God, Revelation & Authority Volume 1, Chapter 1

Posted: January 13, 2011 in Uncategorized

No fact of contemporary western life is more evident that its growing distrust of final truth and its implacable questioning of any sure word.” Carl F.H. Henry

As part of the Emergent Church movement in the late ’90’s, I can see now that a person could have walked into a gathering and surmised that the young pastors believed they had discovered postmodernism and its deep distrust of truth claims.  Yet, Dr. Henry wrote the quote above more than twenty years before Brian McLaren and others were trumpeting the seismic shift they believed was about to take place in theology thanks to the onset of postmodern philosophy. 

Dr. Henry writes that there have always been serious philosophical threats to the faith.  It was no easier for pre-modern to believe than it is for postmoderns to have faith.  Satan is apparently a serious thinker and a crafty strategist. According to chapter 1 of the 1st volume of God, Revelation and Authority, the competing force to the Gospel utilized by Satan at that time was the mass media.

Henry points out that the mass media makes a false claim to objectivity when in reality they choose what to show and how to show it.  They claim a godlike stance to report truth.  So, we look to the media for guidance instead of divine revelation. 

The media also reports “facts” instantly from around the world.  We have come to expect truth quickly.  So, wisdom contained in ancient words seem stale and irrelevant even though it calls every person to a decision here and now!

Henry insists that science, while not a true obstacle to the faith in-and-of-itself, is venerated as a savior rather than a tool with the media often serving as its priest.  Yet, science is not the only religion the mass media proclaims–shallow materialism is another savior it offers to the public.  We were and are bombarded with images telling us that we can be happy if we look a certain way. 

The media also relegates divine revelation to the periphery, which is in truth a value judgment in-and-of-itself.  Henry writes that the media discusses “serious issues” dealing with foreign or domestic policy ad nauseam but barely ever mentions theological issues.  The message sent to the masses is that the things of God are simply not as important as “real issues” if they are important at all.

Yet, the venerated mass media has left us unsatisfied and as a result we are distrustful of any truth claims.  So, just when the “truth of truths” is most needed, there is a deep suspicion of “truth.”  

Moreover, enlightenment liberalism’s infection of Christianity has rendered the church not mute but unintelligible.  The “message” of Christianity is not clear enough to cut through the fog of dissatisfaction and distrust.  The faith once and for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3) is now a “paradox” that is debated by academics at sparsely attended conferences where many scholars use words to decry the ability of words to communicate! 

Yet, as Henry contends, “Judea-Christian religion centers supremely in the living God self-disclosed in his Word, and this biblically attested Word is communicated intelligibly in meaningful sentences.”  Henry goes on to write, “The claim of Jesus of Nazareth to know and proclaim the Word and teaching of God is nonsense if words are inherently distortive and deceptive. The delusiveness of the verbal would reduce his claims to chicanery: “The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works” (John 14:10, kjv); “He that is of God heareth God’s words” (John 8:47, kjv). Jesus’ reminder that “Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35, kjv) should reassure evangelicals that not even the most powerful technology can dissolve or destroy the force of the prophetic-apostolic Word.”

In the end, Henry was not “anti-media” for he believed it is a valuable tool for proclaiming the Word of God and proclaim it we must in clear and coherent sentences that are firmly anchored in the faith once and for all delivered to saints.  Moreover, by doing so we can redeem words like “holy,” love,” “good,” “free” and “true.”  Like Hosea rescuing Gomer from prostitution, we can fill these words with the power God intended by reclaiming them from the cheap way they have been abused by the mass media.

Henry argues that by redeeming these words we not only sharpen our preaching of the Word but help rescue the cultural drift toward a pervasive feeling of meaninglessness.

I will end today’s discussion with Henry’s own words that conclude chapter 1:

The evangelical aim is to restore the wayward vocabulary of modern man to the clarity and vitality of the Word of God. The living God is the God who speaks for himself and shows himself. That God the Creator and Redeemer addresses good news to man in a verbally intelligible way and that the invisible Lord has become enfleshed and visible are emphases found conjoined in Christianity alone; to reborn modern men they are still more fascinating and rewarding than the technocratic marvels of our time.

If the church is to evangelize a world of four billion people, she must recover a theology abreast of divine invasion. This earth has indeed been invaded—from outside its own being, outside its own resources, outside its own possibilities; it has been and, moreover, continues to be invaded by the transcendent Logos made known in divine revelation. In this mass media age, the church’s main mission is to overcome the eclipse of God. It must engage earnestly at the frontiers of human news and persuasion to uncover the currently obscured Word and truth of God. It must enlist technocratic means themselves so that listening and viewing multitudes may hear the echoing voice of the incarnate Logos. It must lift impoverished multitudes to the renewing grace of God and must place our scientific culture itself into the strategic service of the universal and unrelenting claims of the Lord of the Cosmos.
I am travelling this week from Texas but hopefully we will hit Chapter 2 tomorrow.  As you can surmise by now, my goal is summarize Henry’s argument in my own words with occasionally critical analysis.  My summary and analysis is certainly prone to error, so, if you are reading along then please let me know if and when you disagree via comment.  As long as you are polite, I have no qualms about opening the blog to discussion.
Until next time, grace and peace.

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