Friday, October 31, 2008

Quotes from the 'Emerging Church Conversation' in South Africa


To give an idea of the ideas being entertained often by leaders in the so called 'Emerging Church conversation' in South Africa, read the following quotes and follow the links. Many older pastors simply don't know the unorthodox ideas and viewpoints being discussed within the South African 'Emerging Church' movement - and thus fail to take action to speak up against and correct false teachings being spread by the movement. Should you have any other unorthodox quotes you wish to contribute to this blog, please post them as a comment below, with internet links please to authenticate. The quotes below should help everyone to see the dangerous consequences of using the ideology of postmodernism to interpret scripture.

Now some may say that most of the quotes below are not clearly taking a position, but just discussing ideas. That is one of the problems with debating postmodernists - they tend to evade making propositional statements of belief - meaning that they are very slippery to try debate against. For them truth is seen as subjective and personal rather than absolute and objective. Doubt of truth is a virtue or sign of sophistication and 'tolerance' rather than a sin. Therefore they tend to put most of their effort into undermining/erroding others absolute concepts of truth rather than proposing or defending any clear set of believes of their own. For this reason, one cannot defeat'postmodernism' simply by arguing against their defined positions - because they have few if any to argue against. Neither can one defeat them by simply 'engaging in conversation' because then one simply becomes another subjective voice in a conversation which is promoting doubt of truth. One cannot defeat postmodernism by using logic, because they do not believe in a unitary system of logic. One can only argue logically with someone who values logic and believes in objective truth. What one has to do is to show those who have not gone too far down the road of postmodernism, where their presuppositions lead by exposing their spreading of doubt in the clarity of scripture.

I have put names of those who have taken a high profile and can be deemed public figures and just initials of those who have not, although with their permission I would be happy to add their names. If anyone is offended by me quoting them here, please delete your statement referenced elsewhere and I will delete it here.


"I think that even if a Christian didn't believe in universalism, they should want to! In other words, they'd want everyone to know and love God, because that's best for, well, everyone.

Is universalism, in itself threatening? I don't think so. What it *does* threaten is hermeneutics, theology and eschatology. And it can't be divorced from those, so that any discussion of the one necessarily leads to, and is influenced by, the others. Some of these are sacred cows, some are good theology. This is why it's fascinating to think about it :)" [Roger Saner]

"That's a good summary of the various positions and they can all be argued. I would think that a loving God/-ess who does distinguish the "sheep from the goats" actually annihilates opposition rather than tortures them eternal." [T.V.]

"I personally believe that one can only come to God through Christ though I also believe that devout Jews will also go to Heaven if they live good lives. I know that that's a little bit dodge but that's what my heart feels." [SVO]


"The NT notion is one of a herald or envoy who announces the reign of God/-ess/Christ and brings it into effect." [T.V.]

"That's a good summary of the various positions and they can all be argued. I would think that a loving God/-ess who does distinguish the "sheep from the goats" actually annihilates opposition rather than tortures them eternal." [T.V.]

"As historical person Jesus was male, as risen LORD Jesus is transformed and remains embodied but just as S/He transcends the limitations of our bodies so too does S/He transcend the male gender S/He had prior to the resurrection. Jesus’ humanhood continues but Jesus’ manhood does not...

It is inappropriate to continue using masculine references for Godde if by doing so we are relegating feminine references to an inferior or worse, e.g. ungodly, place. It is especially in light of this that we ought to take up the contribution from our culture, the contribution of gender-inclusive language, as a vehicle for communicating Godde clearer."

I respond in more detail to some of Tim's arguments at


"Every single text dealing with homosexual activity in the Bible also refers aggravating circumstances such as inhospitality, idolatory, shrine prostitution, adultery, promiscuity, lust, violence and rape. Not one of these verses has a monogamous relationship in mind. Not one! Condemning someone to eternal damnation on such tenuous evidence would therefore seem a very dangerous thing to do..." [Graeme Codrington]

"In my own discussion I put forward that if we represent a God who loves(agape) unconditionally...then shouldn't we be inclusive and affirming in our approach to homosexual relationships." [A.V.]

"Therefore, I have to ask you again, to explain how homosexuality hurts people who are not homosexual. Because only by affirming that there are real victims can you rely on most of the arguments you've put forward here." [DB]


Roger Saner said...

