ICYMI (that’s “In Case You Missed It” for those of you who are not millennials or otherwise well-versed in the ways millennials express themselves via texting and social media): Andy Stanley preached a provocative sermon and Albert Mohler was all over it like white on rice.
This isn’t the first time Stanley has gotten crosswise with Mohler. A couple of years back, Stanley preached another provocative sermon which attracted the ire of Mohler because he failed to avail himself of an opportunity to denounce homosexuality as sin strongly enough to suit Mohler’s tastes.
As noted earlier, this exposes one of evangelicalism’s deepest flaws: a view of the inspiration of Scripture which is much more at home in Islam or Mormonism than anything remotely resembling Christianity. In contrast to the Koran, which was dictated word-for-word to the prophet Muhammad as he lay in a trance, or the Book of Mormon, which was brought to Joseph Smith by an angel on golden tablets, the Bible is a very human book written over several centuries by several authors from several different places and cultures which is held together by one unifying theme: Jesus Christ is Lord. He came to earth, died on a cross, rose from the dead, and he is coming again at the end of the age.
Yet evangelicalism insists to its dying breath that the Bible is much more than that. It was not enough for God to simply point the biblical writers to the unifying theme of Christ’s lordship, death, resurrection and coming kingdom. Instead God guided–even micromanaged–the delivery of the Bible via its human authors in a manner akin to placing Muhammad in a trance and dictating to him or bringing perfectly-formed golden tablets to Joseph Smith, to the point where it contains, buried deep within, a perfectly fine-tuned system of theology and it is our job to dig it out and defend it at all possible cost.
God gave us the Bible–all of it. You are not God and you are not greater than God, so how dare you think that you can pick and choose which parts of the Bible are inspired and authoritative, and which are not. Don’t like that way of looking at things? Then it’s unmitigated theological liberalism with Schleiermacher and all the devils of hell. Those are the only two options on the table here, or so Mohler would like us to believe.
In the wake of the Enlightenment, Schleiermacher understood that the intellectual elites in Germany were already turning a skeptical eye to Christianity, if not dismissing it altogether. The Enlightenment worldview was hostile to supernatural claims, suspicious of any claims to absolute truth beyond empirical science, and dismissive of any verbal form of divine revelation.
No problem, Schleiermacher responded — we can still salvage spiritual and moral value out of Christianity while jettisoning its troublesome doctrinal claims, supernatural structure, and dependence upon the Bible. He was certain that his strategy would “save” Christianity from irrelevance.
His ambition, in other words, was apologetic at its core — to defend Christianity against claims of its eclipse. The formula offered by theological liberals is the same now. Save what you can of Christianity by surrendering truth claims. Acknowledge the inevitable hostility that these doctrines face in the modern age and adjust the faith accordingly. No theological liberal declares himself the enemy of Christianity. To the contrary, he offers liberalism as the only means of avoiding Christianity’s demise in a secular age.
Of course, the “Christianity” that remains after this doctrinal surgery bears little resemblance to biblical Christianity and, as Scripture makes abundantly clear, it cannot save.
Jesus is the center of our Christian faith, yet everything we know of Him comes to us from the accounts in the Bible. Thus it is tempting to argue that the Bible is coequal with Jesus as the center of our faith because without it we have no reliable or trustworthy knowledge of Jesus; if the Bible is unreliable in any part then so is our knowledge of Jesus. But that is like arguing that your best friend does not exist because you looked up his/her birth certificate online and found some discrepancies, or worse, did not find it at all–when said friend is standing right there in front of your very face.
Did the Bible come down from heaven? Was the Bible conceived and born of a virgin by the power of the Holy Spirit? Was the Bible crucified for our sins on a Roman cross? Did the Bible rise from the dead on the third day? Did the Bible ascend into heaven and sit at the right hand of the Father? Is the Bible coming again in glory to judge the living and the dead and to rule a kingdom that will have no end?
No, people. No, no, no, no, no, and no. The Bible exists to point us to Jesus Christ, who did all of the above and more.
So don’t be taken in by Mohler’s arguments that it is a perfectly inerrant Bible in all its parts or unmitigated theological liberalism with Schleiermacher and all the devils of hell. Jesus Christ is the center of our faith, and the Bible exists to point us to Him.