The emerging church (also known as the emergent church) came to strength as a movement within the evangelical church in the 1990s that sought to help the Christian faith "emerge" to better connect with the changing realities of Western culture. Often seen as the result of adapting to postmodernism in Western culture, the emerging church typically shifted away from black-and-white absolutes to discuss truth in less objective terms, downplayed formality, and developed new styles and methods of church and ministry.
Because the emerging church movement is not a unified movement with centralized leadership, much variety exists in its beliefs and practices. For some, the emerging church simply meant to modernize church music, clothing styles, buildings, or technology. In these cases, theology remained unchanged while attempting to better reach those in local communities.
However, in other cases, essential theological beliefs became a point of open discussion. Rather than viewing the Bible as the inerrant Word of God, some emerging church voices embraced the "mystery" of God's revelation or shifted to a more subjective personal interpretation in which multiple, contradictory viewpoints were acceptable. For example, some emerging church leaders downplayed theological views to the extent that ancient church controversies that led to the development of the Protestant Reformation were of little importance. Others chose to maintain close fellowship with church leaders who held unorthodox views on salvation or Scripture.
As a result, many churches (though not all) that developed with an emerging church focus have embraced unbiblical beliefs and practices. For example, one emerging church writer encourages interfaith practices with other religions as a way of better growing in one's Christian faith. Yet this is clearly contradictory to Scripture in which we are to have no other gods before us (Exodus 20:1-3). Jesus clearly stated we are to love the Lord, not other gods or religious traditions (Matthew 22:37-40).
While cultural changes inevitably lead to the need to adapt in some ways to better communicate biblical truth, Scripture's teachings must remain unchanged. Any emerging church teacher, congregation, or organization that promotes unhealthy biblical teachings is to be rejected (Titus 1:9). Such voices fit the description of 2 Timothy 4:3-4: "For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths." As Jesus taught in Matthew 7:15-16, "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits."
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