Friday, October 2, 2009



The main selling point of Postmodernism is the promise of better relationships through ‘tolerance’ and sensitivity to feelings together with the argument that worldviews based on absolute truth lead to conflict. Biblical Christianity is put in the same box as the Taliban. Postmodern or Emergent Christianity, which downplays doctrine and focuses on feelings and relationships is cool in this new culture. You are welcome to believe whatever you like so long as you don’t insist it is absolutely true and expect others to follow the same belief or practice. This new spirit of ‘tolerance’ it is hoped will stop religious wars internationally and conflict within the church. The promise appeals to a growing generation of broken, angry and hurting youth, whose parents no longer share the same house. Western individualism and mobility between cities and continents has created a crisis of loneliness. The pain enters our churches. While Christianity is maligned in the media for being ‘intolerant’, we can be accepted if we just adapt to the new culture and downplay those parts of the Bible which offend it. Is this the answer? To realise their dream, however, Postmodernists in and outside the church need to silence those nuisance Christians who think truth and righteousness also matter. “We will not tolerate intolerance” they say.

Firstly, is Postmodern teaching on relationships Biblical? Well open the Bible randomly on any page and you will likely find something on relationships. So this must be biblical then? But is what the Bible teaches about relationships the same as what Postmodernism is teaching about relationships? No. While the Bible does teach a lot on relationships, what it says has only a small area of overlap with Postmodernism – mostly the two ideologies contradict each other. The Bible does not hope to resolve relational problems by downplaying truth and righteousness, while emphasising relationship and feelings, but rather by keeping these two sides integrated and in balance.

Secondly, is it working practically? In the past two decades, Postmodernism has become the dominant ideology of the Western world. Are relationships getting better as a result? No. Statistics show increasing family breakdown. Are relationships getting better in those countries which were the first and most radical in adopting Postmodern ideology e.g. the Netherlands and Scandinavia? No. These cutting edge Postmodern countries show the number of people getting married dropping by about 2% per year. They are becoming nations of fragmented individuals in disposable relationships. Homosexuality is increasing. Children born out of wedlock are becoming the norm. Has Postmodern influence in the church helped heal relationships? Sadly, sociological statistical studies by the Barna group show divorce rates in the church higher than those in the world. The statistics are partly skewed because more Christians are getting married. This alone should warn us the ideology is not working. Did the older traditional Biblical Christianity held to for most of the last two thousand years have this problem of mass marriage failure inside the church? No. But Postmodernism’s lie of the promise of better relationships through ‘tolerance’ and blaming of Biblical Christianity as ‘harsh narrow minded insensitive intolerant bigotry’ repeated often enough - eventually gets believed.


How then does Biblical teaching differ from Postmodernism and what is it’s alternative solution? The Bible has so much to say on relationship that one can only touch on a few key points of difference here. We all live in a matrix of multiple issues and multiple relationships – with conflicts between them and we have to make choices on what to do and say. Where there are conflicts for our loyalty and effort, how do we decide what issues and relationships to prioritise? How do we decide what to fight about and what to just tolerate?

Firstly, the Bible, unlike Postmodernism gives a hierarchy of importance for our loyalty and responsibility in relationships. First comes God, then other men (Matthew 22:37-40; Luke 14:24). Out of relationships with other men, first comes our spouse (with whom we are ‘one flesh’) (Ephesians 5:22-33), then our children, then our extended family (1 Timothy 5:4-8), then our church community (1 Timothy 5:16) and then the rest of the world. Postmodernism ignores this hierarchy. Mostly treats God as if he is there for our convenience and prioritises getting along smoothly with everyone rather than this hierarchy of important relationships. Thus if you try to persuade someone not to divorce, Postmodernists would see that as interference and harming relationship. A Postmodernist may rationalise that a married couple may be happier apart. Rather shut up and be tolerant they would say. Our first priority is our relationship with God, even if this might offend some other people. Thus Postmodernism really ends up in more fragmented families and a neglected relationship with God - its promise is false and does not deliver.

Secondly, in Biblical Christianity, unlike ‘Postmodern emergent Christianity’, our relationship with God is based on believing truth about God, rather than by inventing a mental image of God the way we would like him to be. God’s glory is revealed in the truth about him in the Bible. We worship him for his glorious attributes. The bestselling Postmodern book, ‘The Shack’ by William Young describes an imaginary encounter by the lead character with the three persons of the Trinity. Problem is that the God portrayed is not the God of scripture and many other misguided Christians seem to be claiming relationship with God, while their personal lives don’t match up to the holiness God requires (Hebrews 12:14) and their ideas about God don’t match scripture. If someone was to start telling lies about your wife or your best friend, would you not immediately want to correct them? How then can a person claim to love God, who will happily tolerate false teaching about God? Truth and love are not separable, but our love for God drives us to learn truth and to defend the truth about him. Postmodernist Christians however would argue that out of love for people, we should tolerate heresy. Speaking strongly against heresy is unloving they would say. But the Bible teaches we should prioritise love for God first. Thus this more relational Christianity tends to result in false relationship with God. It doesn’t deliver.

Thirdly, the Bible gives an absolute and clear standard of right and wrong by which we can judge truth. Thus when there are disagreements, and we both accept the authority of Bible we can try to study it together to try to settle our disagreements. The new Postmodern emergent Christianity argues that the meaning of the Bible is subjective and based on our personal biases and thus it is impossible to settle disputes this way. The result is that we must then just all live independently and ‘tolerate’ eachother (as Postmodernists prefer) or alternatively through organisational process. The problem however is that organisational processes are also impacted by Postmodernist belief. If truth doesn’t really matter, then why should any organisation follow their own constitution or Statement of Faith? And if everything is subjective, then how do we interpret the meaning of these? Every organisation has to have order or it falls apart. But what will that order be based on? Without an objective standard of right and wrong or of agreed procedure, the only way to impose order is through an elite. And that is what happens when the scripture and objective truth is sidelined. Nations and churches become governed by unaccountable elites. It is impossible in a conflict to keep good relations with everyone and so where there is no objective standard for truth and righteousness, elites will dominate and squash opposition. The Bible interpreted as clear and objective truth on the other hand give a basis on which any individual can argue, without leading to social chaos. National policy decisions are increasingly being made by unaccountable Postmodern judicial elites and less by democratic process. Likewise as ‘relational governance’ displaces objective standards in churches, elites take over regardless of the denomination. Such arbitrary elitist governance tends to benefit a few and hurt people. Thus the Postmodern promise of better relationships doesn’t deliver.

God’s moral boundaries are given for our good (Deuteronomy 10:13) and respecting them results in better relationships. His laws are not just there to help us to score religious points – they make practical common sense. Jesus encourages us to set further personal boundaries against things that cause us to sin (Matthew 5:29). Nevertheless, Postmodernists would tend to treat such boundaries as unimportant, with resulting damage to relationships. For example, the young man who exposes himself to sexual images in movies will likely struggle more with temptation to go too far in his dating relationships with the opposite sex. Compromising, however will damage a good relationship and undermine his future marriage relationship.

