Thursday, November 23, 2006

Donald Miller Line By Lie

Not having done a line by lie for a while, let me explain. The point of a line by lie article is to deconstruct the deconstructors. But instead of deconstructing their literature like they do others, we will actually use logic and Scripture, rather than by simply claiming we can't know what the author meant.

So here is a line by lie post done on an article taken from Donald Miller’s own website.

DM (Donald Miller): I wrapped this book up in a bar on Hawthorne and that night I felt like I was losing it a bit. Essentially, I had begun to wonder if had misunderstood the gospel of Jesus, thinking of it in propositional terms rather than relational dynamics.

ANSWER: Yes, Paul had that problem, too. He thought of the gospel in propositional terms. In fact, you can read the four propositions he called the gospel in I Corinthians 15:1-8. 1. He died for our sins according to the Scriptures (prophetic propositions). 2. He was buried. 3. He was raised from the dead on the third day according to the Scriptures. 4. He was seen by all sorts of folks afterward, including a crowd of 500 at one time. Of course, Paul was not as smart as you. He never figured out just how stupid he was to think propositions were important.

DM: The latter (relational dynamics) seemed too poetic to be true,...

ANSWER: Tell us, Don, since the gospel is to be thought of in terms of relational dynamics, can you tell us what those dynamics are? And remember not to tell us what they are, because that would be propositional. Now, go ahead and tell us. But remember not to tell us. Okay?

DM: ...but the former (a propositional understanding of the gospel) had been killing my soul for years...

ANSWER: You shouldn’t have said that because it was propositional, but I'll answer you anyway. Paul said that we are saved by those four propositions. Perhaps if you obeyed those propositions, instead of disobeying them, you’d feel better. And in Romans 10:9 he told us that we are to confess those propositions or we will not be saved. So, yes, your soul feels like it is dying when faced with those doctrines because it is opposed to God and His truth always convicts.

DM: ...and (the propositional understanding of the gospel) was simply illogical.

ANSWER: Wow! Like I said, it's amazing just how stupid Paul was. And Jesus, too. After all, He asked His disciple to confess Him and His doctrines. You know, those things He proposed as true?

DM: If we hold that Jesus wanted us to "believe" certain ideas or "do" certain things in order to be a Christian, we are holding to heresy.

ANSWER: You mean like believing that Christ was the Son of God and repenting? So, since a Christian is never to be defined by what he believes or does, is it the color or his hair? His weight, height, IQ, good teeth, bad teeth, what? Tell us. Oh, I get it; he has to be relationally dynamic, huh?

DM: In that bar on Hawthorne, I finished the last paragraph and felt a kind of sickness at the thought of whether or not I was telling the truth.

ANSWER: Aw. Don’t worry. Propositions are all tosh, remember? So "truth" is nonsense.

DM: But after further consideration,...

ANSWER: You should have had another beer.

DM: ...and after rewriting the book, I realized the formulaic version of Christianity was irrational, and for that matter, unbiblical.

ANSWER: There you go with another proposition. But I'll answer you anyway. (Mind if I use some propositions?) The Bible is chock full of propositions. Explain to us, Don, how the Bible is unbiblical.

DM: True Christian spirituality mirrors relational dynammics more than the workings of a free-market economy.

ANSWER: Neither of these have anything to do with the message of the gospel. The gospel is about God’s redemptive plan. It is proposed to us in Scripture as true, relationships and all. Which brings up quite a question for you, Don. Why are we to think that Jesus, Isaiah, Moses, Paul, Augustine, Luther, and all our forefathers were idiots to present God’s truth propositionally, but when you present your version of the truth propositionally we are to believe you?

DM: This seemed to open up an entire new world to me, a world where every thought and feeling operates as a kind of living metaphor for the workings of the Godhead.

ANSWER: Human thoughts and feelings are depraved, actually. The Bible says that the heart is desparately sick and more deceiving than anything else, Jer. 17:9. And the Bible says this in II Corinthians 10: “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,...” Paul was busy bringing his thoughts in line with God, not creating a god and a gospel out of his own thoughts. But then he was awfully propositional, huh?

DM: As a year has passed since the release of the book, I've seen more and more how, in my own life and in the lives of the Christians around me, we subscribe to false gospels that are troubling our souls.

ANSWER: “False gospels” like the one in Scripture? You know, that propositional one? Of course, if it makes your soul feel bad it can't be true, huh?

DM: ...To understand what the Bible explains...

ANSWER: Explain? You mean propositionally?

