The Intolerance of emergent (liberal) Christianity

by Mike Ratliff

89 Forever, O Lord, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens. (Psalms 119:89 ESV)

Truth is not relative. If truth were then it couldn’t be truth for what would be true for one could be considered a fallacy by another. Therefore, it is utter foolishness to make assertions that truth is just a matter of opinion and we must be tolerant of other’s views on the Gospel and all of the vital aspects of our faith. On the other hand, I am perfectly willing to call another Christian my brother or sister in Christ even though we may disagree on things about our faith that are not barriers to orthodoxy. I find the discussions about these things with them to be wonderful opportunities of iron sharping iron. However, that is not the same thing as joining in fellowship with those who have serious issues with vital parts of doctrine that are non-negotiable. What do I mean? I have no problem loving and having fellowship with a Christian who is not Reformed in their Theology as I am. However, I draw the line and, as God leads,   contend with those who, for example, deny the deity of Christ or add works as a requirement for salvation or deny the inerrancy of the Bible or teach that Biblical Truth is inherently unknowable, therefore, we cannot hold to solid doctrinal truths.

These are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The enemy of the Body of Christ is Satan. We often mistake paganism or eastern mysticism as our biggest threats, however, the truth is that Liberal Christianity is by far the biggest threat to orthodoxy. Why? It is so because its leaders are wolves who have entered the flock unnoticed. They are part of the visible Church. They come from within. They have followers. These followers have been assured by their leaders that truth is relative and anyone who says otherwise is intolerant, a pharisee,  and a sanctimonious hypocrite who is all about dead religiosity and knows nothing of grace, et cetera.

Despite the mindset within our society that “liberals” are open-minded, tolerant, flexible, and progressive there is a fly in that ointment. You see these folks are tolerant of any kind of belief system unless it happens to represent orthodox, biblical faith. Why? It is because orthodoxy is made up of certain doctrines that are non-negotiable. It says that there is one truth and it is not relative. For example, genuine orthodoxy says that justification by faith alone is an essential doctrine.

6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again:If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:6-9 ESV)

15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. (Galatians 2:15-16 ESV)

Orthodoxy says that salvation is by Grace through faith alone. It says that we are justified by faith not works of any kind. However, the liberal Christian says that there are other ways to God that are not part of the Great Commission. One very well known Christian leader has claimed to know Islamic followers of Christ, Buddhist followers of Christ, and Hindu followers of Christ. I once received a comment about this from an “emergent apologist:”

I think (no, I know) you need to understand the difference between YOUR doctrine and what it means to be a follower of Christ. It IS possible to be a Christ follower and not believe in Augustine’s theory of original sin. It IS possible to be a Christ follower and not believe in the DOCTRINE Bible inerrancy (I say doctrine because inerrancy has become too loaded stand alone as a word). It is possible to be a Christ follower and disagree with you (or me, or ANYONE) on every single theological issue except that Jesus is God and He died for our sins. Period.

Do you see the rejection of the doctrine of original sin? Do you see the rejection of absolute truth? Do you see the demand to be counted as orthodox based on only one point, that Jesus is God and He died for our sins. While that last statement is true, Jesus Christ is God, what does it mean that he died for our sins if there is no original sin? How do we know that Jesus is God if we have a Bible that we cannot trust? Do you also see that those who insist on this emergent view of our faith have rejected that salvation is by grace through faith alone and, therefore, justification is by faith alone?  This last point is what separates the orthodox from the unorthodox or heretical. The emergent view of our salvation is unbiblical because it is based on the person and what he does or doesn’t do instead of on what God has already done.

Christian unity must be a unity of faith grounded in the truth. Any other attempt outside of this creates  a compromised unity that has no conviction at all. This is how the “mainline” denominations were liberalized and neutralized in the last century. This is still going on. The pressure to move away from Orthodoxy towards liberalism is hard upon many of our churches and leaders. We must not give into to it. We must stand on God’s truth and never compromise.

While the oversimplification of the Gospel by the emergent movement appears somewhat innocuous it does create a serious issue in that large numbers of those in these “churches” are convinced that they are Christians because they prayed a certain prayer and go to church. This, of course, is a view of salvation that places the responsibility of it on the person. They view their acts of praying that prayer and believe that that is what saves a person. However, the Bible teaches that salvation is God’s work (Ephesians 1-2) not ours.

I have found that it is quite tedious to “reason” with those of the emergent mindset. They have a form of godliness, but they deny its power.