Fourthly, based on this truth, Biblical Christianity sees some relationships such as sexual relationships outside married as just plain evil. But muddled Postmodern Christians may for example argue that a homosexual couple are just so happy together – so how can we say that it is wrong? Superficially, they may seem happy – but probably over they longer term the result will be pain. And even if they did happen to be more happy, for us the authority is the Bible and not just social peace and happiness.

Fifthly, the Bible gives categories of standards of righteousness, some of which are absolute for all people and all time (.e.g. You shall not murder’); others which have some value but are not absolute (.e.g. observing of special days (Romans 14)). It also, however allows for an intermediate standard where church authorities may agree to make certain temporary rules applicable to that time and situation. For example, in Acts 15:29 the church prohibited eating food sacrificed to idols, while 1 Corinthians 8:1-7, categorises it as a debatable issue. Absolute issues we fight about, (e.g. sexual purity; the sanctity of human life) while debatable issues we need to make decisions depending on the context. Postmodernism would argue nothing is completely absolute and put everything in the category of either individual choice or a group cultural norm. Thus they would frown on Christians trying to stop non-Christians aborting babies or close down escort agencies. Such action is ‘insensitive to their feelings and creates a bad image for Christianity’ they would say. This view may lead to smoother relations between the Christian community and the secular media and institutionalised evil, but it hurts the relationships of parents with the babies they kill and families torn apart by the infidelity of prostitution. Thus the Postmodern promise of better relationships is a lie. It doesn’t deliver.

Sixthly, the Bible gives a description of due process to deal with and settle disputes for example in Matthew 18; Matthew 5 and 1 Timothy 5. Organisations also have their own procedures to settle disputes. But when ‘relationships and feelings’ are prioritised out of balance with truth, then procedure is only applied when it is convenient for those in power. Insisting on doing so is seen as legalistic. The result is that disputes are settled in an ad-hoc manner which usually gets very messy and painful. Not obeying scriptural procedure thus results in more relational pain. The Postmodern promise doesn’t deliver.

Seventh, the Bible gives us the expectation that if we are godly, we will suffer persecution including social ostracism and abuse (1 Peter 4:4; 2 Timothy 3:12). Nevertheless, Postmodern Christians want to be accepted by the world and the result is to avoid doing whatever the world disapproves of. So for example they avoid confronting people with the need to repent of their sins and receive Christ and speaking up against social sin in society – rather simply trying to ‘build relationships’ in the hope that someone somehow will decide that Christians are nice and they want to join them. Maybe this will lead to some superficial peace between the church and the world, but such an approach leads to very few if any conversions – and thus the masses live in unreconciled relationship with God – not knowing what to do to reconcile with God. Furthermore, sin in society, when not confronted grows and spreads, wreaking relational damage in the individuals and families it affects.

Eighth, we as Christians have a corporate as well as an individual relationship with God. In other words, God deals with us not just as individuals, but also judges and blesses us as nations (Romans 11) and churches (Revelation 2-3). As individuals we are affected by God’s corporate judgments and sin in our church and society will indirectly affect how God treats us. Thus we need to use our influence to persuade the group of which we are a part to obey God and live according to his standards. We have a corporate responsibility to ensure correct church discipline especially where there is scandalous leadership behaviour. We must speak up for righteousness lest we be judged ourselves as part of the group. Postmodernists, however baulk at the whole idea of God judging groups for their sins. How politically incorrect can you get? But it is Biblical. Where a group rebels against God, one of the common judgements is that God causes conflict within that group (Zechariah 8:10). Thus while Postmodernism may deliver temporary smooth relationships, God’s judgment on the sin of the group will ultimately do more harm to relationships.


Thus the Postmodern promise of better relationships is false and a lie. Hopefully, eventually society will wake up and realise this, just as after the Cold War they woke up to realise that the Communist promise of helping the poor was a lie. But until they do that, we as Christians need to confront and change this muddled thinking in the church and recover Biblical Christian thinking on relationships. We need to prioritise our relationships according to the Bible; base or relationship with God on the truth of the scriptures; use the absolute standards of right and wrong in the scriptures to settle disputes; reject evil unbiblical relationships; distinguish between categories of standards of right and wrong so we don’t fight about the wrong things; follow biblical due process to settle disputes; be prepared to suffer persecution for righteousness to help reconcile others with God and do our part to encourage holiness and corporate relationship with God. All of this is contrary to Postmodernist ethics. But it is the Biblical way of better relationships – and unlike Postmodernism it does deliver better relationships.

Yes, postmodern ‘tolerance’ and ‘sensitivity to feelings’ may result in temporary superficial smooth relationships, but overall it does more harm than good.

Since the promise better relationships is the main argument being used to push Postmodernism in the church and attack Biblical Christianity – we need to not just respond to the need for truth, but also warn other Christians how Postmodern thinking actually hurts rather than helps relationships.



The way we evangelicals present the gospel has shifted radically in the last 30 years. Before the gospel presentation always included judicial/legal language such as: judgment, law, covenant, truth, justification, vindication, truth, evidence, forgiveness, redemption, confession, punishment, witnesses and testimony. Today, the language tends to be exclusively relational for example: love, reconciliation and becoming part of God’s family. One could summarise the shift from a ‘court room model’ to a ‘family living room model’. Is this good or bad? Well, surely, given the choice, most of use would prefer a ‘family living room’ to a ‘court room’. Why does this matter to the average Christian? Firstly, because it is affecting the way we present the message of salvation and secondly the way we engage with worldly society.

Which of the two models is Biblical? There is plenty of evidence for both in the Bible. The problem is the shift in emphasis – and in many cases the shift is so big that judicial language, which was formerly the main way of explaining the gospel is avoided as ‘politically incorrect’. What is unbiblical is the neglect of the court room model. Why am I, a Christian social activist writing on this subject? Because a new generation is growing up which has not grasped many of the basic building blocks of truth, essential to engage with sin in society. Such people have a hard time understanding why we should do anything that may offend non-Christians, such as picketing abortion clinics or sex shops.

Abandonment or neglect of the court room model is a feature of Postmodern/Emergent reinterpretation of Christianity, but the shift was underway long before Postmodernism became popular. The problem thus cannot be solved just by attacking Postmodernism. The court room model is also unpopular with many of those who focus on self-image & psychology, health and wealth, political correctness – some who believe the ‘court room model’ is not ‘seeker sensitive’. Our culture hates the judicial model. To get a hearing, we need to a certain extent to adapt our message to the culture of our times, but some things we cannot give up. Why?

