Can we know God apart from His Word?

As I continue reading "Why We're Not Emergent (By Two Guys Who Should Be)", another key issue of the emergent movement jumps out: How they view the Bible. I have heard many people argue for and against the validity of Scripture, but for the most part Christians view the Bible as a book given to us from God. The trend amongst emergent believers takes a detour upon that route.

Essentially, those in the emergent movement believe that although the Bible is an important book, it's not essential for knowing God. Evangelicals, they say, have been guilty of "bible idolatry", the worship of the Bible and not the God that the Bible describes. On the other hand, they eschew propositional theology (that is, they don't get caught up in all of the doctrines) in favor of having an ongoing conversation within the Christian community so that they can piece together the fragments of what they know about God. The Bible is thought of as becoming rather than actually being the word of God.

So how can we know what to believe? According to DeYoung, one of the authors, "we end up with functional authority for the Bible that is dependent upon the community rather than intrinsic authority that is based on God having spoken" (pg.80). In other words, you decide.

How dangerous is that? After all, pretty much most of what we believe about God and almost all that we know about Jesus comes from the Bible. How can we make decisions about our Lord and Savior if we don't fully trust the text in which He is most fully revealed?

The emergent answer would be something like this: We have no idea what the intent of the original authors of the books of the Bible actually were. Therefore, the Bible is "open-ended" and "all we can do is tell people what we think the Bible means - give them our version" (pg. 82, which is a quote from Rob Bell in Velvet Elvis). The real meaning of the Bible lies with God, not in my interpretation of what the text says.

But what exactly does that mean? We all interpret pretty much everything that we have an interest in, don't we? Does that mean that there is no interpretation that is right, or that every interpretation is right?

Maybe it's the frustration with all of the warped interpretations that have been presented over the years that have led to this view of Scripture. After all, who hasn't wanted to throw a brick at the television as you listen to some arrogant preacher who somehow gets airtime butcher the word of God to fit his own agenda? But is this any reason to throw away that idea that God has spoken to us and we can know what He says?

Don't get me wrong, those in the emergent movement love the Bible, but they are just ambiguous as to what they believe about it. Yet we find the words of Jesus to be very direct and unambiguous: "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." "I assure you: Anyone who hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not come under judgment but has passed from death to life." These are not open-ended statements by Jesus. They point us to truth, which is knowable and obtainable. While we all must be careful not to make the Bible say for us what it doesn't say, we must also allow the Bible to speak clearly for it is the very Word of God.

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