By Rev. Ken Silva,
Apprising Ministries, September 29, 2005
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One of the latest seeker sensitive fads infesting the Church of our Lord today has become know as the Emergent Church Movement (ECM). In this article I share an overview of what I as a pastor find of grave concern about this lastest delusion of the Devil, most particularly the ECM's appalling lack of commitment to proper biblical hermeneutics. While not intended to be an exhaustive treatise regarding this blight on Christianity, herein we will take a close look at the way our Lord Christ Jesus Himself approached the Word of God and how this leads us to the proper Christian view of Scripture.
The Shadows of “Alternative” Christianity
We begin with an article with the very apt title – Twist of Faith: Emergent churches attract worshippers with alternative religious experiences by secular writer Tony Norman, where we get an interesting perspective on this “alternative” Emerging (from the shadows) Church Growth Movement:
In an era of suburban mega churches and declining mainstream churches, there are those who embrace the accouterments discarded by some Christians, especially candles, incense, Celtic crosses, labyrinths, elaborate Communion tables, prayer stations and the interplay of light and shadow. This "emerging" or "missional church," as it sometimes is called, has already begun spilling into the nooks and crannies of Christendom. It is a spirit of revival that embraces ancient liturgies, nonhierarchical practices and the future with equal enthusiasm. Though post-modern in its expression, the emergent church is grounded in ancient biblical practices… Recovering alcoholics, working people from the neighborhood, college students, single moms, a punk rock band and the pierced and spiky-haired community of iconoclasts that congregate around The End Ministries' tattoo parlor down the street make the trek to Hot Metal every Sunday. It is a startling and, at times, hauntingly beautiful menagerie of believers of all stripes, persuasions and colors (http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/05086/477120.stm).
Now, we should stop right here and address an issue that comes to mind when some of our young people, or those who tend to think with their emotions, read an article like this: You’re just being critical of the Emergent Church Movement (ECM) because it tries to reach people you would not feel comfortable being around. Let me assure you that this is not so at all. As someone who also pastors a local church, what I am disturbed about is not the eclectic people groups attracted to ECM, but rather, my concern is the why that they are attracted to it. And this is a world of difference from criticizing the horrifying lack of proper biblical doctrine these people are going to be taught by “pastors” who are moving away from the proper Evangelical Protestant position of the Bible as the final authority for all faith and practice, as opposed to a nit-picking fault-finding with someone else’s alternative lifestyle.
Like its ugly seeker sensitive stepsister, the Purpose Driven Church (Rick Warren is quite friendly with ECM leaders), the Emergent Church also waters down the truth of God’s Word to accommodate the ever-fickle opinions of the contemporary mindset of postmodern pagan America. Let’s look closely at what one of these adherents to the ECM will say about their so-called “mission.” And, if you lay aside any bias you can just imagine these very same words coming from Rick Warren or a smiling Joel Osteen:
Our goal and mission is to convey God's mercy, love and grace," Melisa Whitman, 22, told her fellow congregants at Hot Metal on the morning she stood to explain The End Ministries' unique outreach to the counterculture. Whitman talked about providing a supportive hangout and opportunities to build relationships with those whom society and the church had cast aside in many cases. Every week she is accompanied to Hot Metal by dozens of leather-wearing, pierced and tattooed people who wouldn't typically be churchgoers, so it doesn't take too much work to see the wisdom of The End Ministries' approach (ibid).
