10 beliefs Unlock Emerging Church Controversy
“God is Dead.” (Frederick Nietzsche)
“Nietzsche is Dead.” (God)
The emerging church faces a dilemma. It believes Nietzsche.
In the mid 1800s, Frederick Nietzsche startled the world with his declaration, “God is dead.” Atheists and the Agnostics applauded him and thanked him for saying what they had thought and said for many years. It shook the world then, and it shakes the world even now.
Although popular today, few people know the philosophy that spawned Nietzsche’s statement. He summarized it in one sentence: “The things that you think you know, you don’t know.”
You think you know that God exists, but He doesn’t. You think you have experienced God, but you haven’t. You think that God created all things and sustains them. He did not create all things, and He does not sustain anything.
“The things that you think you know, you don’t know.” That underlying philosophy led Nietzsche to make his provocative statement that disturbs us even today, “God is dead.”
Even fewer people realize that Nietzsche’s philosophy serves as the rallying cry of our culture. This belief leads to the conclusion that no one possesses ultimate, objective truth. Many truths exist.
“The things that you think you know, you don’t know” influences and infects the emerging church today. The rejection of ultimate, objective truth rests at the foundation of the emerging church movement and the Church growth movement.
Emerging Church: Jesus vs. Nietzsche
More surprising yet to many, Jesus Christ refuted and contradicted that philosophy centuries before Nietzsche even took his first breath. It happened on a Sabbath day in Capernaum, a city located on the northeast corner of the Sea of Galilee.
Jesus visited Capernaum many times before this particular Sabbath morning when He went to the Synagogue to teach from the Scriptures. As the Lord Jesus left the Synagogue, He encountered thousands of people who came from Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan.
The size of the crowd prompted Jesus to use a boat for His platform. From the boat, Jesus had a view of the fields surrounding the city of Capernaum: lush grain fields, well trodden pathways among them, clumps of thorns scattered throughout the crops, and the birds that came and took away the seed on the well worn paths.
That view prompted Jesus to teach the Parable of the Sower, recorded in Matthew 13. It refutes and contradicts Nietzsche’s philosophy, “The things you think you know, you don’t.”
Emerging Church: Jesus’ Parable Of The Sower: The Sower And The Seed
Jesus used this parable to illustrate the message of the Kingdom of God. The Lord Jesus interpreted this parable, so we can understand it.
We start with the sower, a vivid picture to the people of those days. A sower carried a bag over his shoulder which held the seed for planting. As he traversed his land, he took seed from the bag and scattered it over the land as he walked.
The sower pictures the Lord Jesus and His ministry. Like a sower, Jesus traveled throughout Samaria, Judah, and Galilee. As He traveled through these nations, He scattered seed. He fulfills the picture of the sower.
Like Jesus, the master sower, Christ-followers scatter seed as well. We emulate Him, and we scatter the seed as he did.
Jesus called the “seed” the Word of God, the message of the Kingdom. In Mark 1.15, we read that the Lord Jesus went out and preached the gospel of the kingdom. He said, “Repent and believe for the kingdom is come.”
As the Lord Jesus scattered the seed, He proclaimed the message of the Kingdom of God, the gospel, the good news. He declared Himself as God the Father’s provision for sinners like you and me.
He proclaimed himself as God’s Son, Whom the Father had sent to become the Savior of sinners. “Whoever believes in me,” He said, “shall never die, but shall inherit eternal life.
Emerging Church: Jesus’ Parable Of The Sower: The Wayside Soil
The “soils” occupy a significant function in the parable.
In that day, many paths meandered through the crops, and people and beasts used them to travel from location to location. The ground became very hard. Because they interspersed between the various crops, the sower would scatter some of the seed on the hardened pathways.
The hardness of the soil prevented the seed from penetrating it. In fact, the birds of the air came and fed off of those seeds that fell on the wayside. The seed never had a chance to penetrate down into the soil.