Because the central message of the cross cannot be properly explained without the model of a court room. Without it, Jesus death and resurrection are a bit meaningless. We, the human race sinned and broke God’s law and deserved everlasting punishment in hell. Jesus, God’s perfect substitute, died in our place, which is why we qualify for God’s grace and mercy. On another level, both the Jewish and Gentile human government authorities condemned Jesus to death for his claim to be King/Messiah, but God’s higher court over-ruled this wrong judgement and vindicated Jesus by raising him from the dead – thus proving his innocence. We who tell this truth that Jesus is alive and Lord are called ‘witnesses’ who ‘testify’ – both terms borrowed from the court room. So many people have died telling this truth that our English word ‘martyr’ is derived from the Greek word for ‘witness’. The way every human being on earth will be judged in eternity is all tied up with what they believe and confess in this one massive cosmic court case.

Apart from court room language, one can maybe talk about aspects of the cross such as Jesus reconciliation with us or Jesus good example of love for his enemies demonstrated from the cross for us to follow. Most preachers who neglect court room language do understand these truths. But will the next generation understand? And will they understand well enough to be willing to be ‘witnesses’ who will die for the truth? On a smaller scale to risk unpopularity and share the shame and disgrace of being a witness for Jesus in a generation that hates the truth? Will they have the courage to accuse our government and society of murder in their slaughter of the unborn innocents, as did the apostles when they accused the Roman and Jewish authorities of murdering Jesus (Acts 3:15; 5:28)? Are we going to preach God’s wrath against sin to a Postmodern generation that doesn’t understand the concept of sin? Will we pursue holiness as we treasure the price paid for us by Christ (1 Peter 1:18-19), or will we view grace instead as meaning that God doesn’t think sin is a big deal. Neglecting judicial language is going to affect our holiness, our courage, our view of Christ and God, our understanding of grace, our gospel presentation to unbelievers, our worldview, our social activism and our motivation to reach the lost. Please lets help restore judicial language to our teaching and gospel presentation.

The new mega-shifted evangelical gospel, hopes that its ‘kinder, gentler, more loving’ view of God will be more attractive and thus win more to Christ. It will improve the bad image that the worldly media has given Christianity. But will it really do so? Didn’t Jesus say the world would hate us (John 15:19) and praise false prophets (Luke 6:26). Such people struggle with a ‘self-image problem’ about Christianity. They have a ‘court room model’, but in their view, the world (or the secular media) or public opinion is the judge instead of God the ultimate judge. Which ‘court room’ will we worry about? Will we fear God and his judgement against unrepentant individuals in eternity in hell or on this earth against a society that rebels against God, by for example murdering unborn babies – or will we worry about trying to help Christianity win the media contest to become the most popular religion?

Is a ‘kinder, gentler’ mega-shifted gospel more compassionate to help hurting people? In some senses, maybe. Maybe in the short term some people will avoid getting annoyed by the truth. But sin still brings God’s judgement, whether hell for eternity or in society now. Fewer people may be offended by the message, but those same people will still be hurt by consequences of sin. And in any case, regardless of the results of each, the gospel is not meant to be pragmatic – we are called to proclaim truth (Ezekiel 3:17). In Old Testament times, the false prophets were also preaching ‘peace’ and neglecting the message of judgment on sin (Jeremiah 6:14).

We need a balance of gentleness and toughness and wisdom to know what is appropriate in what situation. God’s self revelation to Moses on Mount Sinai included his compassion and his judgment of sin (Exodus 34:6-7). His revelation on the cross included his wrath against sin by the punishment of crucifixion and his mercy to us in substituting Jesus in our place. The judicial court room model perfectly explains this paradox.


A popular example of this mega-shifted unbalanced gospel presentation is found in the poem ‘The father’s Love Letter’. . It seems orthodox, because it is made up almost entirely of paraphrased Bible verses and full of references. It sounds beautiful. What is wrong? Firstly, if you look up the scripture quotations and read them in context, you will see the paraphrases are often inaccurate and the context doesn’t match the message of the poem. If you read on in the references, you will also see references to God’s judgment – but not in the poem. The second problem is that the statements paraphrased in the poem are made in the Bible to believers, who have already received Christ and become children of God (and thus part of God’s family). But the poem blurs the distinction between believers and unbelievers, giving the impression the same statement apply to both. Most of the promises quoted from the Bible are conditional on receiving Jesus on the basis of his dying in our place as a substitute (the courtroom model). While the poem may give some comfort to believers, it may also give false comfort to those who have not repented of their sins.


For those who want to study the history of the intellectual debate in more detail, the following links may be helpful:

In 1990, theologian Robert Brow published an article in Christianity Today, describing the Mega-Shift away from the ‘Court Room/judicial’ model towards the ‘family/relational model’. The article was phrased to sound a neutral description of a trend, but Brow showed by his other publications that he strongly supported this new trend. Soon other scholars responded for and against the new trend. Donald Carson, Michael Horton and David Wells strongly opposed it, and defended the historic court room model. John McArthur responded to the undermining of the atonement at A surprise for many was when Clark Pinnock, a previous champion of conservative orthodoxy against liberalism came to Brow’s support. Robert Brow and Clark Pinnock worked together to develop their new theories further. Eventually, their theorizing led them to the conclusion that God doesn’t exhaustively know the future, but rather can only take a good guess at what is going to happen on the basis of the balance of probabilities. They called their new theory ‘Open theism’ and together they published a book ‘Unbounded Love’ available online at . Pinnock was interviewed by Michael Horton about his shift in views in an opposing publication at
Later writer, Philip Yancey promoted a similar view in a less intellectual, but more popular style.

The most heavyweight intellectuals in Evangelicalism have historically been Reformed/Calvinists, since this tradition tends to emphasise truth. These men focused their counter-attack on this undermining of the Sovereignty of God. Together they replied with a book ‘Beyond the bounds’ with John Piper as the main editor, and a list of respected other authors each contributing a chapter, which is also available online at
Piper et al, argued that Open Theism was heresy and that the boundaries of evangelicalism needed to be redrawn to exclude it. There was an attempt to remove Open Theists from the Evangelical Theological Society, but this failed. Piper, Carson and similar reformed thinkers later formed the ‘Gospel Coalition’, whose Statement of Faith specifically excluded Open Theism. In the book, Wayne Grudem argues that Open Theism is pastorally dangerous because a weak view of God undermines people’s faith.

A bunch of world-class Bible scholars have written a 400 page book – for sale in many Christian bookshops and available for free download. Robert Brow has died. So is the debate closed? Not at all. I argue the primary debate has been side-tracked. The trend away from ‘Courtroom language’ that Robert Brow was the first to spot and write about has become mainstream and now dominates most of Evangelicalism. Brow, Pinnock and their followers took their vision of a ‘kinder, gentler’ gospel to an extreme that ended up with a denial of God’s sovereign control and foreknowledge of the future. But millions of evangelicals have not gone to that extreme, but they do squirm and evade the Courtroom model and terminology in presenting the gospel – the place where Brow and Pinnock started. And so what is considered normal evangelicalism is very different to what it was 50 years ago.

