Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Yep. Emerfibs, Alright.

What do you call it when someone lies outright while looking you in the eyes? Or while you're reading their book you just paid $19.95 for? Like when Brian McLaren tells us that doctrinal certainty came from modern thought, not the Bible. Or when Erwin McManus tries to tell us the gospel is too domesticating.

Well, the last time I visited my cousin, Buford, I came up with something. After a long day of seeing his farm, talking old times, and eating a big home dinner we sat on the porch and I showed him some of the latest Emergent books I've been reading. After I told him some of the more creative things they contained, he rocked back in his chair, gave a disgusted "Huh!" Then he raised an eye brow and drawled, "Emer fibs. Ya know that dontcha?"

And so, on a slow summer evening in the cornpone belt, was born the descriptive term emerfibs.

Phil Perkins. PS Buford may be imaginary...or maybe not...

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Blaming The Enlightenment

One of the clever Emerfibs that goes all the way back to Stan Grenz is the notion that doctrinal certainty is not an Early Church idea. I agree. But for different reasons. The Emergents tell us that the idea of confidence in the correspondence theory of truth and the doctrinal certainty it implies (if you believe the Bible) came from the Enlightenment.

Bunk. Long before DesCartes, Jesus quoted Isaiah, David, and Moses as absolute proofs of all sorts of things. The idea of doctrinal certainty came from God Himself in the Garden, when He warned Adam about eating and dying. It was true. Ask Adam.

Here is a quote from Morris Kline describing just what was going on in the European religious mind as a result of the discovery that nature followed physical laws that could be expressed mathematically:

Nature is simple and orderly, its behavior regular and necessary. It acts in accordance with perfect and immutable mathematical laws. Divine reason is the source of the rational in nature. God put into the world rigorous mathematical necessity that humans, although their reason is related to God's, reach only laboriously. Mathematical knowledge is therefore not only absolute truth, but as sacrosanct as any line of the Scriptures."

Kline, Morris; Mathematics and the Search for Knowledge;
Oxford Press; 1985; page 95.

Kline is a secular writer and wrote a secular history. He is unbiased and he makes plain what Christians have known for millenia. Doctrinal certainty comes from Scriptures, not Newton or Galileo. The certainty that came as a result of modern scientific advance had to do with nature, not religious doctrine. If anything, the advancements in science came (for men like Galileo) as a result of their belief in an immutable, intelligent God. Not the other way around.

So the next time a postmodern religionist says that you are only certain about doctrine because you have bought into modern thought, ask him what he did during history class.

In Christ,
Phil Perkins.

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Saturday, December 09, 2006

Should We Fight For Truth? Good News

It seems that the good folks over at Emergent No (on our blog roll here) are again updating their website!!! Always good stuff over there. Here is the latest and it's a quote from John MacArthur's upcoming book, The Truth War. This is great stuff.

In Christ,
Phil Perkins.


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Back Up A Second

Saturday, November 25 of this year, I made two posts about Brian McLaren. I made an important factual error. I found a three page story on Beliefnet by McLaren. It had no introductory indication that it was fictional and it was written in the first person, starting with the line, "I had been taught..." I thought it was an article, not a story. However, JP alerted me to the truth recently. So I have gone back and edited those posts for accuracy. You may see them here and here.

Thanks again to JP for keeping a sharp eye out and for bringing this to my attention.

In Christ,
Phil Perkins.


Sunday, December 03, 2006

Fibnarratives, Metafibnarratives, And Drive-By Smearings.

As all three of my readers know I think the Emergents are a bit creative in their persuasion techniques. For instance, if one has a really fine tractor to sell a farmer, one has only to tell the farmer exactly what all its features are. If, on the other hand, you are selling magazines that will never arrive for an outrageous price to the lady with the two kids screaming about to slam your nose in the screen door, you'd better get creative. You need to come up with a good story like if you don't sell enough subscriptions you will not get home from college for Christmas and see your mother who is going to die on December 26 at 10:15 in the morning of that tumor protruding hideously out of the small of the side of her neck that looks just like Abraham Lincoln at the first Lincon-Douglass debate. Yes, that should do it.

