Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Emergent Evangelical Disaster

I have not blogged in a little while because I have been having discussions with some of my friends in Colorado Springs. It has been a sad, painful experience to say the least. Some, who formerly believed, now no longer do. Others seemed more and more confused on the gospel by the minute. They freely and quickly spout justification by faith and works.

It began with a group email conversation with former co-workers, one of whom attends an Emergent Church, or a church affiliated with the movement or whatever they want to call it. It is obvious the doctrine of justification by works must be taught or at least allowed to grow in that congregation. I protested and pointed to Scripture, but to my horror, other former co-workers jumped in siding with justification by works. These were members of mainline denominations, non-denominational churches and they all had no clue about the doctrine of justification. Upon hearing the traditional Protestant exegesis of James 2 and the belief that works flow from thanksgiving for salvation, they pronounced it “full of crap.” By the way, I used to work at a Christian ministry in Colorado Springs that had weekly chapels that apparently do not bother with salvation either.

It is one thing to know that evangelical churches out there are not doing a good job of proclaiming the gospel, but it is another to be hit right in the face with it. It was a good reminder to why I became a minister in the first place. It also reminded me not to take even the most basic doctrines for granted. The gospel must be proclaimed or people will revert to trusting in themselves. May God strengthen His church to boldly proclaim his message once more.


Mr. Baggins said...

Yes, it is sad that so many are running pell-mell from the truth. Have you heard about D.A. Carson's book on the Emergent Church? Sounds really good.

Fred Carpenter said...

Re: Js. 2, here are a few thoughts fwiw:

1. James is about what kind of faith SAVES a man (2:14), which is salvific, forensic and not demonstrative only.

2. The origin of Protestant exegesis of James via Luther wanted to dismiss it from the cannon - that's the beginning point, now its accepted but in isogetical terms.

3. James. 2 lists the continuity of 'righteousness' of Abraham by citing Gen. 15:6 in James 2:23; it's just a continuation that Abe was declared righteous beginning in Gen. 12, unless you want to argue he was not Justified via Heb. 11:8.

4. Abe obeyed. The Bible speaks eschatologially of Justification; Pauls does in Rom. 2:13 that those who obey will be justified, and, no, its not theoretical either as Paul makes a distinction between two groups earlier in chapter 2, the one doing good headed for eternal life.

5. You want a justification by faith alone that is divorced from any kind of "doing". So, beginning w/Luther, since they were confused by these words over what they believed Paul was saying, they sought to either 'throw it out" or 'explain it away', which, I would say they are "full of crap". Because Paul teaches the same thing, Romans 2:13; Gal. 5:6, which are both talking about JUSTIFICATIOn even though some of those verses are dismissed as hypothetical.

Lee said...

Your second point is an untrue statement, I am afraid. It took me all of about thirty seconds to find Augustine saying, “works proceed from faith” and teaching justification is of grace and not of works. Calvin himself, discussing the relation between faith and works, quotes Augustine, Chrysostom, and Bernard all denying works add to justification. Yes, Luther thought that James should be thrown out, but the rest of the Reformers simply used the analogy of Scripture and of faith to understand the Bible. And they were able to show their view to be the view of the Church Fathers. Hardly something that begins with Luther.

Considering you think the supposed newness of Luther’s view of faith and works makes it repugnant, it is funny that you now argue in the rest of your points for a 1960’s view of Paul. I am afraid that you miss the flow of Paul’s argument in Romans. In chapter 2 he lays out principles of justice applied to those who look to the law, to their own works. The conclusion of this matter is that no one is righteous, no not one. To make Paul claim that justification is possible by works in Romans 2 and Galatians is to make his arguments descend into lunacy. Even more honest New Perspectives advocates like Sanders claim that Paul is inconsistent and the Bible is full of errors because elsewhere Paul argues for justification by faith alone.

Most of those arguing for the New Perspectives or Federal Vision admit to a belief in Theological Development similar to Philip Schaff. It helps explain their desire to follow a new system. I wonder, Fred, do you believe in Schaff’s Theological Development?

Fred Carpenter said...

