May 26, 2020

The One and Only: Remembering that all those other books aren’t the Bible, or even all that close.

book_stack1.jpgThis is a corrective for me most of all, so don’t write me and say “What about Capon and Wright blah blah blah?” I’m already there.

“For evangelical people, our authority is the God who has spoken supremely in Jesus Christ. And that is equally true of redemption or salvation. God has acted in and through Jesus Christ for the salvation of sinners.

I think it’s necessary for evangelicals to add that what God has said in Christ and in the biblical witness to Christ, and what God has done in and through Christ, are both, to use the Greek word, hapax–meaning once and for all. There is a finality about God’s word in Christ, and there is a finality about God’s work in Christ. To imagine that we could add a word to his word, or add a work to his work, is extremely derogatory to the unique glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”- John Stott

Of the reading of books and stuff there is like, just no end. Y’know what I mean?

I don’t read books on post-modernism, but I read enough from those who do that I know what I’m about to write will smell pomo to some of my readers. So, since we’re going to throw things and shout insults, let’s get started.

Today, all kinds of people are blogging and writing their lists of the books we all should have read. Most of them, predictably, are reformed, conservative and seriously theological. It’s the “What Theologians Wish You’d Read” kind of list.

I have a library of books, and I read most of them. I also think about books a great deal. I don’t just think about books, but I think about how I feel about books, what we claim for books, and especially how we relate these books to the one book that we say God inspired: the Bible.

I’ve made a discovery. Or a rediscovery. When I share it, it’s going to make some of you pretty sure I’m unsafe and in serious need of a slice of discernment.

I’m pretty sure that we are getting way too many books out of the Bible. Or to say it another way, I don’t think we can get out of the Bible and with Biblical authority, all the kinds of material that evangelicals, conservatives and culture warriors claim to get from it.

Yes, that’s right, I’m pretty sure that “Biblical Guidelines for Financial Success” and “Biblical Principles For Parenting Your Teenager” may be great big doses of exaggeration. “Some Very Human, Fallible and Possibly Mistaken Ideas About Things I Read In The Bible?” I don’t think that title will be flying off the shelves but it’s a lot more accurate.

When I teach the Bible, I try to frame my student’s understanding with this illustration. Imagine a huge library. You are on a tour of the library with God. He points you to 66 books (some not even books, just essays and short pieces) and tells you to make a xeroxed copy of them and bind them into a book. These 66 books are of a diverse background of authors and situations, but they share many interrelated themes. Some are commenting on others. Many quote from one another. When you read them, you discover that God himself is prominent in most of the selections.

This book, when compiled, God says, is his message to humanity. Actually, his perfect Word-message was Jesus, but Jesus is not available to those who didn’t see and hear him. So this selection of writings is a presentation of Jesus and his message in context and in language for every person. For that reason, it is one book, harmonized and connected through Jesus Christ.

God has given his authority and inspiration to these writings, and to what they are together. His authority is assigned to the Bible, and not to any other book in the library, now or in the future.

This is just one of many ways I characterize the Bible for my students. Now, suppose that I brought in a popular systematic theology text, or a multi-volume Bible commentary much larger than the Bible itself. What could I tell my students is the relationship of the Bible to these other books?

Does the systematic theology text present the contents of the Bible in another form? Are the divisions, vocabulary, outlines and discussions in that Systematic text identical to the Bible? Do they have Biblical authority? Did the author derive out of the Bible a similar divine endorsement for the presentation of his message?

One might ask why didn’t God present his message to us as a systematic theology text? If it is “as clear” and “as authoritative,” as the Bible because it contains the Bible in a digested, systematized, reworded form, what is the reason God did not do us the favor of inspiring both?

Now imagine that I hold up this theology book in front of those who revere it. Here’s my talk:

This isn’t the Bible. It’s not as clear as the Bible. As a revelation of God, it’s not as accurate as the Bible. It doesn’t have the authority of the Bible. Its author was in no way, shape or form inspired by the Holy Spirit. This book does not make the Bible plainer. It doesn’t help you understand the Bible’s message better. It’s not more efficient or useful than the Bible. No one single divine promise comes along with this book. It makes absolutely no difference whatsoever to your knowledge of God if you read this book or not.