This is exactly what is wrong with modern Evangelicalism. You must understand that anytime one attribute of God’s character is magnified out of proportion, you will immediately run into the corresponding need to lessen another. In the last fifty years or so it has been our Creator’s loving nature that has been lifted out of its proper biblical context – and this has been done at the expense of the righteous justice of Almighty God. And for those with eyes to see, herein is Satan’s strategy revealed. The Devil knows that the Church is only powerful as it resists his attempts to demean the character of Christ. However, it seems to have been lost upon softhearted and even softer-headed ECM leaders that Satan is no friend of Jesus, and he is also known as the enemy of men’s souls for good reason. What the Devil’s currently doing is using these loathsome pawns in order to create a “softer, gentler” Christ, as cuddly as a teddy bear. And his ultimate goal in all of this is to “lovingly” silence any opposition as A.W. Tozer cogently pointed out:
[Satan] reminds us that when Christ, as a lamb brought to the slaughter, opened not His mouth–and suggests that we do likewise. Then if we notice his foot in the door and rise to oppose him, he appeals to our desire to be Christ-like. “Love everybody and all will be well,” he urges. The shepherd, taken in by this sweet talk, is afraid to use his club, and the wolf gets the sheep! (Renewed Day by Day, August 25)
The Influence of Liberal Theology
And what you are about to read is the most deadly philosophy. The following pernicious words should immediately send up a flag colored in the deepest scarlet in the mind of any true discerning Christian!
We need to rediscover what it means to read the Bible existentially and experientially." – BJ Woodworth, pastor of The Open Door (ibid., italics in original)
And this statement, which is exactly how the cult of liberal theology approaches the Bible, comes from an ECM pastor no less! If you do not want to get caught up deeply in the shadows of this growing apostasy, then you need to understand that the moment one stops faithfully taking at face value what God says in His Word, you will immediately become lost in the labyrinth of conflicting feelings and reprobate emotions of mankind’s sinful nature. The wise person will heed the following warning from Holy Scripture: There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death (Proverbs 16:25). And furthermore, in his sermon Condemned As A Reprobate, Dr. Alan Cairns is right when he said: “He who renounces God’s Word; renounces God Himself.”
And should you think I am overstating the case for my concern about ECM and its willingness to explore “new and alternative ways” of understanding the Scriptures for this culture. Consider the following from a well-known minister:
Obviously, any idea of inspiration which implies equal value in the teachings of Scripture, or inerrancy in its statements, or conclusive infallibility in its ideas, is irreconcilable with [modern scholarship] (http://www.religion-online.org/showchapter.asp?title=545&C=648).
Only in the Bible these elements [on knowing God] are not final; they are always being superseded; revelation is progressive. The thought of God moves out from Oriental kingship to compassionate fatherhood; treatment of unbelievers moves out from the use of force to the appeals of love; polygamy gives way to monogamy; slavery, never explicitly condemned before the New Testament closes, is nevertheless being undermined…and over the doorway of the New Testament into the Christian world stand the words of Jesus: "When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth." That is to say, finality in the Koran is behind; finality in the Bible is ahead. We have not reached it. We cannot yet compass all of it. God is leading us out toward it. There are multitudes of Christians, then, who think, and rejoice as they think, of the Bible as the record of the progressive unfolding of the character of God to his people from early primitive days until the great unveiling in Christ; to them the Book is more inspired and more inspiring than ever it was before. To go back to a mechanical and static theory of inspiration would mean to them the loss of some of the most vital elements in their spiritual experience and in their appreciation of the Book (http://www.hyattcarter.com/shall_the_fundamentalists_win.htm).
Both of these quotes come from Harry Emerson Dosdick, the man who popularized liberal theology in the 20’s and 30’s. Now, to the untrained eye, Fosdick’s words will seem orthodox, but what he is actually saying is that experience must be our guide in meeting God within the text of the Bible, and not full adherence to what the text is literally telling us. And so here again, we are lost on the sea of subjective “feeling,” and dubious guidance by what you believe in your heart that God is saying to you. But instead, to avoid decpetion we must let these words from Holy Scripture be our guide here – The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it? – Jeremiah 17:9, NASB.
Dr. Walter Martin, a recognized authority on non-Christian cults having their origin in the United States, was right in the early 80’s when he showed the awful progression downward as more and more seminaries in this country began succumbing to what he dubbed “the Cult of Liberal Theology.” While informing us that the Church in the United States initially only had the heresy of the aforementioned Fosdick to worry about, Martin went on to say:
but then it accelerated to Edwin Lewis, Nels F.S. Ferre, Reinhold Niebaur, and on to Paul Tillich – and crowned in Rudolph Bultmann. Not one single one of those men believed in the historic doctrines of the Christian faith, but they were all the leading theologians of America (The Cult of Liberalism, cassette tape, side 1).
