Stop Me If This Sounds Familiar


Escape from orthodoxy by a theory of language, to wit

Language was an imprecise instrument. Words are but “faded metaphors” which cannot be transferred from mind to mind with their meaning clear and transparent. Each word is organically related to its own history, to the history of the one who uses it and of the one who hears it, and to the situation in which it is used. With these variables, all creedal statements and even the words of Scripture must be understood in a “spirit of accommodation,” for they are but linguistic and hence poetic attempts to speak the unspeakable. Christian truth was something which lay behind doctrinal propositions…

Sound familiar? I suspect any person identifying himself as an emergent Christian or even as a postmodernist would adhere to that sentiment. It’s this wishy-washy understanding of language that opens the door for their re-imaging of Jesus.

Consequently, to some this “new” understanding means, our Lord and Savior is divorced from the Father as He revealed Himself in the Old Testament. No longer do we have to believe in a God who would act as a judge of a people-group and sentence them to death. That’s the work of a tyrant. So said Christopher Hitchens uh, Mike Morrell. (Well, in all fairness, so said they both.)

What this view of language, at least when it is applied to Scripture, leaves out, is the Holy Spirit. If God could breathe His Word into written form using the mind and skill of human instruments, can He not insure that people reading different language versions, living in different countries, having different cultures and vastly different personal histories—can He not insure that those people will understand His intent?

Oh, wait. There are such people—some studying theology in a seminary in Guatemala, some attending a Bible college in Kenya, some involved in churches in Cypress, some suffering for this faith in Southeast Asia. Regardless of the all the differences, the Holy Spirit brings the necessary understanding and binds those who believe as Abraham did into a united body called the Church.

I wonder if the emergents, known for shucking off the traditional forms of religion in favor of “conversations,” would consider themselves to be a part of this Christ-ordained organization, of which Jesus is the head.

Oh, and the quote above? It’s from Religion in America (first edition) by Winthrop S. Hudson and written about a nineteenth century Yale graduate and Congregational church pastor named Horace Bushnell. Nothing new under the sun, the writer of Ecclesiastes said. Oh. Right. That would be God.

That which has been is that which will be, And that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun.
– Ecc. 1:9

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