Tuesday, December 11, 2007

MacArthur and Emergent Pagans!?

I have a lot of contact with the Emergent Conversation, and I have a lot of contact with Neo-Pagans. Now John MacArthur tells me that they are the same. I'm not sure he knows either group very well. They don't look the same to me. I wonder what he's thinking. So, here's the quote.


Adam Gonnerman said...

I LOVE it when John MacArthur says things like this (which is pretty much every time he opens his mouth). First, it makes for fun conversations. Second, he's hilarious. Third, I find out about interesting "heretics" like Doug Pagitt. GREAT!

Anonymous said...

How bizarre!

I have to admit though that I don't know nearly enough about the Emergent Conversation to really have an informed opinion on this or any other subject relating to them.

Jeff said...

How sad. For someone who is, by reputation, fairly brilliant, he certainly doesn't come across that way.

However, his logical fallacies are are impressive.

He insists on treating the emerging conversation as one homogeneous thought. That he doesn't recognize that shows his lack of research. He also doesn't get it that IT IS GOD'S PLACE, AND ONLY GOD'S PLACE, to judge the "Christianity" of someone.

Well, I guess it is "better the Devil you know" for us in regard to MacArthur.

Pam Hogeweide said...

MacArthur is speaking clearly as an evangelical, and Phil, have you forgotten the dialect already?

To question or resist traditional doctrine is to rebel against truth...and this is heresy in evangelical culture. MacArthur makes it clear that he believes the church's job is to protect the truth, the word of God. Guys like Pagitt (and um, you too Phil) are dangerous because you appear to be church leaders but you are leading people astray with you doctrines of hell.

And this makes perfect sense to me why MacArthur, with evangelical finesse, can say the Emerging Church movement is basically a form of paganism...

I get it because it was not so long ago that evangelicalism was my hear language, and though it no longer is, I am still fluent in speaking and hearing it.

(oh, and I am pleased as punch with pineapple floating in it that Pagitt is publicly stating that he does not buy the hell thing. I am moving further and further from the doctrine of eternal damnation. Have you ever written about this Phil? What are your thoughts about hell?)

Adam Gonnerman said...


I'm not Phil and you didn't ask me, but I'd like to jump in on the hell question. Personally, I'm skeptical of traditional interpretations of hell, especially the deeper I go into what the Bible actually says about these things in the context of those times. It's eye-opening. At the same time, much of the "evangelical universalist" work I've seen in print lately seems like a warmed-over evangelicalism with hell removed. Deeper study is needed on this topic, rather than a re-working of traditional ideas on only the one point.

Pastor Phil said...

Hey Adam,

Yeep, good on them heretics. It's about time somebody really rocked the church.

Pastor Phil said...

IIt's worth a study Jarred. It'll tell you something about both the conversation and MacArthur.

Pastor Phil said...

Hey Jeff,

I've been a charismatic pastor living a mere two hours from his church, and now I have developed friends in the emergent conversation. I've been in MacArthur's cross hairs for 20 years, and his reputation is greater than the actuality in my eyes. He has always had wild exaggerations which were impressive logical fallacies.

Pastor Phil said...


I haven't forgotten the dialect. I simply refuse to use that refuse.

Now the Hell issue. Written on it? Hmmmm...not really, but we held an event we called the Brimstone Chronicles in October here in Salem. It was a historical and experiential walk through Dante's Inferno, Sinner's in the Hands of an Angry God and the Stations of Torment and Bliss at $50/person with a wonderful wine and hors d'ouvres feast modeling the marriage supper of the Lamb.

The people who came were Witches, and agnostics, and Christians, and they all loved the event - go figure - $50/person and they loved hearing about Hell and Judgment. Methinks my life is weirding on me.

So here's my take in the short version. I have a problem with the evangelical emphasis in the Gospel proclamation. Yet, I have no qualms with Jonathan Edwards. I also have a problem with what I think is a knee jerk response of some to remove Hell from the playing field of discussion by recreating a theology more culturally sensitive. This same situation is occurring with the issue of sexuality, and I think both subjects are being driven by social trends and public outcry. I am not sure that social trends and public outcry are good for determining theology. I do think those pressures are good for forming mission, and Gospel contextualization, but theology is a slightly different issue.

