The Emergent Heresy Test

UPDATE: Comments are now closed. This conversation has shifted over to the next post "Emergent Definition on Theopedia"  Since this post was published yesterday, the definition of Emergent on Theopedia has been radically updated to show new 50 new changes and additions. Rather than the 7 common characteristics (below) with no explanation apart from a link to another definition, there is now a growing body of knowledge that will continue to become more accurate. Thanks everyone! Thanks Aaron for your hard work! Next step is for Em. Church to communicate and be known for what they practise. "They will know by our  . . ."

I did it . . I took a self imposed heresy test. My score is at the end of this post. When you get to the end, I challenge you to take the poll also. I want to see how many heretics we have out there.


One of the comments during an interesting discussion going on at the Emerging SBC Leaders blog is very relevant. Here is the comment:

"my biggest problem with Emergent is those who seem to speak the loudest in the conversation . . . Their theology seems to be flawed in some places and, at times, downright heterodoxical (in regard to Open theism and inclusivism). I think if those involved in Emergent could or would distance themselves from these types of theologies within the conversation, then I think they would be more respected by the SBC leaders and conservative evangelicals like myself who feel that theology is essential for praxis and important for proper ecclesiology." Link

Open theism and inclusivism? Where’s my dictionary?

Heres the deal. We might be heretics. Certainly the Irish have confessed to being a heretical community and the Canadians were quick to inhabit  but the problem remains that the traditional church does not really know which heresies hang around our heads because the language is different, as are the categories.

So I was thinking . . . what if some of us took a heresy test  – what if we stuck our theological heads under their microscope and let them examine us with THEIR TERMINOLOGY? What if i did it? (thats scary . .  what if i come out looking more heretical than i thought i was?)

Well, yesterday I took the test. I headed over to the Theopedia, an "open-content  encyclopedia on Biblical  Christianity" and used their 7 common distinctives of the Emergent Church as a means of testing myself. Here is how I stood up.

Common Distinctives of the Emergent Church From Theopedia

1.  Postmodernism.

I admit I am partial to a postmodern critique of society, and acknowledge that we live in a world characterized as postmodern, but the "postmodernism" that is offered here does not resonate with me. There is no defintion on Theopedia for what they mean by postmodernism, but the resource links on Theopedia’s page on postmodernism,  include references to "textual gnosticism", "loss of a transcendent signifier-the Logos",  and other things that I just don’t buy into. 

But having to choose is difficult and is probably not a good idea.

Dr D.A. Carson has a very good article in that list in which he agrees with me . . .

" Informed Christians will neither idolize nor demonize either postmodernism or modernism. Both are founded on profoundly idolatrous assumptions. And both make some valuable observations that, when they are properly integrated into a more biblically faithful frame of reference, enable us to reflect fruitfully on the world in which we live." right  – having to choose yes or no is not wise and almost impossible. but since so much of this characteristic is based on their understanding of postmodern epistemology in terms of a radical deconstruction of truth and a textual gnosticism, i would tend to say NO. I don’t believe that. There IS something [SomeOne] outside the text and He is God.

Verdict: NO. So far, so good.

2. Absolute truth is either non-existent or unknowable

No. God is true and He is both existent AND knowable. I guess I cant qualify on that one either.

Verdict: NO. Put the noose away, Mr Hangman!

3. Narrative Preaching.

Well. my preaching has always leaned on the narrative. I am a storyteller so naturally I use a narrative method, especially when i preach from the gospels and other narrative literature. When I studied a class on storytelling the gospel at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, my teacher John Langston told me that 80% of the Bible was narrative, and if that is true, then it would make sense to employ narrative preaching, just to honor the source material. Have I been guilty of narrative preaching?

Verdict: YES. DANG IT! They got me on that one. Don’t go home yet, Mr Hangman.

4. Irrelevance of expositional preaching.

Well, no. I don’t think its irrelevant. Although I don’t find nearly as many examples in the Scriptures of expository preaching, sometimes I employ it when i need to. Especially when i preach in really traditional churches who like expository preaching. In fact, one of my old pastors, when my wife and i were in Fullerton, was Charles Swindoll, who I felt was a dynamite expository preacher and i still appreciate his messages.

Now I no longer preach like Chucky did – I am more likely to use my points to prop up the Biblical narrative than the other way around, but I dont think it is irrelevant.

Verdict: NO

5. Corporate Inclusivism

Definition : "Inclusivism posits that even though the work of Christ is the only means of salvation, it does not follow that explicit knowledge of Christ is necessary in order for one to be saved.

Now this is a sticky one. When I prayed to receive Jesus as a teenager, I didnt have all the facts about Jesus and his pre-existence and attributes. I just knew a little bit . ..  enough, I guess, to respond to in God’s estimation anyway. Does that make me a Corporate Inclusivist?

I needed more help on this one so I read on to see who lined up on either side of the fence. According to Theopedia’s definition, famous/popular proponents of inclusivism include:

C.S. Lewis, Matthew Henry,  J.I. Packer, John Stott

Now hold on . .. J.I Packer wrote "Knowing God"  which was a staple of my Bible College education. And John Stott was one of the major figures behind shaping the Lausanne Covenant, which is what I suggest ALL emerging church networks read, understand and abide. Now if these guys were corporate inclusivists, then I guess I might be one, if I had to be. Certainly better than being an Exclusivist. which does not describe me.

