The need for Reformation in our culture is seen at every turn. The Church has turned into a version of mental and emotional burlesque performance where any appeal that is made is made upon the basis of emotions or experience or the fear that the secret rapture might happen tomorrow. With the emasculation of the Church, the rest of the culture has followed into eclipse. The family, when it is successful, has become merely a place for bed and boarding as opposed to a place for education and training. The schools continue to churn out slaves. The State keeps tending towards tyranny. The law is built upon relativistic sand. The arts produce ugliness that communicates that there is no such thing as beauty. In our economy, we continue to punish those who save and reward those who build debt. The need for Reformation in our culture is seen at every turn.
The need will not be answered by an attempt at renewal that is only moral at its base. What is wrong with our culture is theological and will not be altered by merely treating the immoral symptoms that pronounce the presence of theological disease. No, if we desire to heal the immoral symptoms we must destroy the theological disease from which all moral and cultural sickness emanates. The cure must be theological.
We must begin to think again as Christians understanding that whatsoever a man thinketh so he is.
This need to reshape our thinking will not be answered by attempts at renewal that seek to alter people’s emotional responses. Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity — the 800 pound guerrilla in today’s Christian expression — will not answer our need for Reformation. Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity is more problem than it is the solution. Indeed, one way we will know that Reformation is taking hold when we see the influence of Pentecostalism abate. With its theology of emotion and excitement Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity combined with its anti-intellectualism hasn’t what it takes to withstand the tidal wave of paganism that has drenched all of us, nor does it have the ability to provide the lasting answers to the larger questions that all cultures demand. Without Reformation, we will die in our emotions.
The need will not be answered by appealing to people’s experiences. All the rage these days is “narrative theology,” which if handled rightly could be effective. However, “narrative theology” as it is handled by most of the Church is merely a celebration of everybody’s different life stories. It is nothing more than Schleiermacher on mescaline. This can not and will not bring Reformation. Without Reformation, we will die in our experience.
The need will only be answered by thinking rightly about God – or we could say by a Holy Spirit-driven restoration of right Theology. That which the Church and culture are dying of is the disease of thinking wrongly about God. This wrong thinking about the God of the Bible is the disease that produces all of our foul immoral symptoms. The first place that our wrong thinking about God reveals itself is in our worship and doxology. Thinking wrongly about God we worship wrongly. Worshiping God wrongly reinforces wrong thinking about God.
Reformation in the Church, in the family, in the schools, in the law, in the economy, in the political order, and in the arts — Reformation that will heal wherever it flows — will first be seen in the repair of our theology, epistemology, and doxology.
The battle that we face today in our times and in our culture hence is not primarily between Republicans and Democrats. It is not primarily between Islam and Secular Humanism. It is not primarily between Liberals and Conservatives. The battle that we face today in our times and in our culture is the Battle of Theology. The question that confronts us is, “How Then Shall We Think About God.” Here is where the battle lies and should we answer this question wrongly, or allow people who have answered it wrongly to be our ecclesiastical and cultural gurus we shall die.
As a people then, we will suffer increasingly or decreasingly to the degree that we get our Theology wrong. The more a people think wrongly about God the more they will inflict themselves with all kinds of neuroses, psychopathic and sociopath behavior, and just plain strangeness. On the contrary, only Reformation can cure the ecclesiastical and cultural malaise that is characterized by these kinds of maladies.
As we turn to II Kings 22-23 we see Reformation as the remedy for what ails people who have embraced a culture of death.
Sola Scriptura – Formal Principle Of Reformation (vs. 22:11)
Josiah realized that God’s people had disregarded the authoritative source of God’s rule over His people and such a realization led to deep anguish. The Reformation that washed over ancient Israel occurred because the Scripture was restored, and with the Scripture restored people began to think rightly about God.
In the Reformation, in the 16th century, this idea of Scripture alone was thought of as the “Formal Principle” of the Reformation. It was referred to as the “Formal Principle” because in returning to the Scripture alone as the authoritative source of theology and epistemology much that was sloppy and inferior in thinking about God was challenged and removed.
15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God[b] may be complete, equipped for every good work.
