Does “Love” Excuse Us from Right Doctrine?- Quick Thoughts on Derek Webb’s Song “What Matters More”

July 9, 2009

[Warning: for those of you who are offended by swearing, the linked music contains some vulgar language.]

For those of you who think it is not important to keep up with the emergent church movement (ECM) then let this be a warning: this is what’s going on in the broader world of American Christianity while we sit and fight stupid denominational battles about things like if we can accept Calvinists or not.

I hate this.

If you think that we have a problem with people moving towards the doctrines of grace . . . OPEN YOUR EYES!  We have a problem with the church moving away from the Bible.

Brian McLaren calls this song “important and courageous.”  He compares it with a post where he said that “many if not most Christians in the US remain focused on the ‘religious arguments’ list [versus a list of global crises]” (read more here).  And you know what?  He’s right.  Many if not most of us are so focused on our ridiculous arguments against Calvinists ruining families or trying to get Mark Driscoll banned from LifeWay bookstores or keeping Southern Baptists from working in places that sell booze that we totally neglect the whole world in need of a God who is mighty to save.

However, just because we are neglecting this does not mean that everyone is.  No.  In fact, there are plenty of “Christians” like McLaren who are very focused upon these problems.  And guess what?  They don’t care at all about theology.  I don’t mean they don’t care about if you are Calvinist/non-Calvinist/Arminian or Abstentionist/Moderationist, I mean they don’t care if you believe in hell or justification by faith or that Jesus was fully God and fully man.  They don’t care if God exists as three persons in one or if the Bible is truly God’s infallible, inerrant revealed word for us today.  They don’t care one bit.  All they care about is “love.”  And because of this, they are getting an audience with the world.  Never mind if it is grace without truth since there is no one there to bring grace AND truth at the same time anyways.

Is there a need for a Great Commission Resurgence?  I believe there is.  And for those of you who say, “Well golly gee, our church is already focused on the Great Commission,” I present this song, and the rising popularity of man-centered, antinomian, pelagian Emergent “Christianity” as Exhibit A in my defense.

Faith in the Time of Pluralism- Obama Communicates the Mantra of the Masses

June 1, 2009

Last week Al Mohler posted a column entitled “Talking About Talking About Abortion” in which he confronted the rhetoric being used by President Barack Obama to address the issue of abortion during his controversial commencement speech at the University of Notre Dame.  While Mohler’s point was to look at the substance of Obama’s public position on the abortion issue, there was something seemingly insignificant in the quote he pulled that got me thinking.  I have reproduced the quote in an extended form below so that you may see what I’m talking about:

“[W]e must find a way to live together as one human family. . . . For the major threats we face in the 21st century — whether it’s global recession or violent extremism; the spread of nuclear weapons or pandemic disease — these things do not discriminate. They do not recognize borders. They do not see color. They do not target specific ethnic groups.

Moreover, no one person, or religion, or nation can meet these challenges alone. Our very survival has never required greater cooperation and greater understanding among all people from all places than at this moment in history.” (Barack Obama, 17 May 2009, University of Notre Dame)

Did you see it?  Look again:

Moreover, no one person, or religion, or nation can meet these challenges alone (!)

No one person can meet the challenges of recession, extremism, nuclear proliferation, disease?! Does not our president claim to be a Christian?  And doesn’t the Christian Scripture speak clearly on just this issue?  Is not Christ the reconciliation of all things (2 Corinthians 5.19)?  Is not all of creation groaning in anticipation for its renewal that Christ’s redemption will bring (Romans 8.18-25)?  Does God not guarantee that one day He will wipe away every tear and pain shall be no more (Revelation 21.4)?  

But how does this occur?:

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14.6)

“And there is salvation in no one else [but through Jesus], for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4.12)

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. (John 3.36)

So, according to the Bible, the book which contains all the knowledge of Obama’s faith, there is but one person who can meet all these challenges, that being the God-Man Jesus Christ.  Yet instead of acknowledging this it is far safer to hide under the political hem-and-haw of pluralism.  

