Saturday, December 08, 2007

Of Pride and Dialectics
The Disease and the Cure.

We live in an age of utter hubris. It used to be that we thought that science had all the answers. That was bad enough. Now, we think that not only are there no definite answers (we made that decision, mind you), but that we are able to "divine" truth on our own.

Welcome to the age of postmodern hubris where mystery is king, confusion rules and certainty is considered prideful. If you say what you think, but want to avoid being judged as "proud", you'd better couch your certainties in a myriad of disclaimers. . .or so contemporary wisdom says. And, of course, this stupidity is prevalent even in professing Christianity. And I use the word "professing" very firmly.

We live in a time where "having a conversation" is considered the height of humility. How things have changed. It wasn't maybe 20 years ago I heard a sermon by Vance Havner, (I can't remember which one) where he referred to Christian leaders having symposiums ("...and you know what a symposium is...that's where you pool your ignorance..."). He was right. And very prophetic.

Welcome to the age of the symposium. Where we get together and pool our ignorance. It's not just Rick Warren and others who set themselves up as the arbiters of spirituality based on their own human wisdom. It's everywhere and the pressure is on us to cave in. But let us stand firm.

See, everyone wants to do the "dialectic shuffle". For those of you who don't know what that is, it goes back to a man by the name of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. The basic idea is that you have a thesis, then the antithesis (a proposal and it's opposite). From there you assume that the truth is somewhere in the middle. Rick Warren is the poster boy for this type of dance which he illustrates by way of his intercult affiliations. But it's all over the place.

Listen carefully. How often have you heard something like "sure we have differences...let's get together on what we have in common". Well, sometimes that is ok. But if we agree on 95% of some issue but the other 5% is something really fundamental, like the deity of Christ, His Eternal Preexistence, or something of equal worth, then the other 95% doesn't matter.

As a blogger and as one who has debated for the Christian faith, I've heard it many times. "No one else knows what they are talking about but you just have a corner on the truth, don't you." It has come from atheists and from those who profess Christ. This statement reeks of "we can't know".

Ok, let's blow off the atheists. We don't expect them to make a bit of sense anyway. After all, they often claim they can't believe in God because they haven't seen Him but they believe in electricity, ozone and tons of other things they haven't seen. So, I don't expect them to make sense. But I do expect those who profess to be "people of the Book" to be a bit different. That is largely not the case.

It's really gotten worse in recent years. Stupidity and ignorance are held as virtues. Instead of being people of the Word, we are told that "we don't need more Bible studies because we already know too much" If you can't smell the brimstone off that lie, check your uniform and make sure you are in the right army.

We can't "know too much". We can obey too little, but we can't "know too much", and I'm tired of the lie that says someone can be "so heavenly minded they are no earthly good". That is simply impossible although it is certainly true (and common) that you can be too earthly minded to be any heavenly good!

Let me say this straight up. It is the height of pride and arrogance to view scriptural convictions as inherently prideful. Is it possible to be prideful about your knowledge and convictions? Of course! But there is nothing inherently prideful about having clear Biblical convictions. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

I'm talking to those of you who would say something stupid like "Who are you to say this or that is true. You aren't God, who gave you the right to speak for Him".

I'd turn that right around at you. Let's see. You're basically saying something negative about certitude, aren't you? That means you are making one of the following two claims. That is that 1) God's Word isn't clear (God stuttered) or 2) God provided His Word but for some reason didn't equip us to understand it.

Which one, or both, is it? There are no other options...or am I wrong? Come on, give me an answer. Words have implications. Hold yourself responsible for what you are saying or just get out of the way because you are a stumbling block.

And I mean every word of that.

When you do that, you are just repeating the words of Satan in the Garden...."...has God Really Said..." only now you are not just impugning his Word but also His very character for you are saying that God is either unable or unwilling to speak with clarity and equip us to understand what He has said.

That is utterly demonic.

It is not prideful to speak with Biblical clarity and certitude because that implies that we believe God and trust that he can help us understand what He said!

The definition of pride has been turned upside down. Add to that all the other junk thinking in postmodernism and you have a spiritual holocaust waiting to happen.

