“Classical extreme liberalism in a new, cooler wrapper”, those are the words of ex-Emergent “church” leader Dan Kimball. He speaks of this in his book, “They Like Jesus but Not the Church: Insights from Emerging Generations” (Zondervan, 2007). The title of the book says it all, what we are facing, if we dare engage the Millennials for Christ, is an anti-institutional, anti-authoritarian, anti-ecclesiastical, anti-doctrinal, and thus, anti-Christ heterodox movement which has no grounding in Scripture— and does not care if it does or not! The result is as Kimball puts it, “Classical extreme liberalism in a new, cooler wrapper.” The worst aspect of this development is that unlike the old liberalism, these young wild-eyed liberals have no clue that they are liberal and can be generally describes as historically and theologically apathetic. They don’t know what liberalism is or that it is wrong. This is because in addition to what the new “cool” liberalism is against; propositional truth is right up there. This is the anti-propositional conditioning the great Carl F.H. Henry wrote about years ago.
To make matters worse, Chelsen Vicari writing for the Christian Post describes what she perceives to be the actual success and subtle but pervasive growth of the Emergent “church” led chiefly by Brian McLaren and his ilk. McLaren’s comments are telling, troubling and serve as a reminder of the consequences of ideas:
“The conversation continues to grow, not by creating a new slice of the pie, but by seasoning nearly all sectors of the pie. Even where the word “emergent” is not used, ideas from emergence leaders are being considered and adopted, leading to new experimentation and openness.“
Vicari points out that this spirit of “openness” is being accomplished through the leadership and staff of Evangelical churches especially youth leaders, pastors even effecting the church philosophy of Christian colleges and seminaries. The effects of the new “cool” is anything but cool and all about liberalism pure and simple:
“Just consider for one moment the shifting worldview of today’s young Evangelicals. A 2014 Public Religion Research Institute survey found that 43 percent of young Evangelical Protestants support same-sex marriage. According to Relevant magazine, nearly 80 percent of born-again Millennials have had sex and 2/3 have been active in the last year. Even more worrisome is that The Christian Post reported that 1 in 3 Evangelical young people do not believe Jesus Christ is the only path to God.“
This should lead us in three directions moving forward. First, the church must adopt a realistic view of salvation. Claiming Christian faith is not paramount to possessing it. The reality is that the number in the polls which are purported to reflect Christian opinion are often in reality made of mostly unsaved people mistaking conviction with conversion. Second, we should be careful to consider who precisely God calls us staff (cf. Gal. 6.6). Obviously in larger churches there is more to do and often times, people just don’t have to enough free time to volunteer at the church for what should be a part time or full time job. Yet, even with staff and especially those responsible with teaching in any capacity, churches simply have to be more discerning.
Finally, the old guard of Evangelicals need to present new and fresh challenges to the new “cool” liberalism whether Emergent or other and do so with old, historical and thoroughly biblical truths. What Millennials need is an entire worldview redux, which will bring subsequent generations to the “old paths” where the real Jesus is found. The ultimate commitment here is not to a set of methodological principles for how to do youth group, the ultimate commitment here is to the sovereignty of God trusting that God will tend to His Word if we faithfully apply it even in the context of a post-Christian world no matter how cool and progressive it claims to be.
The reality is that Emergent thought is not cool because post-modernism is not cool. In our generation, conversion will involve God showing young liberals that very thing. Anti-institutionalism and anti-authoritarian attitudes lead to a merciless kind of anarchy that the most open-minded Emergent “leader” cannot contain and is ill equipped to combat. Homosexuality leads to accepting other perversions, such as pedophilia now being deemed legitimate “orientations.” Celebration of one type of immorality will inevitably lead to the condoning and ultimately celebrating others. When the Millennials come to the end of their ropes and come to themselves, that is if God grants them repentance, than more than ever they will need the clarity of historic Christianity to lead them.
Emilio Ramos is the preaching pastor of Heritage Grace Community Church. Pastor Emilio is committed to the expository and exegetical teaching of the Word of God. Emilio is also the author of Convert, From Adam to Christ and the founder of redgracemedia.com- a media ministry devoted to the glory of God’s redemptive grace through Jesus Christ. He and his wife Trisha live in Dallas, TX.