Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Immanuel - God With Us

“BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,” which translated means, “GOD WITH US.” (Matthew 1:23 NASB).

For the next few days until Christmas, I would like to focus on various aspects of what makes the First Advent of Jesus so important and special. Sadly, I am finding this a hard commitment to make because there is a lot happening in the news and in politics that just screams out for comment. For instance, I find this kerfuffle over Mike Huckabee's Christmas message and the supposed subliminal messages in it ludicrous. Oh, well. I'll let everyone else fight about that today. Let's focus on the Savior.

Did you ever stop to think about the enormity of those words, "God with us?" When you look at most religions, God (or the gods) is a shadowy, unknowable figure. That probably delights the Emergent Church folks, whose bodies release endorphins whenever they contemplate how much they can't know for certain. But the God of the Bible is different.

Throughout human history, God has revealed Himself to His creation. Sometimes in direct manifestation, sometimes through the words of chosen prophets, and through His written Word. The writer of Hebrews points to the final word in Christ . . . in these last days [God] has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world (Hebrews 1:2).

Not only has God spoken to us in His Son, but His Son willingly took on human form, was born among us as a babe in a lowly manger, grew up, lived among us and suffered all the ignominious things that come with being clothed in human flesh. He ministered among His people for three years, finally dying on the cross for our sins, and rising again from the dead for our justification . . . the Creator Himself -- God with us.

As the wonderful hymn says, "Hallelujah, what a Savior!"

35 comments:

Jonny McCormick said...

I don't understand why your wirting has to be so divisve to the body of Christ. The church. You are constantly creating an "us and them" mentality...It begs me to ask can the eye do the job of the ear? Does the body not need to be complete. I don't understand why you are constantly drawing out the flaws of the emergent movement, when the fundamentalists and conservative christians have just as many faults of there own surely?

Perhaps not...

SolaMeanie said...

Jonny,

Maybe when you're a bit older, you'll get it. True Christian, biblical unity has to be around truth. At it's root, Emergent epistemology denies that objective truth is knowable -- completely counter to what God says in His Word.

That same Word, I might add, commands believers to "earnestly content for the faith once and for all delivered unto the saints." That means opposing false doctrine. If you'd read your New Testament a bit more thoroughly, you'd find that out. There is more to the Christian life than just warm fuzzies.

There is an "us and them" component whether you find it comfortable or not. The Lord Himself drew the distinction. Are you going to be obedient to Him and His Word, or are you going to be obedient to politically correct fads and trends? If you remember, the Apostle Peter wrote that people would rise up from WITHIN the church and "secretly introduce destructive heresies."

SolaMeanie said...

Oops. I saw a typo. That should read "contend," not "content."

SolaMeanie said...

Mind if I throw one more Scripture your way?

For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you (1 Corinthians 11:19).

That's the Apostle Paul, not Solameanie. Sometimes divisions are necessary in the body of Christ to divide truth from error.

Mrs. W said...

Great post. No matter how many times I think of all that Christ did for us, it is always humbling and even a bit overwhelming.

And to comment on the comments... indeed, we need to be very critical of other "Christian" factions, lest we be deceived. In my last church the pastor allowed a guest speaker in who brought in some deception... in the end I had to leave... it's a tricky thing.

SolaMeanie said...

Mrs. W..

Thanks.

Looking back on my answer to Jonny, I think I came across as a bit overly pedantic, and I didn't really mean to do that. It's not his fault, as he just encountered me for the first time here recently. But I've been at this with Emergent-types for the past couple of years, and my patience level has worn a bit thin. I certainly can't say this about Jonny, because I don't know him, but with other EC types, it doesn't matter how much Bible you give them because ultimately they have a very low view of Scripture. They also tend to argue in non sequiturs, circular arguments and appeals to emotion, rather than dealing with the Scripture/issue at hand on a factual, biblical basis.

It's very frustrating.

Mrs. W said...

I understand. My former pastor was once very scripture-based. In the last few years he has crossed over into feelings, experiences... wanting a God show.

I will admit I'm not much into apologetics and so I can not really speak too much about it. I am a pentecostal-type, but I stay close to the Word, and I know wierd/witchcraft/pagan influences when I see them.

But that's a bit off topic... sorry!

God bless... I love reading your blog.

James Diggs said...

SolaMeanie,

I am not sure that you really understand what the emergent church is saying, I am not saying that you would agree with it if you did, but you do seem to have some misconceptions about it.

I consider myself part of the emergent conversation and let me say first of all the incarnation is extremely important to us, perhaps far more important than it is to a fundamentalist evangelical. You probably see the cross as the most important aspect of the work of Christ, the incarnation is important to you because Jesus needed to come so he can offer penile substitutional atonement for our sins.

