A while ago I read A Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell. In this book Bell argues for a new Christianity, he desires to repaint orthodoxy. He calls his book velvet Elvis because he used to have a velvet painting of Elvis. He loved this painting but argued if the artist were to appear on TV and say no-one else should ever paint again because his painting is the pinnicale of art that would be insane. He then insists this is what the church has done with orthodoxy. The emerging Church to which Bell belongs suggest that we have domesticated Jesus and thus orthodoxy which was "painted fresh" at the reformation needs painting new in this post modern generation. Bell insists this is should be done not in a superficial way, like fresh worship music but the whole concept of orthodoxy and the Church should be reconsidered. He argued that core doctrines are just unimportant like for instance the virgin birth. He asks if we lose the virgin birth what have we lost? He implies we lose nothing but we lose Jesus! We lose the biblical Jesus at any rate, Jesus who is both Lord of heaven, Son of God and the last Adam. Thus we lose redemption, the atoning work of God on our behalf. Then we lose heaven because there is no way back to heaven without the redeemer. Bell, and Mclaren argue against penal substitution and Mclaren doesn't believe the God of the Bible would send people to hell. What the emerging Church leaders are giving us is a hippy Jesus, a Jesus who loves, but is a watered down lifeless version of the radical Jesus of the Bible. The Jesus of the emerging church is nothing more than a velvet Jesus, a Jesus who is unable to save, and has nothing to save us from. What they are seeking to do is make the message palatable, who wants to hear about sin and hell? Hell just isn't nice! Of course hell isn't nice, our sin isn't nice, that is why the gospel is offensive, that is why the gospel cuts to the heart, that is why the biblical Jesus is (in the words of C. S Lewis) not a Tame Jesus, he isn't safe but he is good. It is not the Church that has domesticated Jesus but the emerging church.
We should not write off every emerging church however, the idea of reaching out to adults who wish to remain in their teens is a good and necessary calling, however to abandon the faith to win them is suicide. A radical alternative to the emerging church is the new breed of reformed churches http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2006/september/42.32.html who don't just love doctrine but are passionate for the gospel and for mission. Amongst this new breed of reformers are Mark Driscoll who is often identified as emergent, yet is committed to the faith as entrusted to us by the Bible.