Friday, July 2, 2010

Imagination, Revelation and the Emerging Church Movement

“But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, "Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper.” – II Kings 5:11 (ESV)
Naaman IMAGINED that God would perform as Naaman directed. He became angry when God did not act out on his IMAGINED and outcome based assumption. This attitude epitomizes the so-called “emerging church movement.” This movement is one that IMAGINES that God is at our every changing beck and call and IMAGINES the Almighty is nothing more than a spiritual Gumby ® that people can shape and mold any way they will on any given day. Satan has struck swiftly and effectively. Even as we mount the walls of the City of God to watch for the enemy approaching, we look over our shoulders and view with horror that the enemy is already in the city, sweeping many a soul into a potentially hellish eternity. [God alone is the judge] Who knows how many souls have gone down stream in the swift flowing current of sin and error since the summer of 2006 when the “new hermeneutic” rushed through the church of Christ like a deadly tsunami. Just what is the "new hermeneutic?" It is a "new" (turns out to be very old) biblical interpretive model. It is based upon a 2nd century reliance on the "thinking" of the so-called church fathers, or "patristics." The problem is that these men, in many cases, were already leading the church into full blown apostasy. We should consult the patristics for history but by no means consult them on revelation! They were not inspired! Instead, we need to return to the Scripture for "all things pertaining to life and godliness!" The new / old hermeneutic, replacing "thus saith the Lord" hermeneutic is called "allegorical" or "circular" interpretation. "Circular interpretation" is described by its name. One starts with a question and ends up with even more questions. To the circularist, one finds nobility in the "search" for truth, NOT in the finding of it. When I would babble on about something or another as a child, my Mother would stop me and say; "Russell, you're talking in circles!" The so-called "new hermeneutic" is nothing more than circular babble. In the wake of this disaster, perhaps a third to a half of the Lord’s congregations in the United States have either gone with the instrument, have become sympathetic to the instrument or just have become lukewarm regarding the biblical pattern of vocal only worship in “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.” Many congregations continue to sing acapella but do so because of “tradition” and / or personal preference and no longer out of faith and conviction. What was not long ago a matter of doctrine is now a matter of opinion among many who call themselves Christians. The instrument per se is not the issue here, it is the interpretive model that made the instrument possible! We are “perishing without knowledge.” That interpretive model that is turning truth into error is collectively called the “emerging church.” Where did this term come from?
The answer is shocking… the term “emerging church” comes from Darwinian evolution.
And why not? “IF” slime can evolve into fish, fish into monkeys and monkeys into man…why can’t primitive New Testament Christianity evolve from a singular church with autonomous leadership to Medieval Catholicism, to Reformed Protestantism, to Evangelicalism and now into “every man and woman for him or her self defining truth and spiritual matters individually?"(1) Merriam-Webster On-Line defines the word emerge thusly:
To become manifest: become known, to rise from or as if from an enveloping fluid: (to) come out into view, to rise from an obscure or inferior position or condition, to come into being through evolution.(2)
Those who promote error in our time choose this terminology deliberately. Like Darwin, the “emerging church” teaches that “truth,” like life itself “emerges” [evolves] over time from the “simple” to the “complex.” As a result, the 1st century church was simple, ignorant and insignificant compared to those of us today who have “evolved” further down the road making today’s “truth” far more “true” than yesterdays “truth.” Not only that, tomorrows “truth” will be more “true” than today’s “truth” since those in the future will be more “evolved” that we are!

Soberly, we must reflect on the fact that 30 - 40 years ago young people in the church began embracing the idea that it was "possible" for God to have used "evolution" in the formation of the universe. In other words when God said "the evening and the morning were the first day," He really meant "millions of years." Now as adults, these same people apply this same imaginative thinking to the instrument, to leadership in the church and even to the plan of salvation! "IF" day means "millions of years," then "psalms, hymns and spiritual songs" can mean guitars, drums and dancing. "IF" day means "millions of years," then women can serve as elders. "IF" day means "millions of years," then baptism for the remission of sins can be the "sinner's prayer." "IF" day means "millions of years" the one and only singular church of Christ can be just another denomination. May God save us from such a foolish imagination!