Further, carving up the Bible into little pieces and rearranging them is not the same thing as the Bible. This author’s use of the Bible is not inspired, and that includes his presuppositions, cultural influences, education and language. This includes stacking lots and lots of Bible verses one on top of another in long lists to prove points. That arrangement, in and of itself, is not the Bible’s arrangement of the text and shouldn’t be mistaken for the way the Bible used the texts. The Bible’s arrangement of texts is inspired; this author’s is not.

The title isn’t inspired. The index isn’t inspired. The sales aren’t inspired. The reviews aren’t inspired. The fame of the author makes no impact on this book as compared to the Bible. Any book that has “Biblical” in the title runs into an inherent contradiction in that no discussion of the Bible can be Biblical in the same way the Bible’s inspired conversation is Biblical.

Our entire conversation about God, including that conversation that occurs in books of “Biblical” theology, parenting, marriage, self-help, history politics, psychology, finance, economics, politics, science, art, music, church growth, evangelism and so on, is NOT INSPIRED or AUTHORITATIVE.

The attempt to bring Biblical authority or any aspect of Biblical revelation out of the Bible and into anything other than the Bible is a failure.

In that sense, this book must be seen as a human effort to understand the Words of God, and while the author may, more or less, succeed in grasping the meaning of the Bible under the illumination of the Holy Spirit, his ability to write, publish and communicate that illumination happens entirely without any Biblical authority at all.

Don’t look for me headlining the next Christian booksellers convention.

When someone sells you a book on Biblical parenting, it’s a book on parenting, and it may have some good advice, and it may have a lot of Biblical truth. But it has no Biblical authority as a book and it’s not Biblical revelation in the same way the Bible is revelation. God hasn’t written a book on Biblical parenting, and no one’s book on the principles of Biblical parenting come anywhere close to the book God would write. The best Biblical parent was Jesus, and he never had kids.

This same thing goes for theology, marriage, evangelism and so forth. God’s Word is Holy Scripture. If the publisher says that Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life is somehow the Spirit’s message to the church, that’s wrong. I’d like to use a more colorful phrase but this is a family show.

I am saying this for one reason: theologians and their various versions of Christianity are wearing me out. Don’t get me wrong. I want to hear what theological writers say and I think some of them are closely on track with scripture. I’m not a skeptic that God’s Word can be understood and communicated. I’m a communicator of God’s Word by calling and profession. But I don’t believe I need to “wrestle” with a book by John Piper as if it were scripture, because it’s not.

We can’t and don’t get all these books out of the Bible. The Bible isn’t a book that was given to become the raw material out of which ten million other books derive their inspiration and authority; books that often are contradicting each other at various points, yet all still claiming to be Biblical.

If the Bible doesn’t push a subject forward, then writing “What Would Jesus Eat?” doesn’t make that subject important. Democrat or Republican books on Biblical politics? Same problem? Books with vocabulary that no one finds in the Bible? Ditto. Counseling books? They aren’t the Bible morphed into another form.

When we’ve got people running around with a Biblical view of every subject because someone wrote a book saying 100 times more than the Bible ever said on the subject, we ought to be suspicious. Is it more than the Bible says? Then it’s likely more than God has to say to you or me on the subject.

“It’s a good book, but it’s not the Bible.” Neither was the author, the school he teaches at, the radio program he preaches on, his last book, his reviews, his fanclub or his opinions on whatever subject.

The Bible is a wonderful gift. It is, however, unique, in what it is and how its truthfulness operates in God’s economy. The Bible is the Bible, and anything that claims to present the Bible filtered through the grid of theology or social causes or culture war analysis may be right or wrong…but one thing it’s certainly not is God’s authoritative Word.