1 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self- control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. (2 Timothy 3:1-5 ESV)

They confuse solid Biblical teaching about the Gospel with legalism. This is a product of the shallow preaching they hear that is not grounded in solid doctrinal truths. When we say that the preaching of the Gospel should start with the Law and address original sin, hell, and judgment they claim that we are placing our faith in these things rather than in just Jesus. In other words, they only hear about the Jesus who wants to make everyone’s life better or more exciting or more fulfilling. They never hear about the bad news that pertains to all of us followed by the Good News like this passage from Paul’s epistle to the Romans.

9 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” 13 “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” 14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” 15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 in their paths are ruin and misery, 17 and the way of peace they have not known.” 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” 19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. 21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. (Romans 3:10-25 ESV)

To insist on this type of preaching is intolerable to the emergent mindset. The backlash can be intense and, as I shared earlier, quite tedious for I have yet to encounter any from that mindset who really know the Bible very well. I cannot be their judge so I do not know if any of them are truly regenerate, but my experience is that those who do try to contend with me come across as quite arrogant, but it is an arrogance without any genuine Biblical knowledge. They are quick to accuse whoever they debate for not being humble while they exhibit a very aggressive, overbearing form of sarcasm. In any case, we must pray for these men and women that God will draw them from this darkness into His light as He changes their hearts by His Grace through the Faith He gives all whom He saves.

Soli Deo Gloria!

12 thoughts on “The Intolerance of emergent (liberal) Christianity

  1. I’m sorry to say I got a wee bit amused over your comment that ‘THEY’ accuse others of not being humble enough. As if ‘THEY’ were too humble to be spoken to.

    I question the education of those who preach ‘Liberal’ Christianity. I know of NO serious Bible school that will teach this ‘stuff’ to student pastors. Anyone that studies the Bible will easily see the connection between the Old and New Testament. In fact, every lesson Jesus taught was a direct application of Torah to His Time. The Sermon on the Mount was taken directly from the 6th and 8th chapters of Deuteronomy PLUS He was a Jew as were the twelve and Paul. He didn’t create a new Faith, merely explained the Old one. Paul basically did the same thing, modified for the Gentile.

    My response to such ‘lies’ is to ask for the scripture that supports their view.

    BTW: I’m one of those folks that were accused to be ‘so Heavenly minded you’re no Earthly good”. 😉


  2. That Doug is a much better place then the one labeling you, for they are so earthly minded that they are no heavenly good…and will find that out soon enough too!

    It is amazing to think that Christ Jesus and His Apostles, ye even all the martyrs died for so that we could experience American Churchianity in these liberal jesus franchises…


  3. Pingback: The Intolerance of emergent (liberal) Christianity | Stand Up for the Truth

  4. How does Karl Barth play into all this in your view since he was a critic of the liberal theology of his day? I’m in a huge predicament because my denomination is teaching Barthian neo-orthodox theology in a BIG way and it seems to be streamlining with much of emergent theology and universalism.


  5. Karl Barth was greatly influenced by the German Liberals of his day, but moved away from that. However, he was not Reformed either. In fact his theology seems to be a confusing mishmash to most people to the point that there are discussions amongst very well educated theologians trying to determine exactly what his theology was. His theology is what I call Neo-Orthodoxy. I have issues with it since the Emergents attempt to do the very same thing that Barth did in attempting to get rid of Orthodoxy and simply saying, “I’ll take Jesus, keep your religion.” I wouldn’t call him a flaming a liberal, but those with discernment who did know him such as J. Gresham Machen said his theology had “many troubling issues.” So, I am not surprised that his theology is “streamlining with much of emergent theology and universalism.” If you really look under the covers, the root is unbelief Michele.


  6. I suppose Barth would be considered ‘Liberal’ using his times as a measure. Certainly not by ours. One of the marks, in my experience, for liberal Christianity is the ‘confusion’ and the added ideas from the so called Scientific Community. I think it is because that community tends to question things and attempts to understand the non-understandable of God’s Word. Proof of Noah’s Ark, the Ark of the Covenant, and other artifacts, places, and events have all been either proven or dis-proven by Digs, Cave Diving, and Earth Radar. They don’t want to accept God’s Word but will accept some scientist’s statement saying thus and so can’t have happened because of some hair brained theory.

    I will refer you to Isiah 55:8-13, therefore the Wisdom of God will not be accepted nor understood by people that seek knowledge on their own part and not through God. The things of God are not knowable to the ‘natural’ man, but only in the Spirit ( I cor 2:11-13). Why do we run like sheep to the loud voice of Man and not the Quiet voice of God?


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