The "emerging church” believes that “truth” is individually defined, comes in multiplicity, changes over time, evolves from the simple to the complex and therefore static and un-changing truth does not actually exist! The “emerging church” finds nobility in the “search” for truth but ridicules its existence as they engage in its pursuit. The “emerging church” openly defies the words of our Lord and Savior who clearly stated that “ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32 King James Version (KJV) We have heard this nonsense of seeking non-truth before. The “emerging church” is pure existentialism applied to theology. (Existentialism is a philosophy that singularly focuses on the here and now for there is no here after.) The father of existentialism, Soren Kierkegaard, stated the following:
I see it all perfectly; there are two possible situations - one can either do this or that. My honest opinion and my friendly advice is this: do it or do not do it - you will regret both.(3)
Essentially, Kierkegaard says that, search as we may, we will never find the truth. The best we can hope for is to, through constant injection of chaos, allow our “choices” to battle out for themselves their relative strength and validity in the whirlwind of life. If this also sounds familiar, it is! Kierkegaard philosophizes the ancient far-east religion of Taoism. Taoism teaches that there is no ultimate truth, only a constant battle between forces. Though most cannot recognize Taoism by name, nearly everyone hears people talking about “karma” and have seen the circular black and white bumper stickers featuring the “yin and the yang” in struggle against one another while neither dominates the struggle. All these concepts are blended into the “emerging church movement.” For clarification, “emerging” applies to the movement as a whole, while the term “emergent” applies to any individual who is “emerging.”

For decades faithful brethren preached against this kind of apostasy. Many a sermon was delivered on the dangers of “falling away,” of “drifting” and “error.” Perhaps the numbers of these sermons made us numb to the warning. Perhaps we thought that the point was “over sold.” Whatever the reason, many a guard is let down and error is sweeping into the church of Christ like the recent floods of Nashville and Oklahoma City. Satan has “re-branded” an old error with a new label! Technically, the “emerging church movement” began in the late 1990’s. In reality, it is a retread of an old satanic trick first sold to Eve in the Garden. It worked so well that he has never had to roll out a new product! Let us recall the Word of the Lord:
“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God actually say, 'You shall not eat of any tree in the garden'?" And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, 'You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'" But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." – Genesis 3:1- 5 English Standard Version (ESV)
We want to notice two things that Eve (and Adam) found attractive about this temptation. First of all one can decide for herself / himself what course to take, and, second that making such choices makes one equal to God! Wow! “Not only do I get to choose what to do, I can be my own God!” Satan is telling Eve that there are no “right or wrong” choices. He is telling her that she can control her own destiny and future. He is telling her that there are “multiple truths,” God’s truth, Eve’s truth, Adam’s truth, Satan’s truth...all equally valid. Satan is telling Eve to “deconstruct” the past so as to “reconstruct” the future!

This pattern is used by Satan on each of us. We are tempted continually to “go our own way” and when we do, we too are told we will “be as gods knowing good and evil.” This pattern is the foundation of every single false religion that there ever was or ever will be. Man gets to “choose” because he is the most intelligent, strong and wisest “germ” in the universe! Man is god, or so he keeps telling himself. You may think that surely these views cannot possibly be held by anyone claiming to be a Christian in the New Testament sense of the word. You would sadly be wrong. Note a couple of quotes from several faculty members at ACU from 2002 and contrast them with Scripture:
“Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” – James 1:21 (ESV)
“The Bible does not save us. Jesus does. Scripture is not a rule book covering every imaginable situation, if we only know how to decode it correctly.” (4)
“Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” – II Timothy 1:13 (ESV)
“While the Bible does shed light on issues of church organization and other issues that have attracted the attention of many of us, it does not provide a constitution or pattern for church organization, focusing instead on the much more important issues of spiritual and moral life, justice, peace, and reverence before God.”(5)