Comments

  1. Canadian Calvinist says

    Michael,
    In a similar vein….
    Our local Christian radio station has several short segments that turn my stomach. One is called something like “Business Proverbs” and another is the “Biblical Health Coach” or something like that. I heard them the other day and felt like the Bible had just been hijacked in my hearing.
    We are addicted consumers and treat everything, even the scriptures, like commodity for the almighty individual. Jesus Christ IS the Word and the bible is the story about Him. The Bible is not the end but the means to Jesus Christ. I think we should stop “shopping” the scriptures for “principles for living” and try selling all we have to buy “gold refined by fire that we may be rich…white garments that we may not be naked…and eye-salve that we may see.” Rev. 3:18

  2. I ain’t smart.
    But I get this. That makes sense, why all the books written about this one don’t quite fit, and why I’m disinclined to spend MMMoney on them.
    To me they all feel like they’re telling me, “You know, God didn’t quite get it right when He said what He said, and you won’t know the real truth until you read (insert stupid book title) and then apply it to your life.”

    Um, right. So your God couldn’t say what He meant? No thanks, not interested.

  3. I think I understand what you’re saying, but I want to be sure. It seems like in general a debate about human books and the Bible rests on whether the Bible is sufficient or exhaustive. I hear you saying that the Bible is sufficient (but not that it necessarily covers every subject) and then emphasizing that other books are not authoritative like the Bible is, even if they are trying to use the Bible as their foundation. Thus books attempting to apply Biblical principles can be written but they will never attain the same authority as the Bible even if they are using the Bible. Is that what you’re saying?

  4. yes.

    I feel many books don’t say the Bible is their foundation (which would be better) but are saying that they are reshaping the Biblical message- with all its authority- into a more understandable form.

    That’s not possible, not if you have an orthodox doctrine of the inspiration and authority of scripture.

    The Bible says WHAT God wants to say and it says it the WAY God wanted it said.

  5. catehanchez says

    Wonderful! Wonderful! I have long believed that we use reading books to put off the real work of hearing from God, knowing God. I am not sure I state this clearly. When I read a book about prayer, for example, I can believe that I have really learned a lot about what it means to pray without actually doing the hard work of really praying. I think people do it all the time—go to a seminar, listen to a tape, read a book. It makes us feel good, as if we have really done something when, in fact, we haven’t done what we really need to do. We haven’t had the face to face encounter with Almighty God which we have when we read His words to us.

  6. Kipp Wilson says

    I hear what you’re saying, Michael. I cringe, though, at the lines, “This book does not make the Bible plainer. It doesn’t help you understand the Bible’s message better.” I teach hermeneutics, and have run across students who firmly believe they don’t need to learn how to understand what the text meant then before they can understand how the text applies today.

    I want to believe that God spoke so clearly in the Bible that we need no other resource to help us understand the message. The problem is, God himself calls people to teach and preach the Word. Why didn’t he just tell them to ONLY recite it?

    Somewhere in my bibliology, I need to make room for the God-required ministry of the biblical expositor.

  7. Amen. many amens.

    Now how do we make sure that John Piper or John Macarthur or John Calvin don’t become IN ANY WAY the 67th part of the canon.

  8. Great post. There is a terrible problem of people accepting human interpretations of Truth as ‘gospel’ and a huge tendency to want things pre-digested by others so that we don’t have to do the hard work of understanding the Truth as given to us in the Bible. I definitely agree there is no book that has the authority of the Bible. We cannot sit down and read any other book knowing that everything we are reading in it is absolutely true, regardless of whether we understand or agree with it. As you said, we don’t need to ‘wrestle’ with other books. When we struggle over something in scripture, we know absolutely that it is we who are wrong—not the author. We can have this confidence with no other book.

    But I hesitate to say that what is written in other books is not ever inspired by the Holy Spirit (and maybe I misunderstood). Certainly other books are not inspired in the same way as Holy Scripture. But if music, art, sermons, and works of charity continue to be inspired by God, why would He not continue to inspire written Truth? Scripture is the Original, the Foundation, the measure for all written Truth (The Word, Himself, is the actual Truth). But surely the Holy Spirit continues to inspire, elaborate and demonstrate many aspects of Truth through the works of His people—including various aspects of Truth we find written in books.

