The Sufficiency of Scripture: When Evangelicals Attack God’s Word
Something in particular has triggered my interest in the study of God’s Word as being all sufficient.
As a Church and as people whose lives are built upon the foundation of the Word of God, this is very important today. Let’s have a look at the Word of God and see what it says about its own sufficiency. There is a strong, pervasive and subtle strategy developing today among the so called “Evangelical Christians.” A strategy against the sufficiency of the Word of God.
Scripture as we have been grown up with is under attack. One of the great statements of traditional Evangelical theology is that Scripture is adequate for all matters of faith and conduct, and that is being attacked today.
A new kind of church leadership style
Let me briefly describe what I mean. Over the last few years the Church has grown accustomed and pre-occupied with what I would call “Worldly Management Techniques.” There are many books written about successful Corporate Management and Leadership styles, so the Church has perked up its ears and promptly adopted this kind of Leadership style.
Churches are learning those Management skills as if they were the keys to the Kingdom of God. In a very subtle way this is an attack on the adequacy of Scripture, as if to say, “Knowing the Word of God and understanding its principles and the teachings to Church growth is not enough. We must apply those Management Techniques to achieve the level of success as in the Corporate World.”
Many people feel that the diet of Scripture alone is not sufficient – there must be a certain amount of entertainment along with it. We have developed a liking for entertainment in our society, so therefore Churches have developed a taste for “Christian Entertainment” and are prepared to pay huge amounts of the Lord’s money for it. It is a concession to those people who do not believe that the teaching, study and application of the Word of God is exciting enough. They get bored with Gods revelation in Scripture and are desperate for some entertainment. That, I believe, is an attack on the sufficiency of the Word of God which provides all that is needed to the believers, in their spiritual battles, in their joys and fulfilment in life.
Looking for what is seen
I’m greatly distressed about what we could call “Mysticism” or “Occult”. I believe in Evangelicalism but if you look closely at the Evangelicalism of today you find many people preoccupied with the Occult. They are not aware of it, but in fact that’s what it is. They are searching for supernatural signs and wonders, reaching into the world of mediums, demons and the devil himself. There are people saying that we can never reach the world with the Gospel unless we can raise the dead and heal the sick and call fire from heaven.
Peter Wagner at an American Association of Bible Colleges Convention said, “The simple gospel is no longer adequate without signs and wonders. We cannot reach the world with just the Word of God.” He is talking about finding the power sources and delving into supernatural powers to perform miracles. There are people today who advocate “Christian Mantras” (Mantra chanting is directed to some heathen deity of Hindu origin). There are those offering formulas for confronting Satan, formulas for dealing with demons, positive confessions where you follow techniques to visualise a reality such as your healing, or your new car, or the girl you want, or a new house, or reaching people for Christ in evangelism, or developing a ministry etc. They get in to this kind of self-hypnosis which belong to the realm of the Occult.
They are being practised in order to gain supposed divine power. In fact, they only promote a “new religious science” based on Eastern and Hindu thinking to capture the power of the Eastern world. They are preoccupied with this kind of mysticism. Psychic powers are cultivated, and they claim authority over the devil, demons and diseases.
How it works out in practice
We see this kind of abandonment of biblical sufficiency in marriage and the family. There was a time when biblical principles were applied, to live life to the fullest as a family in the way that God intended. But today there is family planning, contraceptives. Institutes to deal with family problems, etc. In a subtle way they say that the Bible is inadequate and to a degree insufficient.
When we talk about homosexuality and the role of women in the Church, we hear the comment that the Bible is unsophisticated and inadequate to comment on these contemporary sociological issues.
This way of thinking is applied wholesale in churches worldwide, in particular the more liberal churches where they already have appointed homosexual and lesbian clergy, redefining their role away from biblical teachings.
Psychology today is making inroads into the Church in a really frightening way. In the Evangelical Churches there is a wholesale exodus from the traditional land of biblical theology into the new promised land of Psychology and Psychotherapy. Churches are now hiring psychologists to deal with the deep-seated emotional anxieties of man applying human wisdom to deal with problems of mankind. Theological students at seminaries are more and more learning Psychology instead of studying the Word of God and mastering Scripture. Seminaries are changing their curriculum drastically, putting more and more emphasis on Psychology courses, diminishing the biblical content. This kind of encroaching mysticism and preoccupation with supernatural powers, science of the mind, hypnosis and the like, is creating a new god in churches that is not The God of the Bible.
The church agreeing with the world
When we talk of biblical principles and try to apply these, we are mocked for being so primitive and naïve as to assume that the Bible could give people help when they have severe problems. The world has been saying the Bible cannot help, and now the Church is chiming in agreement that the Bible is inadequate in dealing with psychological problems. In fact, I would go as far as to say that there are many advocating today a Psychological salvation instead of a new birth in Jesus Christ. This is nothing more than a pseudo-evangelical humanism, advocating and pushing self-esteem, self-love, self-fulfilment and self-actualisation that Psychology has brought into the Church. It knows no biblical counterpart.