Hi Philip

Thanks for including me in your list of heretical comments! I must admit to being disappointed, because I've made far more heretical comments than you include here (is a rather tame comment wondering if Christians should at least be sympathetic to the universalist position the best you can do?!?!). :)

Here's some more juicier soundbites, all taken from my latest post, which wonders if/when theology can become idolatry:

"A postmodern approach unmasks those who've claimed to have arrived at an ultimate understanding by showing (historically) that the closer a group of people get to an absolute ideology, the more fundamentalistic, inhospitable and dangerous they become."

"How did [Apartheid] happen? A small group of people become absolutely convinced that they were absolutely right - and everyone else was wrong - and resorted to a form of conversion/submission by violence. As Christians (remember the Crusades?), we cannot ignore the postmodern critique!"

"My contention is that we need to continually be placing our Christianity at Jesus's feet, so that it may die and be resurrected. And for us to do with this our theology - with our ideas of G-d - too."

"Thank goodness G-d is bigger than theology! Otherwise we would not need G-d, we would just need the best textbook on systematic theology (hat tip: Baptists)."

"Even when we pray and worship G-d, we run the risk of idolatry (addressing our adoration to our idea of G-d) unless we always remember we worship the reality of G-d who cannot be grasped in our idea of Him."

Roger Saner said...

Here's some more:

"So the quests for the historical Jesus has continued, so that the church may ask itself, in every generation, "Have we got it right?"

"Systematic theology is a way of speaking about G-d which is never finished."

'If we tend to think of systematic theology as "orthodoxy", and then believe that our systematic theology grasps G-d fully, we've set up an ideology which the Bible would denounce as idolatrous. In this way our orthodoxy becomes heresy. In much the same way, working in reverse, heresy can sometimes be a way of adding freshness to orthodoxy.'

"Heresy must only be embraced through prayer, through dialogue in community, and especially in applying the heresy to itself: are you so sure your heresy is correct that you will not be open to a heretical perspective on your heresy?"

"Those who would want to play with this dynamic, with embracing a heretical orthodoxy, must also allow themselves the freedom to say, "NO!" at any point, to other heresy. For, in embracing this, if we do not have the space to say, "Hold! What you are doing is wrong!" we have lost the essence of true relationship, which supersedes tolerance because it gets involved in the other."

Source: Towards a heretical orthodoxy

Roger Saner said...

Another quotable quote: 'The word "gospel" comes from the Greek word euangelion which was used by the Romans to announce the good news of the birth of a new emperor. So when the early Christians walk around talking about the euangelion of Jesus, they are saying, "Jesus is Lord and Caesar is not."'

Would you say this is an orthodox - or unorthodox - view of the gospel?

Source: Jesis is Lord and Caesar is not

Roger Saner said...

"Jesus's death is immensely important and is a key part of the Gospel, fulfilling prophecy and defeating evil, and is the once and unique sacrifice that cannot be repeated. I do not think it is the central point of the Gospel: that comes on Easter Sunday."

Source: Holy week: Friday

Roger Saner said...

All the quotes above were from 2008 (I'm sure I must have some juicy ones from previous years lying around somewhere. Tim Cantrell was disturbed that I talked about leaving church, and about "Giving up belief in God in order to find God." That was last year.)

So a last quote for now: Heaven matters but it's not the end of the world.

I hope these are enough heretical quotes, Philip?

Roger Saner said...

Ok, last last last one. From my post asking, Who said this?

"So I want to assure you, if you find yourself among those who deeply disagree with me, that I mean you no harm. I repeatedly tell people, if they are happy and confident in your approach, that they stay with it and ignore me, my work, and my friends entirely. I am not here to steal any of your “market share” or do you harm in any way. Instead, I’m here for all the people who can’t survive following your way of thinking and your way of doing things. These people, many of them, are about to leave the church and the Christian faith entirely. Many have already left in disillusionment. Many are seekers with lots of issues, the kinds of people for whom your churches aren’t ready, nor are they ready for you. You may consider them apostates or pagans or whatever, but these are the people I feel some calling to help – so they can be connected to Christ and his mission even though they can’t function in the religious settings over which you preside or in which you are yourselves sincerely satisfied and blessed. I am not your enemy. I see myself as your colleague, just as Paul, who consented to work with Gentiles at the margins, was the colleague of the apostles in Jerusalem, who continued to focus on serving the Jewish community."

Graeme Codrington said...


Thank you for your commitment to Truth. I share your passion for seeking it out.

I hope that people who are similarly seeking Truth will take the time to follow the links to the pages you have quoted - it will be tremendously calming for them.

If these quotes are representative of the "threat" the emerging church poses, then evangelical churches have nothing to worry about.

Seriously, Philip, who are these people?

