By Gregory Reid
It was, of course, inevitable that the Emergent Church would begin to have babies that were even more unbiblical than itself. Andy Stanley is one of those spiritual offspring of a departure from biblical faith and adoption by experiential religious deception. In 2016, he told a group of pastors at the Southern Baptist Convention that they needed to get the spotlight off the Bible (August 2016 “Onward” conference). Now his spiritual “children” are following suit.
Sometimes, I just get a gut feeling about something before I know exactly what is wrong with it. Such has been my experience on a new newsfeed called, “Hello Christian” which sounds so spiritual but is basically clickbait with increasingly poisonous spiritual bait articles. I’ve commented on some, ignored others. But this recently, I received one of their e-mails with an article I just couldn’t let pass.
You see, the Bible means everything to me. I was taken out of the occult and the New Age at the very young age of 15 when I had already been studying – and had been brainwashed by – those worlds since I was about 8. One of the consistent features of those worlds was the denigration of or commonizing of the Bible as if it was man-made, as if it was just like any other religious book. It was a damnable lie, one that nearly sent me to an eternal hell.
So, when I came to Jesus, the first thing God had to do was to deliver me from that spiritual madness, that utter nonsense dispensed by demons who hated and despised every word of the holy Scriptures. And after that was done, I began to devour every single word of it like a man who was starving to death. It healed me. It delivered me. It restored my sanity.
And yes, I became one of “those guys.” God said it; I believe it; that settles it.
In fact, I almost quoted that very sturdy old phrase last week while speaking at a church and trying to tell people why the Jesus movement of the 1960s-1970s was so powerful. It was owed in part to a bunch of innocent hippie kids getting saved, picking up the Bible, and daring to say, “I believe every word of this book, and I am going to live it!” And thus, the Holy Spirit had a generation of people who would carry His Word to their generation in power and authority.
It’s been a slow, slick slide down Emergent Road since then, and now all the little compromises in the church, all the seeker-friendly doors we’ve opened to welcome the world and its ways into our midst, all the strange fires we have begun to place on God’s Holy altar are revealing themselves—becoming bolder all the time because no one is manning the outposts anymore. The watchmen are asleep, and the pastors have been seduced by worldly ways and promises of empires and prosperous ease in the name of ministry.
So, I suppose I was not terribly shocked to read in the article I received by John Pavlovitz an attack on the very phrase I just mentioned.
The article was titled, “Why the Bible Shouldn’t Be Worshipped.”
I want to reiterate one thing and clearly proclaim another before I go any further. I want to reemphasize that the denigrating, humanizing, and commonizing of the Scriptures has always been a favorite faith destroyer of the demonic world and every false religion. Whenever you hear people saying things like (and I have heard it for years, so Mr. Pavlovitz is not original) “You shouldn’t worship the Bible,” I point out that (1) I don’t, and that (2) God thinks so highly of His Word that He says He places His Word above all His Name (Psalm 138:2). I would guess if the Creator of all things places His own Word in such high regard, we probably shouldn’t spend our feeble and misled efforts trying to get others to “get the spotlight” off it.
Pavlovitz (a pastor and author) has entered the scene to write a vague, confusing article that is sure to reassure the emergent crowd that the Bible is something to be discussed, to be unsure of, and to be generally devalued lest we “worship it.” After all, Pavlovitz reminds us, the Bible is our “mysterious ancient text.” Pavlovitz appears to be the spiritual progeny of off-the-reservation apostate Rob Bell, who helped begin this “journey” by getting us to “have a conversation” about the “shared, ancient stories of our ancient ancestors.” (As if that negates its content somehow; you know, if we can kind of imagine a group of neanderthals sitting around a fire saying, “Ug, Grog, me think God real,” then we can interpret their ancient neanderthal-like writings through our more enlightened luciferian minds. Um . . . I meant learned minds.)
As to one of my favorite expressions, “God said it, I believe it, that settles it,” Pavlovitz says:
[I]t’s an odd little religious mantra [funny how phrases like “odd little” help devalue the claim of the statement] that perfectly captures the strange, often paradoxical relationship we modern Christians have with our mysterious ancient text.
Perhaps if Pavlovitz encountered the Jesus of the Word, His Word would not seem strange and often paradoxical. Disclaimer: I don’t understand it all. I likely never will in this life. I, however, would never attempt to denigrate the findings of nuclear physicists because they are “strange and paradoxical.”
“Many of us have made The Bible the central pillar of our faith,” Pavlovitz continues,” while not really knowing what it actually says. (especially not the earlier, weirder stuff.)”