Lee, so Augustine is part of Protestantism, historically speaking?? My basic point is that Protestantism stepped in it big-time as a beginning point on book of James, its a sordid history from the beginning, a point you recognized... And, if you're going to look backward and bring up all Church Fathers as a unit, then the Orthodox, as a whole, are clearly not dualistic rationalists like the John Robbins folks are today.

They clearly enjoin 'works', properly qualified, as necessary for justification AND continuin justification, and it is NOT about merit (I wonder how many times I have stated and then turned around and accused of it anyway?).

My view is that justification depends on persevering faith and Abe is our model, beginning in Gen.12. I could qualify all my thoughts but you have, considering your paradigm, have probably already labelled me outside the faith. Point is Justificaiton is ongoing, non-progressive, and absolutely free of merit, all of God's grace. Another fallacy of Js. 2 being demonstrative is that NO ONE was watching except God. God was with him All the way Lee but Abe obeyed, he had real faith, obedient faith. In Gen. 22 Abe was NOT putting on a show for folks to watch and see that he had a faith that ultimatley ended up in works that had nothing to do forensic Justification, his was an obedient faith period. James is speaking salvifically, he actually uses the justifed by works, which intelligent men spend countless energy and most of their lives rejecting...sad. You won't agree so will stop here..

Anyway there is only obedient faith, the faith of Abe that I'm stressing; to clarify above continuity argument, Abe was justified (and Calvin noted this 3.14.11) "many years before" his first act of faith in Gen. 15:6. So, the issue is eschatological, that which you have determined in your doctrinal standards to only be once (btw, the bible never says the Justified by faith alone, unless you want to count Luther's addition of the word 'allein' in rom. 3:28). But the Bible does say in a couple places justification by words/works either into the future or looking back, and you MISS THE FLOW of Rom. 2 when he compares TWO groups of people, one who do good to eternal life, and those that don't...would exegete Rom. 2:6ff and also acknowldge to me that more and more reformed (and evangelicals) are embracing the position that Romans 2:13 means what Paul says it means, "doer of the law will be justified." I'm sorry you missed it Lee, but when you read your Bilbe you employ only a negative view of law and works, when Paul talks of another and another group that inherit eternal life by living the law of faith (Rom. 3:27). So, its not lunacy that more and more reformed folks are taking a fresher read of their Bibles and recognizing that there have been other times other than Reformation where God has poured out His, your comments about thelogical development are telling here...

Secondly, you must read Lillback for a covenantal view of Justification, and the covenantal distinction between Lutheran and Reformed on Justification. Again, more and more reformed are and have changed their view on conditional covneant theology as it impacts scripture and Justificaiton in particualr. Have you read his book on Calvin's viee of covneant, which was different than a straight line reading of some Calvin quotes on justificaiton in abstract? The OPC accquitted a man (John Kinnaird) of supposed heresy on works neccessary for justification) by advocaitng WCF 11:2, the Bible and Calvin's covenantal view of Justification via Lillback's testimony, who, now I believe is President of Westminster East.

The TRUTH Is breaking out in Reformed backyard Lee, its not just Emergent world, but I do believe Brian McLaren, to name a man, is a good thinker and has much to say to the Sectarianists amonh us...

Lee said...

I have not labeled you as outside the faith. We are just two guys having a conversation.

We could argue about who is a part of Protestantism and whether or not Geneva broke from Rome or Rome broke from the faith, but it seems pointless. I don’t think the exegesis of James has a sordid history from the beginning. I think Luther made a mistake that is not repeated by any other Reformer.

It appears we disagree about the nature of justification. You say it is continuous and on-going, while I would argue justification is forensic act of God. Feel free to correct me if I am misreading you. I think you have raised some good issues worthy of discussion. If you don’t mind, I think it would be better served under a new post or posts, which I will try to begin putting up tomorrow. We can continue the discussion under that post.

By the way, I would like to read that book by Lillback, do you have the title handy?

Mr. Baggins said...

The book by Peter Lillback is called _The Binding of God_. Really helpful reading on all this stuff.