For the emergent the incarnation is where the work of salvation actually began as God met us in our humanity. The cross then becomes an extension of the incarnation as God also meets us in our suffering, injustice, sin, and death. The old eastern orthodox church put it like this: Jesus became like us so we could become like him.

You also say that “emergent epistemology denies that objective truth is knowable” and that this is “completely counter to what God says in His Word.” I think that your argument creates a straw man a bit (much like MacArthur does) because it is more accurate to say that emergent epistemology puts some qualifiers on what we mean by “knowable”. It is interesting you bring up “God’s Word” because it was not the word on the written page that allowed us to KNOW God, it took the Word to become flesh in Jesus Christ. Emergent’s believe they can know objective truth in as much as they believe they can have a relationship with (to know) Truth through the person named Jesus Christ. It is true that scripture is a testimony that points us to Christ, but we can’t “know” truth no matter how much scripture we read or understand until we “know” Jesus. Knowing truth is relational not intellectual.

It is true that emergent’s understand intellectual truth through subjective terms, each of us can only know through our own experiences. Again, I think what is amazing about the incarnation is that God became flesh and something we could relate too even from our very human subjective points of view. One thing I appreciate about the emergent conversation is that when you combine the subjective views of community you get a better idea of and a closer too objective truth. Scripture is obviously a big part of this because it reflects the teachings of Christ from the community of the earliest followers of Jesus. But even still, I think it is reasonable to think that any one individual can not have absolute knowledge and understanding concerning the mysteries of God.

Every one reads the testimony of scripture that points to the truth in Jesus Christ through their own subjective lens, to deny this is just the kind of foolishness that makes intelligent people we are trying to bring the gospel to laugh. Here they do not stumble on the “foolishness of the cross” but the foolishness of our arrogance that is counter to the character of Christ and the example of his humility.

Finally, the idea of “absolute truth” comes more from a modern mindset that is read into the scripture than scripture itself. These ideas were first worked out by guys like Plato on Socrates and became foundational thinking for modern times. I don’t think post modern epistemology has all the right ways to look at the world either but I do think if you are a modern person you should be self aware enough to realize that your view of scripture is just as much prejudice by your own lens as is everyone else’s. Let’s be fair and understand that this is anything but objective.

I do wish you a marry Christmas as you celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and the good news that God is with us.

Peace,

James

SolaMeanie said...

James,

Thanks for commenting. However, I am under no illusions or misconceptions about the extremes of the Emergent movement. I have been dealing with it for a few years now.

I don’t see how you could say that the Incarnation is somehow less important to a fundamentalist or evangelical (I differentiate the two). I think most would be shocked at such a statement, and if you honestly think that, then you don’t understand fundamentalists or evangelicals.

(BTW, it’s “penal” substitution, not “penile.” “Penal means relating to, forming, or prescribing punishment. “Penile,” well….you know. Let’s not go there.)

I view the Incarnation as part of a total package. It is part of God’s overall redemptive program. Indeed, it is a wonderful, glorious mystery how God could become man, and offer Himself up as a sacrifice in atonement for the sin of His people. Of course sin – and the need to deal with sin – isn’t the whole story. But it is a major, major part of the story. BTW, I am not unfamiliar with Orthodoxy, having worked with a Russian missionary organization for nearly 15 years.

As to my views on Emergent epistemology, no, it is not a straw man. There are varying streams of the whole “emerging” or “emergent” mindset, and not all of them necessarily agree with each other. Dealing with the EC has been compared to nailing jello to the wall, and there is some truth in that quip. The worst in the EC holds a very low view of Scripture, which we believe is God’s revealed truth to mankind. Through the testimony of Scripture – written over 1,600 years by more than 40 different authors inspired by the Holy Spirit – God reveals to us what He wants us to know about Himself, His creation, His purpose etc. But rather than “the word on the written page” allowing us to know God, it is His Holy Spirit who works THROUGH His Word to accomplish revelation to His people.

Almost without fail, whenever one throws up a Scriptural argument to someone engrossed in EC theology, they will invariably begin deconstruction and silly interpretive arguments, arguing that we can’t really know for certain what said Scripture means. Our own biases etc. get in the way. Again, a silly argument.

How do people “know” Jesus? It is not just a subjective experiential thing. The Holy Spirit, who regenerates true believers, is the one who helps us know the Lord Jesus, as He works through His Word. You cannot separate Jesus from the written Word, no matter how much you try. Jesus Himself – not to mention His apostles – upheld the authority of Scripture.

