Wandering in Wonderland- A Commentary on Emergent Motivations

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

“I don’t much care where-” said Alice.

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

“- so long as I get somewhere,” Alice added as an explanation.

(Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland)

Continuing on the idea which I have been developing about the emergent attack upon identity, I would also like to point out that in fighting against identity the post-modern ideologies of emergent also seem to be fighting against ultimate ends as well.

In as much as emergent weakens identity by erasing lines of distinction and fuzzing out moral clarity, they also destroy purpose by viewing as their ends some sort of vague spirituality. In fact, all one needs do is listen to Rob Bell in his stage production Everything is Spiritual and you will hear the emergent drumbeat that the gospel is Jesus coming to tell us that we are living in an “integrated, holistic spirituality” and that we don’t need to seek anything or anywhere else.

What?

Or, maybe we can see how Rob Bell handles the question “How do you learn to redeem yourself from a mistake? How do you learn to overcome that on the inside and continue being a compassionate person?”:

“I think that many people pick up along the way that life is about destination, so they are taught it is about arriving, it’s about having all the answers, it’s about creating a nice box that you can sit in and defend. But my fundamental understanding is that life is a journey and journey is a fundamentally different way to understand life than destination. And on a journey all I am responsible for is the next step, and that’s all I’m ever asked for is the next step. I don’t have to have it all figured out. I don’t have to defend it all. I don’t have to have it all nailed down. And if you can shift from destination understanding to journey it frees you to take life as it comes, let it be what it is, and then do the next right thing.”

So, to the poster boy of emergent, the “next Billy Graham”, we see that an “integrated, holistic spirituality” is not about the destination, but instead it is about the journey and about being “free” to “do the next right thing.” Those words are so devoid of any meaning that it is almost laughable. But what should you expect? These words, though completely useless towards anything, particularly for a Christian, are also so dainty that they are sure not to offend anyone or polarize any conversation that they occur in. Which, of course, is the point.

Now, I’m as big a fan of Jack Kerouac and On the Road as anybody else, and I agree that Christ teaches us to be concerned with the journey and what we do in this life (Matthew 25.34-36, 28.18-20), but the thing we must recognize is what Lewis Carroll says in the opening quote, which he summarizes more succinctly like this: “When you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” To me, this is the error of emergent. They have become so focused on “the journey,” so focused on “compassion” and social justice, that they are open to taking any road to accomplish this, including roads which deny Christ.

In order to maintain peace those within the emergent circles have bent on the sin nature of homosexuality (either openly like Campolo or passively like McLaren). They have bent on the necessity of the substitutionary atonement (embracing the “cosmic child abuse” view of Chalke). They have bent on the existence of hell (through universalism like McLaren or by arguing that Hell is a state of living on earth like Bell). At any fork in the road where emergent would be forced to choose one way or the other, inevitably alienating some, they always try to take both. They do this because in the end, emergent is truly not concerned about the destination, they are not concerned with where you’re going. The only thing they ultimately care about is how you intolerant you are and how many trees you kill along the way.

7 Responses to “Wandering in Wonderland- A Commentary on Emergent Motivations”

  1. Keith Walters Says:

    I think it is interesting that he claims that this proposed shift from destination to journey frees one from having to “defend it all” and yet at the same time he is free to claim his right to “do the next right thing.” Within his framework he does not have to answer these questions, or any other questions, but how can there be a “next right thing” that is devoid of any mechanism with which one can defend its rightness? What makes this next right thing right? Sounds ambiguous to me.

  2. Mark Says:

    “…is not about the destination, but instead it is about the journey and about being “free” to “do the next right thing.” Those words are so devoid of any meaning that it is almost laughable…”

    What’s laughable is how those words soared so far over your head that you have no hope of understanding what Rob Bell was talking about.

    There is nothing more “laughable” to me than a simpleton who thinks he is a genius.

    Think about that next time you are “laughing” at Rob Bell.

  3. Todd Burus Says:

    Mark, please explain to me how these words “soared over my head.” I am willing to engage in discussion over this if you would like, but please refrain from the cliched argument of “you just don’t understand.” That never seems to get anywhere.

    Also, I would point you to Keith’s comment about how if we don’t need to be worried about the bondage of defending our position then what is our frame for declaring an action as being the “right thing”?

  4. Mark Says:

    >”Mark, please explain to me how these words
    >“soared over my head.” I am willing to engage
    >in discussion over this if you would like, but
    >please refrain from the cliched argument…”

    Todd, I’ll make a deal with you. If you never ever use the word “laughable” or the phrase “devoid of any meaning” on your blog ever again till the end of the ages then I promise to never again refere to you as a simpleton.