DM: To understand what the Bible explains Jesus’ gospel to be, we must look to each other, to the way a father interacts with a child, a bride to a bridegroom, a doctor to a patient.

ANSWER: Doh! (Forehead smack.) And I thought we had to read the Bible.

DM: When we let go of the idea of Jesus as a product and embrace Him as a being, our path to spiritual maturity begins.

ANSWER: Now there’s a good logical argument. If you don’t agree with Don you think Jesus is a product and you’re immature. Thanks for straightenin’ us out there, Bro.

Conclusion: Mr. Miller argues against a propositional understanding of the gospel by using propositions. He argues for his version of the truth, but fails to explain how we are to understand truth, since truth cannot be carried by language (propositions.) And he makes his argument by the use of language. Worst of all, he denies the very gospel that calls us to believe it by saying any requirement of belief is heresy, a proposition any good Christian believes in his view. But he hopes you will continue to buy his books to see exactly what he will propose next. And I'll bet he hopes you believe it.

Can anyone say “snake oil”?

Phil Perkins.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did Jesus not use the following images to teach about God and the kingdom: relationships with each other, father to child, bride to bridegroom, doctor to patient?

Doh! (forehead smack)

9:56 PM  
Blogger Phil Perkins said...

Dear A. Nonymous,
Why, yes, He did. And those illustrations are in the Bible. Doh! (forehead smack)

Seriously, though, Miller's point is to look outside the Bible, and to ignore the propositional truth of the Bible. He even goes so far as to say we are not required to believe anything. That is simple heresy. We do have to believe the Bible--especially the gospel as it is proposed as true in Scripture.

In Christ,
Phil Perkins.

10:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, your position is that when Jesus was on the earth, he pointed his listeners to these familiar relationships "outside the Bible" by way of illustration. But now that we have a recorded revelation of these teachings, we should no longer look to them, but ONLY to the written revelation ABOUT them?

If so, that's an interesting idea. I'll have to process that a bit more. But intuitively, I think I disagree.

Is it the words themselves that teach, or is it the nature of their content that teaches?

Or, to put it another way, could someone learn about the kingdom by parenting ... or merely by reading parent/child related passages from the Bible?

It's probably a situation where the Truth (upper case T) of the Bible helps illuminate truth (lower case) we see in the world, if you know what I mean.

Then there's Paul's argument in Romans 1:18-20 to consider. He seems to be saying that natural revelation is sufficient to condemn, but not to bring a person to the point of salvation. The Holy Spirit in conjunction with the Word of God must accomplish that.


3:34 PM  
Blogger Phil Perkins said...

You said, "It's probably a situation where the Truth (upper case T) of the Bible helps illuminate truth (lower case) we see in the world, if you know what I mean."

Yes, I believe that you have here stated the biblical position. God has revealed Himself in all of creation, but nothing outside the Bible actually gives us specific things about His will--especially the gospel. As much as I love the most wonderful creature to ever roam the earth, my wife, I could stare into her beautiful eyes all day and not realize from that that God sent His Son to die for my sins. Or that He was raised the third day. Or that I will be raised from the dead. Or...or...or...

The deceptive thing about a line like Miller takes is that he wants to exclude that which the Bible expressly states. Yes, we can read it, but we are not required to believe it under Miller's way of thinking.

Does that help?

Also, your last paragraph with your summary of what you think Paul says in Romans 1 is pretty accurate.

Phil Perkins.

5:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, I see. And if that's in fact Miller's real position, I would have to disagree with him.

Even if his position is not to eliminate the Bible altogether, but to remove it as the Primary source, to put it on a level playing field with everything else, so to speak, again I would have to disagree.

But if his idea is to simply state what theologians have said for centuries, namely, that there are a number of ways in which God reveals himself, including both natural and special revelation, and that we can learn from both, then he's right on target in my book.

Luckily, from a brief glance at your blog, it doesn't look as though Donald Miller is the main rusty bolt you're trying to oil anyway. :-)

Say, what's you opinion of D.A. Carson's book on the Emergent? (Becoming Convesant...)

7:39 PM  
Blogger Phil Perkins said...

Thanks for the honest questions. You are making me work.

You said, "But if his (Miller's) idea is to simply state what theologians have said for centuries, namely, that there are a number of ways in which God reveals himself, including both natural and special revelation, and that we can learn from both..."

Well, if you look carefully, that is not what he said. He has come out hard against the propositional truth of Scripture. He called it the formulaic view of the gospel. In laymen's term that means that you can't really see the Bible as true in the sense that you can use it as the final word for faith and behavior, or at least that you can't understand its language in any sort of literal sense. Instead, you get the fuzzy tingles, just like you get the fuzzy tingles when you look at a new born baby, or the parent child thing, or etc.