I honestly think you get more of your ideas from human philosophy than you do from Scripture. Your statement about knowing truth being relational and not intellectual is a good example. With all due respect, that is ridiculous. It takes the God-given intellect to comprehend truth with the aid of the Holy Spirit. “Come, let us reason together.” The notion of absolute truth is not a modern invention. Quite the contrary. Jesus is absolute truth personified, and the Holy Spirit is not incompetent to lead believers in discerning the meaning of His Word.

I also think you need to be careful about loving the idea of “community” too much. Community consensus isn’t always right, especially when said community places a low premium on Scripture. I can give you examples if you like.

If there is a straw man here, it is your statement implying that those of my persuasion think we have “absolute knowledge.” No one is saying that. We are not God, after all. However, there is no excuse for not knowing what He has revealed to us through the testimony of Scripture. We are expected to know and will be held accountable for it.

Merry Christmas to you as well.

Jonny McCormick said...

You talk about how the Emergents are unbiblical yet you go against the scripture yourself saying that divisions are sometimes necessary. You denounce women in leadership-which is biblical. You seem to do a serious amount of isegesis and interpret the text in whatever way you want.

You assume I am emerging as well, YOU put that label on me, I never said I was. I was just giving my opinion on what you said.

Despite your view I continued to read your blog and find some value in what you said, I must say however that I am now going to do so in the future with trepidation. Your approach to my first comment was unecessary and you say that perhaps when i am older....as if age matters. Perhaps in your wisom you can take some time to get off the pedestal that your on and associate and engage with the culture and people of the times. Not saying that you should (or anyone for that matter) compromise your beliefs...but perhaps have some compassion and a heart for people.

I can almost anticipate that you come back asking me for scriptures or biblical evidence for anything that I am saying...if that is the case you mustn't have read your Bible, because what I have said is at the core of the Message.

I'll draw to an end here with serious disappointment and annoyance.

Jonny McCormick said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
SolaMeanie said...

Jonny,

Calm down. Did you see my response to Mrs. W where I regretted coming across to you as pedantic? I thought you were being a bit snide in my direction. Anyway, let's turn down the heat. If I offended you, my apologies.

Now, to your remarks. How is it that my statement about divisions being necessary is unbiblical? The Apostle Paul himself made that statement. I can give you other Scriptures that make the same point if you like. The Lord indeed wants His people to be one, but their unity must be around truth. You can't have unity with false doctrine. We also can't cherrypick Scripture. We have to take the whole counsel of God.

As to you being emergent, even if you don't wear the label you seem sympathetic to the mindset. It is possible to be influenced by postmodern thought even if you don't realize it. And yes, age does matter sometimes. When I was 19, I used to get irritated at people who would tell me that. Almost 30 years later, I can now understand what they meant.

Timothy was a young man in Scripture, and Paul said to him, "Let no one despise you for your youth." But then, he proceeded to give Timothy instruction. I have elders in the faith myself who I respect and listen to with esteem. You shouldn't reject the instruction of older people unless it is patently unbiblical. The things I have been saying here are not unbiblical at all.

As to my views on women in leadership, the Bible is plain when it says a woman is not to teach or usurp authority over men in the church. That is not an optional command. There are plenty of biblical experts who say it's even stronger in the Greek than it is in English. I am not guilty of eisegesis here. There has been a move of liberalizing in the church where feminist theologians have tried to reinterpret biblical passages on this subject. If anyone is guilty of eisegesis, it is them. Women are fully equal before God when it comes to salvific matters and standing in justification. However, women have been given different roles by God.

Finally, as to your remark about me coming off of a pedastal and engaging with the culture. I've been in apologetics ministry for more than 20 years. I've spoken before both adults and youth. I don't know how much more engaged in the culture and people of the times than I can possibly be.

I think you are reacting with a bit of wounded pride, and that is probably my fault because I responded so sharply initially. I shouldn't have done that.

ADDENDUM: I just saw your second remark after your last missive. Just what I am making up about the EC? Would you like me to quote EC authors verbatim to make my case? I can readily do it if you insist.

Childish? No. Offensive? Probably. As I remember, the Gospel itself is described in the Bible as a "stone of stumbling" and "rock of offense." If I offend a babe in Christ, I would grieve and regret that. However, I do not regret making a false teacher mad. I've actually been kinder to them here than what Scripture says about them.

Rattlesnake6 said...

Jonny & James,
the "us vs. them" mentality has Brian McLaren as one of its largest contributors. For example, on p. 2-3 of his latest book he describes "a new kind of Christian" (apparently the older variety has an expired shelf-life like Twinkys [a few hundred years]) who is not an angry and reactionary fundamentalist, not a stuffy traditionalist, not an overly enthused Bible-waving fanatic. Can you say "us vs. them"?
Moreover, it is really VERY tiresome to hear the worn-out hackneyed phrase that no one understands the emergent church movement. Please! Enough! All of the emergents have published books and I am tired of the whining about not understanding them!
Look at it this way: Many serious biblical scholars have looked at it, dissected it, examined it and found it wanting, dangerous to your spiritual health, and at times verging on heresy.

