Posted by: judy | January 25, 2010

Which Gospel Is This? An Advent Message from Chris Seay

Chris Seay, one of the leaders and ‘voices’ of the Emergent Movement is a speaker at the Coalition for Christian Outreach’s annual convention, Jubilee.

On a rainy Sunday, I stumbled across this ‘sermon’ by Seay preached at his friend, Rob Bell’s church — Mars Hill. Chris was the ‘kick-off’ guest speaker for 2007 Advent.  It left me wondering — which gospel was Chris preaching?

I never heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Worship The Baby Resist The Empire

Part of the sermon was this You Tube Video. 

Listening to this sermon — weeding through all the stuff about him — First, Chris answers this question:

What is Adam and Eve’s struggle in the Garden?

(Paraphrased) Adam and Eve have everything — they have perfection — but they want more. They obsess over the one thing they couldn’t have.

As I was using this sermon to teach our children how to recognize deceptive teachings —  my college student quickly said — but that’s right!  Expecting her response, I shared the  context of  Chris’ thoughts.  Seay used his idea to support the central point in his sermon about the lavishness and materialism of our culture in preparation for Christmas. Not to teach obedience to God, sin, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Which gospel is this?

Chris spoke of a vacation home rented for his family on the beach

The family’s trip to the home of Leonard Sweet on an island off of Washington State.

Their experience at Sweet’s island home — sitting in the hot tub overlooking the ocean and describing a magnificent whale pod display.

Chris describes one of his plane trips  — being upgraded to 1st class on one flight and then having to sit in the back of the plane on another flight . . .

. . . Chris and the congregation enjoyed a good laugh about the sweaty, overweight man assigned to the seat next to Chris on that flight.

I wonder from which gospel this is?

"A Scripture project to rediscover the story of the Bible"

And then Chris read from the word, his word, The Voice.

Luke 2:11 — “Today in the city of David a liberator has been born for you. He is the promised liberating king, the supreme authority.”  The Voice (Brian McLaren’s assignment was the Luke chapter.)

Which gospel is this?

Luke 2:11 (NASB) — “for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Chris the Lord.”

I know this Gospel — this is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The ideas Seay presented in The Voice illuminates the key point of his ‘Advent Sermon’

” . . . and this Christmas we are going to obsess over the other things we want . . . and while we are obsessing in our abundance; we live with the reality that across the globe there is a level of poverty we can hardly fathom . . .”

Which gospel is this?

Chris gives the Benediction:

“We pray that God would burst something within us as we anticipate the birth of the Christ Child that is beautiful and hopeful. the joy boxes are her for you to give today a the conclusion of our services. I pray that you are also praying about how you can give as Mars Hill prepares for the Christmas offering and being part of the justice causes that your church has championed to that the reality is that we don’t live in a world where we are blind to two year old and three year olds dying when we know we can prevent it.

God, we pray that as we go we would leave as those expecting a baby to be born. lord that we would be nesting as a pregnant mother would that we would be creating space within our homes and our hearts and our lives that says the liberating king will be born and come to free me from the bondage that I live in the bondage of consumerism and pain and struggle and longing for more and more and more —

— and in that freedom, I would give abundantly. I would share and find beauty and hope in a world that is also filled with suffering and pain.

Go and be blessed. In the name of the Lord Jesus, In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We pray, Amen.”

Which gospel is this?

. . . and what about the sweaty, overweight man?

Does he not deserve dignity,


and the Gospel of Jesus Christ?



  1. Surely this can’t be the same Chris Seay who Byron has been so zealously defending?

    • Glen,

      Once again, you don’t get it quite right. I have not been “so zealously” defending Seay, but have numerous times asked for evidence that he is a heretic.

      I only defended that he get a fair trial, that evidence be shown, that innuendo and worldly attitudes be put away so that the brother can be treated fairly. I admitted to having read some of his books and didn’t quite know what the issue was that Y & J disapproved of, except his associations. I rejected that “guilty be association” logic and wondered if there was evidence one way or the other, since I didn’t know of anything all that bad.

      So, you distort my position. This has become so commonplace for you, hasn’t it, like a bad habit you may not even know you have.

