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Knowing that I Know

Today I had the opportunity to go over to Thistledown Baptist Church and see Paul Martin present a paper on the Emergent Church. It was extremely well articulated, fair, humble and an overall well done paper of what the emergent church portrays about themselves and how we should react to it. He is posting his entire paper up on the internet in sections, hoping that people will interact with him and help focus his paper better, check it out and get involved if you can.

I was challenged in a number of ways and made to think a lot about the weaknesses of the Emergent Movement. I don’t think I have ever claimed to be Emergent, or part of the emerging church movement. But I guess when you look at it that way, everyone in the movement looks at it that way. I think by their standards there is actually no one that is in the emergent church. I’ve been labelled ’emergent’ or ‘postmodern’ by many people, though usually its people that here a term and don’t know what to call me so they tack it on me. Either way though, I agree and admit that I’m especially sympathetic with and I have done quite a bit of reading within that type of literature from those authors. I’m even in the process of planting what many would call an emergent church, though I’d prefer to call it biblical. There are a number of things that trouble me about the emergent church, but there are many things that resonate so deeply with me that it’s hard to just shrug it off as a movement that will soon pass away.

However, there is this unsettling concept within the movement that might be doing me more harm than good. If there is one thing that Emergent prides themselves in it is their ability to encapsulate so much good out of everything. They can look at almost every denomination and different religion and see the good in it. Brian McLaren is notorious for this in his book A Generous Orthodoxy where he spends every single chapter going through every stream of Christianity and pointing out the things that we should keep and the things that we should lose. There is also this underlying notion that we should question everything. Don’t just believe something because you’ve been cultured to think a certain way or someone from a place of authority says it. Strikingly similar to types of philosophical thinking styles such as skepticism.

I’ve posted on this before, but I think I need to say it again as it was sort of re-flung at me today at the paper presentation. In many ways, ‘not knowing’ the answers has been an amazing motivation for me for a lot of my reading and research in the past three or four years. Because I didn’t want to just believe in the doctrines passed down to me about the bible I had to dive into it and study it for myself. I am grateful for that. Now though I’m stuck, I’ve read numerous books on the subject, from all sides of the spectrum. I know I’m far from saying I’m a scholar in it by any means. But do I really need to be a scholar in the subject to ‘know’ something. As it stands now, I wouldn’t be able to give you a statement of faith on my views on a lot of things. I would be more apt to say I understand the arguments of both sides, I don’t believe this and this, but to actually pin down to one thing that I believe feels like a far away accomplishment.

The things that I do know, for absolute certain, I would be unable to give you a logical and complete answer to as why I know them. For instance, I know that I exist. I know that God exists. I know that Jesus was sent by God, is God and that he was an actual historical figure. I know that I’m part of the Kingdom of God and have a role in that process. I know that loving people seems to be the only way to have real relationships with people that actually make sense. I know all kinds of things. If you asked me to prove it, I would have a hard time doing that. Many of my beliefs come from the bible, because without it those beliefs would have come from nowhere, but at the same time there is something else that convinces me that assures me that I am on the right path. I can’t say I am bible alone, or sola scripture, because I know that there is something else involved in everything else that is going on in my head to come to decisions.

I do know however, that it can be dangerous to go down a skeptics path and ‘not know anything.’ I am weary about any movement or person who tells me that I do not have the ability to know things for certain. Despite the cultural upbringings and the millions of things that influence everything in my life, there are still things that I know, and I know them for certain.

4 Comments

  • Ahhhhhh my friend it is really good to hear you say some of the things I read above. I’ll pray for you that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him. And yes I stole that from Paul. It was good to meet you yesterday!

  • Nathan,
    One of the things that has bothered me as I have sought to understand emergent stuff is the implication that ignorance/doubt/uncertainty .. is a virtue. This one posting of yours has helped me see that at least one person who has been labelled emergent does not subscribe to that. Thank you for this posting.
    There is an openness about you that is very refreshing and your writing does not reflect the anger that I have found elsewhere.
    Pursue to know.
    It was good to meet you yesterday.
    Your sola scriptura friend,
    Ken

  • Nathan:

    You’ve got some great thoughts.

    I think it was Don Carson of all people who talks about knowing truly without knowing completely. There are lots of things I know but not because I have perfect knowledge, that’s for sure.

    Maybe we’re being called to put less trust in our theological systems, which are fallible, and more trust in Scripture and in God.

    I am really glad to get to know you, by the way.

  • Here’s something from Acts (17:11) that I keep reminding myself.

    “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”

    So keep questioning AND searching – always put the 2 together. If all you do is question then you won’t learn anything and if all you do is search than how do you know what you’re looking for.

    Hope this is encouraging or maybe it’s just some random spew on my part.

    Anyways – I like reading your blog. Thanks.

    DAWN

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