I call that a fibnarrative. And fibnarratives are very popular with Emergents. Say you're Erwin McManus and you want to tell everyone that the gospel is wrong. Well, you make up this fibnarrative, about how John the Baptist was not really an ascetic, but a barbarian, and turn it into a book for young Christian guys that don't like their dads and pastors much, call it The Barbarian Way and sell it everywhere you can. Then just when no one is looking say that the gospel is too "domesticating" on page 32 and if you believe that Jesus died for your sins you could never be a barbarian like John the Baptist and tell your pastor to shove off. (In the Spirit, of course.) Or if you're Brian McLaren and you want to reveal to the world that you don't believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to get saved, write a fictional, first person story about just how much you love your daughter. Make it turn out that your daughter has just become a universalist. Then at the end of the article, right after you tell the bit about how you watched her drive away with her boy friend in his little beat up Honda and you saw the blue smoke drift up into the lonely sky as you bit your lower lip and held back the tears, and while every reader with any sort of a heart at all is balling their eyes out, say that if anyone doesn't like the daughter you love sooooo much just because she is a universalist, then by golly they don't have to like you either! Yes, that'll do it.

Then there is the drive by smearing. This is another persuasion technique. Where I grew up it worked like this: "Well, you know, that drunken sot Wally Botts said, such and so." That was to make everyone know that whatever Wally said, don't believe it, because he's just a drunk. That way if it's true, you really didn't say it wasn't. And if it wasn't true, then you're the hero. Anyway you hate Wally.

If you're an Emergent this technique hinges on the "fact" that anyone who disagrees with your wacked out, straight-from-Mars-Hill doctrine is a smelly, rotten dirt-eatin' turkey who deserves to die a slow and painful death. Now, quite often the person disagreeing with an Emergent is someone the reader will be likely to actually like or respect. So the technique is to quickly call them a smelly, rotten dirt-eatin' turkey and then get on to the next sentence before the reader can think about it. Like this from Brian McLaren's A Generous Orthodoxy, page 178:
"Although I was taught that the Bible fulfilled these modern-Western-moderately-educated desires, I no longer see the Bible this way." Did you catch it? McLaren said his teachers are stupid. Moderately-educated. You don't want to be moderately-educated, do you? Then you just gotta agree with Brian. See?

Yep, and that's how to be an Emergent author that can write a doctrine only men on the moon would believe and get Christians to believe it. My only question is if a fella used a metanarrative to fib about something instead of just a regular narrative, would it be a metafibnarrative or a fibmetanarrative?

Phil Perkins.

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Stuck In The Middle With You

A very interesting comment thread has been made by an Anonymous. I will call him/her "A" for brevity. A has made some comments on my post called Donald Miller Line By Lie. A's comments and questions were so substantive and so important that I have spent a great deal of time and effort answering them. A also seems to be sincerely interested in the truth. A seems to take the Bible as authoritative, but still has some postmodern ideas common in the Emergent. A has been a real sport, answering and taking my jokes and putting up with my questions. A is worth answering. My last answer was so long and included so many important things to get out to people considering the Emergent, fighting the Emergent, or stuck somewhere in between that I decided to post my answer here:

Dear Anonymous,
Well, I thank you for your patience in all of this. I know I have put you through some paces, but not out of meanness. I pray you will see the points I was attempting to make as I now take the time to give you a more thorough answer.

Let’s take a look at Miller’s “gospel” outside of its context as a part of Miller’s work. Next, we will take a look at it in the context of Miller’s work.

Standing alone, apart from the rest of Miller’s work, it lacks a number of things that are unique to the gospel and are indispensable to it.

First, it lacks the idea of a substitutionary atonement. In I Corinthians 15 we read, “...Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures...” In your summary of Miller’s we read, “...Christ came to earth to fix it...” Not exactly an adequate explanation to anyone not already educated in Scripture.