Sadly, these statements may have more in common with the existentialist cleric, Brian McLaren,(6) than they do with the faithful! In fact, Brian McLaren, though he is not even a Christian in the New Testament sense of the word, was one of the marquis speakers at the “2008 ACU Summit!”(7) Unfortunately, Brian McLaren, the very same fall also appeared as a marquis speaker at the Lipscomb University “Preacher’s Conference.”(8)

An ancestor of mine, Hugh Gaston (d. 1766) eloquently wrote of the biblical role of Scripture, in sharp contrast with the views of our contemporary “emerging” brethren:
Those have succeeded best in ascertaining the true sense of many Portions of Scripture, and in answering Objections against them, and setting several Scripture Doctrines in a clear Light, who have first searched the Scriptures for the whole and complete Account of the Subject, and hereby were enabled to show what was doubtful, by being briefly expressed in one Place, was sufficiently enlarged upon and explained in others. Besides such Explications of Scripture Truths as are to be found in the Scriptures themselves, none else are to be depended upon: for the sacred Writers, being sufficiently qualified for their Work, did not leave it to be mended by inferior Hands; they left the Scriptures a finished Performance, containing a System of Religion from God, which, like all His other Works, is good and perfect in its Kind, being full and complete in all its Parts, plain and proper in its Terms and Expressions, and effacious or sufficient to answer the ends for which it was written: if it fails, no other Writers will prove effectual for reforming the World, and making Mankind wise to Salvation.(9)
The strange thing is this: Hugh was an Irish Presbyterian! When I examine the statements of my own brethren, I find that I am in much more agreement with Hugh than I am them! This is alarming! If everything else in God’s vast universe is made to a precise pattern, why would God write His word in such a way as to become so just much chaos and incoherence? The phrase, “thus saith the Lord,” or a variation of it, is found some 430 times in Scripture! “IF” the “emerging church” is right about the Bible, then God would then be saying “Just kidding!” some 430 times as well and would owe us all an apology. “Let God be true and every man a liar!”

When we carefully examine the Genesis 3 account, one word describes it all…IMAGINATION. Satan convinced Eve to IMAGINE she had a right to choose and to IMAGINE herself as a god. It’s just like that old 1960’s song…”it was just my imagination running away with me!” The “emerging church” is a church that IMAGINES “truth” but neither seeks it or acknowledges its very existence! The “emerging church” is the church of John Lennon as he IMAGINED it:
Imagine there's no heaven - It's easy if you try - No hell below us - Above us only sky
Imagine all the people - Living for today...

Imagine there's no countries - It isn't hard to do - Nothing to kill or die for - And no religion too - Imagine all the people - Living life in peace...

You may say I'm a dreamer - But I'm not the only one - I hope someday you'll join us - And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions - I wonder if you can - No need for greed or hunger - A brotherhood of man - Imagine all the people - Sharing all the world...

You may say I'm a dreamer - But I'm not the only one - I hope someday you'll join us - And the world will live as one(10)
You are right! There are light years between REVELATION and IMAGINATION! How did we get from the former to the latter? How did we go from assertion of a singular and absolute truth to imagining multiple fictitious truths? The short answer, as we stated, is in Genesis 3. To be more precise the Holy Spirit has much to say in Scripture regarding IMAGINATION.

The Scriptures use six original words (three Hebrew and three Greek) that are translated “imagination / imagination(s)” in the KJV a total of twenty times. Of these twenty usages, only one is used in a positive sense of the word. [That one exception is I Chronicles 29:18]. All other nineteen references to “imagination / imagination(s)” are used to describe rebellion, sin and rejection of God. Here are the six words along with example usages:

1. H3336 – yester – “intellectual framework, graven image, devise (or) imagination”(11) This word is used in Genesis 6:5 – “And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” This is perhaps the most extreme use of “imagination” in the Bible for it describes the heart of mankind just prior to the universal flood. The primary meaning of this word is in describing the continuous intention of the heart and is rendered that way in the ESV. The ISBE notes that yester is a “shaping,” as one would shape an image for idol worship, hence, “imagination” is a logical extension of “image.” When men choose “imagination” over “revelation,” they become idolaters, pure and simple, “worshipping the creature instead of the Creator.” (Romans 1) “Imagination” is the pavement of the road to perdition!
2. H8307 – sheriyruth – “stubbornness, hardness, firmness in the sense of (being) twisted”(12) This word is used by Moses in his address to the children of Israel in Moab warning them of the consequences of unfaithfulness in Deuteronomy 29:19-20 – “And it come to pass, when he heareth the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst: The LORD will not spare him, but then the anger of the LORD and his jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the LORD shall blot out his name from under heaven.” (KJV) The primary meaning of this word is stubbornness and is rendered that way in the ESV. This word is used more often than any other in the Old Testament for “imagination.”
3. H4284 – machashabah – “thought, devise, plan, purpose, invention”(13) This word is used in Proverbs 6:18 – “An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,” We should pay very close attention to this word! It is used as one of the seven things that God hates in Proverbs 6. It is rendered as “thoughts of vanity” in Young’s Literal Translation (YLT), as “evil plans” in the Literal Translation of the Holy Bible (LITV), as “wicked plans” in the (ESV), as “wicked purposes” in the 1901 American Standard Version (ASV) and “wicked plots” in the 1899 Douay – Rheims Bible (DRB)
4. G1271 – diaanoia – “(a way to use) the mind as a faculty of understanding, feeling, desiring (imagining) (or) way of thinking”(14) This word is used in Luke 1:51 – “He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.” (KJV) Notice that the imaginative are seen as proud by God. It is certainly not wrong to use one’s imagination for it is a gift of God. However, to use one’s imagination to circumvent God’s will is to embrace eternal disaster! This word is rendered conceit in the DRB.
5. G1261 – dialogismos – “the thinking of a man deliberating with himself, a thought, inward reasoning, purpose, design, a deliberating, questioning about what is true, hesitation, doubting, disputing, arguing”(15) This is an existential word, carrying the idea of contradictory “self talk” that empowers people to imagine falsehood as being truth. It is used by Paul in Romans 1:21 – “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” The ASV et al renders dialogimos as “reasoning.” The DRB uses “thoughts” while the ESV utilizes “thinking.”
6. G3053 – logismos – “a reckoning, computation, a reasoning: such as is hostile to the Christian faith, a judgment, decision: such as (a violation of one’s) conscience”(16) This is the final word used for “imagination(s)” in Scripture. It occurs in II Corinthians 10:5-6. It is, as it were, God’s final warning to us regarding the presumption of imagination. “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.” Paul clearly states that the collective imaginations of all men and all time will be torn down, brought into captivity and completely revenged.

The apostle Paul in I Corinthians 10 tells us that the things written before were written for our learning, for our example and for our warning. There are many such examples and warnings in Scripture, here are but a few:

• In Genesis 4, Cain IMAGINED that his offering would be acceptable, it was not
• In Genesis 11, man IMAGINED he could build a tower to heave, they were scattered
• In Exodus 32, the Israelites IMAGINED they could worship God via a golden calf, they were made to eat it
• In Leviticus 10, Nadab and Abihu IMAGINED they could bring strange fire to the Tabernacle, they died before the Lord
• In Numbers 16, Korah IMAGINED that he could challenge the leadership of Moses, he, his family and his followers perished
• In Numbers 20, Moses and Aaron IMAGINED they could strike the rock in addition to God’s command to speak to the rock – they both were denied entry into the Promised Land
• In Numbers 22 – 25, Balaam IMAGINED he could curse the people of God, he could only bless them
• In I Samuel 4, the Israelites IMAGINED they could use the Ark of the Covenant as a “good luck charm” in battle – the Ark was taken by the Philistines and Israel was defeated
• In 1 Samuel 15, King Saul IMAGINED that partial obedience in regard to the Amalekites was the same as complete obedience – God removed the kingdom from him that very day
• In I Kings 12, Jeroboram IMAGINED he could change the place and object of true worship, he was described by God thereafter as the king “that caused Israel to sin.” Jeroboram and his entire house was cut off forever
• In I Kings 18, the priests of Baal IMAGINED he would send fire to their sacrifice – that false god did not and the priests of Baal were slain by Elijah that very day.
• In I Corinthians 1, the Corinthians IMAGINED that they could form separate denominations inside of Christ, Paul said that Christ was NOT divided
• In Galatians 1, the Galatians IMAGINED that there were multiple gospels - Paul said that if anyone, even he or an angel from heaven, should preach any other gospel other than the one he first preached to them, that person would be accursed and accursed a second time to underscore the point.

