“Most [theological] liberals don’t start out as liberals; they start out as well-meaning evangelicals, and they only become liberal by the way that they make use of scripture.” – Dr. R. Scott Clark in this lecture (MP3)
And I ask, is this not true of most of those leading the emerging/emergent movement(s)/conversation? And again, while I agree with their critiques of modern evangelicalism, their applications to solve these problems are historically dangerous for the Gospel itself, and thus people’s salvation. The only guys I’m really in agreement with at all who are still involved in the conversation are Mark Driscoll and Matt Chandler because they uphold the critiques of modern evangelicalism (that I hold) while standing by propositional truths in the Scriptures, as well as holding to Scripture itself as the infallibly authoritative Word of God. However, Rob Bell, for instance, though I feel he is very well-meaning in what he does, in an article in Christianity Today (here), states he has, “‘[discovered] the Bible as a human product,’ rather than the product of divine fiat”. This is quite dangerous. In a similar fashion, theological liberals in the early part of the 20th century were saying something very similar, to the effect of, “There is no way to empirically prove the Scriptures as God’s divine word to man. Therefore, though we believe it be such personally, it is not necessary to believe this.” That thinking gutted the Gospel in the 20th century to where most mainline denominations in our day are now void of any Gospel truth so that people may be saved. It is a Christianity made in their own image.
Nowadays, the argument goes, “We cannot know anything for sure, with absolute certainty. Therefore, we cannot know the Bible is the word of God. So let’s look at it in terms of a human product rather than a product of divine [Holy Spirit] inspiration.” If the Bible is no longer upheld as an infallibly authoritative word spoken to us by God through the pens of men, then what final authority does it have over our lives, to intrude and cut against us as sinners so that we may be rescued from His wrath to come? If the Scriptural foundation is corrupted from the very beginning, then all other doctrines (of the Gospel) follow in its corrupted wake and the whole house falls, thus incurring the eternal wrath of God for failing to obey the Gospel. This is what happened with liberalism in the 20th century, continuing even to this day.
On this point then of the Scriptures (according to the emerging conversation), everything is up for debate and reinterpretation. In fact, ultimately the very Gospel itself can be redefined in “what I personally think it is” sort of terms (versus what it actually is) and is thus reduced from the “power of God unto salvation” to just an individually interpreted message [amounting to idolatry], with no divine power unto salvation at all. The Gospel message is then turned from salvation by God’s grace to the default mode of the human heart – salvation by my goodness and self-wrought righteousness. Lose the Gospel and we lose all hope of salvation for people. And the Gospel starts with absolute propositions and truth. And those truths are clearly set forth as the definitive Word of God. May we take the glaring warnings from history and apply them in our day and hold fast the faith once for all delivered to the saints. Though it is unpopular, may we continue to hold our confessions, though the world calls it absurd and antiquated.