    Doesn’t God call some people to be teachers, to explain scriptures to those who are struggling to understand it? And aren’t those who explain scripture to others sometimes given the words to say, to explain, by the Holy Spirit? If our words can still be inspired by the Holy Spirit within us, telling us what to say, why wouldn’t the exhortations and teaching gifts given by the Holy Spirit, when used in written form, be considered ‘inspired’?

    Your warnings about those who claim to speak with authority they don’t have, are well taken. But I just brought up this point of possible clarification because of the other extreme I have seen (not in anything I have ever read here), that of claiming that the Holy Spirit is not still speaking to us, today, through all sorts of means. By that I don’t mean new revelations to the Church or the world—but revealing Himself to each of us more and more, not only through scripture, but through everything around us (including books, besides the Bible, sometimes) as He opens our eyes and ears to see and hear.

  9. For a long period of time I was part of a movement that emphasized reading the Bible only and which pooh-poohed systematic theology. What I realized only later was that the movement in fact had its own systematic theology–but instead of books, it was certain itinerant preachers (who professed only to be “opening the Word” to us) who were were used to promulgate it. As a result, when we used to open our Bibles at home for private devotions, we would tend to look at them using the grid we had been taught.

    Unfortunately that grid was in error in significant ways, leaving many of us weak and immature. Because of the faulty template, the Bible ceased to be a book of blessing and instead seemed only to condemn us all the time (as, by the way, our preachers did!).

    I thank God for Christian books, because it was through them, over a period of years, I was able to untangle my thinking to the point that I was again able to pick up my Bible and read it with profit. After all, wasn’t that what the works by Luther and Calvin accomplished in their time? People had become so immersed in the Catholic way of thinking that they needed to be taught anew the fundamentals. Only then would their Bible reading be beneficial. That, of course, why Philip was sent to clue in the Ethiopian eunuch who was trying to make sense of Isaiah.

    Having said that I absolutely do know what you mean when you say that we should not place any of those books on a par with the Bible. Through the years I’ve seen it happen all the time. Whether it’s authors or preachers, we need to be like the Bereans who “searched the scriptures” to make sure the dude at the front–or on the bookrack–is on track.

    (No argument there, eh?)

    Thanks for the blog! (I’m new to all this.)

  10. An excellent post! I have been very put-off just by the appearance and cheap titles of many of those books (basically all of the diet books, and others such a “bad girls of the Bible”). One “Christian” book for teenages titled “Dateable” was completely worthless, focusing all of a teenager’s life on “dateableness” in the eyes of the opposite sex while completely ignoring righteousness in the eyes of an Almighty God. But even the good ones, with all of their little step-by-step programs and such, seem complicated and pathetic compared to the clear, profound words of Christ. It is a dangerous thing to replace the Bible.

  11. Kipp Wilson says

    Michael:

    The only way I’ve been able to come up with as to how to avoid that “burning bush” mentality is to stress Acts 17:11 over and over to my students. If the noble Bereans were praised for doing what they did with the apostle Paul, how much more should we be expected to verify what others tell us?!

    I love the Berean balance. They didn’t receive Paul’s message with skepticism, but with eagerness. Nevertheless, they still examined the Scriptures to see if what he said was true (and I take this to mean more than they verified that he quoted the text accurately).

  12. i know xians who have read xian best-sellers (and other non-purpose driven stuff) cover to cover who have never read the entire bible.

    but they got opinions on everything….

  13. Fun. 🙂 Reminds me of 1 Corinthians 4. The NASB says things like, “…learn not to exceed what is written, so that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other. For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? You are already filled, you have already become rich, you have become kings without us; and indeed, I wish that you had become kings so that we also might reign with you.” & “Now some have become arrogant … But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I shall find out, not the words of those who are arrogant but their power. For the kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power.” But the whole chapter is good.

    Cheers!