      • Byron,

        Please illuminate what you mean by “I didn’t know of anything all that bad.” Sounds a little like, “Did God really say . . ?” Genesis 3:1

        • Judy,

          Thanks for asking. Good question, and an easy answer. When I say something like that I mean nothing that is an obvious error in anything that is essential for Christian orthodoxy. That is, there could be something I don’t really like in terms of style, an illustration, or, say, an unwise citation from another author I don’t like. But that doesn’t warrant (in my view) calling the book, let alone the author, unacceptable. No book is perfect, and most aren’t absolutely brilliant in style or substance. I can recommend a book that is mostly good on most stuff, or if it makes some helpful contribution, if it is solid on essentials.

          The context of me saying that, of course, was asking what, really, you (or Yvonne or Glen) so fully bad that Seay is outside the fold. “…not all that bad” or “really bad” means unorthodox in things that are essential. So I was asking what, on anything that is “really” most important for orthodoxy, was wrong with his books. As I said, I read them, and nothing jumped out as heretical in what I read.

          I’m glad you asked. Your note of what it “sounded like” to you was telling, though: always presuming the worst…

          • Byron, the only thing I care about is your response to our request of mature Christian discernment and love for Christian brothers and sisters at Jubilee by not selling books by some of the authors listed.

            What say you?

  2. Byron,

    you defend Seay like a dog holding onto a bone, and Seay has indeed been given a “fair trial.” And if one doesn’t want to be “guilty by association,” then he shouldn’t be working together with a well-known heretic/emergent people like Brian McLaren and Rob Bell.

    And, no, I have NOT misrepresented your position at all – take a look at how often you come to his defense. You keep saying there isn’t enough evidence, yet I have seen plenty demonstrated. You are being intentionally blind because you want to justify your support of these people.

    • Glen,

      Talk about a dog with a bone, you surely are one of the most tenacious people I’ve ever corresponded with.

      I don’t know why asking for evidence, or asking what books people have read that they don’t like, or asking what it is they don’t like about him, is “defending him” like you say. On more than one occasion I sounded fairly agnostic, admitting I don’t know all his work, so was just wondering what was so bad—since I hadn’t seen anything worth getting too worked up about. Calling people heretics or apostate or deceived is serious business, and my one-note message here has been that we dare not accuse somebody falsely.

      I did ask repeatedly, not because I was zealous to defend him, but because the answers were not forthcoming. The reason I could gather that he was guilty of heresy was he did a Bible paraphrase (and I reject that as illogical) and that he was part of the emergent discussions and is friends with McLaren or Bell (which, again, I don’t agree is fair.) I wanted to know what he said or wrote that violated any essential doctrine, the criteria that ordinary Christian thinkers agree matters most when evaluating whether a person is orthodox or not.

      We could go back and count up the times I “defended him” and see what I said. I invite any interested reader to do so. Before the post from a day or so ago that highlighted an Advent sermon about Seay, I didn’t see any effort to answer my often-repeated question. It wasn’t me so much being “intentionally blind” but the managers of this blog being what seemed like intentionally silent. I asked and asked and got nothing. And you get mad a me for being persistent?

      By the way, I have not said they haven’t presented evidence since the time somebody said the evidence is found at other places. (So if you reply, as you did above, please do not say that I keep asking, as it should be put in the past tense, I had been asking about that.) I was a bit chagrined by that, but I accepted it. I noted that I didn’t think that was the wisest suggestion, and invited people to read his books for themselves, making up their own mind. Then they posted the Advent sermon, and made comments about it. Since then, I’ve only replied (about Seay) to YOU when you misrepresent the character and content of the threads about him.

      You say I am deliberately refusing to see things. Yet, you can go back and see it in black and white. What I asked, what people said back. How I said it seemed unfair to make these large and gross accusations without evidence, and how I was treated in response. You are simply not being accurate in your description of the flow of these conversations, what was and wasn’t said. I don’t know if you don’t pay attention or are so angry that your vision is blurred, but you are simply wrong about this. Go back and look for yourself. I DO defend some authors sometimes, saying that what they say is great, that they are innocent, that we shouldn’t criticize them, that some reviewer misunderstood what was said. I have not done this. I have just said I wanted them to back up their serious accusations with serious evidence that they have studied his work, listened to him, maybe talked with him directly, before taking up the serious business of calling him heretical.

