Overview of the Emergent Church Movement / The New Spirituality, and the Contemplative Movement


Emergent church is blend of Christian vocabulary with New Age spirituality via RC mysticism.

Many well-known and popular writers, teachers, speakers, promoting emergence, or the “new spirituality” as they have started calling it.

Emergence, emergent church, new spirituality IS NOT Christian, despite having co-opted Christian vocabulary and basing teachings on their interpretation of the Bible.

God” began personal, singular, and non-Trinitarian, but many promote a “God” that, when you pay attention, is not necessarily personal, having more fully adopted the New Age concept of “God”.

Jesus Christ is NOT God, but few of them come right out and say so directly. Rather, Jesus is referred to in ways that present Him as a good teacher and good man, but ultimately deny the possibility of His being the Lord God Almighty – which being / concept is also inconsistent with their impression of “God”.

The gospel means “good news” among emergents, but the gospel of emergence is a social gospel in which “Christians” are responsible to fix the world, achieving ‘community’ and “inclusion” among all people regardless of beliefs, backgrounds, practices; to pursue “peace” in their personal, community, and world situations; to work to eradicate poverty, illness, political differences, strife, and oppression. A Christian will never be divisive except against the “empire” and against people who are exclusionist against others for any reason.

Jesus’ “mission” was to demonstrate peaceful resistance of the wicked empire. His teaching was against the power of the wealthy and powerful over the poor and oppressed, His target audience was the poor, His approach was to love the under-dog, to heal them of disease, to feed their bellies, and to “love” them.

His cross was His final demonstration of His overcoming that powerful oppressor, the state, by refusing to be drawn into violent resistance even when they wrongly arrested Him, wrongly abused Him, and ultimately wrongly killed Him, an innocent man whose actions toward the oppressed gain Him favour over the oppressive religious and political leaders.

To be “born again” is to come to the place where we “love God, love fellow-man” through our personal action of peaceful resistance of the oppressive systems – religious and political – by loving all members of our society equally, by including all members in our ‘community’ equally, in accepting everyone with their differences, and ‘serving God’ through the various social activist platforms previously mentioned.

The end goal is to transform the world from a place of ‘hate’, violence, and ‘exclusion’, to a place of love and light – the exact goal of the NAM.

Emergence accuses biblical Christians of being hateful and divisive. We are harmful to society because we believe ourselves spiritually superior, our “God” to be above all others, and our “gospel” excludes people from God’s favour – not from His call to salvation – based on religious beliefs, and in some cases based on actions (ie: homosexuals will not enter the kingdom of God). “Real” Christianity requires a new expression that is inclusive and accepting of all people wherever they may be and whatever they may be, with “love” referring to inclusiveness and material service.

The concept of atonement is vile to emergents. Brian McLaren referred to the proposition that God sent His Son to die on the cross for the sins of the world, as “cosmic child abuse”. Rob Bell, McLaren, Erwin McManus, and many other “big name” “evangelicals” have repudiated the key elements of the Biblical faith, including the atoning death of Christ for our sins; that is a vulgar and reprehensible concept to those in the emergent movement and provides a basis for their abuse of the saints of God. Years ago, Rick Warren publicly defined and then rejected the “Five Fundamentals of the faith”: The deity of Christ, His virgin birth, His atoning blood, His bodily resurrection, and the inerrancy of the Scriptures in their original autographs.

A key element of the new spirituality, which virtually all the big names have promoted, is referred to as contemplative spirituality. They misuse the text of Scripture to promote eastern-mystical concepts of mindless meditation, using chants, mantras, focussed & regulated breathing, and other mind-altering practices, to achieve altered consciousness, and “the silence” to empty the mind so that “God” can communicate “deeply” and “spiritually”. Failure to adopt these practices is considered to be a lesser or shallower communion with God, so that the true saints of God are considered to not really know God, not be “in touch with” God, and to be living superficial lives rooted in their own ideas instead of spiritual lives rooted in spirituality.

Emergence promotes spiritual experiences as the foundation and basis of Christianity, and repudiates both absolute truth in terms of the Bible and the ability to absolutely know categorical facts as biblical proposition

What this means is that, while they presume to teach that what they say the Bible means as absolute fact, while insisting that others cannot make any dogmatic statements concerning the Bible because everyone interprets it differently, based on their personal presuppositions rooted in their cultural and social experiences, making the meaning potentially fluid and subjective to the pre-existing ideas of the reader. They use many big words and technical terms – epistemology is a favourite – to confuse the average listener/reader and to give the impression that they are much better educated and therefore more qualified to speak on the matter than those who teach from the Bible based on the text and content of the Bible, on the historical context of the various books, and the knowledge of the person of Christ. In other words, they use a cloaked ad hominem to discourage their followers from listening to sound teaching, in an attempt to insulate them against the true gospel and a sound approach to understanding the Scriptures.

The emergent movement has followed the New Age Movement into every Christian and supposedly-Christian denomination, and its influence is present in nearly every congregation in the west, evidenced by the pervasive and growing focus on social activism, spiritual experientialism, activities that deaden conscious thought, emphasis of experience over facts, and the embrace of the hundreds, if not thousands, of teachers promoting elements of the ideology.

A good source of information on the elements of Emergence its many promoters, is Lighthouse Trails Research. The list of teachers and Bible schools/seminaries that have incorporated the various aspects is immense and sobering.