I argue that the original debate of whether the gospel should be presented using the ‘Court room/judicial’ model needs to come back to the centre. It is an issue that faces every church. I argue both Court Room language and Family language are biblical, but that the Court Room/judicial model should be central because without it we cannot properly understand why Christ died for us on the cross. This understanding then impacts how we view just about everything else. The neglect of the Court Room model I believe explains much of the weakness and confusion in contemporary evangelicalism.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009



Have you heard a someone quote “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” (Matthew 7:1) or “If any one of you is without sin, let him throw the first stone.” (John 8:7) to argue that we should not speak up against evils like abortion, pornography or homosexuality? Quoted out of context, these are the two favourite verses of those trying to change Christianity to fit in with Post-modernist culture. If you haven’t heard these quoted to advance Postmodernist ‘tolerance’ of evil, you will soon, and Biblical Christian leaders need to equip their followers to counter Post-modern interpretation of these verses.


Did Jesus mean these words as an absolute? Did he mean we should never ever judge or condemn anything or speak up against the sins of our society? How about reading a bit further in the same passage. Lets start with the Sermon on the Mount. In the same paragraph as the first quote we find another saying of Jesus: Mt 7:6 “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs.” Okay so now Jesus is calling some people ‘pigs’ and ‘dogs’ and he is calling other things ‘pearls’. So now how are we supposed to tell what are the pearls and who are the pigs? We are supposed to use our judgment. In other words, use our minds educated by the scriptures to judge. So now Jesus cannot be asking us never to judge, because otherwise Jesus would be contradicting himself. Both of these statements by Jesus are proverbs. Proverbs are pity sayings containing a lot of wisdom. They are not on their own and outside of the context of the rest of scripture meant to be absolute laws for all time and every situation. Apparently contradictory proverbs like these two are often put together to help people avoid interpreting the other wrongly. Together they complement each other in wisdom to help us avoid extremes. The Bible is full of instructions for us to judge one thing or another such as: the case of in Church discipline (1 Corinthians 6:1-5). Jesus commends the Ephesian church for discerning false apostles (Revelation 2:2); Peter challenges the Pharisees to ‘judge for yourself’ (Acts 4:19). Looking at Matthew 7:1 in context around it and with other similar verses in scripture (e.g. Romans 2:1) Jesus is attacking the attitude of moral superiority, hypocrisy and pettiness by some religious people based on judging those they consider religiously worse than them – and their failure to repent of their own sins by focusing on the sins of others. But we cannot use this verse outside the context of the rest of scripture to silence protests against evil as the Postmodernists would like us to.


What about the quote “If any one of you is without sin, let him throw the first stone” (John 8:7)? If Matthew 7:1 is the favourite saying of the Postmoderns, probably John 8 is the favourite story of the Postmoderns. How do we respond? Firstly one should not derive absolutes out of stories. You find absolutes first in other places in the Bible and the stories should illustrate these. Secondly, we can’t extend ‘stoning’ as a metaphor meaning ‘speaking’ against evil. Thirdly, what is the context? The Jewish religious leaders catch a woman in adultery and take her to Jesus asking him if she should be stoned? Now like the time they asked him about whether he should pay taxes (Matthew 22:17), the Pharisees they are trying to trap Jesus into getting into trouble either with the religious Jews or the Roman authorities.
The point is that they are under Roman law, for which there is no capital offence for adultery and Jesus has no status as a civil magistrate. This is an illegal kangaroo court with no civil authority, into which certain Jewish fanatics are trying to involve Jesus. Only the Roman government had the right to execute a person (John 18:31). Jesus skilfully dodges their manipulative trap and teaches them a moral lesson at the same time. His response is similar when someone tries to get him to arbitrate an inheritance dispute (Luke 12:13). One could go into much more detail on the true meaning of this story, but the point here is that the Postmodernists completely misuse these scriptures to try to silence speaking up against evil.


On the same theme Postmoderns say that we should ‘not condemn’ to argue that we shouldn’t speak up against culturally accepted sins like fornication, pornography and homosexuality and abortion. Sounds a bit Biblical, but where exactly is that in the Bible? We could quote Romans 8:1 “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…”. In context that means that God does not condemn us when we are ‘in Christ’, namely we have been united with Christ in his death and resurrection as explained in Romans 6. But earlier in Romans, the aPostle Paul has just condemned a long list of sinful behaviours (Romans 1:18-32). And his condemnation of this list of sins (and a following list of religious sins in Romans 2) is the first thing he explains when he introduces the gospel in Romans 1:17, before he explains salvation from God’s wrath (Romans 3:23). So essentially, condemning sin and the consequent wrath of God is essential to bringing people to true salvation.

Most Postmoderns hardly have an idea what sin is, let alone the fact that God is angry with sin and will punish people forever in hell unless they repent. It is not loving to leave out this essential truth of the gospel. So reaching Postmoderns with the true gospel includes teaching them the essential concept of sin and God’s condemnation of it. Postmodern Christians argue we should leave out this nasty stuff and just concentrate on building relationships. There is a place for relationships in evangelism, but if the truth about sin and God’s wrath against it is never explained then it is not true evangelism. Most so-called Postmodern outreach is nothing but relationship building and trying to market a good image of Christianity. It might build some relationships and do some good public relations, but doesn’t save people from God’s wrath and eternity in hell.

What is the favourite verse of Evangelical Christians? Probably John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” But what does the next verse say? John 3:17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” Okay so maybe are the Postmodernists right? Does this confirm we shouldn’t condemn? Lets read one more verse? John 3:18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. “ Ouch! Painful, politically incorrect stuff! How come John 3:18 isn’t quoted to non-Christians as much as John 3:16? Do we lack the guts to say it? Might it result in some anger and lead to some persecution? And maybe some more salvations too?


The great revival leaders of history, such as Charles Finney, John Wesley, Jonathan Edwards regularly preached the Law and Wrath of God before they preached the Grace and Mercy of God – exactly as the apostle Paul does in the book of Romans. In fact, taking the Bible as a whole, God revealed the Law of Moses before he revealed grace in Christ. In Bible times and today, the righteous standards of God and his wrath against sin point to the redemption in Christ, which we cannot earn by our own efforts Gal 3:24 “So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith”. But simply because we cannot achieve salvation or righteousness through law does not mean we dispense with law and God’s wrath against sin altogether. Explaining the anger of God against sin is the context in which we explain the grace of God which saves us from this. Now today, many postmodern Christians make jokes about Jonathan Edward’s famous sermon ‘Sinners in the hands of an angry God’
and style him as some sort of fanatic. But the point is that Jonathan Edwards was a leader of the Great Awakening. Postmodern Christians have never had any revival or awakening anywhere in the world and never will because God doesn’t bless a false truncated distorted Postmodern gospel. The Postmodern gospel doesn’t condemn sin and so doesn’t convict of sin and doesn’t lead men to repentance.


