Does the emerging church get the gospel right?
- The short answer is that some individuals identifying themselves as “emerging” get the gospel right and some don’t. And often it’s not easy to tell whether someone has “crossed the line” and denied the gospel. Some individuals affirm the right things but emphasize the wrong things. Others affirm the right things but entirely redefine them. Still others affirm parts of the truth and say nothing about the rest of the truth.
- Some “emergents” (the “ent” is placed on the end to designate one stream of the emerging church which leans left theologically) downplay or downright reject penal substitutionary atonement, the doctrine which says that God poured out his wrath on Christ on the cross to punish him for the sins of all who would believe. Yet to the extent that they downplay or even reject this doctrine they reject the very heart of the gospel (1 Cor. 15:3, 2:2; Rom. 3:21-26).
- Emerging churches tend to speak of the gospel in terms of ideas like reconciliation, renewal, and transformation. Concepts like these are surely biblical, but they begin to assume unbiblical shapes as other biblical concepts are ignored, like wrath and propitiation. For instance, one can speak of “reconciliation” with God, but there’s a difference between “reconciliation” between a just Creator and a rebellious creature, as Christianity traditionally views it, and “reconciliation” between two estranged friends, as the emerging church tends to see it. The first is a vertical, astoundingly merciful reconciliation; the second is a horizontal and pleasant reconciliation. The first produces worship, reverence, and obedience; the second produces warm feelings, casualness, and, possibly, presumptuousness.