This is a follow-up to yesterday’s post about Dr. Howell.
He only appears to offer one reply per commenter, so he didn’t reply to my second comment. But in response to another dissenter, who also challenged him on scripture, he refused to take the bait. Instead, he wrote the following:
I guess I keep hoping that readers will join me in the faithful posture that we don’t have God 100% figured out just yet, that however much we know, we’ve missed something, so we have learning and growth ahead and this might be the time. Doesn’t imply an outcome, just a dream of something besides defensiveness and fault-finding on both sides.
This sounds nice at first. He’s right: none of us has God “100 percent figured out”—not even close! We are finite and fallible. We see through a glass darkly. By all means! So Dr. Howell’s comment seems humble. And what kind of jerk must I be to be so presumptuous—so arrogant—to think that I do have God 100 percent figured out? People with strong convictions on this issue must think they have God 100 percent figured out!
But not so fast…
Dr. Howell’s implication is obviously false. To believe that we know something about God isn’t the same as believing that we we know everything about God. Indeed, classic Christian theology teaches that God is unknowable apart from what God has chosen to reveal to us. And how does God reveal himself? The primary way is through his holy Word, the Bible. This is, in fact, the only infallible way that any of us possesses.
Progressives like to interject at this point that the Word of God is Jesus, not the Bible, but that’s a false choice. Yes, Jesus is the Word of God, and he is the perfect revelation of God. But everything we know for sure about Jesus—given that he ascended to heaven and now reigns at the right hand of the Father—we know from the Word of God that is the Bible. If someone has received a “revelation” about Jesus that contradicts what’s revealed about him in scripture (cf. Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons) we rightly reject it.
So as I said in my original comment to him, there’s no getting around it: if the different sides to this conflict in the UMC are going to listen to one another, which Dr. Howell says he wants to do, we need to talk about what we believe about the Bible. This, I suspect, will be the heart of the division in our denomination.