06 November 2007

The More Everything Must Change, the More the Truth Remains the Same

by Phil Johnson

Phil's signature


777law said...

Tell that one to the Supreme Court.

Anonymous said...

Why does my Eye suddenly have the urge to Move Rapidly?

steve said...

More outstanding posters!

My wife and I just flew across country today, and I've been looking forward to this trip for some time so I could finally do some uninterrupted reading of Truth War.

From a writing standpoint, Phil, I'd have to say it's John's best book. The precision with which John makes his points is spectacular.

I don't normally mark up books (Becky looked at me aghast when I pulled out my pen and started underlining). I've marked many statements that sum up key issues in a far more articulate manner than I've seen anywhere else.

With gratitude,


art said...

Rome probably would have made that "Paradigm Shift" poster around the time of the Reformation.


Phil Johnson said...




The thing that makes your argument untenable is that the Reformation wasn't producing Spencer Burkes and Doug Pagitts.

Such people existed. They were the Socinians, but they were regarded as heretics by Rome and the Reformers alike. The fact is, Calvin and Beza likewise would have made that "Paradigm Shift" poster to describe them.

You ought to look up Calvin's correspondence with Faustus Socinus. I think you'd find it intriguing.

If you read it with an open heart, you might even find it instructive.

art said...

I'm not, in any way, attempting to paint Pagitt, McLaren, Burke, or any other emerging leader with the same brush as Calvin and Luther.

I was simply making the observation that Rome would have said the same thing about Calvin and Luther and their "paradigm shift." Like you pointed out, Calvin saw dangers in Socinus (as did Owen later in history). I have read Calvin's and Owen's work on the Socinians and firmly believe that they were the latter day open theists (if such anachronistic categories can be used).

It is interesting, though, how paradigm shifts are almost always met with fierce opposition. Sometimes that opposition is justified, other times it is not.

I supposed time will tell in this case. Though I doubt it will end up in the emerging movement's favor, I also doubt that it will end up in fundamentalism.

Phil Johnson said...

Art: "Like you pointed out, Calvin saw dangers in Socinus"

Is that what you thought I said?

Perhaps I should be more clear: Calvin saw correctly that what Socinus was playing with was damnable heresy, and he didn't shrink from saying so.

chris said...

I love these Po-Motivators. These two disappointed me only in that there isn't some link to the EC nonsense that inspired them. Sometimes the EC mumbo-jumbo is as funny as the posters themselves.

Keep up the good work!

Oh yes, and nice work using the word, "damnable," in an appropriate way. Forceful, but not profane.

art said...

True. And I don't think one should shrink from calling heresy what it is.

If the "Paradigm Shift" you are talking about in your poster is a shift towards the theology espoused by Burke, McLaren, and Pagitt, then I agree that many things that they say lead down dangerous roads that I hope and pray not many follow.

I was thinking "Paradigm Shift" in a broader way than some of the more leftist, pomo-liberal emergents. Such as the shift from modernity towards a more self-aware epistemology, such as Critical Realism (ala Ben Meyer and Anthony Thiselton) or even a softer form of postmodernity that Carson speaks about in The Gagging of God. Or the shift from ingrown, fundamentalist churches to a focus on missions (ala the missional movement, which men like Keller, Piper, Wells, Stetzer, and Driscoll have been involved in). I think those two paradigm shifts are something which we need to be involved in. Modernity and ingrown fundamentalism have hurt the church for much too long.

Anyway, the latter is the paradigm shift I was thinking of when I read the poster. By their very nature, the posters are vague and you didn't link these posters to a site to clarify what you were talking about.

David Cho said...

Links to blog entries that actually promote the ideas portrayed in the posters?

Phil Johnson said...

Chris: "These two disappointed me only in that there isn't some link to the EC nonsense that inspired them."

Fixed that. Try it now.

I thought these two were going to be obvious enough. Guess not.

centuri0n said...

I love it when Phil cite REM.

centuri0n said...

Hey Art:

Here's the Conclusion of the Augsburg confession, which predates Trent and is in many ways the first attempt to outline the whole Reformational view of the faith.

Do you think anyone on the other side of the fence is willing to make a statement like this:

it is manifest that we have taken most diligent care that no new and ungodly doctrine should creep into our churches.

The above articles we desire to present in accordance with the edict of Your Imperial Majesty, in order to exhibit our Confession and let men see a summary of the doctrine of our teachers. If there is anything that any one might desire in this Confession, we are ready, God willing, to present ampler information according to the Scriptures.

David said...

At first I agreed with Art, but then I started to think about Church History.

the basis of Semper Refermanda is indedd, always reforming. But the question is Reforming towards what? Reforming the Church towards what the Bible calls it to be.

