17 December 2007

Uncertainty Is the New Truth

posted by Phil Johnson




've been promising for weeks that we would host an open discussion about John MacArthur's The Truth War. Now is as good a time as any. Here's an excerpt from pages 16-23 of the book that parallels some of the recent discussion here at PyroManiacs.

I'll probably post a few more excerpts from the book later in the week. If the discussion turns out to be particularly fruitful or stimulating, we'll probably continue it next week as well.

The rules are simple: If you have read The Truth War, feel free to post whatever questions, criticisms, attaboys, or other feedback you have about the book. If you haven't read the book, you don't get to jump on any dogpiles, regardless of which side of the argument you are on. You can still comment on the excerpts I'm posting here, but if you haven't read the book, please strictly refrain from being argumentative about points not actually addressed in the posted excerpt—even if someone who has read the book brings up an extraneous point you really want to engage in the meta.

Please note the special guidelines about comment-length, etc. in the first comment below. Of course, our normal rules about language and civility (see right sidebar) also apply to this discussion. Be nice.

The Truth War is John MacArthur's response to the postmodern attack on the clarity, certainty, knowability, and authority of divinely-revealed truth. It is set in the context of an exposition of Jude—especially verses 3-4: "I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. For certain persons have crept in unnoticed . . . ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ."

Full disclosure (for those who may be new to the blog): Dr. MacArthur is my pastor and employer; I'm in complete agreement with his position; in fact, I helped assemble the material for this book from sermon transcripts and edited the original manuscript.

To get us started, let's consider this notion that certainty about anything is inherently arrogant.

That view is wildly popular today. The belief that no one can really know anything for certain is emerging as virtually the one dogma postmodernists will tolerate. Uncertainty is the new truth. Doubt and skepticism have been canonized as a form of humility. Right and wrong have been redefined in terms of subjective feelings and personal perspectives.

Those views are infiltrating the church, too. In some circles within the visible church, cynicism is now virtually regarded as the most splendid of all virtues. We began the introduction to this book with a prime example of that [i.e., a reference to the Christianity Today feature on the Emergent movement, which article contained Kristin Bell's confession that she has no idea what the Bible means; Brian McLaren's belief that no one has the gospel right yet; and several other statements characterizing biblical truth as too hazy or too slippery to lay hold of and proclaim confidently]. A relentless tone of postmodern angst about too much certainty pervades that whole movement. . . .

The central propositions and bedrock convictions of biblical Christianity—such as firm belief in the inspiration and authority of Scripture, a sound understanding of the true gospel, full assurance of salvation, settled confidence in the lordship of Christ, and the narrow exclusivity of Christ as the only way of salvation—do not reconcile well with postmodernism's contempt for clear, authoritative truth-claims. The medium of postmodern "dialogue" thereby instantly and automatically changes the message. And the rhetoric of the Emerging Church movement itself reflects that.

Listen, for example, to how Brian McLaren sums up his views on orthodoxy, certainty, and the question of whether the truths of Christianity are sound and reliable in the first place:
How ironic that I am writing about orthodoxy, which implies to many a final capturing of the truth about God, which is the glory of God. Sit down here next to me in this little restaurant and ask me if Christianity (my version of it, yours, the Pope's, whoever's) is orthodox, meaning true, and here's my honest answer: a little, but not yet. Assuming by Christianity you mean the Christian understanding of the world and God, Christian opinions on soul, text, and culture . . . I'd have to say that we probably have a couple of things right, but a lot of things wrong. [A Generous Orthodoxy, 293.]

McLaren suggests that clarity itself is of dubious value. He clearly prefers ambiguity and equivocation, and his books are therefore full of deliberate double-speak. In his introduction to A Generous Orthodoxy, he admits, "I have gone out of my way to be provocative, mischievous, and unclear, reflecting my belief that clarity is sometimes overrated, and that shock, obscurity, playfulness, and intrigue (carefully articulated) often stimulate more thought than clarity." [Ibid., 23.] A common theme that runs throughout most of McLaren's writings is the idea that "there is great danger in the quest to be right."]

. . . . . . . . .

[The argument seems to be] that if we cannot know everything perfectly, we cannot really know anything with any degree of certainty. That's an appealing argument to the postmodern mind, but it is entirely at odds with what Scripture teaches: "We have the mind of Christ" (1 Corinthians 2:16).

That's not to suggest, of course, that we have exhaustive knowledge. But we do have infallible knowledge of what Scripture reveals, as the Spirit of God teaches us through the Word of God: "We have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God" (1 Corinthians 2:12). The fact that our knowledge grows fuller and deeper—and we all therefore change our minds about some things as we gain more and more light—doesn't mean that everything we know is uncertain, or outdated, or in need of an overhaul every few years. The words of 1 John 2:20-21 apply in their true sense to every believer: "You have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth."

The message coming from postmodernized evangelicals is exactly the opposite: Certainty is overrated. Assurance is arrogant. Better to keep changing your mind and keep your theology in a constant state of flux.

By such means, the ages-old war against truth has moved right into the Christian community, and the church itself has already become a battleground—and ominously, precious few in the church today are prepared for the fight.
John MacArthur


Feel free to comment on that excerpt, and if you have read the entire book, feel free also to challenge, query, or amen any point in the book that stood out to you. If you have an explicit question or point you want me to reply to, I'll do my best to answer as promptly as possible. The beginning of this week will be somewhat busy for me, so please be patient. Hopefully by the end of the week, I'll find time to interact with everyone who wants to have serious dialogue about the book.

My hope is that this thread will be like last year's thread on the lordship debate, (minus some of the hit-and-run nonsense that showed up in that thread). For a week (at least), let's actually have that "conversation" Emergents like to talk about but normally seem to exclude all their critics from.

Phil's signature

125 comments:

Phil Johnson said...

Here are a few more guidleines for comments in this thread, borrowed from that earlier discussion on the lordship issue:

  1. Raise only one issue at a time, and no more than three twelve-line paragraphs per comment (including Scripture references). Ask a question, make a challenge, or make a point, and I will try to answer it. Post a long diatribe or a term-paper-length "comment," and I'll ignore it. (I might even delete your comment if it seems a deliberate breach of this rule.)
  2. No prefabricated cut-and-paste-style comments, and no rambling propagandizing or graffiti-style posts.
  3. If you cite Scripture and the point you are making isn't stated plainly by the text itself, please cogently explain the point you think the text makes.
  4. If I raise a question in reply, you must give an answer to the point, and not a deflection that introduces a different issue.
  5. If you ignore my questions or counterpoints, I will delete your subsequent comments.
  6. I will endeavor to honor the same rules, and if you think I have failed to do so, please feel free to call me on it.

Puritan said...

Here's my attaboy. The Truth War is simply right on the mark.

Lordship Salvation is essential. Paul did not say to the Phillipian Jailor, 'ask Jesus to be your Saviour and then if you want to at a later point ask Him to be your Lord as well'. It is the "Lord" we are to call on.

Someone who is preaching a Jesus who is only saviour, but not Lord, is preaching another Jesus and another Gospel, because they are missing "the way is narrow" and telling people it is wide. 'Ask Jesus into your heart and then live like Hell' is not the Gospel of the Bible.

Amen and Amen to the Truth War!

Troy said...

One of the many troubling aspects of this move to the hazy -- at least for many of my college students -- is that they are not even passionate about being unsure. It seems irrelevant to some of them whether a given idea is the truth, "truthy" or downright false.

It's also reflected in our culture. The Omaha mass murder last week was a prime example. The news media kept calling the murderer a "killer" or "shooter". Marines are killers as are those who defend their families from 2 AM burglars -- they're also "shooters". The kid was a "murderer" and the killings are "murders". We seem unwilling and/or unable to call a spade a spade today. The fact that that has seeped into the Church is disheartening. MacArthur's use of the war analogy is apt -- and necessary. The truth must be fought for and preserved -- vigorously.

Jim from OldTruth.com said...

