Part 6: The Emerging Church - Circa 1970   (See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 )

Envisioning Emergence

By Sarah H. Leslie  - 2009

Index to articles

by Discernment Group


Emphasis added


"...[T]he vision that God reveals is likely to evolve and become clearer over time.... We are all called to be open to God's leadership, to respond even when the pathway to the destination is unclear, and to be prepared for God to reveal more of his plans as the journey continues. In the context of developing a vision, congregations need to be as clear as possible in their understanding of God's vision, but they also must be willing to reexamine the vision throughout the change process."
- Leading Congregational Change, p. 61**

“God’s Dream”

Early futurist Kenneth Cauthen focused on a utopian “New Age” as the ideal future in his 1971 book Christian Biopolitics: A Credo & Strategy for the Future. He proposed that “utopian thinking” be based on a common “eschatological vision” – an “image of the future” (p. 60), citing Frederick L. Polak’s two-volume work The Image of the Future.[12] Cauthen suggested that “to dream new dreams, to create new utopias of the mind, and to project new images of the future appropriate to the emerging conditions of the year 2000 may indeed be—as Polak claims—our one best hope” (p. 67). To “dream dreams” became Cathen’s rallying cry throughout the book, and he even hearkened back to Martin Luther King’s famous speech (pp. 70, 145). He linked such dreams to the “birth of a new vision, a new consciousness” (p. 149) in the Teilhardian sense of a collective dawning (“emerging”) cosmic consciousness of mankind.

Fast-forward to 2009. Dreams, images, icons, symbols, meditations, chantings, labyrinths – anything but God’s Word – have become fully operational in the modern Emergent movement. All serve as a means to an end. Mysticism and experientialism do not simply supplement Scripture, they replace it. “This mystical theology is a denial of the fallen nature of man,” notes Bob DeWaay in his new book The Emergent Church: Undefining Christianity, and mysticism “suggests that all humans can find God” by engaging in these extra-biblical activities
(p. 125).

The modern Emergent movement has adopted the idea of a common “dream” for the future. Many leaders use the motif of “God’s Dream” for describing this future utopian kingdom of God on Earth that they are trying to co-create. This is another point of convergence with the New Age movement, which has used the term “God’s Dream” in the same way. Evangelicals and New Agers using this theme include Lou Engle, Robert Schuller,
[13] Desmond Tutu, Sri Chimnoy, Sun Myung Moon, Shane Claiborne, Delirious?, Leonard Sweet, and many others.[14] (By the way, DeWaay offers his readers an excellent theological refutation of this extra-biblical concept of “God’s Dream.”)

Experientialism is the foundational principle behind all of this dreaming and visioning. The purpose of an experience-focused faith is to change values and attitudes, and open up the believer to an acceptance of new “truths.” This was well articulated in 1971 by Cauthen. His own brand of the “theology of hope” was rooted in “clarifying images which illuminate experience as it is critically interpreted by reason”
(p. 113). What he meant is that “feeling and intuition” (p. 150) should take precedence over rational thinking, reason and biblical Truth.

He wrote that “the Bible is not to be regarded as an arbitrary dictator of dogma, nor as an infallible source of truth” but, rather, that the “final test… of religious truth is the intuition of the individual person” (p. 114). He recommended that “there is a particular need at the present to focus attention on utopian dreaming as a way of shaking us loose from obsolete ways of thinking and opening us up to those ideas, attitudes, and values that are appropriate for the future(p. 122). He suggested that people who hold to these powerful visions of a utopian future “are the probable agents of redemptive social change(p. 132). He called for a “theology of the Spirit” which would “emphasize freedom, the creation of the new, and the fulfillment of the creative process” (p. 138). Such a “theology of freedom… looks with radical openness to the future for new truths and values…” (p. 138). Cauthen’s experience-based theologies bear remarkable resemblance to the postmodern Emergent Church of our era.


Pastor DeWaay does an excellent job of scouring the Emergent chronicles for evidences of “deconstruction.” “Deconstruction” is a philosophy that de-emphasizes the Word of God, and claims that no one can really know the Truth. It fits hand-in-glove with mysticism.

An excellent analysis of “deconstruction” was written by Samuel Blumenfeld in 1995, as part of his scholarly refutation of the “whole language” style of teaching reading that resulted in illiteracy. Blumenfeld explained how “deconstruction” obliterates the fact that words have meaning, de-emphasizes written language by claiming that there is no “truth” in it, and declares “the impossibility of determining absolute meaning”
[15] in a text. He wrote:

"But not only do the whole-language deconstructionists reject the concept of the absolute word—the logos—but they reject the very system of logical thinking that made Western civilization possible. They not only reject the Bible, they reject Aristotle’s A is A. Their new formula is A can be anything you want it to be, which can only be the basis of a pre-literate or non-literate culture in which subjectivism, emotion and superstition prevail as the means of knowing. That, of course, is simply a form of insanity—the inability not only to deal with objective reality but to recognize and admit that it exists. A mind so inclined is a mind that will lead its owner to destruction."[16]

The Emergent Church is at the vanguard of this type of deconstructionism. It discounts the Word of God, mocks exegetical preaching and teaching, and emphasizes dialogue (“conversation”), mysticism, symbology, community (“relationships”), and various “spiritual disciplines.” A recent, related fad in the evangelical mission world is “orality,” which is telling stories about the Bible instead of teaching Scripture itself. This cheats the listener out of the precious ability to hear or read God’s Word.

