The Emerging Church
Roger Oakland Lighthouse Trails (www.lighthousetrails.com), 260 Pages, Paper, $12.95
Here is a welcome book on a growing movement calling itself “the emerging church.” Until now, relatively few books have surfaced to review these trends from a critical perspective. Roger Oakland writes in a popular, accessible style to evaluate major issues involving the emerging church: the revival of ancient rituals and practices; the popularity of contemplative spirituality and mysticism; unusual speculations about the future of the planet; a new “purpose-driven ecumenism”; the altering of missions and evangelism; and catalysts that hold this movement together.
The author warns that those who question these trends “will be considered spiritual oddballs that are hindering a unified one-world spirituality that is promoted as the answer for peace and that is prophesied about in the Bible.”
Oakland connects the movement to the 1990s seeker-sensitive church and the formation of the Young Leaders Network, led by Brian McLaren, Doug Pagitt, Chris Seay, and Dan Kimball. Supporting his research with numerous footnotes, the writer concludes, “There is little doubt that the emerging church movement would not be what it is today without the zeal, backing, and efforts of Leadership Network, Rupert Murdoch, Jossey-Bass, Youth Specialties, Willow Creek, Peter Drucker, Rick Warren, Zondervan Publishing, and the Lilly Endowment.”
Subsequent chapters give a thorough analysis of doctrinal issues. Scriptural authority is a central issue, given the emergent emphasis on the Bible as a source for society’s hopes and ideas rather than absolute truth and doctrine. Other chapters deal with Roman Catholicism, Eastern mysticism, ancient “wisdom,” the Eucharist, and kingdom theology.
It is always difficult to evaluate developing trends, especially for a movement with rapidly shifting doctrinal beliefs. For instance, the author lists Mark Driscoll as an advocate of the emerging church movement without reporting that Driscoll later distanced himself from the movement for theological reasons. Still, the work is a valuable introduction to personalities and books that are becoming popular in the Christian press.
Faith Undone is informative, practical, and easy to read; has abundant endnotes; and includes an index. Believers need to be aware of what the author calls “satanic deceptions” that are making their debut before the return of the Lord. Citing the Dark Ages when the Bible became a forbidden book, Oakland warns, “As the Word of God becomes less and less important, the rise in mystical experiences escalates, and these experiences are presented to convince the unsuspecting that Christianity is about feeling, touching, smelling, and seeing God. When substitutes for the Word are offered, it is an invitation to darkness.
“Ironically, the emerging church who says its main goal is to help the suffering and to help eradicate the world’s problems, is not pointing the world to Jesus Christ and His body. Rather it is rejecting the atonement, locking arms with a religion (Catholicism) that teaches we are justified by works rather than by grace alone, embracing mystical practices and altered states of consciousness, and pulling these suffering lost souls further and further away from the only thing that will ever help them—a personal one-on-one relationship with Jesus Christ, who explains very clearly who He is.”