Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Spiritual Formation and the Emergent Connection

I am all for spiritual formation, but it is some of the methods that concern me. Not to mention some of the underlying theology of some of those involved. Simon Chan who I quoted in the last post make makes a statement similar to Tony Jones regarding Justification and Sanctification being two sides of the same coin. As I already mentioned in a previous post, this has some serious consequences on the doctrine of justification.

Today was the first day of the Spiritual Formation Forum, and my suspicion was confirmed regarding the connection between the Emergent Church and spiritual formation. Though it may not be a direct link (meaning that not all emergents are into spiritual formation and not all into spiritual formation are emergent), there are a lot of similarities. To my surprise there was an afternoon meeting on spiritual formation and the emergent conversation. The conference involved six emergent leader the two most well known being Spencer Burke who runs the ooze, and Todd Proctor from Rock Harbor.

As the S.F. leader asked questions of the E.C. leaders, there seemed to be a lot upon which they agreed. One of the main questions that was asked was, "what is spiritual formation to the emergent church? The unanimous answer seemed to be that spiritual formation is growing to be more like Christ within your context. Spencer Burke had been saying that each community will set the rules as to how that will be accomplished and what it will look like. They had been comparing different "Christian" communities such as Evangelical, Mainline Protestant, and Roman Catholic. So I had to raise my hand and ask, “Who is Jesus, and what if some of the rules the community sets up are wrong?” The amazing answer was, "how will you know if they are wrong." My response was "the Word of God." They then asked me, "who is right, the Pentecostal or the Baptist." I responded, "Where they line up with the Word of God, they are right." Someone followed my lead and asked about the Jehovah's Witness community and if there rules where wrong. I was amazed when I heard that they are not going to focus on what aspects we are against their theology, but what aspects we agree, such as our agreement on helping people.

This is the main concern I have with the Spiritual Formation Forum. No one wants to make any substantial claim as to what we are to be formed into. They will all agree that we are to be formed into the image of Jesus, but since doctrine seems not to be favored, I'm having trouble getting any clear answer as to what that means, just like the emergent church.



At Thursday, May 18, 2006 3:45:00 AM, Blogger Kim from Hiraeth said...

"They will all agree that we are to be formed into the image of Jesus. . ."

Ah, but what Jesus? See, that's the thing. Without the Word of God coming into play, Jesus can be whatever anyone wants him to be.

Was it Calvin that said that the human heart is a factory for idols?

At Thursday, May 18, 2006 3:49:00 AM, Blogger Kim from Hiraeth said...

Oh, and I deliberately typed "whatever" instead of "whoever."

If each community determines within itself how it will come to fullness in Christ, then surely some "community" will view Him as some kind of collective mind, or spiritual talisman or example.

At Thursday, May 18, 2006 7:59:00 AM, Blogger Jada's Gigi said...

Unfortunately what "lines up with the Word of God" can be interpreted in about a million different our multi denominations have proven. As far as I can tell...if a body of believers is following after Christ, searching the scriptures and actually making changes when noted rather than setting their beliefs in stone then trying to convince everyone they are right, then they will come out ok...the churches of the New Testament and Revelation were a mess, even in heresy sometimes. God is big enough to keep what we have committed unto to Him....

I am still compiling my thoughts on the emergent church movement and I have never heard of the SF bunch...but..
There has to be some new ideas, searchings...trial and error as far as how to "do" church...what we have been doing for hundreds of years doesn't work...let em try some new sounds as if they are trying to rely on the Spirit a bit more heavily than American Christendom has done in a long time and on the corporate mind which is really a "body mentality" and there really is safety in corporateness...much more than our usual method of individual study...God is Spirit, He is not brain powered like we are. He is mystical so it only makes sense to follow Him in spirit 1st. I find that deep things of the spirit often cannot be clarified or voiced very well...sorry, I know that bugs the heck out of some but its true. Perhaps they are vague because they just don't know yet...and that's ok...isn't it?

At Thursday, May 18, 2006 8:18:00 AM, Blogger Jada's Gigi said...

You know, thanks for bringing this subject up. I've been meanign to do some research and this has gotten me moving. I find that I know some of these folks.....hmmmm.....
well lets just say that real life beats internet information everyday...
I think I'm far to simplistic in my walk with the Lord...:)

At Thursday, May 18, 2006 8:41:00 AM, Anonymous bobby grow said...

It sounds like the SF movement has imbibed the PoMo theory of truth, and makes the assumption that truth is based upon what works for my community. But I agree with you, Doug, w/o an objective standard or parameters in place, as the Word of God provides--normative relativism rues the day!