One thing that I think needs to be repeated is where the name of the book derives from. I see it on Emerging Church blogs all of the time that "John MacArthur has started a war" as if it's some unbiblical church division plan that he came up with, or even that he's advocating violence. In most of these cases, it's due to their not reading the actual book I think, because John MacArthur gives a really good explanation in it as to what exactly he means by "war" and where he's getting that from biblically. Phil could perhaps explain this for everyone if he has time later. It's a great book however, that got me through an otherwise unexciting week in the hospital recently.

Stephen said...

Phil, I was sitting in Ron Gleason's office last week discussing with him some ways to impact our generation with the gospel. Of course we went off on McLaren tangents, belly laughs and such, but here's a question for you.

I noticed that the post mentioned the "know it all or none at all" Greek philosophic dichotomy that defines "unknowable" in that way. Do you think that a good old revamping of the doctrine of the Incomprehensibility of God would function as a useful way to engage postmoderns in understanding truth about God?

P.S. I tried to sound Emergent on purpose, minus the "I wonder" and "I feel" etc.

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Maybe this is a difference between the UK and the USA, but as far as my experience goes practically nobody believes this so-called 'Postmodern' stuff.

I find it hard to see why so many books get written on trying to refute this relativism.

Maybe this is just an American thing and us British are too sensible to buy this 'Postmodern' nonsense.

Every Blessing in Christ

Matthew

Karen (Rosesandtea) said...

Matthew, and others,
I'm not British but have lived in England for 17.5 years now - I think PM'ism is alive and well here. People are as apt here as in the US to say things like "it depends on what you believe" (when trying to talk about eternal truths), or "nobody can really know", "I don't think there are absolutes as far as spiritual things are concerned" etc.

Not trying to be argumentative, here. I just do think the PM mentality is very strong here, with the same spiritual uncertainty and, within "Christian" circles, the same universalism as well. There just aren't the same large churches here, with popular, famous spokespersons making a lot of noise about it.

I'm in the middle of reading The Truth War, think it's fantastic so far and have done a lot of underlining. I've tried to blog about it but computer problems and illness have restricted it to only one post so far.

DJP said...

MatthewMaybe this is just an American thing and us British are too sensible to buy this 'Postmodern' nonsense.

Yes... yes, that must be it.

I mean I know that, personally, every time I read about the British church scene in general and the doings of the Anglican church in particular, British laws, the royals, and British society in general, the thing I think over and over and over again is, "My, those Brits are sensible! If only we could be more like them!"

(c;

Carla Rolfe said...

Phil,

please put me down for one attaboy and a hearty amen. Not only did I read this book, so did my pastor (at the same time I did) and my husband, and it was a blessing to all of us.

I have and do highly recommend it to anyone.

Kim said...

Maybe this is just an American thing and us British are too sensible to buy this 'Postmodern' nonsense.

Perhaps the British do what we here in Canada do with postmodernism. We are apathetic to it and accept it in the name of "tolerance."

Canadian society mirrors British society far more than it does American society in my opinion.

Johnny Dialectic said...

I've read and love The Truth War. It's a book that's so needed right now.

I've been teaching Luke. Recall what he wrote in 1:4, "so that you may know the CERTAINTY of the things you have been taught."

What is the pomo response to Luke? Was he a quaint old quack? Was his enterprise doomed from the start?

candyinsierras said...

Actually, a friend lent me the audio book and my husband and I have listened to it a couple of times. I will listen to it again because there is so much material in it that is useful. I have been eagerly looking forward to the "conversation".

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Okay, British people can say and do some daft things.

However, I cannot remember ever talking to anybody who had a truly relativisitc attitude to truth, whether openly atheist or professing Christian.

God Bless

Matthew

roger.pattenaude said...

Let me know when you start publishing on acid-free paper. I figure if you have so little regard for the durability of your books, I'll be as cynical and buy books that have paper to match the quality of the ideas presented. I've always wondered why you print such good theology on such poor paper. Why such a "whatever!" when it comes to the paper used in your books?
R.C. Sproul's new publishing house has it right and publishes on archival paper and binding designed to last hundreds of years. Perhaps it's your eschatology?

art said...

Phil:

Would you find it out of order if someone brought up someone your wife said, especially when that person holds a view that, biblically, women cannot teach or have authority over a man?

Drew said...


we do have infallible knowledge of what Scripture reveals


This is bold. It used to be that Catholic Christians said that the pope was infallible, and Evangelical Christians said that scripture was infallible (be it KJV, original autographs, or whatever) but this takes it to a whole 'nother level.

OUR KNOWLEDGE is infallible.

And I thought emergent was "man centered."

Who the "we" in this quote? All Christians? Then we aren't all that infallible, since we plainly contradict one another. Is John MacArthur using the "royal we?" OR does the we extend to his staff, and Phil?

I realize that "our infallibility" is a natural extension of the doctrine of "biblical infallibility," but rather than pretend I know everything perfectly because I have a Bible, I've set aside the whole concept of infallibility all together.

I guess I've lost the "Truth War," but the above quote shows why its better to lose it.

The Doulos said...

dyspraxic fundie:

I don't think that most people would answer in the affirmative if asked "Do you believe in postmodernism?", but my observation is that most people today anywhere in the West are at least infected with pomo views and attitudes. Even though they don't necessarily realize it or identify with the philosophy, the people in cultures we minister in and to are all practical pomos to some degree.

But my concerns, and I think the point of The Truth War, is not that we live in a pomo world, but more importantly that this practical postmodernism is infiltrating the Church. There are many, many people in the evangelical church today who are also practical pomos. And at it's roots, postmodernism is incompatible with the ultimate propositional truth claims of Scripture and the Gospel. So to blend them, something has to be compromised on on front or the other. And as we are seeing in the Emerg*** movement, and as pointed out by Dr. MacArthur, the truth of the Gospel is most easily and frequently what is compromised.

I found it interesting recently when an adult class in my church used The Truth War in a read-and-discuss format. It was obvious to me that none of the people in the class, all of which were long time and solid believers, had ever heard of postmodernism, Emerg***, etc. (Hey, we're in Nebraska, OK?) But when some of the presuppositions of pomo's were talked about, when some of the prominent Emerg*** writers and works were mentioned (McLaren, Bell, Velvet Elvis, Blue Like Jazz, etc) they all recognized them. Many had read them and not thought clearly about the implications of what was being said. One woman in the class broke down in tears as she realized the philosophical beliefs that we call postmodernism were what had destroyed the faith of her mid-20's son. In other words, it was a wake-up call. Which is what I think is the purpose and value of The Truth War. I am not all that concerned with postmodernism as the prevailing worldview of the people in the world, other than that it must be understood to effectively communicate the Gospel to them. I am primarily concerned, as is Dr. MacArthur, with the acquiescence of the contemporary Church to these same bankrupt philosophies. We must contend for the faith, it alone contains the Truth.

Writing and Living said...

Those views are infiltrating the church, too. In some circles within the visible church, cynicism is now virtually regarded as the most splendid of all virtues.

It seems to me that for generations the church relied on society to set the standard for correct behavior. That seemed to work okay until probably, what, the fifties? By the time things really got out of hand (I'm 35, and it seems that things really started to fall apart while I was in my teens, but I live in the Bible Belt), the church didn't seem to know what to do. It seems even the well-meaning churches either didn't have the first clue how to follow the biblical standards for church discipline OR were too afraid that if they did start holding to a higher standard they would lose their entire membership. I

I once attended a church where the pastor would warn us ahead of time if a controversial sermon was coming up, that way anyone who might be offended could stay home. I'm certainly not defending the cynicism of the EC, but it's not hard to see where it got started.

I appreciate this blog. You all remind me how important it is not to compromise the truth.

Mike Riccardi said...

Drew,

It's nice when you don't have to read, engage with, or respond to entire sentences, isn't it? I think you should re-read the paragraph you quoted from.

That's not to suggest, of course, that we have exhaustive knowledge. But we do have infallible knowledge of what Scripture reveals, as the Spirit of God teaches us through the Word of God (1Cor 2:12).

So where does our infallible -- but again, not exhaustive -- knowledge come from? From the illumination and revelation of the Spirit of God, who is always, by definition and by nature, infallible. Read the passage from 1Jn 2 again, and tell me how your position isn't tantamount to calling the Holy Spirit either a liar or a wimp, unwilling or unable to do what He said He does.

