mē genoito

May it never be! Let God be true, and every man a liar. As it is written: “So that you may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge.” (Ro 3:4)

Listening To Dan Kimball’s Beliefs Of Emerging Churches

Dan Kimball is an emerging church pastor from Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz. In one of Dan’s recent post on his blog he corrects a stereotype on emerging churches.

So, the “stereotype” which emphatically stated that emerging churches are rejecting historical doctrines and that most don’t teach doctrines isn’t a valid belief.

Dan also gave links to doctrinal statements from emerging churches. The statement from Dan’s church has much that Christians can agree with. Dan also used a couple of previous posts to refute misconceptions about emerging churches. I remember Dan took a stand and admitted he is a fundamentalist in a post on May 25, 2006.

i jokingly wrote that I am a “fundamentalist” in the original sense of the word. It was originally used around 1910 to describe a response to what was seen as liberalism at that time, so they laid out a few “fundamentals” – the virgin birth, the inspiration of Scripture, the deity of Jesus, the atonement, the return of Jesus. I can say I believe those original fundamentals

Maybe he was joking but he stands behind some major doctrines of Christianity. I think it is time to stop criticizing these emerging church leaders and welcome them with an open arm into the personhood of humanity.

What? Excuse me for a second, Dan wants to tell me something.

What did you say Dan? Dan Kimball said, “why is it wrong when emerging leaders continue to do what the Bereans did? I learned from this very radio preacher in my early years in ministry that I should not just accept anyone’s teaching but to constantly be looking into the Scriptures and testing everything as the Bereans did. That is what I see many emerging leaders doing, so I am not sure what is wrong with that.”
Are you saying I should test what you profess? Are you saying that I should be a Berean and not just accept anyone’s teaching, including yours? Dan said, “I should not just accept anyone’s teaching but to constantly be looking into the Scriptures and testing everything as the Bereans did. I am not sure what is wrong with that.” OK, I didn’t think I need to test what you say but if you insist, I’ll do it.

I am sorry for the delay folks. I was just talking to Dan and he said I should not just accept anyone’s teaching including his. Dan said I should constantly test everything he said against Scripture. If you know me, you might be surprised I wrote this, if any of this is not coming out as loving. I am trying to write in love as best I can – but maybe by posting this, some may take Dan’s advice and not believe anything from the emerging church. Anyone with an opportunity to talk with emerging leaders themselves, they need to get beyond the surface of their words. We know the cults will use the same words as orthodox Christians but pour different meanings into those words.1 I just hope that I could do it with as much love as Dan does. I just hope I can test Dan’s teaching without turning into what Dan calls “angry forms of preaching, or become a moral police”

Dan said he is a fundamentalist but before we test that claim, I think we should first look at Dan’s epistemology, meaning how Dan approaches doctrines2.

in my early days as a Christian I used to have around 28 things I would have listed in my “doctrinal statement” as certainties – but through time, studying the history of theology and how various doctrines were actually birthed out of cultural situations – I have become more of a Nicene Creed doctrinal statement believer. I know that the Nicene Creed was shaped by cultural debates and theological issues they were facing at the time, but I think it still does address some beautiful things about the Christian faith.

I am glad that Dan believes in the Nicene Creed, because it is a very important doctrine at the heart of Christianity. Unfortunately Dan came to accept this Creed as the product of a cultural debate. By reducing this to a mere product of the culture, Dan is trivializing the indispensable nature of this doctrine. Dan might be doing this unconsciously because the emerging culture is the postmodern culture. Emergent followers believe doctrines of the past are only true for their culture in time. Each culture of their time must find their own truth, if there is such a thing as truth. Dan is a postmodern pastor, from “baby buster” to “Gen X” to “postmodern” to “emerging”

So the word “emerging church” seemed safer and more non-age specific and began being used more and more, not only for churches and ministries focused on younger generations, but for churches focusing on the fact the culture was really changing and shifting. So the term moved past a generational focus to more of a cultural focus. (emphasis added)

With all due respect to Dan, the Nicene Creed was not shaped by culture or even some esoteric theological issues. I realize Dan has studied history and theology, and concluded that various doctrines were birthed culturally. Unfortunately, this is just plain wrong. The Nicene Creed was birthed because Arius, a pastor of the Baucalis Church in Alexandria in 318 AD, decided to teach Jesus is not God. He began to teach “the Word” in John 1:14 had a different nature from God, Jesus Christ is not eternal. Arius’s teaching was very appealing to former pagans of Gnosticism. This reminds us of the similarity of what the emerging church is doing by appealing to the pluralism of our postmodern culture, at the expense of God’s Word. To be fair we can’t completely blame Arius for coming up with this heresy because the Church partly opened the door for him when it tried to fight off a different heresy 50 years before Arius. At the Council of Antioch in 267 AD, the church rejected Sabellius and his formula that Jesus is of the same essence as God, but he was still lower than God in his modalistic order of being.

