1 John 5:11-13

And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life: and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

That Ye May Know

Let me remind you of an important truth, here we can see that a major reason the Bible was written is – that ye may know that ye have eternal life. Sadly we live in an age where even the concept of “knowing” itself is under attack. You will be asked: “With so many differing groups all using the Bible, how do you even know what it really means?” For those of us involved in apologetics this question is quite common from skeptics, but now this doubt concerning the true meaning of God’s Word in Holy Scripture is increasingly being raised by pastors from within the Emergent Church Movement. Although we might not like hearing about it, and believe me I’d love to see this movement go away myself, the Emergent Church is undoubtedly coming to a church near you as more and more Evangelical pastors are under mounting pressure to increase numbers in their churches. Long ago here in America we surrendered the idea that the concept of church–as taught in the New Testament–is primarily for the edification of believers. This should appear obvious from the word ekklesia (church) itself, which by definition means, “called out, to assemble.”

However, due to the proliferation of the purpose driven life (which has turned this process backward) into the Body of Christ, where more and more churches have become so worldly that unbelievers have been flocking to them, the local pastor is now under tremendous pressure to increase the size of his church or to be outcast as an unfruitful minister. It is for this reason that many are now beginning to “reach out” to teens and young adults using techniques taught in the developing neo-liberal cult of the Emergent Church Movement. And this is why I have felt led so strongly to write on the Emerging Church on such a regular basis lately. Please know that I have been attempting to make this as palatable as possible, but this is a growing menace already within the Body of Christ that is only going to multiply if the Lord tarries. As a pastor of a local church myself I have personally had to face these issues, follow the current trends, or stay true to what the Bible actually says and trust the Lord to add to our number daily those who [are] being saved (see–Acts 2:47).

In his book Velvet Elvis: Repainting The Christian Faith Emergent Church pastor Rob Bell, the founder of Mars Hill, “one of the fastest growing churches in American history (back cover), begins to give us a little inkling as to just where this Emergent Church jumped the Christian track when he writes:

I was in an intense meeting with our church leaders in which we were discussing several passages in the Bible. One of the leaders was sharing her journey in trying to understand what the Bible teaches about the issue at hand and she said something like this: “I’ve spent a great deal of time recently studying this issue. I’ve read what the people on the one side of the issue say, and I’ve read what the people on the other side say. I’ve read the scholars and the theologians and all sorts of others on this subject. But then, in the end, I decided to get back to the Bible and just take it for what it really says.”

Now please understand that this way of thinking is prevalent in a lot of Christian churches,…but this view of the Bible is warped and toxic, to say the least… The assumption is that there is a way to read the Bible that is agenda- and perspective- free…This perspective is claiming that a person can simply read the Bible and do what it says – unaffected by any outside influences… When you hear people say they are just going to tell you what the Bible means, it is not true. They are telling you what they think it means (pp.053,054, emphasis his).

The Holy Spirit Is Out Of A Job

Do the words, “Yea, hath God said” come to mind? Now if the above appears to be somewhat out of tune to you spiritually then the Lord has gotten your attention. I’m reminded of a story where an elderly black man had recently come to Christ. One day his pastor happened to be walking downtown and noticed this dear man standing on the street corner listening to a bold Jehovah’s Witness who was sharing his faith with those who would stop and listen. The pastor thought to himself that he’d best get over there and protect his young lamb in the Lord from this wolf, so he crossed the street and went over to stand next to the babe in Christ from his church. The pastor asked the man, “So John, what do you think about what you are hearing?”

The elderly man turned and looked at his faithful minister and said, “Pastor, I don’t rightly know; but something inside keeps telling me, ‘He’s a liar, he’s a liar, he’s a liar.’” Of course the pastor then went on and explained to this new Christian that this “something” was actually a Someone–God the Holy Spirit–Who lives inside of him as His Counselor to guide him into all truth. Apparently that is, until we reach twenty-first century America where the sophisticated postmodern has simply eliminated the Holy Spirit’s position now that we’ve come to the conclusion there’s no such thing as an absolute truth in the Bible for us to even be guided into.

However, you may have already correctly recognized, when Bell tells us no one can really know “what the Bible means,” and that people like me who would say that we do, are only telling you what we “think it means,” he is actually making a statement that he expects you to believe is true. But Bell’s problem is, if we can’t know for certain what is true in the Bible to begin with, then it also follows that we can’t really know if his own postmodern philosophy itself is true. So now we’re off through the Looking Glass into Wonderland with Alice chasing rabbits down holes again. And this is really a very childish way to look at the Bible that God inspired. We don’t like what the Creator has told us about our true human nature in the Bible, so we just deny the concept of absolute period. If you’d like to see this foolishness for what it is, just imagine a fussy four year old being told to pick up his toys: “No, I don’t wannu.”