Men and women, watch out for those names as ECM leaders are speaking about the people who have influenced their own theology.
Rethinking The Use Of Scripture
In his two-part article Now Ready for Prime Time Players Christian researcher Mike Oppenheimer fills us in on the very serious spiritual danger the influence of liberal theology and the clear and present danger ECM poses for the true Church of Christ in America today:
Some [ECM] leaders will tell you that you cannot know absolute truth. So the alternative is to re-think everything we have done with Christianity over many centuries. Instead of building on the great scholars, they are rejected for something new. What they are saying without words (and some with words) is that the Bible is not sufficient for our modern day culture, to reach this new generation. We hear that we are out of touch with the times, the culture, and the consciousness change. All these sentiments are echoed by mystic universalist Matthew Fox who has said “Christianity has been out of touch with its `core,' its center, its sense of mystical practice and cosmic awareness." (The Cosmic Christ, p. 7, by Matthew Fox)
When leaders have had fundamental doubts and are uncertain about the sovereignty of God and His control as described in the Bible, it breeds doubts about the Word and weakens the words and teachings causing one to look for other ways. The “Emergent Church” takes the “seeker movement past its limitations to go where no Christian church has gone before-into inter-spirituality (http://www.letusreason.org/current73.htm, emphasis in original).
This is precisely where the Emerging Church Movement is heading, and exactly where the cult of liberalism also went so wrong long ago. In his article about leading ECM pastor Rob Bell’s recent book Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith Charles Honey writes:
Rev. Rob Bell…the young pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church…Bell's first book…"Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith," published by Zondervan, Bell presents a fresh picture of Jesus for those who have trouble with the traditional portrait… The Bible itself, he writes, is a book that constantly must be wrestled with and re-interpreted.
He dismisses claims that "Scripture alone" will answer all questions. Bible interpretation is colored by historical context, the reader's bias and current realities, he argues. The more you study the Bible, the more questions it raises. "It is not possible to simply do what the Bible says," Bell writes. "We must first make decisions about what it means at this time, in this place, for these people." Noting the Bible has been used to defend slavery and mistreat women, he writes, "sometimes when I hear people quote the Bible, I just want to throw up" (http://www.mlive.com/search/index.ssf?/base/news-/1122718654180020.xml?grpress?NER&coll=6&thispage=3)
Are These ECM Leaders Even Evangelical?
I just cannot stress enough how this type of sad leadership is now gaining more and more legitimacy within Evangelical Church, and it’s only going to lead to an increase of spiritual devastation among our youth in America as their false doctrines add even more smoke to further obscure the increasingly dark clouds of this growing apostasy. And Oppenheimer is all too right when he warns that Satan has set this spiritual trap of the ECM through a misguided view of God’s love, as mentioned previously, with its fundamental error of mistaking tolerance for license:
However there are many who profess Christianity that have synthesized some of the teachings OF Jesus Christ (MOSTLY about love- they think is tolerance) with other religious practices, to intentionally change the church into something they have in their mind. the goal is to make us new and powerful in our age. Contrary to his statement of “Christianity recover its mystical tradition and teach it, it should simply fold up and go out of business.” We have entered an era of the danger zone for the church unlike any before. If we do not take a stand and be outspoken on yoga, meditation and the growing mysticism practiced inside the church we will watch the true church crumble before our eyes and be left with a transformation into a counterfeit. That’s how serious this all is. We find certain leaders bringing in a hybrid form of Christianity. "I must add, though, that I don't believe making disciples must equal making adherents to the Christian religion. It may be advisable in many (not all!) circumstances to help people become followers of Jesus and remain within their Buddhist, Hindu, or Jewish contexts.” (Brian McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy). (http://www.letusreason.org/current74.htm, caps in original)
Go back and do a bit of investigation and you will see that so many of our mainstream denominations and their seminaries and colleges caved into the cult of liberal theology the very instant that they moved away from the inerrancy of the Holy Scriptures. Once they made this deadly decision, the next step logically was they could no longer use God’s Word in the Bible as their final source for all doctrine and practice, and the fatal result was God abandoned them to this deception. The Bible says – since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done – Romans 1:28. That’s why the Church had best listen to the solemn warning from Dr. D.A. Carson from his book Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church when he tells us that the Emerging Church Movement frequently fails to use Scripture as the normative standard of truth and instead appeals to tradition. This is exactly how this apostasy began within Christ’s Church in this ill-fated nation.
