Closed Canon! Closed Minds?
With what kind of expectation and anticipation do you go to church? That's a vital question!
Will the preacher proclaim God's truth faithfully?
Will it help me to grow in a God-pleasing way of life?
Are there areas in my life that are in need of being challenged by the Word of God?
How vital it is that our worship honours our Triune God, while at the same time being meaningful to worshippers! It is something that we must do with our whole heart and soul and mind!
Now, do we need new revelation to enhance the quality of our worship? Do we need present day prophecy to understand the days in which we live?
We believe in a closed canon, that is, the collection of Scriptures is complete. The Westminster Confession speaks of that in chapter 1, paragraph 1. There is no need for further revelation, other than "the final revelation of Jesus Christ" in His glorious return to this world (e.g. Colossians 3:4; 2 Thessalonians 1:7).
The Scriptures are sufficient to equip God's people for "every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16, 17) in the times in which they live. Moreover, the apostle Peter stresses that "no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation". Prophecy is not a matter of human insights, human interpretation of times and events. Rather, it is God the Holy Spirit moving men of old to speak from God. The prophetic words uttered in the past were confirmed in the "power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ", and that will again be the case when He returns (2 Peter 1:16-21). The Bible's message centres around that, warning us about false prophets, who by their words and actions "deny the Master who bought them" (2 Peter 2:1f).
A closed canon, to be sure! But closed minds?
Is that the same? Do we know all there is to be known from the Holy Scriptures? Has all the truth been grasped? In the right proportions? By nature we are very lopsided! Also in our Bible knowledge. It is easy to fasten onto certain teachings and get carried away with them, at the expense of others.
Have we exhausted the meaning of the pages of the Holy Writ?
Can God still teach us something new? In more depth? From an angle particularly relevant for today? Could we perhaps even rediscover truth?
We treasure the truths rediscovered and expanded in the days of the Reformation, but surely the understanding of Scripture did not reach its point of exhaustion 500 years ago!
Open minds means submitting our minds to the Word of God, in conjunction with the Spirit of God Who guides us into all truth. What a battle the apostles of old had with that! They had such fixed ideas about the Person and coming of Messiah, that despite Jesus' repeated teaching on His suffering, death and resurrection, they could not accept the reality of it! How our Lord needed to open their understanding! (Luke 24:45) What a battle the early church had in understanding justification by faith alone! Paul needed to write, "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin, that grace may abound?" (Romans 6:1ff) And James needed to write against dead orthodoxy by stressing that "faith without works is dead" (James 2:14-26). Correct opinions about the Bible are not the same as saving faith!
Our rich heritage does not give us an "edge" over other Christians. We ought, of course, with such beautiful teachings as the doctrines of grace, be the most "united" people of God. We ought to be able to speak with greater enthusiasm to others in witnessing to Christ. We ought to be the most compassionate sheep of Christ's flock. We ought to be rich in spiritual maturity so as to give a balanced account of the hope that is within us. But are we??
Open minds means submitting our minds to the Word of God, not submitting God's Word to our made-up minds!
It means God can still teach us something!
The Scriptures are complete, our knowledge of the Scriptures is not. The Scriptures are infallible, our knowledge of Scripture – no matter how well expressed – is not infallible! We still have to wear our L plates.
Open minds also means submitting to fellow-Christians out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21). God designed that together with all the saints (Ephesians 3:18) we are to know the truth concerning the love of God poured out in Christ Jesus. We confess there is only ONE holy Christian church. This is not to gloss over differences, but to acknowledge that we are not the only church! Besides, we can also learn from the church in the past, e.g. the Puritan writings.
Let us not be content with knowing the things we know. Let us expand our horizons by exploring biblical truth even further. Let us apply that knowledge in a spiritual dimension (e.g. devotion, worship, fellowship etc) as well as in a practical dimension (e.g. relationships in the home, the church, the community).
A recent publication on spiritual theology made me aware of theology not only as an academic exercise but a growing in the spirit, in our bonding with the Lord. After all it is not a mere knowledge about God that we want, but knowing God! Oh, for a hunger for the living God in the hearts of our people! That in turn will lead to a desire for others to hunger for God. And that in turn will generate an eagerness for missions!
It is one thing to accept a closed canon. It does by no means follow that we should have closed minds! Our Sovereign God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all we ask or think! (Ephesians 3:20)
Before long we face a new century, in fact, a new millennium. The Bible speaks humbly and confidently of "that Day" of Jesus' return, and therefore says also, "TODAY if you hear His voice.... do not harden your hearts!" (Psalm 95) That implies as well, Do not close your minds!