Saturday, March 10, 2007

Shepherd's Conference Journal - Phil Johnson and "Theory of Relativity"

This is the second attempt to post this as I am safely back at my hotel room. Phil's previous seminars on the subject of postmodernism and the Emergent/Emerging Church issue have dealt with the basics, but this one was intended more to look at the impact of the postmodern mindset on society and the church of today. As previously, this is a summary of Phil's comments and not an exhaustive recount of them. I am also going to dispense with the disclaimers you usually have to insert to ward off the pomos' usual protests, diversions, vaporings and attempts at deconstructing your comments.

Phil began by positing the central idea inherent in this mindset - "a nagging suspicion that no one can know with certainty what's true or not. Reality is a socially constructed concept. The pomos call it "epistemological humility." (Sola's aside - I call it arrogance in humble clothes) The Christian position is quite different. We believe that Scripture is God-breathed truth. We believe in divine revelation. God cannot lie and He holds us responsible for believing His revelation to us and trusting in Him.

The Protestant Reformation unleashed Scriptural truth again. The medieval church lost it in tradition, ritual, popery etc. (Sola's aside - I wonder if that is why the EC is so enamored of labyrinths, lava lamps, Gregorian chant, incense, Jefferson Airplane records [okay, not the second and last items - I'm being semi-tongue in cheek] and mystery? Plain truth scares the bejeebers out of them) The reliability and trustworthiness of Scripture is always the first under attack. The perspecuity of Scripture is thrown into question. Church history itself shows us how to deal with the errors of the EC. It is interesting to see how postmodernism is an attack on modernism before it. Both modernism and postmodernism are errors. But the evangelical church seems to be caught off guard by the paradigm shifts.

As is his wont (and I think a good thing always), Phil referenced the Downgrade Controversy in England that bedeviled Charles Spurgeon, the prince of preachers. The way modernism infiltrated the church has significant parallels to today. Evangelicals made the same mistake as modernists by abandoning their solid stance for various reasons. Sometimes even political influence. Now objective truth is discarded. Don't claim that you're right and others are wrong. Head toward narrative theology and preaching, not propositional truth. (Sola's aside - this one always leaves me knotting my eyebrows. For a pomo to throw such philosophy around, they have to assert propositions themselves. That seems to escape them)

Phil then mentioned something that has always amazed me about liberals (political ones especially, although Phil was largely talking about theology). The Emergent folks have an uncanny knack for embracing almost every aspect of modern culture that needs to be confronted instead. Phil added that some EC criticisms of the modern evangelical church are valid, and I certainly agree with him. Entertainment driven, neo-evangelical, mega churches will largely die out if changes are not made. But the solution offered by the pomo/EC is a disaster. Their strategy is flawed, muddleheaded and unbiblical. Phil then went into a discussion of theologian Scot McKnight, who is sympathetic to the Emergent Church, but not without some concern. He also discussed a bit of Spencer Burke, whose book Scot was writing about in a recent review. As the hour is getting late, I will have to post part two of this tomorrow, Lord willing. My schedule is a bit up in the air.

To come, my notes on presentations by Dr. Ligon Duncan, Dr. Al Mohler and Dr. Steven Lawson. It might take me a few days, but I will get there. Their presentations were true gold and to the glory of Christ.

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