S.J. Walker said...

Drew,

You said this,

"I guess I've lost the "Truth War," but the above quote shows why its better to lose it."

That is a pretty sad outlook on life Drew.
Mike beat me to the point about not quoting the WHOLE sentence. But there is more to it than this.

It is a typical state of man to exclaim indifference to something that they have lost and cared nothing for to start from the start.

I may be, and hope I am, wrong that you don't care about God's Truth and the wars that have been waged against it for centuries. (This is not a new conflict)But, Drew, it isn't clear from what you say--in fact the opposite.

I might suggest reading through Galatians, and also both books of Timothy.

And don't let's open out minds so far that they close again on the other side.

In Christ

Terry Rayburn said...

In dealing with false teachers (specifically Gnostics), the Apostle John writes, "Do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds." (2 John 1:10)

On pages 92-93 of The Truth War, the story is told of Irenaeus recording that

"...John once refused to enter a public bathhouse in Ephesus when he learned Cerinthus was inside. So much did John love the truth and hate falsehood that he refused any kind of fellowship (or even casual association) with the peddlars of gnostic notions."

This struck me hard, considering the way in which we so often "dialogue" with false teachers (or "share platforms", as the saying goes).

Question:

Where does the appropriate "evangelism" toward the false teacher end, and the unbiblical "tolerance" begin?

For example, when did John give up on Cerinthus?

My tendency is to "debate" them as long as they are willing, or until it becomes like debating a brick wall. Is that out of step with the Apostle John's exhortation in 2 John 1:10?

When do you stop? Or if they're a professed heretic, do you shun them on the spot?

The Doulos said...

Mike R:

You beat me to the punch on your response to Drew, which is spot on. I'm currently teaching thru 1st John and am struck by the repeated occurrences of ideas like knowing and certainty.

I would add that while our knowledge of Scripture as revealed to us by the Holy Spirit is infallible (i.e. the Spirit will not teach us untruth), that does not mean that our application of that knowledge is infallible. Nor does it mean that our proclamation of that knowledge is infallible (the error of the Roman Church). And I don't see either of those as what MacArthur is saying in this paragraph.

Drew said...

ok. So MacArthur isn't being preposterous, he is being inconsistent (which I guess I am supposed to appreciate, as a truth-hating emergent).

How can one be limited and infallible? If our knowledge is not exhaustive, then somewhere it fails, right? Otherwise it be exhaustive!

As for 1 John 2, apparently John didn't even mean this the way you and MacArthur are choosing to use it. If he did, Why would he have written the letter? Why do those with infallible knowledge need written to/preached to?

And exactly how am I calling the Holy Spirit a liar or a wimp?

philness said...

What is the most sinister is that they fully know exactly what they are doing and cashing in on a widget which was manufactured in Hell a long time ago and is now being redistributed from the seminaries. The enemy is a master strategist indeed. Make a widget pliable to the baby Christian and the simply lost who want the warm fuzzies from baby day care church and have their world also. What a horrible hindrance to the work of our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus this is. While this movement will no doubt cash in on the weak and lost it will also capture a few saved in its grip. It’s the saved people I am praying for the most because they will be the most unfruitful in service to our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus. God help them.

Drew said...

Our knowledge is infallible, but not our application or proclamation. What I hear you saying is, "we can know truth," but cannot act on it or even speak it. What is it about our intellect that makes it different from our mouths and hands? And isn't that the cheapest of dodges? Yes, my knowledge is infallible, but I can't tell you what it is in an infallible way, so it will LOOK fallible, but really, in my head its ok? Is that really infallible knowledge?

Drew said...

S.J:

I do care about God's truth, but I think that MacArthur is misrepresenting it. I believe that God's truth is truth for the modern and the postmodern, and that postmoderns need to convert to modernity to embrace said truth, nor will they become modern thinkers when they do.

Mike Riccardi said...

Terry,

I think this is a great question. I believe the answer is in the closing verses of Jude:

And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh. -- Jude 22, 23

I see three categories there. The first is the doubting. Those who need to be presented with the Bible's glorious truth gently, not as if they're hostile to it, but as if you're saying, "Look! See how beautiful this is!" You need to be clear and you need to be direct and unwavering, but you would treat these as you would treat a child when you try to teach them something.

The second category are those "in the fire;" that is, in the presence of consuming and deadly false teaching and distortion. For those, we're to "snatch them." Go in on a recovery mission. Plead with them, but grab them if you have to. Present truth. Present the consequences of deviating from the truth. Show the deviation of their teacher with Scripture. Explain that they are responsible now to apply truth (Lk 12:47-48, Jn 9:39-41). Show them the urgency of participating in error, and be resolute in calling them away from it.

Then there's the third group, who would be your false teachers. Your 'Cerinthiuses'. On these have mercy "with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh." Keep them at a distance you would keep soiled underwear. Realize that these are the wolves themselves, and keep the sheep far from the wolves. You do not rule out the possibility of genuine conversion and salvation; that is, you don't deny that Cerinthius could ever come to a spot where he's a shepherd and not a wolf, and so you "have mercy" on him. But you recognize that this is mercy with fear, of such a kind that means -- barring open repentance -- you won't even go into a bathhouse that they're in.

Hope that helps.

Phil Johnson said...

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist: "Maybe this is a difference between the UK and the USA . . ."

Well, I'd have said (based on my admittedly limited experience ministering in the UK and Europe) that pomoism is more widespread on the east side of the Atlantic than it is here in the US, and it seems to be growing over there with very little opposition. I suppose it depends on whom you know. But French society seems almost totally given to postmodern values, and the influence of the French value system permeates Europe, including the UK and especially the BBC. (I think I wrote a blogpost about that a couple of years ago, after the terrorist attacks in the London Underground.)

roger.pattenaude: "I've always wondered why you print such good theology on such poor paper."

I agree with you, but the choice of paper is the publisher's decision, not the author's, and certainly not the author's editorial assistant. The dirt-cheap paper is another indicator of how little Christian publishers value their books, and the fact that almost no one complains reflects the reality that most of what is being published by Christian publishers nowadays is trendy, not timeless. They ought to be publishing magazines, not books.

Oh, wait. They are.

Art: "Would you find it out of order if someone brought up someone your wife said, especially when that person holds a view that, biblically, women cannot teach or have authority over a man?"

Not if my wife had made a statement of some theological import to a CT reporter that got published in a feature article about some new theological trend I was a leader in—and especially not if I had made no subsequent public effort to explain or correct or retract the comment she made.

Drew:

You need to read complete sentences, not just fragments of them, to get the sense of what is being said. Re-read the sentence you objected to with the rest of the words that are there, and read the Scripture reference that follows it. It answers your questions.

I've often said postmodernism could well be a product of pathologically-short attention spans caused by too much Ren and Stimpy. Thanks for illustrating the point.

While you're at it, read (or have someone act out for you) the guidelines in the first comment under this post. You need to make some good-faith effort to follow those guidelines.

S.J. Walker said...

Drew,

"I believe that God's truth is truth for the modern and the postmodern, and that postmoderns need to convert to modernity to embrace said truth, nor will they become modern thinkers when they do."

Huh?

Maybe I'm just too fundy or something.

SolaMeanie said...

Matt,

What would you say of Steve Chalke in the U.K. (a British Emergent author) who compares the substitutionary atonement to "cosmic child abuse?" If I am not mistaken, Chalke is involved in "postmodern" ministry up to his crumpets. Brian McLaren even wrote a forward to one of Chalke's books. Methinks you need to look again at how heavily postmodern thought has invaded there, whether they call it that or not.

BTW, one can disavow postmodernism verbally, but in practice follow its precepts.

Mike Riccardi said...

How can one be limited and infallible? If our knowledge is not exhaustive, then somewhere it fails, right? Otherwise it be exhaustive!

Drew, you've got to see this distinction. I can not know something exhaustively and still know something about that topic without any errors. For example, "The sun is in outer space," in my estimation, is a statement that is free of error. However, in that statement I'm not claiming to have a complete understanding of how the sun is suspended in space, how it keeps on burning, what it's energy source is, how sunspots work, why it's colder in the winter than in the summer, and why certain places have colder winters and summers in other places. I could go on.

