The “We’re In, You’re Out” Mentality
The emerging response to evangelicalism's black and white thinking.

Friend of Ur, David Fitch, is back with a few thoughts about the deficiencies in evangelicalism and the emerging movement's reaction. But he's not exactly enamored with the emerging church solution either. Fitch is a pastor at Life on the Vine Christian Community in Long Grove, Illinois, and a professor at Northern Seminary.

Evangelicals of all types are taking notice of the emerging church/missional church and its variations. Its rise to prominence is owed in part to the rejection of the evangelical church by many sons and daughters of Boomer evangelicals. At a recent Up-Rooted gathering, we talked about the real or perceived shortcomings in evangelicalism the emerging church is responding to, and the strengths and weaknesses of that response. Scot McKnight and Wayne Johnson were a part of that discussion, but here is part of my response to the question.

I believe one weakness in evangelicalism that the emerging church is responding to is evangelicalism's excessively rationalist approach to truth and salvation that birthed a stubborn "we're in/you're out" mentality. There has been an impulse in evangelical fundamentalism towards (a) an intolerant judgmental exclusivism, (b) an arrogant, even violent, certainty about what we do know, and (c) a hyper-cognitive gospel that takes the mystery out of everything.

Many of us grew up with this. This was most obvious in the way we made hell the selling point of the gospel. We said if you do A and B, you'll be pardoned from sin and escape hell. Those who do not do A or B are going to hell. We built an apologetic that defended this to prove to people outside the church they were doomed. It came off arrogant, coercive, unloving, and indeed antithetical to the very nature of the gospel. In a world of democratic pluralism, the gospel's witness became shut off, dispassionate, and downright sectarian. It became impossible to represent such a gospel as "good news."

McLaren talks about this in New Kind of Christian when he says:

If we Christians would take all that energy we put into proving we're right and everyone else is wrong and invested that energy in pursuing and doing good, somehow I think more people would believe we are right. p. 61

If you ask me whether I believe there is a hell, I will tell you yes. To me the reality of hell is evident in the evil and destruction of souls I see here on earth all the time. If you ask me whether I believe that the salvation God has worked through the person and work of Jesus Christ has direct consequences on our eternal destiny as persons, again I will tell you yes. But if you ask me whether this singularly defines what it means to be saved, here is where I would say no. For our eternal life is the end of a life lived in His salvation (Rom 6:22), not the goal in and of itself. And so let's not put the cart before the horse.

September 28, 2007

Displaying 1–10 of 22 comments

Richard dennis Miller

October 09, 2007  12:47pm

Pastor Fitch, with all due respect, Two things; You have mischaracterized the evangelical church and Your definition os justice is unbiblical. The message of the gospel is not, "We're in. You're out." It is, "I'm alive, you're dead. But you can be alive too." When you make general broad brush characterizations of the Bride of Christ, I wonder if it is out of a sense of competition or a lack of confidence in God's Word and the Holy Spirit or what. Regardless, you come across as a false teacher. Justice is getting what you deserve. The last thing you or I really want is justice. God's justice requires His wrath to be unleashed. His justice was performed on the cross, for those who believe. The human pursuit of "justice" is a product of human arogance. It is no more valid among adults than it is for a 3-year-old. What is justice to a three-year-old? It is, "I want that cooky, especially if my big sister is about to grab it." The three- year-old who does not get the cooky says, "That's not fair!" Justice to a three year old is based on self-centeredness. Its based on covetousness. That is the basis ofthe pursuit of "social justice" in the church as well. The pursiut of social justice as a political enterprise, as some in the church are currently engaged in, is simply the implementation of covetousness as a body-wide attitude. What we need and what Christ makes available is mercy. Mercy is not getting what you deserve. Grace is getting something wonderful you don't deserve. When the Church engages in works of charity, it is in the Grace business. Not justice. I have been on the giving and receiving end of grace far too often to take your broad characterizations of the Church seriously.

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October 06, 2007  8:04pm

Looking for that which speaks timelessly, I turned to reading "Unspoken Sermons" earlier in the year. MacDonald faced much the same types of deadening religious club-ism in 19th century Scotland, and eloquently addresses its aspects in turn, which read like an indictment of our modern/postmodern churchianity, but with the grace, good humor and optimism that befitted him. He also noted that, according to Matt. 2:21, Jesus came to save us - not from hell, a byproduct of sin - but from our sins themselves. Sin, rather than hell, is the killing cancer within us. If we take the Gospel to heart in that light, and if we let our light so shine before men, rather than resorting to gimmicks and means and fear, perhaps our neighbors would note a remarkable difference that would redeem the church from its own press and point them to Jesus.