"The foundation of this new heresy is said to originate from Walter J. Ong, who wrote a book entitled Orality & Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word (Methuen & Co., Ltd., 1982)…. The premise behind this book is that humans need to return to their earlier (evolutionary) primitive heritage of myth, fable, story, image, symbols, icons, etc. The written word is degraded. The spoken word and image are said to be more closely connected to the human "consciousness." This author means "consciousness" in the sense of Carl Jung's pagan pseudo-science of "collective unconscious." Story, myth and image are therefore seen as closer to pagan spirituality. The author notes the "magic power" inherent in the written word and states that "Literacy can be restricted to special groups such as the clergy." [17]

Indeed, Carl Jung and his concept of a “collective unconscious” is often invoked by Emergent leaders as justification for their use of mythologies and imagination. But, they are also seeking a “new revelation.” The Great Emergence credits Jung’s popular disciple, Joseph Campbell, for his “disestablishment of what is called ‘the Christian doctrine of particularity’ and ‘Christian exclusivity.’” Author Phyllis Tickle explains, “That doctrine and principle, in duet, hold that Jesus and Jesus only is God-among-us and that there is no salvation for humankind anywhere anytime independent of belief in Jesus” (p. 67).

This open-ended, Christ-denigrating view of redemption is not new. Cauthen had already suggested in 1971 that there “may be other ‘sons of God’ in and through whom supplementary or corrective revelations may come”
(p. 134-135). This is a classic New Age teaching – that Jesus is just one of many cosmic “christs.” In the Emergent eschaton there is an open pantheon – room for any new revelation, and even a new “Jesus.”[18] Deconstruction ensures that there is a deliberate dumbing down of the people in the pews so that no one can know the Way, the Truth and the Life.

DeWaay places the Emergent focus on mysticism into the theological context of “undefining grace.” In this new worldview, personal revelation or spiritual experience become predominant since one can no longer determine the content or meaning of what they are reading in God’s Word. Taking this to its logical conclusion, the Emergents teach that “all paths lead to God in a saving way”
(p. 133). DeWaay expresses the grave concern that the “result is that they lack the fear of being deceived by spirits” –

"When they use breathing techniques or other means of altering their states of consciousness, whereby one is open to the world of spirits, their naïve assumption is that if the resulting experience makes one feel closer to God, the worshipper must therefore be closer to God." (p. 133)

He warns that the

“Emergent Church has no defense against these spirits because they have no authoritative Bible to guide them to true beliefs and practices where they would meet God on His terms.” (p. 134)

To be continued... (We missed Part 5, so that will be posted next)

The Truth:

"If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, 'Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them;' Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul." (Deuteronomy 13:1-3)

12. See the brief description here:
13. See this Herescope post:
14. See this Herescope post: Ex-New Ager Warren Smith first observed this “God’s Dream” phenomena and wrote a chapter about it in his book Deceived on Purpose: The New Age Implications of the Purpose-Driven Church.
15. Samuel Blumenfeld, “Whole Language: Deconstruction in the Primary School,” excerpted from The Whole Language/OBE Fraud (The Paradigm Company, 1995) pp. 149-166. Posted with permission of the author at The whole language method of teaching reading is not based on phonics, sounding out letters. Rather, it is based on images, symbols and pictures. It results in rampant illiteracy. See for exhaustive historical documentation pertaining to this topic.
16. Ibid.
17. Orality is connected to deconstructionism. See
18. See this herescope post: and note that Emergent leader Brian McLaren has openly associated with the World Future Society

Part 1: The Emerging Church - Circa 1970
Part 2: Early Experimental Emergents
Part 3: Retro Emergent

Part 4: "The New Thing"

*Part 6 is excerpted from the Discernment Newsletter, July/August 2009 (Vol. 20, No. 4). Herescope is posting the entire article as part of a series. The Herescope version includes additional documentation in the form of links added to the text and its quotations. The text has been slightly altered.

**Leading Congregational Change: A Practical Guide for the Transformational Journey by Jim Herrington, Mike Bonem and James H. Furr, is a key book published in 2000 (Jossey-Bass) that articulated how to manipulate congregations for transformational change. "Visions" were a significant component of this strategy. This book includes a workbook for training purposes. It was interconnected with Leadership Network, Rick Warren's Purpose-Driven plan. See for more details. Emphasis added.

© 2009 by Discernment Group

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Index to other articles by Discernment Group  

See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5