As for 1 John 2, apparently John didn't even mean this the way you and MacArthur are choosing to use it. If he did, Why would he have written the letter? Why do those with infallible knowledge need written to/preached to?

Again, infallible doesn't mean exhaustive. Also, as to why he wrote the letter, the context shows that the young believers in Ephesus were listening to the false teaching of gnosticism and were being stirred up by it. John wanted them to know that they didn't need anyone to teach them (v. 27) because the anointing they received teaches them all they need to know. In effect, he was saying, trust the infallible teaching you've received already, and stop listening to these impostors.

And exactly how am I calling the Holy Spirit a liar or a wimp?

Simple. We have an anointing from the Holy One, and we all know the truth (1Jn 2:20) The anointing we received teaches us all things (1Jn 2:27). We have the mind of Christ (1Cor 2:16). The Spirit reveals to us the mind of God that we may know (1 Cor 2:12). If we say that we have the Holy Spirit, but don't know the Truth that He teaches, the Spirit is either lying to us about His ministry in all those above verses, or He's unable to carry out His ministry.

S.J. Walker said...

Drew,

you also said:
"How can one be limited and infallible? If our knowledge is not exhaustive, then somewhere it fails, right? Otherwise it be exhaustive!"

That is not the point being made. The point is this, the Word, the source of Truth is infallible, we have infallible knowledge because of the Word being revealed by the Holy Spirit.

The fact that people misrepresent, misunderstand the Truth and so on is not indicative of inconsistancy of said Truth, but the fallibility of man. That does not, however, excuse said man of misrepresenting, misunderstanding and so on. Because the infallible Truth is laid out plainly for a very fallible man because of his state of error.

Read Ephesians 1 for that context.

BTW, Phil and Dan

The word verification for this comment has the initials DJP right in the middle of it. Is this prophetic you think? Just kidding.

wolf said...

In my circle, the Bible represents ultimate truth, as Dr. MacArthur points out. "Uncertainty" may be the telling mark of the real issue, as is often the case. THE real issue is belief versus unbelief.

Drew said...

Thank you all for clarifying your positions. I think that now not only are we in agreement, but you agree with McLaren and most other emergent leaders.

If I can summarize:

1. There is truth.

2. We can know some things with certainty.

3. There are many other things that we cannot speak certainly about, because we are limited.

If this is what MacArthur's (or your) position is, than I agree wholeheartedly. If it is not, than please clarify where I am wrong.

And if I am correct--is this something to go to war over? Do you really believe that there are many people out there who do not believe this?

Phil Johnson said...

Solameanie: "BTW, one can disavow postmodernism verbally, but in practice follow its precepts."

In fact, that's a classically postmodern way to espouse postmodernism.

S.J. Walker said...

Drew,

Did you even read the Biblical texts we pointed you to?

Yet again, that is NOT the point being made.

Go read the texts.

"thinking themselves wise, they became fools..."

Mike Riccardi said...

Drew,

I think your three points are correct, but I don't think we can all hold hands and kiss just yet.

1. There is truth. - Absolutely. No pun intended. (...okay, maybe intended.)

2. We can know some things with certainty. -- Yes, and those things are all that which is revealed by God to us in the Bible, His own infallible, inerrant Word, inspired and illuminated by His Holy Spirit.

3. There are many other things that we cannot speak certainly about, because we are limited. -- Yes, things that we'll spend eternity learning about God. But keep in mind that we've been given all we need for life and godliness (2Pet 1:3) and that Emergent's list of 'many other things' is quite shorter than orthodox Christianity's.

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Solameanie,

I dont like Steve Chalke at all. He is an heretic who ought to be rejected by all Evangelicals. Sadly, his errors are being trivilaised.

I have not read his book 'The Lost Message of Jesus', though I have heard him speak on a number of occasions and I read one of his other books.

As far as I am aware, Steve Chalke has never made any relatavist statements.

Of course I am open to correction if anybody can produce quotations.

It seems to me that Steve Chalke does believe in absolute truth.

The very title of his book suggests this:

'The Lost Message of Jesus.'

He believes that Jesus has a message that is absolutely true, yet which has been lost.

He believes that substitutionary atonement is false and that scholarship shows this to be the case.

Steve Chalke believes that Six-Day Creationism is not true and that the Bible's account of creation is not literally true.

As far as I understand, Chalke is absolute in his conviction that what he believes is true.

Every Blessing in Christ

Matthew

philness said...

drew,

Might you list those infallibles that you agree with and disagree with MacArthur on?

Mike Riccardi said...

I think Matthew is cleverly showing us the absurdity and inconsistency of the postmodern commitment to certainty about uncertainty.

Drew said...

s.j.: No, I didn't re-read the three books that you told me to. If you cannot make your point from the Bible, its not ok to just say "read the Bible." Do your own work.

While you are at it, if you want this to be a good discussion, don't just tell me that I missed the point, tell me where and how.

(Emergents seeking clarity--how ironic. Oh wait. we like irony--I guess that makes it nor ironic. It is so hard being emergent sometimes!)

Mike: Of course there is not full agreement, but we do agree on principle. This is good. Though both McArthur and McLaren have asserted that we are working with different world views, we can see in these three points that there is significant overlap, and what we are really disagreeing about is the length and contents of our "lists."

Frankly, your exposistion on point number 2 would scare away most postmoderns, but I have read your understanding of our own limitations (ours, not Gods) and so am less scared.

Adam Omelianchuk said...

Phil, I have a question. While I think the argument he makes about not being 100% certain entail that you can have no degree of certainty is a fair representation of postmodern thought, I'm not sure I would say that postmodern/emerging Christianity would say you can't be certain about anything. It seems to me, from the writers quoted, they are very certain that it good for women to allowed ordination, that evangelicalism is in a state of disarray, that global warming is for real, and that the Republican party does not represent the Kingdom of God (all this is in their stated values elsewhere).

Does this not fly in the face of the stated thesis that "uncertainty is the new truth?"

Mike Riccardi said...

Sorry, under #3, I should have written: "Emergent's list is much longer than orthodox Christianity's," speaking of the things we can't know exhaustively.

And Drew, I appreciate your desire to come to a common ground, but if there hasn't been a fundamental change in the way you view God, Truth, Scripture, and the Christian life from the way you viewed all those things yesterday, then I've either misrepresented myself or you've misunderstood me (that is, in the area of "our own limitations").

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Mike Riccardi, does Steve Chalke have a commitment to uncertainty?

Please tell me if he does.

Though I think his theology is garbage enough without him believing that as well.

God Bless

Matthew

S.J. Walker said...

Drew,

I hope you could see what this looks like:

"s.j.: No, I didn't re-read the three books that you told me to. If you cannot make your point from the Bible, its not ok to just say "read the Bible." Do your own work."

I'd post the whole text here if it was allowed, for give me for obeying the rules. You wouldn't/don't'won't trust my explanation of the Gospel anyway, so I figured I pint you to that *gasp* infallible Word so you could see for yourself.

How dare I inform you that there are specific Scriptures that talk about your views, and instead of quoting one or two verses and risk taking them of *gasp* context, I suggested you read the yourself.

What was I thinking. Read the Bible? Naaaaaaahhhh. I'm not going to because somebody told me to.

I'm talking about a rain-forest to someone who won't leave the desert.

when Nathanael asked Phillip "can anything good from Nazareth?" What did Philip do? He said "come and see".

Drew, come and see, please.

In Christ

Drew said...

s.j.: I will respond to your last comment when you read Amos, Luke, and James and get the idea that I want you to get but won't state. And if you aren't sure, then read Isaiah. You'll know what I am talking about.

Mike, I know that we see things differently. But according to 1 John 2, there need not be a fundamental change in the way that I see God, scripture, etc. Through the Holy Spirit, I know all things.

S.J. Walker said...

"Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught." --Luke 1:3-4

"5Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46He told them, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things. 49I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high."--Luke 24:45-49

Chris Hemmelman said...

Drew,

Since your concern seems to be MacArthur's "bold" statement about certainty...show us you are not intellectually immature and answer the question posed to you...lay out what we can and cannot know for certain. And do not speak in postmodern generalities, be specific.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

I'm allowed to make a comment per discussion guidelines since I've read "The Truth War"!