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Enoch Era

October 04, 2007  12:32pm

I think in post modern times - the community aspects of the gosple would make it more attractive to people. And that we have tended to become more programme-oriented rather than people oriented in the way we understand church. Most people tend to equate church with Sunday church service rather than the people who constitute the church. And I think that the idea of embodying the gospel becomes more concrete in the context of the small church patterns. I am part of a small chruch in Hyderabad, India, and our concern has always been to challenge the members to make the Greatest Commandment the main agenda rather than the Great Commission. Our approach has been to understand the Great Commission in the light of the Greatest Commandment

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mike rucker

October 04, 2007  12:24pm

dfb offered, "Quite frankly, it seems a lot of the 'emerging movement' is simply a lot of rich, white people dealing with their uncomfortability with what the Bible says." do we really need to go there? that yet something else is a racial issue? if anything, i see emergent as a *rebuke* of what seems to have become a lot of comfortable mega-churces where everyone gathers and raises prayer requests for safe travel on vacations to hilton head, while apparently busying God so much that he misses the fact that five thousand kids die of hunger every day in africa. i heard a self-identified agnostic call into a local radio program sunday night complaining about his Christian friends who pray that they'll make the right choice for insurance during open enrollment, but somehow God wasn't bothered by a bus crash where a number of kids were killed. a recent comments debate on another blog had people going back and forth about whether john macauthur showed enough emotion during the worship song segment at a recent conference. i hate judgmental attitudes, though i've often played one on tv... mike rucker

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Darren King

October 03, 2007  10:11pm

Steve: It sounds like you're pretty new to the conversation. In your post you made several generalizations that tend to miss the mark in defining the emerging movement: 1. Sermons: please understand that sermons can be "biblical", or completely unrooted in Scripture. Please don't assume that a sermon, therefore, is necessarily a good thing. Even when a sermon is biblically rooted, it often is NOT the most catalytic way for Christians to really comprehend the truth of the Kingdom. Two-way conversations, and lived out Kingdom experiences tend to be much more fruitful in this regard. 2. Missional: For the emerging church this is not only humanitarian aid (though that's a major part of it), and neither is it merely an admonition to "get into the Word" or to get people to say a prayer for salvation. It is a lifestyle movement where the goal is to embody a holistic Christlike existence. If we can do that, the prayers for salvation and all that will follow.

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October 03, 2007  4:43pm

Quite frankly, it seems a lot of the "emerging movement" is simply a lot of rich, white people dealing with their uncomfortability with what the Bible says. It would be interesting to have a dialogue about this stuff with one of the "untouchable caste" children who daily try to sell little trinkets in front of the Taj Mahal in India so they and their family don't starve. Or perhaps one of young girls in the sex slave industry in S.E. Asia. I am sure they would be very impressed with issues of "genre" or Soteriology. I wonder if the occupants of Treblinka or Dachau thought that the "black and white" of it was over done? There have been billions of people who have lived on this planet, and are still living, in which the reality of Heaven and Hell is the only life that they will ever have to look forward. While I agree, eternal life can start on this earth, as Paul says, "If only for this life we have hope, we are to be pitied more than all men."

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October 03, 2007  11:58am

While I agree that we cannot proclaim a truncated gospel that focuses ONLY on justification by faith; it is a very strange "gospel" that seems to almost cast scorn on this freeing, liberating, life-changing truth. Oooops! Did I just say truth? It would seem to me that some of the discussion that I am encountering from folks in the "emergent church" has a lot more to do with cultural infuences than a desire to embrace the radical Jesus we see in scripture. I've explored some emergent church websites. I've seen candles, symbols, fellowship meals, but a noteworthy absence of bible studies or sermons. Also "missional" seems to refer to humanitarian aid (hey, I'm all for it!) but no reference to reaching Unreached People Groups with the gospel of Jesus Christ. what point can one of us "judgemental, violent, fundamentalists" go ahead and use the term heresy?

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October 02, 2007  10:08pm

Hmmm...I'm with you Dan. I consider myself evangelical and emerging and also converging. I don't think I (or anyone) have to choose one over the other. We just have to "be" or be "becoming". It's part of being changed "from glory to glory" and being made in "his likeness." It's interesting how we coin phrases... someone once said that the old move always persecutes the new move but it seems too that if we are not careful the new will throw out the baby with the bath water and that would be a shame.

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James Biersteker

October 02, 2007  8:17pm

Rationalism need not lead to to the many sins the author points out as in regards to the Evangelical Movement. True rationalism, and intellectual purusit for that matter, should lead us to a quick realization of how feeble we are, but to go to the extent of many within the Emergent Movement who want to jettison truth, that is going way too far. We give far too much away if we jettison the idea of Truth because our faith is based on historical facts and spiritual realities, but that doesn't mean we will know it in the present or that it will be obvious. I believe that the Emergent Movement just caters to the lazy agnostic and in many cases, the lazy Emergent, who doesn't want to use their brains. Harry Blamires probably said it best his book, The Christian Mind, "There is nothing so articulate as doubt" James

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October 02, 2007  6:55pm

The Bible is not one sided, it gives us a balance of truth and grace. Just because one does not believe that hell exist doesn't negate its existence no more than a person who has cancer that wants to believe it doesn't exist. Christianity is not a pick and choose religion. John 3:16 indidicates we have a need for a Redeemer. There must be something we need redeeming from. Take your chances if you want but I believe the whole Word of God including the parts I wish were not there.

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