BTW, there aren't many meanings to scripture, just one. Just because we have many confessional/denominational interp. does not mean, that from this reality, we can then posit that we are justified in playing fast and loose with the text of scripture. There are literary hermeneutical principles that allow the reader/interpreter to get at the authorially intended meaning of the text--not the "reader response" meaning.

Also I take issue with the idea that the Holy Spirit is "mystical"--He's not, in the sense that we have His objective Word in the scriptures (this doesn't mean that there is a "Subjective" component--but that this subjective experiential component is rooted in the unchanging nature of our God).

In Christ,

Bobby G.

At Thursday, May 18, 2006 9:10:00 AM, Blogger Doug E. said...


Thanks for your comments and I know they come from a sincere heart, so they are more than welcomed.

Bobby has raised some good points, and to your question as to whether or not is alright to not know, it is absolutely ok to not know and be a bit vague. But what they are doing is something different (EC). They are actually saying, we don't know and that is the only right answer.

God Bless,


At Thursday, May 18, 2006 9:11:00 AM, Blogger Joshua Ritchie said...

Amazingly they try to unify under action and good deeds (regardless of doctrine). First John 1 should set the record straight on how important beliefs are. A heresy that was being promoted during those times was that Jesus only appeared to be material. John declared the truth about Jesus whom he had seen and handled. Why did he tell other this: that you may also have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.

There no basis for fellowship with the Father and the Son if it is not grounded in a proper understanding of truth. Consequently, if there is no salvation there is no basis for biblical fellowship between religious folk--even if one's deeds match. Sadly, some in this group deny the clarity of scripture...or what's that fancy word--perpescuity (sp?). As such, there are those that lump everyone together as long as Christ is found somewhere in their teachings.

Doug, thanks for posting this and confirming what others have also experienced with some of the SF/EC/POMO crowd.

At Thursday, May 18, 2006 9:15:00 AM, Blogger Joshua Ritchie said...

Oh, by the way, I sat under much of Todd Proctor's teachings when I used to take our students to summer camps. I wasn't as discerning then and was OK with just about everything that fell under the name of Christianity (except the wild Benny Hinn sort of stuff).

At Thursday, May 18, 2006 12:20:00 PM, Blogger Gordon Cloud said...

This certainly seems to be laying a framework for tolerance and vast diversity within the parameters of "church".

If they explain away the absolute authority of the Word of God, upon what basis do they claim to call themselves a "church"?

Good post.

At Thursday, May 18, 2006 3:06:00 PM, Anonymous Danny Haszard said...

Good post,to keep it simple the central core dogma of Jehovah's Witnesses,the reason they came into existence 110 years ago was to proclaim Jesus second coming in the year 1914.

When their 'prophecy' {derived from the William Miller movement of 1844} failed,they went on to say that Jesus came "invisibly".Yes,it's the 'emperor's new clothes' all over again.

Up close and personal Jehovah's Witnesses can be wolves in sheep's clothing.

The Watchtower is a lie!--Danny Haszard

At Friday, May 19, 2006 6:57:00 AM, Blogger Jada's Gigi said...

It seems to me that getting all your thoelogy down pat is putting a very big God into your own sized box....He is apt to blow it apart. Beware of anyone who sayes they have the "right" answer. No one does and that is what makes pursuit of the Lord and following Him so interesting and challenging. Perhpas the EC is just allowing for the pendulum to swing in the opposite direction away from our tendencies to be so structured and analytical and are giving people the courage to openly say what they have known for years...that they don't know....they don't know all about God or how He works or what is right or how things "should" be done. I'm not saying that this is all great and wonderful or that we should embrace weirdness for the sake of ecumenism(sp?) but I do think it can't hurt to question and seek and be open. Again God is able to keep....
Interesting what Gordon mentioned about this laying framework for tolerance and diversity within the church...and the funny comment about the "Benny Hinn sort of stuff" May I remind....God is a REALLY BIG GOD...bigger than we see...He handles things we can't even begin to accept...
I can't believe I have so much to say about this subject. :)

At Friday, May 19, 2006 8:27:00 AM, Blogger Doug E. said...


Let me ask a question this way. If I were to say that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that faith in him is how we are saved, would I be putting God in a box? I believe this is right answer. To say that no one has the right anwswer is to say that answer is wrong.

True doctrine does not put God in a box because true doctrine comes from God Himself in how He has revealed himself to us.

We may be thinking of different things when it comes to knowing truth. I'm thinking of the essentials, which even the emergents question. You may be thinking of all the secondary stuff like the cessation of gifts, or which end times program you hold to. I believe we should be careful not to put God in a box with these issues and always be reading scripture and praying to make sure we understand correctly.

God Bless,



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