Scriptural Sufficiency verses Spiritual Strangeness

Ever since Phil Johnson invited others to blog for him, I've been less than happy with the direction of the Pyromaniacs blog. I don't know, maybe it's just too Baptist for me to feel accepted. Being Reformed, they're friends, but being Baptist and American, they're occasionally grating.

Dan Phillips, however, has written a great piece about Sola Scriptura. He has this great adage that I fully believe in:

1. The Bible tells us everything we need to know, as Christians.
2. The Bible does not tell us everything we want to know.

This is important because the other day I was casual teaching at a Christian school. During the morning staff devotional, one of the head teachers got up and spoke about his spiritual life in the last few weeks. His mother had been dying (she is now dead) and he spoke about how during this period of time he felt "far from Jesus". Even though he said he knew he was saved, he felt that during this period of stress and emotional turmoil, that he no longer prayed with fervour and that his prayers were just "mechanical".

He then went on to say that the way God guides us is when we listen to that "inner voice" and consult scripture and the wisdom of friends - and through this, God will let us know what his purpose is so we can discern what he wants for us. From that we can know how to be happy.

So, for this guy, the following was taught:

a. Be always "on fire" and pray with great passion.

b. If you're not always "on fire", then your relationship with Jesus is gone (even though you are still saved).

c. God will guide you through a combination of various sources for you to determine where God wants you to be (which also teaches that God has a "special plan" for everybody")

d. The Christian life, when lived in the way God wants you to live, will always lead to happiness.

I didn't get up and yell heresy and nor did I talk about it with him afterwards - he had just lost his mother and was still quite hurt.

The fact is, however, that this guy did not adhere to Sola Scriptura, and, as a result, expressed a tormented state of spiritual disobedience that is not actually prohibited in scripture.

For the record:

1. God does not want people to be "on fire". To be "on fire" is a temporary emotional high that we all naturally go through. It is not the permanent state of being that a Christian should be expected to be in. Being "full of the Spirit" is not defined in scripture this way.

2. The bible nowhere mentions a state of being whereby a saved Christian is not in relationship with Christ. Just because the guy was going through a period of great stress doesn't mean that he had somehow sinned. I suppose his experience was a classic case of Pentecostalism and/or holiness theology which teaches that there is a two-stage Christian life - the "carnal" Christian who is being sinful and the spiritual Christian who is always having a wonderful time.

3. God has incorporated us into his sovereign will and may or may not reveal to us our place in that plan. All God wants is for us to remain obedient to his word by making decisions that are consistent with scripture. Decisions that have no moral imperative (eg which toothpaste to use, which career to train for, etc) require us to have wisdom but do not require us to seek God's "special" will for us. Whichever decision we make is okay by God because, in the end, God has determined which path we go on anyway.

4. While happiness and joy are part of the Christian life, there is nothing unbiblical about exhibiting anger and sadness. Modern-day Pentecostals assume that the only emotion that is valid is being happy. Besides, emotions are not reliable and are not good indicators of discerning God's will. Oftentimes obedience to God's will (the Bible) will lead us to sadness.

In summary - sticking with scripture is simple and obvious, while relying upon vague impressions and feelings and "magic word" interpretations of scripture only leads to confusion. After all, the guy who stood up at that staff devotional had absolutely nothing to be ashamed of... yet his system of beliefs convinced him that he had sinned. That's why I love this line from the Cambridge Declaration:

We reaffirm the inerrant Scripture to be the sole source of written divine revelation, which alone can bind the conscience. The Bible alone teaches all that is necessary for our salvation from sin and is the standard by which all Christian behavior must be measured.
I'll tell you, if preachers actually taught this and if churches actually believed this, most of the devil's work in the modern evangelical church would disappear.

From the Theosalient Department

© 2006 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/

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