Brokenhearted Theology

Calvary Chapel Statement on Emergent

Mark Driscoll recently blogged about a statement that Calvary Chapel released to it’s pastors regarding the Emergent Church.  The statement criticizes Emergent as being theologically dangerous in eight core areas of faith (of the 8, I don’t think any of them are new criticisms…just a collection of what people have accused Emergent of for the last few years), including the innerancy of scripture, doctrines of heaven and hell, use of religious icons, elements of mysticism and eastern religion, etc.

There are several trends in “Emergent criticism” that I’ve noticed.  

I feel like a lot of people tend to find one example of potential heresy and use it to denounce anyone related to Emergent.  Because of how loose an affiliation Emergent is by design, it just seems like it is difficult to denouce the entire movement, which is what everyone seems to do.  I understand the desire to defend orthodoxy and tradition, but it seems like it is often done at the unfair expense of many who are connected with Emergent yet desire to remain true to more traditional/conservative doctrines. 

Often times it also seems like the criticisms are unfairly vague.  In Calvary Chapel’s statement, the use of the phrase “touchy-feely relating to God” seemed to fit this category.  What does it mean to relate to God in a touchy-feely manner?  How touchy-feely can you be before you become a relativist, pluralist, emergent heretic? 

While I don’t think I can determine whether this was part of the Calvary Chapel statement, I’ve also felt like it’s true that many criticisms of Emergent tend towards rejecting Emergent outright as unorthodox and heretical, rather than trying to engage in a conversation in order to correct a wayward brother or sister (if the particular Emergent community in question is in fact wayward).  It seems to have become a big finger-pointing war with flaming accusations flung left and right driven by wrong motives. 

But those are just my thoughts…anyone have any thoughts on Calvary Chapel’s statement, Emergent, or the critical tendencies between churches/denominations?


4 thoughts on “Calvary Chapel Statement on Emergent

  1. Beantown says:

    You should see what my parents have to say about your last post. I know Mom reads your blog pretty regularly. It’s probably on there favorites. Personally, I think you are probably (and I only say probably because I haven’t followed Emergent in any sense) pretty correct in what you say as far as people’s criticisms. However, I think that Emergent needs to define what it really means for a church to be “Emergent.” Without this I think you will always have across the board accusations because those who do not fit that mold of “relativist, pluralist, emergent heretic” are still associating themselves with the movement. I know Tony Jones talked about the whole idea of not having a denomination “Emergent” because denominations are partly what they are trying to stear away from, but eventually they need to more clearly define “Emergent” if they want to avoid being lumped together with those who try to jump on the “bandwagon” of Emergentness. (I’m using a lot of “”.) Just some random thoughts that I would love to actually converse with you about, because you are far more conversant in many areas (this included) than myself. You a wise, thoughtful man. I love you and miss you. Tell your wife I say hi.


  2. Some people at my church asked if our church was an emergent church. I wasn’t quite sure what to tell them.

    I am familiar with the term but I didn’t feel as though it was defined enough to use as a label. The notion of using it as a label is somewhat ironic. So we all have begun to “read up” on it.

    As much as Brian McLaren doesn’t want the emerging church to become a denomination, it seems inevitable because of those who so badly want it defined so they can be for or against it.

    It seems to me that the Emergent movement is more about methodology than theology (although McLaren and Rob Bell push theology around quite a bit).

    George Hunter’s book, “The Celtic Way of Evangelism” contrasts St. Patrick’s “Celtic” approach to mission with the Catholic church’s “Roman” way of mission. Patrick put belonging before believing as opposed to the Roman way of requiring belief before allowing people to belong. This seems to be the essence of the Emergent movement among churches. But those are my perceptions.

    Are my perceptions way off? Can you help me understand it better? You seem to have a decent grasp on the movement.


  3. I used to attend a Calvary Chapel, but have left in the past year to instead attend a newer, much smaller church. I received much criticism from my friend over this decision, and even lost a few.

    I still don’t understand why there is such an argument among the Calvaries and the Emergent churches. I do agree with Beantown though; I think that once Emergent churches are able to define themselves accurately, it would be harder for others to attack them.

    When being criticized and attacked for my decision by my Calvary “friends”, I always remind them of how much Calvary Chapels were criticezed in the 60’s. Has everybody forgotten how much traditionalists were against them?? I think it is interesting that they have seemed to have forgotten that.


  4. Thanks for the comments. I appreciate the perspectives you bring…

    Jim, I don’t pretend to have a complete understanding of Emergent, but what I do know I have gained from lots of reading on both sides of the fence. A good resource for getting to know Emergent better is the Next-Wave e-zine ( DA Carson’s book “Becoming Conversant…” hits a lot of the critical arguments against Emergent. Scot McKnight’s blog at also has some ongoing conversations about Emergent.

    There’s one Next-Wave article in particular by Bob Hyat that has helped me grasp what Emergent is –$622. That article touches a bit on the methodology vs. theology vs. philosophy argument that you touched on, Jim.

    Like you guys have said, Emergent isn’t very well defined. Jim, I think you’re right in talking about the belonging before believing switch. McLaren talks a lot about this in his (highly recommended by me) book on evangelism, More Ready Than You Realize. I think that’s a big part of what an Emergent Church would stress, which is part of the scandal and controversy that arises when “Emergent” writers talk about joining together with people from other faiths to learn from each other.

    Fragileflame, I think you raise a good point with the history of Calvary Chapel. One thing that I love is how circular and repetitive history can be, and the history of the church/denominations/etc. is no different.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s