Reforming or Conforming?
- Thursday, November 06, 2008
Now kindly note this strange fact. The Auburn Affirmation states that to believe the Bible is true impairs its authority and weakens the testimony of the Church. Or, in other words, in order for the Bible to be authoritative, it must contain error; and, no doubt, the more erroneous it is, the more authoritative it can be.
But what does the Confession say? In Chapter I, Section 4, you may read: “The authority of the Holy Scriptures, for which it ought to be believed and obeyed, dependeth—wholly upon God (who is truth itself) the author thereof; and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God.”
Study also Chapter XIV, Section 2. “By this (saving) faith, a Christian believeth to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God Himself speaking therein. . . .”
The Auburn Affirmation says it is wrong and harmful to believe true whatsoever is revealed. Thus the signers of the Auburn Affirmation are seen to be antagonistic to the very basis of Christian faith. In denying the truth of the Bible, they repudiate their own Confession, and so have no rightful place in the Presbyterian ministry. Do they perchance reply that they agree with the Confession that the Scriptures are the Word of God, and that they deny only that the Scriptures are inerrant? God forbid that they make that reply. For if they say that they believe the Bible is the Word of God, and at the same time claim that the Bible contains error, it follows, does it not, that they call God a liar, since He has spoken falsely? Either they have openly repudiated the Confession or else they have called God a liar. In either case they have no rightful place in the Presbyterian ministry.30
Under the guise of our postmodern context, post-conservatives are moving in the same direction as Schleiermacher and Briggs. Despite their protests to the contrary, they have already begun to go down this same path. There is such a thing as unintended consequences. The more things change, the more they stay the same, or to quote that great Yankee philosopher, Yogi Berra, “It’s like déjà vu all over again.”
1. Carl Raschle, The Next Reformation: Why Evangelicals Must Embrace Postmodernity (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004), 1. Perhaps more difficult to define than “postmodern” is the equally confusing term “evangelical.” I discuss this in my chapter, “The Reformation, Today’s Evangelicals, and Mormons” in G. L. W. Johnson and Guy P. Waters, ed., By Faith Alone: Answering the Challenges to the Doctrine of Justification (Wheaton, IL.: Crossway, 2006).
2. Sinclair Ferguson in Justified in Christ, ed. K. Scott Oliphint (Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2007), 1X.
3. Cf. Roger Olson, Reformed and Always Reforming: The Postconservative Approach to Evangelical Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007). Olson repeatedly denies that there is any valid correlation, but does reluctantly concede that a formal similarity exists, but it is purely coincidental (62).
4. Nicola Hoggard Creegan, “Schleiermacher as Apologist: Reclaiming the Father of Modern Theology” in Christian Apologetics in the Postmodern World, ed. T. R. Phillips and D. L. Okholm (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995), 59–74.
5. B. A. Gerrish, “The New Evangelical Theology and the Old: An Opportunity for the Next Century?” as cited in Reclaiming the Center: Confronting Evangelical Accommodation in Postmodern Times, ed. M. J. Erickson, P. K. Helseth, and J. Taylor (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004), 240n101.
6. German for “no.” As cited by Mark R. Patterson, “Nein! A Response to Progressives,” Theology Matters 13, no. 2 (2007): 2 (emphasis added). Originally published as Nein! Antwort an Emil Brunner (Zurich: #eologischer Verlag, 1935). An English translation of Brunner’s work and Barth’s response may be found in Emil Brunner and Karl Barth, trans. Peter Fraenkel, with introduction by John Baillie, “Natural Theology: Comprising ‘Nature and Grace’ by Professor Dr. Emil Brunner and the Reply ‘No!’ by Dr. Karl Barth” (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2002).
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