In their effort to persuade others, emergents repeatedly use two logical fallacies: the straw man and the false antithesis (also known as the false dilemma). After presenting a distorted picture of “modern” Christianity and each of its distinctive teachings and practices, emergents will present their teachings and practices as the only alternative to the straw man they have created. Regarding witnessing, for example, they may say something like the following: “Instead of trying to arrogantly bully unbelievers into submitting to our truth claims through the use of propositional head bashing, we must befriend them so that they will join our community.” The only real choice given in the above false antithesis is to abandon propositional declaration of the gospel message in favor of being nice people. The truth is that we can be nice and proclaim the gospel message.
Another strategy emergents employ with impunity is brazen self-contradiction. They assert, for example, that we cannot know truth with any certainty; and they seem to be absolutely certain of this. They say that it is wrong for any segment of Christianity to arrogantly claim that they have a better grasp on correct doctrine or practice than others, yet they repeatedly claim to have a superior understanding of these things than conservative Evangelicals do. While claiming that imposing one’s moral standards on another is wrong (itself a self-contradiction), they often insist that we must embrace liberal social causes. Because of the self-contradictory nature of the relativism they embrace, emergent writings abound with contradictions.
Emergents do not always “play fair” in their use of language. Since they deconstruct terms to make them mean whatever they choose, isolated emergent statements may mean different things to emergents than they do to Evangelicals. To determine emergent intent one must study the overall context of their communications. Avoiding this time consuming study prevents many Evangelicals from fully appreciating the seriousness of emergent error.
Finally, whenever their teachings come under fire, emergents tend to “duck and cover,” that is, they do not answer their critics directly, they simply attempt to deflect the criticism and divert attention elsewhere. McLaren’s comment that “Don Carson doesn’t understand us” is a good example of this. With this comment McLaren summarily dismisses the well-researched and thoughtful critique of one of Christianity’s most thoughtful and even-handed scholars. Emergent bloggers frequently insist that no one in the movement believes what the critics accuse them of in spite of the numerous citations offered by these critics. Additionally, these blogs flow so freely with egregious heresy that one wonders if the defensive bloggers are reading the comments posted on the very sites they are on.