Perhaps one of the biggest issues that I have run into with those who are involved in the Emergent Church is the amount of questions they ask. Now, questions are not intrinsically wrong, but there are times when we need to offer more then just questions.
When you’re a kid, you ask questions. That’s just how it works. Why is it raining? Who makes the rain? Will it ever stop? Where does the rain come from? Are we going to drown? Where is the sun?
And to all of these questions, most (loving) parents patiently respond with good answers; answers given to the best of their ability. Granted, there are some questions that the parents wont know the answers to, and no loving parent would lie to their kid but would instead say I don’t know
The Secret things
Most people really love Deuteronomy 29:29, but always forget the second part of it. So when it comes to questions regarding faith, many will either say that nobody knows, it’s up to God to judge, or the secret things belong to the Lord… Or, they will dodge the question and make up false statements so that they don’t seem like jerks.
I actually encountered a situation like this once. I was having breakfast with an old friend and his wife who are unsaved and by God’s grace, the conversation turned towards Him. As we were leaving the restaurant and still talking about God, we got to the topic of there only being one way to Heaven. She asked me directly: Does that mean that if I don’t believe in the God of the Bible I am going to Hell? Who wants to answer that one?
I had a choice. I could lie and say that I didn’t know, or I could lovingly give the truth and leave her in God’s hands to guide. What if I went this way?
Sam asked Brian, “Would God send my boy to Hell because he never said the magic words, but He would send Hitler to heaven?”
McLaren didn’t answer his question. Instead he said, “Sam, I think your son acted a lot like Jesus would have acted. Jesus cared for outsiders, just as your son did, and Jesus gave up His life to protect us all, just as your son risked his life for that guy [his Israeli son put his life on the line so that others might not mistreat a Palestinian]. So I think your son was following Jesus’ example, and I can see why you’re so proud of hi. Really, I think God feels about Jesus a lot like you feel about your son. And I know God must be proud of your son too.” (From Why We’re not Emergent By Keving DeYoung and Ted Kluck, p203,
Here, McLaren didn’t actually give any definite answer. Instead, he sidestepped it and came out looking good. Is that the message of the Gospel? What happened to the Gospel being offensive to unbelievers? It seems as though that truth has been cast aside.
So instead, I went with the Bible’s answer. I said, According to the Bible, and know that it kills me to say this because I love you both very much, yes, you ultimately will be sent to hell for not repenting and believing in Christ as your savior. It tore me apart to say that to them that day. Every part of me wanted to say NO! You can believe what you want! I’m sure God will be pleased with your sincerity! But that is not the truth of the Bible- so I can not, and could not affirm that lie.
The Character of God
I like what James Emery White has to say about this. His story of conversing with a Jewish woman has a much better ending:
As we talked, she readily shared how far she had come– now believing in the Bible and even in Jesus in God’s Son…Then came her stumbling block: “I can’t believe my Jewish parents are in hell. I just can’t believe that those wonderful people are not with God in heaven.”
I know of only one pastoral response to such plaintive cries, but it is perhaps the most significant response that can be offered: “We must trust in the character of God.” (From Embracing the Mysterious God by James Emery White, p.44)
What White says is true. We must trust in the character of God. But where do we learn about His character? Many Emergents would question if we can know anything about Him, to that I say, the revealed things belong to His people and their children forever (the rest of Deut. 29:29).
For those that have the answers that come directly from the Word of God, we must be prepared to give them. We can ask questions, but must have the answers readily availible. Otherwise, we are shooting projectiles into nothingness, and our words are meaningless. It is good to ask questions if you don’t know the answers, and it is necessary to give the answers to those asking the questions.