The “Emerging” Story in The Emergent Church

By Larry DeBruyn

To the Emerging Church, the Bible is viewed as a record of people’s experiences with God. These story-narratives form part of The Story that is beyond human comprehension, the metanarrative. In and by itself, the Bible is not The Story, though it makes a significant contribution to it. The ongoing metanarrative exists above and beyond the Bible. So the Bible functions to invite and stimulate readers to involve themselves in The Story which when entered into, allows persons to come to know God in a fresh new way–like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Ruth, David, Solomon, Esther and the prophets–and become involved in the evolving metanarrative. Individual stories don’t necessarily, though they may, carry meaning in isolation from the stories of others. People from all faith groups–animist, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish, etc.–are invited and encouraged to compare notes and enter the conversation as to how God has creatively and innovatively worked in their lives, the aggregate of which comprises The Story. As Eugene Peterson advocates,

We want a spirituality that is world-embracing, all-experience-encompassing. Our sense of life is huge–we are in touch with Asians and Africans and Slavs, with Native Americans and South Americans. We are finding out about the remarkable spiritualities in Australian bush aborigines and the people of South African Kalahari. How can we be satisfied to be people of one book?[1]

In part, this scheme of spirituality may explain why The Emerging Church speaks so adoringly about the narratives of the Scriptures, but does not equally embrace their didactic counterparts, because for them, doctrines, confessions, and creeds imply a fixity and finality to The Story. Thus, two young non-emergent authors write: “Defining the emerging church is like nailing Jell-O to the wall.”[2] Later, they observe: “The emerging church thrives on eschewing definition, of itself and of its theology.”[3] This is to be expected because for The Emerging Church, doctrines imply definiteness about belief and spirituality which they, in their postmodern bent of mind, disdain. Any claim of “definiteness” implies ”arrogance,” which then limits and impedes the conversation with devout seekers from other faith ”narratives.” For purpose of supplementing the evolving story of metanarrative with their faith journeys, emergents need their spirituality, as that of others, to be in flux, not final, so that in mutual “humility,” all might bow before the shrine of their personal “experience” and “narrative.”


[1] Eugene H. Peterson, Eat This Book, A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2006) 44.

[2] Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck, Why We’re not Emergent (By Two Guys Who Should Be) (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008) 16-17.

[3] Ibid. 78.

7 Responses to “The “Emerging” Story in The Emergent Church”

  1. ianvincent Says:

    “Story” Spirituality

    Jul 22 by Larry DeBruyn

    “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” (Emphasis mine, 2 Timothy 4:3-4)

    In connecting the dots in light of yesterday’s Slice post, “The ‘Emerging’ Story in The Emergent Church,” I offer this year-old observation of how ”story” spirituality has and continues to impact pan-evangelicalism via Wm. Paul Young’s best selling religious allegory:

    “Why are so many heading for The Shack?” asks USA Today reporter Cathy Grossman, to which question Lynn Garrett, senior religion editor for Publishers Weekly, answers, “People are not necessarily concerned with how orthodox the theology is. People are into the story and how the book strikes them emotionally.”

    Cathy Lynn Grossman, “Aim at ’spiritually interested’ sparks ‘The Shack’ sales,” USA Today, May 1, 2008

  2. ianvincent Says:


    In part, this scheme of spirituality may explain why The Emerging Church speaks so adoringly about the narratives of the Scriptures, but does not equally embrace their didactic counterparts, because for them, doctrines, confessions, and creeds imply a fixity and finality to The Story.

    Agreed, BUT, one can embrace the finality of Scripture AND yet still not be under any obligation to come into a covenant based on the acceptance of any creed, believing the Scripture itself speaks for itself. The existence of creeds is itself an unBiblical thing, you won’t find any support for it in the NT.

    Belief in the “finality” of the Scriptures has to mean that Scripture itself is the final word, not a creed.

    There’s loads of mainstream evangelical traditions which are unBiblical. E.g. The brother who wrote this piece calls himself Pastor DeBruyn, when Jesus forbid that any man call us Rabbi, Teacher, Father, for you are all brothers.

    Btw, Paul never called himself Apostle Paul, and no one called him by that title, yet the acknowledgemnt of his Apostleship was there. Peter refers to him as “beloved brother Paul” and not the Apostle Paul.

  3. ianvincent Says:

    Again we see another clear reason why the vicarious penal substitutionary atonement would be of no concern to men like Sweet and McLaren because in a panentheistic world view all of creation—including the earth itself—is already all part of God anyway. Then Leonard Sweet, our postmodern EC “Christian” theologian, goes on to inform us in QS:

    In an ecological model of the church, the earth is not separate from us; indeed, we are in symbiotic relationship with the earth. Creation spirituality is of tremendous help here in weaning us from this homocentric warp…[so] woven together are the destinies of heaven and earth that it is impossible for us to sin against one part of the body without doing damage to the whole body. No one suffers alone, as Pythagoras perceived when he said that if there is but one suffering soul in the universe, all other souls will be affected with suffering until that one suffering soul is restored to health.69 An ecological model of community is something on which even sociobiologists can agree with Christians.

    God, you are my God, I pine for you; my heart thirsts for you, my body longs for you, as a land parched, dreary and waterless. Wilderness sojourner/psalmist David

    Quantum spirituality bonds us to all creation as well as to other members of the human family. New Light pastors are what Arthur Peacocke calls “priests of creation”70–earth ministers who can relate the realm of nature to God, who can help nurture a brother-sister relationship with the living organism called Planet Earth. This entails a radical doctrine of embodiment of God in the very substance of creation.