What was the example of the apostles? Implicit in their arguing that Jesus was the Messiah was the allegation that the Jewish leaders had committed murder in executing Jesus and innocent man. That was why they were persecuted! Not just because they were some new Jewish sect. Peter repeatedly accuses those who killed Jesus: Acts 2:36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”; “Acts 3:15 You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. “This was not lost on the authorities Acts 5:28 “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.” Peter and the apostles did not preach a nice politically correct gospel and neither should we.

Condemning sin in society is also one of the ways we awake the social conscience to stop the murdering of unborn babies and the tearing apart of families as a result of sexual immorality. To fail to do so is not being ‘loving’ or ‘showing grace’. It is to abandon these victims to the forces of evil. Yes the apostles teaching was full of grace, but it was grace in the context of condemning sin. The two are not mutually exclusive. Grace without explaining God’s anger against sin is meaningless. The Cross of Christ perfectly unites the two concepts, in displaying both how much God hates sin what he suffered in our place and how much God loves sinners in being willing to give his son in our place. Preaching the cross includes condemning sin.


Ezekiel 3:18 says “When I say to a wicked man, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood.” God isn’t neutral in the matter. It is not optional for us to speak up against serious social evil. We must not be discouraged by the Postmodern political correctors who seek to silence the Christian voice against evil in society. We must continue to speak up for truth and righteousness and correct those Postmoderns who are trying to change the gospel and remove the bits that offend our culture.

If you are a pastor or home group leader, why not consider teaching on these often quoted scriptures, but this time tackle the challenge of postmodernism head-on and equip your people to stand for the truth. If you aren’t why not forward this email to your pastor or home group leader and encourage him to do so.

Friday, July 24, 2009



Conservative evangelicals are often accused of being reactionary. i.e. always being ‘anti-‘ something. What are we for? What do we celebrate in the midst of our battles? One thing we can celebrate and thank God for is the authority of scripture above all man-made philosophies. But defending the authority scripture today is not the same as it was centuries ago or even in our parents generation. Most of the creeds and confessions Christian organisations profess are out of date – not because they are wrong, but because they don’t answer the challenging questions being posed by our culture. Many Christians have adopted the worldview of our culture and then try to use it to interpret scripture. The result is confusion in ethics and belief. On most issues scripture contradicts our popular worldly culture – and on many issues a church culture which has tried to accommodate that worldly culture. The consequence is that the authority is subordinated to the culture rather than used as the ‘Sword of the spirit’ to destroy worldly ideas and transform that culture. The first question Satan asked mankind was ‘Did God really say’? If he can sow confusion on that issue, then he can lead us into sin on a lot of other issues.


Have you heard anyone promoting these ideas? Have you or your organisation been affected by them.

MODERNIST LIBERALISM: Disbelieving the TRUTH of scripture. This ideology which began in the 1850s in Germany assumes that scripture must be subordinate to the findings of modern academic thinking. Thus, for example, Biblical miracles are disbelieved. Modernism gutted most of the mainline Protestant denominations in the 1920s and 30s, but is losing popularity.

NEO-ORTHODOXY: Believing the Bible is SPIRITUALLY TRUE but not necessarily true in other respects. Popularised by the theologian Karl Barth. When asked whether he believed that God created the world, he replied ‘This world does not matter’. When asked whether a newspaper reporter would have had anything to photograph had he witnessed the resurrection, he dodged the question. Adopted to varying degrees by many evangelical groups, many of which had rejected modernism.

POSTMODERNIST LIBERALISM: The belief that the Bible has personal authority for me, but not absolute authority over those who don’t believe it or interpret it differently. A belief that the meaning of scripture is NOT CLEAR and thus no one can impose their views on anyone else. This uncertainty on the meaning of scripture turns the clear teaching of scripture on issues like homosexuality into just someone’s opinion. Also a belief that feelings and relationships are important, while truth and right behaviour are not. Closely linked to this is the view of POLITICAL CORRECTNESS, where one should avoid mentioning anything in the Bible that might offend someone of another cultural belief. Also closely linked to this is the FEELINGS FOCUS, a belief that we should avoid telling anyone anything in the Bible that might offend their feelings. Needless to say, the authority of scripture is drastically undermined by gagging of expressing scriptural truth. Such a belief results in a weak view of scripture which has no authority in society.

PIETISM: A belief that scripture has authority in my personal devotional and church life, but has nothing to say about how we should govern society for example in terms of politics, commerce or interpret the study of history. The result is the authority of scripture is limited to the individual and the church, but one cannot for example tell the government not to legalise abortion.

POPULAR PSYCHOLOGY: A belief in the ‘non-directional counselling’ approach where everyone must decide in ethics what to do for themselves. Thus one must never tell anyone what the scripture says they should do in their situation or that in terms of the scripture they have done anything wrong. Scripture is then just ‘good advice’ but never binding or prescriptive. The concepts of ‘guilt’ and ‘sin’ are taboo and should never be mentioned lest people are offended. Closely linked to this is the view that we should NEVER JUDGE someone’s actions. While the scripture does teach caution in judging, it does not prohibit saying that something is wrong or sinful.

THE EVANGELICAL MEGASHIFT: A belief that we should only talk about those doctrines in scripture which don’t offend our culture, but still profess to believe in them. So for example, such Christians would avoid mentioning hell, judgement, the wrath of God, sin, the fear of God and rather talk only about relationships, feelings, God’s love and mercy. The result of this firstly that scripture loses its binding authority as God is portrayed as someone who will not do anyone any harm if they disobey it. Secondly, doctrines that are underemphasised in the next generation end up being denied. That was the pattern with early C20 modernist liberalism, and is already starting to happen in C21 evangelicalism.

NEW AGE/ANIMIST: ‘New Age Christians’ put the Bible on a similar level of authority to other religions and human philosophies. Thus the Bible can’t be used to judge the truth claims of other religions. Rather they mix in whatever bits they like e.g. Belief in astral bodies. Western Christians who do this are called New Age, while black Africans tend to mix in their ancestral beliefs.

PRAGMATISM/UTILITARIANISM: A belief that we should do what works best for the ‘greater good’, rather than to follow the detailed instructions of scripture. Scripture was written in a different context, but not really practical to follow in our culture today. For example, such people may argue promoting condoms rather than abstinence will help stop HIV-AIDS. Such people won’t speak up against sin if they don’t think people will listen to them. Contrary to this is the example of the Bible prophets who spoke truth even though most did not listen. Closely linked to this is IDEALISM, the idea that scripture is just an ideal we should try to live up to and not really practical to follow for example on standards for sexual holiness.

EMOTIONALISM: Such people may say ‘Follow your heart and not your head’. There is a bit of truth in that because the heart has an important role in the Christian life, but it cannot be used as an authority above scripture. This is sometimes applied as HEDONISM: A view that God wants us to be happy, even if this means disobeying the scripture. Thus for example, someone questions the scriptural prohibition on homosexuality because a homosexual couple he knows are so happy together. On the other hand, divorce is condoned when it is believed an unhappily married couple would be happier apart.

