Issues Etc Interview on the Emergent/Emerging Movements

Here it is. Thanks to Bruce to for the link!

Subscribe to the Heidelblog today!


  1. I just heard your interview in Issues ECT. And I am wondering why you choose to use the Athanasian Creed instead of the Nicene Creed or Apostils Creed as your primary criteria for defining the “emergent church” as Heterodox and perhaps even Heretical. I’m I missing something here but if we are going to use a historic creed for this purpose ought it to be a creed that is truly ecumenical not one that has only been used in the western church and very rarely at that. In my church (Anglican in Canada) we say the Nicene Creed every Sunday and Apostils Creed at baptism but I have never heard the Athanasian Creed used in church ever (I went to a very Orthodox PCA church for years and never heard used there either). Aren’t you “moving the goal posts” a bit here? Using your criteria neither Clement of Alexandria, Origen of Alexandria , Saint Gregory of Nyssa, John Chrysostom, Ambrose, and perhaps even C.S. Lewis would be able to call themselves “Historic Christians”. I have no problem with you going back to the historic creeds to define what the bounds of Orthodoxy I just think that by the Athanasian Creed instead of one of the more widely used ecumenical creeds you’re unfairly stacking the deck clearly this is not a creed that fits the criteria that it has been “Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus” (“What (was believed) everywhere, always and by everyone”).

    God Bless

    Steve in Toronto

  2. Hi Steve,

    Well, the Athanasian is a very nice summary of the catholic faith and captures the spirit of the desire of the patristic church to establish boundaries against all the anti-Trinitarin and Christological heresies. It sets the parameters of discussion very well.

    I think you missed the point. My intent was not to try to settle theological disputes between the East and the West but to point to the sort of language used by the early fathers and say to the Emergent/Emerging folks, “Hey, you don’t have to become confessionally Protestant, though I wish you would, but at least make an effort to respect the very existence of Christian boundaries?”

    I appealed to the Athanasian because its a very clear example of that sort of boundary setting.

    I think the BCP contains the Quincunque Vult does it not and isn’t it the usual custom of the Anglicans, at least those who still follow the BCP, to say the QV annually?

  3. Sadly the BCP is rarely used these day in Canada (my church uses it only for the 8:30 “traditional service” not the main 10:00 “Contemporary Service” where we use the BAS “Book of Alternative Services”. My wife and I actually use the BCP for our daily devotions with our children partly because be the cadences RSV works better for memorization but mostly because it’s what my English wife used when she was a child.

    I am not sure I am missing your point. What I am thinking your saying is that the Emergent Church is Heterodox because it is flirting with the concept of “Christian Universalism”. The fact is that this concept has always been open to debate in the Eastern Church (and even in the modern Catholic Church). Likewise our “western” view of the atonement seems quite distant from the ransom theory that seems to be dominate in the East Orthodox Church. Although the ideas that are bouncing around in the Emergent Church are clearly not a part of “Historic Confessional Protestant Tradition” most (if not all) has been a bouncing around in the larger Christian community for thousands of years.

    I also think you might be giving the Anabaptist Tradition a bit of a bum rap. The most dynamic evangelical church in Toronto right now is “The Meeting House” a very innovative and to my knowledge orthodox church that is affiliated with the Brethren in Christ. I am not saying that there aren’t problems with there theology (to much emphasis on personal holiness for my tastes) but there doing the lords work.

  4. Steve,

    As a confessional Reformed guy and as historian, I would be hard pressed to recognize an Anabaptist Congregation as a church (See Belgic Confession Art 29). I don’t have a lot of interaction with contemporary Anabaptists but I don’t see them historically affirming the solas of the Reformation and especially the Reformation doctrine of justification. They rejected it soundly in the 16th century. I don’t see how any congregation can be “dynamic” without justification sola fide. Is this a mark of this congregation?

    The history of the atonement is a little more complicated that your account lets on, but it’s not helpful to marginalize the substitutionary atonement as if it were just one view among many.

    There is a reason I’m not E. Orthodox, or Roman, or Emergent. What I hope is that the emergent folks will grapple seriously with the Reformation rather than simply assuming that their fundamentalist or megachurch background is equivalent. It isn’t. I see no evidence that the Emergent guys really get the Reformation at all or have engaged it seriously.

  5. Thank you for your gracious response to my comments. I will be visiting your Blog regularly and reading your articles as well.

    God Bless

    Steve in Toronto

    PS. It not a priority for my but I would be curious as to why a Brethren congregation might not be a true church. The Meeting House seems to meet at least 7 of the “9 Marks”. The preaching is sometimes topical (lots of sermon series on things like How to read the Bible, or common objections to Christianity) still his preaching is always closely tied to the biblical text and he also does preach through books as well i.e. a series on Galatians or Hebrews. I have no idea how church goverment works in a Brethren context but surly this is not a make or break issue. Do you thing that an open communion tables it incompatible with a biblical understanding of Church Discipline?

  6. Hi Steve,

    Thanks. You might want to take a look at the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, the Canons of Dort, and the Westminster Standards. Those are the summaries of what the Reformed Churches understand the Bible to teach. They’re all here. See especially Belgic Confession Art 29.