But Obama is a politician, not a theologian, so possible it is just the case that understanding the sufficiency of Christ is something which is above his pay grade.  However, looking to the theological world it doesn’t get much better, as our good friends Rob Bell and Brian McLaren demonstrate:

“Jesus at one point claimed to be “the way, the truth, and the life.” Jesus was not making claims about one religion being better than all other religions. That completely misses the point, the depth, and the truth. Rather, he was telling those who were following him that his way is the way to the depth of reality. This kind of life Jesus was living, perfectly and completely in connection and cooperation with God, is the best possible way for a person to live. It is how things are…. Perhaps a better question than who’s right, is who’s living rightly?” (Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis)

“I don’t believe making disciples must equal making adherents to the Christian religion. It may be advisable in many (not all!) circumstances to help people become followers of Jesus and remain with their Buddhist, Hindu, or Jewish contexts.” (Brian McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy)

Very nice!  As you can see, this type of pluralistic, double-speak heresy is not just political posturing, it is also the blasphemy du jour in the emergent church.  

We must be on our guard.  What Obama said was so slight and yet is so pervasive in our culture.  The fact that a statement denying the sufficiency of Christ and the gospel can simply fly under our radars speaks volumes to how poor an understanding of Scripture most people who claim to be “Christians” really have.  This should be offensive to us, this should cause an outrage.  Instead we just cheer and cover our ears until the day comes when we are confronted with the truth, no matter how un-p.c. it turns out to be!

Steps to the Dark Side, part 3- Some Theological Abuses that Lead to Christian Universalism

May 8, 2009

Today I am going to briefly hit the final part of my argument over the four theological errors that are leading or contributing to a rise in Christian Universalist beliefs among traditional evangelical circles by discussing the denial of the doctrine of a literal hell.  Following today’s post I will take a day or two to jump back into the What We Believe series going through the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 and then at the start of next week I will return for one last post over what the evangelical church can do to combat against Christian Universalism in its midst.

Whenever I consider the denial of the doctrine of a literal hell my first thought is always over this quote from Brian McLaren which has appeared numerous times on my blog:

Tony [Campolo] and I might disagree on the details, but I think we are both trying to find an alternative to both traditional Universalism and the narrow, exclusivist understanding of hell [that unless you explicitly accept and follow Jesus, you are excluded from eternal life with God and destined for hell] . . .   Although in many ways I find myself closer to the view of God held by some universalists than I do the view held by some exclusivists, in the end I’d rather turn our attention from the questions WE think are important to the question JESUS thinks is most important. (Brian McLaren, Christianity Today5 May 2006)

This quote, in my mind, was the rallying cry for an acceptance of Christian Universalism into the mainstream.  McLaren’s writings are readily available in any bookstores ‘Christianity’ section, so his name, combined with the long-standing platform of Christianity Today among the evangelical community, makes this a powerful statement.

For clarity’s sake, when I say that someone is denying the doctrine of a literal hell, what I mean is that they deny the doctrine of a literal, eternal separation from God.  Many people want to quibble over things saying, “No, I don’t believe in a place of eternal darkness,” or “No, I don’t believe in a place of fire and brimstone,” but this is avoiding the point.  I do not care to argue over if hell is a fiery place, a cold dark place, if it is a place under the earth, an actual lake of fire, or maybe just New Orleans; that’s all of no consequence.  What matters is whether you believe in a “place” where God eternally punishes those who have not come to him in faith?  If you do then you believe in a literal hell; if not then you don’t.  

Now you may ask, why do I call this literal hell?  I mean, some Christian Universalists say things like, “The Universalist regards hell as signifying the consequences of sin, severe but salutary, to endure as long as sin endures, but to end with the reformation for the sinner.”  Does that not mean they believe in a literal hell too?  No, because they do not believe in hell in the way that the Bible believes in hell, which is where the “worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9.48) and where people “suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might” (2 Thessalonians 1.9).  The only literal hell is the one that is spoken of quite literally in Scripture.  (Of course, many will argue that the Scriptures are not so clear on this, but how many ad hoc arguments and hand-waving exegeses will we listen to before saying enough?)

So, is it obvious enough why the denial of a literal hell is a major contributer to Christian Universalism in evangelicalism?  

Looking at it again, there is one thing I agree with McLaren– the opposite of the denial of hell is exclusivism: “Although in many ways I find myself closer to the view of God held by some universalists than I do the view held by some exclusivists . . .”  What I mean is that ANY religion which believes you can be saved by some means outside of faith in the vicarious atoning death of Christ and his resurrection is functionally Universalism.  All other means are a lie and heresy just like Universalism and believing that one thing else can save you is for all intents and purposes a belief that anything else can save you.

I will probably have more to say about the denial of hell after reading the two chapters on it in Dr. Mohler’s new book The Disappearance of God, but I think this will do for now.