With the INSPIRATIONAL/HOROSCOPE method of Bible interpretation, people open the Bible randomly or where they know the nice bits are and look for scriptures that will give them encouragement while ignoring the rest. There is then no compulsion to try to understand or obey the bits we don’t like. We can just skim over them and move on. Thus the Bible’s authority is subordinated to our preferences.

ANTINOMIANISM (or ANTI-LAW): A view that because we are under grace that we are no longer bound to follow the moral instructions of scripture, so long as we do things out of a motivation of love. This idea has been around since New Testament times and alongside passages such as Colossians 3 attack it.

DIRECT REVELATION ABOVE SCRIPTURE: A belief that what one feels God has spoken into our own heart is above what he has written in his word. Examples of this error include a pastor saying that God had told him to divorce his wife and marry another woman. On another occasion, an unmarried couple knelt down to pray together about whether or not God wanted them to sleep together and concluded after prayer that he did. Another lady believed after prayer that God wanted her to have an abortion. Any ‘direct revelation’ which contradicts scripture is from the devil and not from God.

EXPERIENCE ABOVE SCRIPTURE: A belief that if our experience does not match a scripture we know, then we can disbelieve that scripture. For example, such a person may say ‘I know the Bible says God heals, but I don’t believe that because I know a good Christian who was sick and she died’. In such situations, we should not question scripture, but rather whether we have understood its meaning correctly – and study it further to understand it better.

HYPER-AUTHORITARIANISM: A belief in some churches that only senior church authorities can accurately interpret the Bible and that no one has a right to challenge them on the basis of scripture. Thus if anyone in an organisation is unsure of the ethics of a matter, they consult the senior authority. If they condone it – then it is okay. Such hyper-authoritarian authorities will often not want to be accountable to the historic accepted interpretations of scripture agreed with the wider body of Christ, but wish to make their own interpretations on an ad-hoc basis. The result is that the senior authorities often make exceptions and decide to ‘show grace’, bending the rules of scripture for themselves and their friends – leading to multiple scandals in the church.

MAN FEARING: Man fearing can take many forms. It includes for example, DEMOCRACY – often the reluctance of a spiritual shepherd to enforce the teaching of scripture for example in a church discipline case, where this might be unpopular with the sheep. In countries where there is overt state persecution, believers brave the threat of arrest to speak the Word of God, but in our culture we have the much milder persecution of simple unpopularity and social disapproval when we do so – even sometimes from other believers. We must recognise this for what it is PERSECUTION, count the cost and risk the consequences.

DISMISSING OF THE OLD TESTAMENT: Because many parts of the Old Testament have been superseded or differently fulfilled in the New Testament, many find it easier to simply dismiss the whole of the Old Testament rather than learning to interpret it correctly through the lens of the New Testament. Thus one then cannot appeal to the authority of the Old Testament scriptures. Contrary to this approach, Jesus and the New Testament writers quoted heavily from the Old Testament.


The above ideas challenge: The reliability of scripture, the right to speak scripture, the clarify of scripture, the practicality of scripture, the authority of scripture over human authorities and the question of who has the right to interpret scripture.

So we must demolish all of these cultural human ideologies with our glorious Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God and look for opportunities to speak it in defiance of our cultural norms and pressure. Unlike these human ideas, scripture is the WORD OF GOD. It is true and contains commands applicable to everyone for all time – Christian or not. It is the basis on which all will one day be judged and the authority on which we can challenge any other human authority.

Gently but firmly we must point out to people when they use these methods with authority above the word of God.

We trust that it is clear and practically applicable in our situation. Combating the worldly ideas of our culture is a big job. Fortunately we don’t need to do it alone. Word of God itself is what will defeat them. We must just keep speaking it, regardless of the consequences.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Shack Attack (by Jordan Pickering)

'Shack Attack' by Jordan Pickering

The Shack is part of a new postmodern Christianity, which is trying to shape our faith so that it fits more comfortably into postmodern society. In this project, it has jettisoned much of what is characteristic of Christianity, and reconstructed an image of God that has lost its Family resemblance.

The mistake that Christians will make about The Shack is to assume that because it is fiction, it is not theology. In our postmodern times, story is the favourite way of communicating. So we need to quickly wise up to the fact that Christian novels are works of theology. And they can either be teaching the true gospel or a false one.

The problem with fiction is that it is emotional rather than logical, and it’s message is woven into plot and dialogue and character development. This makes it very difficult to evaluate whether its message is good or bad. Stories don’t need to justify any of their points, or practice careful exegesis of key texts. If a story wants to make you believe something, it can create a loveable, trustworthy hero to advocate that point, and it can put the opposite view in the mouth of a revolting, unlovely scoundrel. The victory can be won, virtually subliminally, through emotion, not reason.

Stories are also difficult to assess because they tend to be ambiguous. The author is not bound to explain everything his characters say, and even if a character says something outrageous, we can’t know whether the author agrees with what his character has said. These problems are certainly true of The Shack.

So, fiction is a problematic medium for theology, and it will require careful thought and keen awareness from us as readers.

Positive things in the book

The Shack addresses two great problems in the Christian life: the problem of pain and grief, and the problem of empty religion.

In terms of his take on pain, the author does a lot of good work in affirming God’s goodness and God’s love in spite of our circumstances. So that’s reassuring. Unfortunately, he also goes too far. His God is not a judge and he’s never angry, and pain in the world is seemingly not God’s doing. It seems as though the author can only explain evil as being out of God’s control. So while there is much good on the subject of pain, it is hard to separate it out from a very faulty doctrine of God. I’d far rather that readers struggle their way through CS Lewis’ The Problem of Pain, than to read something easy and poisonous like The Shack.

Secondly, the author takes aim at the problem of empty religion. He asks a lot of the right questions about this subject, and he points out that relationship with God is at the heart of our faith, not structures and performance and rule keeping. Unfortunately, he once again goes too far. Instead of restoring our worship and church order and lifestyle to a context of relationship with God, he throws out church order and scripture and rule keeping altogether.

So, once again, the good that he does is undone by an overbalance. There are hundreds of books that might inspire readers to genuine relationship with God while opposing Pharisaism (as The Shack tries to do), without discarding the Evangelical faith (as The Shack does), so rather read those.

Concerns with the book

There are many concerns that ought to be addressed, especially problems with the doctrine of the Trinity and with attacks on church order. But let’s focus on two of the more serious issues.


The Shack is a postmodern book, and so the author doesn’t like the idea of truth and authority. That means that scripture cannot be God’s True Word and our final authority. In fact, he speaks of scripture as a book in which we’ve trapped God so that we can control him, and he’s even cynical towards the idea of there being a correct way of interpreting the Bible, because then the teachers can control it.

The Shack holds up direct, face-to-face communication with God as the Christian ideal. The trouble is, far from setting us free, this idea means that Christians will be listening to whatever wind blows through their minds, imagining that this or that thought is actually God’s voice, and then once you’ve got a good one, without scripture, by what standard will you test the spirits to see if they are from God, as John says?

