Thursday, February 12, 2009

The All-Sufficient Scriptures Insufficient?

We have had a remarkable period of time in the life of American evangelicalism in the last century with respect to the relationship between evangelicalism and the Scripture.  On one hand American evangelicalism has vocally and formally fought in favor of an inerrant Scripture, which needed to be done.  Glorious efforts have been made in denominations and evangelical institutions to take a stand on the important truth that the holy Scriptures are inerrant.  I applaud this because it is both important and needed.

But at the same time, during the same period, American evangelicalism has been drifting from the Scriptures in several critical areas.  It has increasingly distanced practical gospel ministry from the Scriptures resulting in doing ministry without using the Scriptures at all.  Evangelism is attempted without the use of the Scriptures, expository preaching is becoming rare, and Scripture is only infrequently read in the worship services.  The leadership training ministry of the church rarely, if ever, uses the Scripture as its textbook for doctrinal teaching and leadership development.   As a result the average church evangelical is increasingly illiterate in the Scriptures.  And more than that, the average evangelical is ignorant of the fact that he is ignorant.  And evangelicals have been growing in their use of extra-biblical resources and tools for communicating with God and serving God.  Pastors learn leadership techniques from the business world, charismatics claim to have direct revelation from God, and the church sometimes uses those who claim to have died and gone to heaven only to return to give their "testimony" of what heaven is like.  So, wasn't it the evangelical world which criticized Roman Catholicism for putting tradition and the church's teaching on a level plane with Scripture? Aren't we doing a similar thing when we use subjective experience as a basis for guidance in Christian ministry, living and thinking?

It is not that we can't learn from and use resources and information outside the Bible, but nothing needs to be received as authoritative that come outside the Bible. The church's doctrine and ministry, and the Christian's guidance for living, must all be rooted and anchored in the Scriptures.  All that the church needs for its beliefs and guidance on Christian living and church ministry is contained in the Bible.  This is what the sufficiency of Scripture means.  If we are not careful, we will be found to be preaching a sufficient Bible yet treating the Bible as if it is insufficient for ministry and Christian living.  A church that believes the Scriptures, rightly interpreted, will be a church grounded in the truth.  Amen! 

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