Great, great book. Highly recommended!

Here are my questions Phil: I've visited John Armstrong's blog and he takes exception to John MacArthur's critique of him. Armstrong moves into the realm of epistemology and says that MacArthur relies far too heavily on "foundationalism".

(1) What exactly is "foundationalism"?

(2) Do you consider Armstrong's counter-charge that John MacArthur pushes "foundationalism" to an unreasonable philosophical extreme a valid counter-charge?

(3) How do you, John MacArthur, or anyone respond to an "anti-foundationalist" argument against certainty?

S.J. Walker said...

"Do two walk together
unless they have agreed to do so?

4 Does a lion roar in the thicket
when he has no prey?
Does he growl in his den
when he has caught nothing?

5 Does a bird fall into a trap on the ground
where no snare has been set?
Does a trap spring up from the earth
when there is nothing to catch?

6 When a trumpet sounds in a city,
do not the people tremble?
When disaster comes to a city,
has not the LORD caused it?

7 Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing
without revealing his plan
to his servants the prophets.

8 The lion has roared—
who will not fear?
The Sovereign LORD has spoken—
who can but prophesy? " Amos 3:3-8

"You who turn justice into bitterness
and cast righteousness to the ground

8 (he who made the Pleiades and Orion,
who turns blackness into dawn
and darkens day into night,
who calls for the waters of the sea
and pours them out over the face of the land—
the LORD is his name-

9 he flashes destruction on the stronghold
and brings the fortified city to ruin),

10 you hate the one who reproves in court
and despise him who tells the truth." --Amos 5:7-10

S.J. Walker said...

"4Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; 8he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does." --James 1:4-8

"19My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. 21Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

22Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does. --James 1:19-25

"Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops. 19My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, 20remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins." James 5:17-20

S.J. Walker said...

Drew,

Are you referring to these texts? Or should I go to Isaiah too?

S.J. Walker said...

Phil,

It seems to me that these multitudinous texts do explain the thought clearly.

I'm sorry for making them so long. I just hope I haven't broken #3.

Thanks.

donsands said...

Good comments so far. Interesting at least.

I read "The Truth War". It's a great book for every Christian. In fact, a good non-reformed brother gave me his copy to read. he thought it was excellent, as I do.

Pastor John MacArthur is a true shepherd of God. He is warning the sheep. He is protecting the flock from wolves. And he is encouraging us and edifying us in the truth, so that we will be strengthened "to fight the good fight of faith" in this age where the wolves in sheeps-clothing are more plentiful and ravenous than ever.

There's one truth. God doesn't have a whole lot of truths we can pick from.
And He has made the essential truths we need to know pur and simple, and even very plain. Simple enough for a child to understand.

S.J. Walker said...

Amen donsands, amen.

Reformed Servant said...

Phil,

My question is about the Gospel. Recently, Bobby Bell has been on tour talking about the atonement. I read a very fair critique of a pastor who went to go see Mr Bell.

http://buzzardblog.typepad.com/buzzard_blog/2007/11/rob-bell-the-go.html

Here is a quote from the Blog.

"The big idea of "the god's aren't angry" tour is that the God of the Bible isn't angry and, therefore, we're all okay, everybody is okay--we're all okay with God."

If Rob Bell denies the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement, does that mean we can call him a heretic and not be uncharitable? I think this goes under the category of "another Gospel". What are your thoughts?

Steve Lamm said...

I hope very much that the Drew doesn't become the focus of this meta as he has in a few others recently. It's becoming tedious!

Let's try to keep MacArthur's thoughts the center of our discussion, and not merely one sentence of what he wrote.

S.J. Walker said...

Good point Steve,

thanks,

Drew said...


Since your concern seems to be MacArthur's "bold" statement about certainty...show us you are not intellectually immature and answer the question posed to you...lay out what we can and cannot know for certain. And do not speak in postmodern generalities, be specific.


I don't have time to make an exhaustive list of everything I know, and I can't even begin to make a list of everything I don't know, but I did have to write a statement of faith for my ordination. See it here: http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=dgzjttxp_104f99s2tdx

Those are some of the things I know.

Phil Johnson said...

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist:

"Relativism" doesn't necessarily entail a denial that objective absolutes exist. (In fact, such a denial would be a self-refuting breach of the relativist's perspective.) Postmodern varieties of relativism generally concede that absolute truths might very well exist out there in some vast, unknowable metaphysical realm. But the typical postmodernist thinks (and he's not really sure about this, but almost) that we can't have reliable knowledge of what those absolute truths are.

From The Truth War (pages 10-11):

Postmodernism suggests that if objective truth exists, it cannot be known objectively or with any degree of certainty. That's because (according to postmodernists), the subjectivity of the human mind makes knowledge of objective truth impossible. So it's useless to think of truth in objective terms. Objectivity is an illusion. Nothing is certain, and the thoughtful person will never speak with too much conviction about anything. Strong convictions about any point of truth are judged supremely arrogant and hopelessly naive.

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist: "As far as I understand, Chalke is absolute in his conviction that what he believes is true."

I don't think so. Being argumentative is not the same thing as being certain. In Chalke's book as well as his subsequent defenses of his position, he uses almost exclusively deconstructive rhetoric to make his points.

Ochuk: "It seems to me, from the writers quoted, they are very certain. . ."

Same principle applies here. Being argumentative is not the same thing as being certain. McLaren is a particularly fine example of this principle. His books are filled with weasel-words and supposedly self-effacing language about how uncertain--hence humble--he is. Even when dealing with the subject of orthodoxy and ostensibly defending his own commitment to orthodox principles, he declines to name any actual orthodox principles he thinks we can really be completely certain about.

But of course that doesn't keep him from arguing vehemently against orthodoxies he doesn't like. Again: that's a classic strategy of deconstruction, and it should not be confused with any kind of authentic certainty.

Daryl said...

All,

Re: Drew's statement of faith

Wow, nothing there about salvation except for a bit on baptismal regeneration.

The whole thing pretty much stops at Nicea.

Instructive to say the least.

Phil Johnson said...

TUaD: (3) How do you, John MacArthur, or anyone respond to an 'anti-foundationalist' argument against certainty?"

All your questions are good ones, and they deserve a full post in reply. I'll tell you what: if time permits, I'll make that post some day this week.

Short answer for now: Any Christian who is uncomfortable with the postmodern rejection of certainty will at some point be labeled a Cartesian foundationalist by someone who has read too much Stan Grenz and John Franke. The argument is based on the very same boneheaded rationale that insists on describing whatever is not postmodern as "modernism."

S.J. Walker said...

Bro Phil,

I have been wrestling with this issue myself. Some weeks ago, I wrote out some thoughts on the issue of Absolute Truth.

Would you gentlemen have a look, when you get a chance, and let me know just how far off I am :)?

http://amos3verse8.blogspot.com/
2007/12/on-will-of-god.html

Thanks.

And to maintain a small thread of relation to the post here, GREAT book. My wife just finished it not long ago too.

Keep on pressing,

God Bless

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

All your questions are good ones, and they deserve a full post in reply. I'll tell you what: if time permits, I'll make that post some day this week.

Thanks Phil. I look forward to reading your post!

Adam Omelianchuk said...

Cartesian foundationalism is pretty rigorous in its standards for certainty as well in that requires something that is incorrigible. Almost no one holds to standards so high. Skepticism can always be applied to indubitable truths like "I exist." Even ones own existence can be doubted (even Descartes doesn't escape it with his assertion of "I think therefore I am"). Grenz and Franke go wrong by assuming all foundationalism is of this sort, when in reality, a common sense foundationalism or modest foundationalism fits very neatly in the scope of critical realism. For some reason Grenz didn't read the rest of W. Jay Wood's work on epistemology (see IVP) about the differences in the foundationalist method--the book he draws a lot on ot support his critique of evangelical method. Thomas Reid was a moderate foundationalist, a good Christian, and big influence on Charles Hodge (who Grenz faults for being a "modern."). Hodge may have gone a little overboard in his science metaphores, but seemed to have it right in his approach.

