What Is the Proper View of Scripture?
This is definitely going to be one of those "thinking out loud" posts. Let me set up the discussion with this information to bring my readers up to speed:
The other day, there was a post on Pyromaniacs entitled How we "do" Christianity, and the reverse. It dealt with a comment the author had come across which said basically that Christianity is not a relationship with a book, but is a relationship with God. Dan Phillips, the author of this particular Pyro post, wrote in conclusion:
So do we have fellowship with writings, or with God?In the comments section that followed, I attempted to try to understand what role the Holy Spirit plays in all of this in the daily life of the believer. I was soundly ravaged by Mr. Phillips for apparently being a TBN-wannabe (TBN as in Trinity Broadcasting Network) fringe heretic who is "fascinated and enthralled with the blank spaces in between the lines of Scripture."
It's a false dichotomy.
God tells us that we have fellowship with Him by means of the words that He moved men to write.
To the degree that something else, some other method or direction, entralls us -- to that degree, we are no longer "doing" Christianity.
Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I fully acknowledge that, in the past, I have been a part of a regular broadcast on TBN, albeit as a keyboard player and not a "theologian". But my appearance as a musician on that network does not, in any way, serve as my endorsement of all the teaching that comes from that network. In fact, I would have to say that, generally speaking, I do not endorse most of what is taught on TBN.
Even while I've been writing this post, Mr. Phillips has jumped in with more sweeping accusations against me, saying that I have demonstrated a "disdain" for the written word of God. Unfortunately, Mr. Phillips mistakes difference with his interpretation of particular verses to be disdain for God's word itself.
Despite all that, I think that this really is a legitimate discussion for us to be having, and in particular I wanted to respond to something written by Mike Young in our discussion there. Mike has definitely taken the level-headed approach in handling my questions, and I started to type a response to him. However, my response got so lengthy that I figured it was better to take it up here. Besides, I would like to get input from my other readers on this topic.
In one of the comments on that lengthy discussion, I wrote:
God does not hide behind a book. He does not limit Himself to only giving us a book.... The ultimate revelation of God was in Jesus. Yes, we learn a lot about Jesus through the Bible, but the goal (by Jesus' own words, as recorded in Scripture) is for us to be "in Him" and for Him to be "in us".Mike wrote the following in response to me (specifically in response to the very last sentence in my quote above):
Like it or not, there is a danger of putting the written "Word of God" above the actual, living Word of God, which is Jesus. And if you want to hold to a belief that the only way the Holy Spirit works today is through pointing us back to the Word, I just don't see how you get that from Scripture itself.
You really are arguing against scripture, even if you don't think you are. And I'm really not trying to attack you on this, so I hope you'll be patient with my observation....Apart from scripture, how do we know we're in him? Again, 1John dealt with this and instructs us to test such spirits to see whether they're of God. I previously asked how we were to do this. Well, it's through the scriptures. John makes this clear in chapter 5. It was the purpose for even writing the epistle.Following is the response that I composed to Mike.
Mike, thank you for your response. You and I actually are not very much in disagreement at all. In fact, I think any disagreement between us at this point on this issue may possibly be semantics.
There is one paragraph that I'm not positive I fully understand what you're saying, and so I would like to clarify, if possible:
Apart from scripture, how do we know we're in him? Again, 1John dealt with this and instructs us to test such spirits to see whether they're of God. I previously asked how we were to do this. Well, it's through the scriptures. John makes this clear in chapter 5. It was the purpose for even writing the epistle.I don't disagree at all that the writing of the epistle was for the purpose of instructing in assurance of eternal life. But his epistle (to my reading -- correct me if I'm missing something else here) does not point merely to the written word. He says in verse 10 of chapter 5 that anyone who believes in the Son of God "has this testimony in himself" (NASB...the NIV says "in his heart"...Greek has just the reflexive pronoun).
Now, I may be way off base here, but it sounds to me a lot like what God talked about in the Old Testament when He said that there was coming a day when He would write His law on our hearts.
Again, this does not in any way negate the written word, because it is through that written word that we are introduced to Jesus (since none of us were alive at that time when He was physically here!), and we have some of His teaching recorded in the written Bible.
But it seems like the thrust of the biblical writers is that the life that comes through Jesus (actually, the life that is Jesus) becomes more than just studying written words on a page. It becomes a life within us. Simply put, the written word is not the end in and of itself, but the means to that end. (And to that extent, you are correct that the bulk of my argumentation has been against an incorrect elevating of the written word. We are in agreement on that.)
Now, I really do understand that this causes grave concern for many. But let me use your own analogy to show my side, too. You said that the KJVO folks unhealthily elevate the written word, specifically the KJV. Fully agreed. And you likewise cautioned against writing off the idea of living by the Scriptures based on their distortion of it. Again, agreed.
But the same holds true for an understanding of an indwelling Holy Spirit. Just because TBN and other "crazymatics" (as another blogger recently termed it) have gone overboard with "thus saith the Lord" should not negate the reality that we are to walk by the Spirit.
Let me explain a bit more what I mean by those words, because I do not believe that walking by the Spirit comprises a 1:1 relationship with simply following the "letter" of the written Word. (That is absolutely and positively a part of it.)
What I have a hunch is being taught in Scripture, and is sort of my "working hypothesis" in this subject (and please note the word "working", because I am not claiming to have all this figured out by any stretch of the imagination) is this: The process in which a believer/disciple of Jesus Christ grows in maturity is one in which the written word forms a foundational aspect to knowing the voice of Jesus and learning what life in the Spirit looks like. But, as a believer matures in their walk, and "practices" (not the best word) walking in the Spirit in their daily living, it seems to me that more and more of their understanding and guidance comes from the Spirit's voice within them, not only the written word.
In other words, when they encounter a situation or a decision or a question, it's not so much, "Well, let me search the Bible and see what God already said about it" as it is a sense in which they are so familiar with what God has already said that they can discern quite readily whether this new situation/decision/question is of God or not.
Jesus said that His sheep know His voice. By that, I don't really think He was merely saying that His sheep would have a correct doctrine of inspiration so that they would trust the written word.
So I open it up to Mike (if he comes over and reads this) or any of my other readers. What, if anything, does Scripture say about its own "sufficiency"? And what role should the Scripture play in the ongoing life of the believer?
Until next time,