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Postmodernism and the Emergent Church

Jeffrey Khoo

The Bible tells us, "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come" (Matt 24:14). The signs of the times tell us that we are living in the last days, and that Jesus Christ is coming back very soon. Satan knows his time is about up, and so he spares no effort to destroy the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. The gospel today is attacked like never before. As believers, we should not be surprised at this. The Lord had already warned us, "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, … Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: … Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth; … these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith. … But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived" (2 Tim 3:1-13). The more Satan attacks the gospel, the more we must defend it. One way of defending the gospel is to expose error. One such error that must be exposed today is postmodernism.

Poison of Postmodernism

Postmodernism is a philosophy or worldview that is difficult to define. Postmodernism grew out of modernism or rationalism (human intelligence and science is God). But modernism did not work; it did not make the world a morally better place. The modern world is certainly a more sophisticated world—a space-age world but plagued with the same natural disasters and human cruelty. Some have described postmodernism as an attitude—an attitude of pessimism. Self-confidence has been replaced by self-doubt. Such pessimism can be a good point of reference for Christians to reach out to the postmodern man. The Scriptures speak of man’s total depravity and hopelessness, and the only way for man to rise up to the spiritual standard God has set for him is to believe in the Divine Intelligence/Reason which is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself (John 1:1) who died for our sins, and rose from the dead according to the Scriptures (1 Cor 15:1-4).

Without Christ and His Word, the postmodernist will become a relativist. Where is Truth? What is Truth? Jesus Christ tells us His Word is Truth (John 17:17). But the postmodernist in his pessimism will conclude that truth is relative and subjective. There is no such thing as absolute or objective Truth. Truth can be anything and anywhere. Whatever claims to be true or truth is met with scepticism. Pragmatism takes over. Whatever works must be right and good. The end justifies the means even though the means to getting there is morally wrong.

The Emergent Church

Postmodernism has crept into Christianity through the Emergent Church. The methodology of the Emergent Church feeds on the philosophy of Postmodernism. They feed on each other. The Emergent Church methodology is perhaps best expressed in Brian McLaren’s book called A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I Am a Missional, Evangelical, Post/Protestant, Liberal/Conservative, Mystical/Poetic, Biblical, Charismatic/Contemplative, Fundamentalist/Calvinist, Anabaptist/Anglican, Methodist, Catholic, Green, Incarnational, Depressed-yet-Hopeful, Emergent, Unfinished CHRISTIAN. Clearly, McLaren’s "Generous Orthodoxy" is a mixed-up and messed up orthodoxy which is no orthodoxy at all. It sidelines God and His Truth, and uplifts the man and his feelings. It is "the more we get together, the merrier we’ll be" kind of a thinking and practice.

Jason Carlson, Vice President of Christian Ministries International, in his testimony—"My Journey In and Out of the Emergent Church"—reveals that the Emergent Church is (1) ambiguous in doctrinal definitions, (2) inclusive and ecumenical, (3) tolerant of sin and error, (4) open to pagan forms of religious worship, (5) critical of biblical or conservative fundamentalism, and (6) low on evangelism but high on social action or interaction. Postmodernism is thus a part of the New Age, ecumenical, pluralistic worldview of contemporary society which has infiltrated the Church and caused her to lose her biblical and Christlike identity and remade her into something that will fit the One-World system of the Antichrist.

Biblical Theological Seminary (Hatfield, PA) is now an Emergent seminary seeking to produce Emergent pastors who will plant Emergent churches. In 2003, Biblical Seminary decided to embark on a new course to become an emergent seminary for the emergent church with a new statement of vision, "To be the ongoing choice for training missional leaders for the emerging church of the 21st century and to be a catalyst for engaging evangelical Christians in dialogue with postmodern culture" (A New Reality).

The buzzword of Biblical Seminary and the Emergent Church is "missional." There is nothing wrong with the word "missional." In fact it is a good word for the Church is commissioned by the Lord Jesus Christ to evangelise the lost, to baptise those who believe, and to indoctrinate them with the whole counsel of God (Matt 28:18-20). But it is not enough today to know what an institution says; there is a crucial need to know what it means by what it says. More often than not, an institution is particularly vague and ambiguous on what it really is and what it truly believes. But there are tell-tale signs if one were to read their writings carefully and discerningly. As I see it, the whole Emergent Church philosophy and methodology is all about "accommodation" or "compromise." It is precisely what Emergent Church guru, Brian McLaren, himself describes it—a "generous orthodoxy." In other words, "If you can’t beat them, join them." "Be user-friendly." "Be seeker-sensitive." "Be broad and accepting." "Don’t criticise but syncretise." "Don’t separate but cooperate." "Love unites, doctrine divides." In other words, the Church needs an extreme makeover. The ugly, narrow, out-of-date biblical fundamentalism must be replaced by the new, hip and in-fashion postmodern worldliness.


The up and coming Emergent Church is actually the old Ecumenical Movement and the Neo-evangelical spirit but in a different guise or name. The Emergent Church, Neo-evangelicalism and Ecumenism despise these two things: (1) the Perfect Word of God, its present infallibility and inerrancy, and hence the sole, supreme, and final authority on all faith and life, and (2) the biblical doctrine and practice of separation which rejects the world and its ungodliness, and exposes all forms of apostasy and compromise in the church today. To the emergent churchman, the biblical doctrine of separation is a "sour doctrine." The mission of the church according to the Emergent Church is thus not the original mission of Christ which is to get sinners to be reconciled to the thrice holy God through the Gospel, but to help people to get along with one another and enjoy one another’s company in the context of a "generous orthodoxy"—truth is subjective, uncertain, broad, and varied.

Many local churches are wittingly or unwittingly pursuing the emergent way with "let’s get warm and cosy" programmes. The church is transformed into a club with "members-only" privileges. Sermons rebuking sin and error are deemed "unedifying." An edifying sermon is one that makes the church feel nice and comfy. Without a Perfect Bible, "I feel good!" is the new standard of ascertaining truth from error, right from wrong. Emergent churches seek pastors of the "please-all, nice guy" type or the effeminate "soft and mushy" type that fit the postmodern congregation. The Emergent church has no place for the "fire and brimstone" ministry of the prophets as found in the Scriptures. The Apostle Paul had already warned, "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" (2 Tim 4:3).


In light of this new danger, what must we do? We must go back to the basics—return to the fundamentals of the Christian Faith! The Apostle Paul commands, "Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine (ie, the fundamentals of the Christian Faith); continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee" (1 Tim 4:16). That is why the Far Eastern Bible College (FEBC) spares no effort to teach "the doctrine" not only to its students training for full-time ministry, but also the lay people taking its "Basic Theology for Everyone" (BTFE) night classes. Good and sound theology is the only antidote against postmodernism, and every Christian must be a theologue if he wants to keep himself faithful and true to the Lord Jesus Christ. But Satan wants Christians to be weak in doctrine and worthless in service. Pray for more Bible-believing and Bible-defending churches to make inroads into Satan’s world by strengthening the faith of the saints through an intensive, systematic study of God’s Perfect Word without any mistake, impacting many lives to the glory of God.

Christians must also strive to walk in the strait and narrow way and practise separation if they want to combat postmodernism. Hear the words of our Lord, "Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it" (Matt 7:13-14). "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? … Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty" (2 Cor 6:14-18).

Dr Jeffrey Khoo is academic dean of the Far Eastern Bible College.


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