I know who I am, of course, and I know Roger Saner well. Neither of us are church leaders or pastors, and neither of us have ever claimed to be leaders of anything in the church.

I followed some of your links (one, bizarrely, was to a Facebook group promoting some campsite, but I'll assume that was your mistake) to find out who the other people were.

TV is a computer map maker, and the blog site you quote from says this: "My blog is intended to stimulate discussion and be a space for personal exploration of my ideas around spirituality. I blog about things I want to have conversations about. My blog is not meant as a theological treatise or a summary of my beliefs and most especially not about telling people what they’re supposed to believe." That's not postmodern rambling - that's the equivalent of Luther saying, "These are the records of wild conversations I had in the pub" (recorded for us by his students, and certainly some bizarre stuff). Or maybe (but not quite) similar to C S Lewis' novels in which he hypothesizes on all sorts of issues. Do you write Lewis off because of his position on creation and original sin, as espoused in Perelandra? I doubt it.

Your links are to blogs - and even worse to Facebook discussions. This is not where serious theology gets done. This is the modern day equivalent of fireside chats late at night on youth camps. The fact that you feel you have to "win" these conversations is a concern for anyone seeking Truth.

AV as an another example is a "social entrepreneur". Sure, he is theologically trained, but does not seem to be a church leader or pastor, and is certainly not an emerging church leader. He also states on his profile page that he is sold out for Jesus (and check out his reading list - wow!).

As an aside, since you quote me only once, I'd ask what you thought was wrong with the statement I made. It is a factually accurate statement that all seven verses referring to homosexuality in Scripture do so within the context of abuse, lust or some form of excess, and none of them have lifelong, monogamous relationships in mind. That's just a fact. I assume you are not intending to label me "postmodern" simply because I have talked about homosexuality?

So, I really hope that seekers after Truth will be much calmed by your post. There is clearly nothing to worry about from an organised, well led emerging church threat in South Africa.

Graeme Codrington said...

Oh, and PS - I don't even live in South Africa at the moment.

Check out if you are interested at all.

Thanks again for your commitment to Truth. I share your passion, and appreciate the company of others on the journey. I also am profoundly grateful to believe that I have found Truth - his name is Jesus.


ChristianView said...

Roger. You have put some quotes there that I wouldn't consider unorthodox.

* Firstly, the question of whether Jesus death or his resurrection is the main event. Well, the two events go together. The one would be meaningless without the other.

* Secondly,your quote about Jesus is Lord means ceasar is not. Yes, true if you interpret that to mean that Ceasar is not ultimately Lord.

* Thirdly, your comments on the failure of the church to speak up adequately againt apartheid. But I think we have an even greater sin now with the prevailing silence on abortion and I believe postmodernism is for educated Christians the main problem that is keeping the church from speaking up. If one accepts postmodernist assumptions, does one actually have a right to tell anyone from another culture or faith community what he should or shouldn't do?

* I must admit I don't understand your comment 'giving up belief in God in order to find God', but it does sound postmodern.

* I don't define systematic theology as 'orthodoxy', since there is a theme of mystery in the scriptures that we never fully understand all there is to know about God (e.g. Deuteronomy 30; Romans 12; Jesus explanation of his parables). That however does not give us an excuse to dispense with systematic theology and logic.

* I must admit a recent entry to the Emerging Church debate and have not closely followed all the past blog posts - in fact a full time job to follow even what is current. Thank you for helping me to find quotable summary quotes from the Emerging Church conversation - please help me find more.

* In response to your comment 'losing the essence of true relationship'. I think that is at the core of the difference between postmodernism/Emerging Church and Orthodox Christianity - Orthodox Christians do believe in the right and duty to say 'No - You are wrong'. Postmodernists/emergents do not generally - but sometimes do although I think it is inconsistent with their beliefs - more often safer to condemn the past e.g. apartheid than current evils - no one defending apartheid anymore. That is a really fundamental core difference.

ChristianView said...

To respond to Graeme Codrington's posts.

* With regard to the informal nature of the discussions in the posts - it seems to me this is mostly how the Emerging Church is operating - through blogs and chat rooms. I offer to delete my quotes if someone thinks he said something accidently incorrect. Blogs are also easier to follow links and the web etc than paper journals and books. The Emerging Church has chosen the territory for the debate and I have entered that territory (i.e. cyberspace). I have also debated in public and on radio.

* In terms of your modest description of yourself as not a threat. You manage somehow to publish your beliefs at a high profile level via bulk emails, web sites etc. I think that puts you in the category of a leader, but to try comply with your preference I have more recently referred to you as a 'proponent' of the emerging church rather than a leader.