  7. That’s a lot of heavy reading! Am I right in thinking that in order for you to recognize an “ecclesiastical community” as a true church it must subscribe to one of the classical reformed confessions? And if so would you include the Book of Concord or the 39 articles on that list?

    Thanks again for your time

    Steve in Toronto

  8. Steve,

    That’s a difficult question, with which we’ve wrestled a great deal. It’s very difficult in our time with so many churches having developed in the modern period.

    The confessional Lutherans are difficult. So far as I know none of the Reformed Churches have said unequivocally, as churches, that the confessional Lutherans are not true churches. To add a layer of difficulty, in the Harmony of Reformed Confessions, the Reformed included the Augsburg Confession. At the same time there developed from the 1560s and 70s great differences between the Lutherans and the Reformed. Those differences became more pronounced in the 17th century. In the 16th century the Reformed usually spoke of Lutherans and Reformed as “evangelicals.” By the late 16th century, one Reformed writer, Olevianus, called them (probably) “half-evangelicals.”

    The Synod of Dort, in the post-Acta, ruled that only those who professed the “Reformed religion” were eligible to come to the table. This signals a formal breach in the 17th century. This is the policy we follow in our congregation. Other Reformed congregations follow a broader policy and admit anyone who is a member of an “evangelical” congregation.

  9. Our policy at OURC (not speaking for all the URCNAs) is to include only those from NAPARC congregations or independent congregations that may confess and practice the Reformed faith (Westminster Standards, Three Forms of Unity). This practically excludes mainline Lutherans, mainline Presbyterians (and the rest of the so-called “Seven Sisters”), on the grounds that, whatever they confess there is no evidence that they actually practice the faith.

    It excludes confessional Lutherans (who, by their own policy in the Book of Concord exclude Reformed folk from communion), and, unfortunately, most Anglicans. Tragically the ECUSA (one of the seven sisters) is barely recognizable as a 39-Articles communion and most of the splinter groups have become havens for Anglo-Catholics. Time was when the RECs were recognizably Reformed but that time seems to have passed. I think consistory would hear arguments from someone who was from a genuinely Reformed Anglican congregation — church polity not being of the essence of the church but of the well being. We’ve discussed whether we should commune someone from a mainline Presbyterian or UCC congregation that still practiced the Reformed faith. We would determine that on a case-by-case basis. We celebrate communion weekly so if it doesn’t work out the first week, there’s always next week. It’s not as if one has to wait a quarter to come to the table again.

  10. How common is your Churches practice concerning communion in the Reformed community? My old PCA pastor was a Westminster Grad and an Adjunct Professor at Covenant and never deigned me the cup when I was visiting my old church in the states. Even though He knew I was worshiping at an Anglican Church (apt a very Reformed and Evangelical one) in Toronto. Like wise I have always been welcome at the rail in CRC churches. The faculty of our local Reformed Graduate School (the Institute for Christian Studies) contains a number Anglicans and I have even seen the Reformed Chaplin of one of our local universities receive communion at our Anglican Cathedral. I frankly find it hard to understand how you can say “I believe in one Holy and Catholic Apostolic Church” and not welcome fellow Christians at your table.

  11. Hi Steve,

    I’m confident that our approach at OURC is not representative of most NAPARC practice.

    I doubt that catholicity has anything to do with communion. I wouldn’t commune Thomas Aquinas but I regard him as a member of the holy catholic church.

  12. Glad to hear it. I am enjoying our dialog a great deal but please don’t let me take time away from your students or parishioners. How would you handle a parishioner who due to a personal tragedy was having doubts about reformed theology? 3 years ago my wife of 13 years (a woman who came to Christ throw the ministry Francis Schaffer at L’Abri and was a graduate of the ICS) left me after falling back in to her pre-conversion life of drug and alcohol abuse. The resulting divorce left me an emotional and financial wreck. God has blessed me with a wonderful new family (my new wife just gave birth to my first child) but its hard for me to believe that what happened to me was part of Gods plan. Some times I even have doubts when I say Nicene Creed before communion. Would you suggest that such a person refrain from receiving communion until they felt more solid in their faith? My experience is the Eucharist is one of the few things that provided me with comfort during the dark days of my divorce. In fact I often attend the lunch time Eucharist at the Anglican Cathedral even though I am uncomfortable with the liberal Anglo-Catholic theology that is seems to be dominate among the clergy there (thankfully there is no sermon just prayer, three scripture reading and of course communion sadly there is also no music). I always took article 26 of the 39 article as permission not to worry about the theology of the priest that was administering the lords supper to me.

  13. We don’t require people to be entirely sanctified in order to commune! We do ask that they unite with a recognizably Reformed congregation. I would be shocked if none of our people had doubts. We only admit really horrible sinners to membership at OURC so I’m confident that they all doubt at some time. Certainly they suffer and struggle because of this fallen world.

    I’m sorry for your struggles but thankful to God for his mercies and blessings on your new home.

    A doubter OUGHT to come to the table. We confess that the supper is for doubters. It’s one of the ways that God has promised to strengthen our faith. See the teaching of the HC on the Supper in HC 75-82.

    I agree that the private views or even spiritual condition of a minister are not determinative of the validity of the sacrament — we’re not Donatists, but it does say something about the nature of the church about whether it has the marks.

Comments are closed.