Just as the emerging churches of today, Arius changed the deity of Jesus Christ to make it more appealing and familiar with the former Gnostics who understand that there were different levels of divinity. Arius might be like the Brian McLaren of our time, who thinks Christians are an obstacle for the postmodern culture to come to faith. McLaren thinks we need to “save Jesus from Christianity”. In my humble opinion, Dan is so accustom to thinking about Christianity in terms of culture that he instinctively falls back to that as the reason for the Nicene Creed.

What Arius proved is that to cause confusion, all you need is a crafty dialectic that appeals to the masses. This too parallels the emerging churches. Unfortunately, for Christianity, once the poison was swallowed it takes a long time to flush it all out. Although Arius was rebutted very quickly, the poison lingered for many years thereafter. The Nicene Creed was worded and designed to prevent anyone from twisting what the Bible clearly proclaims, the Divinity of Jesus Christ our Lord. As the Apostle Peter said, inevitably there will be those who want to twist Scripture to their own destruction. A form of the Arian heresy resurfaced as semi-Arianism. From a linguistic point of view, the difference between semi-Arians and Christians was so small. It all came down to just an extra letter “i”. It was between homoousios same substance, and homoiousios similar substance. I am trying to be a Berean as Dan suggested I should do. My question is, if Dan has studied history and theology as he said he did. How could he have concluded that the Nicene Creed was a product of the culture? Clearly, the teaching for the divinity of Jesus was there before Sabellius and Arius. The desire for people to deny the deity of Christ transcends time and culture. Christians today and throughout history hold to the deity of Christ and the doctrine of the trinity not as a product of culture, we hold to this because that is the revelation from God. There will be those who choose to teach heretical views of Christ, and the Church will fight off those teachings, but the fight itself is not the creator of the doctrine. Just as the emerging churches today challenge the authority and inerrancy of Scripture, but that in and of itself does not produce the doctrines of the Scripture, nor does it mean that there is confusion about the doctrines of the Scripture.

it is funny as most people assume they have all the correct “doctrine” to guard. I am not talking about what is written in the Nicene Creed or the five fundamentals – as those are doctrines I personally hold to and would “guard”

This is a glaring dialectic contradiction. In one breath, he seems to criticize those who would guard their “doctrines”, but at the same time he confess to his set of “doctrines” that he guards. So what is the difference between his “guarding” and some other people’s “guarding” of their doctrines? The implication of Dan’s view is that you are somehow “funny” because you guard “doctrines” that he doesn’t think is worth guarding. This is a typical postmodern behavior, while they profess to be tolerant and not judge others. They are very intolerant and judgmental if you do not adhere to their pluralistic way of thinking.

In my mind they are the “majors” as the corny cliche goes, we can focus on the “majors” and minor on the “minors”. … When I speak at conferences (that are non-denominational) I quite often ask “who here believes women should be pastors and elders?” and about half raise their hands – then ask the same question reversed and the other half raise their hands. I then say “one of you is wrong” but we each love Jesus and is this an issue we should be fighting about or looking one one or the other as a “liberal” or a “Conservative”? Even those catagories almost seem meaningless anymore.

The problem with what Dan is doing here goes back to the question, how does Dan choose what is major and what is minor? Is loving your neighbor as yourself a major or minor? It is not one of his five guarded doctrines. What about the Lord’s admonition that if we are His friends we would obey His commandments, is this a major or minor? Emerging church leaders like Dan are experts at picking and choosing culturally hot button issues to divide Christians. What Kimball and McLaren is successful in doing is to force the average Christian to choose between the Bible, which they are not real passionate about anyway, and a culture who can label them as intolerant, right wing bigots. Given those two choices many will compromise the Bible rather than face the wrath of society. Emergent leaders like Kimball and McLaren play the part of a tolerant, loving little lamb, being kicked by the big, bad, mean, and dogmatic Christian. They are just manipulating the popular opinions for sympathy and support. What Kimball, McLaren, and the emerging churches are doing is to tell the world that they can eat ice cream all day and every day. We don’t need to have any vegetables, meat, or fiber. The world is like a child in rebellion against their parent, welcomes this message with open arms. If we can only get rid of those mean Christians who keep telling us to eat our spinach and chicken, this would be a better world.