For instance, he came right out and said that it is heresy to require that we actually believe anything and that Jesus did not require such a thing. Well, first of all, Jesus did require just that. And Paul said that if we did not accept and confess the gospel, we are not saved. So, according to Miller, Paul was a heretic, though Miller would never say it in those terms.

On Carson's book, I have not read it, but he comes out hard against the Emergent. And that, of course is where I am, as well. And you know Carson. It will be very scholarly. He doesn't do it any other way.

Let me propose this: Could you tell me if you think you have to believe something to be saved?

Think about that question, then write back and give me your answer.

Until tomorrow,

8:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, I do.

However, I don't think you have to believe a propositional passage of Scripture in order to learn about God.

In my mind, pre-evangelism can involve many means (and usually does).

I think that's the backdrop for Paul's sermon on Mars Hill. "What you worshipped in ignorance, I now proclaim to you" kind of thing.

Hope that makes sense.

7:20 AM  
Blogger Phil Perkins said...

Great comment. Will answer tonight, as I have to go to work now.

In Christ,

7:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course, it always irritates me when Christians say "God told me" when they're not talking about God's word. I'd rather them say, "I was reflecting on the sunrise and just got the impression of God's goodness." Or somesuch.

Just processing whether this same discussion applies to both pre and post evangelism (i.e. sanctification).

10:10 AM  
Blogger Phil Perkins said...

Dear Anonymous,
You said, "Yes, I do (think we are required to believe something to be saved.)

"However, I don't think you have to believe a propositional passage of Scripture in order to learn about God."

Well, it depends on what you mean by "learn about God." Nautre and life in general tell us somethings about God.

In your opinion is the gospel propositional or not?

It is and I can tell you why I know that.

In Christ,
Phil Perkins.

7:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I say this in love, Phil. But the fact that you reply to your own question without waiting on my reply makes it appear as though you don't value my response so much as you just want me to let you tell me your version of the "right" answer.

That impression may go a long way to answering why people like Donald Miller so much.

Habit #5 of "Highly Effective people - "Seek first to understand, then to be understood."

Again, I say this in love.

3:46 PM  
Blogger Phil Perkins said...

Dear Anonymous,
Sorry for being away for so long. I have had a bad schedule.

As to irritating you with my advance answer, that was done to be less irritating, not more. How did you come to such a judgment of my motives? Nonetheless, I will take your correction and not offer you my correction. (Think about both of those ideas.)

So what is your answer? Is the gospel propositional?

And: Do you believe there is a "right" answer as you say?

These are important questions. Are you having a hard time deciding or is it hard to come to the conclusion that you may have to come to if you answer?

Don't get mad at me; I am actually trying to help you. You seem genuinely interested and your questions are genuinely interesting.

In Christ,
Phil Perkins.

9:16 PM  
Blogger Phil Perkins said...

Dear Anonymous,
Do you believe that God (and, therefore, the Bible) has the right to tell you how to think?

Phil Perkins.

9:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not mad and mean't no offense. Your advance answer seemed arrogant. If that's not the case, please forgive me.

But I would repeat the admonition that, if you really want to lure away the crowd currently connecting with the Emergent Church, you will not do so, in my opinion, by asking questions and then saying you have the right answer so I don't really have to bother.

I'd say it's much like the difference between having a conversation with someone who you can tell genuinely cares and wants to listen ... and having one with that guy who, while you're talking, gets that glossy look in his eyes, as if he's not really listening, he's just formulating his next argument. Ya know? If ya wanna reach the postmods ... you don't wanna be that guy IMO.

As for your questions, No, I am not having a hard time deciding. No, it is not hard to come to my conclusion. And yes, the gospel can be presented in propositional terms, of course.

Is that the ONLY format to present the good news? No, I don't think so. Do you?

9:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Do you believe that God (and, therefore, the Bible) has the right to tell you how to think?"

Now I think we've really stumbled upon the crux of the issue.

Postmods ... those gravitating toward the Emergent Church ... would probably agree to everything in your question except what's in parenthesis.

In other words, I believe most of them would agree to the idea that God can tell them how to think. But they would not grant you the assumption of your parenthesis, that God speaking = the Bible.

You and I can agree to such a playing field, but that's beside the point. The target audience has not agreed to that playing field.

That's why, to me, the canonization, preservation, and overall reliability of the texts themselves is quite possibly the most important field of study for today's Christian.