Second, it lacks any mention of sin and God’s anger toward us, the reason for the gospel. In I Corinthians we read, “...for our sins...” In the summary of Miller’s “gospel” we read, “The relationship was damaged in the garden.” The absence of “sin” is significant. Miller is not about to tell us that we disgust God. Sin means that in both who we are in Adam and with our individuals acts of rebellion against God’s law, God is angered. His judgment is coming. As a result, many in our culture will not even get the idea of God’s anger. The gospel seems irrelevant to those who think they’re innocent.

Third, it lacks any reference to the resurrection. In Paul we read, “...and that He was buried and that He was raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures...” In Miller’s gospel we read...well, nothing about the resurrection.

Fourth, it lacks reference to the observable, objective truthfulness of the account. In I Corinthians 15 we read, “...and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than 500 brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.” What do we find in Miller that would indicate any sense of urgency because this actually happened and has eternal, personal, and cosmological significance and impact? In Miller we read...well, nothing. In fact, we read that we don’t even have to believe it, according to Miller, a detail which should shock you.

Fifth, it lacks any mention of the fact that it is ours by the authority of the Bible. In I Corinthians 15 we read, “...according to the Scriptures...according to the Scriptures...” It seems like an emphasis to me. In Miller we read that we don’t have to believe any doctrine of Scripture.

Taking a look at Miller’s “gospel” in the context of Miller’s own work is also revealing and I have already mentioned the first problem with Miller’s schema. These problems are endemic in the Emergent milieu of ideas and doctrines. Yes, though they often scoff at doctrine, they do have their own. But theirs are okay, it seems. Miller’s context for the “gospel” provides the following problems:

First, as I already mentioned, whatever the gospel is according to Miller, we don’t even have to believe it. He wrote, “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.” This is bunk. Jesus said in Luke 8:37-38, “For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”

So who is right? Is Jesus right when He said He required His followers to believe and confess Him and His doctrines? Or was Miller right? Remember that you said the Bible has the right to tell us how to think. What is the biblical answer? Not the Emergent, or Catholic, of Baptist answer–the biblical one? And remember you said there is such a thing as a right answer.

Second, Miller’s work includes a lot of banging on “propositional truth” and “formulaic” understandings. The Emergents play a really clever trick here, a verbal shell game. I have often seen definitions in Emergent writings indicating that a proposition is simply an if-then sentence. Grammatically, that is a conditional sentence. It is not what is referred to when a philosopher says “propositional truth.” The idea of the conditional sentence being a proposition comes from common usage. “If you marry me, then I will be happy.” Or in business, “If you pay me $25,500, then I will remodel your master bedroom and kitchen in the following manner...” These are propositions in the common sense.

Philosophers speak of “propositional truth,” or, more precisely, “propositions” that transmit “truth” in words, phrases, and clauses. In this usage a “proposition” is merely a declarative sentence that the author or speaker proposes as true, and “truth” is the quality of reflecting something of reality as accurately as is indicated by the words, grammar, and syntax used by the author or speaker, according to the understanding of the author or speaker.

The Emergent line is since the Bible has little or no propositional truth in it, we don’t really have to pay that much attention to accuracy. After all, God doesn’t. It’s more of a feeling thing or a doin’-the-right-thing thing.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

This is getting hard on the brain, I know. So let’s take a mental break and just ask a question. You don’t have to answer this, but just think about it for your own edification. Do you spend more time reading Emergent stuff or the Bible? Another way to ask is this: Do you tend to look at the Bible through Emergent glasses or do you look at the Emergent through biblical glasses? Don’t answer to me. Just think about it. back to the hard work of sorting out propositional truth.

The Scripture is chock full of propositional truth. Remember a proposition is simply a declarative sentence, or statement, like, “I saw Spot run.” It does not include questions like, “Did Spot run?” or commands like, “Run, Spot, run.” If the sentence is a statement and true, then it is a true proposition.

The application to all this is simple. Poetry is mostly propositional in the Bible. It is intended by the author to be considered true. Narrative is a collection of true propositions about what happened to so and so back when... What the Emergents have done is to take the idea that much of modern poetry is non-propositional and applied it to the Bible. And since much of modern narrative, such as screen plays, short stories, and novels, is not propositional in nature, then biblical narrative is not propositional, according to the Emergents.
To repeat, all that makes a statement propositional is whether or not it is presented as true. It does not depend on being poetry or prose. It is not dependent on whether or not it is narrative. The narrative in a novel is non-propositional. The narrative in an accurate history of an era, people, or civilization is propositional.