Wine and Strong Drink: What the Masses Desire- Micah 2.11 and the Contemporary Landscape of People Pleasing

May 3, 2009

For today’s post I want to elaborate a little further on what I said yesterday, talking about how the psychologizing and softening of the biblical message is leading to many false gospels in the popular culture.  I would like to do this in light of the following verse:

If a man should go about and utter wind and lies, saying, “I will preach to you of wine and strong drink,” he would be the preacher for this people! (Micah 2.11)

The moment I read this verse it pierced my mind as a clear evaluation of Christianity in America today.  I’m not going to dialogue much, at least not yet, but I just want to pin this passage up against three quotes from three popular teachers espousing three weak, feel good, pandering theologies in best-selling books and media.  The three theologies are the health, wealth, and prosperity gospel, contemporary justification by good works (or modern pelagianism), and Christian universalism.

  • Health, wealth and prosperity

[Y]ou can accomplish your dreams before you go to heaven! How can you do that? By tapping into God’s power inside of you. . . .  Please understand that [sin, mistakes, bad attitudes, &tc.] are all things from which you have already been set free. But here’s the catch: If you don’t appreciate and take advantage of your freedom, if you don’t get your thoughts, your words, your attitudes going in the right direction, it won’t do you any good.

 You may be sitting back waiting on God to do something supernatural in your life, but the truth is, God is waiting on you. You must rise up in your authority, have a little backbone and determination, and say, ‘I am not going to live my life in mediocrity, bound by addictions, negative and defeated. (Joel Osteen, Become a Better You, p.41)

  • Modern pelagianism

Heaven is full of forgiven people. Hell is full of forgiven people. Heaven is full of people God loves, whom Jesus died for. Hell is full of forgiven people God loves, whom Jesus died for. The difference is how we choose to live, which version of reality we trust. . . . Jesus measures [people's] eternal standings in terms of not what they said or believed but how they lived, specifically in regard to the hell around them (Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis, p.146, 148)

  • Christian universalism

Here’s what I’d say. Judgment is real. Accountability is real. A good, just, reconciling, loving, living God is in everybody’s future. The danger of wasting your life and ruining other people’s lives is real. Whatever road you take, you’ll end up facing God, and that means you’ll face the truth about your life– what you’ve done, who you have become, who you truly are. That’s good news– unless you’re a bad dude, you know, unjust, hateful, unmerciful, ungenerous, selfish, lustful, greedy, hard-hearted toward God and your neighbor. You know, if God judges, forgives, and eliminates all the bad stuff, there might not be much left of you– maybe not enough to enjoy heaven, maybe not enough to feel too much in hell either. (Brian McLaren, The Last Word and the Word After That, p.137)

Tony [Campolo] and I might disagree on the details, but I think we are both trying to find an alternative to both traditional Universalism and the narrow, exclusivist understanding of hell [that unless you explicitly accept and follow Jesus, you are excluded from eternal life with God and destined for hell] . . .   Although in many ways I find myself closer to the view of God held by some universalists than I do the view held by some exclusivists, in the end I’d rather turn our attention from the questions WE think are important to the question JESUS thinks is most important. (Brian McLaren, Christianity Today, 5 May 2006)

You Didn’t Really Mean That, Did You?- Answering the Hell Question, Wrap-Up

October 13, 2008

He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” -Titus 1.9

I just wanted to thank all of you who have taken the time to read this series of posts on the question of “If God is loving/good, how can he send someone to hell?” As I mentioned in the posts, and as I have stated before in various comments (here and here), this doctrine of hell is one of the most contentious points for evangelical Christianity today. It is being attacked from all sides and as such we need to have a strong, well-formed, and biblical position on it.

To close us out I would like to post a sermon by JD Greear from The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, NC that he gave a few weeks ago dealing with this question. In it I think he does a great job of answering the objections as well as using the doctrine of hell to give way to the Gospel. Please take the time to listen to this and to begin formulating your own response for the next time this question is asked to you.

JD Greear- How Could a Loving God Send Someone to Hell?

You Didn’t Really Mean That, Did You?- Answering the Hell Question, Part 2

October 10, 2008

(This is the second in a four part series of posts dealing with the age-old question “How can a loving God send someone to hell?” This answer was originally developed as a reply to an email I received. Today’s post deals with the objection “I don’t see how a loving God could send people to hell, therefore hell must not exist.”)