The Lord Jesus used picture to identify those who have hardened hearts. The Word of God does not penetrate them nor sink into their minds, hearts, souls or spirits. In fact, the devil comes quickly and grabs away the seed of the Word of God before it even has a chance to take root.
The pathway identifies for us those people who reject the Word of God. They have hardened hearts just like the hardened soil. The devil comes and takes away the seed of the Word of God so they cannot believe.
Emerging Church: Jesus’ Parable Of The Sower: The Stony Soil
I remember many years ago my wife’s uncle took a trip to the Holy Land. When he
came back, he coined a new phrase: “Rocks, rocks, rocks, everywhere you look, rocks. Stones all over the place. That is all you see is stones, stones, stones, rocks, rocks, rocks.”
The parable describes that common stony soil where the scattered seed would hit a very thin layer of dirt where stones lay underneath it. It would enable the top part of a plant to grow.
But as it tried to grow a root base, it encountered the rocks and died. It wouldn’t grow because it had no root to obtain nutrients and moisture necessary for growth.
The Lord Jesus used this illustration to identify people who have hearts like the stony places. God’s word comes to them and takes a little root. Initially, they accept the word of God with great joy. However, when the bright sun of trial and difficulty comes, it scorches their infantile faith and kills it.
Emerging Church: Jesus’ Parable Of The Sower: The Thorny Soil
Thorns grew in strange places in Israel. Sometimes big clumps of thorns scattered throughout the plot of good soil that the sower wanted to sow. On other occasions plots of thorns would grow in the corners of fields, making it difficult to clear out all the thorns.
As the sower sowed his seed, some of it fell among the thorns. As the thorns grew, they choked out any seed that had any beginnings of life and would even prevent seed from reaching the soil. The thorns would choke it out.
The Lord Jesus used this soil example to identify those people who have thorns in their lives. The thorns represented the deceitfulness of riches, the cares of this world, and covetousness, the lust of things.
These temptations draw us in, promising much but causing such great harm. These thorns of life choke out the Word of God and prevent it from taking root and becoming fruitful in our lives.
Emerging Church: Jesus’ Parable Of The Sower: The Good Soil
When the sower scattered the seed into the good soil, it grew up, matured, and brought forth fruit, abundant fruit. Some of the seeds brought forth 30 fold, some 60 fold, some 100 fold, a fruitful crop from the good soil.
The Master wanted us to see a picture of those who received the word of God, the message of God, the message of the gospel, and believed it. When Jesus called them to believe, they trusted Him.
All Christ-followers possess a common characteristic, fruit. The presence of gospel fruit enables us to identify true Christ-followers. Those who falsely profess their allegiance to Christ do not bring forth gospel fruit. The true followers of Christ bring forth fruit, some 30, some 60, some 100 fold.
Emerging Church: Jesus’ Parable Of The Sower vs. Nietzsche
As we think back over this parable, remember the fallacy of Nietzsche: “The things that you think you know, you don’t know.” In this parable, the Lord Jesus contradicts and refutes that fallacy.
The Parable of the Sower pictures the Lord Jesus as the Sower Who sows the seed of the gospel of the Kingdom of God. God revealed the gospel throughout Biblical history as His overall plan of redemption.
God revealed His plan of redemption, the gospel, from creation, to the sinful fall of mankind in the Garden in Eden, to His redemption provided through Jesus Christ, and to its ultimate completion in the consummation of all things at Jesus’ second coming.
The Lord Jesus ministers now in the era called redemption, that part of redemptive history in which God fulfilled His promise. He promised Adam and Eve in the Garden and prophets down through history foretold that a Prophet would come, a Savior.
The Lord Jesus came in fulfillment of all of those promises and announced the gospel of the kingdom, the seed of the parable. We now live in that part of redemptive history during which the Father calls people like you and me to trust and follow Christ, and permits Christ-followers, like Jesus the Sower, to scatter the seed of the gospel to others.
The day will come that Christ promised when the time for scattering seed will cease. Harvest time will come.
