Movie Review: The Submerging Church

The Submerging Church represents the third documentary I have reviewed from Good Fight Ministries. With a runtime of 138 minutes, this 2012 documentary is a “compelling, thoroughly documented expose uncovering the truth behind the Emergent Church” (back cover of the little DVD insert I have). Joe Schimmel, the president and founder of Good Fight Ministries as well as the pastor of Blessed Hope Chapel in Simi Valley, California, is the documentary‚Äôs main contributor. This review notes some of the many highlights and notable quotes this film shows.


On the title screen for the documentary, the viewer has the option to play the DVD in its entirety, go directly to one of the fifteen chapters this documentary has, or preview eight other resources that Good Fight Ministries produces. These other sources include:

  1. They Sold Their Souls For Rock And Roll (which I have reviewed)
  2. Hollywood’s War On God (which I have also reviewed)
  3. The Kinsey Syndrome (which I viewed and will review soon)
  4. The Dark Secrets of Planned Parenthood
  5. Hollywood Unmasked
  6. Hollywood Unmasked 2
  7. Harry Potter: A Spirit Conspiracy?
  8. Rock n Roll Sorcerers of the New Age Revolution

When you select any one of the above resources, you both see a brief summary of the source and can watch a trailer for the film. The trailers for the film are similar to (if not the same as) those trailers you can find on the Good Fight Ministries Youtube channel (Out of the above eight, I only viewed the trailer for The Kinsey Syndrome as a test). I can definitely vouch for the first three sources I listed because I have both seen them and found them to be important resources. I would most definitely be interested in the other five in light of those three and The Submerging Church (spoiler alert for my review).

Stylistically, this documentary is different from both They Sold Their Souls For Rock And Roll and Hollywood’s War On God in this way; The Submerging Church does not have a host directly talking to you, the viewer. While Schimmel acted as the host talking to you, the viewer, in those documentaries, Schimmel in this documentary is talking to an unknown interviewer (he/she is never seen or heard) about the various aspects (divided into chapters) of the Emergent Church. He does not directly face the camera in the entire documentary. This certainly does not take away from the documentary at all. It is simply a stylistic difference I noticed.


The documentary kicks off by playing the trailer featured on its YouTube page. Without wasting any time, the excellent Bible citations and eye-opening quotes start. This documentary cites both plenty of Bible passages and a plethora of eye-opening quotes throughout this documentary from start to finish. The trailer shows a number of the leaders in the Emergent Church. These leaders include but are not limited to Bono (frontman for U2), Brian McLaren, Jim Wallis, Anthony Campolo, Tony Jones, Rob Bell, Spencer Burke, Doug Pagitt and Rick Warren.

Post-trailer, Joe Schimmel explains how Bono and Tony Campolo were some of the earliest influencers of the Emergent Church. Schimmel cites quite a few quotes from Campolo. Here are a few of the notable ones (bolding done by me):

We affirm our divinity by doing what is worthy of gods…Robert Schuller affirms our divinity, yet does not deny our humanity…Isn’t that what the Gospel is?

Anthony Campolo, Partly Right, 1995 (Thomas Nelson)

The hymn writer who taught us “Amazing Grace” was all too ready to call himself a “wretch”…forgetting our divinity.


There are more quotes that Schimmel showed. Those two should suffice to prove the point that Campolo is not in the Christian camp. First, Campolo believes that there is divinity in a human being. That belief has a pantheistic, New Age connection (the New Age is discussed extensively later on in this documentary). Pantheism is a heresy. I wrote a brief article against pantheism and the New Age here. The Bible states that there is one God, and we are not it (Isaiah 44:6-8; Isaiah 41:4; Isaiah 43:10-11; Isaiah 48:12; Revelation 1:8; Deuteronomy 32:39).

Campolo also has no clue what the Gospel is. 1 Corinthians 15:1-19 explains the Gospel (NASB):

15 Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

12 Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; 14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. 15 Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; 17 and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.

The Gospel is not affirming divinity. It is also not denying humanity. Instead, it is that Jesus Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures. What you will not see in this documentary is any biblical Gospel from any of these Emergent folk. These Emergent folk do not believe in the biblical Gospel.

