Dangerous Preachers

Because the underlying theological influence of most emergent theology (even though its advocates rarely know it) is Karl Barth, the written Word of God is debased in favor of the living Christ of the Word (a false dichotomy). As a result, the sermon content of pastors influenced by the emerging movement is more dependent on psychology, sociology and other “soft sciences” than it is the Scriptures, since, supposedly, “all truth is God’s truth” (a notoriously slippery concept).

Edmund Clowney spoke of this dangerous problem:

A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing if a preacher with a smattering of sociology, political science, or group dynamics begins to pontificate from the pulpit, proclaiming his amateurish notions or prejudices under the mantle of divine truth.

“Preaching the Word of the Lord: Cornelius Van Til, V. D. M.” The Van Til Lecture for 1983-84 delivered at Westminster Theological Seminary

While the soft sciences may contribute insight into life, they may only be considered helpful when subjected to the singular authority of the inspired Word of God, and interpreted through the lens of a thoroughly Christian worldview. Let us be careful that we are not deluded by plausible arguments and taken captive by philosophy built on human traditions, which are nothing more than assent to pagan elemental spirits of the world (Col. 2:1-8). Rather, let us not grow weary of grounding our preaching on Christ, who is himself, our wisdom (1 Cor. 1:24).

The god of Diversity

In the beginning was Diversity. And the Diversity was with God, and the Diversity was God. Without Diversity was nothing made that was made. And it came to pass that nasty old ‘orthodox’ people narrowed down diversity and finally squeezed it out, dismissing it as heresy. But in the fullness of time (which is of course our time), Diversity rose up and smote orthodoxy hip and thigh. Now, praise be, the only heresy is orthodoxy.

As widely and as unthinkingly accepted as this reconstruction is, it is historical nonsense: the emperor has no clothes.

D. A. Carson’s blurb for The Heresy of Orthodoxy: How Contemporary Culture’s Fascination with Diversity Has Reshaped Our Understanding of Early Christianity by Andreas Köstenberger and Michael Kruger (Crossway, 2010).

How Does Our Knowledge Relate to God’s?

Because God has spoken, we can know who he is, something of what he does, even why he does what he does; and we can know that who he is, what he does, and why he does what he does is revealed to us to know as creatures, not as creators. In other words, it is not the case that since we have the truth of Scripture, what we know is identical with what he knows. While it may be that when we believe the truth, “what we believe is one of [God’s] thoughts” (to borrow from Alvin Plantinga, “Divine Knowledge,” 62), I should hasten to add that we believe God’s thoughts after him. We believe them, if we do, as creatures, not as God. God’s thoughts are his alone, and ours are ours, each partaking of the nature of the one whose thoughts they are.

K. Scott Oliphint, Reasons for Faith (P&R, 2006), 176.

Evangelism AND Apologetics

It is sometimes believed by the evangelistically-minded that there is no need to defend the faith, but simply to “open your mouth” and “tell your story.” If someone asks you “why?” you shouldn’t worry about your answer, simply reply, “I don’t know. All I know is that once I was blind, but now I see.” Don’t seek to persuade, just tell it and leave the rest with God.

The appeal to this approach of evangelism is obvious. It holds the same appeal as the gospel tract approach that mumbles, “Here, read this. It changed my life.” The appeal? It’s easy and requires no effort. I can share my story of salvation in a “gospel burp.” I feel better for having gotten it out (no more guilt about not witnessing), and I can report to my friends that I “shared the gospel.”

And it’s all a load of pious nonsense.

Our postmodern generation is not the least bit scandalized by this emotive and therapeutic “sharing” of our faith. Since everyone’s truth is different, many people will be happy for you that you found some peace and meaning in your religion. But they will not necessarily be convicted of sin and convinced of Christ, since all you did was to share your experience. Sharing your experience is good and important, but nowhere in the NT is it presented as the master plan of evangelism. The blind man in John 9 told what he could, but we are instructed in far more than mere minimalism. In this method there is no pressing of the claims of Christ upon the unbeliever,  no occasion for conviction, and therefore, little likelihood of conversion.

This was certainly NOT Paul’s approach. In Acts 18:4 he disputed in the synagogue trying to persuade Jews and Greeks. That is, he was willing to engage with those who resisted the gospel even to the point of arguing with them about the truth. This does not require being argumentative or contentious. But it does mean that the believer is willing to do more then just share his story. And the purpose of this disputation is to convince someone of a truth. Paul’s record of persuasion is found all through the book of Acts (Acts 17:2, 4, 17; 19:26; 18:4, 19; 24:25; 26:28). Additionally, in 2 Cor. 5:11 Paul reminds us that we persuade others in light of coming judgment.

All of this is consistent with the command in 1 Peter 3:15-16 for every believer to be prepared to give a defense (apologia) for the hope within him. Therefore we do not answer, “I don’t know” when asked why we believe the gospel. Rather, we are to give a reasoned defense of the truth of our beliefs.

Evangelism and apologetics can never be divorced from each other. Apologetics without evangelism is mere intellectualism. Evangelism without apologetics is blind faith. Evangelism AND apologetics, however, is the way we effectively share our faith in this world. Together they scandalize the unbelief and rebellion of the unbeliever enough to confront him with something worth believing.