Rattlesnake6 said...

Jonny,
If you're not emergent you are at least liberal. Can you cite me a few key texts about women in leadership and please spare us all by not citing Deborah (few really understand this text) and Gal. 3:27-29?

SolaMeanie said...

Jonny,

I had an hour drive home tonight in thick fog to think about our exchange here. I decided in the course of my commute to delete your last comment.

I am happy to have anyone comment here and express both agreement and disagreement. I don't mind even strong disagreement, and the typical cut and thrust of debate. In fact, there are a few who post here who strongly disagree with me about the role of women in the church. One is a dear friend of mine, and this disagreement doesn't stop us from being dear friends.

However, I do draw the line at being called a liar, and that is in essence what you did when you accused me of "making things up" about the Emergent Church. Perhaps you have confused places where I was being facetious or tongue-in-cheek to make a point. That is my writing style and I make no apologies for it. I can assure you that when I am discussing the realities of postmodern thought, I am spot on.

In all honesty, I find the Emergent Church highly offensive. It has been responsible for splitting churches in half across the United States, including a congregation of which I was apart for several years. Long-term friendships were ruined or strained, and the church lost thousands of dollars and at least a thousand members. It was beyond tragic.

Earlier, I referred to divisions being necessary in some cases, as the Apostle Paul stated. It doesn't mean that such divisions are desired or are happy events. In any case, the ones bringing the division are the ones bringing in false teaching and bad theology, not those who are holding the line for biblical truth.

James Diggs said...

Rattlesnake6 said, “If you're not emergent you are at least liberal.”

What is that all about?????? Then you interrogate him about his position about women in ministry???? Put down the rocks dude.

James Diggs said...

SolaMeanie,

Thanks for the response, oh and sorry about the typo regarding “penal”. I am encouraged that you view the Incarnation as part of a total package. Though I struggle to accept a literal penal atonement theory (I do think this symbolic imagery does reflect an actual reality- but this is a different discussion) too often I hear people preach the cross at Christmas. I am not saying that this in of itself is inappropriate, it just seems that to often the incarnation is glossed over in order to get what the preacher thinks is the “meat” of the story (the cross). Since I am using a food metaphor let me just say that I think the incarnation has enough meat to chew on it as a meal all in itself.

As for EC holding “a very low view of Scripture” I am sure by your definition this is true. But I am in love with the scripture even though I am reluctant to claim it as “inerrant” (I hate this word, it is so easy to misunderstand what we are talking about whether one embraces or objecting to it). It is not that I think that there are things in scripture that shouldn’t be their, like “mistakes” so to speak but that there is humanness to the book I don’t think we should be afraid of. It is divinely inspired human testimony. We are not Mormons who believe our scripture just fell from the sky and I do think that you can not embrace scripture without embracing the early church in which it emerged from. Scripture is “God breathed”, I am not sure how that makes it inerrant when God also breathed life into the church and we certainly do not think this removes our humanness.

Anyway, though I am sure you disagree with my categories I do consider myself to have a high view of scripture. In our gatherings, like many emergent churches, scripture takes a prominent place, so does communion. We use the lectionary to reflect on the scripture every week (and through out the week) and we believed in being a “word shaped people”.

As for getting most of my ideas from “human philosophy” than I do from scripture, I am not sure why you think you have not allowed the modern western mindset (as well as other bias from your own background) affect how you read scripture. This just does not seem intellectually honest, and I am not so sure that it is that “silly” to acknowledge it.

I do agree with you that “Jesus is absolute truth personified”. I also believe that the Holy Spirit is capable in leading us to handle and walk in what is true. I think a big part of this includes helping us discern what scripture means, but I do think there are limits when it comes to having perfect understanding and absolute knowledge. I think the Holy Spirit leads us in life, in love, in justice, and peace; the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians come to mind. It seems to me that it is more about living the way than having all the answers.

As for “community” I think your caution is justified. When I talk about community I am putting Christ and then the early church at the center of it. This goes back to how I relate to and why I value scripture because it connects us with the testimony of those that first followed Jesus and whom God used to start his church. I think we are still apart of that community and if we throw scripture out the window then we disassociate our selves from the community and church that Christ began.

Anyway, thanks for the conversation. I don’t sense any hostility on your end for me or for any person who might embrace the emergent church. I see from your last comment you have had some bad experiences with some of the friction the emergent conversation contributed too. I am sorry. I know that you are speaking from what you believe is true and I could not ask you as a follower of Christ to do any less. You see the emergent church as being wrong and I respect your right to think that and share it, But I do see also that despite your strong opinion that you seem to treat people with respect and the love of Christ. Thank you.