This idea of Sola Scriptura is part of what we confess as a Reformed Protestant body of believers,
“We believe that [the] holy Scriptures fully contain the will of God, and that whatsoever man ought to believe unto salvation is sufficiently taught therein…Neither may we consider any writings of men, however holy these men may have been, of equal value with those divine Scriptures nor ought we to consider custom or the great multitude, or antiquity, or succession of times and persons, or councils, decrees or statutes, as of equal value with the truth of God… Therefore, we reject with all our hearts whatsoever does not agree with this infallible rule” (Belgic Confession VII).
Before the Law was rediscovered in the II Kings account and before the Scriptures were rediscovered in the Reformation it was no longer the case in most quarters of the Church that the Scriptures were the authoritative source of theology. What had happened is that autonomous reason and tradition – the authority of the Church — had been lifted above the Scriptures.
This remains today among the Roman Catholics. Just as they warred with the Reformers on this issue in the 16th century so a Roman Catholic who knows his way around his faith will fight you to the death over this issue. Rome continues to deny Sola Scriptura by responding that the Church must interpret the Scripture as authoritative. Per Rome the Scripture does not stand over the Church. Now Rome will say that their source of Epistemological authority is both the Magisterial Church and Scripture but always ends up deferring to the Magisterial Church. It is not possible to have two ultimate authorities.
The Reformation was the Reformation because it made a serious effort to allow the Scripture to have pride of place in and over the Church and thus in and over the lives of God’s people. The people were given the Scriptures in their vulgar tongues and were allowed to interpret the Scripture consistent with the Scriptures intent.
Now if we are to have another Reformation again something like this has to occur again. It needs to occur again for in much if not most of Christianity in the world what has happened is that the Formal principle of Scripture is no longer Sola Scriptura. In Pentecostal quarters for example the formal principle is Scripture and direct revelation from the Holy Spirit. In Roman Catholic quarters for example the formal principle remains Scripture and tradition and autonomous reason. In Anglican or Episcopalian quarters for example the formal principle remains Scripture, Church Authority, and autonomous reason. In Emergent Church quarters for example the formal principle remains experience plus culture.
And now a new formal principle arises in the Church today. Historically speaking it is a blink of an eye old. It is called standpoint epistemology.
Now, as we delve into this for a few minutes we remember that Sola Scriptura is answering the question of “How do we know what we know.” The Protestants answered, “we know what we know by God’s Revelation in Scripture alone.”
Every movement has to provide an answer to the epistemological question. The answer for the Reformers was not tradition. It was not intuition. It was not autonomous reason. The answer to the question how do we know what we know was “Special Revelation – Sola Scriptura.”
However, the church is abandoning that position in 2021 and is opting to answer the question of how do we know what we know by saying… “standpoint epistemology.”
Standpoint theory/epistemology posits that one’s social position relative to systemic power confers additional insight or access to knowledge(s) that allows the oppressed person to know and understand both oppression and the society or systems it operates within better than the privileged persons are able to.
So, the answer to the great Epistemological question – How do we know what we know – that the Reformation Church answered with Sola Scriptura, the modern Church answers with Sola oppression. How we know what we know is conferred to us by those who have been oppressed. They are the ones who can lead the way in this question of authority.
One implication of this epistemology is that the antichrist, pervert, feminists, cultural Marxist, while living in a culture that has been influenced by Christian norms will be granted the status of oppressed and so be recognized as one who can understand both oppression and the society or systems their “oppression” operates within better than the Christians (privileged) are able to and will as such, as we are living in, be the ones who are conferred with guru status.
With this epistemology, those who hate Christ are seen as both oppressed and consequently are seen as those who can understand oppression better.
By this reasoning, the denizens of hell are oppressed and understand how it is that the culture of heaven is oppressing them and so can correct the social order created by the denizens of heaven.
We are looking at right now this issue of standpoint epistemology and we are saying it is a threat to Sola Scriptura as the base of our epistemological authority. We are looking at what this standpoint epistemology is in order to get a better understanding of who this new epistemological gunslinger in town is. In a moment we will give some examples of its current impact. However lets us first say here that
Standpoint epistemology is just situational ethics applied to knowledge. We might well could call it racial situationism.