      I don’t know Seay, never met him, read some of his books and don’t even rave about them. I don’t mean to sound cavalier, but I don’t care all that much about him, per se, since we’ve never corresponded. I just cannot abide people running roughshod over somebody like that. It’s the principle of the thing. At least now they are engaging the stuff he said and responding to real content, such as it is. I will not comment on whether they have captured his teaching well, if they’ve made cogent critique of it, if they’ve been compelling in showing that he is trouble. Readers can see what he said and see their quips in response and decide for themselves. At least they are playing fairly, now, offering some evidence rather than hearsay or who he has talked with…

      • WOW, I can’t seem to get beyond this:

        “I suppose Beth and I are moderate on this, and you are more extreme (is that fair to say?) Like the Amish, say, or some cults, you seem to forbid reading stuff that you disapprove of, drawing strong lines in the sand, saying no to this and no to that. I don’t see that much in the life of Jesus (although it was what his critics were all about, as I’m sure you know.)”

        Which Bible are you reading? Jesus was a “moderate” ??? Jesus didn’t say “no to this and no to that” ???

        Crucifixtion was a bit ‘extreme’ for such a ‘moderate’.

        But, thank you for not calling us moderate! It is the nicest thing you have said about us.

  3. So, here’s my conundrum. In part, I agree very much with this blog. In fact, let met list a few things that I agree with.

    1. Salvation is not earned in any way, but received from God as a gift.
    2. I have, to date, not been impressed with the so-called emergent church movement. The caveat here is that I have not read much on, nor do I know a ton about the movement. I have read a couple books by Brian McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy and The Secret Message of Jesus, and found them, for lack of a better word, weak. I also read Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz, which I found to be helpful, if not earth-shattering, and, as far as I could tell, doctrinally sound. However, my impression of those that call themselves emergent is that they tend to be dangerously anti-authoritarian, anti-intellectual, and highly relativistic. Again, though, I feel that these are strong words for not being as informed about the emergent church as I would like to be. Also, from what I can tell, “emergent” is a vague term that has been used to label a highly diverse group of people and beliefs, and so I am not sure speaking about “the emergent church” as a single entity is especially helpful.
    3. I am very much opposed to the current “new-age” currents in the Church, as well as the reduction of the church to any sort of psycho-therapy.

    All this being said, there are posts, like this one, that confuse me. Here’s why:

    The emergent church posses a strong critique to traditional evangelical Christianity. I do not agree with the critique, necessarily, but the sad part is that the critique was needed at all. Many, many emergents that I know, or know about, are disillusioned evangelicals. A fear of mine is that by adopting the “us vs them” mentality, evangelicalism has ceased to be self-critical. Honestly, the mere existence of the emergent church is evidence that not all is right in the mainline church. So, the following is partly a critique of this blog, and partly a critique of mainline evangelicalism, I don’t wish to put words in your mouth, but from your site, I think I have a pretty decent idea of what you are saying. If I do misrepresent you, I apologize.

    I barely have any idea who Chris Seay is. In fact, I might have never heard of him before reading this blog. Needless to say, I also have no idea what he says or thinks. All my information is coming from this post. However, even in this post, something that you say concerns me. Here’s the quote in full:

    “Luke 2:11 — ‘Today in the city of David a liberator has been born for you. He is the promised liberating king, the supreme authority.’ The Voice (Brian McLaren’s assignment was the Luke chapter.)

    Which gospel is this?

    Luke 2:11 (NASB) — ‘for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Chris the Lord.’

    I know this Gospel — this is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

    I am confused about your conceptions of justice and the Gospel. Nicholas Wolterstorff, on his recent treatise on justice, notes that “the Greek noun in Plato’s text that is standardly translated as “justice” is “dikaiosune”; the adjective standardly translated as “just” is “dikaios.” This same dik-stem occurs around three hundred times in the New Testament, in a wide variety of grammatical variants.” A majority of these were translated as “righteousness” instead of “justice.” This, Wolterstorff continues, is because the dik-stem words do not have an exact English translation; we do not have a word that means exactly what the Greek word means. However, under further examination, the word “righteousness” has shifted meaning since the earliest translations. Today, righteousness is often considered a personal character trait, Wolterstorff notes, whereas historically is meant something more along the lines of “being in right relationship with one another.” However, considering the evolution of the English language, it now makes much more sense to translate “righteousness” as “justice.” In fact, the beatitudes most accurately read “blessed are those that hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be filled” and “blessed are those who are persecuted for justice’s sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” This argument can be repeated throughout much of the New Testament.