YES . . But wait

I might be an Exclusivist:

"Exclusivism is the belief that only certain religions contain teachings which, if followed or believed, lead to salvation, or eternal bliss in some sense. To say that a sect or religion is exclusivistic is usually to say that it does not believe members of other sects or religions are going to have eternal life, though sometimes it might also allow for salvation in a clearly limited number of other groups."

Well, I believe that Jesus is the Way and the Truth and the Life, and that no one comes to the Father except through Him. But that is different than saying "Except through my religion". Which religion? Are we saying here that my Pentecostal friends dont have the truth and my Fundamentalist/Dispensational friends do have the truth? Now this is getting weird and I feel myself shifting away from this word "exclusivist" and towards the lesser of two evils.

Revised Verdict . .  I don’t really know. I’m sorry. I am trying to wear one of the hats but cant decide – and you know i like HATS!

Final Verdict: For the sake of the poll, I am going to reluctantly throw my lot in with Packer and Stott. YES

6. Open Theism

Open Theism,  Theopedia says is  "the teaching that God does not know all things."

No . . . God DOES know all things. The word I was taught way back when was "Omniscience".


7. Apophatic Theology.

OK – I had to look this one up. Luckily they have a definition which includes "this system only defines God negatively in terms of what He is not (i.e. God is not finite, not sinful, etc.)."

: NO . . thats JUST SILLY! We all know that God is love. God is light. . .  so I guess I cannot, in good conscience, call myself a pathetic . . I mean .  . an apophatic theologist.

Right. Lets add them up. The inclusivist one is still confusing, but if John Stott went that direction . .  ummm. How about I get half a mark for being a tempered inclusivist. No – I will go for a full mark so i can participate in the poll.

OK  – 2 out of 7. And that is how I voted.


Either I failed the test and am not a heretic

or even worse

I passed the test and am NOT part of the Emergent Church


and I have to ask the question

Is how I am perceived, is how the emergent church perceived ACCURATE or do we have some work to do in mending bridges, communicating a little better (and in the right language)

Is Theopedia’s definition of Emergent Church accurate?  Of course it is open source and I am sure many of you will want to assist the people in coming to a truthful accounting, and maybe already you are.

In February, Aaron Shafovaloff added 2 pages to Theopedia’s defintion among his many projects. and i certainly don’t want to disrespect him. I am sure that he found those 7 distinctives present in the Emergent churches he researched – otherwise why would he write them into the defintion? He must have come across a couple of REALLY BAD POTATOES and if he would name them to me in a private email, then I will speak to them, be it ever so severely.

How about you? Want to take the test? It would really help some people out . . .


Andrew Jones launched his first internet space in 1997 and has been teaching on related issues for the past 20 years. He travels all the time but lives between Wellington, San Francisco and a hobbit home in Prague.


  • Baggas says:

    Good post. My answers would be similar to yours. I don’t even know why narrative preaching would be included in a definition of heresy in the first place, and even though I’m not a preacher I do appreciate a good story.
    As for inclusivism/exclusivism I would claim to be agnostic on the issue – I believe that I am saved personally because of Jesus but I don’t know who else will be there when I get to heaven (although as a tangent I’m increasingly appreciating that “getting to heaven” is such a small part of the enormity of ‘salvation’) – as I’ve come from (and am still in) a fairly conservative church background I guess I have unthinkingly sided with exclusivism, but now that I’m thinking about it more I think I would like to be an inclusivist – I just need to do more thinking and reading on the subject to see if this position is Biblically suppported. Knowing that guys like the four giants you mentioned are on this side is certainly reassurring though.
    Although I make no claims to being part of the emerging church myself (although I like to say that I’m starting to think in a more “emergent” way…) I would say that like many definitions of this movement the theopaedia one is inaccurate and makes broad generalisations that from what I have seen are mostly untrue.

  • andrew says:

    thanks baggas
    for the record – Theopedia is offering 7 “Common Characteristics” and is not saying that we or anyone is heretical or narrative preaching is heretical. We should be fair to them. They are, however, presenting emergent church in a bad light and all their linked resources give a bad rating to the emerging church, except for Mike’s Site’s Unseen List of 3000 resources.
    (Somebody needs to stock that shelf with some good, godly, helpful resources!!)
    secondly, i dont think anyone needs to convert over to inclusivism (or exclusivism) to be a part of emerging church. but if you do, please give all the credit to Theopedia for your conversion and not my blog post. We are about the Kingdom of God, not aligning with theological tags.
    thirdly, the whole area of “emerging church” is really fuzzy. Many do not like the term and do not use it but are at the forefront of what God is doing in the emerging culture and the new forms of church, and others with very traditional ministries are jumping in and using it because the name is good for business.
    However, since “emergent” is also being used in the business world, computer world, biological world to talk about emergent behaviour and emergent theory of organization, i am glad we are using the word right now, even if many in the traditional church still do not understand anything about the theory of emergence or ant colonies. I would like to stick with the name and fill in the gaps.

  • andrew says:

    you know, as i am reading more of the material on postmodernism, there is a lot there that describes the way i approach things. If i had to do the test again . . . well . .. it may have been 3 out of 10 and not 2. Thats a hard one.

  • Paul Roberts says:

    A cursory look at the Theopedia dictionary suggests that they are guilty of the heresy of Donatism. Whatever. I would strongly urge anyone who is tempted to express the Christianity in terms of an obsessive fear of being unorthodox to ‘come ye out of the midst of them’ and get a life. Surely God’s got better things for us to be doing.