As the introduction carries on, Leadership Network (founded by the late Bob Buford) and the late Peter Drucker get some screen time. As you shall see, Drucker, a New Ager, is most definitely connected to the Emergent Church, the seeker-sensitive movement and the purpose-driven movement. One source Schimmel quotes often in the introduction is New Evangelicalism: The New World Order by Paul Smith. Here are some noteworthy quotes:

Chuck Fromm arranged for me to spend three days at the Hilton Hotel in Ontario, California in the mid-eighties, where Peter Drucker addressed a group of church leaders and seminary professors. Bob Buford sponsored the meeting. At that meeting Buford explained to us that leadership communities are small groups of innovators and thought leaders pursuing a common ministry outcome, sharing ideas, developing strategy, and bench-marking measurements….Leadership Network discovered emerging ministry initiatives and carefully invites strategic leaders into these communities of peers who are seeking to improve their personal and organizational performance in the focused outcome areas.

p. 149

Notice that the focus is on general performance instead of something more important (i.e., biblical fidelity).

Here is another quote (bolding done my me):

The rise and development of the Emerging (Emergent) Church movement became both a significant collaborator and delivery system for the major paradigm shift that has affected and infiltrated the mindset of many evangelical pastors. The shift includes the new evangelical notion that the church must become postmodern in order to reach secular America…

p. 149

The shift includes a definite move away from belief in absolute truth. The shift, sadly but most importantly, includes the accommodating and compromising retreat by many from the belief that the Bible is without error.

p. 149

So what you have here is Peter Drucker and Bob Buford promoting a movement within the church that is attacking absolute truth and the Bible. The movement basically has no care whatsoever for biblical fidelity. You can find the proof of that in the below quotes (bolding once again done by me):

Drucker was intrigued with the megachurch from a specifically sociological and economic point of view. Any megachurch would do just fine; as long as it was pragmatically meeting the felt needs of people. The spiritual beliefs of a particular megachurch were really not a concern for Drucker…

p. 123

So it made sense to him that the ambiance of the megachurch should be, above all, seeker-friendly. After all, his personal pursuit of spirituality was fulfilled in Kierkegaard and Eastern mysticism.

p. 123

The downhill ride on the slippery slope picked up more influential people in America and evolved into a most ominous unbiblical Emerging movement…

p. 123

I have written a number of posts either on or pertaining to Rick Warren, a false teacher (some would say heretic), liar and perhaps the man who can be credited with doing the most damage to the church in the last century (perhaps ever). And yet, according to The Pew Forum’s Faith Angle Conference from May 2005 (cited by Schimmel), Warren, speaking of Drucker, stated “…he’s my mentor. I’ve spent 20 years under his tutelage learning about leadership from him….”. I mentioned in my review on A Wonderful Deception that both Warren and the aforementioned Robert Schuller’s lack of discernment had paved the way for such a disgust for biblical discernment for at least the last decade or two (maybe longer). Perhaps that could be traced to Drucker’s not being concerned with the spiritual beliefs of a megachurch. After all, if Drucker found his religious fulfillment outside orthodox Christianity, why would he care? Sadly, that lack of care has caused quite the damage in the church today. Schimmel notes how even Bill Hybels and Bob Buford listed Drucker as an influence of theirs in some way.

I mentioned earlier that the Emergents did not believe in the biblical Gospel. Instead, their focus is somewhere else. Here is another quote:

Emerging church leaders are focused on unity and a worldwide oneness reflected in the growing union between Eastern and Western cultures and thinking.

p. 168

It should be easy to see by now that Christians would do well in marking and avoiding the Emergent Church (Romans 16:17). I have shown a lot of quotes so far, and that was all in the introduction. Schimmel continues the eye-opening quotes and well-placed Bible citations post-introduction.

In chapter two, Schimmel notes the constant revisioning the Emergent Church does. Other highlights include highlighting the interview by Martin Bashir with Rob Bell and some damning quotes from emergents Tony Jones, Brian McLaren and Rob Bell’s book Velvet Elvis. In chapter three, Schimmel addresses how Emergents deal with eschatology. Basically, Emergents have a non-biblical view of eschatology. Schimmel notes how former Emergent and disgraced pastor Mark Driscoll does not really put much value in eschatology. Schimmel cites such passages as 2 Timothy 3:1-13, 2 Peter 3:3-4 and Jeremiah 23:16-17 in refuting the Emergent positions.