How To Talk To People Who Have Been Influenced By This Heresy:

Remember that many were drawn in out of a well-intentioned desire to seek God more fully. Many popular and respected names in the evangelical world have migrated to the emergent movement, with few recognizing or exposing them. Many professing Christians insist that this or that teacher is so smart, so good, so well-known, been around so long, that they just can’t possibly be teaching falsehood. That’s not the test of truth, and Jesus and His disciples made it clear that many would come in the name of Christ, many false teachers would come to lead people after themselves, and that Christ’s disciples are to test everything; no person and no proposition is exempt, regardless of popularity, or how long people have believed it/him/her, or how widely accepted it/they have been. If the majority will fall away to false teaching, we cannot use the wideness of the knowledge of the name or idea as the basis for acceptance or rejection, and since even Paul, the great apostle, commended the Bereans for testing his words against the Word of God, before accepting what he declared to them, there is NO teacher or idea today that is exempt from the same examination, or from rejection based because they are false teachers.

Your hearer needs to understand that.

Emergents argue that we cannot claim absolute knowledge of absolute truth, not because absolutes do not exist, but because we cannot be certain that we have rightly known or understood what they are. Their arguments are based on post-modern approach to epistemology – how we obtain and recognize knowledge. Post modernism provided the platform for new age and emergence to develop and progress, because it denies the ability of any individual to make an absolutist claim about anything not rooted in the material world. We cannot know that we know what is categorically true because we cannot assess the influences on our own thinking and perception that may slant or obscure what is real, or even present an alternative ‘reality’ contrary to the real reality. Consequently, we are obligated to accommodate whatever alternative realities any other person may perceive, because we cannot be absolutely certain that in fact their concept is factual and our own is the illusion. (Maya)

A person will need to be shown that they are claiming absolute ideas for themselves, and by their own ideology, they have no basis for arguing against anything proposed by one who follows the Bible as true with a literal-historical approach to understanding it. They must be shown the logical inconsistency of their own argument, and shown that it completely defeats everything they themselves claim to believe about ultimate reality and human perception. When their approach to knowledge and truth can be shown to be unworkable, they may be brought to the place of having to consider that there is not only a different basis for truth, but a necessary absolute, which has to be rooted in something outside of human perception and experience (rooted rather than experienced) or it can have neither reality nor expression at all.

You would need to demonstrate the historical/material factuality of the contents of the Bible before having much success arguing from the Bible, with anyone deeply persuaded by or entrenched in emergent thinking. They will have been told that one’s approach to understanding the contents is the basis for the differences in interpretation, making an alternative interpretation essentially irrelevant, because it is necessarily completely subjective. They must be shown that biblical content is above subjective interpretation, besides showing them Peter’s words to that effect through real examples, so they have a reason to question their beginning proposition that the content is not absolute by nature.

It is also necessary to be well-grounded in the text of the Bible, so that you will be able to share passages that cannot rationally be re-interpreted to mean something else, in supporting the eternal lostness of man, the eternal condemnation for sin, the deity of Christ, personality of the Holy Spirit, the death of Christ for man’s sin, the requirement of faith in his death for sin, the requirement of faith in His resurrection from the dead, and believing in the true God rather than some personally-preferred concept of God. The passages chosen must be understood fully, in their proper context, and leave neither doubt nor ambiguity as to their own meaning, in order to be effective in demonstrating to one influenced by the new spirituality, the necessary facts of knowledge required to be believed. Remember that a person must believe facts and trust Persons in order to be saved. We can neither believe the facts while redefining or refuse the Person(s), nor believe the Persons while rejecting the facts, and make a valid truth claim. Jesus made clear that believing “in” and “on” Him brought salvation, and Hebrews declares that the person who comes to God must believe that God is and that God rewards those who diligently seek Him. Jesus prayed, “This is eternal life; that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom You have sent.”

The kingdom of God, to followers of the emergent church movement, is the community of people who working this social activism throughout the world. ** find some of the quotes from emergents concerning kingdom of God, born again, salvation, etc.

Original Leadership Network Members:

Bob Buford (mentored by Peter Drucker)     Dallas Willard       Brian McLaren     Doug Pagitt Dan Kimball
Tony Jones          Chris Seay     Andrew Jones    Erwin McManus was invited in, but rejected, apparently because he was too pushy for the others

Popular Leaders, Followers, Promoters Of Emergence:

Rick Warren (also mentored by Peter Drucker; supporter of Bob Buford) Pastor, Saddleback Church; PEACE plan; pastor.com; Promotes contemplative prayer and meditation. Socially liberal; very influential. “Saving” someone is not most important

Rob Bell: former pastor of Mars Hill church, MN. Author of Velvet Elvis & most recently, Love Wins. In The God’s Aren’t Angry he argues that Christ was not crucified for our sins and to satisfy God’s anger & His justice. Recommends learning things from a Buddhist teacher

Ideological Sources of Emergent Paradigm & beliefs:

Richard Foster – mystic; contemplative prayer

Leonard Sweet – mystic; Promoter of Christ-consciousness, and similarities with Buddhism/NA

Henri Nouwen – RC monk’ Taoist; follows desert fathers; contemplative prayer

Rick Warren: Pastor at Saddleback church in CA. Promotes contemplative prayer and meditation. Socially liberal; very influential. “Saving” someone is not most important.

Brian McLaren: Hates discussion on hell, eucumentalism.

Ken Blanchard: Claims Buddha ‘points the way’ and is a great teacher like Jesus.

Thomas Merton: Catholic mystic, promoted fusion with Taoism, Hinduism, Buddhism.

Willow Creek: Interspirituality & contemplative prayer.