understanding that human nature, left to itself will devolve to its lowest common denominator in Judges 21:25 “In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes” without the rider of “as long as nobody else gets hurt”. We know from personal experience that there are a LOT of people out there who will hurt other people because they enjoy seeing other people’s pain.

As far as I can see, there are only two reasons why a human being would come to the conclusion that there is no absolute truth: because it suits them, or because they are nihilists. To become  a nihilist, they have become so disillusioned with life that they believe there is no structure, no authority, no dream and no ideal which can inspire or inform their decisions.  Life to them is a jungle, or more accurately an illusion, in which no man alive can tell another what to do because nothing is real. In essence, nihilism is really just a storm in a mental teacup.  And I have seen some mental teacups.  Here’s one for starters.

mental tea cup.png

Whatever a human being defines reality as being, they still have to live in the world.  The world runs according to  universal rules – water finds its own level, night follows day, MacDonald’s hamburgers taste the same wherever you are, cats always want out as soon as you let them in.  You can claim there are no absolute truths and therefore that only parts of the bible are accurate and not others, but you will face God at the end of your life if not before and have to give an account for your thoughts and actions.  I would want to be pretty darn sure of what I believe regardless of what that is if I were you.  And the best way to know what God thinks is to look in the Bible, because it is our litmus test of false doctrine. Get rid of that and you no longer have false doctrine.  Easy peasy….and broad is the way.