I consider myself a follower of Christ too, perhaps you don’t see me that way (I don’t know) and contrary to emergent stereotypes I am actually always striving for what is true. Despite all my doubts about all sorts of things, I am absolutely (if you will allow a post modern disciple of Jesus to use this word) confident that Jesus Christ is Truth.

Thanks again!

Peace,

James

SolaMeanie said...

James,

Thank you again for contributing. And no, I have no hostility toward you or other Emergent-friendlies as people. I do have a strong aversion to the theology and epistemology, though, as you can see.

After Christmas is over, I think I'd like to make a new post about the issues you raised in your last comment rather than have my thoughts hidden here in the meta of what was ostensibly a Christmas post. I really wanted the next few posts to focus on Christmas, but I have no one to blame but me for this meta getting off topic because I am the one who mentioned the EC in my original post. Live and learn. Tomorrow's post will be solely about "joyeux Noel."

When I make that post, feel free to chime in and engage. I trust you and I will be able to generate more light than heat given our exchange here.

Please note, I have a sardonic sense of humor. Don't mistake that for being nasty. :)

Rattlesnake6 said...

James,
Let's get something straight that will make our interchange a lot easier. In the first place, I am not a "dude." That might describe your friends, but not me. I one of those weird people who served his country and put himself on the line so that we could have free, civil discourse. When you have been shot at, cleaned up after suicides, and delivered babies then maybe--maybe--we can consider "dude."
Moreover, it is not Sola's "opinion" that the EC has a low view of Scripture. This is easily discernible from their own writings--repeatedly.
Now, the texts please for women in leadership. BTW, I don't use rocks; they're too messy. I prefer hand guns with hollow points.

James Diggs said...

Well Rattlesnake6,

Hmmmmm, maybe it your military background (though others in the military I know don’t have your same approach) but I find it interesting that you ask for scripture references the way the Gestapo asks people for someone’s papers. It is a wired way for you to want to seek ones identification. If you care about scripture then you will know that you can identify a disciple of Christ by the way they love one another, you might also look for the fruit of the Spirit in ones life.

Thank you kindly for the service you provide our country. Like all of our soldiers I will continue to pray for your safety as I also pray for our enemies, and as I also continue to pray for peace.

James

Rattlesnake6 said...

James,
Typical emergent/liberal (they're the same) response. You are precisely why we don't want or like to talk to you. I ask you to respond to your statement about women in leadership and I get a reply about the Gestapo. Nice touch. Predictable, but a nice touch. We're done.
When you're ready to have a dialogue let us all know. Until that time why don't you just go away? You're wasting people's time.
BTW, it never ceases to amaze me that girly men like you talk about their military friends and what they're like. Phunny.

James Diggs said...

Rattlesnake6,

I made no statement about women in leadership. And it did not appear to me that you were interested in dialogue as much as using someone’s position about something in order to prove they are a “liberal”- i.e. to you “the scum of the earth.”

I have shown I can have a mature conversation such as the one I have had with SolaMeanie on this vary thread. He and I clearly disagree with things we both have strong opinions about yet have not resorted to childish name calling. Speaking of which, my wife had the biggest laugh at the fact that you called me a “girly man”; that’s a first.

You clearly have some issues and it is sad to me that you think your display of character is in line with Christianity. Now, I think SolaMeanie regrets that the comments on his post have gotten sidetracked away from the focus he intended which was the miracle and wonder of the incarnation.

The ugliness of this conversation has been a very tiny tiny window into the ugliness of humanity and the sin and injustice it has brought into the world. Yet, Christ himself bore these things in order to be connected to us. I am not just talking about the penalty he paid for us on the cross, I am also talking about the fact that he became one of us, becoming one with humanity itself. Jesus Christ came right into the thick of things, he didn’t just mail in a check for the cost of our sin from a distance, no he got down and dirty and joined us also in the context of our human condition (yet without sin).

You know the church carries on the incarnational mission of Jesus Christ as the very body of Christ and his continued presence in the world. This means we need to meet people where they are, Paul said to “become all things to all people”. I think this includes trying to build relationships with those we disagree with and maybe even loving our enemies (sounds crazy and too much of something a girly man might do doesn’t it). This means that like Christ we need to find ways to bear the sins of those that may hate us (sounds a bit like forgiveness doesn’t it) and overcome as much as we possibly can the hostility and injustice others may even aim at us in order to try reconcile those relationships to us and also to God. We do not do this on our own, but rather we join Christ who has already done this.

