Thursday, November 29, 2007

Dumping Sola Scriptura

“In the actual practices of the Evangelical community in North America, there is an over-commitment to Scripture in a way that is false, irrational, and harmful to the cause of Christ. . . . And it has produced a mean-spiritedness among the over-committed that is a grotesque and often ignorant distortion of discipleship unto the Lord Jesus.

[The problem is] "the idea that the Bible is the sole source of knowledge of God, morality, and a host of related important items. Accordingly, the Bible is taken to be the sole authority for faith and practice.”
J.P.Moreland quoted in "Postcard from San Diego:
Fighting 'Bibliolatry' at the Evangelical Theological Society,"
by Ted Olsen, Christianity Today, 11/14/07.

When evangelical leaders talk about a Second Reformation, they mean reversing the tenets of the First Reformation. A stunning example of this occurred recently when evangelical professor J.P. Moreland blasted "over-commitment to the Bible" and neglect of "work on broad cultural themes." If this is the current state of apologetics in the evangelical world, then grievous times have arrived.

Perhaps this lack of commitment to Scripture alone, i.e., Sola Scriptura, explains the recent activities of Rick Warren, Robert Schuller, Leith Anderson, Emergents, and a host of Fuller Theological Seminary leaders, who could all sign on to a common faith document with Moslem leaders (see previous post). There is a terrible omission in this so-called Christian worldview.

Below, Anton Bosch has some pertinent comments about this rather blatant shift in focus.

Overcommitted to the Bible?

At a recent conference, the most popular paper resulted in four times as many people crowding into the room than it was designed to hold. The title of this provocative lecture was “How Evangelicals became overcommitted to the Bible and what can be done about it.”*

The speaker said that in “the actual practices of the Evangelical community in North America, there is an over-commitment to Scripture in a way that is false, irrational and harmful to the cause of Christ.” He claimed that this over commitment has produced a mean-spirited and grotesque distortion of Christianity. He also said that the problem was with “the idea that the Bible is the sole source of knowledge of God, morality, and a host of important items.” I will not bore you any further with the rest of his mindless ramblings.

So what?, I hear you say, “this is what you can expect from atheists, liberal theologians and other unbelievers.” The problem is that these ideas were proposed at a meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society by no-one less than J.P. Moreland , a well-known Evangelical theologian and professor at Talbot School of Theology, which describes itself as “a conservative, evangelical seminary”!

If this is what it means to be Evangelical, then I am not one of those.

First, we need to confirm that the Bible is indeed the sole source of knowledge about God. Nothing about God can be discovered through any other means than through His Word. Not only is the Bible the sole source of knowledge about God, but it is also the sole source of knowledge of morality (right and wrong) and of every important matter that affects mankind. For generations believers and churches have confirmed that the Bible is the only authoritative and infallible rule of faith, practice, doctrine and daily living. Or in the words of the Reformers: “Sola Scriptura” (only Scripture).

The sad fact is that Moreland was simply verbalizing what most “Christians” think. Even though they won’t admit to it, the majority of “Christians” believe science rather than the Bible. They trust their experience rather than the Scriptures and their traditions over the Word of God. Most believe that common sense is equal to Bible truth. Psychology is seen as more relevant than the Word of God and the television is more true (and exciting) than the Book. Worst of all, they believe their preachers even when they contradict the Bible.

Next we need to ask the question: “Are Evangelicals indeed overcommitted to the Bible?” The answer is an emphatic NO! The reality is that the vast majority of Christians do not really believe the Bible and they are not even moderately committed to it, let alone over-committed to it. And before we speak in general terms, let’s think about ourselves. The reality is that if you and I really believed that the Bible is the authoritative Word of God, we would live very different lives and be very different people. Here is some evidence:

  • The Bible says that “for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36-37). If we really believed that, every one of us would not say half the things we do say.
  • The Bible teaches that unbelievers will be condemned to an eternity in Hell (Revelation 20:14-15). If we really believed that, we would be spending much more time on our knees in prayer. And we would be pleading with people to make right with God with a sincerity and conviction that would convince many that we actually believed what we were saying.
  • The Bible teaches that Jesus is coming soon and at a time when we least expect Him (1Thessalonians 5:2-3). Yet the vast majority of “Christians” live as though He is never coming back.
  • The Bible reveals that God knows and sees everything all the time and yet we act as though God does not know or see what we do in secret and that He is unaware of our deceit, lies and hypocrisy.

In the same way we can examine countless Scriptures and see that very very few of us actually, really believe the Bible and are committed, not just to read it but to live it. Very few Christians believe that the Bible is God’s Word – the word God has spoken. Most believe that it only contains some words about God, mixed with some suggestions for a happy life.

No, the Bible is God speaking to mankind. It has no less authority than the ten words God Himself scribed into the two tablets of stone on Mount Sinai. He has not changed His mind about His Word and it will be the standard against which every life and action will be judged. Whenever we open the pages of the Book we should do so with reverence and awe – they are God’s eternal words.

We don’t need less commitment to the Bible we need more – a lot more. We need a fresh reverence, love and respect for the Bible. It should not be the basis of speculation and debate but rather of obedience and practice. We need preachers who will unreservedly commit to the Bible, the whole Bible and nothing but the Bible. We need men who will “preach the word” (2Timothy 4:2) without fear or favor. We need Christians who are humble enough to believe God’s Word, no matter what others say or think. And we need churches that are committed to actually expect their members to live according to the Bible. In short – we need to get back to the Bible.

Heretics like Moreland should be excommunicated publicly. Schools, and the products of the schools, that harbor such unbelievers should be shunned. Churches should not accept preachers that have studied under such men or in such seminaries.

In case you think that is radical, then hear what Paul said: “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8-9).

The Truth:

“Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” (1Corinthians 1:20-21).

*The paper was delivered at The 59th Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society held November 14-16, 2007 at San Diego, California. The full text can be read at: