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The Inclusive Gospel

Commentary by Roger Oakland
www.understandthetimes.org

For printer friendly version, please click here

Eddie Gibbs and Ryan K. Bolger have co-authored Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures. This book is published by Baker Academic, a division of Baker Publishing Group. A claim posted at the top of the back cover states: “The Best Book Yet on the Emerging Church”. [1]

An endorsement for the book by Brian McLaren agrees with this assessment. McLaren states:

If you want to be truly conversant with emerging churches, this is the book to read… It recognizes the essential theological emphases of emerging churches, and it is based on actual conversations with over 50 people. [2]

Gibbs is Professor of Church Growth at Fuller Theological Seminary and the author of several books. Bolger is academic director of arts in global leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary. [3] The two authors have teamed up to provide an overview of the nine patterns or trends they see unfolding in the practices of the emerging churches. Their research took place over a period of almost five years. [4]

One of the trends the authors examine in detail is evangelism. Evangelism, they say, in the emerging church “involves sharing the deep experiences of life with those outside the faith”. [5] Emerging church leaders are not impressed by those who defend the Christian faith by promoting definitive answers to convince those who doubt the faith. [6]

In order to substantiate this trend, Gibbs and Bolger quote emerging church leader Pip Piper from Birmingham, UK, who states:

Evangelism or mission for me is no longer persuading people to believe what I believe, not matter how edgy or creative I get. It is more about shared experiences and encounters. It is about walking the journey of life and faith together, each distinct to his or her own tradition and culture but with the possibility of encountering God and truth from one another. [7]

 

Pip Piper’s definition of evangelization sets off a biblical alarm. Are not Christians instructed to give reasonable answers to non-believers why they have faith? If not, then why did Peter write:

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear. [8]

What if someone who was “willing to walk the journey of life and faith” with someone who is committed to a faith that is in opposition to the Christian faith, lost their faith?

Wouldn’t this be evangelism in reverse? Where in the Bible are we instructed to join hands with pagans and consider their beliefs as a means of evangelism?

Apparently, Gibbs and Bolger believe the advantages of this style of evangelism outweigh the negatives. They write:

Christians can not truly evangelize unless they are prepared to be evangelized in the process. In sharing the good news, people are enriched by the spiritual insights, honest questions and depth of devotion demonstrated by those of other faiths. Including others involves listening to them, learning from them. Much of what exists in other faiths may not necessarily be hostile to the kingdom. Christians can learn a lot from other walks of life. [9]

I have searched the scriptures to find out if there is any precedent for this style of evangelism. The children of Israel were warned by the Old Testament prophets about joining hands with pagans, however, they ignored God’s warning. As Jeremiah proclaimed:

And the LORD said unto me, a conspiracy is found among the men of Judah, and among the inhabitants of Jerusalem. They are turned back to the iniquities of their forefathers, which refused to hear my words; and they went after other gods to serve them: the house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken my covenant which I made with their fathers. Therefore thus saith the LORD, behold, I will bring evil upon them, which they shall not be able to escape; and though they shall cry unto me, I will not hearken unto them. [10]

In spite of such clear warnings from Scripture, Gibbs and Bolger provide a further example of what is believed to be successful emerging church evangelism by citing Spencer Burke, an emerging church leader from Newport Beach, California. Burke states:

However, the Christian tradition could hold to an inclusive model, not an exclusive one. We have a community hermeneutic. We read other sacred writings, then get back to the Scripture and decide together how to interpret what we have read from the literature that other religions hold sacred. [11]

The very thing that happened to the children of Israel is what is being repeated today, only this time in the name of Christianity. This pathway to deception is not only being repeated and ignored; it is being applauded by the promoters of the emerging church agenda. Gibbs and Bolger endorse Spencer Burke’s ideas by stating:

Burke’s community is prepared to learn from faith traditions outside the Christian fold. There is a Buddhist family in their church. As a community, the church visited a Buddhist temple. They participated in a guided meditation with this family. Burke celebrates the many ways God is revealed. He recognizes that the Spirit has been with these people all along. The community celebrates other traditions. They reach out to other traditions, and see them as beloved children of God. With a focus on kingdom rather than on church, people find that their relationship with other faiths changes. [12]

It should be apparent what is occurring as the emerging church evangelization program unfolds. Walls that once separated biblical Christianity from pagan religious belief systems are being demolished. Instead of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ that saves sinners from hell, the gospel has been redefined and totally nullified. The narrow pathway that Jesus proclaimed leads to heaven through faith in Him alone now has been broadened to permit open access for the sake of establishing the “kingdom”. [13]

Worse yet, the command by Jesus that we are to be “His witnesses” has been reinterpreted to mean the very opposite of what Jesus proclaimed. As Karen Ward has stated (from the Church of the Apostles, Seattle, Washington):

We do not do evangelism or have a mission. The Holy Spirit is the evangelist, and the mission belongs to God. What we do is simply live our lives publicly as a community in the way of Jesus Christ, and when people inquire why we live this way, we share with them the account of the hope within us. We are to love one another, and that creates its own attraction. Taking care of the sick and the needy - creates all the evangelism we need. [14]

The new evangelization program being promoted by the emerging church, while it may be in the name of Christ, is antichrist. A formula has been established to provide a bridge that has the potential to unite all religious beliefs in the name of Christ, by circumventing the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In the future we will see all faiths join together based on a common mystical experience accompanied by “lying signs and wonders”. The apostasy the Bible warned would be apparent in the Last Days is now fully underway. Only those who hold firm to God’s Word will be protected and delivered. This remnant of faithful believers will be viewed as old-fashioned narrow-minded holdouts who are a hindrance to the establishment of the “kingdom.”  As Paul wrote to Timothy, in the Last Days:

Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. [15]


 

 


[1] Eddie Gibbs and Ryan K. Bolger, Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures, Baker Academic, Grand Rapids, MI, second printing, December 2005

[2] Ibid. back cover

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid. p. 9

[5] Ibid. p. 130

[6] Ibid. p. 126

[7] Ibid. p. 131

[8]  1 Peter 3: 15

[9]  Gibbs, Bolger, p. 131

[10] Jeremiah 11: 9-11

[11] Ibid. p. 132

[12] Ibid.

[13]  Matthew 7: 13-14

[14] Gibs and Bolger, p. 135

[15]  2 Timothy 3: 12-13

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