  • Karin says:

    For me this test fails by saying it must be either one or the other.I would say I tend in the direction of many of these “distinctives” but don’t embrace any of them totally.
    For instance, I think postmodernism has a point, but takes it too far. I think that to be a postmodern Christian could mean a Christian who embraces postmodernism to a certain extent but puts limits on just how far they accept what it says. Mind you I’m not sure I go far enough in that direction, even, it’s hard to tell, as postmodern is a fairly fluid term itself.
    Some Christians seem to have absolute truth cut down so fine it fits in their pocket. I would say the truth, even the truth about God, is bigger than some are willing to accept, but there is an absolute truth at the end of the day, which we can at least glimpse, even if not fully grasp.
    Narrative preaching has it’s place, but doesn’t make expositional preaching redundant in my book.
    I think the ideas of inclusivism and corporate inclusivism are interesting. I am not convinced they are 100% true but I am open-minded about who is saved and how, although I do believe it is in some way through Jesus Christ.
    I can’t agree with Open Theism, but I will concede that while God knows everything it doesn’t always look that way from down here on the Earth, and we don’t inhabit the certain world that some Christians teach we do.
    Again I’d say Apophatic Theology has a point: human understanding and language cannot totally grasp who God is, but we can go a fair way to knowing and describing him.
    So maybe it would have been more helpful to have presented a sliding scale of belief for this test. What is presented here as “emergent church” seems to me to be a very extreme belief system that rejects many beliefs that are commonly held by most members of the Church. Yet many descriptions of “emergent church” that I have come across have seemed bland and almost indestinguishable from mainstream church. Or is it that emergent church is simply about insisting that we can believe more or less what we like but continue to act like previous generations of church goers?
    So I’m left feeling I still have no real idea what emergent church actually is.

  • Ryan Bolger says:

    Andrew, i fear i would be more of a heretic than you! but i’ll never tell…
    The thing that find I problematic in the whole approach to rooting out heresy is just the difficulty you named here — that these are not the primary or even secondary conversations of emerging churches. It is elevating one set of criteria (culturally derived) and elevating it as the standard by which all will be judged.
    Instead, if one wants to observe our theology, they must watch how we live in the world, observe us, and they will see what we think about God in how we care for others…
    Hopefully they would see the sermon on the mount, on a good day they might see the profane become sacred, see community that resembles Christ’s body. Hopefully they could see all sorts of rich theology made flesh.
    I’m not saying that they would never find apophatic or some other type of theology, but they might need to look hard. As Todd Hunter said so well, “our goal is to give the consumer nothing to consume. If you want to understand who we are, you will need to walk with us for awhile.”
    Besides, if they spend some time with us they might discover that our heresies are not so bad after all… 🙂

  • fernando says:

    i guess 3 out of 7 makes me a half-baked heretic as well. sure it is an odd collection of “distinctives” but i guess that happens when people look first to theological “issues” for a picture. if the list started with ‘they drink coffee; they have a weird obesssion with wi-fi…’ it *might* be more accurate, but less simple to cateogorise and classify for the theo-police.

  • Matt Rees says:

    i found this fascinating (it’s interesting for example that there’s no test re: the place/role/authority of scripture, which i would expect for conservatives on a heresy hunt would be a big deal).
    i do want to say though that i think you’ve done open theism a disservice in the way you’ve dismissed it in a single sentence. i think it’s a really stimulating, beautiful theology. it doesn’t at all deny God’s omniscience – it’s far more subtle than that. i can honestly say that reading Clark Pinnock’s book – ‘The Openness of God’ (+some of his other stuff) – revitalised my relationship with God.
    i come from an evangelical background and although i am not too concerned about that label (and i really resonate with Maclaren’s ‘post-conservative/post-liberal’ line (the labels just aren’t working anymore)) there is nothing in open theism that is inherently un-evangelical. it doesn’t deny the classic evangelical doctrines, it just redefines some of them.
    so i score 3 out of 7 (maybe 4).

  • andrew says:

    that comment was GREAT. loved it.
    i did not deal at all with what emergent church really is . . that is another whole subject . . . but if you are interested in a few thoughts, i have some ideas at EmergAnt which is a work in progress
    and Kester Brewin’s “The Complex Christ” has a great chapter or two on the characteristics of emergent church – one of the main distinctives, he feels, is the culture of gift-giving.
    much better, i think, to describe ourselves in terms of what we are for, rather than what we are against . . lest we become an apophetic community.
    AND RYAN – you Fuller professors are all heretics, or so my friends at Dallas Theological Seminary tell me . . . d-)

  • andrew says:

    matt, you said
    “i think you’ve done open theism a disservice in the way you’ve dismissed it in a single sentence.”
    yes – i probably have, and if you keep talking like that then you might convert me, if i have not been converted already.
    But i chose to limit my test to the definitions provided by Theopedia, and that included the part from their definition [NOT MINE] of open theism.
    For a better definition of open theism, and why it might be attractive to people in emerging church, could you or someone give a link to a good blog post or article?

  • A says:

    Let me repeat Paul Roberts comment for it bears repeating:
    “A cursory look at the Theopedia dictionary suggests that they are guilty of the heresy of Donatism. Whatever. I would strongly urge anyone who is tempted to express the Christianity in terms of an obsessive fear of being unorthodox to ‘come ye out of the midst of them’ and get a life. Surely God’s got better things for us to be doing.”
    Amen and amen. Surely there ARE better things for us to be doing, such as being about the business of the kingdom, loving God and our neighbor, etc. I could tell you how I scored and that by some person’s definition that I am more of a heretic than you are Andrew. So what? No offense to you Andrew–I’ve said before how much I admire what you do–but I find these sorts of things a waste of time in the grand scheme of things really. My philosophy is to go quietly and steadily about what God has called me to do in his kingdom and let them call me what they want to. I couldn’t care less who thinks I’m a heretic. It won’t change anything in me or them.

