Category Archives: Theology

The Danger of Abandoning Sola Scriptura

This past week an interesting global controversy broke out involving Florida pastor Terry Jones and his decision to burn at least 200 Korans to mark the anniversary of 9/11.  Recent reports indicate he has suspended the plans, for now, pending discussions on a separate controversial issue, the moving of the mosque in New York.  I haven’t really followed the Koran burning issue too much, because quite frequently radical church pastors make some outlandish claims in the name of God.  But this one got me thinking.  I wasn’t able to find any quotes other than one from Politics Daily that stated Jones’ plan was following out what God had told him to do, but a lot of times in instances like these that’s typically the case.  Here’s the quote, ““’If God told us to do it’ — burn the Korans – ‘then I guess he could tell us to do something different.’”  If that’s accurate, then it seems an assertion could be made that he indeed was following what he felt he was told.  Yesterday, the announcement to suspend the burnings was due to an alleged agreement to move the mosque in New York, which Jones took as a “sign from God.”  The pastor’s entire logic and therefore his theology is wrong and dangerous.  This is precisely what happens when you abandoned the doctrine of Sola Scriptura

During the Protestant Reformation, the Reformers established what was known as the “5 Pillars of the Reformation” that included Sola Scriptura (Only Scripture: Our Only Foundation), Solus Christus (Only Christ: Our Only Mediator), Sola Gratia (Only Grace: Our Only Method), Sola Fide (Only Faith: Our Only Means), Sola Dei Gloria (To God Alone Be Glory: Our Only Ambition).  These 5 Latin phrases were central to the protestant debate, as the Roman Catholic Church had begun to exert their own “infallibility” and diverge away from each of these Biblical areas.  Such is the case within mainstream evangelical churches today.  Many have no idea what these phrases are, let alone what they mean in the Biblical sense.   An excellent introduction to them is Dr. Michael Horton’s article found here: http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/essentials.html

Sola Scriptura was so integral to the heart of the Reformation because on the one hand, the Roman Catholics believed their teachings were infallible and asserted that their traditions were likewise the form of an infallible revelation.  They simply needed “one infallible Bible and one infallible interpreter” of it.  Obviously no man can be infallible and only the Lord Jesus Christ ever has been perfect, but in Catholicism, even to this day, the pope is consider as such.  On the other side of the Reformation debate were the Anabaptists who believed that their leaders were in direct communication with the Holy Spirit.  Instead of one infallible messenger, like the Catholics, the Anabaptists had multiple flawless messengers who staked a claim to hear the voice of God.  In the middle of these two sides stood the Reformers and their assertion that the Bible was the only infallible form of communication of God with man and was therefore the final authority in all matters, such as doctrine and life.

Which brings us back to Pastor Jones and likewise all preachers/teachers who make claims that “God told them” to do or say various things, that they’ve had a divine revelation, or that they’ve heard God speak to them.  These claims are “extra-biblical”, meaning it is not something that God has spoken through His Holy Word.  As Michael Horton states in the article referenced above, “There can be no communication with God apart from the written and living Word. Everything in the Christian faith depends on the spoken and written Word delivered by God to us through the prophets and apostles.”   Jones isn’t alone in this regard, the recently deceased Oral Roberts made numerous claims that God had told him various things to do or “prophesy”.  Likewise, Pat Robertson has made multiple claims over the last 30 years that were “revelations from God”.  The list of these men goes on and on and when the general public hears of these “revelations” the usual response is to scoff and mock God.  It might be easy for even us Christians to look at televangelists and mock them for their claims, but what about when this idea of hearing or listening for God outside of his Word invades the local church?    

Pastor John MacArthur offers the following helpful commentary on a study that teaches that very thing:

“a book….It’s called Experiencing God. There’s much in it that’s good. There really is. There’s much in it that’s very good. It gives honor to Christ. It gives honor Scripture. It gives honor to the Holy Spirit, but there’s an insidious flaw in the middle of it. The material is designed to teach a person how to listen for the voice of God and to somehow be able to hear the voice of God.

Now, this is very dangerous. If you want to hear the voice of God, read the Bible. I’ll never forget reading some years ago a book written by somebody who was into hearing the voice of God and into prophecies and all of the manifestation of that in the Church. It was a pastor of a church in the Midwest, and he said, “When somebody stands up in our church service and says, ‘Thus sayeth the Lord,’ and then rattles off something from God, we know that it’s either from God or it’s not.” And frankly, that is not helpful. That is not helpful.

God doesn’t speak in such unclear fashion. If God wants to say something, there won’t be any question about whether He said it or didn’t say it. The problem with that is you’ve got people being engulfed in this mystical thing, listening for the voice of God, and then whatever pops into their head, becomes divine as to its source. “Well, the Lord told me to do this, and the Lord told me to do that.” I have to tell you honestly folks, the Lord has never said a word to me in my entire life that didn’t come out of the Bible. They say, “Well, don’t you think he impresses things on your heart?” Yeah, but I don’t know if it’s Him. I have a strong impression. I don’t have a red light on my head that turns on and goes around and around when it’s Him. I don’t know that. There’s no way I can know that.

