Saturday, December 17, 2005

What Is An Evangelical? Part 4: The Sufficiency of Scripture

Now, I believe it is a good time to expound upon the next section of my series, "What Is An Evangelical?" For previous entries in the series, check the sidebar under the heading "Evangelicalism." To recap: an "evangelical" is a person (preacher), church, or denomination that has the Gospel of Jesus Christ, especially the primacy of Christ's work, as the central article of faith; that believes the spreading of the Gospel and the salvation of souls is the number one duty of the Christian; that believes all moral/spiritual truth is found in the Bible; and that Christians are called to live lives of service before God and fellow man. Thus far we've discussed the meaning of "evangelical," the Gospel, and evangelism. Today we will discuss the sufficiency of Scripture. What do we mean by sufficiency? Dictionary.com gives a good definition: the quality of being sufficient for the end in view, with "sufficient" being understood to mean enough to meet the needs under the law of a situation or a proposed end. So understood in this way, we can understand "the sufficiency of Scripture" to mean that Scripture is enough; it is all that we need to guide our moral and spiritual lives. I'd like to take a moment to point out I am not saying other religions or philosophies do not contain truth. Many of them do contain valid and helpful truisms. I would submit to you that this is nothing more than the "law of God written on human hearts" that Paul talks about, that instinctive knowledge that all humans possess. Also interesting is that usually any helpful truisms we find elsewhere are already biblically affirmed. How do we get this doctrine biblically? There is a prominent text that gives us sound reasons. Let's see 2 Timothy 3:15-17.
From childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
And to elaborate, let's look at Hebrews 4:12.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Notice, if you will, that these verses establish three doctrines simultaneously: sufficiency, inspiration, and inerrancy. Why inerrancy? Because if something is inspired by God, does it not follow that it cannot be wrong, since God Himself cannot be wrong? What is errant is human interpretation of Scripture, not Scripture itself. Now, if Scripture is good enough to teach us, correct us when we have erred, and train us in how to obey God (righteousness), and is never wrong; then we now can say that Scripture is sufficient for all of our moral and spiritual needs. This is why we say that Scripture contains "all moral and spiritual truth." Furthermore, Scripture becomes sufficient for salvation. Why? Because in Scripture contains the knowledge we need to understand who Jesus is and to come to faith in Him. I am not saying that simply knowing the Bible is enough to get saved. Many people today think all they have to do to get to heaven is read their Bibles. Let's look at Jesus' words in John 5:39-40:
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about Me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. (emphasis added)
So it is clear here that Scripture is sufficient for salvation in that it contains the witness to Christ--the Gospel. Jesus expounds on this witness by making it clear that the way to salvation is to respond to the witness of the Gospel. "You refuse to come to me that you may have life." What a sad commentary on spiritualism--spiritualists seek to glean moral truth from the Bible, yet refuse to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. So, in conclusion, the "sufficiency of Scripture" refers to the concept that all moral and spiritual truth is contained in the Bible; that the Bible is able to save us by the witness of the Gospel; and that the means of that salvation is our response to the truth contained within its witness by coming to Christ in faith. I close this installment of the series with a favorite and timeless children's song: The B-I-B-L-E, Yes, that's the book for me I'm standing firm on the Word of God! The B-I-B-L-E, BIBLE!!!!!! Join me next time for the last characteristic of an evangelical (but not the final post in the series): Christian service!

1 Comments:

Blogger J Hearne said...

Let me begin by asking a blessing for you in your reading and searching of the scripture. Please do not think that any of this is meant to be hostile, angry, or mean. I have some points of disagreement and some points of agreement. I'd like to further the conversation because the scripture is sufficient and is holy and good. I want to genuninely and sincerely understand better and I hope to promote consideration of some important matters.

You write: "Why inerrancy? Because if something is inspired by God, does it not follow that it cannot be wrong, since God Himself cannot be wrong? What is errant is human interpretation of Scripture, not Scripture itself."

I respond: Okay, but this view of inerrancy as a logical deduction from inspiration represents a mechanical or plenary view of inspiration. What about a dynamic or incarnational theory of inspiration? It has been said that "translation is betrayal..." And, as any good biblical translator knows, translation of the scripture requires some inherent interpretation to bring sense, cogency, and coherency to the text. I'm willing to allow that if God mechanically inspires the text, then it cannot be wrong. Additionally, if God uses the methods argued in Plenary Verbal theory, then it is dubious that the original scriptures were wrong. However, mechanical/dictation theory has problems with parts of the text disagreeing with other parts and plenary verbal theory is a slippery slope that maintains that it was important for God to maintain the inerrancy of the original texts but not the following texts.

Additionally, I find it difficult to assent to your interpretation of the verses you cited. I feel as if they do not necessarily support what it is that you say they support.

Please don't misunderstand me. I value the scripture immensely. I'm also willing to say that I believe that the scripture is inerrant on the things it claims to be inerrant on. I'm willing to say that it is sufficient as a religious/spiritual text, as well. I'm also willing to say that the scripture is inspired by God.

Additionally, I agree with you when you write: "Many people today think all they have to do to get to heaven is read their Bibles." You disagree that this is capably redemptive, in my reading of your thoughts, and I agree with you.

Also, you write: "Many of them do contain valid and helpful truisms" near the beginning and I have a semantic quibble. A truism is necessarily valid. Validity has to do with an argument's logical form and not so much the content of the argument.

Finally, a short thought on your choice of verses. In regards to 2Tim.3:15-17, the text says "πᾶσα γραφὴ θεόπνευστος" and γραφη is nominative and θεόπνευστος is accusative and that definitely implies that the scripture is "God-breathed." However, consider that this is biconditional equivalence of sorts where instead of taking a body of text and applying an adjective to it by attribution, we could, perhaps, say that any "God-breathed" words are scripture and helpful for instruction, correction, training, etc. Just a thought.

Additionally, on Heb.4:12, I would ask that you consider the context of the verse.

"Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Heb 4:11-16)

Does it sound like he the author is talking about a collection of texts?

12/20/2005 01:06:00 PM  

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