In chapter four, Schimmel addresses the roles of mysticism and contemplative spirituality in the Emergent movement. One group that gets some attention is Youth Specialties. Apparently this group was embracing yoga in the mid 2000’s. Schimmel notes a quote from a gentleman by the name of Mark Oestreicher:

…yoga is really just about stretching and slowing down. Sure, yoga, I suppose, could focus on Hindi or Buddhist gods or something—but it can also focus on Christ.

Oestreicher, “A Response to the Charge That YS is Embracing Eastern Religion,” October 25, 2005,

Christianity IS an eastern religion. It has all its roots in the East! It’s a bit baffling to me that people lose sight of this, and insist on creating a false separation between eastern religions and (apparently) western Christianity.


But is yoga really something that can focus on Christ? Thankfully, Schimmel cites some excellent quotes to refute Oestreicher’s nonsense:

Yoga (Hindu) “to yoke” – Designed to lead one to realization of the self as divine, and to bypass the mind in order to yoke with Brahman, the Absolute.

Marcia Montenegro, former Astrologer, New Ager and Occult Practitioner,

A Hindu system of philosophy aiming at the mystical union of the self with the Supreme Being in a state of complete awareness and tranquility through certain physical and mental exercises.

Collins English Dictionary, Complete and Unabridged, HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 198, 2000, 2003

Where is Jesus Christ in those definitions? Absolutely nowhere. Furthermore, what is a common subject outside of the term “Hindu” in both those definitions? The self.

Here is a biblical quote to ponder (bolding done by me):

But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come.For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy,unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.

2 Timothy 3:1-5 (NASB)

Do the people mentioned in those verses sound like born-again believers who are trusting in Jesus Christ alone for salvation? Can one really focus on Christ in Yoga when Yoga is all about the self and the Hindu god (which is a false god)? If Mark Oestreicher has not repented and been forgiven of the nonsense he has peddled as it pertains to Yoga, I hope he does that very soon. Schimmel’s comparative quotes on this matter are outstanding.

In the rest of the chapter, Schimmel cites some noteworthy quotes from Tony Campolo, Shane Claiborne, Leonard Sweet and David Spangler. He also notes how Rob Bell dishonestly (?) attributed a quote from New Ager Marianne Williamson to Nelson Mandela.

In chapter five, Schimmel shows the connections between the Emergent Church and the Purpose-Driven church. Schimmel notes in this chapter how the Emergent Church would have been heretical in the first three centuries. In refuting both movements, Schimmel uses such Scriptures as 1 Peter 1:13 and 1 Peter 5:8. Both movements place an emphasis on really emptying the mind (those Scriptures refute that unbiblical practice). Schimmel also notes Rick Warren’s endorsements of both Spencer Burke (one who both practices Buddhism and stated in this documentary’s trailer that the church needed to start listening to more heretics) and Dan Kimball, author of The Emerging Church. Warren even wrote the forward to that book. Here is a quote:

While my book, The Purpose-Driven Church, explained what the church is called to do, Dan’s book explains how to do it with the cultural creatives who think and feel in postmodern terms. You need to pay attention to him because times are changing.

My question would be in light of Rick Warren’s forward on Dan Kimball’s book, how did the church survive two millennia without Kimball’s work? Why do I need to pay attention to him when I know that Jesus’ mission is to proclaim repentance and the forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name to all nations (Luke 24:36-49; Matthew 28:18-20)? While the times may change, the message does not. If the church did not need Dan Kimball’s work before, it certainly does not need it now.

In chapter six, Schimmel addresses Rick Warren’s “Daniel Plan” that began in 2011. I wrote about this same subject in my review of Warren Smith’s A Wonderful Deception. In chapter seven, Schimmel notes Ken Wilbur’s connection to the New Age and the Emergent Church. Schimmel details how Wilbur is a full-blown Buddhist and New Ager. In chapter eight, Schimmel explores mysticism in the Emergent Church. I had mentioned how Warren had written the forward to Dan Kimball’s The Emerging Church. Here is a quote from that book by Kimball that is mentioned in this chapter of the documentary:

The old paradigm taught that if you had the right teaching, you will experience God. The new paradigm says that if you experience God, you will have the right teaching.

p. 188

No biblical text states that if you experience God, you will have the right teaching. Schimmel cites such passages as 1 Thessalonians 5:21 and 1 John 4:1-3 to refute the nonsense from Kimball. We are not to believe every spirit or teaching; we instead test them by the Word of God. In fact, the Bereans were regarded as noble-minded for comparing the apostle Paul’s work to the Word of God (Acts 17:11).