You remember that a chap named Joseph Fletcher years ago gave us situational ethics. The idea there was that every situation that called for an ethical decision was different and therefore the situation guided the ethic and the primary guide was LOVE. Every situation that was different needed to be guided by love as autonomous concluded.
Well, in standpoint epistemology every authority on every question likewise depends on the situation but instead of it being determined by love the answer is determined by one’s oppressed status. The more one is oppressed the more one is the Epistemological go to Diva who can provide the answer.
Because of this it would be accurate to call Standpoint epistemology, racial situationism or racial solipsism or racial Gnosticism. You see they each and all deny the ability of the Word of God to smash the presuppositions the interpreter brings to the text. Instead, racial solipsism absolutizes the interpreter’s presuppositions that they bring to the text and actually makes the text dependent upon the interpreter’s false givens.
So… let’s try some examples to flesh this opponent to Sola Scriptura out.
Remember, it is the standpoint of the oppressed that is the new authority source in order to know how we know.
In 2019, biological males Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood won 1st and 2nd place in the state of Connecticut’s 55-meter dash indoor track championship for high school females. The person who finished third was a genuine female – with all the right plumbing – and she took the race results to court because she was being discriminated against. People were outraged with Miss Soule’s daring to pursue this matter in court and in discussions were accusing her of being “transphobic,” with even one Journalist referred to her as “the darling of transphobes everywhere.”
You see … the facts of this situation did not matter. All that mattered was the standpoint of the oppressed trannies who ran the race. Their status as oppressed was how people could know what they know about what constituted male and female and so who could compete in what track events.
One more example before we look at an example in the Church.
I am giving these examples so you can see how standpoint epistemology has become our new governing answer to how we know what we know.
Brett Kavanaugh vs. Christine Blasey Ford
With the most tenuous of evidence, Kavanaugh was almost denied his SCOTUS seat. The NYT ran a full-page ad saying “Believe Women.” Female Senators Harris and Gillibrand posted #BelieveSurvivors. You see, here again, it is one’s oppression status that gives us the truth.
Here is an example in the Church
In 2018, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission featured Danny Akin (President of SE Baptist Seminary) in a video that asked the question,
“What do white Christians need to be mindful of when speaking out about racial reconciliation?”
Akin answered that
“White Christians need to learn above all things … to be good listeners.
The reason Akin explained was that the white perspective was not the perspective of African Americans, Hispanics, or Asians who saw life differently and operated out of a different paradigm and context.”
In classic standpoint epistemology fashion, Akin argued that white people need to surrender leadership to ethnic minorities in order to make progress towards racial equality.
You see the Reformers, on a question like this or any question would have sought to garner their answer from the word of God as authoritative but instead following standpoint epistemology Akin appeals to the subjective experience of the racially oppressed in order to anchor his authority.
So, Standpoint epistemology (nee – racial situationism/ racial solipsism / racial Gnosticism) denies the ability of the Word of God to smash the presuppositions the interpreter brings to the text. Instead, racial solipsism absolutizes the oppressed interpreter’s presuppositions that they bring to the text and actually makes the text dependent upon the interpreter’s false givens.
This is creeping into the Church everywhere. In order to gain Epistemological authority now one is in a contest to prove that their authority is determinative based upon how oppressed one can insist they have been. As such oppression is the coin of the realm that everyone must chase.
Now, rounding off here we should say that we have need to be compassionate to those who have genuinely suffered, however, the quantity of someone’s oppression does not give them epistemological authority. Scripture alone is our epistemological authority.
Unless God is gracious to give us a return to Sola Scriptura our Churches will continue to ape our pagan culture. Unless God is gracious to give us a return to Sola Scriptura we will continue to think wrongly about God.
Now, here we must have a word about what Sola Scriptura isn’t.
If there was a temptation once upon a time to over privatize Scripture in the hands of the corporate magisterium, there is in our time a temptation to over privatize Scripture in the hands of the individual, so that Sola Scriptura becomes Solo Scriptura. We must say that just as no group of people can stand over the Bible dictating to it what it says, so no single individual is allowed to stand over the Bible dictating to it what it says. If it was wrong for the Church to wrest Scripture away from God’s people, it is equally wrong for individuals to wrest
Scripture away from the Church.
This is simply a plea to realize that as individuals we must read the Scriptures with the Church.