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Bob DeWaay is a brave man.
In any era, there are a few people who swim against the tide for the ultimate greater good. These principled souls eschew worldly success in order to sound some alert.
Pastor and author Bob DeWaay is such a person.
As leader of Twin City Fellowship in Minneapolis, DeWaay could have chosen the popular path trod today by shepherds who tend their flock by day and write that celebrity bestseller by night. DeWaay, however, has chosen the path of those who, when encountering a problem, attempt to do something about it.
A few years ago, DeWaay began to see oddities within the so-called “Emergent community” – that nebulous cadre of counter-culture church thinkers. A debate with Emergent leader Doug Pagitt, a personable guy, opened DeWaay’s eyes to the new theology of the Emergents.
In his new book, “The Emergent Church: Undefining Christianity,” DeWaay details the elastic theology of the Emergent movement. But what makes his book particularly fascinating and endlessly useful is his concentration on a key aspect of Emergent thought: eschatology.
Eschatology, the study of “last things,” is a hot topic in Christendom. There are the “traditionalists,” folks such as Tim LaHaye and Hal Lindsey (the dispensationalists) on one end of the spectrum, and then on the opposite end of the spectrum are those who believe much of the Bible’s eschatology was meant to be taken symbolically – or not at all. This would include such divergent thinkers as Gary DeMar and Tony Campolo.
Bob DeWaay is a brave man, because at a time when eschatology as understood by conservative Christians is being marginalized, he is working to declare it valid. Moreover, he is alerting readers to the fact that the Emergent movement is attacking this belief, just as the German Higher Critics attacked the overall Old Testament in the 19th century.
“Emergent theologians and church leaders reject God’s final judgment in favor of his saving of all humanity and creation into a tangible paradise in which all will participate,” writes DeWaay.
He further explains that the great scholar Francis Schaeffer explained that this “new” theology leads in reality to despair, because proponents cannot ultimately point to a hope rooted in the discovery of truth.
DeWaay’s decade-long journey to discover the roots of Emergent thought has also enabled him to make this statement: “The Emergent Church movement is an association of individuals linked by the very important, key idea: that God is bringing history toward a glorious kingdom of God on earth without future judgment.”
He then makes the critical point that Emergents “loathe dispensationalism more than any other theology because it claims just the opposite: that the world is getting ever more sinful and is sliding toward cataclysmic judgment.”
He correctly points out that both of these ideas cannot be true.
This explains the Emergent displeasure with such folks as LaHaye, Lindsey, and even the slick, young prophecy teacher, Joel Rosenberg.
DeWaay’s important book lays the groundwork for the reader to understand that Emergent theology, having dispensed with dispensationalism, moves on to other bedrock beliefs. Emergent leaders are nothing if not chummy with unorthodox believers, and in fact, they embrace the relationships. DeWaay tells us that Emergent tenets are designed to entertain and even be provocative, but intentionally do not inform the curious about the real beliefs of the community.
Later in the book, DeWaay makes another of his many important observations, that Emergent preoccupation with “spiritual formation” is not sanctification, that idea that forged entire generations of Americans, including the early settlers. Emergent proponents love to read Thomas Merton and other mystics, but consider “hard” belief systems – such as the sinfulness of mankind – are unhealthy and in fact impede man’s evolution into a spiritual superbeing.
DeWaay details Emergent leaders’ love of “the deep ecology movement” as another indication that something is amiss in the American church today. DeWaay quotes Brian McLaren, from his book, “A Generous Orthodoxy”:
“I felt that every tree, every blade of grass, and every pool of water become especially eloquent with God’s grandeur,” McLaren writes.
Really? This sounds more like a kinship with the Gaia hypothesis, that pagan idea of the interconnectedness of all things. This, friends, is decidedly not orthodox Christianity.
Bob DeWaay’s “The Emergent Church” is loaded with critical information that allows Bible-believing Christians to discern the false notes of Emergent theology and to alert fellow believers to this growing, disturbing movement.
“The Emergent Church: Undefining Christianity,” receives my highest recommendation. Get cases of it and give to those in your circles.