Tradition vs. Scripture
Ah, there’s that word “tradition.” Does it ring a bell? It should, for this is the very type of “tradition” Christ Jesus was talking about when He issued this mordant rebuke to another group of religious leaders who also thought they had all the answers as to how God wanted things done. The best Example of Christianity there could ever be – Jesus of Nazareth – weighed in on the subject of false religious traditions when He said:
“Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men. You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.” And he said to them: “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! (Mark 7:6-9)
This would be a good point to dig into the subject of how Jesus Himself approached the use of God’s Word and see if we can emerge with a Christian view of Scripture. And the way we do this is to turn to the historical record of the New Testament. In this worthwhile endeavor I’m going to primarily stick with one of the two Gospels written by actual eyewitnesses to our Lord’s life and ministry. These two, of course, would be Matthew and John. After all, since they were there personally, they ought to have a relatively good idea as to how Christ approached Scripture – dontcha think? We’ll use Matthew’s account of the way he observed Jesus using Holy Scripture and see if what we have read from a couple of those well-known teachers within the Emergent Church measures up to this pattern. For it was the Master Himself Who asked the penetratingly pertinent question: “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? – Luke 6:46.
Someone asks: Why is all this important? Shouldn’t we just take all this by faith? The short answer is yes, but because a large part of the job of the Christian while we’re still here on this earth is to witness to people who don’t take these kinds of things by faith. So, it’s also very important that we have this information on hand to correct those who say: The New Testament was written so long after these events that who knows how much myth was later added by the “church.” When the truth is that most of the New Testament was actually written within thirty-five years of the events that are described. Men and women, even secular historians will admit that’s way too short an amount of time for traditions and myths to have had time to develop.
We need to keep these kinds of things in mind now because as this apostasy continues to grow, we are going to have to deal with more and more people who are going to start denying the historicity of the Bible. How do I know this? Because the only way those in the Emergent Church Movement who would profess to be Christian can possibly justify their “inclusive” view of religion is to deny the inerrancy of Holy Scripture. The truth is, you sure aren’t going to find it in the Bible through any kind of sound biblical exegesis. The following comment from ECM leader Brian McLaren: “I don't believe making disciples must equal making adherents to the Christian religion, ” is very telling. And, you need to know that it is also diametrically opposed to what the Lord he professes to serve has said: I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me – John 14:6. Since there won’t be any practicing members of any other religion going to Heaven, and when you take into account the only other destination for them, how could it possibly be advisable in any context for a minister of Jesus Christ to just leave these condemned people outside of “the Christian religion” on the pathway to Hell!
The Example of Peter
Now, what needs to be stressed here is that these New Testament documents circulated at a time when there were eyewitnesses hostile to the cause of Christ still living. This means that if these things were myths, or real events that were then embellished by church leaders, any of these people could have easily stepped forward to set the record straight. But history records that they never did. And why didn’t anyone come forward? For the simple fact that these events were not mythological, but rather, these incidents actually happened just as recorded. Before we go to Matthew’s Gospel, let’s first turn to the Book of 2 Peter. I want us to consider what the Apostle Peter tells us on this subject “myths.” Here is a man who walked directly with Jesus of Nazareth, and who would later give his very life for the cause of Christ. This Apostle Peter, who would first watch his own wife be crucified right before him, would then himself be crucified upside down, has some very good incentive to be telling us the truth – because he would pay for it with his life.
2 Peter 1:16 – We did not follow cleverly invented stories. The King James Version says cunningly devised fables. The Revised Standard Version is closer to the original Greek when it says cleverly devised myths. For the word that Peter used was muthos – which would make the original readers of his letter think of Greco-Roman stories of the gods. So, with this in mind, let’s start again. We did not follow cleverly invented stories – [like Greek or Roman mythology] – when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.