I think there needs to be grace and love with other followers of Jesus who may not hold to our view of the 5 Points of Calvinism, or whether the earth was created in 6 days or 6 million years etc.

Huh? Is this the source of any putative ungraciousness between Christians and the emerging churches? No Dan, I think the difference is that Christians think that the emerging churches are preaching another gospel. The other thing is that you have to get over the fact that when someone points out your errors, is not always because they are uncharitable. It is because they care about you and those who might be deceived by your teachings. That is the reason Christians speak out against you. If they were truly mean then they would encourage you rather than admonish you.

Back to my original thinking, I would defend the Nicene Creed and the original five fundamentals and that is something I would “guard” to use the biblical word – but it makes me sad seeing Christian leaders and people in churches beating each other up so often about other things beyond that with doctrines and doctrinal statements. Could it be that some people are insecure, so they need to secure all their beliefs so tightly and defend everything that does rest as uncertain? Does knowing doctrine make us more like Jesus and loving? It should make us more loving – but judging by the words and attitudes of many Christians on blogs and web sites it seems it seems to makes many angry and meaner.

Does it make you feel more secure Dan by judging others who judge? Just because you think that so much of the Bible is uncertain does this mean that in reality they are uncertain? Is it possible that you and your emergent friends are wrong and your minds are clouded by postmodernism, that you are unable to see the clear teachings of Scripture? I don’t ask this to be insulting but as a real possibility for consideration. You have to admit intellectually that you could be wrong. It seems to me that a lot of the emphasis by the emergent think tank is to criticize how wrong Christianity has been. I think it is only fair, as a postmodernist, to allow reciprocal criticism. Don’t you agree with that Dan? Dan’s not answering. I think he must have left. I wonder if there is some way we can evaluate or analyze the emerging churches for signs of postmodern predilection affecting their mindsets?

Again, I am not speaking about the Nicene Creed of five fundamentals (those are “majors” to me) – it’s when you don’t agree with being a five point Calvinist, or when the rapture will occur, or whether women should be pastors or not or some issues that are just not black and whitely laid out in the BIble. The Southern Baptists obvioulsy didn’t think everything was balck and white, as they changed views when they used to have women pastors and then made a switch to not having them as pastors and elders. Some things are not super clear, and it leaves room for a variety of intepretations.

Are these really the only difference that Christians disagree over with the emerging churches? Are you sure this is not because of your colleagues like theOOZE, who promotes Thomas Jay Oord? Oord says the view of the emerging churches is that God is not male, truth is communal, and propitiation is cosmic child abuse and universalism. Dan these views are espoused by your friends in the emergent movement or conversation or whatever euphemism you want to call it. Let’s not trivialize the differences and start putting up straw man arguments here.

Again, as I read this, I am thinking “Who in the world is he talking about? ” That is so unlike any emerging church I have ever been to. It is describing something that really doesn’t exist. When he says that emerging churches “dislikes preaching”, I have been to a dozen or more emerging churches and in every single one, they had preaching for at least 30 minutes long

Finally Dan, please don’t sound so dismay. Although I cannot speak to the preach practices of emerging churches, the fact is that you can’t really tell what a church is like by attending 1 or 2 services. I don’t think even emerging pastors are constantly spewing heresy in every sentence they speak. Many times, they don’t need to say anything provocative because any teaching from these heretical teachers must be interpreted under their aberrant construct. A more reliable way of understanding what emergent leaders are saying is not to attend their churches or talk to them unless you know what questions to ask. It is better to get their own writings and read their interviews to learn where you all stand and compare that to Scripture. This is what many Christian apologists are doing.


1 My adaptation of Kimball’s own words.
2 All following quotes are taken from Dan’s post “My Doctrinal Statement Can Beat Up Your Doctrinal Statement”

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