August 25, 2013

The Emerging Church: How Do You Know When?

A recent communication from a long-time friend in my home state has once again brought to the surface a very serious issue.  The church where he had been a member for most of his life called a new pastor, who failed to inform the church of his intent to remake the church into the emerging-church model.  While only God knows his motive, the result became very public.  When those who had sacrificed, given, and served for years to create a healthy local assembly began asking questions, they were stiff armed.  As time passed, people who had comprised the heart of that church ministry were told to either fall in line with the new plan or leave.  In the end, yet another previously healthy congregation moved into the emerging-church tragedy.

We need to begin by agreeing that it is clearly dishonest for any man to accept the leadership of a church without being upfront about his intentions.  Even if it is a theological issue that needs to be corrected, he must be transparent.

The question is often asked, “How do you know when the emerging church is emerging in your church?”  It has happened to some of you and very soon is about to happen to others.  That is what this article is about.

In reality, the emerging church is simply the road to the emergent church.  In the latter, because that movement is at home with heresy, a theology that is biblical is almost destroyed.  The emerging church is a façade.  It looks good to those who are not settled in their theology, but it is fraught with doctrinal error.

No church has ever entered its clutches without having its theology compromised.

That cancer is covered by defenders of the movement by “complicating to confuse.”  What is needed instead is an approach that “simplifies to clarify.”

To avoid revealing the theological weaknesses of the emerging church, a liberal tool is used:  all conversation about it is steered toward culture and methodology rather than the dangers of doctrinal deviation.  Although many of their methods are not inherently evil, some are dangerous.  Methods, however, are not at the center of this problem; theology is.  The emerging church uses its methods, and the ensuing debate about them, to turn from truth.

Every church that has headed down the road of the emerging church has been lulled by the siren song of “methods.”

When the doctrinal compromise which has occurred is finally realized, by then it’s too late; it is but one more step to the emergent church where at first doctrine doesn’t matter, and finally it is hated.  It all begins with the mantra that “the Bible doesn’t speak to that.”  Methods do matter, and the Bible records the death of some who were not careful about this.  

If a church is leaning toward the emerging model, don’t expect to see much of a doctrinal shift from the pulpit; it is more subtle than that.  The attitude about the content of sermons, and even their length, may create some valid questions.  When the pulpit is removed from the “worship center,” members should begin to ask, “What is central here?”  Many churches helpfully place Bibles in the pews for anyone who may not have one, but that is, of course, no longer necessary if the Bible has become merely a fetish in man-centered worship.  Don’t waste your time judging any individual churches about each of these things; one single issue will only serve to create a question and not necessarily an answer.

A majority of the churches which are moving left have had a major shift in their style of worship.  I have pledged not to get in the middle of the “worship wars,” so I will be brief with this.  The concern with this topic is that much of the move in worship styles has left the true meaning of worship behind, a telltale sign of the emerging church.  Jesus made this plain to the Samaritan woman: “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”  (John 4:24).  How can we worship God when truth is left behind and when we sing lies?  How can we worship God when man, rather than God, is the center of a side show misnamed “worship?”

Music is one of the best indicators of the emerging church infection.  Some say that the Bible does not speak to this subject, but that is more of a confession than an observation.

If you walk blindfolded into a “worship” service and can’t tell whether you’re in a church or a nightclub or a rock concert or a bar, something is definitely wrong.

Showmanship and low-talented performances where you have no idea what the words even are that are being sung should leave you with questions.  Even over-used phrases that border on "vain repetition" should make us begin to ask some questions.

Any one of these things by itself might not be a condemnation, but taken as a whole they should set off the warning lights.  It is clear that every church which has made this transition gave the warning early on in the form of culture, methods, and worship changes.  One could not say that the leaders in every case knew what they were doing, but in the end they had to give up something theologically.  So…if you are asking, “Is this emerging in my church?” you’d better spend some time thinking about what is going on and asking some Bible questions.  If there is no one in your church who has the ability to understand a theology that is biblical, then ask someone who does. 

I wasn’t born yesterday, and I have already heard time and again the defense of the emerging church arguments, so if you have input, please make it theological - not philosophical.