What we can see here is that God the Holy Spirit was already anticipating the arguments of modern scholars like the late Dr. Joseph Campbell and his Power Of Myth series, as well as the abysmal appearance of contemporary Christian compromisers like Brian McLaren and Rob Bell. People like these who would certainly be coming along in the last days. When you look at 2 Peter 3:1 you will see what I mean – Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. [Contrary to what we are told in so many churches today thinking isn’t bad. Verse 2] – I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets – [a reference here to the Old Testament] – and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles – [which is now our New Testament].
And now here’s the verse I wanted to stress – verse 3 – First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. And as I said, in the case of so-called “modern” scholarship, as well as with these ECM leaders who seek to “rediscover what it means to read the Bible existentially and experientially,” these scoffers are trying desperately to avoid the facts because they have already made their minds up before they even do any of their research.
God the Holy Spirit tells us these people will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires – and their research and methodology simply leads them right to what they already wanted to believe. And, if you turn back one chapter you will see their sad future. The inspired Apostle Peter says – But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, evening denying the sovereign Lord Who bought them – bringing swift destruction on themselves – 2 Peter 2:1.
And finally on this subject, let’s look at what one of the leading authorities on New Testament manuscripts, the distinguished Dr. Bruce Metzger of Princeton Theological Seminary, had to say. Dr. Metzger was the chair of both the Revised Standard Version and the New Revised Standard Version Bible translation committees – he knows just a bit about this topic. Metzger has the best argument I have seen against this idea that men inserted their own teachings into the Gospels and then attempted to make Jesus into a God through these “myths.” In his classic book The New Testament–Its Background, Growth, & Content Dr. Metzger says:
A simple test can be made to determine the extent to which extraneous materials have been taken into the Gospels. One of the most influential figures in the early church was the Apostle Paul. His letters, which date from the time when many of the Gospel traditions were taking shape, abound in pithy sentences and spiritual insights that could easily have been transferred to Jesus and presented as oracles of the Lord. If it be asked how many times this has happened, the answer must be Not once! (p.105, emphasis in original).
So hopefully this information–just the tip of the iceberg from my own personal studies into the origin of the Bible – will help strengthen your faith. The main thing I am attempting to do here is to edify you in the same way this research has strengthened my own trust that the Bible really is the Word of the one true and living God. And as Peter suggested, I have also been attempting to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. My other goal in this section is to put this information into a forum from which you can then share it with others. After all, Satan pretty much controls public education and the media – and now through counterfeit Christian movements like the Emergent Church – the mortal enemy of men’s souls is making very serious inroads into our Lord’s true Church as well. So it’s going to take a strong effort and commitment from the “everyday” soldiers to counterattack the lies contained in all the propaganda vomited from the Devil’s powers and principalities onto the unsuspecting public at large regarding the Bible.
“It Is Written”
And with this as our backdrop we now begin our look at a few key Scriptures that will help us to capture a proper perspective on how the true Christian should approach Holy Scripture. We begin in Matthew from his written eyewitness deposition. The idea here will be to look closely at the way Jesus Christ of Nazareth approached the Old Testament Scriptures, and the subsequent effect this approach would have upon the Church that He founded. What has been lost in Christian circles amidst all this insipid chatter about the seeker sensitive purpose driven emerging church is the attitude of the true Christian. The Bible says – Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus – Philippians 2:5. As you read articles I write, you will come to know this verse well. The King James Version puts it a little stronger – Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus. So it logically follows that if we truly are Christians, then we absolutely must handle the Word of God the same way that our Lord did.