    I know, in the previous paragraph, I have asked you to take a lot on faith. I don’t think any of us know Greek, and so we are all kind of trusting Wolterstorff on this one. However, even without translation debates, we find justice as a central theme of the New Testament.

    “The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
    “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to preach good news to the poor.
    He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
    to release the oppressed,
    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

    Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
    (Luke 4:17-21 NIV)

    And the same from Matthew:

    “This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:
    “Here is my servant whom I have chosen,
    the one I love, in whom I delight;
    I will put my Spirit on him,
    and he will proclaim justice to the nations.
    He will not quarrel or cry out;
    no one will hear his voice in the streets.
    A bruised reed he will not break,
    and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out,
    till he leads justice to victory.
    In his name the nations will put their hope.”
    (Matthew 12:17-21 NIV)

    If you read the passages that Jesus was pulling from (Isaiah 61:1-2 and 58:6-7), God’s concern and demand for justice is all the more apparent, as is Christ role as a bringer of justice. This, of course, doesn’t even address the Old Testament, in which justice is a key concern, all the way from the Levitical Law to the demands of the prophets.

    Here, you might cry, “but the gospel is so much more than simply justice! It is about the salvation of souls.” And I would agree, but would respond saying “but it is not less than this.” In other words, the gospel is certainly about more than only justice, but the gospel without a demand for justice is no longer the gospel of the Bible. Here is what you lose by calling every Christian movement concerned with justice “the Social Gospel Movement.” The Social Gospel Movement was a very short lived liberal movement that argued that Christ was not God, but was merely a wise man who showed us how to be just to each other, just like Gandhi. The Bible, then, became a fictional account whose sole purpose was to help man to promote world justice. Many of the modern Christian justice movements are arguing the opposite. Christ was indeed God, the Bible is a historical reality, and because of these things, justice is a vital part of what we are called to do.

    Here, let me re-stress – I am not advocating salvation by works. In no way do we earn our salvation. However, as God’s people we are marked by certain modes of living, the fruits of the spirit, and concern for justice, to name a few. If there was a church that claimed all of its members were saved, but went on weekly murdering rampages of neighboring churches, would you take seriously their claim of salvation? I would hope not. I think that the same must go for both the fruits of the spirit and justice. If you are the people of God, then you will act a certain way (another aside is appropriate here – this is not to say that you will be perfect).

    However, often I see the evangelical salvation conversation going like this “what is the very least I can do, and not go to hell?” The result of this is not Christianity, but the equivalent of a Sunday morning social club.

    Let’s take the critique one step farther. Philip Lee, in his book on modern gnosticism, writes that “in gnosticism, there was not that extra step of going to a sacred literature which existed quite apart from the self and finding in it, as a fringe benefit, a truth that could be applied to the self. In gnosticism, the Scripture was sacred only insofar as it saved the self.” The point is this: salvation of the individual qua individual was never a part of the Gospel message. The message was never “Jesus and me,” but “Jesus and me and his people.” From the very beginning of the Old Testament, all through the New, God has declared that he will be our God, and that we shall be his people. We are living stones of the church, we are parts of the body. The good news of the Gospel, as I see it, is that Jesus, as King, working mightily, is going to save for himself a people, and that this people will be a light to the nations. Of course part of this is individual salvation, but another part of this is a deep concern for justice. Which of these is the more important? I feel like that is the same as asking “what is more important, the heart or the lungs?” At the end of the day, these are inseparable parts of the good news of Christ.

    My final point is this: insofar as one argues that the Gospel is primarily about individual salvation, and uses the Bible as a handbook to get as many to heaven as possible, one walks very closely to gnosticism. I do not know enough about most modern church movements to pronounce heresy or orthodoxy on them. However, I do know that gnosticism is a heresy – a heresy that seems to be pervasive in modern evangelicalism. I would want to be very careful that it is not I that is the false prophet. After all, in Matthew 7, we are told that the best way to tell false prophets is by their fruit.

    In all honesty, I almost didn’t write this. I don’t especially like the internet as a conversational forum, and so tend to avoid using it as such, but I felt that something should be said, and I think that I have said what I wanted to. I would like to hear what you think about the above, and if you need clarification on anything I wrote, I would be happy to provide it. However, if you respond in counter arguments, I will probably not defend myself. Getting involved in an internet argument is not on the top of my list of priorities right now.

    Thank you for your time,


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