I really think the main problem with liberalism and its younger manifestation, the emerging church, is that it has an over-realized eschatology. This seems evident in issues like the egalitarian debate, the separation of the Holy Spirit from the Scripture in terms of divine communication, etc. Below are a few ways this over-realized eschatology manifests itself within the movement.
- There is a sense that we are out of the dangers of the wilderness and so no need to worry about the fact that the world and its cultures are under the influence of the devil and his program.
- There is a sense that we have arrived in God’s Kingdom already, and therefore, since we are not still unified on doctrinal and moral matters, God must not care about us being unified in the truth, but instead in some other way (which of course ends up being the cultural ideal concerning unity: unity in emotion and being nice). Since we've already arrived, unity would have already have taken place. Hence, God must not care about it, so let's not argue over these matters.
- There is a sense that because God’s Kingdom has already arrived everyone around us is included in that kingdom, so being exclusive, especially toward others who have some claim to be Christians or adherents of some sort of Christian spirituality is wrong.
- There is a sense that because God’s Kingdom has already arrived there is no need to fear any future threat of punishment for distorting the faith, falling away, and being excluded from God’s presence. Indeed, if we have already arrived, and we do not experience judgment, no judgment must be coming (or it probably won't be as bad as what we have experienced already).
- The idea that one is in the presence of God’s Kingdom seems to produce a feeling that the Bible is of yesteryear, where God’s direct presence is today and the Bible, as highly regarded as it may be, is not to be regarded over one’s experience of God, since the present experience of God overrules those parts of the Bible that seem to negate that experience (e.g., “I feel God’s love and presence so much I could never see Him as eternally punishing anyone for sin”).
These often unannounced assumptions seem to be at the source of the adverse attitude one often sees within these circles concerning exclusivity, only few in relation to the whole will be saved in the end, disputing over doctrinal matters, that the Bible is sufficient revelation that gives certainty of the truth, that cultural philosophies (like Postmodernity) are often against Christ rather than for Him, that God will punish sinners eternally, that there is a need to pay close attention to all that the Bible says and let that influence our views of God over our personal experiences, and that man is wicked to the core and will continually mold God in his image as a form of rebellion against the true God (as well as distort the truths that would lead one to God).
In essence, the over-realized eschatology of the emerging movement ends up rejecting numerous biblical truths. Because of this, liberals and emergings tend to think higher of experience than they should, as though their minds and hearts have been completely restored already in glorification and can now directly commune with God and understand Him without the aid of an outside source (i.e., biblical revelation) that is needed to correct our experience.
The truth is that we live in the already/not yet. This is not the kingdom of the already alone. That means that the people of the kingdom of God must continue to grow and guard themselves (and each other) in a world that is set up to destroy them. They may not be unified in all things, but must continually be at work for God with one another to come to the truth on matters God has revealed, because He has revealed them sufficiently for us to know them with certainty. We have our Helper, the Holy Spirit, present with us in the now, but He is present with us to help us get to the “not yet.” This means we must intently sit at the feet of His Word and seek the Lord’s presence in all that we do, because it is not automatically there. We must test the spirits to see if they are of God, since many false prophets have gone out into the world. Unity with God and His children is therefore maintained by the lifeline of God’s Word. Those who seek unity with Him through its exclusive claims are drawing near to God, but those seeking unity elsewhere are deceived and still perishing, regardless of their claims to know God.
What this all means is that the emerging movement needs to be corrected, as it is a false Christianity from which one must mature or in which one who refuses to reject will perish, much like anyone in any form of cult or false religious system. In fact, I think we need to stop seeing cults as pseudo-Christian but everyone else as Christians because they claim it. Some are Christians, to be sure, but their false eschatology (which carries with it a false anthropology, bibliology, soteriology, etc.) has caused them to misunderstand the nature of Christianity as a whole. Because of this, they must come to the right of the matter and reject their false doctrine and all of those false beliefs and practices it produces. If one evidences rebellion rather than repentance such is to be expected within the majority of any false religious movement; but such should not hinder us from speaking the truth in love to those who have been deceived by the philosophies or our adversary.