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LOCAL PROFESSOR, PASTOR TO ADDRESS CHURCH’S “IDENTITY CRISIS” AND WARN THAT THE “EMERGING” MOVEMENT THREATENS THE CHURCH’S FOUNDATION
Pittsburgh, February 4, 2009 – On Saturday, January 31, the Reformation Society of Pittsburgh hosted seminars at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary (RPTS) entitled “The Church’s Identity Crisis: Sola Scriptura and The Emerging Church”.
The seminars addressed the Emerging Church movement which has created a wide-reaching conversation about how to live the Christian life with authenticity as Jesus intended; however, according to some church leaders, what the movement recommends in that conversation endangers a principle vital to the church’s living that life.
“All Christians should rejoice that this conversation is taking place and must listen very carefully to it,” says Rev. Rutledge Etheridge, pastor of Providence Reformed Presbyterian Church in Brookline, Pa., and adjunct professor of systematic theology for RPTS, who will lecture at the seminars. A 2006 RPTS alum, he has recently preached and led Bible studies on the Emerging Church.
“While we should applaud and apply much of its content, we must also confront one of its key components. This refreshing stream of new excitement about Christian doctrine and service is moved along by an old philosophical wind which ever threatens to wrest Christ’s church from the foundation of her faith – the written Word of God.”
The movement, represented by Brian McLaren’s A Generous Orthodoxy, Rob Bell’s Velvet Elvis, and more recently Scot McKnight’s The Blue Parakeet – all popular among Christians – seeks to glean the good from Christianity’s past while painting a fresh picture of the faith today – one colored not by emotionalism and ecclesiastical economics, nor by dogmatism and denominational divisions, but by the intelligent, open, humble, common quest to love Jesus with all that one is, and to love like Jesus in all that one does. But its understanding of the nature and content of Scripture proves detrimental to the identity and mission of the church, according to Etheridge.
“If churches embracing the principle of Sola Scriptura fail to understand and address the concerns voiced in the Emerging Church conversation, we may lose an entire generation, or more, of professing believers to a movement seeking to revitalize the faith but infected with a philosophy that kills it,” says Etheridge.
“It is no exaggeration to say that if the Emerging Church eventually defines Christ’s church, then the church as Christ defined it will be no more.”
Interviews with Etheridge on this topic and the seminars can be heard on the local Bible Burgh radio program on WORD 101.5 FM at 9 p.m. Sunday evenings January 18 and 25. Following are the three seminar descriptions:
Seminar One: The Mechanics and Mission of the Church – A New Old Conversation
The church today seems a pale reflection of the world-changing body of believers Christ redeemed and commissioned her to be. How, amidst clashing confessional beliefs on one hand and the dismissal of doctrinal study on the other, can Christ’s sheep hear His voice and be about the work to which He calls them? This seminar will examine key issues raised by the Emerging Church conversation and explain why these issues are so critical to the church’s nature, purpose, and impact on the world.
Seminar Two: The Emerging Church – Reformation or Regression?
Leaders within the Emerging Church see the conversation they’ve started as serving essentially the same purpose of the Protestant Reformation: to call the church to abandon man-made doctrines and practices and to recover God’s own vision for her. They claim that a particular old philosophy stands behind what the church today has become and in the way of what she should become. This seminar will demonstrate how this critique is fueled by elements of the same philosophy they want the church to reject. Their forward thinking call to the church is actually a call backward.
Seminar Three: Sola Scriptura – Clarity Amidst the Confusion
What does it mean for the church to be “always reforming”? The Emerging Church conversation calls Christians to be humble in their approach to Scripture, ever open to truer understandings of God’s Word. But the details of the humility called for amount to an agnosticism contrary to the clear, knowable claims of God’s Word and deadly to His calling for His people. This seminar calls Christians to confidence in God’s Word and the ability He gives us to truly know and live it.
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