Truth and Love: Finding Our Balance
I appreciate the younger generation of emergent Christians. I do praise the Lord that the Holy Spirit has led them into understanding the weaknesses of the institutionalized church. I feel that this is very much like those of us in the 1960s who were part of the Jesus Movement.
However, I also feel that the new generation is in a place of grave danger because, realizing as they do that much of what is called evangelical Christianity has dreadful weaknesses, they tend to ignore the weaknesses of their own movement. Just as the Jesus Movement was eccentric in its overemphasis on Jesus as “friend” instead of Lord, so the emergent church not only fails to argue its case biblically but actually considers propositional truth largely irrelevant. Therefore I feel that the emergent church is so completely destructive in the finding of truth that I would not for a moment even seem to equate it with what we call a New Testament church. The profound connection that I see between doctrine, spirituality, and the whole spectrum of reality veritably shouts out a “No!” to the wrong emphases in both the emergent church and non-emergent Christianity and as a “Yes!” to the non-clerical, non-institutionalized, and non-professional New Testament vision of Christ’s Body.
I am convinced that most young people today are taught against too narrow a backdrop. Some are fighting exclusively the old battles of the Reformation concerning the great doctrines of the faith, while others are seeking exclusively the answer to really deep spiritual issues such as the meaning of life, communion with God, and genuine koinonia. The marvelous thing, as I see it, is that the Bible has such wonderful and clear answers not only to our intellectual questions but to the spiritual ones as well. I feel that many of our reformed churches have let the pendulum swing too far in one direction in thinking that if only the right doctrines were taught all would be well, while the emergers have concentrated almost exclusively in the opposite area of practice. Increasingly I am becoming convinced that since God is both phos and agape (as taught in 1 John), it is our calling as Christians to act in such a way as to demonstrate to others the character of God as both light and love. Failure to show forth either of these virtues is, in my opinion, a perversion of the Gospel. We must emphasize doctrinal truth and sacrificial love simultaneously.
I am convinced after much prayer and thought that what is needed today is a fundamental recommitment to the twofold emphasis of the primitive church upon apostolic doctrine and fellowship (Acts 2:42) – in other words, a recommitment to both orthodoxy and orthopraxy. It seems to me, in having read with interest what the emergers are saying, that they understand the spiritual reality of the leading of the indwelling Holy Spirit and that they are properly repulsed by a form of Christianity that stresses the external signs without the internal realities. And because of this I sense that their numbers will grow among those in Christendom who are seeking a recommitment to showing forth the love of God. It is my firm belief that doctrinal rightness is exceedingly important, indeed foundational and indispensable, but only as a starting point to go on to a living relationship with God. At the same time, the church still has the sacred duty of defending the truth and proclaiming the exclusive Gospel claims of Jesus Christ to lost men and women, and such activities cannot be reduced to non-verbal forms of witnessing. God willing, Becky and I will be doing both in Ethiopia in just a few short months.
September 12, 2006
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.