We begin our examination of Christ’s approach to Holy Scripture in Matthew chapter 4 and verse 3. For context, this would be during the time when Satan was tempting Jesus while He was fasting for forty days. Obviously Matthew wasn’t there in person, so he is recounting an event that the Master would have Personally shared with His disciples at some later time. Matthew 4:3 – The tempter – [Satan] – came to [Jesus] and said, “If you are the Son of God.” Let’s stop and think about something for a moment. It’s important here to understand that the Devil is ctually taunting Christ here. He doesn’t so much doubt Who Jesus is – as he is mocking Him. Satan is saying: Since You are the Son of God. “If You are” – [or “Because] – You are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ’Man does not live on bread alone, but on every Word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Now let’s break down Christ’s response to the tempter. Scripture says, Jesus answered. How did He answer? Did He say: It wouldn’t be right for Me to eat right now, I need to be sympathetic to my surroundings because there are many in My culture who don’t have enough food. No, the Master takes up what the Apostle Paul calls – the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God – Ephesians 6:17. Jesus answered, “It is written:” – [But the question to ask is – It is written – where? Was this some sage old advice about spiritual mysticism found in one of the latest books by the trendiest Rabbi? Ah – Christ finds His defense in the Holy Scriptures – the very Words of Almighty God. The Master is quoting a verse from what is now our Old Testament. So, here in this historical account we see Jesus immediately appeal to the Word of God as His final authority for what is right, and what is wrong. And because of our Lord’s full commitment to the revealed Word of God – Jesus answered, “It is written: ’Man does not live on bread alone, but on every Word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Let’s me further point out here that Christ is referencing Deuteronomy 8:2 – Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert – [think about where Jesus is here as He is being tempted] – in the desert these forty years – [for the Master it’s forty days] – to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep His commands. Can you see the parallel? And this is what is apparently lost upon these “new” school preachers of the Emerging Church Movement; the Scriptures – the inalterable commands of the very Creator of all mankind – apply to all cultures and all time periods, regardless of what the contemporary society around you says. In this Old Testament passage of Deuteronomy historic Israel was a picture to the world the Savior Who was to come. This you will pick up as you study the doctrine of Ha Mashiach – the Messiah – the Christ of God. But for now, verse 3 says – [God] humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every Word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.
Next we should note that Christ Jesus equates – It is written: – [the Holy Scriptures as a Word] – that comes from the mouth of God. Do you see how this works? Remember earlier how I mentioned that “thinking” was a good thing. Well then, let’s think about this: Do you realize that Jesus Christ of Nazareth Himself had to study these Holy Scriptures to help learn Who He was? Yes, the Bible does tell us that the Master is the only begotten God, but Holy Scripture also reveals that He was born as a human being. As such then, Jesus of Nazareth is fully God and at the same time He is also fully human. Our Lord was in every way, just as – [human as] – we are yet was without sin – Hebrews 4:15. And further, we read – And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature – Luke 2:52. As Dr. Darrell Bock correctly points out: Jesus’ attitudes about his walk with God, his call to serve him, and his pursuit of intimacy with him are not a product of his unique sonship with God. They picture how all of us should prioritize our lives before God (The NIV Application Commentary, Luke, p.102).
What I am driving at is this, quite often in our proud and independent culture we hear people say: “Well, I don’t really have the time to study the Bible.” Then they will proudly announce – “Anyway I don’t have to because I have the Holy Spirit.” It kind of makes you want to say to them: Well good for you. Whoever said that you didn’t? And this is exactly the mindset you will run into with many of the spiritually clueless who are falling for these noxious deceptions like the ECM and PDL. However, God the Father – the LORD God Almighty – said of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the perfect and sinless One Himself – This is My Son, Whom I love; with Him I am well pleased (Matthew 3:17).
I would venture to guess that, if the only begotten God – the Son of Man – had to grow in wisdom, and to then go on “his [own] pursuit of intimacy with” God, there is probably a reasonably good chance that you and I are going to have to do this as well. Those who think they can ignore personal study of the Bible itself because they “have the Holy Ghost” would do well to remember this. That is, unless somehow they think that they are more spiritual than Jesus of Nazareth Himself. And that not appear to be very likely.