  14. All other books just suck compared to the bible. I hate how people want me to read Purpose Driven Life so that I’ll know what my purpose is – it’s already in this book called the bible jackass, read it! Oh I got engaged recently and people want me to read books about being engaged. Oh and did you know I’m a man so I should read this devotional book all about having the wild heart of a man of God?! Oh I’m so devoted I forgot to read the WORD OF GOD because I wasted my time with the words of men! Drives me nuts and I get no respect and get compared to a pharisee if I criticise these precious stinking devotional books. I know they’re not all bad but how many believers are so familiar with the bible that they can even discern what is a halfway decent devotional book? How many have even read the whole bible? How many understand the bible enough to be able to understand the gospel of Jesus Christ? I say be careful! Is the way many so-called siblings in Christ use devotional books as though they are adding to the word of God? watch out sucka or you’ll get messed up!

  15. Thanks for the blog….which was in essence, I guess….not God’s authoritative word…..or divinely inspired thoughts, but nonetheless provocative, thought-provoking and…..human!

  16. patrickstahl says

    Although not inspired or authoritative, I’m glad for Biblical commentaries and books about theology.

    I never understood why Jesus wanted his identify a secret in the Gospel of Mark. I found this website, boarsheadtavern.com, that had a link to Gospel of Mark studies by this guy named Michael Spencer.

    Once, as I was preparing to lead a Bible study, I knew lesson should ultimately focus on Christ – that being a Christian is more that moral and ethical principals. Then I read an article about how the Bible is not a ‘grocery list’ and the Gospel message is like ‘baking a cake’.

    I guess internetmonk.com is like the poor man’s Logos Bible software 😉

  17. I hit much the same realization when I attended a “Biblical Counseling” course at my church. It was divided into 3 parts of two days instruction each. After this course was done and I had completed the papers, I was told I would be qualified or “competent to counsel.” I would be as good, or actually better, than those who spent years majoring in counseling in college.

    Yeah, right.

    The part that got me was that the instructor and the materials kepts saying that they were the only counseling program “based entirely on the Bible and the Bible alone.” In fact, they said that they used “only the Bible” to counsel.

    Then I walked outside and saw table and tables of books written by the instructor and the founder of this counseling method. There was not a Bible in sight.

    The first paper I did for the first course had the first question: “explain how we use the Bible alone for our counseling.” I noted the same disparity between what they said and reality in my response. If the Bible were sufficient for “counseling” then there was no need for all these books, and in fact they were a distraction and not a help.

    It did not go over too well. Yet, I think I was on the same track as you are in this post. The Bible is sufficient to reveal the Jesus God sent to us. It is not sufficient for every topic under the sun, most of which could not have even been imagined when it was written (such as the individualistic philosophy that is the core of our modern phsychological being).

  18. To quote you:
    “Our entire conversation about God, including that conversation that occurs in books of “Biblical” theology, parenting, marriage, self-help, history politics, psychology, finance, economics, politics, science, art, music, church growth, evangelism and so on, is NOT INSPIRED or AUTHORITATIVE.

    The attempt to bring Biblical authority or any aspect of Biblical revelation out of the Bible and into anything other than the Bible is a failure.

    In that sense, this book must be seen as a human effort to understand the Words of God, and while the author may, more or less, succeed in grasping the meaning of the Bible under the illumination of the Holy Spirit, his ability to write, publish and communicate that illumination happens entirely without any Biblical authority at all.”

    Then according to you, is the “conversation” a preacher has with his congregation (though one-sided) just idle bantering and should he really just read the biblical text to them and let them interpret it with no aid, since his words on it will not be authoritative and will be “a failure”?

    What is worse is, if our “conversation” is flawed, our thoughts (of which our conversations are merely an outworking) are flawed on the Bible. You are setting humanity up into an epistemological skepticism where nothing but God’s intent is knowable (and only knowable by God) from Scripture.

    True, many bad Christian books delve where God never does. But we must take the Bible’s wisdom and apply it in new ways, because new problems arise. The Bible never deals explicitly with race-based slavery, yet many Christians opposed slavery based on a “Biblical” position. Paul never wrote that African Americans should be free, but we know that we can pull biblical principles (love your neighbor) to a contemporary problem and apply it. The same with abortion. There is no explicit text saying what we should do about abortion, but we apply principles of Scripture to today’s problems.

    This kind of mindset strikes a chord with the anti-theological “pomo” mood in America, but it isn’t rational and leaves someone’s biblical convictions as consistent and stable as a puddle of melted jello.