You see, it's more tha you exegeting a coherent presentation of some Bible verses and then giving an invitation. I think you have to first show a person that the Bible can, in fact, be trusted.

In the meantime, Donald Miller is saying that their questions and ideas about God are all valid expressions of a dignified search for relationship with God. At least, that's what I think he would say.

10:07 PM  
Blogger Phil Perkins said...

Dear Anonymous,
You said, "You and I can agree to such a playing field, but that's beside the point."

No, that was my point. I knows cuz I dun it.

Do YOU believe that the Bible has the right to tell YOU what to think?

In Christ,
Phil Perkins.

8:48 AM  
Blogger Phil Perkins said...

Dear Anonymous,
I just remembered you asked a question and I forgot to answer it. You said, "Is that (propositional truth)the ONLY format to present the good news? No, I don't think so. Do you?"

Well, Paul highly recommended it. Jesus required it. And that has been the method since Moses came from Mt Sinai with the 10 conversation starters...errr...I mean commandments. They told people.

Check it out yourself. Go to the introduction of each one of the prophets and see what is in the intro to every one of them.

If you can tell me the gospel without telling me I'm all ears.

In Christ,
Phil Perkins.

9:29 AM  
Blogger Phil Perkins said...

Dear Anonymous,
This is a really probing question that you asked sometime ago. So much so that I will try to remember and bring it up in my biblical interpretation class to provoke thought. You said, "Is it the words themselves that teach, or is it the nature of their content that teaches?"

Here is my answer: Why did you formulate that question into words?

In Christ,
Phil Perkins.

9:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You said : "Well, Paul highly recommended it. Jesus required it. And that has been the method since Moses came from Mt Sinai with the 10 conversation starters...errr...I mean commandments. They told people. "

Paul also empoyed poetry. Jesus spoke in parables. The prophets used metaphor and apocolyptic imagery.

Maybe we're speaking about two different topics - when I say "proposition", I mean a genre of writing, a logical sequence of if/then statements; it sounds like when you say it you simply mean written or spoken word.

You said : "If you can tell me the gospel without telling me I'm all ears."

I've seen paintings that I thought presented a fairly clear picture of the gospel ... does that count?

I've seen actors portray the gospel silently ... does that count?

These may be unusual examples, but they allude to the fact that written or spoken word is not the ONLY way to share the gospel.

Heck, I'd hope to SEE the gospel if I looked at your life close enough, regardless of what you say.

I think that's the thought behind Matt.5:16 "Let you light shine before men in such a manner that they may SEE YOUR GOOD WORKS and glorify your Father in heaven."

If not, I'm confused how Peter could adnomish wives to live in such a way that their husbands "may be won over WITHOUT WORDS" by their respectful behavior!

Why would he not just say, "Present the gospel clearly and propositionally so that your husbands may be won by the sheer impeccability of your logic"?

10:34 AM  
Blogger Phil Perkins said...

Dear Anonymous,
You still have not answered two basic questions.

First, is there a "right" answer?

Second, do YOU believe the Bible has the right to tell YOU how to think?

I'll take up the other things you mentioned in your last comment either this evening or tomorrow. Sorry, still under the gun at work, but please answer these for me but mostly for your own sake.

In Christ,
Phil Perkins.

7:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First : Is there a "right" answer to what?

Second : Yes, of course the Bible has the right to tell me what to think.

7:42 AM  
Blogger Phil Perkins said...

Dear Anonymous,
Is there a "right" answer to any question?

Thanks for you patience on this.

In Christ,
Phil Perkins.

12:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


7:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Then Miller proceeds, in the most low-key and friendly way, to explain that God loves me, wants to have a relationship with me—and, for that matter, everyone. The relationship was damaged in the Garden, but Christ came to earth to fix it. The invitation, Miller says, is always

That's Miller's Gospel presentation according to an unbelieving journalist.

It may not exactly be 1 Corinthians 15 in every point, but it also doesn't appear as though Miller has "excluded" or "ignored" what the Bible says, as you claim.

Original sin in the Garden. God's love. Jesus' atonement on the cross. An invitation to come and be saved. That all seems pretty square to me. What don't you like about it?

7:59 PM  
Blogger Phil Perkins said...

Dear Anonymous,
I have prepared an answer to much of what you have brought up. However, it was so long and some of the stuff I went into was so important to get out there for others, I have decided to make it into a normal post.

I DOOO appreciate the heavy questions and the sincerity with which you seem to ask them. So look to the Dec. 3 post and make further comments there.

In Christ,
Phil Perkins.

3:57 PM  

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