But the true Christian knows that we can’t just dismiss the concept of truth as easily as those who champion the philosophy of postmodernism in the Emergent Church would have us believe. Let me show you in the Bible how we can do away with this false teaching of theirs once and for all. The Apostle John quotes Jesus as asking God the Father to do something very important for His followers – Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth (John 17:17). This would not be possible for God to do if there was no way to know what this truth was to begin with. We must also remember that earlier in John’s Gospel deposition the Master tells us a few other essential things pursuant to our discussion of the concept of knowing the truth of the absolutes found in Holy Scripture. In chapter 14 Jesus explains to us that – I Am the Truth (v.6) and then our Lord says – Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father…I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own (vv.9-10).

Now let’s stop and meditate on what we have come to know thus far; we have the recorded eyewitness testimony of the Apostle John that Christ Jesus of Nazareth–the living Word of God–said: A) the Holy Scripture–God’s written Word– is Truth, B) Christ Himself is Truth, C) To see Jesus is to see the Father, and D) The Words the Master speaks are the Words of the Father. So, what we may undoubtedly know here is: 1) The Word, of God the Father is Truth, 2) Jesus speaks the Word, of God the Father, 3) Therefore, the Word Jesus speaks is Truth. Yes, I readily admit, it is ludicrous to have to point this out in such a pedestrian fashion, but this is a startling indication of just how poorly trained so many leaders within the Emergent Church Movement–who are currently indoctrinating your young –truly are.

The Spirit Of Truth

Now we are able to see the job of God the Holy Spirit much clearer as we go further in John 14:16-17 when Jesus says – And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. Now verse 26 – But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. A quick aside, contrary to the neo-orthodox and liberal views about how the New Testament was written, here Christ Jesus tells us the Truth about how these documents would come/came about. First of all, the Master informs us that the Spirit of Truth – God the Holy Spirit – will teach you all things. And it’s important to note here, that in Romans 8:9 God’s Word of Truth tells the born again Christian – You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ (Romans 8:9).

To the observant Christian the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is in evidence here as we notice that the Holy Spirit controls the regenerated believer, He is the Spirit of God the Father, and in this verse God the Holy Spirit is also called the Spirit of Christ. Furthermore, we are also told here that if you are not possessed by the Spirit of the triune God, you do not belong to Christ; and if you do not belong to Christ, you are not in Christ, and therefore you are not a member of the Body of Christ–the Christian Church–in the first place. These are the logical conclusions one must come to as we read the Bible in context. And since these arguments simply cannot be refuted from Scripture, the only recourse left for those who wish to deny this orthodox Biblical teaching is to attempt to circumvent the text of the Bible itself and/or try to get us to doubt the so-called “western” concept of logic. As if our Creator hadn’t revealed His Own logical nature when He established this universe with laws that operate consistently. For instance, just imagine the chaos that would ensue if the law of gravity was both true and not true at the same time.

So now you should be able to understand why the Devil has to consistently attack the credibility of Holy Scripture, which he began to do at least as early as Genesis 3:1 – “Hath God really said?” Satan’s attack on the New Testament documents is to sow confusion about how they were written; so-called oral “traditions” allegedly passed around for over a generation before they were finally committed to writing. This fallacy is now even within the scholarship of Evangelicalism, here it is from the November 2005 edition of Christianity Today magazine, where Ben Witherington III says: “The Bible was not written in a text-oriented culture but for an oral culture,” as if this really makes any difference in what the words would actually mean. But I tell you in the Lord, here is the tiny seed of the coming Evangelical cave-in on the Biblical texts as Witherington writes, “I think the oral dimension of the biblical world, very much connected to storytelling, is a crucial dimension and is a key to understanding the theology in those texts” (69).

As we can see here this doubt about understanding the truth contained in the Bible is already beginning to slither its way into the mainstream Evangelical church, but this skepticism is already well entrenched within the Emergent Church. In fact as Dr. Al Mohler tells us about Emergent Guru Brian McLaren, who is a very influential spokesmen for this highly schismatic movement:

As a postmodernist, he considers himself free from any concern for propositional truthfulness, and simply wants the Christian community to embrace a pluriform understanding of truth as a way out of doctrinal conflict and impasse.

The Bible, McLaren argues, is intended to equip God’s people for good works. He rejects words such as authority, inerrancy, and infallibility as unnecessary and distracting. In a previous work, McLaren had argued that the Bible is “a unique collection of literary artifacts that together support the telling of an amazing and essential story.” His thinking shows the influence of the so-called “Yale School” of theologians who have argued for Scripture as the record and substance of Christianity as a “cultural-linguistic system,” to be interpreted as narrative and not as propositional truth.

And then in his review of Velvet Elvis Gary Gilley, pastor of Southern View Chapel, is right when he points out that “Bell echoes many of the themes found in the writings of other emergent leaders,” including Brian McLaren. Gilley correctly states that:

Like McLaren, Bell is a deconstructionist (chapter 2). The meaning of Scripture cannot be found in any objective manner since it must be interpreted by subjective people (pp. 44-46). His solution is interesting. Based on a faulty understanding (by normal hermeneutical methods) of the “binding and loosening” passages of the Gospels, Bell believes the church has the authority to make new interpretations of the Bible (pp. 50, 68). To Bell, since the Bible is alive it is fluid. Its meaning can change with the times and pronouncements of the church or a portion of the church.

