[Continued from Emergianity]
How to Never Say Anything
After thoroughly dismantling the linguistic theories of the prominent analytical philosophers and liberal theologians of his day by exposing how logically inconsistent with themselves these theories were, philosopher Gordon H. Clark wrote:
There is indeed a way for these people to avoid logical difficulties, paradox, and analogy. To quote one of them: ‘It is possible to lead a religious life without discussing it or verbalizing very much about it. ‘ If a person never says anything, he obviously does not flounder in fallacious implications. No one can refute him, for he says nothing to refute. What one can truly say of him, however, is that he is not a Christian, for Christ commanded His followers to make disciples, ‘Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever that I have commanded you’ (Matthew 28:20). Christians must “verbalize” (to use contemporary gobbledygook).
The kind of linguistic philosophies with which Clark dealt grew out of a foundational empirical epistemology that attempted to eradicate metaphysics from language, and thereby eliminate the stubborn problems of metaphysics that philosophy had still not even moved an inch closer to solving, in spite of having over 2,000 years to hash them out. On the one hand, the analytical philosophers (e.g. A.J. Ayer, Bertrand Russell, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Rudolph Carnap, etc) considered metaphysical language to be completely nonsensical since it has, as far as they saw it, no objective reality to which it corresponds. On the other hand, the liberal theologians of his day, following the lead of these empiricists, similarly maintained that linguistic meaning is confined to spatio-temporal reality (e.g. matter, bodies, space, time, biological organisms, etc), but did not dismiss metaphysical and religious language altogether. Instead, they maintained that language was simply an inadequate means of signifying that which was too great to be confined to linguistic constraints, namely, God and all spiritual matters attendant thereunto.
Religious language, then, was emptied of having a single fixed meaning, since the Bible was not meant to reveal truth to us clearly via propositions. Rather, the Bible, the liberals argued, contains symbolism that points us beyond the spatio-temporal confines in which we find ourselves. Thus, at lest they believed, they saved the Word of God from the analytical philosophers who sought to make metaphysical and religious language meaningless. Yet, what they did was simply agree with their opponents by asserting that there is no objective reality to which metaphysical and religious language refer – they just changed their interpretation of what they perceived to be the case. In other words, the analytical philosophers interpreted the lack of spatio-temporal referents in religious language, at least as they saw it, as proof of the vacuousness and nonsensical nature of religious talk. Liberal theologians, on the other hand, interpreted the lack of spatio-temporal referents in religious language, at least as they saw it, as proof that God, and spiritual matters related to Him, could not be placed inside of a linguistic, propositional box.
So what does this have to do with Emergianity? Well, the fundamental tenets of the Emergent religion don’t presuppose that metaphysical and religious language are meaningless. For the Emergent, all language, and consequently concepts/doctrines expressed via the medium of language, are full of meaning. In fact, there are so many different ways that a text can be interpreted that one would be a fool to assume that any one individual or institution has a monopoly on truth. What is problematic about their assumption, however, is that it also renders language meaningless by claiming that all meaning is subjective and, therefore, relative. The modernist liberals of Gordon H. Clark’s day destroyed metaphysical and religious meaning by claiming that language lacked the capacity to adequately communicate truths about God to us; the postmodernist liberals of the Emergent religion destroy metaphysical and religious meaning by claiming that all metaphysical and religious language conveys some aspect of truth about God, thereby making all claims about God equal (in principle, that is, since they don’t consider the historical orthodox Creeds and Confessions to be either historical or orthodox), and rendering such language meaningless.
How to Deal with Emergianity?
Our original question rears its head again and asks us: Now that we know what Emergianity is, what its fundamental beliefs are, and how this system of religious thought collapses in upon itself, How do we deal with it? We expose the absurdities entailing belief in the fundamental tenets of the Emergent religion, as I’ve shown in Pt.1. By using their beliefs against their beliefs, we expose their system for what it is: Pure rebellion against God. This rebellion against God goes much deeper than their refusal to bow the knee to Jesus Christ and their antagonism toward orthodox doctrines such as the infallibility and inerrancy of the Scriptures and Penal Substitutionary Atonement – it goes to the very core of what it means to be a creature made in the image of God. In order to dismiss these doctrines, Emergents must first deny that they are creatures who are made in the image of God, creatures who have been given a priori conceptions by God, in order to know and worship Him, and must crown themselves gods. Subversion, therefore, is the necessary response to their writings/publications/etc; we must approach them in the same way that they approach Scripture: Seeking to understand the plain meaning of their words, solely for the sake of claiming that their words mean the exact opposite of what the Emergents originally intended.
[1.]The Works of Gordon Haddon Clark, Volume 5: Language and Theology, p. 246 (Trinity Foundation, 2008)
[2.]There are many contemporary atheists who parrot this view of metaphysical and religious language (e.g. George H. Smith, Dan Barker, etc). The modern atheist will expose his commitment to an empirical epistemology in such statements as: “God is made in the image of man,” “God is the projection of ancient man’s conception of the father-figure,” and so on. Attacking this presupposition, viz. that every word must have a physical correlate in order to be truly meaningful can be done by simply pointing out that if it is true that every word must have a physical referent, then it is also false, for the statement is a universal statement, and induction never leads to universals. Therefore, the statement that every word must have a physical referent is self-refuting.
[3.]Part 1 discusses these fundamental and universal beliefs of the Emergent religion.
[4.]It is important to note that this is a strawman that is often constructed by Emergents. Historic orthodox Christianity doesn’t teach that it alone possesses all truth. Emergents are either ignorant of the doctrines of general revelation and special revelation, or they are being deceptive when they characterize orthodox Christians as claiming to be the sole possessors of all truth.