  19. 18 posts till I’m called out as pomo. Not bad.

    So our sermons and reasoning on social issues are equal to scripture?

    I’m not being a wise-ass. That’s a real question. There are options between an inerrant John Macarthur and skeptism.

  20. I think my two cents on it are:
    I came to faith in a foursquare church. This means that I oriented to the Bible as a fundamentalist. Through reading George MacDonald (amung others, like Merton), I came to a different view of understanding the scriptures. So in that sense some books are as significant as the Bible, because they shape how you read it. I think this could also be said for sermons… John Donne influenced me greatly with his sermons on the Psalms, and there are many pastors (I am thinking of Timothy Keller) whose teachings on the scriptures gets me thinking about the text differently than I would “normally”.
    I don’t think these folks are “innerant”, but if you reshape the window I view the Bible through, then you have in some ways a superior position, though not authoritative, to the text. Isn’t this why we even have exegesis and hermenutics?

    PS What is a “pomo”?

  21. There is space between innerrant John Mac,Cal,Pip and skepticism, but not according to your words. According to “what” you said, you are shoveling skepticism. I am all for the middle ground, I am merely quoting you. I doubt you believe as hard a line as you “spoke” however since you have preached a sermon.

  22. This could get nasty 🙂 The word “shoveling” is provocative.

    So let me get this straight.

    >Our entire conversation about God, including that conversation that occurs in books of “Biblical” theology, parenting, marriage, self-help, history politics, psychology, finance, economics, politics, science, art, music, church growth, evangelism and so on, is NOT INSPIRED or AUTHORITATIVE.

    You believe that Macarthur is inspired and authoritative? I didn’t say the Bible he quotes, reads, explains, but his words, his explanations, his outline, etc?

    If you think this is skepticism then I’d politely disagree. I have a library of useful books and I’ve preached about 3000 sermons so far. But none of them were equal to the Bible.

    Statements of truth are authoritative. I’m not denying the existence of truth. I’m saying that when your pastor preaches on Obadiah and tells you to give to the building program he isn’t saying that with the authority of scripture or of God.

  23. I’m going to agree with you and disagree with you. Here’s where I agree: the adjective “Biblical” has become a farcical code word for “conservative.” Forget about “Biblical financial management,” “Biblical business management,” or “Biblical counseling,” etc. “Perspectives on personal finance from a conservative American evangelical Christian perspective” would be more accurate.

    Here’s where I disagree: I think you’re missing something in how the Holy Spirit and the Church interact with scripture, and in missing that I think you’re adopting the same Biblicist stance as the “Biblical [fill in the blank”]” book authors.

    We should understand the process of understanding and applying the scriptures as the Holy Spirit speaking to and through the Church through the text. Scripture in some sense is a living text as it is intepreted and applied to contemporary circumstances by the Church as led by the Spirit. Stan Grenz and John Franke have developed this theme very well in their books. Of course, scripture itself remains primary, or as Grenz says, scripture is the Church’s “norming norm.” But “sola scriptura” doesn’t mean “the text in isolation,” as even the Westminster Confession makes clear.

    So, all that is to say that at least some of the work being done by theologians today represents the means by which the Spirit is speaking to and through the Church via the text of scripture. We can thresh out lots of chaff being produced under the guise of “Biblical” this or that, but there’s no substitute for reading deep and wide in serious theological literature.

  24. Yes, when a person preaches out of Obadiah and ties it into the building program it is not authoratative. But when a person says don’t burn “Journey’s” cd’s because the Bible says don’t steal (an application of a biblical text to something that did not exist in biblical times) it has biblical authority.
    The problem is with proper interpretation and application. Proper interpretation and application of Scripture by a preacher is authoritative, but requires testing by Scripture.
    To not hold that view is to hold a very radical view of soul-competency in which every person’s own opinion will end up dictating what Scripture “means” to oneself. Not too far from that situation in the present anyways.

  25. Call me whatever you want jmanning, but God saying do not steal and me saying do not steal are two different things. Both are true, but there is no way I am going to take my words and equate them with Biblical words. They may be great words, life changing, full of promise, power, etc. But I believe scripture is unique.