Of course PCUSA has that as it's motto also, so take that for what its worth.

From thier web site

"But one of the serious charges church authorities hurled at the Reformers was that they were "innovating." John Calvin responded to this and other charges in his treatise "The Necessity of Reforming the Church." As he put it, "We are accused of rash and impious innovation for having ventured to propose any change at all [in] the former state of the Church." He then goes on to counter that they were not "innovating," but restoring the church to its true nature, purified from the "innovations" that riddled the church through centuries of inattention to Scripture and theological laxity. "

Johnny Dialectic said...

The doubt poster is worth thinking about.

Doubts and questions arise. How do we handle them?

EC leaders seem to embrace them and use them as leverage against the hope of ever finding anything certain. This is one of the more (maybe most) dangerous aspects of the ECM, for it does not raise up Christians of greater faith; it enables an ongoing weakness at the core.

It creates writers of half-Psalms. Psalm 6 would stop at verse 7.

jbuck21 said...

"The kingdom of God then is to resist the present occupation, imperial or religious, liberate the planet, and retrain and restore humanity to its original vocation and potential."

Brian McClaren, Everything Must Change

Just read this and nearly swallowed my own tongue.

Thought I'd throw it out for the lions to devour.

Tim said...

I think it's time to start calling a duck a duck. The "emergent church" is being very clear. They're liberals. It's time to stop playing around and just call them what they are.
It's not some new exciting conversation. It's the same gibberish the liberals have been saying for almost 100 years. These people would have been right at home in an Episcopalian church in 1970. They just have different clothes on.

stratagem said...

jbuck21: Interesting! I wonder if McLaren has any callouses on his hands from tending garden? (the original vocation of humanity). I doubt it, somehow.

tim: Absolutely! Just like the UCC is "open and affirming"; but only toward sin, and not at all affirming of those with Biblical beliefs and worldviews.

If the leftist political establishment adopts a cause, it's only a matter of time before the EC also adopts that cause and wraps it up in religious-sounding language. They are farming religious liberals like worms, for their political causes.

Connie said...

BOTH of these posters speak directly to an ongoing conversation I've been having with a home school mom from the "emerging-friendly" circles!!!

Tim said...

I thought I would elaborate on the liberal charge. I know "Christian" liberalism. Shortly after I was saved by God's glorious grace I began a several year long conversation with the female "pastor" of the local ultra left wesleyan church.
It was very informative. She gave me lots of books and help explain to me that worldview.
The stuff in those books and her doctrines are EXACTLY the same was what the emergent people are saying. And just like the emergents she was a convert from conservative Christianity. So you are not special, you are not new. It's just the old path of apostasy, where self becomes more important than God.

Martin Downes said...


I think you meant to refer to Calvin's correspondence with Laelio Socinus (Faustus' uncle).

But your point was very well made.

Phil Johnson said...


You're prolly right. I always get those two guys mixed up. Good catch.

SolaMeanie said...

I don't know about the rest of you, but I am getting really wearied about how these EC "churchmen" bleat out terms like "modernity," "postmodernity," and a host of other buzzwords. If they'd pay half as much attention to Scripture as they do their favorite eggheads, they might be surprised at how much actual ministry they might accomplish.

I think one reason I disliked philosophy classes so much is that the professors had a term for every idea out there under the sun, but had no clue about truth themselves. "Light, speed and panorama." (Ask me about that one later)

Believe and obey God's Word instead of worrying about whether the crowd at Barnes and Noble will admire you for being trendy. I came to that conclusion long ago, and I didn't have to pay thousands of dollars for a course at Fuller to tell me.

Phil Johnson said...

From Martin Downes's own brilliant blog, here's Calvin's letter to Laelius Socinus:

Certainly no one can be more averse to paradox than I am, and in subtleties I find no delight at all. Yet nothing shall ever hinder me from openly avowing what I have learned from the Word of God; for nothing but what is useful is taught in the school of this master. It is my only guide, and to acquiesce in its plain doctrines shall be my constant rule of wisdom.

Would that you also, my dear Laelius, would learn to regulate your powers with the same moderation! You have no reason to expect a reply from me so long as you bring forward those monstrous questions. If you are gratified by floating among those airy speculations, permit me, I beseech you, an humble disciple of Christ, to meditate on those things which tend towards the building up of my faith.

...And in truth I am very greatly grieved that the fine talents with which God has endowed you, should be occupied not only with what is vain and fruitless, but that they should also be injured by pernicious figments.

What I warned you of long ago, I must again seriously repeat, that unless you correct in time this itching after investigation, it is to be feared you will bring upon yourself severe suffering.