I am not saying that all Emergents are necessarily lying about this. (The smarter ones are.) The postmodern philosophical movement which seeks to deconstruct language has lied about this as well, many times in order to negate the idea of absolute truth or any ancient writing (read Bible here) that purports to be absolutely true. It’s a trick, much like the linguistic analysis of A. J. Ayer, and as such, postmodernism is already dead in many quarters of the academy in Europe. It is dying for the same reason British linguistic analysis did: it is self-contradictory and people eventually catch on and get embarrassed by it despite its usefulness in our fight against the knowledge of God.

The long and the short of it is, the avoidance of propositional truth is unbiblical and intellectually dishonest for those that know better. Miller is shot through with this.

Third, Miller and the Emergents refuse to take the Bible as authoritative. The tool they use for this the most is their little trick about propositional truth. Another tool they use is long winded, often tear-jerking stories they use to grease the skids before they lay out a doctrine so ridiculous you’d laugh if you just thought about it for a second. Miller did that for an entire book in “Blue Like Jazz.” McLaren does it. McManus does it. I call these fibnarratives.

Fourth, Miller denies the importance of specificity and accuracy in doctrine, including the doctrine of the gospel. Miller said we “hold to heresy” if we think Jesus required us to believe “certain ‘ideas.’” In contrast in I Corinthians 15, we read, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for...” That sort of urgency for accuracy and specificity has no place in Miller’s schema.

Fifth, Miller’s schema makes for a devaluing of the spoken or written word. The ins and outs of the biblical view of this are dealt with elsewhere in this communication, but I will point out two sub-problems of this. One is the casting about to use all sorts of silly stuff and calling that evangelism. For instance, you mentioned that you have seen paintings that communicated the gospel. So...what exactly did they say? (Sorry, but you have to admit...) The other problem in devaluing the written or spoken word is that God has granted authority and the power of the Holy Spirit to those who speak the gospel to others. The biblical method is proclamation, not conversation.

Lastly, Miller has come up with a “gospel” designed to avoid the persecution that Christians are asked to volunteer for. Take a look at his “gospel.” You called it “friendly.” It is. However, it’s not very loving. It is so nondescript, so vague, so unclear that no one can get mad. It doesn’t mean anything. And, after all, you don’t even have to believe it. If you believe in the doctrine of universalism, his “gospel” will work for you. God loves us all. If you believe Jesus died as an example for us to follow, Miller’s “gospel” is fine. If you believe that Jesus was raised from the dead figuratively but not actually, Miller’s “gospel” will not contradict you. You can’t get any friendlier than that. Satan himself will not object.

Miller’s “gospel” lacks the self-sacrificing love that will tell someone to repent from their sins in order to avoid hell even if they are likely to spit on us for it. This is not the gospel that got Paul beaten most places he went. This is a coward’s “gospel.”

Dear Anonymous, you once told my I was wrong because I thought I was right. Did you think you were wrong? Does not Miller think he is right? He accuses those like me of holding to heresy. Have you called him to object? You also have now admitted that right answers are possible. By what tortured legalism is it okay to forbid the telling of the truth? Is it more righteous or loving to be silent? Paul told Timothy that in pointing out false teaching to his brothers he was a “good servant.” I Tim. 4:6. And by what odd calculus do we measure the accuracy of our “gospel” by how pleasing it is to others when the true gospel doomed our Lord to death, as well as all the apostles, save possibly one?

Also, you have made much of how one ought to “lure,” in your words, the current generation into the fold. That has never been the biblical approach. Scripture tells us in Romans 3:10 that we all avoid and hate God. “As it is written, There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God.” Paul’s method was the proclamation of the gospel. In Romans 1:16 we read, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (despite what Miller says), to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (Miller remark added–I don’t think Paul actually knew Donald Miller but I’d never be propositional about it.)

In I Corinthians 1:21 we read, “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.”

Trying to change your glasses,
Phil Perkins.


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