    The OxfordDictionary of the Chnctian Church (sic)(1974) identifies the difference between pantheism and panentheism: Pantheism is “the belief or theory that God and the universe are identical”; panentheism is “the belief that the Being of God includes and penetrates the whole universe, so that every part of it exists in Him, but. . . that His Being is more than, and is not exhausted by, the Universe.”77 New Light spirituality does more than settle for the created order, as many forms of New Age pantheism do. But a spirituality that is not in some way entheistic (whether pan- or trans-), that does not extend to the spirit-matter of the cosmos, is not Christian. A quantum spirituality can in no way define God out of existence (124, 125).

    And then finally on page 261 Sweet finishes up his description of the New Light panentheism of the Quantum shift in theology of the postliberal cult of the EC when he tells us:

    Quantum spirituality is nothing more than your “new account of everything old”–your part of the “I Am” that we are.

    Now There’s No Real Need For A New Birth As We’re Already Part Of God

    As this antichrist doctrine is taken to its logical conclusion, there is now no actual need for the Biblical doctrine of regeneration; in this warped and toxic view, if all creation is already a part of God then at best Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross simply reconciled the Global Family and its body—the cosmos itself—back to God. For this would have to be the interpretation forced upon verse 6 of our opening text by the panentheistic world view — one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

    But this text is only speaking to those believers who have been born again by the will of the Father through acceptance of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ and now are indwelt by God the Holy Spirit. In fact, if we have one verse alone from the Bible that destroys this whole panentheistic New Light argument it would be Romans 8:9 — You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.

    We see here that this is a conditional statement, if the Spirit of God lives in you. Simple logic tells you that the possibilty then exists for the truth of the b part of this verse — if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. Therefore one is not in Christ, and if one is not in Christ then God is not in him. No, this New Light Quantum shift to panentheism by Emergent Church theologians is nothing new; it’s not light, and certainly isn’t Christian theology because it simply cannot be supported by the Bible.

  4. Lionfish Says:


    What do you know about the Contemplative Prayer movement …?

    W have a teacher coming to our Church to talk about (the dangers of it), the emerging church and mysticism.

    I always thought that there is some room for some mysticism in the Church when coupled with sound doctrine. In some respects people have alluded to Martin Luther being somewhat “mystical” in his thinking and appraoch to theology.

  5. ian vincent Says:

    ‘Contemplative’ would be great if it was truly about contemplating the truth of the Word of God, but it’s not about that, it’s about using pseudo-spiritual techniques and exercises borrowed from eastern religions to achieve.. whatever. Which is idolatry.

    It’s idolatry bcos Jesus Christ is a Person who is known by faith, and no other ‘way’ ; He is not known thru mental techniques, mantras, ‘saying’ vain repetitive ‘prayers’ etc.

    ‘Mystical’ could mean anything. It seems to mean the way some people are perceived, that is, if someone doesn’t understand another’s experiences they may label the person a ‘mystic’.

  6. ian vincent Says:

    Ramadan is the Muslim holy month of fasting for spiritual renewal and purification. It commemorates the month during which Muslims believe Mohammed received the Quran through divine revelation, and it calls Muslims to self-control, sacrificial generosity and solidarity with the poor, diligent reading of the Quran, and intensified prayer.

    This year, I, along with a few Christian friends (and perhaps others currently unknown to us will want to join in) will be joining Muslim friends in the fast which begins August 21. We are not doing so in order to become Muslims: we are deeply committed Christians. But as Christians, we want to come close to our Muslim neighbors and to share this important part of life with them.

    Just as Jesus, a devout Jew, overcame religious prejudice and learned from a Syrophonecian woman and was inspired by her faith two thousand years ago (Matthew 15:21 ff, Mark 7:24 ff), we seek to learn from our Muslim sisters and brothers today.

    A reply to Mclaren here:

    Here Mr. Mclaren actually has the ignorance to suggest that Jesus, the Son of God, the second person in the trinity, who was pre-existent with God the Father before the creation of the Earth & Heavens actually had to “learn” something from the phonecian woman in the Biblical passages he sites!

    He ignores what the plain text says by suggesting that the passages he cites actually mean Jesus was “learning” how to honor “god” in another way, or in other words via a pagan woman’s beliefs! Can you believe this?

    The passages he cites say nothing remotely to what he suggests! What the passages do PLAINLY say is that the woman’s recognition of and Faith in Christ Jesus as the Son of God and the Savior of the World saved her daughter!


    Just as Jesus, a devout Jew, overcame religious prejudice and learned…

    Ian’s comment on this quote: Mclaren is saying that Jesus HAD religious prejudice and learned to overcome it.

    What a blasphemy to say that Jesus had religious prejudice to overcome and that woman helped him to overcome it.

    In his photo Mclaren is straining in an attempt to look intelligent, to give that image, but he’s a very stupid man.

    And your local evangelical religious facility or bookshop shows that millions are looking to these idiots for guidance.

  7. ian vincent Says:

    And it’s important to note that Brian McLaren, his friend Leonard Sweet, and the egregiously ecumenical Emerging Church aka Emergent Church—morphing into Emergence Christianity—have an agenda.

    Mystics ala Rob Bell immersed in corrupt Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism, and who believe in panentheism do teach the concept of a Global Family; and further, because of their belief that everything is literally a part of God, they would then see all religions as simply fractured pieces of the Whole i.e. God.

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