The first to plead his case seems right, Until another comes and examines him. (Proverbs 18:17, NASB)
We Can Be Protestant Evangelicals Not Believing What Protestant Evangelicals Believe
Apprising Ministries has asserted all along that at its rotten root the postliberal cult of the egregiously ecumenical Emerging Church aka Emergent Church—morphing into Emergence Christianity—(EC) is an attack upon Sola Scriptura. For it to advance its core doctrine of highly subjective Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism (CSM) ala Living Spiritual Teacher and Quaker mystic Richard Foster, which is actually a centered on the self existentialism, the EC would have to furst kick out the final authority of the Bible.
Looking back, perhaps the ECs first frontal assault on the all-suffiency of Holy Scripture was very subtly launched by Rob Bell, who’s quite literally, the Elvis of Emergence. Bell, an open practitioner of this spurious CSM, has right now even made inroads into mainstream evangelicalism and—with more young evangelicals than you realize—it’s essentially become: Rob Bell said it; I believe it, and that settles it. If you don’t happen to think so, just write something critical of Bell, and you’ll no doubt learn this truth post haste.
In his first book Velvet Elvis Rob Bell mused:
This is part of the problem with continually insisting that one of the absolutes of the Christian faith must be a belief that “Scripture alone” is our guide. It sounds nice, but it is not true. In reaction to abuses by the church, a group of believers during a time called the Reformation claimed that we only need the authority of the Bible.
But the problem is that we got the Bible from the church voting on what the Bible even is… When people say that all we need is the Bible, it is simply not true. (067, 068)
At first hearing this case seems right; but, in the AM post Rob Bell Says Sayounara Sola Scriptura you’ll see Bob DeWaay set the record straight from his Critical Issues Commentary article Rob Bell’s Abstract “Elvis”: A Critique of Velvet Elvis. Pastor DeWaay brings out:
Bell claims that people in church history (he gives Luther as an example) were involved in “rethinking.” I don’t deny that. But when he says that we have no objective means to determine whether Luther’s teachings or those of the Council of Trent are in closer agreement with the teachings revealed once for all in the Bible—there I strongly disagree. In fact Bell rejects “Scripture alone” on principle [in the quote cited above]…
He thereby takes the same position that the Roman Catholic Church took against the Reformers: That since the Church (guided by the Holy Spirit) gave us the Bible, the Church (guided by the Holy Spirit) is authoritative over the Bible. Bell’s version simply expands that idea beyond Rome to any Christian group anywhere struggling with the meaning of the Bible. Rather than to rely on a grammatical/historical approach to determine the author’s meaning, he trusts that in some manner the Holy Spirit is “enlightening us.” (Online source)
For our purposes here we will leave this, for now, by making the following points: 1) The EC quite specifically denies Sola Scriptura; 2) their teachings, which are essentially a neo-Gnosticism, certainly do not belong within mainstream Protestant evangelicalism, and 3) the main EC argument advanced against Sola Scriptura, as evidenced by Rob Bell above, has completely reversed what actually happened concerning the canon of the New Testament.
So now James McGoldrick, professor of Church History at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, will give us the proper position below from his 2006 book Christianity and its Competitors: The New Faces of Old Heresy concerning this most critical issue of our lifetime:
Critics of the Protestant doctrine of sola Scriptura often argue against it on the basis of their belief that the Bible is the child of the church. This is a serious error, for no action of the church at any point in time made any document Holy Scripture. The church was the recipient, not the validator, of the Bible. There was never a time the Christian Church did not possess a Bible and resort to it as the Word of God. The church depended at first upon the Old Testament, the canon of which had been fixed before the birth of Christ.
After the Savior’s ascension into heaven, inspired authors wrote the New Testament. Although these writers became leaders of the church, the divine inspiration by which they composed their books occurred before they presented them to the church. There could be no church without the Word of God, to which the church must render obedience and to which it must conform its beliefs and practices. The church is not superior to Scripture but must submit to the written Word.
Opponents of sola Scriptura frequently insist that the church exerted decisive authority in selecting the books which became the New Testament. They point to the actions of ancient synods and councils which issued lists of inspired writings. These ecclesiastical assemblies, however, only recognized the books in question as Scripture; they did not make them Scripture.
The Holy Spirit inspired the writing of the New Testament documents, and his inspiration alone made them canonical Scripture. John Calvin spoke of this matter with precision when he wrote:
It is utterly vain . . . to pretend that the power of judging Scripture so lies with the church that its certainty depends upon church assent. Thus, while the church receives and gives its approval to the Scriptures, it does not thereby render authentic what is otherwise doubtful or controversial. But because the church recognizes Scripture to be the truth of its own God, as a pious duty it unhesitatingly venerates Scripture. (172, 173)