The Absolute Truth of Holy Scripture
Germane to our topic here Jesus clearly equated It is written to every Word that comes from the mouth of God. So it becomes obvious that our Lord was appealing to Holy Scripture – our Old Testament – as the Word of Almighty God. This is a good place to stop and do what Peter calls some wholesome thinking. If we meditate on this Scripture we will see that there’s a whole lot of things going on within. And this is to use the word meditate in its proper sense: to focus one's thoughts on. My main point here is, we need to look at all we can learn about why we believe what we do simply by actually using the minds that God gave us. Remember, Jesus said – Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength – Mark 12:30.
You see, as Christians, we have many very solid reasons that we so often quote the Bible to others. And our rationale as to why we say “God said” as we do when we quote Scripture is really quite simple; because that’s what our Master and Savior did. When you let people know why we as Christians do these things it does at least two things. First, it gives you an opportunity to discuss your faith in Jesus Christ in as non-confrontational way as humanly possible. And secondly, it gives the person you are talking with the opportunity to ask further questions. Since you are not preaching at them you then have a forum to create further occasion for people to come back to you in the future. As this apostasy grows, it becomes more and more important that we consider ourselves in training to become proper spokesmen for historic orthodox Christianity. For this is what Paul meant when he said – We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us – 2 Corinthians 5:20.
It is an awesome thing when you stop and remember how God has chosen to make Himself so vulnerable to us that if we won’t go out into the world – just as Jesus did – then the Gospel won’t be preached to every creature. I have purposely spent quite a bit of time here in Matthew 4:4. And the reason I’ve really dug into this particular verse is because we can learn a few things in regard to Christ’s use of God‘s Word. It is without question that Jesus of Nazareth held the highest view of Holy Scripture as three times in just this one verse alone our Lord appeals to the Word of God as His standard for proper living before God. And no one has any business calling himself a Christian who doesn’t have the very same view about the Bible that His Master had.
A careful reading of the Gospels will show that Christ Jesus had obviously studied and mastered the Scriptures, and that’s arguably the most important way that our Lord learned of His mission in this life. Well, you and I need to master the Bible too. We need to search these Holy Scriptures daily as well. And as Jesus studied He would come to see the parallel between the nation of Israel and His mission as the Savior of mankind. God had been progressively revealing the doctrine of the Messiah through His dealings with Israel. It is simply beyond question that Jesus appeals to the Scriptures as His Own final authority for doctrine as well when He said – “It is written: ’Man does not live on bread alone, but on every Word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Hopefully you are now observing this same parallel in your own walk with the Lord. And this is precisely why the historic orthodox Christian Church has always appealed to the Bible as our own final authority for faith and practice. Once again, it’s because Jesus did, and it is truly a sad indictment upon these sorry times that we live in that this is even an issue that needs to be discussed in Christian circles.
As incredulous as this may seem however, all of this is currently being denied in the Emergent Church Movement – particularly in the very influential writings of perhaps their best known guru Brian McLaren. As Tim Challies reveals in his review of McLaren’s book A Generous Orthodoxy:
He has rejected the view that the Bible exists to give believers a consistent knowledge of God. He rejects the idea that we can have a consistently accurate orthodoxy from the Scripture. In his view we cannot know absolute truth from the Bible, hence we must search the vast gamut of Christian experience to find "a kind of truth."
A second observation about this Generous Orthodoxy is that he has cleared the playing field, so to speak, eschewing all current systems of orthodoxy and beginning anew. But on what authority will he do this? The answer, as becomes clear later, is that he will do so on his own authority - with what feels right.
McLaren has proven himself to be just one more in a long line of "Christian" leaders leading people away from Scripture and away from the absolute Truth it contains. (http://www.challies.com/archives/000712.php)
The critical question then becomes: Why would Evangelical Protestant leaders even wish to extend the right hand of fellowship to someone like Brian McLaren? Here is a man who would tell us that the Bible is not really a sufficient guide to know God, and instead is actually leading people away from the Reformation doctrine of Sola Scriptura? What happens when these professing Christian “ministers” who openly deny their Lord are still embraced publicly by the Evangelical community as brothers? The result is a satanic foothold within the Church of Jesus Christ, and an extremely confusing mixed message to the prospective “seekers” they profess to be trying to reach. Beloved, this just cannot be stressed enough! And especially in this country which reverently bows before the altar of individualism. Do we not remember, as true Christians we are doulos – “bond-slaves” – and as such we are to do exactly what Jesus commands us to do, regardless of how we might feel about it individually. Our Lord says – If anyone loves Me, he will obey My teaching - John 14:23. And – You are My friends if you do what I command – John 15:15.
