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The Emerging Churches in the Book of Judges

[This essay dates to 2007 and has not been updated to reflect personnel or other changes at Biblical Seminary since then. To the extent that this essay may seem out of date, it should be viewed in the context of (hopefully useful) church history. To download an MS Word formatted version, see: ]

My investigation into the emerging church movement (ECM) was motivated by finding out that my alma mater (Biblical Theological Seminary, Hatfield, PA) has adopted the goal of being the seminary of choice for the emerging church. This essay therefore will focus on matters which are relevant to BTS. This means that this essay will also focus on Brian McLaren (not the emerging church movement in general), since McLaren’s influence on BTS has been evident in a number of ways, the most obvious being that in a 20 minute presentation on the new direction of BTS (“Seminary on the Mission”), president Dave Dunbar quotes Brian McLaren (but not anything in the Bible) as justification for this new direction: “If you have a new world, you need a new church.”1 McLaren is one of the leaders of an organization within the ECM called “Emergent Village.” What I have learned keeps reminding me of my studies in the book of Judges, especially the two so-called appendices (chapters 17–18 and 19–21). Unlike the rest of the book which deals with how the judges led Israel, these two stories each feature a Levite, or what in emerging church terminology is called a “missional leader” (if you’ve never heard of this terminology, what you’ll learn first about the emerging church is its apparent dislike for Biblical terminology). These missional leaders of emerging churches in Israel are, to put it mildly, not positive role models for us.

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