Oh. And thanks for the reply Phil.

SolaMeanie said...

Phil: The argument is based on the very same boneheaded rationale that insists on describing whatever is not postmodern as "modernism."

This nails in very precise fashion why I always found "philosophy" such a frustrating subject in college, or as a matter of discussion. Philosophers love to sit there in their academic gowns and wax so eloquent about this or that "ism," yet fail so miserably at nailing down basic elemental truth. In the philosopher's world, "light, speed and panorama" become contemporary moral issues. They really are examples of those who "profess to be wise, but become fools."

Other than logic and formal reasoning, I can't think of a philosophy course I'd waste money on today.

flying walrus said...

Another limey enters the fray...

Going back to our limited knowledge and interpretation again.

Let's assume that the Word of God in the Bible is what God wants us to have, yet when you start studying it in depth it appears somewhat paradoxical in a number of resonably fundamental areas (and I choose the word 'paradoxical' carefully, I'm not saying contradictory). Does this mean that it is possible for scholars to come to different conclusions in matters of doctrine with good consceince? Given the divergence in systematic theologies noted scholars over the years, might this be a possiblity? Equally, is this feature of the Word a subtle warning against intellectual pride in our own interpretations? Could this be a modernist way into a mindset which is effectively postmodern?

chicagolandmark said...

{"For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world— to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice." Pilate said to him, "What is truth?"}

It would be ironic, were it not so tragic, that pomo's manifestly identify more with Pilate than with Jesus, and are bent on trying to convince the rest of us that we haven't really figured out the message of Jesus as we ought.

S.J. Walker said...

chicagolandmark,

Amen. And amen.

Drew said...

well said, Pilate, I mean, Flying Walrus.

Eduardo said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
stratagem said...

You can't comment if you haven't read the book, and the writer of the book is your employer? From one marketing guy to another, bravo!

Phil Johnson said...

Stratagem:

Actually, the rule is that if you haven't read the book you don't get to steer the comments in a direction other than what's expressly addressed by the above quotation.

Chris Hemmelman said...

"The argument is based on the very same boneheaded rationale that insists on describing whatever is not postmodern as "modernism."

This is spot on Phil. What PoMo's fail to recognize, among other things, is that the heritage of those who fight for the supremacy of Scripture includes those who fought against modernism as well.

When MacArthur asserts confidence and certainty he doesn't do this from a "modernist" foundation but rather based on the authority of God's word. This assertion of Scripture's authority drove "moderns" nuts as well. The ministry of J. Greshem Machen testifies to this.

Daryl said...

"[The argument seems to be] that if we cannot know everything perfectly, we cannot really know anything with any degree of certainty. "

Am I wrong or does the EC (and many others) identify Scriptural truths as somehow different than your average everyday truth?
What I mean is this: No one disputes that a=mx+b or even that lions eat antelope (both are things we learn from books) and yet we doubt that Jesus was born of a virgin (also something we learn from a book).

It just occurs to me that the reasons given to the denial of the virgin birth could equally applied to the denial of antelope-eating-lions. They deny the knowability of truth. And yet they easily claim to know all kinds of things.

It seems to me that the issue is (per the last Spurgeon post on this website) belief, not knowability. The claim that we can't know is a smokescreen for chosing not to believe.

One can simply look at any of the various atheist web sites which clearly delineate Calvinist thought as laid out in the Bible and then call it pure twaddle to see the emminently knowableness of any truth, be it Scriptural or otherwise.

All that to say, Can the EC be called to read the Bible like they read any other book? Because when they do, they will find it's claims plain and completely knowable. Belief, of course, is another thing altogether.

Perhaps we should call those claiming to be Christians to BELIEVE, and skip past the knowability conversation altogether.

Daryl said...

To follow up:

Couldn't one argue that part of the reason the Bible was written in koine greek and not come high-falutin' special greek be because the things spelled out we simple and clear (at least the essentials) and so the language of simple clear peopl suited it best?

SolaMeanie said...

Walrus,

Coo coo ca-choo.

Okay, seriously now. It would depend on what you mean by "reasonably fundamental." I don't think anyone here has a problem with different views of secondary doctrinal (non-salvific) matters. The problem is that some within this "postmodern" realm of ministry are dancing around core doctrinal matters.

Perhaps if you gave a clearer statement on specifically what fundamental areas concern you?

S.J. Walker said...

Well said Deryl,

You took the words right out of my mouth. Well, not really, but I wish you had, so that I could be a bold, arrogant asserter of "truth" like you and Phil.

Maniacal laugh to follow...

buahahahaha...ahem. I mean, good job brother. Sorry, I get carried away sometimes.

SW

Daryl said...

s.j.

Don't you ever, EVER put Phil & I in the same sentence like that again!!!

He deserves better

stratagem said...

Phil: I know, dude. I was just funnin' with you.
Being a marketing guy, though, it wouldn't be below me to do as I suggested in my poke.

Henry (Rick) Frueh said...

If there is absolute truth but it cannot be known then its existence is irrelevant. If there is absolute truth and it can be known but it doesn't manifest itself in our lives then again, irrelevant.

Why would the Holy Spirit be given to lead us into all ambiguity?

S.J. Walker said...

My bad. Sorry.

Okay, uuuhm change the subject....

How bout them Broncos?

DJP said...

Henry: If there is absolute truth but it cannot be known then its existence is irrelevant

Well-put!

Daryl said...

s.j.

did I forget to mention that I was smiling?

Henry,

"Why would the Holy Spirit be given to lead us into all ambiguity?"

I am the general direction, the unknowable generality and the comatose existence. No one comes to the Father/Mother but by me, or someone like me, kind of.

chicagolandmark said...

"Perhaps we should call those claiming to be Christians to BELIEVE, and skip past the knowability conversation altogether."

I'm with you, daryl. But, you know, childlike belief is just gauche, and unsophisticated, and takes all the fun out of self-righteousness, and if we really BELIEVE what the Bible says, well, we have to make some changes in the way we think and in the way we live our lives, and that's not cool. So, It must mean something other than what it seems to mean on the surface, because God couldn't really think so differently than I (and all cool & smart people) want Him to.

(c;

{Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."}

S.J. Walker said...

The Broncos lost and you're SMILING!?

You're sick. This is serious. Are you feverish perhaps? Maybe given to strange, delusional lapses in loyalty?

Sorry, off topic again. I'm leaving now.

S.J. Walker said...

Deryl,

"I am the general direction, the unknowable generality and the comatose existence. No one comes to the Father/Mother but by me, or someone like me, kind of."

Can I borrow that?

Daryl said...

chicagoland

"But, you know, childlike belief is just gauche, and unsophisticated,"

And manly unbelief can at least be respected, but to say "How can this be, for I have never been with a man" is unclear is downright dihonest and wimpish.

Memo to the EC - BE HONEST IN YOUR UNBELIEF!!!

s.j. I'm only slightly smiling, Dallas lost I can't be totally happy.

Daryl said...

s.j.

You can borrow that my friend. I won't even insist on royalties.

Paul said...

Many are uncomfortable with the maturing process of going from man-centered intellectual sophistication into Christ-centered spiritual discernment.

The Holy Spirit starts us off by bottle-feeding us milk and eventually we graduate to solid foods. The problem some seem to face is that once the comfort of the bottle is taken away, people start to question the ingredients of the solid food.

Mature Christians recognize that the solid food is just as trustworthy as the milk.

Stefan said...

I haven't read the book, but...can't...resist...commenting...

Daryl wrote "No one disputes that a=mx+b." You're too linear in your thinking, Dude—and how very Cartesian of you, too! Anyhow, it may be "a=mx+b" for you, but it's "y=mx+b" for me. [Multiple rimshots]

More seriously, Chicagolandmark hit the nail on the head a few comments back, when he wrote:

But, you know, childlike belief is just gauche, and unsophisticated, and takes all the fun out of self-righteousness....