I wrote a book review on the popular book Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby. That book both denied Sola Scriptura and twisted the Scriptures badly. While the documentary does not make mention of Blackaby’s book, Pastor Chris Rosebrough of Fighting For The Faith notes in some of his sermon reviews (specifically for the podcast episodes dated 10/15/09, 1/6/10 and 1/14/10) how some pastors were promoting Blackaby. One of them in particular was Dan Southerland (he will make an appearance later in this review). It would be interesting to see if Kimball was also impacted by Blackaby’s book.

In chapter nine, Schimmel shows some of the Islamic sympathies of the Emergent Church movement. Schimmel also cites some noteworthy quotes from the Quran that shows how the Quran teaches that Jesus is not God and that He did not die for our sins. Here were some noteworthy quotes:

Allah forgiven not that partners should be set up with Him;…to set up partners with Allah is to devise a sin Most heinous indeed.

Surah 4:48

They do blaspheme who say: Allah is one of three in a Trinity.

Surah 5:73

That they said (in boast), “We killed Christ Jesus the Son of Mary, the Apostle of Allah’;- but they killed him not, nor crucified him.

Surah 4:158

Believe in Allah and say not, “Trinity”; Cease! it is better for you. Allah is only one God. Far is it removed from His transcendent majesty that He should have a son.

Surah 4:171

O people of the Book!
Come to a common word between us and you, that we worship none but Allah, and that we associate no partners with Him, and that none of us shall take others as lords besides Allah.

Surah 3:64

Notice the anti-trinitarian leanings of Islam. To be sympathetic with such a Jesus-hating religion (which is what Islam is) that is both in denial about the crucifixion and void of the forgiveness of sins is tantamount to being sympathetic to doctrines of demons (if not the devil himself). The Trinity is a precious doctrine. Moreover, Jesus Christ is a precious Savior. The Emergents’ sympathies with Islam are simply asinine.

Schimmel also makes mention of two things Rick Warren had done as it pertains to Muslims. One, during former president Barack Obama’s inauguration ceremony, Warren prayed to the Muslim god “isa.” Second, Rick Warren (alongside Robert Schuller, Bill Hybels and Brian McLaren) signed a document, written by Muslims, called “A Common Word Between Us And You.” According to this article by Good Fight Ministries, Dr. William Lane Craig, “a leading Christian apologist and philosopher, correctly stated that by signing this document, Rick Warren and others were, in effect, signing up to become Muslims!” That alone should speak volumes about the sympathies the Emergent Church has with Muslims.

In chapter ten, Schimmel discusses Rick Warren’s P.E.A.C.E. Plan. I wrote about some of the New Age implications of this same P.E.A.C.E. Plan in my review of Warren Smith’s Deceived On Purpose. Schimmel also discusses Warren’s denigration of Bible prophecy in this chapter. Another topic that I believe was covered in this chapter was the notion of “change or die.” One of the false beliefs of the Emergent Church is the belief that a church must change or it will die. Here are some noteworthy quotes that are best cited in a comparative format (bolding done by me):

People will either change or die.All who choose not to evolve will die off…Sanballat is Nehemiah’s greatest critic…Sanballat is a leader from hell. We all have some Sanballats in our churches.When a thing grows weak and out of date, it is obviously soon going to disappear. That’s also true of churches. If a church cannot change, it will eventually die.I’m saying some people are gonna have to die or leaveGod killed off a million people before He let them go into the Promised Land. That may be brutally blunt, but it’s true. There may be people in your church who love God sincerely, but who will never, ever change.
Barbara Marx Hubbard, Manual for Co-Creators of the Quantum Leap, 1985, pp. 55-57Hubbard, Happy Birthday Planet Earth, 1986, p. 17 (Ocean Tree Books)Dan Southerland, Transitioning: Leading Your Church Through Change, 2002, p. 115 (Zondervan) Rick Warren, Stifled By Structure, Baptist Press, September 22, 2003Warren, What Do You Do When A Church Hits A Plateau?, Ministry Toolbox eNewsletter, June 14, 2006, Issue 263Warren, Ibid.