It is worthy of note that NONE of these imaginer’s noted above prayed for wisdom or consulted the Word of God before their imaginations swept them into error, judgment and condemnation. We cannot IMAGINE our way to God! People could not imagine their way to God before Moses. People could not imagine their way to God during the years of the Mosaical Law. And now, during the “last days” dispensation in which we now live we cannot imagine our way to God.
There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. – Proverbs 14:12 (KJV)
Though he does not use the word “imagination(s),” John speaks of the fact that we are “in the last hour” and that “many anti-christs have already come into the world.” [See I John 2, 4 and II John 1] Anyone who exalts his / her own imagination over revelation is an anti-christ for that person puts himself / herself in opposition to the Words of Christ. The Word is Christ and Christ is the Word as we know from John 1. The Word of God:

• Is revelation, not imagination
• Is the mind of God, not some fanciful story or narrative
• Is fact, not fiction
• Is precise, not generic
• Is inspired, not simply inspiring
• Is truth, not opinion, speculation or fiction
• Is the standard, not a standard
• Is the singular way to God, not one way among many
• Is THE pattern for life and godliness, not a mishmash of religious sayings
• Is not to be added to nor taken away from
• Is unchanging, not evolving
• Is static, not moving
• Will last forever, and
• Will judge us all on the last day!

May God extend us all grace and mercy until we once again set aside our “emerging church imaginations” and without question, murmur or complaint, re-embrace revelation among us!


(1) Making the “argument” even more ludicrous, evolution itself has been proven wrong in recent years. Darwin built all his assumptions around the idea that the most simple evolved into the most complex. Now even science concedes that even the most simple of cells has complexities far too cumbersome for mere mortals to comprehend. Life is complex from top to bottom and bottom to top because they were created by an all knowing Supreme Being. Instead of “evolving,” mankind because of sin, is rushing to judgment.
(2) Source:
(3) Quote source: SK is regarded as the father of existentialism and, as this quote indicates, believed that “truth” is found in contradiction. Existentialism asserts that active “deconstruction” and subsequent “reconstruction” accelerates the ever evolving future. Progress comes only by and through chaos, the more chaos, the more progress. Existentialism is the driving force today in religious thought. It is daily being put into real time practice. Brian McLaren, the leading emergent personality is an extreme existentialist parading about as a “cleric.”
(4) Kenneth L. Cukrowski, Mark W. Hamilton, James W. Thompson, (God’s Holy Fire – The Nature and Function of Scripture, Abilene, TX, A.C.U. Press, 2002) pg. 67
(5) Ibid. pg. 48. Also note, if interested, the spring 2010 issue of New Wineskins Magazine is entirely devoted to beating up the straw man know as “patternism.” Here is the link: This issue is a classic example of existentialist deconstruction of what was once believed so a new “truth” can be reconstructed on the ruins of the old.
(6) For detailed information on Brian McLaren and his interaction with churches of Christ link to:
(7) Known as the “ACU Lectureship” in more faithful times
(8) Examine the obsession that LU has with this subject of “Imagination” by linking to:
(9) Hugh Gaston, (A Scripture Account of the Faith and Practice of Christians, Dublin, Ireland, S. Powell, In Dame-Street opposite Fowners-Street, 1763) From the preface
(11) The word numbers are Strong’s. The definitions are from either Strong’s or Thayer’s via
(12) Ibid.
(13) Ibid.
(14) Ibib.
(15) Ibid.
(16) Ibid.