    But that’s my pomo, skeptical view.

  26. No, to quote you, your own pomo/skeptical view was that you saying “do not steal” was a “failure”. Now if you want to clarify that you didn’t mean that, understood. Are correctly applied, exegeted, etc biblical teachings are authoritative as much as they stick to the intent and context of Scripture?

    Now I agree with you that no sermon is ever inspired in the “verbal plenary*” sense that Scripture is. But I believe it can carry Scripture’s authority and demands obedience in the same way as the inspired texts (but only because of the text being the main ingredient).

    But the fact that you are using the uniqueness of Scripture (a doctrine in theology books) to uphold your view shows that you believe some doctrines must be pulled out of Scripture that are never “directly” spoken of to uphold the full and accurate view of Scripture. The closed canon is another, we are never told directly it will close, we just see all the post apostolic authors “stunk” at the doctrines and applications of the first generation writers. None of their documents “radiate”. Closed canon is your underlying assumption in this post, and it is not “biblically authoritative” according to you.

    The Trinity is the same way. We both believe that these are important doctrines that “demand” our belief in them, though most of the information we have on them comes from outside sources. Now are the “two natures one Person” arguments on Christology in Scripture? No. But should we believe in them? Yes. Why? They are biblically necessary. Now are such doctrines a failure? Should we have nothing to say as preachers on abortion? Since Scripture doesn’t use the word “abortion” should we not be held to act any certain way towards it?

    Now these sermon/books/etc aren’t “inspired” directly, but they are withdrawn from the inpsired writings and demand obedience by their vital connection to that body.

    So I agree with your definitions many times of the uniqueness of Scripture, but the applications you draw from it you don’t hold, nor should we in that form hold them. They would lead to too much skepticism by laity and an emphasis too strongly on the “regulative principle” by leaders.

  27. The problem is with proper interpretation and application. Proper interpretation and application of Scripture by a preacher is authoritative, but requires testing by Scripture.
    To not hold that view is to hold a very radical view of soul-competency in which every person’s own opinion will end up dictating what Scripture “means” to oneself. Not too far from that situation in the present anyways.

    And the problem, as I see it, with your view is the false dichotomy between “proper interpretation and application” by a preacher, and “every person’s own opinion”.

    What’s the point of believers being filled with the Holy Spirit if they still need a “professional” to tell them what God is really saying?

    (I know that’s a bit off-topic, Michael, but I had trouble watching this one go by without throwing my two cents in!)

  28. Jmanning makes an excellent point: a radically Biblicist view is incoherent because it depends on a doctrine of scripture that is not itself expressly stated in scripture.

    But I wouldn’t call the radically Biblicist view “pomo” or “skeptical.” It’s actually sort of anti-pomo, because it misses the importance of the community in understanding and applying the text.

    Steve Sensing, you raise a good point as well, but it’s a different point. The point here is how do we define the “community” that receives the text, and what does it mean to speak with “authority” in the community?

    I agree with you that a “professional” has no authority by virtue of his or her “credentials” to speak authoritatively, and that each individual believer has a responsibility to listen to what the Spirit is saying to him or her-self about the text.

    But that said, there is no room for a radical individualism that recognizes no authority of any sort in the Church. Scripture itself makes plain that some are particularly gifted by the Spirit as teachers, and that some (ideally the same who are gifted as teachers) are appointed to be elders or “overseers.” Scripture itself expects us within particular communities of the Church to submit to the authority of these God-gifted and appointed leaders and to learn from them.

    This doesn’t mean such leaders speak with the same authority as Jesus or the scriputres themselves; they are fallible and we are instructed to test everything. Nevertheless, even in their fallibility, we are to afford them proper respect.

  29. I mentioned a “preacher” because that was the context of my discussion with Michael; whether or not these professional authors/pastors were authoritative. Any person gifted with wisdom by the Spirit may have more insight than a PhD toting Bible scholar on the correct meaning of a text. I am sorry for the lack of clarity.

    But on a further note, few non-professional teachers bother with doctrine and theology, which is sad and harmful.