Pam Hogeweide said...

hi adam,

you wrote,

It's eye-opening. At the same time, much of the "evangelical universalist" work I've seen in print lately seems like a warmed-over evangelicalism with hell removed.

What do you mean by this? What have you been reading to give you this perspective? I have only just begin reading up on universalist ideology. It is compelling and has my attention. There are some great and thoughtful sites on Christian universalism out there.

Phil, the Brimstone Chronicles event sounds awesome. Your faith community sure comes up with some creative ways to love and dialog in Salem.

You said,

I also have a problem with what I think is a knee jerk response of some to remove Hell from the playing field of discussion by recreating a theology more culturally sensitive.

I hear ya, however, in some of the reading I've done so far there are some heavy hitting theologians who are universalists, like Barth and Barclay for starters. There are bible scholars who are not willing to accept the eternal damnation perspective.

For me, it has been a twenty-plus year meditation of unease with the whole hell thing, as I call it. I recently had a lovely discussion with a mature woman of faith from my church about hell. We both came out of the closet, as it were, to one another. We are not babes in the post-modern woods responding to cultural pressure to do away with an irritating belief like hell. Rather, we are women of substance who, for decades, have had a huge problem lining up the God of the cross with the lake of fire. If I am willing to believe with all of my conviction that only Christ followers are going to heaven, then therefore my belief forces me to embrace the notion that most of mankind through most of history are hell-bound. This just sucks, and smacks of injustice. How can a God of justice and fierce, passionate love allow most of his sons and daughters to live eternally apart from him? I can no longer blindly accept this, or even pretend to accept this.

I know American women who were raped by their pastor fathers. They want nothing to do with God. Are they hell-bound?

I know pagan women who love the weak and vulnerable in their communities. Am I going to inform them that oops, you're not on heaven's A list so, um, get ready to burn?

I do not mean to put you on the defense for all of Christendom's fixation with the hellfire thing. I'm venting a bit here...and really, I need to study and write about this some more on my own blog... I guess I'm defensive that if someone like me is willing to rethink the whole hell thing that I won't be dismissed as someone reacting to culture, when really, it's not that at all. At least not for me.

Pastor Phil said...

Hey Pam,

No need to apologize for putting me on the defensive. I don't do defensive often. The best defense is a good - you know. ;-)

Anyway, I have less a problem with the Hell topic, and more a problem with the evangelical distinction of who is going there. Know what I mean? The Preachers Hell block is filled with eternal abuse.

Actually, I am not dogmatic on the eternal conscious torment issue. I don't have a problem with it - especially for us preachers, but I have a severe problem with assuming abused preacher's kids are going to be tormented when their fathers get off scot free.

Adam Gonnerman said...


A prime example would be "The Inescapable Love of God" by Thomas Talbott. Mr. Talbott does an excellent job of studying the Bible through the lense of the Protestant tradition (with responses to some of C.S. Lewis' perspectives included). It is the best work defending the universalist perspective from the Protestant tradition.

My point is that rather than take the Protestant interpretations as a given and working from there, it would have been better for him to take a fresh look at what the passages and scripture references would have meant in their original contexts, rather than to the later church. Much of the long-standing interpretations of the Bible held by the Western (and also Eastern church, to varying degrees) are in my opinion flawed due to a lack of familiarity with first-century (and earlier) cultural and religious contexts.

This is too much to discuss here. Over the next couple of years I hope to elaborate a bit more on my perspective on my own blog, Igneous Quill.

Pam Hogeweide said...

and more a problem with the evangelical distinction of who is going there.

yeah, me too.

i'm holding out hope that in the end we all exist in a harmonious eternal state as we were meant to be, unfettered and uncrippled from evil and selfishness, and that hell is for the very few who refuse, even in the light of forever, to live with God.

Pastor Phil said...


Me too, too.

I think I'm just holding out hope.

Steve Hayes said...

While I think what he said was simplistic, and often just plain silly, I don't think he was saying that emerging church people and neopagans were the same. I may have missed something, but I didn't see that he said anything about neopagans at all.

But he did seem to think that his contextualised gospel for the suits of this world was the only expression of the gospel that counts.