In chapter 3 of Why we’re not emergent (by two guys who should be), Kevin DeYoung explains why he loves ‘the person and propositions of Jesus’. What follows is based on part of that chapter.
All Christians claim to have a high regard for the Bible, and emerging Christians are no different.
Brian MacLaren says:
Rob Bell affirms
And Doug Pagitt regards the Bible as
But such writers also confess to having mixed feelings about the Bible. They speak of their ‘love’ and ‘respect’ for it, but do not like to use traditional terms such as ‘authority’, infallibility’, ‘inerrancy’, ‘revelation’, ‘objective’, ‘absolute’ and ‘literal’. The result is that the Bible is neither the voice of God nor the foundation of Christian belief. Doug Pagitt says that the Bible is
Rob Bell explains,
Rob’s wife, Kristen, celebrates uncertainty in a way which is rather characteristic of emergent people:-
We can’t help noticing here the false antithesis that crops up so often in emergent thinking: either ‘we’ve got the Bible all figured out’, or ‘we have no idea what most of it means’. Even allowing for some rhetorical exaggeration, isn’t that just a silly and unhelpful polarisation?
Undeterred, emergent people claim that for too long we have approached the Bible as a rule book, an answer book, a text book. We treat its teaching as if it were essentially propositional. McLaren writes:
Well, yes, some of us are indeed guilty of analysing the Bible while remaining untransformed by it. But no: history shows again and again that close and carefully attention to the text of Scripture is entirely consistent with a godly, prayerfully, and awe-struck attitude towards the things of God. Look at the church fathers, Reformers, Puritans, and Pietists.
MacLaren associates the evangelical esteem of doctrine with the Enlightenment:-
Again, yes: the tendency to level out the Bible so that it becomes a series of undifferentiated proof texts is a real danger. But, again, no: from John Calvin to Charles Hodge to Dick Lucas evangelicals have been striving to pay close attention to (what Lucas calls) the ‘melodic line’ of Scripture. And the notion that there is a ‘body of truth’ in Scripture is taught by Scripture itself (note the references in the Epistles to guarding ‘the faith’).
So we cannot share Dave Tomlinson’s distaste for propositions:-
After all, what is a proposition? It is merely a statement that is either true or false. “God is love” – that’s a proposition. To be sure, the Bible is more than propositions: it has commands and questions too. But propositions are all over the place, on just about every page of the Bible.
Actually, antipathy towards the idea of revelation as propositional is not particularly new. It was a feature of the so-called ‘neo-orthodoxy’ of Barth, Brunner, and H. Richard Niebuhr. They said that ‘revelation cannot be expressed in the impersonal ways of creeds or other propositions’ and ‘faith is not a relation to…a truth, or a doctrine…but it is wholly a personal relationship.’
But the Bible itself makes no sharp distinction between propositional and personal revelation. Consider the following propositions of Jesus:-
Jn 8:24 “I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am [the one I claim to be], you will indeed die in your sins.” – Our Saviour utters a solemn warning to those who refused to believe that he was the one he claimed to be.
Jn 15:7 “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. – Jesus places side by side the personal (“If you remain in me”) and the propositional (“If my words remained in you).
Jn 17:13 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.” – Fullness of joy depends on believing and treasuring the words of Jesus.
Emerging church people would do well to quit the either/other categories of propositional and personal truth. DeYoung concludes:-