Every story has at least two sides. In part 1 I shared the dutiful reasons for my criticisms. Here is the other side of that story.
I have been on a journey of faith for most of my life. It has been difficult to say when that journey actually started, partly because it had so many eventful stops that have taken me in different directions along the way. Years ago I read The Pilgrim’s Regress by CS Lewis and it was in that reading that I was comforted to know that I was not alone. Although my journey has really not taken me too far from Christianity, it has led me down paths where I have had the honor of rubbing shoulders with people who have challenged me to think very differently about my own faith and who have instilled in me the value of being open to criticism and self-examination.
Then What IS Christianity?
My second year of college met me with one of those life-changing experiences. I took a course called “Images of Jesus,” which was on the historical Christ as well as a survey of the divergent ways that people have interacted with Christ over the centuries. Suddenly I was caught with a quite disturbing notion: “this is nothing like what I was taught in my church back home.” What came up for me was a resounding cacophony of hatred for the church. I struggled with my love for Christ and my growing sense of betrayal in reflection on the church. How could I have been misled by a group of people who I have known all my life and who profess to love Jesus?
The conclusion became that there is something desperately wrong with the church. I did not know what it was and could not express it, but I continued to find Christ in my classes in college and continued to love him in spite of his church. I vividly remember taking a course on Ecclesiastes and being in awe of the fact that if everything is vanity, then nothing really matters. And if nothing matters then really nothing I do matters to God. I found such a release in that because that is the definition of human depravity. It makes God completely sovereign and my only hope the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The Gospel was and is so sweet.
An Attractive Option
My journey continued and as I sought to settle into a church congregation. I was again hit by the reality that something was terribly wrong. Yet, the more I sat and the more I looked around me the more I realized that there were rarely anyone who seemed to see what I saw. The conclusion that I came to was this: if I am the only one who sees this in the Bible and hears this in the Word of God, perhaps I have gotten it wrong.
Then I happened across the book The Emerging Church by Dan Kimball. In the book I found an ally; Kimball agreed that something was wrong with the way that the church was responding to today’s challenges, and he offered solutions that sounded excellent to me. He called for a reclamation of the ancient and commented that people look for a faith that has been tested by time. Yes, this sounded so right! So I immersed myself in these “emerging church” and “emergent church” ideas. They were so foreign to me, yet they were so fresh and different that I could not differentiate what I was hearing from what I really believed. The only thing I thought was that if there is something so wrong with the church, it may just take something this radical to fix it.
Tales from the Edge
I was on a quest, but unlike the knights of the Round Table or Indiana Jones, I was not entirely sure what I was searching for. The problem was evident, but the solution prompted the quest. One would think that I would be making this search in the pages of the Bible, but this amazingly did not seem pertinent: we all read the same Bible, so it must be something outside the Bible that bares the solution. Kimball’s book was only the first in a series of volumes that I began to pour through. A turning point likely came when I came across the book Church in Emerging Culture: Five Perspectives by various authors who were presented as leading thinkers in the church: Leonard Sweet, Andy Crouch, Brian McLaren, Erwin Raphael McManus, Michael Horton, and Frederica Matthewes-Green.
It was quite the slippery slope. The more I read the more I began to think differently than other Christians around me, and this I thought was a great sign. I became inspired by the fresh attitude toward faith of the likes of Rob Bell, who was willing to challenge even the foundations of the Christian faith, and in so doing usher in a whole new perspective on what it means to be a Christian. I was taken by Erwin McManus and how he believed that we could tap into the very mind of God to challenge us to do more and live more passionately.
Gradually, however, an unsettling feeling began to nag at me. It was quite subtle at first, but it became more and more profound. It began with Generous Orthodoxy by Brian McLaren. In the book, he claims a number of different positions which are completely opposite from one another. How, I thought, could he hold both contrasting positions at the same time. Well, it must be to make a point; after all a house divided against itself cannot stand. But I was wrong, he took what he said in the book seriously. The house of cards began to crumble.
There is an age-old notion that we may not be created in the image of God, but instead we create god in our image. The further I journeyed into the forest of the emergent, the more I began to notice the specters waiting in the shadows, reaching out for me with bony hands. The further I went into the blackness the more of the Bible I had to leave behind. The more I embraced the emergent philosophy, the more I began to have to give up Christian theology. The deeper the trek the more I began to realize that we were not making a new way to talk about Christianity, we were creating our own god along with a totally different faith.
Read Part 3