The emerging church growth movement as exemplified in the emergent church, mega-Church, and the seeker friendly movements, has adopted the fallacy from Nietzsche’s philosophy. They reject absolute truth.
Therefore, we need many seeds, they say, not one seed of Christ’s gospel. Many truths, i.e., seeds, exist. You have your truth. Other people have their truth. These over there have their truth.
Everyone’s truths have equal value. No distinction between truths exists. It all depends on how you grew up and the society in which you live. One forms truth in one way and others in another way. They all exist together.
The emerging church makes no distinction among truths. It welcomes everyone’s truths.
Emerging Church: Refutation of Nietzsche: The Existence Of One Seed
In the parable, only one seed existed. Jesus proclaimed one message, one gospel of the Kingdom, not many. He identified Himself as the one Savior, one Lord Jesus. With this parable, Jesus refutes the false philosophy of Nietzsche prevalent in our day.
Jesus presented absolute truth, only one seed, not many.
Emerging Church: Refutation of Nietzsche: The Effect Of The Soil Upon The Seed
Jesus refuted a further extension of the philosophy of Nietzsche. Nietzsche’s philosophy encourages the error that many truths exist.
However, the failure to generate a successful crop in the parable did not result from the fault of the seed. The failure of the seed to produce fruit resulted from the failure of the soil.
Yes, varieties of soils existed, but only one seed. In every instance of failure, it resulted because of the nature of the soils, whether the hardened pathway, the stony ground, or the thorny patches. The seed failed to mature and produce fruit because of the failure of the soil.
The Lord Jesus explained that the soils provide a picture of people. The failure of the soils pictures the response of people to the message of the gospel of Christ, the seed. Many, like the faulty soils, fail to accept the seed of the gospel and reject it.
The world wants the Church to adapt the gospel, the seed, to the soil. It calls us to change the message for every society. Each society needs their own message. “They need their own truth,” they proclaim.
Granted, we have a variety of peoples and societies. But, we have only one gospel, one message, one Savior, the Lord Jesus. The failure does not arise from the nature of the message, but from the nature of those who hear the message and reject it.
Emerging Church: Refutation of Nietzsche: The Production Of Fruit
Where the soil received the seed, it grew and produced fruit. Fruitfulness identifies a child of God, a member of the Kingdom. Those who receive the message of Christ and trust Him reveal a measurable change in their lives. They will grow into righteousness, some 30, some 60, some 100 fold…always, always, always.
Emerging Church: Jesus vs. Nietzsche: Summary
Nietzsche declared a fallacy, and many in our day have fallen for it. It has extensive roots within our society and societies around the world. It has infected and impacted the professing Church of Jesus Christ, too.
The Lord Jesus gave a warning at the end of His parable. He told those who listened, many of them pictured by the various soils in the parable, “Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.”
He urged them to listen to His message. He called them to believe the message that He proclaimed to them about salvation through trust upon Him, the Father’s provision for sinners. He invited them to follow Him.
His cry in that day resonates down through history to our day, to sinners like you and me. “Trust me. Believe me,” He said.
In essence, His cry was,
- “Break up the fallow ground,” ground by the wayside that has grown hard.
- “Remove the stones from your stony ground. Tear out the thistles that infest the ground that you might receive the seed of the gospel, believe upon Me, and follow Me.”
The emerging church of today needs to heed the simple truths that Christ expressed in this parable. Whether or not you follow the emerging church, I pray that the Holy Spirit will use this easy-to-understand explanation to lead you from error into truth, trusting Jesus Christ and following Him.
© Thomas P Hill. Website: www.masterministries.org.
Personal Information: Thomas P. Hill, M. A. in Ministry, Luther Rice Seminary; author of 3 books: Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing; Homosexuality, Christians, and the Church; and Keys To A Revolutionary Life (available online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Tom’s web site). To invite Tom to speak at your college, church, or group, contact him by email at email@example.com.
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