Apart from the deeper sin issue, rejecting God per Romans 1, etc., I'd hazard a guess that a lot of cynicism towards God's revealed word is the assumption that people in the past were too simpleminded and credulous, and so accepted things like the virgin birth, wine into water, feeding of the 4000, the bodily resurrection of Christ, etc., whereas we in the post-Englightenment age are too sophisticated for that. But hey, Scripture itself that attests that many of those who were alive during the time of Moses or Jesus—many who had even been blessed by divine miracles, such as the manna in the desert—still doubted God. So whether it's 3500 years ago or right now, the issue really seems to be one of human cynicism in the face of divine revelation.

Daryl said...

"Anyhow, it may be "a=mx+b" for you, but it's "y=mx+b" for me."

Dhooooh!!!

And my high school calculus teacher was my Dad too...

Wind...sails...out of...

donsands said...

" I'd have to say that we probably have a couple of things right, but a lot of things wrong." -Brian McLaren

I tell you the truth. This kind of statement drives me Batty!

I wonder what couple things we have right.

I wonder can we nail these couple things down?

My guess would be, "NO, we'd better not nail it down, even though it's a couple of things right, for it may not be right in 5 to 10 years from now. That's how many years Brian thinks we need to take before we have another look at the subject of homosexuality.

philness said...

Donsands,

5 to 10 years to depress the truth long enough to fill his church with the world and his packet book with dollar bills.

S.J. Walker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
S.J. Walker said...

It is interesting isn't it gentlemen how when Amos, Luke, James and the mere threat of Isaiah appeared on the scene, ECs disappeared like fog in the light of day.

Even So... said...

I think that pages 122-132 are a fine, concise treatment of God's sovereignty with regard to evil actions, apostates and apostasy...

centuri0n said...

I can't believe this thread is this frankly weak. Not even a lit match, let alone fireworks.

The Doulos said...

I have to agree with you, Cent. Once it turned into a Drew-vs-whoever on some extraneous issues, I decided to abstain. And apparently so did Drew and the other emerg*** types. They seem to be staying away in droves.

ezekiel said...

That is what happens when you have a guy like Walker running around throwing water on sparks...

donsands said...

philness

I don't believe Brian does what he does for money. I don't know for sure, but my thinking is that he had an incredible knee jerk reaction to a bad experience he had in the Church, and ended up way outside of theological orthodoxy, and is staying there, and he thinks he was lead there by God to change things.
He is in grave error, and his error has become his theology.

I really don't think anyone can explain this man's motives. Why he just doesn't speak plainly, I'll never know.
He's a genuine enigma, and I think he likes being an enigma. Drives me nuts. Especially when someone speaks in riddles all the time from the platform, or from books.

Hayden said...

I thought the book was good as far as the exegesis of Jude went and the historical background.

SolaMeanie said...

Frank,

I rather expected a donnybrook myself, but Phil told everyone to be nice, and I think people are trying to honor that for the most part. My chumming the water with Steve Chalke didn't even fan much of a reaction. Not that I am trying to feed trolls, of course.

There were a couple of statements made that tempted me to respond with some asperity, but I decided it would be like whacking a pinata without a blindfold. So I guess that means it's up to you to stir the pot (or throw napalm on it).

SolaMeanie said...

Don,

Brian is basically an English professor, not a theologian. While it is possible he had what he thinks is a bad experience in a conservative church, but I tend to assume he merely read too much bad philosophy on the side. Putting too much stock in the spewing of philosophers can infect your overall worldview and theology, sort of like bad food gives you ptomaine poisoning.

I might be wrong. I am uncertain on this, and am trying not to enjoy it too much.

carolczech said...

First, a big "atta boy!" (more for the book than the post) This book - and the exposition of Jude - ministered to my spirit at a time when I really needed it. Dh and I had been taken to the proverbial woodshed for contracting a severe case of "nooma-itis" at our church. Actually, it was much more serious than a trip to the woodshed - more like put into quarantine until we recover from our disease, and this book confirmed for us how important it is to stand for the truth, no matter the cost (and how little the cost was for us compared to the martyrs who have died for the truth)

Solameanie: "BTW, one can disavow postmodernism verbally, but in practice follow its precepts."

Phil Johnson:"In fact, that's a classically postmodern way to espouse postmodernism."

I heard an interview with Ligon Duncan last weekend about the book "Preaching the Cross" and why they decided to issue denials along with their "Together for the Gospel" affirmations in the back of the book. He said something to the effect that in these days of ambiguity, it's not enough to say what you believe. The doctrinal statements of many churches are so fuzzy that you can't discern what they really believe. It is more telling to see what they DON'T believe or what they are AGAINST. I think he makes a really good point. Don't all/most of the EC crowd believe/agree to the Apostle's/Nicene Creed or this or that confession? And then set about deconstructing most of the basic doctrines of orthodox Christianity?

You can read the TFG Affirmations/Denials here:
http://www.gnpcb.org/product/1581348282/browse/161#browse

Drew said...

I went away because I had things to do tonight.

But here's what I saw happening:

1. S.J. spent an afternoon following through on a suggestion I made to show him that he was being ridiculous (and missed my point by a million miles).

2. Some other people continued to prop up the ridiculous straw man that emergents don't believe in anything at all.

3. One person chose to believe that straw man, and challenged me to list, not only the things that I know, but also the things that I don't know (who has time for that?).

4. When I did concede to post my statement of faith, it was quickly dismissed because it did not talk enough about salvation (what he meant to say was that it did not use the words "salvation," "heaven," or "hell." Surprisingly, rather that being dismissed as a liberal innovator that makes things up, I was dismissed as "pre-nicea."

5. Mike and I actually cut through a lot of the bull and realized that we see things similarly--which Mike was quick to clarify us away from.

6. I was accused several times, of making the Holy Spirit a liar or a wimp.

7. I was accused of being more like the person who killed Jesus than Jesus.

Not to mention that we have been hammering on this dead horse for what, four posts now? We Emergent types have clearly demonstrated that we DO believe in some things, even as we admit that we are limited. Pyros (and their disciples) keep quoting 1 John and claiming that they know everything that needs to be known.

So I guess I am saying that I can see why folks have grown tired of this discussion.

donsands said...

"too much bad philosophy on the side."

That's a possibility. He's a deep thinker, that's for sure. And that can be very dangerous methinks.

Pastor MacArthur and Brian McLaren; what a contrast.

Pastor MacArthur teaches, and builds up the Church, with simplicity and depth; always with Scripture as his footings and joists, as the Lord uses him to build His church.

Brian, for me, is too complicated in his teachings and the way he communicates. He seems to be focused on figuring out how everyone can simply "get along".

"All we need is love,
All we need is love, love,
Love is all we need".
I wonder if this isn't what Brian is trying to say, and yet retain his being a Christian?

S.J. Walker said...

Ezekiel,

My apologies for seeming to throw water on a spark. I took the bate, forgive me. Did I say something wrong?

Drew,

My last comment directly related to you was at 9:43 AM. Except for when I noticed that once Scripture was presented, as challenged, you disappeared. Please forgive me, that actually was presumptuous and unfair. Life happens, sorry for singling you out in that regard.

Daryl, thanks for the loaner on that line.

So long all

Drew said...

S.J.: All is forgiven. I need it plenty, too.

Chris Hemmelman said...

"One person chose to believe that straw man, and challenged me to list, not only the things that I know, but also the things that I don't know (who has time for that?)."

Drew, the reason I asked you to do that is because of the nebulous nature of your statements concerning what we can and cannot know.

You presented your statement of faith, good. My next question to you is by what basis do you hold those things to be true? Also, by what basis do you say those are the things you know as opposed to the things you don't.

My question was a call for clarity and sharpness of thought. Clearly define where you stand (if you can) and explain to us your basis for judging what can and cannot be known.

You have pointed out that our sin nature corrupts our ability to understand truth. Having said that, please explain how this is overcome to the point that we can make any sort of truth claims. If you don't believe it can be you need to state that plainly as well.

pastorbrianculver said...

This book sounds great. I am going to order it today! thanks for mentioning it.

ezekiel said...

Walker,

No apology required. I really liked the water. I see Drew apparently missed your point...Maybe it bears repeating..

"4Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; 8he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does." --James 1:4-8

If that doesn't sum up the whole emergent mindset, I don't know what does......

John 8:31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

John 14:16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

Drew casually dismisses the word from 1 John, Ignores James and... Jesus?