They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.” -2 Thessalonians 1.9

Now, let us first deal with the question of “Does hell exist?” The denial of hell is currently a very popular position, particularly among the emergent camp of Christianity and from people like Brian McLaren. In fact, I would argue that the doctrine of hell is one of the top issues that Christians need to be given sound instruction on these days in light of this trend. To deny the existence of hell is simply something that we cannot do and not, at the same time, deny the authority of Scripture, for Scripture speaks so plainly on it quite often (Matthew 5.29, 30, 10.28, 23.33, 25.41, Luke 12.5, 2 Thessalonians 1.5-9, 2 Peter 2.4, Revelation 20.11-15).

Of course, the objection which arises to this type of analysis is that when Christ and others spoke of “hell” as a place they were just being symbolic and therefore those passages are useless. But to that I would say, What is hell but being “away from the presence of the Lord” (2 Thessalonians 1.9)? For us, though we may not realize it, the greatest gift is to be fully in the presence of God and the greatest torture is to be fully away from his presence. Thus, the first, wherever it may take place, is rightly termed ‘heaven,’ and the second, again, be it a literal fiery furnace with weeping and gnashing of teeth or not, would be rightly called ‘hell.’ This also takes away the argument that this current life is what hell is, since in this life on earth we know we are neither fully in God’s presence nor fully removed from it.

Therefore, our conclusion on the first question, Does hell exist?, must be “Yes,” and so, the one remaining question must be then “Does anyone get sent to hell (for eternity)?”

Welcome Words from the 1600′s- Richard Baxter on Every Generation’s Battle

October 8, 2008

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” -2 Timothy 3.16

As I have written before, echoing the words of men like Al Mohler and John Piper, it is every generation’s battle to determine whether they will stand on the authority of Scripture or not. In light of this thought, I found it refreshing to see the call to arms for standing on God’s One Inspired Word, turning away the philosophies and ponderings of imperfect man, tucked inside of a classic work of Christian thought.

The piece I am talking about is Richard Baxter’s The Reformed Pastor. I am about two-thirds of the way through this treatise right now and already I know that it will be a book I come back to for years as a guide on the pastoral ministry. Baxter speaks with such clarity and passion on the issues he sets out to deal with that it is hard to imagine him fitting the mold of the cliched stuffy-shirt Puritans.

In the close of his discourse on how ministers should exercise the oversight of their flocks (taken from Acts 20.28) Baxter says these words:

The Scripture sufficiency must be maintained, and nothing beyond it imposed on others; and if papists, or others, call to us for the standard and rule of our religion, it is the Bible that we must show them, rather than any confessions of churches, or writings of men.

This is such an incredible declaration. How often do we find Christians trying to define their faith by pointing to the current fad in Christian publishing (think Blue Like Jazz, Velvet Elvis, A Generous Orthodoxy, or The Shack) when all that is need and sufficient is the collected Word of God in the Bible? Or even among my own Calvinist friends, how fast are we to want to bind people by their confessions of faith, the same confessions which Baxter is decrying here (This book was published in 1656, the Westminster Confession of Faith was written in 1646)? This is a stern reminder that there must never be anything which we would refer to in place of the Bible when we are looking to defend or guide or lives as children of God.

Everything May be Spiritual, but Only the Gospel Saves- A Commentary on Acts 10.1-11.18

September 2, 2008

And Cornelius said, ‘Four days ago, about this hour, I was praying in my house at the ninth hour, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing and said, “Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God. Send therefore to Joppa and ask for Simon who is called Peter. He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea.” So I sent for you at once, and you have been kind enough to come. Now therefore we are all here in the presence of God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord.’” -Acts 10.30-33

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?’ So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” -Romans 10.14-17

One of the most overlooked New Testament stories, in my opinion, is the interaction between Peter and Cornelius in Acts 10 and 11. And even when we do focus on this it seems that all we say is “And here we see the Gospel opened up to the Gentiles” (which is true, don’t get me wrong, but just read on). However, I think in focusing on that we miss a really interesting commentary which speaks to a large objection to orthodoxy arising in our emerging culture these days.

It’s cool to be semi-universalist. On the heels of Rob Bell’s tour Everything is Spiritual and in light of past comments by figures such as Brian McLaren and Billy Graham, we see a swelling tide towards, if not universalism, at least a universalism where all “spiritual people” are saved. The idea from Bell is that the Gospel is Jesus telling us that we live in an “integrated holistic spirituality” and so, as in his title, everything we do is spiritual, and de facto, everything we do is worship to God (a thesis which, think about it for a minute, is completely false).