I should be cruel towards you did I treat with a show of indulgence what I believe to be a very dangerous error. I should prefer, accordingly, offending you a little at present by my severity, rather than allow you to indulge unchecked in the fascinating allurements of curiosity.

Letters of John Calvin, No. 30 (Banner of Truth), p. 128-9.

Incidentally, Laelius's style of discourse was very Emergent. He questioned everything, including the doctrine of the Trinity. When pressed, he insisted he wasn't denying anything; he just had these questions. And he raised one question after another, rarely acknowledging the validity of answers that were given to him. The questions he raised were really subtle objections. So when one of his questions was met, he'd simply raise another question. That's the attitude that prompted Calvin's letter.

After Laelius's death, when his journal came to light, it was clear that he had been lying all along. He did deny the doctrine of the Trinity, and there was little ambiguity in what he had secretly written against Trinitarianism.

Laelius's nephew, Faustus, took his uncle's journals and promulgated Laelius's heresies far and wide, resulting in a movement that bore an uncanny likeness to today's Emergent mess.

Jessica said...

When pressed, he insisted he wasn't denying anything; he just had these questions. And he raised one question after another, rarely acknowledging the validity of answers that were given to him. The questions he raised were really subtle objections. So when one of his questions was met, he'd simply raise another question.

Thank you. I have seen this done in Bible studies and tried to object, only to have pointed out to me that I ask a lot of questions too. But this explains the difference much better than I ever did.

art said...


You asked, Do you think anyone on the other side of the fence is willing to make a statement like this....

I already wrote, I'm not, in any way, attempting to paint Pagitt, McLaren, Burke, or any other emerging leader with the same brush as Calvin and Luther.

So you're comment is a bit out of place.

lordodamanor said...

Where we going? Why? Can I drive? Are we there yet? Why? You never let me drive. Can I drive? Why? Are we there yet? Where we going?

Is there anything new under the sun? Can I figure it out? Is it all vanity? What is good? Is there no end to writting books? Why do the wicked prosper and the righteous perish?

All the questions of a child. No answers, that is resolutions, are given to the human dilema and man's pitiful lot here. The answer is given in terms of the only resolution, the eschaton, the final estate. In this life, Christ wrote, you will, unequivocably, face tribulation. In his priestly prayer of intercession for the saints he did not pray for the world. He consigned it to its end, which is destruction and pleaded to the Father that his children, those whom the Father had given him, would be kept from the evil that was coming on the world and now is. This evil God now is sovereign over, and by it, knows how to keep those under condemnation in chains of labor and strife, vainly, by the sweat of their brow, dying, attempting to produce a life that is unavailable. But, for those whom he has called he has provided rest and in the presence of enemies, provided a meal, peaceful waters and pastures in which to graze. And so to the eschaton David looked, even though he was under the rod, and directed by the staff, though there was death every where, he did not fear the evil because finding that rest in the hope to be revealed, he knew that in that final estate was where the only peace of the Kingdom would be found. It was not a peace that the world could give, or could know, but David was assured that he would dwell in the house of the Lord forever, that he would know the goodness and mercy there. And he called as Jesus did, not for the relief of the wicked but their destruction, and as the type of Christ, inteceded on behalf of the children of God for their perseverance, even though the enemy was all around.

Why? Are we there yet? Can I drive? No! But, to the book, to the Law and the Testimony, only there is peace to be found.

Louis and Vivian said...

It seems that what we have here is a reverse reformation. So the question that must be asked, were the reformers wrong or are the emergents wrong?

Daryl said...

that question hasa been asked...and answered...over and over and over and ov...

Martin Downes said...

Open theists and emergents who deny penal substitution are walking the same doctrinal path as the Socinians. They were the arch enemies of the Reformed churches.

centuri0n said...

Art --

Then I suggest you have denied all the parts of your original drive-by here and you need to issue a formal retraction for not really thinking about what you're saying.

art said...

I would suggest that you are incorrect.

Rome would have said that the Reformers were "losing their religion" because of the paradigm shift that was occurring during that point in history. Do you agree or do you think that the Reformers and the RCC were in agreement?

That was the point of my original "drive-by," as you called it.

Impacted Wisdom Truth said...

By the way, "losing my religion" does not mean to lose one's faith. It means, "to become angry." It is a corollary to "losing my sanctification."

frickfricker said...

I love you!
How about an EMERGENT SCRABBLE po-motivator poster?
You could put nonsense words covering all the high value places, disconnected, and explain that these words mean something new right now, and are unhinged by traditional rules.
You are SPECIAL, after all, and shouldn't be bound by rules.