Sure I feel things, and so forth. You say, “Well, don’t you believe God leads you?” Of course, I look back in retrospect, and I see it. But at the time, I don’t have any sense, feeling that is clearly defined as the voice of God. And so what you’re setting people up for is serious problems, because they’re gonna follow their impressions. They’re gonna follow, who know where those impressions may be coming from, as if that’s the voice of God. And with good intentions, it takes people off the word and onto their own intuition, which is pretty dangerous. And I have a problem with that entire movement because of that.

And again, I go back and say you can read some of those books, which I have read through the years and critiqued and all, and you’re gonna find many, many things in there that are very good. They honor the word. They honor God. They honor Christ. They honor the Holy Spirit, but having done all of that, then you tell people, “Learn to listen for the voice of God, and God will tell you what to do.” You set them up for disaster, because there’s no indication in Scripture that they can ever know the voice of God, especially if it’s not audible. If it’s some kind of impression, you don’t know where that impression came from.”
http://http://www.gty.org/Resources/Sermons/70-21

 This is why the Reformers were so adamant for Sola Scriptura because when the Bible is not the final authority in matters it leads to confusion, false assertions, and most importantly false presumptions placed in the mouth of God.  When a person follows this internal prompting, who’s to say it’s from God or the flesh?  The Apostle Paul states in Romans 7:18, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.  For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.”  How then can we look inward and expect to hear God’s voice, let alone discern whether it is His or an outworking of our own sinful flesh?

The danger in listening and following these internal voices and promptings instead of the Word of God is that it can lead one down a maddening trail of twists and turns.  It’s a trap that we can so easily fall into or a path that we can be so easily persuaded to follow, such as in the book Experiencing God, that MacArthur referenced above.  Maybe some of these promptings we get right and things work out for good.  But what about the ones we get wrong, like ordering the burning of the Koran?  Are we so presumptuous as to place those words in the mouth of our Lord?  The question becomes if we abandon Sola Scriptura in favor of “hearing from God” how do we know who is actually hearing God’s voice and who is like Terry Jones or other preachers?     

2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”

Proverbs 28:26 “Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.”

Predestination and the Free Offer

I read this on the Pyromaniacs blog and since I often include posts from Charles Spurgeon, I thought I would include this one.  It’s an excerpt from a sermon entitled “High Doctrine and Broad Doctrine” available HERE with most all of Spurgeon’s sermons/works.  I don’t know if I’ve ever read/heard a better explanation of the sovereign grace of God and the necessity of man to except the free offer.  If you struggle with reconciling these two views, then read below to better understand their relationship and how they are complementary. Sola Gratia!

 

By Charles H. Spurgeon 

“All that the Father giveth me shall come to me, and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”—John 6:37.

These two sentences have been looked upon as representing two sides of Christian doctrine. They enable us to see it from two stand-points—the Godward and the manward.

The first sentence contains what some call high doctrine. If by “high” they mean “glorious towards God,” I fully agree with them; for it is a grand, God-honoring truth which our Lord Jesus declares in these words,—”All that the Father giveth, me shall come to me.” Some have styled this side of truth Calvinistic, but while it is true that Calvin taught it, so also did Augustine, and Paul, and our Lord himself, whose words these are. However, I will not quarrel with those who see in this sentence a statement of the great truth of predestinating grace.

The second sentence sets forth blessed, encouraging, evangelical doctrine, and is in effect a promise and an invitation,—”Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” This is a statement without limitation of any kind: it has been thought to leave the free grace of God open to the free will of man, so that whosoever pleases may come and may be sure that he still not be refused.

We have no permission to pare down either sentence, nor is there the slightest need to do so. The first sentence appears to me to say that God has chosen a people, and has given these people to Christ, and these people must and shall come to Christ, and so shall be saved. The second truth declares that every man who comes to Christ shall be saved, since he shall not be cast out, and that implies that he shall be received and accepted.

These are two great truths; let us carry them both with us, and they will balance each other. I was once asked to reconcile these two statements, and I answered, “No, I never reconcile friends.” These two passages never fell out: they are perfectly agreed. It is folly to imagine a difference, and then set about removing it. It is like making a man of straw, and then going out to fight with it.

The grand declaration of the purpose of God that he will save his own is quite consistent with the widest declaration that whosoever will come to Christ shall be saved. The pity is that it ever should be thought to be a difficulty to hold both truths; or that, supposing there is a difficulty, we should have thought it our duty to remove it. Believe me, my dear hearers, the business of removing religious difficulties is the least remunerative labor under heaven.

