Friday, July 08, 2005

Confessional Hatred

I have not been following the Emergent Church controversies at all. I would hear about here and there, but it did not seem to matter much to me. Then I had a friend in an Emergent Church in Colorado Springs. Still, I remained fairly uninterested. I got curious when I saw Andrew Sandlin and John Armstrong take strong stands for the Emergent movement, with minor reservations of course. These men who support the Federal Vision movement in the Reformed Churches were supporting the Emergent movement too. I wondered what the connection might be. I believe I have found it. Pure hatred of confessionalism. The one thing that the Emergent movement is a contempt for standards in theology. Al Mohler comments about the Emerging Church:

The very nomenclature of the movement betrays a sense that evangelicalism must be cast aside in order for something new, radical, and more authentic to emerge. "For almost everyone within the movement," Carson argues, "this works out in an emphasis on feelings and affections over against linear thought and rationalities; on experience over against truth; on inclusion over against exclusion; on participation over individualism and the heroic loner." This approach produces what McLaren calls "a new kind of Christian," and a new kind of church.

Note the antipathy for rational thought and the need for development. Mohler continues to state:

Accepting the postmodern insistence that "metanarratives" are dead, McLaren argues that Christianity must develop a new way of describing, defining, and defending the gospel. A metanarrative--a unifying theory of universal meaning--is to be replaced by a far more humble understanding of truth that accepts pluralism as a given and holds all truth claims under suspicion

Here again, universal meaning is a thing of the past. The Emerging Church wants a new way to “define” the gospel. Disturbing.

How does this relate to the Federal Vision? I believe in that very same way. Now there is no doubt that the Emerging Church and the Federal Vision arrive at some very different conclusions. But, they both share a need to develop new theology with a new definition of the gospel. Listen to John Armstrong discuss the PCA’s decision to not distribute the Mississippi Valley Presbytery Report:

It would be a wonderful day for modern reformation, and for the true principle of semper reformanda, if this issue were put to rest once for all, at least as it is perceived as some kind of serious threat to the gospel. I have my doubts that this will happen so long as the PCA is influenced by "strict confessionalist" (TR) types.

Clearly here Armstrong equates the constant reforming change as the good guys and those who adhere to confessions as the bad guys. Note also that the gospel is better off without the Confessions. Armstrong later openly desires the PCA “will pursue an open posture toward the world in general, and the work of fresh and serious biblical theology in particular,” but doubts they will because of the “schismatic spirit” of the aforementioned ‘strict confessionalists.’ Yes, he also calls those who wish to adhere to a confession strictly “a small coalition of the theologically disturbed.”

The two groups have one thing in common, contempt for standards. Both groups need a developing theology. One that will change and grow with them. One that will not be confined to a confession, nor one that will inhibit their "fresh", innovative thinking, which stands as proof of their intellect and piety.

In the coming months and years, maybe, those who believe in truth will find it more and more under attack by those once considered allies. The idea of confessions, and confessional churches will be attacked. The “small coalition of the theologically disturbed” must continue to make its stand for an unchanging truth. Or else the Presbyterian and Reformed world will be overrun by those who would exchange the wisdom of our fathers for the whispers of the woman on the street, those who would exchange the truth of God for a lie.