The Logical Truth

What is being eradicated within the Church of our Lord is the understanding that no matter how logical and impressive we like to try and present ourselves as scholars, it is only through God the Holy Spirit that we can truly know and understand what these Biblical texts that He inspired actually mean. One will ask here: “Aren’t you contradicting yourself; I thought you just said logic is important.” Indeed I did; however, consistent with my point here, I also said that it was our Creator God Who is the Author of logical thought. So as we look at 1 Corinthians chapter 2 – But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned (v.14), and we have the mind of Christ (v.16), we see further proof that the life of the true Christian cannot rightly be approached in a natural manner. This is because ours is a life that is lived as a relationship–through a supernatural faith–with a Being Who exists outside our time-space continuum; and even though we still live in the natural world, at the same time, we are also experiencing the reality of a different world of a spiritual nature that is supernatural–or beyond the natural.

Which brings as back now to what Christ Jesus our Lord tells us about the Supernatural Person of God the Holy Spirit and what He was going to do regarding the Truth. Remember now, in John 14:26 the Master told us – But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. What this means regarding the writings of the New Testament is this: The length of time that these teachings may have remained in an oral fashion is irrelevant, because Christ has just informed us that God the Holy Spirit would teach those who would go on to write these documents all things – not some, but all things. And furthermore, He would remind them of everything Jesus taught them – not some things, but everything they were taught; and so these texts were written that ye may know the Truth.

Let me give you one final illustration, one I have often used with the many young people I have witnessed to within the high school where I once coached football, and where I am currently still working to support this ministry. Suppose for a moment you are called to leave everything you ever knew to follow a Man Who claims to be God Himself. You’re with Him for three years and on a regular basis you have seen Him do things like walk on water, command nature to do what He tells it do, and you’ve personally seen Him make people that you know were blind be able to see. Not only that but people you knew who were crippled got up and walked when He told them to, you had watched as leprosy disappeared from others, then this Man you’d spent so time with told you that He was going to be killed and that afterward He would raise Himself from the dead. Now after all this, you watch Him be executed and then three days later, exactly as He told you, He appeared to you alive once again. Do you think that just maybe there’s the slightest chance you might be able to know exactly what it is that He had taught you, and that you could correctly recall how these events you had repeatedly witnessed had in fact happened?

Every time, without fail, the young people I have talked with will say something along the lines of: “When you put it that way, it makes sense; of course I’d remember what He taught me, how could I ever forget something like that?” But even so, what we are clearly told in Scripture by the Apostle John is that even if they were to forget, Christ Jesus–Truth itself, God Himself in human flesh–promised yet another Witness–God the Holy Spirit–the Spirit of Truth would remind these men of what they would need to record for us to read in the New Testament so that we could come emerging with what the Bible means. Those of us I might add of whom Christ said – “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). so you see, the problem is not, “can we know the truth”; rather the real issue we face in this generation is actually quite a simple question: Do you believe what the Bible says? For all of us who have the courage to answer “yes,” the difficulty of living out our faith in this pagan postmodern world immediately arises, which is a compelling reason for us to draw nearer to each other – and all the more as [we] see the Day approaching (see–Hebrews 10:25).

The alarming reality of false teachers like Rob Bell and Brian McLaren within the burgeoning cult of the Emergent Church is not going to go away. In his review of Brian McLaren’s book, “A Generous Orthodoxy”-Is It Orthodox? Dr. Mohler is getting very close to the tragic truth when he says:

The Emergent movement represents a significant challenge to biblical Christianity. Unwilling to affirm that the Bible contains propositional truths that form the framework for Christian belief, this movement argues that we can have Christian symbolism and substance without those thorny questions of truthfulness that have so vexed the modern mind. The worldview of postmodernism–complete with an epistemology that denies the possibility of or need for propositional truth–affords the movement an opportunity to hop, skip and jump throughout the Bible and the history of Christian thought in order to take whatever pieces they want from one theology and attach them, like doctrinal post-it notes, to whatever picture they would want to draw.

When it comes to issues such as the exclusivity of the gospel, the identity of Jesus Christ as both fully human and fully divine, the authoritative character of Scripture as written revelation, and the clear teachings of Scripture concerning issues such as homosexuality, this movement simply refuses to answer the questions.

And while I certainly commend Dr. Mohler for being one man at least willing to make a stand, I still must tell you in the Lord that unfortunately his assessment stops just short of the absolute truth that clear compromise of Biblical doctrines–and particularly the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible–may begin small, but they explode like wildfire as the Holy Spirit first grieves, and then leaves. No, in the end, heresy is actually much like becoming with child, because there’s no such thing as a being a little bit pregnant.