  • richard says:

    How many evangelicals would fit a definition of “evangelical” written by an agressively anti-evangelical secular humanist?
    Theopedia’s definitions of “open theism” and “apophatic theology” are misleading.

  • andrew says:

    thanks A – understood. Jesus was considered a heretic also, by the religious authorities of his day and we should expect some of that.
    And I feel that we are making great progress in moving forward in the business of the Kingdom . . but every once in a while i stop, look back at my older brothers and sisters shaking their head at me, and i try to listen to their criticisms, and offer a few words that lead to peace and unity, so that they dont get left too far behind.
    Maybe that is just part of my ministry and it wont be appealing to everyone – especially the go-getters like yourself. Think of it as people like me, trying to cover the backs of people like you, so that you can have more freedom.
    Richard –
    “Theopedia’s definitions of “open theism” and “apophatic theology” are misleading” – perhaps, but the joy of open source wiki-ing is that people like you can jump in to their site and bring a more truthful rendering of the definition.

  • Pete says:

    Interesting test! I scored 2.5!
    I think there is danger if all emerging church gets dismissed in wider theological debates such as open theism and the attonement stuff. These might be key conversations but may cause some to be reluctant to engage missionally for fear of losing theological “soundness”.
    A recent article in the UK “reformed” press lumped emerging church with open theism, new perspective on Paul, and anti-penal subsitition – which is not necessarily the position of everyone!

  • Matt Rees says:

    i had a quick look round for some good stuff on the web about open theism (if you’re REALLY interested i would still recommend Pinnock’s books which are beautiful (it’s not often that theology is described as ‘beautiful’). there’s a couple of places you could look for starters:
    – this is an article written from a conservative calvinist perspective but i think it is mostly fair in its reporting of the open theist position even if i think there are some flaws in its critique.
    Greg Boyd is a theologian advocating the open theist position and this site is well worth a look as i think he covers all the bases.
    i hope that helps.

  • andrew says:

    Good advice, Pete. I am very wary of anything that ends in “ism” because it makes us an easy target for those who just want to dismiss emerging church and do not want to think through a muscular missional apologetic for evangelism and mission in a new context.
    And Richard – to be fair to the Theopedia folk – the writer would not consider himself a secular humanist – i think the same guy put up the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Blogs page –
    His projects are all here if you are interested – you will see that he is a Christian believer, although very fundamental. I do not know him personally.

  • Brodie says:

    Someone recently asked me to give them a “road map” of “emergent” church. I put you on the map as culturally radical, but theologically conservative. Your heresy test suggests that I may be right re your theology.

  • andrew says:

    Broadie, your’e probably right
    but if i had studied theology in UK (you are in Scotland, are you not?) instead of Australia and USA, then I am sure I would be packing a slightly different theological kit than i am now. But i am still getting milage from it and so i only unpack if i really need to.
    My deal is that i am a missionary and am really busy doing stuff, and just dont have the luxury to sit down for months (or years) and sift through it all over again to get my concepts and vocabulary straightened out. Even though i am “conservative” i still might be more heretical than my “liberal” friends . . or even worse . . I might be further away from the truth than my liberal friends even though I register highly on the conservative measuring chart.
    In fact, I highly suspect heresy in my own theological biases, but do not have the time to figure out what or where.
    For example, i once subscribed to premillenialism (and a very strict fundamentalism), since that is what i was taught. I dont think it is right – it is probably a 180 year old America heresy and i am sure, given some books and a few weeks of spare time, i could prove that it is . . . but i just cant spare the time and to be honest . . no body is asking me those theological questions. So what does that make me?

  • richard says:

    just to clarify, I wasn’t implying for a moment that the Theopedia folk would consider themselves to be secular humanists. Just making the point (badly) that when the opponents of a particular view define its characteristics, the resulting definition tends to be one that even the proponents wouldn’t agree with.
    e.g. in the UK I didn’t vote Labour based on the Conservative explanation of what Labour stand for.
    In the same way, the seemingly conservative evangelical writers of Theopedia probably wouldn’t tick a list of seven boxes defining ‘evangelical’ as characterised by an anti-evangelical. Hope that’s less misleading?

  • andrew jones says:

    i’m so sorry, richard – i just re-read your comment and certainly makes more sense now.
    of course you are correct. And it must have been difficult for the Theopedia people to come up with a definition for emergent church without having anyone from the emergent church advising them.

  • Mark Berry says:

    I have to say I get thoruoughly fed up with this desperate need to categories and label everything – I live the way Kester (mentioned earlier) talks about the mystery and beautiful moment of unknowing at the start of any creation – in all of these seven definitions there is for me a varying amount of recognition of where I am at the moment, but I have no real desire to claim any of them (except perhaps the love of narrative theology – and a good dollop of inclusivism). By an large I find myself on a similar step to you Andrew – for me Emergent Church has one “theology” writ very large which they miss, i.e. Misseo Dei.