Or, if there is no such thing as correct interpretation of scripture, the alternative is chaos, not freedom. One is able to invent any number of creative interpretations if one bends one’s mind to it. That’s where cults and false teaching come from, and every kind of spiritual captivity. But if we believe that there is in principle a correct interpretation, then it means that we believe in a standard of Truth, and even our leaders are subject to it. If we treat scripture properly, then we hear God speak, and He leads us by His Word. It is this that prevents us from being taken captive. We are not at the mercy of the creativity of our teachers. [The author might protest that, in his scheme, there is no need for teachers at all. I would have to ask in response what he thinks he is then, if not a teacher? People inevitably gravitate around leaders. True Scripture ensures that we and our leaders alike are governed by God, and not deception].


The biggest problem with the book is its doctrine of sin and salvation. It is extremely vague and ambiguous at every step here, and so it’s difficult to say precisely what the book is teaching. However it leans very strongly towards the belief that God does not judge or punish sin:

Papa: “I don’t need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside. It’s not my purpose to punish it; it’s my joy to cure it.” (Pgs 118-120)

In discussion about hell, The Shack forces us to imagine sending one of our own children to hell forever. The lead character finds it impossible to imagine sending someone he loves to hell, and so the implication is that God, who loves infinitely more than we do, would not do so either. This relies on the assumption that God's attitude to sin is the same as ours. It's not. Even the supposed dichotomy between God’s love and God’s judgment is a false one, but, on that basis, The Shack seems to rule out the existence of hell and judgment.

The Shack also teaches that, regardless of whether or not we believe in Him, God has reconciled Himself fully to the world. It never says that the world is thus reconciled to God, but you can’t actually claim to be reconciled to someone if they still hate you. Reconciliation is all or nothing. So if you take the book seriously, it’s saying that everyone will be saved regardless of faith.

And finally, when it speaks about what God requires of us, the book’s answer is ‘nothing at all’. We have no law, no responsibility, and God expects nothing of us. The God character says at one point, “because I have no expectations, you never disappoint me” (pg 206).

So in summary, The Shack is a very dangerous book, because it is sweet and warm and easy to read, but it’s actually selling a religion that has no rule of faith, no community in which you need to serve, and no order or authority. It sells a God who isn’t offended by sin, who makes no demands, has no expectations and is never disappointed in anybody, and who will not judge or condemn. You’ll read the book and wish that you had these characters as your father and mother and best friend, but the portrait of God that the author has drawn is an idol of his own carving. This god might be as warm and loveable as Oprah, but it’s not the Christian God any longer.

For a longer review of 'The Shack' by the same author, Jordan Pickering go to:

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Change to Blog Title 'Emerging' to 'Postmodernism'

To try to clear up misunderstandings shown in numerous comments received, I have changed the title of this blog from 'The Emerging Threat of the Emerging Church in South Africa' to

'The Emerging Threat of Postmodernism in the Church in South Africa'. There are three reasons for the change:

* Firstly, there are some people who label themselves 'emerging church' or 'emergent' who are orthodox evangelicals trying to find ways reach culturally people with the gospel, without compromising the gospel. There are some who also use the word 'emerging' and 'emergent' in a flippant way like 'cool' to mean anything that is up to date and in tune with the culture. There are others who have just jumped onto the bandwagon of the movement as they do with many other passing fads, but have not necessarily absorbed the theology. While I believe these people make a mistake to share this label with unorthodox people, I do not wish to alienate them as my brothers in Christ.

* Secondly, some people interpret the 'emerging church' movement as being a legitimate part of the church (the body of Christ). Thus they see attacking the movement as attacking the church or at least a denomination of the church. Really, the movement is not a church or denomination, but a movement spreading false and destructive teaching within the church. Postmodernism within the church is like disease within the body. A doctor fights the disease - not the patient. The term 'emerging church' is problematic because it lends credibilty to the group as part of the 'church'. The new title referring to 'postmodernism in the church' defines the disease more clearly as different from the patient.

* Thirdly, there are probably hundreds of thousands of South African Christians (maybe even a majority amongst under 35 year old urban English home language Christians), who do not call themselves 'emergent' or 'emerging', but who have without realising it, have incorporated false beliefs borrowed from Postmodernism into their Christianity. Many such people will have never even heard the term 'emerging church' and thus may think this blog is not relevant to them.

Many good pastors have churches full of young people who have been deceived by postmodernism - while the good pastor is blissfully unaware that they interpret everything he says through this new lens. The pastor may get frustrated when they don't understand, much less apply what he teaches, but he doesn't know why. Such a pastor might think this blog is not relevant to his church. One denominational leader said that the Emerging Church is a 'non-event'. In saying so, he demonstrates he is tragically out of touch with the youth of his own denomination, which is one of the most seriously infected with postmodern thinking. Reality is that just about every urban English speaking church in South Africa has been infiltrated to some extent by postmodern culture - and probably the more young and educated the members - the more they have been influenced.

How can a pastor or deacon know if the youth of his church have been influenced by postmodernism and the Emerging Church movement?

There are several tests: Firstly, discuss topical issues and listen to their opinions (this is easiest by reading online discussion forums). If you see expression of postmodern viewpoints (e.g. we should tolerate every kind of behaviour including e.g. homosexality and abortion; truth is personal and not absolute; we can never be absolutely sure exactly what the Bible means; Christians have no right to tell non-Christians what to do on ethical issues), then those are clues. Secondly, if your members like books, DVDs and blogs by postmodern/emergent authors (e.g. Brian McLaren; Rob Bell; Doug Paggit, Leonard Sweet, Dan Kimball, Tony Jones, Andrew Jones, Steve Chalke) that is another clue. Most young educated people are now on . This can help you get to know your church members. Here many list their favourite authors and books on their personal profile page - many also list interest groups they are part of, many of which relate to emergent church themes. Thirdly, read their personal blogs and see what opinions they write and who they link to (e.g. other Emerging Church blogs). If they write articles, see who they reference. Nevertheless one or two clues doesn't prove they have fully bought into the Emerging Church agenda, but it does show they are being influenced by it. If members of your church who were previously clear on core Christian doctrinal and ethical teaching, start to doubt and become fuzzy - it is probably worth investigating to check for 'emerging church' influence. If you want to check whether a leader or an author is part of the 'emerging church' movement, then just do a Google web search with the [author's name] and the words 'emerging emergent'. Then just click on a few links to check the context and you should get an idea. Then also do a web search for the author's name or the title of a book and the word 'heresy'. Unfortunately, many orthodox teachers are falsely accused of heresy on the internet, so you have to read the links to check what they are teaching, but it should save you the time of having to read all their works yourself.