Some say: “But that’s not fair. If I come to Christ, I have to give up my freedom.” Yes, and no. This is yet another wrenching of the truth by Satan. As Jesus said – if the Son [of God] sets you free, you will be free indeed – John 8:36. Others ask – “What does He mean by that? This is America, I’m already free.“ That’s a good question, but unfortunately, it’s also a most misguided view. For the truth is that no human being is totally free. We are all slaves to our flesh – our sinful human nature. And only personal faith in Jesus Christ of Nazareth – God the Son – can ever set us free.
The Christian View of Scripture
The historic orthodox Christian Church, and our appeal to Holy Scripture as every Word that comes from the mouth of God began right here in Matthew 4:4. And it has continued in the true Church of our Lord ever since. Consider this eyewitness testimony from Dr. Luke’s history of the early Church: they devoted themselves to the Apostle’s teaching – Acts 2:42. And then there is this admonition from the Apostle Paul to a young pastor named Timothy: And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses. Hmm, I’d have to say, it’s pretty hard to add “myths” into your teaching if at the same time you are appealing to witnesses to verify the very truth of what you teach. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others – 2 Timothy 2:2.
Let me reinforce this important message by giving you a concrete example of the trustworthiness of the ancient Christian witness. Here is one line of teaching that can easily be traced right back through the Apostle John to Christ Jesus of Nazareth Himself. First, we have the Apostle’s own eyewitness testimony to the fact that he walked with Christ in the Gospel of John. Then from further actual historical accounts we know that “the elder,” John himself, personally taught other reliable men. At least one of these was a man by the name of Polycarp. There is a pretty good body of work that survives this man who go on to become the Bishop of the churches at Smyna. Polycarp himself would then teach a man by the name of Irenaeus, who later became the Bishop of Lyons. An even more substantial body of his writings is still in existence.
It is an incontrovertible fact that these early Church Fathers quoted from Holy Scripture so abundantly – that even if we lost every copy of the New Testament manuscripts – we could still literally reconstruct the entire New Testament from the writings of these men alone save for some eleven verses. And this is the extent to which the original Apostles of Jesus Christ of Nazareth appealed to, and quoted from, every Word that comes from the mouth of God. It is exactly what they had personally observed their Lord and Master do, and it is exactly what they would then go on to instruct their own disciples to do as well.
In closing, we use the witness of Irenaeus concerning the reverence that these men had for the Word of God. In his book Learning Theology with the Church Fathers Christian professor Christopher Hall says: “Irenaeus, writing in the latter half of the second century, [around AD 180], strongly asserted the authority of the Scriptures against his Gnostic opponents…” (p.207). As I have just pointed out, Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp, and in his magnum opus Against Heresies he writes – “We have learned the plan of our salvation from no one else other than those through whom the gospel has come down to us. For they did at one time proclaim the gospel in public. And, at a later period, by the will of God, they handed the gospel down to us in the Scriptures to be ’the ground and pillar of our faith’” (ibid. p.206).
Despite the heretical stance of a growing number of Emergent Church leaders, this has always been the testimony of the true Christian – as we can plainly see even from the most ancient of leaders of the historic orthodox Christian Church – which was built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the Chief Cornerstone (Eph. 2:20). And even more importantly, we now emerge with this Christian view of Scripture, because this is the testimony of the greatest life ever lived – our wonderful Lord and Savior – Christ Jesus of Nazareth Who plainly said: “It is written: ’Man does not live on bread alone, but on every Word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Posted by Ken at September 16, 2005 04:22 PM
Copyright © 2005 by Ken Silva. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2005 by Ken Silva. All rights reserved.
Apprising Ministries at http://www.christianunplugged.com/amfearlove.htm
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