  • Daniel says:

    A really good site on Open Theism is

  • philjohnson says:

    Just a wee note about this test which has a question concerning apophatic theology. I find that the “definitional choices” of the test are misleading.
    Western Catholic and Protestant theology is kataphatic — it emphasises propositional statements about God (like God is love, the Lord is my shepherd etc).
    Apophatic theology is very much the tradition of Orthodox Eastern Christian Churches (those acknowledging the patriarchates of Antioch, Jerusalem, Alexandria and Constantinople. Apophaticism cannot be summarily reduced down to a simplistic definition that it equates to “negativity”. Apophaticism maintains that God is a mystery who is beyond our finite language and that Scripture also presents things that are beyond our finite comprehension. If David received “The Lord is my shepherd”, Moses receives “I am that I am”. Isaiah has little cognitive propositional words to utter with his vision of God in the Temple.
    And what about the much beloved evangelical hymn, “Jesus you are beautiful, wondrous beyond words …” (a whiff of apophaticism, eh?)
    Apophatic theology emphasises that God cannot be understood in human categories of thought (as implied in the 2nd commandment). Apophaticists agree that God is good, God is love, God is truth etc; but they stress that our ideas of good ness and truth are finite and limited. So how can one say he knows the infinite one? Apophatic theologians say that the believer then must escape finitude and ascend into heaven.
    Apophatic theology has a strong Holy Spirit mysticism and a highly developed angelology. One of the problems for a lot of evangelicals is they are essentially unfamiliar with Orthodox Eastern theology (and the also the fourth branch of Christendom — the Oriental Orthodox churches). The danger is if one thinks Orthodoxy is just Catholicism without the Papacy, then one is in for rude awakening!
    For a robust and global theology it surely means then that we need to emphasise “both/and” (kataphatic and apophatic) rather than either/or (either kataphatic or apophatic).

  • andrew says:

    both/and sounds good to me .. . or as Solomon said in Proverbs – “it is good to grasp the one, and not let go of the other.
    a robust and global theology also sounds good, as does moving beyond catoegories and labels (thanks mark berry)

  • Peter O says:

    OK, my turn.
    The bottom line with many of these things is that the criticisms are of straw men, not the actual theologies. That said, I don’t place myself anywhere really inside the emergent community, because I still haven’t discerned a necessity for it. The best label I’ve been given in the past year is “Conservative Charismatic” (or one cheeky b*gg*r called me “Charismatic Reformed Catholic”, so let’s see where I score on the scale:
    1 – Postmodernism is not my epistemological basis, though I recognise that I operate within a (Western) world operating within such a framework. Interestingly I have a trip to India planned for the end of July and it’ll be interesting to experience a completely different philosophical clime. – NO
    2 – What rubbish is that about? Christ said “I am the truth”. – NO
    3 – Narrative Preaching? What’s the problem there? Read a parable recently? As long as what is being taught is orthodox, the mode of transmission of the truth is up for grabs – YES
    4 – Bring on more expositions, that’s what I say – NO
    5 – Now, seeing as I’m an electionist I’m actually going to say “Yes”. God’s grace is given to those he has elected regardless of their response to him, so I have no problem meeting people in heaven who never heard the name of Christ. One thing I do know is that when Christ is preached and people reject him that demonstrates that they aren’t in the elect (though of course we deal with those people who reject at first and then come to a saving knowledge through the regeneration of their soul – can anybody say “Saul / Paul”?). Now, if you’re an Open Theist then salvation is strictly dependent upon the acceptance of Jesus, so to support this concept of inclusivism you would either have to save people on the basis of their works OR support election, – So surprisingly, you might think, for an uber-conservative – YES
    6 – For me this is the crucial flaw which is going to lead the Emergent Church into real problems. Open Theism is a denial of the very principle of the Reformation, that God is utterly sovereign in salvation. The Open Theist denies God the free will to elect who so he will to salvation and instead demands it for human beings. I’m quite unequivocal on this – Open Theism is the launch pad into pelagianism because it places the ultimate work of salvation back into the hands of humans. Just a cursory reading of the Augustine / Pelagius debate will demonstrate the soteriological inadequecy of Pinnock’s perspective. – NO
    7 – Apophasis – As described above, no, but what’s described above isn’t apophasis. Once you start reading the Eastern Father’s you see that Apophasis is a healthy understanding of the gulf between humans and God, the gulf which is bridged by the theotic union of Christ and the Church. Not enough space to really go into it here, but Vladimir Lossky’s intro to the subject in “Eastern Orthodox Theology” (Ed. Daniel Clendenin) is a good overview. Needless to say, straw mans about apophasis (Such as Garry Williams’ critique of Rowan Williams) are naive. – YES
    So, that makes me as an anally retentive conservative with 3 out of 7 heresies. That’s pretty good going really…
    Peter O (Just down the road from Matt R who I’ve just noticed halfway up the thread).

  • Matt Rees says:

    peter O – you may be just down the road but we both know we’re in different worlds!
    BTW i think you are way off on the pelagian thing. read a letter responding to this charge by Pinnock et al here:
    boy, we love a good theological debate don’t we? it beats actual ministry anyday.

  • baruch says:

    As usual, way to spot a heritic is to judge a movement by its most extreme elements, and then hold the rest guilty by association.

  • andrew says:

    yeah . .. but there is sometimes a place for aligning our theologies and i dont usually go this far.
    appreciate the comments, everyone.
    remember that the discussion is based on the points in Theopedia and the Theopedic definitions – this is their playing field and we are playing inside it. The temptation is to respond to what we already know or assume about postmodernism, or open theism, but the fact is, a lot of people only know about us from definitions like this and when we say “open theism”, or “postmodern” or “inclusive”, then they have a very different way to define it
    which is why it is sooooo hard to place ourselves inside their definitions
    and sooooooo hard to have to chose between one extreme or the other when a balanced view from a mature perspective, rather than a reflex reactionary stance, is a much better way to go
    if you are interested, i will send a letter to them and suggest a few names of people to assist them in making some corrections to their definition.