The decision was't that hard to make on the day Elijah asked folks how long they were going to halt between two opinions. God gave them a sign that day that was good enough for me. Not to mention all the signs and wonders that followed.

Here we are how many years later? And folks still halt between two opinions. Tell us we can't know truth, we can't obtain knowledge. Double minded men that halt between two opinions....

John 16:13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

To sit around and tell me that I can't know the truth, that I can't have knowledge and that I can't be certain in that knowledge is to deny the power of the Holy Spirit..

2 Tim 3:3 1 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. 6 For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, 7 always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith.

Mike Riccardi said...

Mike and I actually cut through a lot of the bull and realized that we see things similarly--which Mike was quick to clarify us away from.

Listen, if you agree with the ideas that
- absolute truth exists and is knowable via the Scriptures
- everything revealed/taught in the Scriptures is in that category
- all those things are all we need for the godliness we don't seem to be living
- the list of things we don't know, the length of which is impossible to determine, is fairly inconsequential due to the surpassing greatness of the knowledge we do have...

then we're on the same page. My point in "clarifying us away" from that was to point out that there would have a required a major change in the way you've been thinking about everything since I've known you. I didn't want to give you the idea that you were magically orthodox or that I was suddenly emergent without it being true.

Your comment about not needing to change as the Holy Spirit teaches you all things all but proves to me your insensitivity to His work. And the obvious third alternative to the liar/wimp issue is that you don't know the work of the Spirit at all because He doesn't indwell you. If the Spirit teaches Christians all things and reveals things that Christians may know truth, and there's someone saying how they don't know anything, can we not conclude then that they don't have the Spirit?

And it's us stodgy old reformers who don't want to interact seriously, right?

les.prouty said...

Phil,

I am so thankful that John (with your able assistance) has published this book. I do not have it yet, but will make haste to get a copy. I have yet to find one of John's books not right on target.
This "movement" which is not a movement must continue to be addressed head on to protect many unsuspecting sheep in the fold. My own denomination (PCA) is being affected in a major way (sigh!).

Les Prouty

Drew said...

Wow. It only took 115 comments before I was deemed non-Christian. I really thought it would come sooner.

A more thoughtful reply is coming.

Drew said...

As for my epistemology, it is (like my theology) mostly Barthian. Of course, if you already knew Barth, you would have gathered as much from my statement of faith.

If you can, read "Word of God and word of Man," and you will get an idea about Barth's epistemology's, and why I like it. I can't find it online, but here is a discussion of Barth to give you some idea.

http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=73

Amongst the Barth scholars, my favorite is Franke, who maintains that Barth is neither neo-orthodox nor post-modern, but touches both perspectives in his dialectical method.

Rhology said...

I'd like to point out that Drew has already stated that his epistemology is self-refuting.

I don't know why we would waste much time talking to someone who cannot/will not defend the cogency of his own epistemology.

S.J. Walker said...

Ezekiel,

I figured, but I wanted to make sure. Thanks. I prefer to think of it not as throwing water on a spark, but stamping out a flaming duck. No pun intended, well, maybe a little.

SW

ezekiel said...

Matt 15:7"You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you:
8'THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS,
BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME.
9'BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME,
TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.'"

ezekiel said...

walker,

Keep your water bucket handy. He may flare up again...

flying walrus said...

Drew said...
well said, Pilate, I mean, Flying Walrus.

That is the main problem with this position. Then again, it might be interesting that Jesus didn't answer the question.



SolaMeanie said...
Walrus,

Coo coo ca-choo.

I get that a lot too...


Okay, seriously now. It would depend on what you mean by "reasonably fundamental." I don't think anyone here has a problem with different views of secondary doctrinal (non-salvific) matters. The problem is that some within this "postmodern" realm of ministry are dancing around core doctrinal matters.

Perhaps if you gave a clearer statement on specifically what fundamental areas concern you?




Speaking personally, there seems to be some stuff in the Bible stated in words of one syllable by someone qualified to say it, eg Jn 14:6, the Ten Commandments and so on.

Then again, if you move much beyond that, then you seem to run into paradoxes quite quickly, if you try to take the Bible as a whole. I'll mention two: Faith (Rom 4:4-5) and/or Works (James 2:24), and War (Jn 14:27) and/or Peace (Lk 12:51). You may be able to intellectually resolve the two example I've mentioned, and of course we have the promptings of the spirit, but it's interesting that after two thousand years of theological work, we haven't come much closer to general agreement on such matters.

The debate is fun though...

Rhology said...

we haven't come much closer to general agreement on such matters.

Um, speak for yourself.
You'll need to define "we" on that one.

Daryl said...

Master Walrus said:

"but it's interesting that after two thousand years of theological work, we haven't come much closer to general agreement on such matters."

That's as lame (and unoriginal) an attempt at celebrating uncertainty as I've ever seen.

A more accurate statement would go more like this:

"It's interesting that after 2000 years, people who doubt Scripture have still not stopped muddying that waters by ignoring clear and plain teaching demonstrating the biblical relationships between such topics"

(Since when does Scripture ever present faith/works and war/peace as a paradox?)

Yikes said...

We tend to use the word “truth” in many contexts. For example (I apologize for the simplicity of this argument, I’m new to this blog):

1. Let’s say it is an absolute truth that Professor Plum committed a murder in the Conservatory, using a knife.
2. In court, various witnesses are swear to tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”, yet they may have only bits of the story, and their testimony may appear contradictory; it’s a limited perception of reality.
3. It is the job of a jury to take these limited perceptions and create a consensus of what happened: “guilty” or “not guilty”, and for the purpose of our justice system, declared to be “true”.
4. Even when the jury reaches a verdict, that verdict is then perceived differently. A “not guilty” verdict may mean “innocent” to Prof. Plum’s supporters, or “he got away with murder” to his detractors.
5. The same kind of action, with different motivations has different meaning. Prof. Plum cutting me with his knife in anger is perceived differently than Prof. Plum, M.D. cutting me with his scalpel in emergency surgery: both appear violent, but one seeks to destroy, the other to heal.

Beyond all this, even if I know Truth, if I refuse to honor God or give thanks (Rom. 1:21), and end up in a place where I can’t think clearly.

Among the eyewitnesses in the gospels, somehow the demons seemed to have a more accurate perception of Jesus’s identity (Luke 4:34) than did Jesus’ own family (Mark 3:21), so knowing facts was not the same as knowing the Truth.

Things like context, motivation, semiotics, and host of other parameters that look "postmodern" are important, not to obscure the truth, but to respect it and bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. THAT'S useful deconstruction.

john said...

I'll be honest. I haven't read the book and I didn't make it far through this enormous thread either. If that eliminates me from this discussion, just let me know.

I'm what you guys would consider "emerging". Even though I'm a member at my bapti-costal church, I'm very different from most there. I don't believe that the bible is "inerrant" or completely literal as many of my fundy friends do. I'm more liberal and tend to be focused on social justice - the idea of the rich not harming the poor or the strong not taking advantage of the weak.

But what really sets me apart from the "modern" church is this: I have given up on the "traditional" way we do church - that is, the way American churches have largely operated since the 1950s. I don't think it works.

I haven't turned my back on God or Christ or the Gospel. Just on the organizations we call "churches". Look at the track record - they're producing people just like the world. Divorce? Teen pregnancy? Abortion? All the same inside our church membership as outside.

And then look at the commercialism that's been made in Christ's name. From John MacArthur to Brian McLaren - and at all stops in between - people making money off the gospel! It's a tragedy!

So ask me why I'm emergent and I'll tell you just one thing - because we need to try something else. The old way doesn't work. The modern movement is dead. Twenty-somethings can spot the cool-aid from a mile away - and they're not drinking. And I don't blame them!

I worked in the modern church for 10 years so far - and I continue to be a part even now. I think it's sad that many of us run off and try to start new churches when I think God's trying to use the emerging conversation WITHIN the traditional church to reform her.

So, instead of picking apart why everyone else is wrong, I suggest that we ALL focus on ourselves. Get ourselves right with God and beg for Him to use us to make a difference in this culture that so badly needs to repent and accept God's love and forgiveness.