* Whether you are in England or South Africa, your blog has a South African domain name and is mostly read by South Africans and that is where you also published your article on homosexuality.

* You self identified as postmodern when I met you in 2003 at SACLA and this seems to be a consistent theme of your writings from this angle. I don't say so just because of your views on homosexuality.

* I thought that Mark Christopher answered your article rather well, which is why I personally did not do so.

Anonymous said...

Yay I'm a heretic!!!

Roger - I don't think I can outdo you in scope of commentary. /bow.

Graeme - thanks for your reference to my blog. You've been both mature and respectful toward me. I believe you've also supplied Philip with a good demonstration of hermeneutics in real life!

Philip - Here's a really heretical saying and one of my originals:

"Not everything in the Bible is biblical; not everything that's not in the Bible is unbiblical."

ChristianView said...


Firstly, I criticised your references to God in the feminine. I did not attack you as a person. There is a distinction between a belief in error, a heretical teaching and a person being a heretic. All of us believe a certain amount of error. Many people flirt for a time with heretical teachings and after studying them closely and discussing them with others reject them. Calling someone a heretic is something much more serious - it implies someone who has gone a long way down a particular road of serious error and is actively advocating it. Such a label can only be applied after due and careful investigation. I do not use the term rashly, and I did not use it against you. I did use it against the teaching and practice of referring to God in the feminine. As a friend I would urge you not to go down this road, but to turn back.

I don't know what you mean by the statement "Not everything in the Bible is biblical"? If you mean that people can misuse scripture texts to say things the bible does not mean, then yes I agree with that.

With regard to the statement "not everything that's not in the Bible is unbiblical." If you mean that things outside the scope of the teaching of scripture e.g. Pythagorous theorum is not necessarily untrue because it is not in the Bible. Yes I agree with that too.

Roger Saner said...

@Philip: thanks for the feedback on my comments - glad you find most of them orthodox :)

The important bit I want to respond to is something which you've consistently brought up in a number of places: that emerging church people do not believe in truth or moral absolutes because they buy into postmodernism.

This is not a new charge and is often cited by emerging church opponents, notably D.A. Carson in his book "Becoming conversant with the emerging church." If you'd like to understand more about the emerging church (since you've only recently found out about it) I highly suggest you read Andrew Jones' blog - the tallskinnykiwi.

He responded (3 years ago) to Carson, and this serves as a response to you too:

"Regarding the accusation that emerging church people do not believe in truth or moral absolutes and that they tolerate everything, my response is this . . .
1. That is not true.
2. That is not right.
3. I will not tolerate it.
4. Because of answers 1-3, either Carson's description of someone in the emerging church is not correct, or I am not a part of the emerging church."

ChristianView said...

Roger, with regard to the issue of absolutes.

* I think that Postmoderns use the term 'absolute' meaning something different from the historic meaning. i.e. They mean "I will not do this" or "I do not believe that". or they mean "Our sub-culture will not do this" or "Our subculture/group will not believe that". But this stops short of the universal absolute of "Nobody of any culture at any time in history anywhere in the world may do this or believe that". That is the absolute attitude the Christian faith is based on and which gives it authority to judge other cultures, religions, worldviews people etc. It is what gives strength to the pro-life movement both now and from the time of the Roman Empire to condemn governments which legalise abortion etc. It is the basis on which thousands of martyrs have happily died for their beliefs and profession. It is a 'Jesus is Lord of everything and everyone', who should obey and submit to him. Not 'We want our place at the table' of culture. It is a worldview which is highly intolerant and I would be surprised if you held to it.

* Most Christians who have embraced postmodernism have not done so totally. So for example, some say they will still die for a few truths - but that list of what they are willing to suffer and die for is a lot shorter than it was with historic Christianity. So then they have not eliminated absolutes, but reduced their number.

* There many postmodern Christians who hold to beliefs which are fundamentally inconsistent with eachother. Indeed postmodernism embraces inconsistency and a fragmented worldview. New Scientist commented on the crisis of postmodern sociology in that researchers of genocide and ancient practices such as child sacrifice of the Inca's believed that such things were wrong, but there postmodern worldview gave them no basis to condemn the beliefs of another culture. And so generally they don't, but occasionally, being inconsistent with the logical implications of their belief, they do condemn other cultures actions.

I understand the distinction between postmodernism and modernist relativism. These are not the same, but both I class in the broader label of 'liberalism'.

Roger Saner said...

