Posts Tagged ‘Sola Scriptura’
This past week we started a new teaching series at our church. There was a side comment during the message that got me to thinking about the role of Scripture and the Bible as the means of communication from God to man. The statement that was made which was responsible for this “thinking” of mine went something like this; “God’s Word is the primary way He speaks to us today.” First, let me say that I’m sure I’ve made the same or similar comments many times. Second, as a Wesleyan-Methodist, I’m also a fan of grounding my Bible reading and interpretation through the filter of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral…believing the Bible to be the fundamental authority for all we do. I say all this to make the point that I’m not necessarily in disagreement with “God’s Word is the primary way He speaks to us today,” I’m just trying to think through the implications of this particular belief and position.
Questions and Thoughts
When I heard the pastor say the Bible is the primary way God speaks to us today, the question popped into my mind, “why?” I’ve been thinking about the “why” for the past few days and some ideas have come to me that might be relative to some bigger questions and challenges regarding overall discipleship. For instance, challenges presented in the process of “teaching and training disciples who teach and train disciples.” Another challenge comes with teaching people how to truly “feed themselves” or become “self learners.”
Our premise statement is; “God’s Word is the primary way He speaks to us today.” The first question that comes to my mind is this: “Is the Bible the primary way that God wants to communicate with us?” My first response to this question is, “I don’t know…” I do agree, as I’ve already said, the Bible is the foundational authority for God’s communication. Therefore, I think we filter any extra-biblical communication: prophecy, divine words of knowledge, visions, dreams, and etc., through the Bible. This position of mine summarily agrees with the Protestant doctrine of Sola Scriptura.
Sola scriptura (Latin ablative, “by scripture alone”) is the doctrine that the Bible contains all knowledge necessary for salvation and holiness. Consequently, sola scriptura demands that only those doctrines are to be admitted or confessed that are found directly within or indirectly by using valid logical deduction or valid deductive reasoning from scripture. However, sola scriptura is not a denial of other authorities governing Christian life and devotion. Rather, it simply demands that all other authorities are subordinate to, and are to be corrected by, the written word of God. Sola scriptura was a foundational doctrinal principle of the Protestant Reformation held by the Reformers and is a formal principle of Protestantism today. [From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]
Although I agree with the tenet of Sola Scriptura, this doesn’t naturally assume (in my opinion) the Bible is the primary way God desires to speak with his people today.
The second question I have falls quickly upon the heels of question one: “If the Bible is not the primary means of God’s desired communication with his people, what is?” I think the primary means of communication is built on and in holistic (all of your heart, all of your soul, all of your mind, and all of your strength) relationship… In my opinion, this is interpreted as “walking with God.” This was the first recorded relationship between God and man (we find this in the opening chapters of the Genesis account in the Bible; God walking in the cool of the morning in the presence of Adam and Eve). I recall also this style of relationship was highly favored by God with His friend Enoch…so much so that He “took” Enoch. I think this was the type of relationship God enjoyed with Abram/Abraham as well; a relationship built upon “hearing,” “obeying,” “trusting,” “questioning,” “conversing,” and “following” God. The commonality in these relationships is there was no written word of God at that time we know of.
As I pondered over these questions, some other ideas came to my mind. I wondered how God initiated and nurtured these relationships between Himself and His friends and what examples might be used to support the “how.”
Since the beginning of the new year, I’ve been reading through the Bible chronologically, so the life of Abraham is prominent in my mind. Consequently, he tops my list of people who were “friends of God.” The first thing I notice about Abraham and the lifelong friendship he developed with God was that he (Abe) was driven to the desert; “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you” (Gen. 12:1). As soon as Abram “heard” and responded with “obedience” to this word from God, God appeared to him (Gen. 12:7). Following this initial encounter, there ensues a lifelong friendship full of adventure, ups and downs, revelation, and spiritual development for Abraham and his family with God.
As I continued to consider this example, I was reminded of others… Moses too was driven to the desert; Midian was his first desert encounter and that was followed with another forty years of “friendship building” before he was also “taken” by God (not necessarily an Enoch exit, but I digress).
David, the man after God’s heart, was also driven to the desert; Elijah had a desert experience too where he learned to “hear” God’s voice in a uniquely gentle way…and I’m sure there might be other Old Testament examples that I’m not remembering off the cuff.