He then goes on to say that we claim without question that it is “filled with the words
At this point, I must say to Mr. Pavlovitz: Stop with the allusions to earlier weirder stuff that you use to sound cool and mysterious and like you know something we don’t because you are superior in your understanding and shouldn’t have to explain what you mean (similar to Leonard Sweet’s “more magnificent way”). The only mysterious thing here is what you are saying. And I have no interest to understand you because I know where you’re taking us, and I’ve been there and done that—
You insist that the Bible “is an incredibly complex library of writings, culled from thousands of years and multiple, very human writers.” Yet the Scriptures themselves tell us that “all scripture is given by inspiration of God [God-breathed] and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16) and that “knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:20-21). That doesn’t sound like it was merely, as you implied, a product of “very human writers.” It was so much more than that. Don’t you see, you have attempted to lower it to the level of your “very carnal understanding.”
“[F]inding the irreducible core and practical application of any given passage,” you insist, “is a monumental challenge.” To this I must respond with . . . Really? “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” How complex is that? I think Pavlovitz has missed the part about if you’re going to enter the Kingdom, you must be as a little child—not a seminary-trained mouthpiece for higher and lower criticism.
“Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” It’s simple, really.
What those like Pavlovitz are trying to do is convince people not to take the Bible that seriously because it’s too hard to understand. As I recall, that’s what Catholic priests have told their people, that they shouldn’t read it because it’s just too mysterious and complex and only they can interpret it.
Pavlovitz says that rather than admit and wrestle with the obvious challenges we face in historical context writing style and author intent, too many of us simply hide behind some incendiary, line-drawing, black and white, all or nothing rhetoric. We either believe it or we don’t. Well, Mr. Pavlovitz, I am guilty as charged. Except it has nothing to do with writing style or author intent (there he goes again, ascribing human frailties to the Bible so we won’t take it that seriously.)
I’m sorry that the Bible is so vague to the emergents, but I would suggest it is they who are hiding behind the shadows of their own illusions that the Bible is vague, human written, and allows all the compromises that a book with no absolutes would afford someone.
Pavlovitz says that for “so many believers,” the Bible has become a fourth addition to the Trinity, something to be blindly worshipped. This is absurd! I have been a believer for almost 50 years and have never met these many believers nor have I ever seen anyone “blindly worship” the Bible. Revere, love, count on, act on, stake their lives on, yes. But never worship. That’s just a silly and nonexistent scenario.
Pavlovitz also claims that for the earliest believers, it was simply essential reading material on the way to the Promised Land. Well, they had far more respect for the Torah than these emergents certainly do. Jesus quoted it constantly. And He didn’t say, “Let’s discuss this . . . . see what we think it might mean, see if we can come to some kind of consensus.” And as to His own words, He said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Matthew 24:35).
Pavlovitz carefully preps his readers for the grand finale and the raison d’etre of his article by saying things like, “we don’t all agree on what it says or what it is and that’s okay” (spoken like a true Freudian 70s renaissance man – ‘I’m OK, you’re OK, and that’s OK!’) and, “[the Bible] is not, as we so often mischaracterize it, ‘the Word of God.’ Jesus is.” Um, yes, He is, but yes, IT is. READ.THE.BOOK. Specifically, Pavlovitz and other Word-rejecting Emergents might start with Psalm 119 which tells us exactly that. The Word of God is a lamp, is a light, etc. One can say Jesus is the Word but it is simply not biblical truth to say the Bible is not the Word of God, which is what Pavlovitz finally was bold enough to say. The Scriptures have always, and will always, testify to themselves.
It took Rob Bell hundreds of pages in Velvet Elvis to finally out with it. Pavlovitz came more quickly to the point in saying:
So says every false prophet in history. I am glad for this: At least, Pavlovitz finally came out with it: The Bible is whatever you think it is, and whatever else you “hear” or “feel” is also God’s Word. And this is how a generation opens itself up to signs and lying wonders, and eventually, the one coming who will deceive the whole world.
I do not understand all of the Scriptures. And I do not think it is right that people argue over small differences to the point of almost violence. But the problem has never been with God or His Word but rather with our pride, our human flesh. The Word itself stands on its own.
I will say again without any hesitation: God said It, I believe it, that settles it.
To all the Pavlovitzes, Bells, Sweets, and Stanleys, I will reiterate: the Scriptures say of God, “Thou hast magnified Thy Word above all thy name.” That’s as clear as it gets. Take it or leave it. You either believe it, as you say, or you don’t.
In this last day of abounding lies, may God give us the discernment to reject such hell-forged theses as have been presented by these so-called “progressive,” New Spirituality, emerging Christians and to hold firmly to the truth of His Holy Word, whose AUTHOR is the object of our worship.
(photo from bigstockphoto.com; used with permission)