Many emergent leaders therefore distance themselves from the concepts of “certainty” and “truth,” ostensibly as a motion of humility. “Certainty, for the emergent church, is the same as pinning down Jesus and summing up God, while uncertainty is a breath of fresh air” (Why We’re Not Emergent, 39). A false dichotomy is put in place: “You must know something omnisciently in order to know something truly” (Why We’re Not Emergent, 41). D. A. Carson shows how this thought process is self-refuting: “If the postmodern theologian knows that such certainty is impossible, he or she must know it certainly. But that means certain knowledge is possible after all” (Christ and Culture Revisited, 107).
The convergence of emergent opinion in light of these developments has led to the abandonment of orthodoxy as a governing body of doctrine established by the Bible. Orthopraxy is insisted to be a better term, as there are only practices that have been established throughout church history; dogmatic assertions of truth regarding God cannot be the Christian spiritual inheritance, many emergents say. There is detected the old push away from devotional analysis of special revelation to embrace instead experience as the guiding force for our lives. The experience of Jesus and the experience of worship will form the interpretative grid for all of our further experiences. This descends into a subjective spiral in which the authority becomes the individual and not an objective starting principle. Renee Descartes famously articulated the new beginning point of Western thought, cogito ergo sum: “I think, therefore I am.” In this formulation was the codifying of our natural, sinful inclination to establish ourselves as the authority governing our lives. In this we see the move away from a God-centered vision of reality and a descent into a self-centered universe where my thoughts and experiences form the ligaments of my worldview. Without an authority to measure my thoughts against, I have not advanced one iota- I have confined myself to the enslavement of my own experience. Without an external and dependable interpretative framework, our experiences dominate our understanding. Conversely, interpretation without external controls cannot yield truth. Unaided human reason cannot arrive at any legitimate, logical conclusion reflecting reality without an external reality or without a guide to funnel and direct the flows of our reason. When seen for what it truly is, this sort of thinking is in fact inconceivably arrogant in treating the human mind as a source of knowledge rather than as a channel for knowledge.
In a way, a person who professes Christianity but abandons the historically inherited, exegetically derived propositions regarding God, man, sin, and the like that we find in the Bible is sort of like me saying that I work at Menard’s. Mind you, I work at Blain’s Farm and Fleet* in our glorious Hardware department. But imagine if you will that I tell you that I work the opening shift at Super Menard’s in the Hardware section, but I’m wearing a red Farm and Fleet workshirt, I’m parked in the Farm and Fleet parking lot, and I’m punching in my time card at Farm and Fleet at 4:00 p.m. right before I collect my check signed by Mr. Blain himself. Sure, I told you I’m a Menard’s employee- but the data doesn’t support that at all. Likewise, the emergent claim that relaxing a hold upon biblical propositions frees one to grow closer to God doesn’t make any sense!
Sacrificing what is specific in Scripture is not equal to an enlarged view of God or to freeing Him from some confined, cramped box. The enlarged view of God stems from humbly accepting the whole counsel of God we find throughout His self-disclosure, the Bible, and humbly acknowledging our inability to capture the entirety of His being within our puny intellects. Affirm what He has revealed of His character, will, and works, and love it! But accept likewise that His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8). Live, think and speak in accordance with all that God has disclosed and accept that the secret things belong to Him (Deuteronomy 29:29). D. A. Carson’s words I think form an apt summation of where we go from here:
“So which shall we choose? Experience or truth? The left wing of an airplane, or the right? Love or integrity? Study or service? Evangelism or discipleship? The front wheels of a car, or the rear? Subjective knowledge or objective knowledge? Faith or obedience? Damn all false antitheses to hell, for they generate false gods, they perpetuate idols, they twist and distort our souls, they launch the church into violent pendulum swings whose oscillations succeed only in dividing brothers and sisters in Christ. The truth is that Jesus Christ is Lord of all—of the truth and of our experience. The Bible insists that we take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ” (Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church, 234).
*And you should all go there for your hardware needs!