New Testament examples of this “desert experience revelation and friendship building experience with God” are prominent as well. John the Baptist comes to mind; he was the man who lived in the wilderness in solitude and in relationship with God. Jesus, the man, was driven to the desert where his relationship and dependence on the Holy Spirit was tested. Jesus emerged fully empowered and fully trusting God’s word and witness to him; “I only speak the words I hear from my Father, I only do what I see the Father do…” Paul, too, recounts his experience of being driven to the desert for a season in Arabia where he was taught the ways of Jesus by the glorified Christ personally (Gal. 1:1-17). Again, I’m sure I’m missing some people and might be missing the point entirely, but it seems there is a common path being followed to my thinking. God desires intimacy and personal “face time” as a primary means of relationship building.
Reflecting on these examples, I see do recognize God’s conversations with these people as being responsible in large part for the Bible as the Word we have for us today. Moses is credited for writing (or at least is credited for the oral transmission of) what we have in the Torah or Pentateuch. David is credited for the majority of the Psalms. Jesus is the example and inspiration behind the Gospels and Paul is credited with writing the church epistles and pastoral letters. All of these acknowledgments point to what seems to be a connection between relationship and Word…in these examples, the relationship preceded the word for the most part, at least in the form that we have come to rely upon today anyway. What does this mean? I’m not sure and don’t feel comfortable making some definitive statement based on my “raw” thoughts, but another example comes to mind to illustrate where my ideas are drawing me.
The idea of people who are sight challenged and maybe completely blind come to mind when I’m thinking about the Bible as the primary means of God communicating to us today. The person who cannot see with their eyes becomes more reliant upon their other senses in order to “see” or interact in the world in which they live. (Of course, the same might be said for the person who cannot hear, but we’ll stick with the sight example…). I have read and have witnessed in television documentaries where people who are blind are able to hear better, have a more highly developed sense of smell, more sensitive to touch, and overall more sensitive to the use of all their senses more so than the person who sees well.
I think the person who is sight challenged is not necessarily compensated for their handicap as much as they have learned to use their other senses to a degree that God has enabled anyone to use them. The problem might be that we favor one sense over another and become lax in the use of our other senses. Like unused muscles, the skill and precision of use of those senses becomes atrophied and we rely upon their input and use less and less.
I also think considering the Bible as the primary means of communication from God might be problematic for creating strong disciples. We assume, because of the gains in global literacy that people read or know how to read, but that may be a faulty and dangerous assumption. Additionally, and I realize this may be a bit of a generalization, but I think there is supporting evidence that western society is heavily influenced by the ancient Greek philosophy (reason, logic, separation of the mind from the heart/soul). Subsequently, many people read the Bible with a certain detachment even if the detachment is inadvertent or subconscious. The result of this is there are a great many people who struggle to really “hear” God through Scripture…this is especially true if they do not sense an emotional response when they read it. There is also the consideration that while we point folks to 2 Timothy 3:16-17, and proclaim “all of Scripture is inspired and useful…” most do not read “all” of the Bible and gravitate only to portions that make them “feel” good or are easier to understand. Again, the result of this tends to be a lopsided and sometimes even heretical view of God.
Ultimately, this belief or position that the Bible is God’s “primary means of communication” has a number of potential pitfalls and is the reason for my question; “Is the Bible the primary way that God wants to communicate with us?” I still don’t know the real answer to this, but I am inclined to believe God wants holistic relationship, meaning minimal or no separation in the opportunities to connect with his children. I believe he desires to speak to us in every single facet and means that are presented to us in the course of a day… the Bible, of course, always being the filter that we test our communication through (eg., Sola Scriptura and Wesleyan Quadrilateral).
After processing some of this, I’m thinking our task as ministers, teachers, disciplers, and influencers is to teach this to people who are hungry and “have ears to hear,” teaching them that God is always speaking–as often and as loudly outside of the written word as he is inside of the written word. (I have some other thoughts about this here)
As we become more attuned and sensitive to the way God communicates and become more familiar to the many ways that God speaks, we will grow more deeply in relationship with Him by simple virtue of the fact that we are spending more time with Him… ultimately practicing the presence of God in all things (Brother Lawrence and Frank Laubach are examples that come to mind notwithstanding the Biblical references I mentioned earlier).
Still thinking… I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.