But, instead of fighting over the words of men, let’s look at what the Word of God says in Acts 10 and 11. This passage presents us with the story of a non-proselyte Roman centurion who, though not officially a Jew, nevertheless offered devotion to and feared the one-true God (Acts 10.1-2, 28 ), and as a result of his devotion God decides to use him as the entry point of the Holy Spirit and salvation to the Gentiles. This we usually state and then move on to Peter’s vision and the eventual evangelization and regeneration of the Gentile gathering. But, let’s take a closer look at the setup.

Who are we presented with? A non-Jewish Roman who through some set of circumstances and interactions has taken to worshiping the one-true God. We know that his worship is of the God of the Jews because the text states that he was “a devout man who feared God with all his household.” So, not only is Cornelius spiritual, but his spirituality is directed towards the living God, even though he is not a member of God’s covenant people Israel. And what does this spirituality get him? Under popular theology that is enough. Cornelius is a spiritual person, living a spiritual life, and doing his best to please whatever God is there. This seems to be the criteria in our society, and certainly in the theology expressed by people like Graham, for salvation. For all intents and purposes Cornelius should expect to find himself in heaven when it’s all said and done just by what he has already demonstrated.

Yet is it enough? Is his spirituality and devotion enough? Using no other text besides Acts 10 and 11 I would argue that the answer is a resounding “No.” Why do I say this? Well, look what happens. First, we see that an angel comes to him and delivers a cryptic message about sending men to Joppa to retrieve the apostle Peter (10.3-6). Then, when the men return with Peter we see that Peter’s response to why God called him was to preach the Gospel of Christ crucified and resurrected to this gathering of Gentiles (10.34-43). Upon hearing the Gospel the Gentiles receive the gifting of the Holy Spirit and are baptized by Peter and the believers that accompanied him as a sign that they have gained salvation and been brought into the covenant people of God (10.44-48). Finally, after all of this, we see Peter testify to the fact that he was brought to give the message of how Cornelius “[would] be saved” (11.14).

Do you see it? Peter came to preach how Cornelius “[would] be saved.” As in, he wasn’t saved already. Regardless of his spirituality and devotion, it was not until he believed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ that Cornelius was saved. He was even devoted to the one-true God and yet that still was not enough without his ascending in faith to the message of the Cross. If Peter or someone else had not come and presented the Gospel then Cornelius would never have been saved, no matter how spiritual and good of a life he led.

And still people miss this. It is clear as day. If Jesus saying “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life” is not enough (as Rob Bell argues in Velvet Elvis) then hopefully this testimony will be sufficient to convince us. There is no salvation without faith in Christ. “There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4.12). Please get this, lives are at stake. It may not be cool, but at least people won’t be going to hell because we wanted to feel good about ourselves and be liked.

Every Generation’s Battle- John Piper on the Correct View of Scripture

August 2, 2008

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” -2 Timothy 3.16

But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” -John 20.31

“The Battle for the Bible” often times is used in Southern Baptist circles to refer back to the period of debate in the 1970′s when the claim of Scriptural inerrancy was questioned strongly and evangelicals had to make a decision which way to go. Should we deny inerrancy and move more towards the liberal theology of many mainline denominations or should we uphold inerrancy and cement ourselves as the true conservative position in the church?

Today, more widely, the Battle for the Bible has come to mean the struggle over inerrancy along with debates over appropriate hermeneutics to use, how much authority does Scripture have over our lives, and is the Bible the only spiritual text which reveals God to us. It is in light of this type of continuing debate that leaders such as Albert Mohler comment that every generation must decide if they are going to stand on the authority of Scripture or not, every generation must fight the Battle for the Bible.

For our generation, I think the time is now. Look at the landscape: teachers like Rob Bell invoke trajectory hermeneutics to liberalize Scripture into accepting current moralities which are specifically opposed in the Bible; in their book The Lost Message of Jesus, Steve Chalke and Alan Mann refer to God’s crushing Christ for our iniquities (Isaiah 53.5) as a form of “cosmic child abuse”; Brian McLaren (the liaison to evangelicals for Barack Obama) runs around the country questioning the existence of hell and a literal second coming, at times even proposing a sort of universalism; multiple denominations are facing splits due to some ramifications of a refusal to stand on the clear Scriptural teaching that homosexuality is a sin. In all, our post-modern, post-Christian, emerging landscape is covered with major rifts which all center around the denying the inerrancy or supreme unique authority of Scripture.