  • Matt,
    Thanks for your comments on Open Theism. It really surprises me how it is so quickly discounted. I found myself kicking this theology around in seminary about 15 years ago (although I didn’t know the term Open Theism).
    After all, without such a view, I’m guessing that my life to would seem like a bad rerun to God(just kidding….).

  • Peter O says:

    Matt, the charge that a good theological debate is a diversion from ministry is completely unfounded. It’s our theological basis that totally affects our ministry and permeates it’s every activity. For example, whether you’re an electionist or an arminian/pelagian completely affects your personal approach to evangelism. Simply dismissing theological robustness as an avoidance of getting on with ministry is completely barking up the wrong tree. Most of the pastoral stuff that I do is rooted deeply in a thorough theological justification, and if it were not I would not do it.
    As for the Pelagian question, Luther thrashes this out with Erasmus 500 years ago and they themselves do so in respect to the Augustine / Pelagius debate over a thousand years earlier. It’s a fascinating (and deeply neglected) discussion and as Augustine handles Pelagius’ points step by step he demonstrates how they undermine the doctrine of grace.
    The problem with the response to the Pelagian argument on the page you cite, and the cancer analogy on a page like is that it doesn’t represent the Biblical position. The position put forward by Paul in Romans (using the cancer analogy properly) is that the patient with cancer is unaware that he has cancer, and simply will not accept the fact that he has cancer; in fact, he gets aggresive and abusive with the doctor for even suggesting that he has cancer. It’s only when the surgeon, of his own free will without any respect to the patient, operates and removes the cancer, showing it to the patient, that the patient realises what his condtion actually was AND the position that the doctor has now put him in.
    Bottom line, if our theology is wrong then our ministry is doomed. Just ask Chris Brain.

  • Jewels says:

    I was going to go down the list like everyone else, but I’m a rebel, I don’t like conformity! :O 😉
    I had 3, but not realizing it and not taking the time to think more I should have been 2. I answered yes to Postmodernism, but I never really consider myself one, but one that identify to. Then reading your thoughts on the matter and reminding me of what I just read of DA Carson I realized I should have taken it back. YIKES. On the others I took more time because they used big words and I had to run to my human dictionary, theology know it all, ect. my husband, quickly ask him what the word meant, digest it and make my answer (and yes if your wondering my husband is annoyed at me at this point 😉 )
    Anyway, I found that although I had to fully think through what they were trying to get at, the ones I had to give a HUGE no to, were the ones on God’s character.
    Could our raising be part of that? I still cannot resolve Open Theism to what I know the bible shows God’s character to be. And I guess Open Theism would yell the same thing back at me. LOL Oh, well, I will still love y’all even if you are heretics! 😉

  • Pete said” I think there is danger if all emerging church gets dismissed in wider theological debates such as open theism and the atonement stuff. These might be key conversations but may cause some to be reluctant to engage missionally for fear of losing theological “soundness”.”
    There’s me…I’m a coal-face kind of dude- my mission means that I spend 3 days per week out on the street playing music, talking to people and selling my CDs to feed my family and I sometimes do it in other countries too. Looking at your test shows me up as a bona-fide heretic. Having been aware of my heretical status of late, I recently determined to get a little more theological know-how under my belt, thinking that a daily reading of the word and lots of in-the-moment prayer wasn’t really cutting it. The problem is, the deeper I dig in these debates and as I discover opposing theologies, the more discouraged I feel and the less confident I feel that I am actually serving Jesus in my daily activities. Can I run into the arms of Brian McLaren? Not according to the growing monster that is the fundy blogisphere. (I think they all need to go out and polish their SUVs and save the rest of us the grief). Can I reject open theism with Peter O? Y’know, I find that tough also- mainly because of the way the fundys (who have rejected it) behave in practise- that is soveriegn salvation thru God and Jesus is only achievable by and has been reduced to a verbal act- the sinner’s prayer. I can’t for the life of me find that prayer in the Bible…so I have determined to go back to living in the moment, with my heresies and my arrow prayers. In that place, me and Jesus get along just fine…:)

  • Matt Rees says:

    Peter – i am the first to say that our theology affects our practice. in fact i said it in a talk just last night. but there is surely no denying that there comes a point when theological debate becomes self-indulgent and slightly mastubatory. this is the danger of which i speak.
    and it always cracks me up to hear calvinists talking about the connection between theology and practice particularly in the area of evangelism because it strikes me that everyone – calvinists included – approach evangelism as if they were arminian. i mean, surely there’s not many people who approach evangelism without thinking that it’s possible that anyone they meet could become a Christian? i have yet to meet a calvinist who doesn’t behave like an arminian when it comes to evangelism.

  • Peter O says:

    Theological debate as “mastubatory”? Interesting concept. I’m afraid I’m never going to see the discernment of truth as self-indulgent.
    And I’m not sure where you get the “Calvinists approach evangelism just like Arminians” idea from. Perhaps you could expand. For example, when an Arminian gets up to evangelise, he knows that deep down the words he says and how he says it are somehow, in some part, however small, responsible for the response in the listener. When an electionist (I’m not sure I think the term “Calvinist” is the correct one – electionist ties us more into the classic electionist view seen in Luther, Augustine, St Paul etc) preaches Christ, she knows that ultimately the work of conversion will be 100% God’s work, with no regard to the power of the argument or the judgemental process in the mind of the listener.