Make no mistake about it. Satan is using his pawns (and Rick Warren is just a pawn...another victim of the enemy, willing or not) to undermine any form of Biblical certainty we claim. It is a demonic attempt to undermine the value and practice of Biblical Hermeneutics. And behind all the statements of perhaps well-meaning people who say "Who are you to speak for God", are the devil and his fallen angels. And it is an attack against our ability to know, with confidence, what God has said.

Biblical hermeneutics is the science and art of Biblical interpretation. It's a science in the sense that we have facts that can be known if we will just do the digging. Facts about history and grammar, for example. Those things can be known. But hermeneutics is also an art to some extent because sometimes there are subtleties that lead to more than one possible shade of meaning to a text. So, it's an art and a science.

So you say "wait a minute, I've never heard of this before. What are you talking about". Simply this. There are principles that are used to determine the meaning of any given text. There are four basic components to this. Let me list and partially describe them. They are important. Very important. And they form our weapon against the contemporary postmodern Christian confusion.

When you approach the Bible, you must (of course) read the text. That is just getting "what does it say". We still must determine "What it means by what it says". This is something we do actively. We try to do it without presupposition and bias. In other words, not "what does it mean to me" but rather "what would the text mean if I were dead?"

Let me describe this to you. When I took hermeneutics at Grace Community Church, John MacArthur simply called it the "L.H.G.C. method". I think what I'll do here is just outline them and cover them more in depth in a future post.

1. Literal. We take the Bible literally. Yet we are not wooden literalists, we do allow for figures of speech such as we use today, for example "sunrise" and "sunset".

Of course, we see all kinds of violation of this principle as "Christians" try to harmonize Genesis with the fairy tale of evolution. So, the six days of creation become "ages" or some nonsense. More on that later.

2. Historical. We make sure we understand what was going in at the time the text was written. This will obviously help us understand the intent of the author.

Of course, historical revisionists and other postmodernists would like to tell us that we can't know history. Satan's second attack.

3. Grammatical. What words were used in the original languages? Old Testament Hebrew (or Greek Septuagint) and New Testament Greek. Both of these Biblical languages are "dead" (not in use) so their words have not changed meaning, as in English or other "living" languages. Researching this is not as hard as you may think, it's just knowing where to look.

Satan's third attack is here when someone tells you (as a professor of anthropology once told me) "We can't know what the original words meant. We've lost that" or some other nonsense. It's another lie that attacks our ability to understand what God has said.

4. Contextual. The "contextual method" makes us put a verse in its proper context. The immediate context, the context of the book, the Testament it is in and the context of the Bible as a whole. Paul said that we are to "rightly divide the Word". The image there is that of "cutting it straight". If you cut things out straight, they fit together properly. Then there is also the context of God's revealed character.

Of course, you can see how this is violated. The "proof text" abuse of Scripture that makes a verse seem to say something it can't mean. Legalism loves to do this...take something obscure and force some rule out of it. Or, simply quote the phrase that supports what you want to say, then ignore the rest that might negate what you are saying. 1 Peter 3:21 is used by some to support "baptismal regeneration". Yet if you just read the verse...the whole is obvious that it doesn't support that. And how many of us have had someone with a list of petty taboos that say "don't do x or y because 'your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit". Again, a failure to read the surrounding text, just like Satan does.

Beloved, that is our weapon against all the error. The Bible is all that God has given us for instruction. Not visions, not feelings, not our opinion, not our subjective experiences. all those things may be pleasant but then the only thing we have (that we know is from God) is His Word. It is not the "thesis" in a dialectic discussion. It is the very Truth of God. Period. End of argument. He didn't mumble, yammer or stammer. And He has equipped His people to be able to understand it. No excuses, no apologies.

I guess some would say that makes me proud. Oh well.

1 comment:

rpavich said...

this post was right on the money. This idea that we can't know or that certain things are just too complicated to work out permeates our Christian life.

As a believer in God's sovereignty in all things including justification by faith...otherwise known as a Calvinist, I've run up against this numerous times.

Keep up the good work brother,