The message of the Kingdom of God that we hear at Christmas time often says “good will towards man and peace on earth”, yet in the context of war, poverty, suffering, injustice, and sin in the world it sure is hard to see it. Yet I think if the Kingdom of God is breaking through in this world, and foreshadowing the next, is happening (or should be) within the body of Christ. I think the question is are we really willing to follow Jesus where he went, becoming so incarnational with our neighbors, the strangers, and even our enemies with the desire for reconciliation that in our efforts we will not likely come out of it unscathed. Can we really meet Jesus where he is as he bears all of our sins in the context of trying to be one with us; can we learn to also bear them for one another as we also try to be one? I believe this was the prayer that Jesus had for us (John 17)- and that is what I want to work on trying to give him for Christmas (and always).

Merry Christmas to everyone here!

Peace,

James

Rattlesnake6 said...

James,
You're right; it was Jonny who raised the issue of women in leadership. Sorry to hear that you have not been accustomed to talking like a man. In fact, I reviewed what I said to you and I believe you were the first to use "dude" and "Gestapo."
Why don't we go back to the notion of absolute truth. You did say that it's not taught in the Bible, but is the notion of "modern" thinking. Why is it that we find the idea in the Church Fathers--long before the "modern" era?
If truth isn't absolute how do we know anything--subjectivism?--or ever do ethics? Is there any absolute truth in Scripture? If so, where? If not, how do you know?

SolaMeanie said...

Excuse me, but has anyone seen my jackboots? :))

James Diggs said...

Rattlesnake6,

Yes, and you were the one that wanted to reduce the discussion to whether or not people fit into the category of "emergent" or liberal" which you despise. You did not want to discuss Jonny's views about women in ministry you were just looking for evidence to hang him as a "liberal".

I am not sure what you deem “being accustomed to talking like a man”; it is a shame you have to reduce our conversation to a contest of who is the most macho. If you think your military background makes you more of a man I really do not care. I am not deficient in my masculinity so that I feel the need to try to over compensate for it with a gun.

I do not know how you can say that the church fathers had notions of “absolute truth” long before the modern era when these ideas began with Greek philosophers such as Plato that date 400-300 years before Christ. Though these ideas were not new at the time of Christ but they were extremely knew compared to the Jewish culture and a very different context of understanding truth that OT scripture emerged from. Jesus, being a Jewish Rabi carried with him a Jewish background of understanding that contrasted the Greek influence that was beginning to build in his day.

My point is that these things philosophies are outside influences and effect how we approach scripture. When scripture says the word “truth” you often bring your own framework of what “truth” means. We have a very modern (not to mention western) framework of our understanding of truth, this isn’t necessarily even wrong, in fact I think modernity has given us a very insightful framework for understand things like truth. But, we would be naive to say that our modern framework is IN or comes FROM the scriptures.

This is not to say that the truth in scriptures can not be handled and evaluated by a modern framework. I think what is true is true and it does not change by how we look at it. (Isn’t that absolute truth?) But we all do have a subjective framework and lens that we see through, I don’t know how this is avoidable. The only objective person is God himself, I think this is why most emergents are extremely comfortable acknowledging the person of Jesus Christ as truth even if they come from a post modern framework that leans into acknowledging the subjective aspect of how we all view reality. Certainly post modernity as a framework has its weaknesses. When it comes to a modern framework which is built upon the idea of truth being only the things we can graph and measure and test (i.e. it is only knowable through these things) we see that it has weakness when preaching such a large Truth because God goes beyond our ability to measure. When we say we know “absolutely” in regards to knowledge I think that goes way past our ability to know. I think it would be irresponsible of us as “servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Corinthians 4) to limit the Truth of Christ to just the lens of modern paradigms of absolute knowable and measurable truth.

Again I don’t think modernity or its paradigms are evil, I think they do give us a way to interact with what is actually true with a great deal of accuracy. But as I again look to this advent season as I reflect on the incarnation of Christ, the Word made flesh I rejoice that through him and the Holy Spirit we are given the Jesus Christ himself is the most direct way possible to interact with, lean into, and walk in what is true. I believe Jesus is knowable, and I do not have to have all the right answers in order to know him. I believe scripture is a trustworthy testimony to point us to Jesus as the Truth. Acknowledging that we all have subjective views does nothing to change the fact that God himself is the embodiment of absolute objective truth became a man so we could know him even from our own subjective human limitations.

Peace,

James

SolaMeanie said...

James,

Time is very short for me today, so I'll just make two quick comments. First, I don't think RS6 is asking questions as a ruse. He genuinely wants Jonny (or you if need be) to make your case for women pastors. If he (like me) responded sharply at the beginning, keep in mind that we're probably both tired of endless go-arounds with people who seem more influenced by Derrida than they are by Scripture.

