What unifies the doctrinally divergent EC is the passion to impact culture. This passion is driven, in part, by the philosophy of liberal postmillennialism where the church will build the Kingdom of God which is followed by the return of Christ. The premillennial view of Christ’s return is that Christ will return and establish the culture altering Kingdom, not the church.
Tony Jones after poking fun of pretribulational rapturists like Tim LaHaye who say “when things ‘down here’ become bad enough, Jesus will return in glory.’ But those of us represented in this book take the contrary view. God’s promised future is good, and it awaits us, beckoning us forward. We’re caught in the tractor beam of redemption and re-creation, and there’s no sense fighting it, so we might as well cooperate” (Tony Jones. An Emergent Manifesto of Hope. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007, 130).
The mandate of the church is not to impact culture but to “make disciples” in Matthew 28:19-20 by winning people to Christ, baptizing them, and teaching God’s Word. Will fulfilling the Great Commission impact culture? The answer is that culture will to some degree be impacted by fulfilling the Great Commission. Historically this has been the case. One of the most colorful of all preachers was Billy Sunday. Sunday’s most famous sermon was “Booze” and the common result of Sunday’s city wide campaigns was the closing of saloons (Robert A. Allen. Billy Sunday Home Run to Heaven (Milford: Mott Media, 1985), 87).
His preaching impacted culture. But the church’s commission is not to impact the culture.
When impacting the culture drives a church, however, then there is the potential for what has happened in the EC: Culture impacts the church. For example and in contrast to Billy Sunday, EC preacher Mark Driscoll (though to his credit, he has distanced himself from the EC) endorses Protestant Pubs: “I personally long to return to the glory days of Christian pubs, where God’s men gather to drink beer and talk theology” (Mark Driscoll. The Radical Reformission. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004, 147).
Mark Driscoll encourages his men to brew their own beer. According to Driscoll, it is not a sin to drink but it is a sin to drink light beer (Driscoll, 139).
Part of Driscoll’s leadership training of the young men in Seattle includes “how to study the Bible, get a job, invest money, buy a home, court a woman, brew beer, have good sex, and be a pastor-dad to their children” (Driscoll, 184).
It has been claimed that Sigmund Freud enjoyed telling his followers a story of a pastor who visited an atheist insurance agent who was on his death bed. The family had asked the pastor to share the gospel with their dying loved one as they waited in another room. As the conversation continued longer than expected there was hope that the pastor was being successful in his mission. When the pastor finally emerged from the bedroom it was discovered that the agent had not converted to Christ but he had been able to sell the pastor an insurance policy.
Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Seminary, after providing this example applied it to our discussion. “In rejecting the very real defects of fundamentalism during the past few decades, evangelicals have begun to take very seriously their responsibilities to the larger culture – and with some obvious signs of success. The questions we must face honestly are these: Have we sold a new policy to the culture – or has the culture sold us a policy” (Richard J. Mouw, The Smell of Sawdust (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000), p. 64, quoted in Gary E. Gilley, “The Kingdom of Emergent Theology-Part 1” http://www.svchapel.org/Resources/articles/read_articles.asp?ID=139).
The verdict is in: Culture has sold the EC a policy. McLaren has the philosophy of the liberal postmillennialists who sees the goal of the church to impact the globe. McLaren has contextualized the message of the gospel as well as the lifestyle of Christianity. McLaren’s gospel is social.
“African and African American Christians (Black theology) and Latin American Christians (liberation theology, integral missiology) have been hitting these themes with intelligence and passion for decades, but few of us listened to their spokespeople, whether it was Dr. King or Desmond Tutu, Gustavo Gutierrez or Rene Padilla. Eco-feminist theology—articulated by authors like Sallie McFague and Mary Grey….In many ways all of these voices echo what earlier Christian leaders (from Charles Finney to Walter Rauschenbusch…had been saying: the modern Western understanding of the gospel was too often truncated, shallow, thin, bland, anemic, privatized, personalized, polarized, and compromised” ( Brian McLaren. An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, Church Emerging: Or Why I Still Use the Word Postmodern but with Mixed Feeling. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007, 147-148).
While Driscoll exposes the heresy of the McLarens, he states, “we must help cultivate a kingdom counterculture where we live” (Driscoll, 170) and “we seek to build our kingdom culture” (Driscoll,184).
Culture is mostly neutral and not worldly for Driscoll. Many aspects of culture can be used in building the kingdom culture, according to Driscoll. Consequently, culture has impacted his ministry.