Shepherd’s Staff is prepared by Clay Nuttall, D. Min

A communication service of Shepherd’s Basic Care, for those committed to the authority and sufficiency of the Bible.  Shepherd's Basic Care is a ministry of information and encouragement to pastors, missionaries, and churches.  Write for information using the e-mail address,

August 20, 2013

Closure of Calvary Baptist Seminary: Predictable and Repeatable

Tennessee Temple and its leadership pursued a path of ‘relevance.’ accommodated carnality, and today even secular media can’t help but notice that there is a parallel between the institution’s decline and its accommodation of the world at the sacrifice of Biblical, Christian distinctives. Let those pastors, churches and institutions who abandon their fundamental heritage, have disdain for those who have gone before, and pursue a path towards ‘Conservative Evangelicalism’ be forewarned…their end is tragically predictable.
Last week, Calvary Baptist Seminary (CBS) in Lansdale, PA announced that it would be closing its doors at the conclusion of the current academic year.  At the pseudo-fundamentalist Sharper Iron (SI)* I have read how the members there lament the news of CBS closing.  What we read, however, is primarily what I see as a blame shift. They seem to think that not keeping up with the times in Internet offerings killed off the school. While having an aggressive Internet program for off-site learning may have been helpful, there is IMO a more reasonable explanation for the closing of CBS.

A reason for the closure of CBS that is not being discussed by the new wave of new evangelicals at SI is that CBS drifted far from its foundational roots.  Tim Jordan and Sam Harbin charted a course far from the school’s fundamental, Baptistic, separatist heritage.

In recent years Jordan/Harbin have opened the school to new evangelicals.  Drs. Mark Dever and Haddon Robinson most notably. For the Mark Dever event both Dr. Kevin Bauder and Dr. Dave Doran eagerly participated in the conference.

What Calvary Baptist Seminary once was under the leadership of Tim Jordan’s father, “Chief” Jordan, will be missed. What CBS became under Tim Jordan and Sam Harbin will not.

Finally, it is my belief that the closure of Calvary Baptist Seminary was predictable and will be repeated. Calvary joins Pillsbury Baptist Bible College and Tennessee Temple in their demise. I also believe we will see the closure of Northland International University (NIU) and Central Baptist Seminary (Minneapolis, MN). For drifting far from their original markers as fundamental Baptist separatist schools NIU and Central will not survive. NIU and Central will not survive having become non-separatist, evangelical schools. They will not survive having alienated their base and alumni! NIU and Central cannot compete for students with the star personalities of and/or high-profile schools in the so-called “conservative” evangelicalism.

Northland and Central will not survive having abandoned their fundamental heritage, disdain for those who have gone before, and pursuing a path toward “conservative” evangelicalism.


Update: June 15, 2014
For an important continuation on the closure of Calvary Baptist Seminary please refer to, They are Accountable for Failure and Wont Own Up to It.

Related Reading:

August 13, 2013

What Does John Piper & Al Mohler Have in Common? Rick Warren!

In March 2010 I broke the news that John Piper had invited Rick Warren to be a keynote speaker at that years Desiring God conference.1

In subsequent articles I questioned what the reaction and/or pattern might be of Piper’s fellow so-called “conservative” evangelicals.

What will be the reaction of the T4G men: MacArthur, Dever, Sproul, et. al.? Will there be some public negative reaction from the other T4G men? Will, for the sake of T4G/TGC fellowships, all be forgotten? At T4G will all embrace one another as if nothing is amiss?”2

Today we have Al Mohler’s reaction to Piper’s embrace of Rick Warren. From recent personal Twitter accounts of Al Mohler and Rick Warren we learned that Al Mohler brought the SBTS executive committee to visit with Rick Warren at Saddleback.  Al Mohler has followed John Piper’s lead and himself now embraces Rick Warren in Christian ministry.
Rick Warren @albertmohler Thanks for bringing your SBTS Executive Team to visit. I enjoyed our time. Albert Mohler Thanks so much for your time, hospitality and open conversation, Rick. @ Rick Warren.
The 5PT.SALT blog posted the details of the Mohler/Warren convergence.  I encourage each of you to read the story at 5PT.SALT.3 From this point I have a related issue to address.

In 2009 Al Mohler signed the Manhattan Declaration (MD).4  With that Mohler compromised the gospel and gave Christian recognition to the deadly enemies of the cross of Christ (Phil. 3:18).

In their reactions Drs. Kevin Bauder and David Doran excused Al Mohler for having signed the MD.  Bauder dismissed the issue by stating that Mohler singing the MD was, “an occasional inconsistency…single episode.”5 Dave Doran said it was merely a “wrong decision based on bad judgment.”6 These men knew that signing the MD was no “single episode” of “bad judgment.” When Al Mohler signed the MD I said then that that would not be the end of his ecumenical compromises. There has been a series of high-profile compromises in the ministry of Al Mohler.  Among them was his sitting as chairman for the 2001 Billy Graham Crusade in Louisville.

