Rob Bell saw down for an interview recently. In it, he said he would embrace the term “evangelical” if it meant:
… a belief that we together can actually work for change in the world, caring for the environment, extending to the poor generosity and kindness, a hopeful outlook. That’s a beautiful sort of thing.
The emergent church is just a recasting of theological liberalism. That much has been clear for some time. Part of a new polemic for the 21st-century is confronting the next generation of liberal word-hijacking. This means making sure that the words that Scripture uses to define Christianity are not redefined to create a new religion.
J Gresham Machen saw this coming in Christianity and Liberalism, where he clearly recognized that the rise of liberal “Christianity” was in fact a false religion rather than any heresy arising from within Christianity:
The plain fact is that liberalism, whether it be true or false, is no mere “heresy”–no mere divergence at isolated points from Christian teaching. On the contrary it proceeds from a totally different root, and it constitutes, in essentials, a unitary system of its own. That does not mean that all liberals hold all parts of the system, or that Christians who have been affected by liberal teaching at one point have been affected at all points. There is sometimes a salutary lack of logic which prevents the whole of a man’s faith being destroyed when he has given up a part. But the true way in which to examine a spiritual movement is in its logical relations; logic is the great dynamic, and the logical implications of any way of thinking are sooner or later certain to be worked out. And taken as a whole, even as it actually exists today, naturalistic liberalism is a fairly unitary phenomenon; it is tending more and more to eliminate from itself illogical remnants of Christian belief.
It differs from Christianity in its view of God, of man, of the seat of authority and of the way of salvation. And it differs from Christianity not only in theology but in the whole of life. It is indeed sometimes said that there can be communion in feeling where communion in thinking is gone, a communion of the heart as distinguished from a communion of the head.
But with respect to the present controversy, such a distinction certainly does not apply. On the contrary, in reading the books and listening to the sermons of recent liberal teachers–so untroubled by the problem of sin, so devoid of all sympathy for guilty humanity, so prone to abuse and ridicule the things dearest to the heart of every Christian man–one can only confess that if liberalism is to return into the Christian communion there must be a change of heart fully as much as a change of mind. God grant that such a change of heart may come! But meanwhile the present situation must not be ignored but faced.
This is the battle cry of today… liberalism’s new garb must not ignored, but faced. Confronted. Denounced. Told that it cannot hide behind the next philosophical incarnation of individualism. Just in talking to people who are fond of Bell’s writings, there is a definite disconnect between their understanding of his teachings and the Bible. Which is why we don’t argue against it with our own reasonings… but the reasonableness of absolute truth that is found in the Word. It is ultimately our only resort in the encroaching night: the light that is the Word of God.
Michael Patton declared the death of the movement earlier this year. It’s already passing in many ways out of the public eye; it’s dubious that Rob Bell will ever be the next Billy Graham as a newspaper mused a few years back. Nevertheless, I want to be on guard for the next way that liberalism will reinvent itself in an attempt to subvert Biblical Christianity. Wonder what it’ll be next…