@Philip: I hope that you keep your distinction between postmodernism and relativism: in reading your posts I've often wondered if you use them as synonym's, which perhaps you unconsciously do, since you see them both as subsets of liberalism.

I'm not sure exactly what you're upset about in my quote on universalism. I didn't say anything about my particular belief (or not) in it: simply that even if you are not a universalist, you should hope to be one. I read that in Brian McLaren's "The Last Word and the Word after that," his book about hell - it's actually a quote from a respected evangelical, I just wish I remembered who. If you doubt that you can have a high view of Scripture, be an evangelical and be a universalist, take a read of Gregory MacDonald's blog, The Evangelical Universalist.

Perhaps your inclusion of my quote had nothing to do with perceived universalism, but rather what it does to your view of Scripture?

Lastly, I recently came across this site yesterday, is highly critical of the emerging church. It includes a lot of links to people like John MacArthur, D.A. Carson, Albert Mohler, John Piper, Ken Silva, Gary Gilley and others. You'll find a good overview of why conservative evangelicals (and reformed people) don't like the emerging church conversation - enough ammunition to fill your blog for years! It's strange, because a lot of your arguments first hit the emerging church about 3 years ago; South Africa is so behind international developments.

There is one link to a sympathetic voice on the site: Brian McLaren. He wrote an open letter to Chuck Colson as a response to Colson's attack of postmodernism. The site says, "Have you ever seen such an arrogant, proud and condescending letter as this one?" Philip, I can't see any of those things in Brian's letter - but perhaps you can help me?

Roger Saner said...

3 years ago Emergent Village published "An Emergent Response to Critics" online. I highly recommend you read it. I've included only one bit below.

Sixth, we would like to clarify, contrary to statements and inferences made by some, that yes, we truly believe there is such a thing as truth and truth matters – if we did not believe this, we would have no good reason to write or speak; no, we are not moral or epistemological relativists any more than anyone or any community is who takes hermeneutical positions – we believe that radical relativism is absurd and dangerous, as is arrogant absolutism; yes, we affirm the historic Trinitarian Christian faith and the ancient creeds, and seek to learn from all of church history – and we honor the church’s great teachers and leaders from East and West, North and South; yes, we believe that Jesus is the crucified and risen Savior of the cosmos and no one comes to the Father except through Jesus; no, we do not pit reason against experience but seek to use all our God-given faculties to love and serve God and our neighbors; no, we do not endorse false dichotomies – and we regret any false dichotomies unintentionally made by or about us (even in this paragraph!); and yes, we affirm that we love, have confidence in, seek to obey, and strive accurately to teach the sacred Scriptures, because our greatest desire is to be followers and servants of the Word of God, Jesus Christ. We regret that we have either been unclear or misinterpreted in these and other areas.

But we also acknowledge that we each find great joy and promise in dialogue and conversation, even about the items noted in the previous paragraph. Throughout the history of the church, followers of Jesus have come to know what they believe and how they believe it by being open to the honest critique and varied perspectives of others. We are radically open to the possibility that our hermeneutic stance will be greatly enriched in conversation with others. In other words, we value dialogue very highly, and we are convinced that open and generous dialogue – rather than chilling criticism and censorship – offers the greatest hope for the future of the church in the world.

We regret that some of our critics have made hasty generalizations and drawn erroneous conclusions based on limited and selective data. We would welcome future critics to converse with us directly and to visit our churches as part of their research. Of course, they would find weaknesses among us, as they would among any group of Christians, including their own. But we believe that they would also find much to celebrate and find many of their suspicions relieved when they see our high regard for the Scriptures, for truth, for worship, for evangelism, for spiritual formation, and for our fellow Christians – including our critics themselves.

ChristianView said...

Hi Roger

I have printed out the article you linked to read later. With respect to McLaren's article:

1. He makes an error, which I see emergents doing repeatedly - that of labelling their critics including Colson as 'modernists'. Reality is that people like myself and Colson are as strongly opposed to modernism as to post-modernism. Ideologically, postmodernism is a child of modernism - it has just moves a few steps in a certain direction from modernism. But historic orthodox biblical Christianity is something radically different from both of them.

2. He mocks the idea that postmodernism can be opposed. Well, I think that is a delusion that has befallen a lot of ideologies, that they think they are on the forward march of history until they become discredited by the next popular idea (read for example all the old marxist literature posing their 'revolution' as irresistible and going to take over the world etc).

ChristianView said...

With regard to the idea of an evangelical being a universalist. That is an oxymoron. You can't be both - by definition the two are mutually exclusive. Rather this is a universalist who falsely claims to be an evangelical.