The Church fell for it hook, line and sinker. But the most remarkable thing is that the world has noticed, and admits the error of these things more often than we will. New York professor Paul Veets criticised Christian churches for their tendency to do what he called “Buying high and selling low,” in regard to social science. He said, “The Church is eager to adopt popular trends of thought at the very time the secular profession are beginning to criticise them. Its a matter of climbing on the bandwagon just about the time it’s slowing down”.
We jump into movements that are just about dead because they have proved to be a waste of time to the people in the world who started them. But in our contemporary Christian churches, these things make tremendous inroads. It’s absolutely amazing! It’s a big problem. I believe it is sinful to believe that the Word of God is inadequate. J.I. Packer in his book on the Word of God puts his finger on the problem in a paragraph that says:
Certainty about the great issues of Christian faith and conduct is lacking all along the line. The outside observer sees us as staggering on from gimmick to gimmick and stunt to stunt like so many drunks in a fog, not knowing at all where we are or which way we should be going. Preaching is hazy. Heads are muddled. Hearts fret. Doubts drain strength. Uncertainty paralyzes action. Unlike the first-century Christians who in three centuries won the Roman world and those later Christians who pioneered the Reformation and the Puritan awakening and the Evangelical revival and the great missionary movement of the last century, we lack certainty.
And the reason we lack certainty is because we have a sinful view of Scripture. We no longer seem to be believe that the bible is sufficient for the life and conduct of the Church. That is a sin of monstrous proportion, to deny the sufficiency of the Word of God.
How can we answer this? Let’s turn to the Bible to find in it that which is sufficient for all of life and conduct. There we find the proof and the testimony of the greatest authority in the Universe, none other than God Himself.
In 2 Cor. 3:5 the apostle Paul says, “We are not adequate (sufficient) in ourselves to consider anything from ourselves, but our adequacy (sufficiency) is from God”. That means that our capability of living life in God’s plan to the full comes from Him.
In other words, because we are Christians, we live in an environment in which the resources for life are Divine. We live at a level where human wisdom does not feed, because human wisdom cannot provide resources. Now, this does not mean that there is nothing outside the Bible that has any value. There are many things that have value. God’s common grace is bestowed on all men. He will create certain things in our environment that are very helpful. But when it becomes a matter of Spiritual life, that is revealed in the Word of God and ministered to us by the Holy Spirit through that Word. Outside the Word of God we don’t have to look for sufficiency that is not already provided in Scripture. For that is sin. Our sufficiency is from God.
We stay with Paul. This time turn to: 1 Cor. 2:12-13, 2:15-16,
We have received, not the Spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining Spiritual thoughts with Spiritual words … But he who Spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no man. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that He should instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.
Is there any insufficiency in the mind of Christ? Hardly. The mind of Christ is the consummate mind of God. The mind of Christ is omniscient, is supreme.
Paul says we have a word from God, a word not in the way that man teaches but taught by the Spirit of God. That word from God allows us to judge, evaluate, appraise, understand, comprehend and reason all things because it brings to us the mind of Christ. All we need to understand is: how does God see it, how does God think about it, what does God say about it? That is sufficient.
Luke tells us in the book of Acts of the noble Christians in the little town of Berea in Greece. They received the Word with eagerness and readiness of mind and searched the Scriptures daily. Spiritual nobility belongs to those who receive the Word of God with readiness of mind, which means they accept the Word of God with faith and eagerness. The Bereans pursued the Word of God – it was for them a daily diet. Noble spirituality is tied to a daily study of the Word of God. That’s where the strength comes from to deal with life in all circumstances.
We ought to remember a statement from Paul to the people in Laodicea. Col. 2:3-4, 7, “In (Christ) are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this in order that no man may delude you with persuasive argument ... And we are firmly rooted and now being built up in him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.” All the treasures and knowledge and wisdom are found in Christ who is revealed in the Word.
And therefore Paul says in Col. 2:8-10,
See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception according to the traditions of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. For in Him all the fullness of the Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the Head over all rule and authority.
The bottom line
In conclusion I want to look at Deut. 6:4, “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is One! “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”
That was the bottom line truth of all Theology in the land of Israel and among God’s people. That’s the bottom line for you and me. This is the summary of a simple way to express a myriad of commands that God laid down. But all the law was reduced and summarised to this. The Word of God then is the key.
You take the Word of God and you teach it to your children and you talk about it at any given time explaining the meaning and you memorise it. This is the key for happy living. It was to occupy all their attention as the source of everything. This is God’s design, given to His people.
The great missionary Robert Moffat went to a African village for a meeting with the people. Greetings and a welcome were done properly, and he spoke with them. Then an old African stood up and held his Bible high and said in agreement to what Moffat had said, “This is the fountain where I drink and this is the oil that makes my lamp burn”.
May that be true in our lives as well.