The truest way is to accept the difficulty wherever you find it in God’s word, and to exercise your faith upon it. It is unreasonable to suppose that faith is to be exempted from trials: all the other graces are exercised, and why should not faith be put to the test? I often feel a joy within my spirit in having to believe what I cannot understand; and sometimes when I have to say to myself, “How can it be?” I find a joy in replying that it is so written, and therefore it must be so.

In spite of all reasoning stands the utterance of God. Our Father speaks, and doubts are silenced: his Spirit writes, and we believe. I feel great pleasure in gliding down the river of revelation, upon a voyage of discovery, and hour by hour obtaining fresh knowledge of divine truth; but where I come to an end of progress, and see my way blocked up by a sublimely awful difficulty, I find equal pleasure in casting anchor under the lee of the obstacle, and waiting till the pilot tells me what next to do.

When we cannot go through a truth, we may be led over it, or round it, and what matters? Our highest benefit comes not of answering riddles, but of obeying commands by the power of love. Suppose we can see no further into the subject—what then? Shall we trouble about that? Must there not be an end of human knowledge somewhere? May we not be perfectly satisfied for God to appoint the boundary of understanding? Let us not therefore run our heads against difficulties of our own invention, and certainly not against those which God has seen fit to leave for us.

Take, then, these two truths, and know that they are equally precious portions of one harmonious whole. Let us not quibble over them, or indulge a foolish favouritism for one and a prejudice against the other; but let us receive both with a candid, large-hearted love of truth, such as children of God should exhibit. We are not called upon to explain, but to accept. Let us believe if we cannot reconcile.

Here are two jewels, let us wear them both. As surely as this Book is true, God has a people whom he has chosen, and whom Christ has redeemed from among men; and these must and shall by sovereign grace be brought in due time to repentance and faith, for not one of them shall ever perish. But yet is it equally true, that whosoever among the sons of men shall come and put his trust in Christ shall receive eternal life. “Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”

“None are excluded hence but those
Who do themselves exclude.
Welcome the learned and polite,
The ignorant and rude.”

The two truths of my text are by no means inconsistent the one with the other: they are perfectly agreed. Happy is the man who can believe them both, whether he sees their agreement or does not see it.

I was cruising one day in the western Highlands. It had been a splendid day, and the glorious scenery had made our journey like an excursion to Fairy Land; but it came to an end, for darkness and night asserted their primeval sovereignty. Right ahead was a vast headland of the isle of Arran. How it frowned against the evening sky! The mighty rock seemed to overhang the sea. Just at its base was a little bay, and into this we steamed, and there we lay at anchorage all night, safe from every wind that might happen to be seeking out its prey. In that calm loch we seemed to lie in the mountain’s lap while its broad shoulders screened us from the wind.

Now, the first part of my text, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me,” rises like a huge headland high into the heavens. Who shall scale its height? Upon some it seems to frown darkly. But here at the bottom lies the placid, glassy lake of infinite love and mercy: “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Steam into it, and be safe under the shadow of the great rock. You will be the better for the mountain-truth as your barque snugly reposes within the glittering waters at its foot; while you may thank God that the text is not all mountain to repel you, you will be grateful that there is enough of it to secure you.

Perseverance in the Faith

By Charles H. Spurgeon

“strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”  Acts 14:22 ESV

Perseverance is the badge of true saints.  The Christian life is not a beginning only in the ways of God, but also a continuance in the same as long as life lasts.  It is with a Christian as it was with the great Napoleon: he said, Conquest has made me what I am, and conquest must maintain me.  So under God, dear brother in the Lord, conquest has made you what you are, and conquest must sustain you.  Your motto must be, Excelsior.  He only is a true conqueror, and shall be crowned at the last, who continueth till war’s trumpet is blown no more.  Perseverance is, therefore, the target of all our spiritual enemies. 

The world does not object to your being a Christian for a time, if she can but tempt you to cease your pilgrimage, and settle down to buy and sell with her in Vanity Fair.  The flesh will seek to ensnare you, and to prevent your pressing on to glory.  It is weary work being a pilgrim; come, give it up.  Am I always to be mortified?  Am I never to be indulged?  Give me at least a furlough from this constant warfare. 

Satan will make many a fierce attack on your perseverance; it will be the mark for all his arrows.  He will strive to hinder you in service: he will insinuate that you are doing no good; and that you want rest.  He will endeavor to make you weary of suffering, he will whisper, Curse God, and die.  Or he will attack your steadfastness: What is the good of being so zealous?  Be quiet like the rest; sleep as do others, and let your lamp go out as the other virgins do.  Or he will assail your doctrinal sentiments: Why do you hold to these denominational creeds?  Sensible men are getting more liberal; they are removing the old landmarks: fall in with the times. 

Wear your shield, Christian, therefore, close upon your armor, and cry mightily unto God, that by his Spirit you may endure to the end.