  • Matt Rees says:

    ok – it sounds like we have slightly different things in mind when we talk about evangelism. i didn’t actually have standing up and preaching in mind when i wrote my previous comment. what i meant was that if we are interacting with non-christians surely we believe that it is possible that any of them could potentially become Christian?
    and if what you are saying about what happens when an ‘electionist’ (to use your word) preaches, why bother preaching – i mean if the words he/she says has absolutely nothing to do with anything?
    and didn’t the pharisees consider themselves to be all about the ‘discernment of truth’ but weren’t they criticised by Jesus for their love of scholarly debate at the expense of ‘producing fruit in keeping with repentance’.
    i think we need to recognise truth-in-action as well as truth-in-speech as an important category.
    i have a feeling that this little debate has wandered off the path that Andrew first invited us to walk with him down. perhaps we should draw a line here or continue it elsewhere.

  • Peter O says:

    I think what we’re discussing does have huge relevance to Andrew’s thread point. It appears to me that the EC strand has been born out of a (totally valid and correct) concern to engage with those parts of society which at the moment seem to have no desire or self-perceived necessity to hear the gospel. Now, that’s a great thing, but is the problem that we haven’t communicated the gospel in a way that the world would understand or is it that the world simply doesn’t want to listen, *regardless* of the mode that it is translated to them, or even that the rejection of the old modes is the problem (i.e. that the world is actually crying out for a clear unambigious statement of the truth).
    Now those are questions to wrestle with, they are seperate from the issues of election / choice / atonement / passibility / immanence etc, but our judgement on one always affects the other. The great criticism of EC is that in attempting to solve the first issue it has let doctrinal robustness slip, and in doing so damages any attempt to be a “gospel delivery” in the first place.
    There are examples of where churches have attempted varied modes of gospel message delivery under “one roof”, but the only one that I can think of that has had any significant success in this country (St Thomas Crookes) beyond simply attracting disillusioned Christians from eleswhere, operates from a strongly electionist perspective. Such a broad electionism can be seen very clearly within the schematic of “Lifeworks”, their language for articulating discipleship and within the theological framework of the current and previous leadership. This of course is unsurprising given that people like Mike Breen, Paddy Mallon etc are all from the Oak Hill / Spurgeons mould.
    This varied cultural expression of an underlying robust orthodoxy is something that I’m involved in day to day as I guide and inform a growing community (approaching 4,000 now) of Anglicans across the whole world who, though a diverse group of Cessationist and Charismatic Evos, A-Caths and a few E-Orthoists, are committed to a robust defence of classical doctrine. Some of my friends have monster size Anglo-Cath churches, others sizable charismatic gatherings, others small assemblies of 10 / 20, but we all hold to the 39 articles (including #17) which guides our cultural expression of the same underlying truth. But that ability to express orthodoxy into, but not dictated by, the culture you were in is what Hooker and Cranmer were arguing in the first place anyway.
    Did you know that New Wine have removed the Emerging Church strand from this summer? I think that is an indication that EC is starting to be critically assessed as to whether it has really got it’s axiomatic basis sorted out.
    Yes, perhaps we should continue this somewhere else, unless Andy wants us to continue here. I’d offer my blog, but the evil domain registration gremlins are doing that nefarious work at the moment.

  • andrew jones says:

    good call, matt – lots of space for you boys to play in your own back yards . . . post a good case for your argument on your site and come back here with a link (and not a lecture)
    been nice having you here, though.
    and very educational for me.
    It seems that open theism cannot be written off and there are some good posts going up
    but there is also a lot of good info about the emergent church out there also – but it is somehow hidden from those who need to read it . . .
    and here lies our challenge.

  • Heresy and Emergent

    Andrew Jones (TallSkinnyKiwi) has put up a great post on postmoderns, emergent, the possibilities of being a heretic, and being in the same boat as Jim Packer and John Stott.

  • Emergent Heresy

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on Andrew Jones’ post, The Emergent Heresy Test.

  • Ed C says:

    Though many others, especially Karen, have basically taken the words out of my mouth, I just wanted to pipe in and say that the seven characteristics show me more about the people who made the list than about the emerging church. I would have thought that something about ecclesiology would have snuck into the list.
    Nevertheless, I can appreciate the difficulty of narrowing down a worldwide network that is constantly changing into a series of bullet points. And bullet points (darn them) can be helpful at times. Some of the issues listed are genuine concerns of people in the emerging church, such as openness of God, while others like myself don’t worry about it too much.
    By the way, if the openness of God IS true, does God know about it??? ; )

  • andrew says:

    . . . and if He doesnt know about it, can we tell Him without screwing up our open theism???? d;)

  • Peter O says:

    Aaahh.. perhaps he knows about it, but only what we’ve worked out so far…
    I’ll get mt coat

  • Andrew says:

    hey – just took a look at Theopedia and there are already lots of changes:
    Kester’s book is added
    and someone has filled out one of the characteristics (expository preaching being irrelevant) with some thoughts.
    not sure who is doing that , but thanks.
    i did send a letter to the original writer of the definition to let him know we were discussing it today.
    so regarding open theism (i confess i am a little new to it) . . how does prophecy work? Like, when God tells someone about a future event (rooster crowing 3x to peter) then is God making a good guess or are there certain things he does know and can speak with confidence to us about?