I disagree strongly that the concept of absolute truth was the invention of Greek philosophers. God is the author of truth, and the concept originated with Him. You can see the concept woven through the entirety of Scripture, including the Torah/Tanach. I suppose you can give the Greeks some credit for organizing the concept in human philosophical terms, but they did not originate the idea. Truth is truth, no matter what cultural clothes people try to throw on it.

The problem comes in when people place so much weight on the idea of subjectivity to the point that they can't make final determinations about anything. While there is an element of subjectivity we need to be aware of, it is irrelevant to what God has revealed in His Word and expects us to know. We won't be able to stand before Him and say, "Well, Lord..I couldn't do what Your Word said because I thought my subjective experiences were coloring my understanding." That won't fly.

We must give some credit to the Holy Spirit.

James Diggs said...

SolaMeanie,

Thanks, I will try to give RS6 more benefit of the doubt even though it does not seem he has offered such to me.

I think you are right that Greek philosophers did not invent “absolute truth”, If it is true its true. I think I said that. I think what I also said goes along the lines of what you said about them “organizing the concept in human philosophical terms”. I think it is fair to say that the terminology of “absolute truth” was not framed as such before Greek philosophy. Again, this does not mean that it did not exist before people figured out how to talk about it. At the same time once we frame things a certain way it can be hard to see what the same unchangeable truth looks like framed from a different framework. This is not to say that all frameworks are equal, but even when some are stronger than others they all have strengths and short comings to various degrees.

Like I said what is true is true regardless of how little or much human beings have discovered of it. (This is a philosophy all in of it self I suppose). I am glad that you acknowledged “an element of subjectivity” though, it seems to me that our arguments go no where when we take unrealistic views of either absolute truth only or subjective truth only. It certainly would be easier if it were an absolute either/or but I think it comes down to a spectrum. You have made your absolute stand at scripture and I have a slightly different line that says scripture is true enough to point us to the absolute truth of the person of Jesus Christ.

So I think we would agree that there is a range between truth we can know objectively and subjectively but we differ on where that line may fall.

As far as using subjectivity not to do what is right I think it goes beyond just not doing stuff scripture forbids. I think it won’t fly with God about doing anything unjust, oppressive, hateful, or selfish toward others even when we can not find something explicitly to the letter of the law that would forbid it. Jesus said things like “you have heard it said (in scripture) but I say unto you…”; and he would talk about how righteousness goes beyond just the letter of the law.

When we say scripture is “absolute” we are saying that it is “total”, “complete”, “unlimited,”, and though Jesus said that nothing in scripture would be removed he did say that he came to “complete” it. The written word is by nature limited compared to the living Word of God that was made flesh in Jesus Christ. Jesus said our righteousness had to exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees and they knew the scripture better than anyone.

Peace,

James

SolaMeanie said...

Hi, James..

I finally have a few minutes to breathe. I think rather than going through your comment point by point, for time's sake I will deal with this one statement for the time being, and perhaps we can revisit the rest of it later.

You have made your absolute stand at scripture and I have a slightly different line that says scripture is true enough to point us to the absolute truth of the person of Jesus Christ.

I think that is the crux of what we are discussing, the plumb line of Scripture. From what I have seen, Emergents like to hold the Lord in one place and His written Word in another. Your very statement shows a low view of Scripture. While the Bible is not God, it is God-breathed and Holy Spirit-inspired. Jesus Himself considered it completely authoritative, and often rebuked His hearers for their lack of understanding, willful or otherwise. I don't intend to get into an argument about the canon at the moment, but the New Testament is considered as fully authoritative as the Old Testament, including the Law of Moses and the Prophets. You cannot separate Christ, or the words of Christ, from the rest of Scripture. The apostles spoke for the Lord Himself.

Human philosophy is irrelevant. Propositional truth through transaction, whether that particular term was in usage or not, is how God designed us to communicate with one another. When He engaged in divine revelation, propositional truth was what He used. Just because some clever men came up with what has become known as deconstruction does not change one jot or tittle of Scripture. Nor does it change its' intended meaning. If anything, Derrida and philosophers like him are guilty of promulgating doctrines of demons. You see, just because I don't have much respect for "philosophy" doesn't mean I haven't studied it.

I can say more about this later, but I have to be out tonight. Perhaps RS6 or some others might want to chime in.

SolaMeanie said...

James,

I should make one more comment on the Gestapo thing. Don't you see why that irritated Ron?

Asking someone to provide biblical references when they take a theological position on something is entirely appropriate. Scripture ought to be our final authority.

James Diggs said...