In reference to the Mohler/Graham cooperative ministry Dave Doran said, “…he [Mohler] does not…embrace the ecumenical evangelism of Billy Graham.”7 In light of Al Mohler embracing Rick Warren isn’t it reasonable to assume that Al Mohler can no longer be given benefit of the doubt on ecumenical evangelism?

Al Mohler, furthermore, has never publicly, biblically repented for having signed the MD. In the obscure Four Views book, co-authored by Kevin Bauder, nowhere in the brief paragraph, in which Dr. Mohler gives glowing praise for the MD, does he apologize or repent for having signed it.  Yet, Kevin Bauder said that that single sentence shows that Mohler “reverse[d] course entirely” on the MD.

In March 2010, at the pseudo-fundamentalist Sharper Iron,* Dr. Gerald Priest posted an extended comment that including the following excerpt. “Kevin Bauder has been quite lavish in his praise of conservative evangelicals….”8

For several years Dr. Kevin Bauder, and to a lesser extent, Dr. David Doran, et. al., has been heaping lavish praise on high profile “conservative” evangelicals, including Al Mohler. With the latest revelation- isn’t it high time for these men to rethink and retract their praise for Al Mohler? Isn’t it about time that Drs. Bauder and Doran begin to warn those in their sphere of influence about Al Mohler. Shouldn’t Drs. Bauder and Doran recognize that Al Mohler is irretrievably bent on ecumenical compromise and is a man to be marked and avoided (Romans 16:17-18)?

There is a Trojan horse being allowed access to IFB circles and seminaries.

Kevin [Bauder]…has spent very little time warning us about the pitfalls and problems of conservative evangelicalism…. What I fear is that we may be allowing a Trojan horse into the fundamentalist camp. And after a while, if we keep going down this track, any significant difference between conservative evangelical and the fundamentalist institutions may disappear.”9

Dr. Doran identified as the “biblical obligations” (2 Thess. 3:15; Phil. 3:15-17; Rom. 16:17) for Gospel-Driven Separation. He wrote,
For the sake of the clarity of the gospel, believers and churches must separate from those who compromise the faith by granting Christian recognition and fellowship to those who have denied essential doctrines of the faith (Rom 16:17; Phil 3:17-19; cf. 2 Thess. 3:6-15).”10
In his subsequent article Dr. Doran wrote, “If they’ve denied or compromised the gospel, then we say no to cooperation and fellowship.”11 Only days later it was learned that Al Mohler signed the MD.  Today, we see Al Mohler in partnership with Rick Warren, whose New Evangelical compromises of Scripture and the Gospel are many.  Just as Kevin Bauder did, Dave Doran’s reaction was to excuse Al Mohler signing the MD. Today’s question is: Will they ignore or excuse Al Mohler ecumenism again?

Based on a long time pattern of tolerating, allowing for, ignoring or excusing the aberrant theology, ecumenical compromises and worldliness of the evangelicals can we reasonably expect Dr. Bauder or Dr. Doran to say something by way of warning about the Al Mohler/Rick Warren convergence? 
To what extent, if any at all, will Kevin Bauder and Dave Doran publicly disassociate themselves from Al Mohler? 
Will Kevin Bauder and Dave Doran obey the Scriptures? Will they be doers of the Word they have expounded? Or, just as they responded to Al Mohler when he signed the MD will they make yet another exception and excuse (or possibly ignore all-together) Al Mohler partnering with Rick Warren?

I’ll close with a short series of questions to Dr. Bauder and Dr. Doran:
1) Is Al Mohler’s embrace of Rick Warren an evidence of “fidelity to the gospel?”
2) Will you retract previously given and cease from any future lavish praise for Al Mohler?
3) Will you vigorously warn believers to avoid Al Mohler as enthusiastically as you have been praising him and his fellow “conservative” evangelicals?

We hope that both Kevin Bauder and Dave Doran have seen enough.  Believers are obligated to obey the Scriptures! Al Mohler’s latest excursion into ecumenical compromise is an excellent opportunity for Dr. Bauder and Dr. Doran to demonstrate fidelity to the Scriptures by openly rejecting the brand of “conservative” evangelicalism exemplified by Dr. Al Mohler.


3) Brothers in Arms: Al Mohler & Rick Warren, 5PT. SALT blog (hyper-link removed)

6) Dr. Dave Doran: A Bronx Declaration, Glory & Grace.

7) Dr. Dave Doran: All Over Manhattan, Glory & Grace, 11/25/2009.

8) Dr. Gerald Priest, Full Comment at SI.

9) Ibid.

10) Dr. Dave Doran: Starting at the Right Spot, Part 1. Glory & Grace, 11/23/2009

11) Dr. Dave Doran: Starting at the Right Spot, Part 2. Glory & Grace, 11/24/2009