Some Christians have misunderstood my articles on the Emergent Church as thinking that I am attacking a 'cult' or minority 'sect'. While many of the beliefs promoted in the Emergent Church are as unorthodox as those in 'cults' (e.g. acceptance of homosexuality; denial of hell; referring to God as feminine etc), the 'Emerging Church' movement is not sectarian as are most 'sects' or 'cults'. It is impacting the mainstream of the Evangelical Church - their books are published by evangelical publishers and on sale in almost all our best Christian bookshops. If the Emergent Church were simply forming a new denomination for their adherents, I would not waste my time attacking them. It is the success they are having in shifting the beliefs of believers of most denominations in the direction of Postmodernism, which is the reason why we must fight to defend the mainstream. If we do not, mainstream evangelicalism risks shifting to a liberal view of scripture, as did most of the Protestant denominations in the early Twentieth Century. If this scenario continues, it is we in orthodox evangelicalism, who believe the Bible is absolute truth and a binding authority that might be marginalised and considered by many to be a 'sect', as occured with many orthodox splinter denominations in the early Twentieth Century.

Neither is all of this shift due to the efforts of the 'Emergent Village' network. The culture of Europe, North America and most of the European language speaking world has in the last few decades shifted in the direction of Postmodernism. Many Christians, lacking adequate teaching on Biblical theology and Christian worldview, bring these false beliefs with them into the church without questioning them.

Thus the need to change the blog title to clarify the threat we are facing.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Answering Emergent response to Joy Magazine article on Postmodernism

Nic Paton of Emergent Africa responds to my article published in this month's edition of Joy Magazine entitled 'Is Postmodernism Uprooting the Church'

Read his response 'Joy Magazine consolidates anti-emergent stance' at: post dated 6 Jan 09

* Paton starts by citing various core values of Joy Magazine which he feels were not followed in their failure to give him permission to reprint their article published in the August issue of Joy Magazine I cannot speak for Joy Magazine, but I would argue their response is fairly normal for a magazine to reserve copyright to protect their sales at least until that edition is out of circulation.

* Paton makes a good and fair summary of my article.

* Paton argues a distinction between the ideology of postmodernism and the 'phase of history' of 'post-modernity'. I dispute this distinction, as an attempt to clothe an ideology as a time frame. Since it is impossible to fight a time frame, without being backward, thus then according to such theory, postmodernity/postmodernism is invincible. So many other ideologies themselves in something else e.g. Marxism as 'Scientific socialism' as if you can't fight science. But where is Marxism now? So the 'New Age' movement implies a time based period etc. No, I don't accept the distinction.

* Paton argues that Postmoderns do draw from the past rather than simply creating new ideas. Yes this is agreed. Nevertheless, the way it uses the past is not the way the people of the past used those ideas within the framework of a system, but rather postmodernism tends to borrow bits and pieces from various different systems and ideologies without attempting to coherently fit them together. This is seen most clearly in Postmodern art and architecture (e.g. the V&A Waterfront and Century City Shopping Centres in Cape Town). This may be enjoyable as art, but it is dangerous for theology.

* Paton argues that the tenor of my Jan 09 Joy article is confrontatory and suggests that this is an influence of Augustine rather than Modernism or Protestantism. In response, I argue yes it is not a Modernist response. But no I would argue Reformation Protestantism was like Augustine highly polemical - but I would go back further to say that most of the Bible is highly polemical - if you take the polemical content out of the New Testament, you would would probably have to delete two thirds of it.

* Paton defends Postmodern influence against the allegation of a reluctance to present the gospel by arguing courage in theology and church practice. Yes I recognise Emergents have showed a lot of courage in such areas (although I think most of it is misguided and unhelpful), yes it may include a form of courage in breaking with traditional practices and teachings. But the allegation in my article is that postmodernism undermines courage in confronting sinners with the core message of the gospel: sin, hell, repentance etc. Paton has not yet answered this.

* Paton writes "If preaching of a gospel is motivated not wholly by the Love of God, but by any threat such as that of hell, or endless retributive separation from the Creator, the authenticity of that gospel must be questioned." Well yes, exactly that is further evidence for what I am saying, Postmodernism/Emergent church is changing the core of the gospel - we disagree on this. If the gospel is just motivated by the love of God, then it is an 'alternative lifestlye' for us to choose. Exactly what I have been saying. This is where Postmodernism is misleading people and distorting the gospel. The gospel is not Postmodern. Hell is a very un-Postmodern concept. It is fundamentally intolerant of alternative viewpoints. Either the gospel must change postmodernism or postmodernism must change the gospel. Hopefully the love of God will draw us to repentance, but the threat of hell is very very real and a very good reason to convert.

* In the side bar of the same Emerging Africa blog (accessed 6 Jan 09), is a poll of their readers showing approximately one third agnostic and one third universalist and another third divided over the question of whether a few or many will be saved. Again confirmation that Postmodernism is bluring the issues. The Bible says only a few will be saved (Luke 13:23-25 & other scriptures).

* In response to my argument that 'Postmodernism affects attitudes to the persecuted', Paton argues that the Emergents have stories of comfort to the suffering. There is no disagreement here. Emergents may offer comfort to those who may suffer in one way or another - but will they fight for them? Will they suffer by standing with them?

To quote the World Evangelical Alliance, Religious Liberty Commission, 15 February 2008, Trends and Analysis for 2007-8, by Elizabeth Kendall "...the West, including the church is submitting to the spirit of the age: postmodernism, which specifically targets truth. As the world opens up to truth, the postmodern church abandons it, or at least abandons its claim to it. Not only does postmodernism cripple evangelism, but because postmodern Christians believe truth is relative, they have a really hard time supporting or even caring about Christians who are prepared to suffer and die for it..."

In terms of the question of my own personal standing against persecution, my work has been mostly in defending Christians who are persecuted in South Africa for their uncompromising stand for truth e.g. Healthworkers on abortion, and free speech against homosexuality. Again I am not sure if postmoderns would see much merit in suffering for this cause and may at times favour the persecutors. But in terms of other countries, The World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission are the ones who are doing a major work.

* Paton responds to my argument that postmodernism is changing the way the uncoverted interpret the gospel. He argues "“the unconverted” are not interpreting the gospel, they are simply living in culture without the complications of a commitment to the gospel. It appears the problem only comes with “conversion”". Sorry, I think Paton misses my argument here. The uncoverted have to understand at least the basics of the gospel correctly in order to convert, and if because postmodernism clouds their understanding they fail to understand, then they cannot convert. Thus in our generation, evangelism must increasingly include explaining some basic assumptions that didn't need to be explained before - like the existence of absolute truth. A new and different problem arises when such people do convert, which is that having accepted the core of the gospel (needed to convert), they then need to either reform their whole worldview away from postmodernism (which I advocate) or alternatively re-interpret Christianity through a postmodern lens (which the Emergent Church advocates).

Thanks Nic Paton for your comments. Maybe you would like to respond further to my responses. While we differ on many issues, I think we are more clearly defining those issues through the debate and most of what you say in your article I believe confirms rather than undermines my arguments. i.e. We increasingly agree on the differences between our worldviews, but the reader must now choose which worldview ('conservative evangelical' or 'emergent/postmodern', which they wish to use themselves to interpret the world and the Bible.