About the Gestapo thing:

Of course I could have misread him and if that is so then I apologize. However, it did not sound to me in the context of his comment that he was asking for scripture references to honestly discuss a theological position. The context of his comments led me to believe that he was asking for scripture in order to try and prove Jonny was a “liberal”, because he also made it clear he doesn’t like those "liberals". Ron said, “If you're not emergent you are at least liberal”, asking for the text after this certainly comes across as wanting to text to prove the point of his first statement.

My first response to him about this was to just “put down the rocks” because it seemed like that is what he was doing. I actually was trying to promote a more peacefull conversation. But then he apparently got offended that I called him “dude” and went on a tirade about how he “served his country and put himself on the line so that we could have free, civil discourse.” And how I do not qualify as being his friend or call him “dude” because I have not been “been shot at, cleaned up after suicides, and delivered babies”

What was that??????

So, what I have is a guy that throws his military credentials around as to some how show that he is superior and then demands that liberals identify themselves- I am sorry it just kind of reminded me of the Gestapo.

I am very sorry if this hurt his feelings, looking back I am sure it did because of the way he escalated the insults by calling me things like a “girly man” desperately trying to hurt my feelings in return. Ron, I am sorry that I hurt your feelings. Though it looked like you wanted to pick a fight with someone because you identified them as a “liberal”, and your comments about your service in the military and the hardship that includes seemed to come way out of left field, I certainly do not think you are literally part of the Gestapo. I clearly was exaggerating the implications of your comments when comparing you to the Gestapo and I apologize for this.

Peace,

James

James Diggs said...

Ok, back to the real conversation.

You wrote, “Emergents like to hold the Lord in one place and His written Word in another. Your very statement shows a low view of Scripture. While the Bible is not God, it is God-breathed and Holy Spirit-inspired.”

I believe that the fullness of everything that is God is captured in the person of Jesus Christ. Let me just ask this question: Do you think the fullness of EVERYTHING that is God is captured in scripture?

You know I just have a hard time swallowing that scripture captures as much fullness of God as much as God actually is. I understand that scripture is “God breathed”, God breathed life into people too and even before the fall we were never the same thing as God or represented the fullness of everything God is.

I don’t think I have a “low view of scripture” But I think to say that the fullness of EVERYTHING that is God is contained and fits into just 66 books of even inspired scripture is having a low view of God. God did not intend to give us an idol when he gave us scripture through the people of Abraham and later the body of Christ. He did not reveal his character in scripture and give us a trustworthy window into what God “looks like” for us to say that the image we have of God through the scriptures is all that God is. You say the “Bible isn’t God”, but to reduce God to an image (even an accurate one like we have in scripture) and hold that image as on par with God himself is idolatry. God didn’t intend for scripture to become a perfect and complete graven image of himself (even if he authored it literally himself) so that when we see it we can say “ahhhhhh that is what God is and no more.”

Yes I hold God apart from what he created and breathed life into. I don’t think there is enough room in the entire world, or even universe, to fill it with human words that would describe absolutely everything that God is- and then even if you could, would those little human words still be able to hold the fullness of all that God is? All that God is does not fit into the 66 books of the bible.

This is not to say that Scripture does not give us everything we need as far as a written testimony goes- But God is real and active and can make up for what scripture given to us in human language lacks. Again Jesus said he came to “fulfill” and “complete” the scripture, does that not imply that it incomplete representation of who God is compared to the revelation of Jesus Christ himself?

Peace,

James

Rattlesnake6 said...

James,
You really do miss the point don't you? It doesn't matter whether you're emergent, liberal, or all of the above, you confuse masculine with macho. Bad move. Moreover, it's not my military credentials that I'm talking about but more about you being a pantywaist. Stop whining and start acting like a man and not some effeminate 21st century church member.

James Diggs said...

Ron,

Wow- you know, your comments say far more about you than the ridiculous accusations they contain about me.

I would recommend that you follow Proverbs 17:28 and I think I will follow the advice of Proverbs 29:9.

Rattlesnake6 said...

James,
Wow, like you know, like you're so like cool and smart that I can't like, you know, keep up with you. You and Jonny are like wow. You know Jonny's just 19 but he's like going to like write a book, you know like a book book book.
Are like those texts you mentioned propositionally like you know true or do they have to become like true for me? You know?
I'm done. You fit the mold and you're a waste of time.

SolaMeanie said...

Wow. This thread certainly went off the rails!

Since this is supposed to be the Christmas season, I think I am going to shut down comments on this meta for now. After Christmas, we can pick it up again here or perhaps in a new post. I am sure I will be posting on Emergent/postmodern issues again.

Until then, I pray that everyone will have a joyous, peaceful Christmas, and that the Holy Spirit will lead us all into a deeper walk with Him, and in knowledge of His Word.