By Mike Ratliff
Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:36-38 ESV)
The Emergent Conversation appears to be nebulous, that is, not rigidly constructed. Its defenders even proclaim that this is so. However, it does hold to one standard, which if it did not it would be back on the path of orthodoxy. That standard consists of the following belief, “It is wrong to confront the unchurched (the politically correct name for unbelievers) with the Word of God.” We see this plainly in how they “do church.” The New Testament model of confronting sin head on with God’s truth, which is the law, followed by the solution for reconcilement to Him, obeying the Gospel, is seen as divisive, legalistic, narrow minded, and unloving.
Carefully read the passage I placed at the top of this post. It is an excerpt from Peter’s sermon and its result on the Day of Pentecost ten days after our Lord’s Ascension. Notice that the Holy Spirit worked through Peter’s sermon to cut to the heart of those who heard it. This working of the Holy Spirit brought them to that incredible place of knowledge that no matter how religious they are they are; they remain guilty before our Holy and Righteous God. They knew they had no solution to this so they pleaded with the Apostles in utter desperation for God’s solution. That solution, of course, was to repent in belief followed by baptism into the Body of Christ. Forgiveness of sins is found nowhere else and this is the problem all must face. They came to the right realization, which is they knew that they had no solution of their own.
On the other hand, the leaders of the emergent conversation insist that it is wrong to do as Peter and the Apostles did in Acts 2. They say, “We should instead lay aside our desire to preach or share the truths from the Word and spend more time developing relationships and friendships with the unchurched…They often use Jesus as an example, saying He did not confront people but always accepted them for who they were.”1 Is this true? Can this be supported in Sacred Scripture? We must ask this question for it is our only source of unblemished, complete truth for it is God’s Truth.
In his book, They Like Jesus but Not the Church, Dan Kimball attempts to use our Lord’s encounter with the woman at the well in John 4 as an example of our Lord’s non-confrontational style. The woman Jesus met at the well was a Samaritan. Their religion was a hybrid form of Judaism. Kimball states in his book, “He [Jesus] stopped and asked questions of the Samaritan woman (John 4) and didn’t just jump in and say, “Samaritans are all wrong.”2 It is interesting that the chapter that contains this statement is titled “The Church Arrogantly Claims All Other Religions are Wrong.” Is arrogance the motive for giving God’s absolute truth? You see, this is the crux of the contention between genuine Christianity and all those forms that claim to be Christian, but are false. No, it is not arrogance, but obedience to the commands given to the Church by our Lord in Matthew 28:18-20.
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)
When we obediently share our faith we are making disciples and that begins with the confrontation of the Gospel for you cannot make a disciple of an unregenerate enemy of the truth. No, the Holy Spirit must cut them to the heart and that requires them to be confronted with the truth of their utter lost condition before our Holy and Righteous God, including their eternal destiny unless they repent and believe. Carefully read how our Lord confronted the Samaritan woman at the well.
So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour. A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.” (John 4:5-26 ESV)
It is clear that Kimball is very wrong. Jesus did not just ask questions and avoid confronting this woman with the truth about her false religion and the ONLY true religion, which is worship of God in spirit and truth in Him, the Messiah. No, He did not ask even one question. The emergent stance that direct confrontation is a terrible thing to do is exactly what our Lord did here.
The emergents also hold that offending people with God’s truth is wrong. My brethren, the Gospel is offensive. It is exclusive. It is these things because it is God’s truth, not man-made truth. If Jesus preached and taught as Dan Kimball and the rest of the emergents, along with the seeker-sensitive bunch, insist that is correct then He would have never offended anyone nor would He have been crucified. The center of the message of the Gospel is that God’s ways are not man’s ways and that His is the only way to salvation. The focus of the Gospel is to come to belief now, be sanctified now and through our daily walk, then live in eternity with our Lord in the age to come. The emergent view of salvation is quite different. It is to become part of the emergent or seeker-sensitive movement then live to improve the world now, to bring into fruition God’s Kingdom through making the World a better place. I watched a video the other day in which Rick Warren said this very thing is the goal of salvation. The Word of God nowhere teaches this. Instead, it teaches that the age to come is going to be ushered in as things on this earth are at their worst.
Yes, the emergent conversation and the seeker-sensitive movement appear to be quite different, but they both adhere to the non-confrontational mode of ministry for they are both part of what has come to be called the “new reformation.” This “movement” is ecumenical and seeks to be united with other religions. Those of us who resist this, as we are told to in Sacred Scripture, are seen as obstructionists and enemies of the one-world spirituality and global peace. When I first began encountering the apologists for this paradigm, I became confused because of the flash points, which seemed to bring in some of these folks to attempt to silence me. These points were always scriptural confrontations. Absolute truth, which is only found in God’s Word, is their enemy and any who proclaim it, hold it, and defend it will be accused of being “confrontational” and “legalistic” and an enemy of this “new reformation.” They imply that they are the true Christians and those who resist the movement are only backward in their religiosity.
We cannot “give in” to this my brethren. There is a prevalent lie that is accepted in most of the visible Church, which states that Christians should never be confrontational with heresies or the apostates who hold and proclaim them. This lie is from our enemy. We must obey Sacred Scripture, not man-made religion. When we do this God gives us clarity of vision so that we are able to see the lies very clearly and we can easily see the hand of our enemy in all of the false forms of Christianity and their leaders. They reveal they are false by what they say, both verbally and in written form. The Word of God gives us clear instructions for times such as this.
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'” (Matthew 7:13-23 ESV)
Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (Jude 1:3-4 ESV)
Soli Deo Gloria!
1Roger Oakland, Faith Undone (Silverton, OR:Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2007), p.45.
2Dan Kimball, They Like Jesus but Not the Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007),p. 167.