    The meaning of Rob Bell’s words are so deep and so rich and so full of meaning on so many different levels that I’m not quite sure where to start explaining it to you.

    First of all, are you aware that Rob Bell has a big disagreement with Christians who think that the Christian faith involves getting “saved” and then merely sitting around and waiting for the judgement day? When Bell said “its about the journey” thats what he was summarizing. If you listen to his teachings or go watch his NOOMA called “trees” then you will learn much more about Rob’s point of view in this area and he never even once called “laughable” someone with which he has disagreement. Bell’s preparation work for the Trees video used to be free at the Willow Creek Church link here:

    http://www.willowcreek.com/wca_browseresults.asp?auth=897

    But unfortunately I see that willow is now selling Rob’s work. I’ll save my rant against so called Christians who use God to make a profit for another day.

    Getting back to the point, if you understood God’s offer of forgiveness then you would realize that it makes your past irrelevant and if you understood God’s offer of salvation you would realize that your future destination is secured thus the only thing you need to worry about is honoring God by your thoughts and actions today. You are completely free to put all your energy and brain power into pleasing God today. Not tomorrow. Not yesterday but you only need to worry about today. Thus “the next right thing” is all you need to worry about.

    Do you get it now or am I still having this discussion way over your head?

    Rob bell explained in another of his talks that he discovered that when the ancient Hebrew rabbis would come across something in the Torah that they didn’t understand, instead of calling it “laughable” they would rejoice because they knew that they had a day in the future to look forward to with great pleasure when God would reveal the meaning of that incomprehensible passage to them.

    How cool is that?

  5. Todd Burus Says:

    First of all, Mark, the event from which I quoted Rob Bell was an interfaith council called “Seeds of Compassion” which was organized “to bring concrete public awareness, public will, and an empowering call to action to address our local and global need for the social and emotional well–being of children” in order that the children may “develop into compassionate adults.” At this event Bell avoided presenting any reasonable account of the Gospel with more determination than a democrat trying deny an extramarital affair. Pathetic.

    So, to boldly go up in front of this array of open-minded people (wish you could hear the sarcasm) and to say what he said does make it devoid of meaning because how people interpreted it was completely left up to them. Without providing any frame for Jesus Christ and the One True God, Bell just feeds into the hip useless lingo of “compassion” and “love” and “a better way” that these people think actually does anything. Where is the “compassion” in letting people continue on in ignorance instead of sharing the Gospel with them? Recall Mark 8.36, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” People are going to be pretty pissed in the end when they were so concerned about the journey and yet the destination was hell. It is of no use to instruct someone how to have a clear conscience to “do the next right thing” when you don’t tell them that without Christ they can’t even do the first right thing.

    Of course, I do understand that there is a big disagreement between Rob Bell and most Christians, that disagreement being whether or not Bell actually teaches Christianity. Read “Velvet Elvis.” I did (surprised? I’ve also watched most of the Nooma and “Everything is Spiritual.” And I’m getting an advanced copy of “Jesus Wants to Save Christians” to review as well). Now, if you missed it, read it again. Right around pages 146 to 148. See what Bell has to say about salvation. Is it “by grace through faith” (Ephesians 2.8)? No. It is by “choosing the right story to live”? What? More useless coolness? Yes and no. Read it again. It’s about moralism. Living a good life. Bell argues that Jesus has died to forgive us all and all that is left for us is to live a good life. That’s it. And guess what? That is just Pelagianism front-loaded with Jesus, which is certainly not Christianity.

    Of course, I’m sure all I’ve of this is just over my head too. Well, I guess I’d rather have Bell’s words go over my head than to be drowning in his Kool-Aid.

  6. Mark Says:

    >”First of all, Mark, the event from which I quoted
    >Rob Bell was an interfaith council called “Seeds
    >of Compassion” which was organized “to bring concrete
    >public awareness, public will, and an empowering call
    >to action to address our local and global need for the
    >social and emotional well–being of children”…

    Yes, I’m familiar with the forum in which Rob Bell gave that reply. I heard the question and Bell’s answer with my own ears. The question did not ask for a presentation of a reasonable account of the Gospel. So, in essence you are demanding that Bell provide an answer to a question that wasn’t asked. That is arrogance in the extreme.

    >”…more determination than a democrat trying deny an extramarital affair.”

    Why such a rude and non sequitur comment such as this??

    Could it be the result of your having hidden sexual perversion issues clouding your soul.

