Emergent: Doug Pagitt’s theology of universalism

I have grown more disappointed about Emergent`s leaders. Why have I become disappointed? I recent heard an interview of an Emergent leader, Doug Pagitt, pastor at Solomon`s Porch and his theological beliefs really disappointed me and it left somewhat of a sour taste in my mouth. I must say, though, that his theology might not be representative of all of the Emergent leaders but it does give me a better idea of where some emergents stand. You can listen to it on YouTube here (part 1 and part 2). Doug Pagitt avoided all the questions that interviewer, Todd Friel, posed to him on Way of the Master Radio (part 1 and part 2). Pagitt didn’t answer even one of the questions in a forthright manner. He evaded the interviewer’s questions and didn’t seem knowledgeable about what Jesus actually said about hell. Doug Pagitt actually denied the existence of hell as a place where non-believers go to. He got very defensive and indirectly denied the existence of hell as a place where one’s soul goes to after this life on earth. Pagitt merely characterized hell as being a disconnection and disintegration with God but he denied its existence. Pagitt could not even agree with Jesus’ own description of hell as quoted from the bible. Friel also asked Pagitt: “I’m a good Buddhist, where does my soul go when I die?” Pagitt could not answer this question. He evaded his question and his response, if it was a response, was rather weak. His response to the question was: “You interact with God just as every other human being interacts with God.” However, this did not answer the question about the existence of hell being a place where non-believers go. Pagitt could not answer him directly and truthfully because if he did, he would have to reveal that he holds to a theology of universalism. This is where one believes that it does not matter which religion one believes in, eventually one will end up in heaven. Neither does Pagitt believe in the traditional biblical idea of judgment. He wanted to evade Friel’s question of what judgment was because he would otherwise have to reveal that he does not believe in an eternal damnation in a place called Hades. For Pagitt, hell is only a metaphor and does not really exist. Just listen to the interview yourself and you will understand. Judgment is only a metaphor because it is only a re-creation of a new heaven where everyone of any religion will end up. Furthermore, what really turned me off was that he turned around and attacked Friel, accusing him of not understanding the bible and how it should be used. That’s arrogant scholasticism! And note, scholasticism was what Luther fought against in the Roman Catholic church. Pagitt became defensive and resorted to using some high-end academic language that most ordinary post-modern people would not understand, e.g., “dual platonic cosmology”. Well, so much for trying to reach a post-modern generation by using academic language taught in seminary. If Pagitt really wants to do ministry to post-moderns, he better get it right with his evangelical brothers and sisters. Scholastic and generational pride should have no place in Christ’s church.

7 thoughts on “Emergent: Doug Pagitt’s theology of universalism

  1. Dave, thanks for coming around on my blog. People are going to be people, and some things never change.

    I think emerging, or even emergent, are trying to re-create some things and trying to be different from evangelicals, but in the end, they may be just the same. On the other hand, there are parts of emergent that very different in theology.

    What did you think of the theology or things they taught at Solomon’s Porch?


  2. Hey kevin, I’ve been to Solomon’s Porch as a kind of experiment to see if an ’emerging’ church is any different in terms of ‘welcoming strangers’ compared to other american evangelical churches so here i was in a living room, the only asian guy sitting on a sofa, and i mingled around after service to see if there’s any noticeable difference. Nope, everyone just seems too busy talking in their own circles to notice hehe… i’m not saying they gotta rush out to me and shake my hands, and perfectly understand the post church social dynamics but i cant disagree about a growing disappointment in some of the things the Emergent leaders are saying… but mostly for wat they didnt say when they had the chance to do so


  3. Hey Kevin,

    On the difference between “Emerging” and “Emergent”, I think what has to be done is to read each author and critic individually in regard to those terms. Some, like Driscoll, use the words with distinct meaning that they pour into each. Others use them as synonyms.

    I might be the flip-side of you on this issue. I’m not one who casts off the whole movement. However, I’m more thumbs-down than thumbs-up with it. I’ll look forward to more writings from you to hear more of your thoughts on it. What I appreciate about your writing on the subject is your willingness to be honest and if something walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, you call it a duck. I can totally respect your conclusions even if we don’t agree on every detail.


  4. Hey Joe, thanks for your feedback on this. Despite my ranting, I still think the emerging church movement is pretty good overall too. They are doing some really good stuff and I can understand their desire to reaching out to people in their 20s and 30s. I hope I wasnt’ sounding like I was down on the whole thing. I think Dan Kimball, Mark Driscoll amongst others are great. They have sound theology. No I haven’t seen D.A. Carson’s book yet but I’ll have to take a look at it. Mark Driscoll talks about the difference on “emergent” versus “emerging” church. I recently learned about this difference from listening to him on YouTube here. I should have differentiated the two on my post because most people like me don’t know the difference.


  5. Strike the word “overall” from my sentence “overall, I agree with what you’re saying about the Emerging Church.”

    That should simply read, “I agree with what you’re saying about the Emerging Church.”


  6. Hey Kevin,

    I’ll have to listen to the links you provided. Overall, I agree with what you’re saying about the Emerging Church.

    I find some Evangelicals are criticizing it because their favorite pastor does. This is wrong. I’ve picked up books by Emerging authors to read what they have to say for themselves. I like Dan Kimball. I like what I’ve seen from Mark Driscoll. Other than those two, I have a lot of concerns.

    I thought D.A. Carson’s book was great on the EC movement. I’m wondering if you’ve read it. I think Greg Koukl & Brett Kunkle at str.org has done a great job while trying to be fair too. In fact, Koukl is quoted in the list of the people who recommend Kimball’s newest book, They Like Jesus. They’ve had Dan Kimball on their radio program twice. Both times Brett Kunkle was the host.

    I see some great things about the EC. They see some holes that need plugging. But their to loose theological. That concerns me greatly.


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