Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Emergent Church: Separating God from His Word

Sometimes, we are called “bibliolaters.” This charge alleges that we wrongly worship the Bible rather than God. Sometimes the Emergent Church (and other liberals) claims that, “You need to trust in the living God and not in a set of inert doctrines,” as if there is a differences between trusting in God and trusting in His Word!

Scripture thoroughly rejects this distinction. For instance, the Psalmist cries out:

  •  I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. (Psalm 130:5-6)

The Psalmist indicates that there is no distinction between trusting in God and trusting “in His Word.” Consequently, if we trust in God, it is the same thing as trusting in His Word, His work, and His promises to us.

This asks us to reconsider the question, “What does it mean to trust in God if it doesn’t mean to trust in what He tells us?” It is like being asked, “Do you trust in the life force?” I would have to respond, “What has the life force promised to do and what is its track record in this regard?” In other words, it makes no sense to place our trust in a person or thing who we know nothing about.

Trust depends upon the trustworthiness of the person, according to his words or promises. The person of trust cannot be separated from his word no more than “heads” can be completely separated from “tails” on a single coin. Consequently, Moses warned Israel that when they sin, they not only despise the Word; they also despise God! The teachings of God and the Person of God are inseparable:

  •  But anyone who sins defiantly…blasphemes the LORD, and that person must be cut off from his people. Because he has despised the LORD'S word and broken his commands" (Numbers 15:30-31).

This is the very indictment that God issued against His King, David:

  • “Why did you despise the word of the LORD by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own” (2 Samuel 12:9-10).

To despise God’s Word is the same as despising God. However, the Emergent Church illegitimately separates the two. Emergent Church guru, Tony Jones, claims that this “fixation” on Scripture is idolatrous:

·       This fixation with [scriptural] propositions [doctrines] can easily lead to the attempt to use the finite tool of language [Scripture] on an absolute Presence that transcends and embraces finite reality. Languages are culturally constructed symbol systems that enable humans to communicate by designating one finite reality in distinction form another. The truly infinite God of Christian faith is beyond all our linguistic grasping…and so the struggle to capture God in our finite propositional [doctrinal, Scriptural] structures is nothing short of linguistic idolatry. (The New Christians, 234)

Did Jesus regard our “fixation” on His teachings as “idolatry?” Evidently not! Instead, He commanded His church to carry His Words around the world:

  •  "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations… and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." (Matt. 28:19-20)

Elsewhere, our Lord taught that we should love Him. However, how were His disciples to love Him? By visualizing Him? No! This was forbidden by the 2nd Commandment. By practicing silence as we meditate on a single word to clear our minds? No! Instead, we are to meditate upon His Word (Psalm 1)! He directed us to love Him by obeying His Word:

  • “If you love me, keep my commands… Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them… Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.  Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching.” (John 14:15, 21-24)

His Word and His Person are inseparable. Why then would anyone try to separate them? Paul broached this matter with his protégé Timothy regarding those who introduced teachings which forbade marriage and certain foods:

  • Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. (1 Tim. 4:2)

How else can we explain the promotion of such counter-scriptural teachings?

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