It should be noted that the late Barbara Marx Hubbard is a New Ager. Notice the commonalties between Rick Warren’s language and that of the late Marx Hubbard. Notice also that Dan Southerland makes an appearance. Notice also his absolutely demonic, divisive and cultish view that labels anyone who criticizes the Purpose-Driven movement as a “leader from hell.” Pastor Chris Rosebrough noted some of the cultish methods of the Purpose-Driven movement in an episode he did here. Southerland’s demonic quote is no surprise in light of Rosebrough’s information. Scripture passages such as Acts 17:11, 1 John 4:1 and 1 Thessalonians 5:21 refute Southerland’s demonic and truly divisive nonsense.

In chapter eleven, Schimmel discusses the Emergent Church’s doctrine of hell. The Emergent Church basically denies hell and embraces universalism. Schimmel cites such passages as Ezekiel 13:22, Revelation 20:10, Revelation 14:9-12, Matthew 25:46, Luke 16:28-31, Hebrews 2:3, Hebrews 6:4-6, Hebrews 10:26-32, Hebrews 12:16-17, Proverbs 1:28-31 and Revelation 22:11 to refute that stance. Schimmel also notes the false teachings and blasphemies regarding hell by Rob Bell, Mark Galli (editor of Christianity Today) and Brennan Manning. In chapter twelve, Schimmel addresses the stance of the Emergent Church on the issue of homosexuality. Schimmel notes how Jay Bakker and Tony Campolo both affirm homosexuality.

In chapters thirteen and fourteen, Schimmel explains how both the Emergent Church and the Purpose-Driven Church preach a different Gospel and a different Jesus, respectively. Schimmel himself gives the biblical Gospel by citing 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. Schimmel also cites one of the more arrogant quotes cited in this documentary. The quote comes from Brian McLaren. Here it is (bolding done by me):

I don’t think we’ve got the Gospel right yet. What does it mean to be “saved?”…Before modern evangelicalism nobody accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior…None of us has arrived at orthodoxy.

McLaren, The Emergent Mystique, Christianity Today, p. 40, November 2004.

I had mentioned that Schimmel gave the biblical Gospel by appealing to 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. I even cited 1 Corinthians 15:1-19 earlier in this review. You’ll notice that McLaren’s quote came from an article in 2004. According to my NKJV MacArthur Study Bible, the apostle Paul, writing via the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:16-21), likely penned this letter “in the first half of A.D. 55.” As a result, McLaren basically states that even after roughly 1,950 years, we still have not gotten the Gospel right despite the fact it is clearly in a biblical text that has been around for that same time. McLaren’s arrogance and cluelessness could not be more clear.

Schimmel concludes the documentary with a chapter on how the Emergent Church differs from the true Gospel. He cites Galatians 1:6-8, a passage showing the penalty (damnation) for preaching a Gospel different from that of the true Gospel. He also cites such passages as Romans 10:9, John 3:16-17 and Revelation 20:11-15. He also shows some information that reveals more universalistic leanings of the Emergent Church.


Good Fight Ministries’ The Submerging Church is an outstanding resource. Pastor Joe Schimmel does an excellent job in documenting and citing a plethora of sources that show the dangers and heresies of both the Emergent Church and the Purpose-Driven Church. The information in this documentary should cause all Christians to mark and avoid those who partake in those heretical movements (Romans 16:17). May this also motivate Christians to call to repentance and faith those who are caught up in the universalistic, heretical and New Age practices/foundations of both those movements.

NOTE: I emailed my review to Good Fight Ministries. I also tagged them in my tweet of the review via Twitter.

Published by Clint Adams

My name is Clinton Adams. I am a born-again Christian. I used to have the blog "" After taking it down, I have since rebooted as "The Earnest Layman" as I earnestly contend for the faith once for all entrusted to the saints (Jude 3). I also promote sound Christian doctrine and rebuke that which contradicts it (Titus 1:9). I mainly do book reviews. However, I also do other types of posts (normally extensive). Should you request a certain topic, I will most definitely consider it. :) If you ever have questions or comments on anything you read here, feel free to comment with your feedback on any of my posts. You can also email me at If you really like what you read here, you can always follow my blog. Thank you so much for reading!

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