  • Dan-D from Canada says:

    Just a question – are there any honest criticisms out there of emergent? I’ve had a heck of a time finding any critics of, say, McLaren for example who don’t set up straw arguments for his positions and knock ’em down. I have yet to find a “good” negative position on emergent. And I’d like to see some different perspectives on this, without name-calling.
    RE: the “theological discussion as masturbatory” comment – back in bible college we used to call it “wanking” when any of us sat around for a period of time and waxed theological about various issues – evangelism in a calvanist/armineanist context was a popular one. At the end of the day, though, my friends and I (1 calvanist, 1 open theist, 1 armineanist, and myself, a semi-calvanist) were able to stand up, slap each other on the backs and call each other brother (and sister) before going to worship together in song and deed. There is such a thing as unity between conflicting theological positions; I’ve experienced it!
    Dan-D from Canada

  • Jewels says:

    Hey Andrew-
    If your interested in Open Theism Pinnock from my neck of the woods would be a good guy to look into. Also John Piper ( has written some stuff on it as well. Remembering your getting the extreme of course, but it would at least give you an idea of which both sides are saying. Also, Alan (Carson Mason 😉 ) has some stuff on that, might want to both him as well. I have yet to be able to express what I understand of it correctly. 😛

  • Hey brothers!
    Sorry to pull a hit-and-run, but I can only pull a chair and chat for a little while before I return to my work.
    I think much of PhilJohnson’s comment on Apophatic theology shows that the emergent church–at least as I know it–can indeed be described by it. There is a big emphasis in the emergent church of God as mystery, and not one who can be described with many helpful propositions. Now, of course this needs qualification but I think you get the point.
    Regarding narrative preaching, the emergent church also emphasizes it to a point where it can be fairly characterized as parting ways from, say, the traditional Protestant Christian practice of expositional preaching. This is true to a very high degree: emergent leaders, in my line of sight, rarely ever give ANY expository sermons. Expository preaching is seen as too impersonal. The very art and practice of expository preaching runs against the warp and woof of the postmodern complaint that people think they know a lot about what the Bible means but really don’t. This isn’t very distinctive, however, as most newer church movements are going in this direction.
    Regarding open theism, the emergent church is highly vulnerable to it and I think can be described as very sympathetic and disposed to it. Clear beliefs (expressed via propositions) concerning the very nature of God’s knowledge are not seen as practical or necessary for healthy fellowship or worship. I need some time to better substantiate this. I’d of course qualify by saying that some solid emergent church fellowships are even Reformed in theology. It’s like the Pharisees or Cretans: they were a diverse bunch of folks but could be described with helpful generalizations.
    Regading inclusivism I’d invite you to read the following Brian McLaren quote:

    “I don’t believe making disciples must equal making adherents to the Christian religion. It may be advisable in many (not all!) circumstances to help people become followers of Jesus and remain within their Buddhist, Hindu, or Jewish contexts.” —A Generous Orthodoxy

    The distinctives, of course, need to be refined and naunced and corrected and substantiated (in keeping with the wiki’s writing guidelines, of course). The material is mostly provisional and will hopefully mature as more volunteers contribute.
    Grace and peace in Christ, 100% God, 100% man, Lion, and Lamb,

  • Karin says:

    Thanks for the link to EmergAnt, Andrew. I’ll need a bit of time to think it all through, but it looks interesting.

  • Steve says:

    My understanding of open theism is that part of the future is open (meaning God has not determined what will happen but leaves that to free choices of his creatures) and that part of the future is closed (meaning God has determined what he will do). Prophecy falls into the closed or determined part of the future.
    Open theism as I understand it is not a question of what God knows or does not know. It is a question as to the nature of the future. Is the future completely determined or is it partly determined and partly undetermined?

  • Aaron says:

    The Theopedia page was significantly developed today:

  • Bob Robinson says:

    This test certainly tells more about how Emergent is perceived than it does anything else.
    And Andrew’s insightful and humorous post clearly indicates that emergent-types are falling way short on getting the message out as to who we really are!
    I wondering where some categories of these categories are on the test:
    Where’s “Emergents are Missional”?
    Where’s “Emergents are Community-Centered”?
    Where’s “Emergents are engaged with Postmodern Culture but are not held captive by it”?
    Where’s “Emergent is willing to re-think and re-energize Christianity; they are Reformed in the truest sense of the word–ALWAYS REFORMING!”

  • You might be a hertic if…

    Andrew Jones posted The Emergent Heresy Test today based on 7 common distinctives of the Emergent Church found @

  • andrew jones says:

    [this original comment is deleted at the writers request]- no problem – second request for deletion this week. your comment is now removed as far as the east is from the west . . .
    Comments are now closed. Thanks for being here. It was all very spontaneous and it is all over.
    if you would like to continue this conversation . .. go to the Emergent Church on Theopedia post that went up the day after.
    If you would like to contribute to Theopedia, dont just jump in and do what you want (someone did that with Wikipedia’s Emerging Church and we are still sorting out the mess “An enemy has done this!!!”) but instead, send an email to Aaron (a few comments up) and let him know what you are thinking. Lets stay in community.

  • Just Todd says:

    Stewed long enough … help for myopia …

    This week I received my copy of “SBC Life” considered the “Journal of the Southern Baptist Convention.” I found a couple of articles of peculiar interest, “The Emerging Witness” and “Things Must Change.” After reading them I was not sure how to respond…

  • Open Theism

    Let’s get back to the serious business of blogging shall we? To catch up on the last week, an interesting discourse on Open Theism happened in the Christian Blogosphere. On this thread here I got accused of making theological debate “self-indulgent a…