If you don’t make it to church this Sunday, please take some time to read this.
postmodern dialogue – what is it?
true humility or arrogant unbelief – which is it?
If we can’t know what Scripture says, or know what it means by what it says, does that mean God is not powerful enough to communicate or not loving enough to want to communicate? In other words, do we believe God is loving enough and powerful enough to get His message across to us.
by John MacArthur
Atheists love to discredit the Bible. Those who are truly committed to their cause invest a lot of time and effort looking for confusion and contradictions in God’s Word, hoping to vindicate their unbelief. They also love to claim that there are simply too many different interpretations of Scripture to come to a clear understanding of it.
But there’s no such thing as an atheist according to God. Everyone knows that He exists. Deniers just prefer to “suppress [that] truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18). In other words, the problem is never a lack of evidence for God, but rather a consuming love of sin.
Nonetheless, atheists can have refreshing and revealing moments of transparency. Mark Twain is quoted as saying, “It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.” Twain may have been an unbeliever, but at least he had the honesty to admit it was because he didn’t like what God said—not that he didn’t believe or understand what God said.
Sadly, churches today are overrun by postmodern pseudo-Christians who could do with a good dose of Twain’s honesty. There are many who now argue Scripture is too mysterious to be delivered with conviction. Most would never come right out and deny that the Bible is the Word of God, but they say as much when they insist that no one has any right to say for sure what the Bible means.
Brian McLaren epitomizes this mentality in the introduction to his book A New Kind of Christian:
Thus “evangelical” postmodernism has transformed doubt, uncertainty, and qualms about practically every teaching of Scripture into high virtue. Strong convictions plainly stated are invariably labeled “arrogance” by those who favor postmodern dialogue.
Now, obviously, we cannot righteously be dogmatic about every peripheral belief or matter of personal preference. Virtually no one believes every opinion is worth fighting about. Scripture draws the line with ample clarity: we’re commanded to defend the faith once delivered to the saints; but we’re forbidden to pick fights with one another over secondary issues (Romans 14:1).
Some are now suggesting, however, that humility requires everyone to refrain from treating any truth as incontrovertible. Instead, we are supposed to put everything back on the table and “admit that our past and current formulations may have been limited or distorted.”  Brian McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004), 30.
This approach has been referred to by some as “a hermeneutic of humility”—as if it is inherently too prideful for any preacher to think he knows what God said about anything. Of course, such a denial of all certainty has nothing to do with true humility. It is actually an arrogant form of unbelief, rooted in an impudent refusal to acknowledge that God has been sufficiently clear in His self-revelation to His creatures. It is actually a blasphemous form of arrogance, and when it governs even how someone handles the Word of God, it becomes yet another expression of evil rebellion against Christ’s authority.
Christ has spoken in the Bible, and He holds us responsible to understand, interpret, obey, and teach what He said—as opposed to deconstructing everything the Bible says. Notice that Christ repeatedly rebuked the Pharisees for twisting Scripture, disobeying it, setting it aside with their traditions, and generally ignoring its plain meaning. Not once did He ever excuse the Pharisees’ hypocrisy and false religion by apologizing for any lack of clarity in the Old Testament.
Jesus held not only the Pharisees but also the common people responsible for knowing and understanding the Scriptures. “Have you not read . . . ?” was a common rebuke to those who challenged His teaching but did not know or understand the Scriptures as they should have (Matthew 12:3, 5; 19:4; 22:31; Mark 12:26). He addressed the disciples on the road to Emmaus as “foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe” because of their ignorance about the Old Testament’s messianic promises (Luke 24:25). The problem lay not in any lack of clarity on Scripture’s part but in their own sluggish faith.
The apostle Paul, whose writings are most under debate by scholars today, wrote virtually all his epistles for the common man, not for scholars and intellectuals. Those addressed to churches were written to predominantly Gentile churches, whose understanding of the Old Testament was limited. He nevertheless expected them to understand what he wrote (Ephesians 3:3–5), and he held them responsible for heeding his instruction (1 Timothy 3:14–15).
Paul and Christ both consistently made the case that it is every Christian’s duty to study and interpret Scripture rightly (2 Timothy 2:15). “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” (Matthew 11:15; 13:9, 16; Mark 4:9).
Protestant Christianity has always affirmed the perspicuity of Scripture. That means we believe God has spoken distinctly in His Word. Not everything in the Bible is equally clear, of course (2 Peter 3:16). But God’s Word is plain enough for the average reader to know and understand everything necessary for a saving knowledge of Christ. Scripture is also sufficiently clear to enable us to obey the Great Commission, which expressly requires us to teach others “all things” that Christ has commanded (Matthew 28:18–20).
Two thousand years of accumulated Christian scholarship has been basically consistent on all the major issues: The Bible is the authoritative Word of God, containing every spiritual truth essential to God’s glory, our salvation, faith, and eternal life. Scripture tells us that all humanity fell in Adam, and our sin is a perfect bondage from which we cannot extricate ourselves. Jesus is God incarnate, having taken on human flesh to pay the price of sin and redeem believing men and women from sin’s bondage. Salvation is by grace through faith, and not a result of any works we do. Christ is the only Savior for the whole world, and apart from faith in Him, there is no hope of redemption for any sinner. So the gospel message needs to be carried to the uttermost parts of the earth. True Christians have always been in full agreement on all those vital points of biblical truth.
As a matter of fact, the postmodernized notion that everything should be perpetually up for discussion and nothing is ever really sure or settled is a plain and simple denial of both the perspicuity of Scripture and the unanimous testimony of the people of God throughout redemptive history. In one sense, the contemporary denial of the Bible’s clarity represents a regression to medieval thinking, when the papal hierarchy insisted that the Bible is too unclear for laypeople to interpret it for themselves. (This belief led to much fierce persecution against those who worked to translate the Bible into common languages.)
In another sense, however, the postmodern denial of Scripture’s clarity is even worse than the darkness of medieval religious superstition, because postmodernism in effect says no one can reliably understand what the Bible means. Postmodernism leaves people permanently in the dark about practically everything.
That, too, is a denial of Christ’s lordship over the church. How could He exercise headship over His church if His own people could never truly know what He meant by what He said? Jesus Himself settled the question of whether His truth is sufficiently clear in John 10:27–28, when He said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.”
(Adapted from The Truth War.)