    >”Pathetic.”

    Yes, your behavior to date is indeed!

    >”…So, to boldly go up in front of this array of open-minded
    >people and to say what he said does make it devoid of meaning…”

    It was a discussion about compassion. Did you notice that an arrogant, self righteous, mean spirited Christian such as yourself was not invited? That is not a coincidence. The people who put that conference together know you and they know you would not show the fruit of Christian faith but only nastiness and arrogance.

    >”…(wish you could hear the sarcasm)”

    Oh yes, be assured that your words tell us much about you and how un-Christlike you are.

    >…and to say what he said does make it devoid of meaning

    Like I said before, its only devoid of meaning to a simpleton. The meaning was of the event has soared far over your head.

    You are clearly swimming in your own self righteous arrogance. You don’t like Rob Bell because he is actually reading the Bible and thinking about what he reads and is not merely regurgitating passages that he does not understand. You clearly hate people who are able to think for themselves.

    >”…because how people interpreted it was completely left
    >up to them.

    Bingo! We already know how much you hate that.

    >Without providing any frame for Jesus Christ
    >and the One True God…

    Like I said before. Bell was not asked to provide a frame for Christ.

    Be careful in your fanatical attempts to drive out demons in the name of Jesus. Matthew 7:21 reveals the future destination for people who do that.

    >…Bell just feeds into the hip useless lingo of “compassion” and
    >“love” and “a better way” that these people think actually does anything.

    Which of course was the exact topic for discussion at the interfaith council about which you are complaining so loudly.

    >Where is the “compassion” in letting people continue on
    >in ignorance instead of sharing the Gospel with them?

    Like I said before, Those people are not ignorant. You are the one who is ignorant.

    >Recall Mark 8.36, “For what does it profit a man to
    >gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” People
    >are going to be pretty pissed in the end when they
    >were so concerned about the journey and yet the
    >destination was hell.

    Actually, according to Jesus himself in Matthew 7:21 you will be the one going straight to hell and all those people who ignored you will be smiling at the justice in God’s decision.

    I encourage you now, to throw off your arrogant evil ways and accept Jesus as the one and only judge of the world. You clearly have not given up judging others as you were commanded to do in Matthew 7:1 and thus you clearly have not yet accepted Jesus in your heart. The outlook for you is very bleak indeed but the good news of the gospel is that its not too late for you.

    I hope you make the right decision and put down your evil ways.

    Your eternal soul depends upon it.

  7. Todd Burus Says:

    Mark, I am thankful for your response because it keeps me from having to caricature the adherents to this movement. The way you navigate through the complete ambiguity of Bell’s theology and the “Seeds of Compassion” seminar without being phased by its own evil is amazing. But then, on top of that, the way you are able to turn any statement of mine into a cliched attack on orthodoxy is gold medal caliber. I am humbled by the way in which you exposed my heresy and revealed how tolerance is truly the final message of the Bible.

    In all seriousness though, as far as Bell’s need to frame himself in the panel, people there knew he was supposed to represent Christians (and as I stated earlier, some have labelled him “the next Billy Graham” ) and so his unwillingness to point towards Christ and instead advocating a vague humanist moralism IS a shame. All those people there were seeking and Bell did nothing to preach the Gospel to them (don’t be deceived. Without Christ the Gospel is no gospel at all). Because of that he is certainly to be held responsible for the blood that will be on his hands (Ezekiel 33.8). The reason a Christian such as myself was not invited is because we would have had enough integrity to stand up and say that unless you have Christ there is no amount of “next right things” in the world to save you from the condemnation that is to come.

    I am glad that you feel so passionately about this issue and I want you to know that I will continue to post your comments no matter how much you disagree with me. I do, however, hope that you will continue to reevaluate things and that you may mature to a level where your disagreements are more than just rattling off emergent talking points. Notice how my attacks on Bell and emergent are based on their statements and beliefs whereas the criticisms you draw on me are focused on some perceived view of my salvation and general statements about “evil evangelicals.” It is remarkable how the closing statements you typed (“I encourage you now, to throw off your arrogant evil ways and accept Jesus as the one and only judge of the world. You clearly have not given up judging others as you were commanded to do in Matthew 7:1 and thus you clearly have not yet accepted Jesus in your heart. The outlook for you is very bleak indeed but the good news of the gospel is that its not too late for you.” ) reek of the same fundamentalist tone which you accuse me of having. There is certainly room for disagreement, but one must be careful that the disagreements are with views on the Bible and not just with one’s own perception of what God should be like.

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