This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. [Joshua 1:8]*
The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether.
They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover by them Your servant is warned; In keeping them there is great reward. [Psalm 19:7-11]
How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word.
Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You.
Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven.
Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.
The sum of Your word is truth, And every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting.[Psalm 119:9, 11, 89, 105, 160]
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;
so that the man of God made be adequate, equipped for every good work. [2 Timothy 3:16-17]
For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. [Hebrews 4:12]
In looking at the doctrine of Scripture [known theologically as bibliology], evangelicals and fundamentalists have become so focused on the issues of inerrancy and infallibility that they have neglected the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture to inform, form, and reform our lives.
Part of the problem is that some who call themselves evangelicals are either evasive or dismissive when it comes to the doctrine of inerrancy, relegating it to either a secondary level of importance, or, worse, denying it altogether. At the same time, they insist on maintaining that Scripture is authoritative. Such people fail to comprehend the inconsistency of such a position: if Scripture is not inerrant in all that it affirms, then it cannot be trustworthy. If it is not trustworthy, there is no basis for accepting it as authoritative.
Take for example, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. This group of apostate baptists broke away from the Southern Baptist Convention when the SBC started asserting the Deity of Christ and the inerrancy and authority of Scripture as the sine qua non doctrines defining Christianity. The liberals [or “moderates” as they style themselves] deny inerrancy and place the authority of Scripture in a tertiary position of authority beneath reason and human conscience.
Another example is found in the Evangelical Covenant Church, which states in its “Affirmations [their creedal statement of beliefs]”: We affirm the centrality of the word of God. We believe the Bible is the only perfect rule for faith, doctrine, and conduct. The dynamic, transforming power of the word of God directs the church and the life of each Christian. This reliance on the Bible leads us to affirm both men and women as ordained ministers and at every level of leadership. It is the reason we pursue ethnic diversity in our church and is the inspiration for every act of compassion, mercy, and justice.”1
At this point, let me issue a disclaimer: I am not singling out the Evangelical Covenant Church. I am simply citing them as an example of how anthropocentric, or more precisely, gynocentric, hermeneutics works to eat away at the authority of Scripture. I could just as easily have named the United Methodist Church, the United Presbyterian Church, the Church of the Nazarene, the Assemblies of God, or the Willow Brook/Saddleback cabal.
Finally, another example locally is the pastor of a nominally evangelical congregation, who asserted on his facebook page that evangelicals/fundamentalists have the wrong view of Scripture. He further states that God did not give Scripture for our instruction, but as a “story” to show how much He loves us. When challenged on this issue, the pastor, whose theology has been described as being “a mile wide and a half-inch deep,” responded that because he was anointed by God, while his critics weren’t, his statements were beyond reproach or question.
Finally, we have the burgeoning popularity of megachurches hiring full-time associates to engage in “counseling” ministry.
All of these instances I have cited point to the growing problem, especially among those who consider themselves to be “evangelical” in their theology, which refuses to recognize that Scripture alone is sufficient to speak concerning the will of God and to direct our paths.
In the case of the Evangelical Covenant Church creed [or “Affirmation” as they style it], that denial of the sufficiency of Scripture is accomplished by placing twenty-first century cultural norms in a position of authority over Scripture and thereby being the judge of Scripture, instead of Scripture being enthroned in its rightful place as the decrees of God. This is similar to the so-called “Wesleyan quadrilateral,” of authority based on “Scripture, reason, experience, and tradition,” in which the plain sense of Scripture is always trumped by the other three, and most especially, contemporary experience.
In the case of the local pastor, he is merely exchanging what has been considered orthodox teaching from the time of the apostles, for the heterodoxy of what has become known as “the emergent church,” which has replaced doctrine with experience in a neo-Barthian “encounter.” In other words, Scripture only represents the word and will of God if a person encounters it and acknowledges it as such. Where the person is unable or unwilling to recognize Scripture as sufficient for teaching [telling us what we should believe], reproof [telling us what we should not believe], for correction [telling us what we should not do], and training in righteousness [telling us what we should do], the implication is we are not obligated to recognize it as scripture or the Word/will of God.
Basically it boils down to a matter of the source of authority in our lives. If we are truly Christian, then our authority is not found in fallible human reason, tradition, or experience. Nor can it be found in the psycho-babble of the unredeemed. The unredeemed are unqualified by the very nature of their lack of understanding the things of God to speak to the deepest spiritual needs of men [1 Corinthians 2:9-16; 2 Corinthians 3:14-15]. Nor is it found in a sensate religion based on “impressions” and “the leading of the spirit.” In other words, the notion that “all truth is God’s truth” used to rationalize compromise with the systems of the world is a heresy straight from the mouth of Satan. You won’t find any such statement in Scripture.
Basically, the suffiency of Scripture means that ALL reason, tradition, experience, impressions, and leadings are subject to the confirmation of Scripture. If we cannot find any Scriptural support, either by explicit affirmation or prohibition, approved precedent, or necessary inference, then we cannot lay any claim to be following the explicit will of God.
This presents a caution on the other side, because if the Scripture is totally silent on an issue, such that the matter cannot be answered by appeal to Scripture, then we must respect the silence of Scripture and not seek to impose our will as the will of God.
* Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by Permission. All rights reserved.