To this effect, and to start our battle smartly, I want to give you guys a link to a wonderfully thorough handling of this material conducted earlier this year by John Piper. Over the course of 5 messages Dr. Piper argues what the Scriptures are, what we mean by their inerrancy and authority, why we should believe their message, and how this should inform our behavior. These messages are well researched and I believe will prove very beneficial to you as you begin to pick sides in this current Battle for the Bible.

This is important, please realize that. If we lose the Bible we lose God’s revelation of himself and any way of resting our church on the true authority of His Word over the broken philosophy of man. Put on the full armor, take up arms, and fight!

John Piper- Why We Believe the Bible

The Laodicean Project- Malachi Speaks to Our Emerging Bretheren

May 30, 2008

It never ceases to amaze me at how while reading the Bible you can come across certain verses that seem so appropriate for our modern/postmodern context that you almost forget they were written over 2000 years ago. It is such a reminder of how the problems we deal with today are problems that the people of God have always had to deal with. This is both comforting, because it helps you know that the things that are being said today have already been tried and argued and God has already come out on top, and frustrating, because you see that the church has really not come all that far in the 2000 years since Christ’s death.

The verse which spoke so heavily to me can be found in the book of the prophet Malachi in his prophecy to the Israelites as they continue working on rebuilding Jerusalem.

You have wearied the LORD with your words. But you say, “How have we wearied him?” By saying, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delights in them.” Or by asking, “Where is the God of justice?” (Malachi 2:17)

This verse seems so pertinent to me in light of our last post concerning the emerging church and how they tend to struggle with losing their saltiness while out in the world. The reason why I think this is so is because in this one verse we see two claims that the emerging people are so frequent to make and we can see how God responds to them.

Working in reverse, the first statement we see is the question “Where is the God of justice?” So many are want to rail this claim against God, that he is unjust because he appears to be sitting idly by while people suffer and die in poverty and obscurity or from painful sickness and disease. He seems to sit by while families are torn apart by drugs and cheap cons. Emerging leaders such as Brian McLaren are so concerned with injustice that it becomes the focal point of who they are and what their ministry preaches, like his book The Secret Message of Jesus. Bart Ehrman wrote a book on this called God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question-Why We Suffer. Rob Bell is writing a book concerning social justice to be released in the fall called Jesus Came to Save Christians. The Emerging Church views God’s inability, or the inability of God’s people, to end suffering and promote social reform as the primary concern of the Church today. And yet, how does their evangelism prosper when they do such things? How does it help Brian McLaren’s ministry when he is arrested for protesting the federal budget?

The second statement made is that “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delights in them.” This takes on various forms in the emerging church, but probably the most obvious is in their promotion of homosexuality. For whatever reason, the emerging church and gay rights have become inextricably intertwined. Whether it be the out-and-out acceptance of it by leaders such as Tony Campolo, or if it is the tacit acceptance by McLaren and his slippery line of “Frankly, many of us don’t know what we should think about homosexuality.” To me this type of response is beyond disingenuous. With the current climate of moral and social living in America, there should not be any person going into the ministry who is unsure where they stand on homosexuality. Go to the mountains like Jesus, or take three years out to study like Paul. But whatever you do, don’t go stand up in front of the people you are supposed to shepherd and tell them you don’t know what to do with probably the single most pressing moral issue of our time! It is the same with abortion, sex outside of marriage, alcohol and drug use, and manner of speech. The emerging church has decided that there are a set of things that they want to do, either out of their own desires or out of a desire to appease the world, and instead of calling things black and white as stated in the Bible, they hide under a cloud of cultural relativity and freedoms in Christ to maintain these behaviors. They pronounce what is evil as being good in the sight of God, even to the point that some consider God as being a universalist!

So what does the passage say is God’s response to all of this? “You have wearied the LORD with your words.” God says through Malachi that he has been wearied by these statements made by his people. To weary means to make jaded or exhausted. With their words, the people of God, and I believe the emerging church as well, have exhausted God. Not that he is tired, but that his patience and his exercise of mercy have been exhausted on them. And honestly, the last place I want to stand is on the brink of God removing his mercy. It is like when your mom says, “You’re getting on my last nerve,” only it is the most powerful being in the universe who is about to unleash his cosmic discipline upon you!

Of course, we may discuss the merits of these claims and argue over whether the things mentioned above are really sin, but as far as I see it, the emerging church needs to refocus their efforts on being the Salt and working to preserve God’s goodness and turn away from the attitudes which God has warned before lead to his weariness with them.