Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Sufficiency: THE issue among Christians today?

What do the Pope and his admirers, Joseph Smith and his admirers, and every Christian "continuationist" apologist, have in common?

First, to be clear: it is not denial of the Gospel. In that, one of these things is not like the other.

It is this:

They all have to base their case on the insufficiency of Scripture.

Now, saying this is like saying that Roman Catholics worship dead people. Say it frontally, they'll deny it. Put your ear against the door and listen to their candid conversations, read their writings, and the truth comes out. Tell them their religion has nothing much to do about Christ, and they'll deny it. Read their testimonies, and they're all about Rome, sweet Rome.

So almost any "continuationist" would vehemently deny that their position requires a denial of the sufficiency of Scripture, and they'll insist the contrary. However...

Just a brief listen to Driscoll's latest rant provides Example #47983, as does any candid argument of the case by a "continuationist." Give them time, and if they don't start there, they'll eventually get there. They must deny the sufficiency of the Bible. After all, if Scripture really is all we need to know and serve God (as it asserts of itself), then where is the need for non-authoritative, non-inerrant, non-binding semi-hemi-demi-kinda-revelation which is the "continuationist's" stock-in-trade?

Turns out: you really can't effectively talk-up the imitation unless you effectively talk-down The Real Thing. Since (as Phil and Frank and I have often pointed out) "continuationists" aren't really continuationists, this is exactly what they've got to do.

Of course, my larger case is that this whole issue started in Genesis 3:1b.

Bad start, bad fruit.


Robert said...

Watched a clip of Eric Ludy talking about the origin of all of the liberal and pomo line of thinking with regards to the Bible. And it was just what you referenced at the end of your post. If you really get to the bare bones of all of this, you find the same question: "Did God really say...?" And if we turn to our minds instead of the truth of the Word, then we've got the wrong answer already.

Meghan Smith said...

Tim Challies posted about Sarah Young. Can you do a post about her? She's a PCA woman who claims that her devotional thoughts are God's words to her. She wrote Jesus Calling and is publishing a counterpart for kids. I am dismayed. Also, can you define continuationist?

Sheldon said...

Sounds about right. This problem also crop up endlessly (it seems) when it comes to pastors and how to lead their church to accomplish the mission God established it for. That mission being spreading the glory of God to all nations by making disciples through the power of the gospel.
It is very difficult around my neck of the woods to find pastors who actually believe that the teaching of the word is the most effective means to grow their church. (It is very possible their idea of growth and God's idea are not the same.)
So with their mouths confess the sufficiency of scripture and with their lives and their shepherding deny it.

DJP said...

Meghan, a "continuationist" is someone who says that he believes that the attesting/revelatory gifts of the Spirit continue in operation to the present day. The most oft-cited ones are tongues and prophecy.

Andrew said...

Thanks for posting this. Here in Brazil we are witnessing the result of a decades-long domination of continuationist teaching. It's not pretty.

And I guess that's what bothers me most about the continuationist teaching of men who I otherwise admire: I have a daily, front-row seat to the kind of craziness it leads to.

DJP said...

Yes, yes, yes, Andrew.

Well, here we are after over a century of leaky-Canonism, looking at the zero good that its distinctives have produced. Lesson learned? Not by all, certainly.

Pastor Pants said...

My journey from extreme charismania to cessationism has been a very long and gradual journey. It is now complete, I think.

My only issue is the validity of such gifts to a people group who have NEVER heard nor had the gospel or the Bible. I MAY be open to that. Otherwise I am there.

4 or 5 of your posts on this over the last year or so have been the final nails in the coffin. Thanks.

Nauvoo Pastor said...

A hardy, HERE,HERE... I deal with this issue daily, and sure enough out comes the prophet Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Pope whatsajigger, Saint whosawhatsit, "God told me my dog dream I was a cat so we need to buy tuna", etc., etc. It is a lot of work to talk with them some days.

By the way, I pre-ordered your new book. Can't wait to sink my teeth into some prime rib....

Sir Aaron said...

The thing I always come to is healing. That's where the rubber meets the road. You can tell me all day long about how God gave you some nebulous prophecy that might as well come from a fortune cookie or about how you babble to yourself in some non-existant language, but I don't see any present day examples of the gift of healing.

DJP said...

Not the gift of healing; not the ability to command healing. God knows they've tried. For 105 years, they've tried. But still simply a solid record of FAIL.

Joey Phillips said...

I am having trouble understanding why sufficiency of Scripture would be undermined/denied simply because God uses something outside of Scripture to accomplish his purposes. Maybe that is not what you are saying.

If God works through the wise counsel of a friend, does that undermine Scripture? I would argue it does not. The sufficiency of Scripture doesn't mean we don't need wise friends. It doesn't mean God won't teach us things through circumstances. These things are used by God, and they are not Scripture...but that doesn't undermine Scripture because they are in a different category.

If God works through prophecy/tongues/healing it doesn't undermine Scripture any more than it undermined God's word in the early church. They, like any gift from God, are a tool to be used with wisdom that Scripture provides. (Of course, you have to accept the Grudemesque definition of prophecy, which you don't, but still.)

Anyway that's my thought, how would you delineate between acceptable means of Grace outside of Scripture, and unacceptable means of Grace outside of Scripture? That was a retarded way of asking, but I think you probably get me enough to gentle, I wish to learn :)

Scooter said...

I've noticed a few common characteristics among the "God told me" crowds. One thread seems to be want Your Best Life Now using biblical theology. It forgets that we are aliens and strangers on this earth.

Another thread seeks to neutralize sin from the equation so all decisions are perfect. It misses the hard fact that sin isn't an abstract concept, it resides in all humans. Even the very universe itself is like a broken engine.

Lastly, I've seen first hand what this unchecked prophecy and healing has done in Africa. I've seen commercials for "healing schools" where you go and learn to heal. Benny Hinn is beloved all over the continent.

trogdor said...

I've recently begun challenging "God told me..." statements with a question. "Are you saying that if you don't do that you're sinning and worthy of being cast eternally into hell, and that anyone who questions or disagrees deserves the same fate?" I've yet to have anyone have any idea what I'm talking about, which isn't a good sign for the thought-throughness of the use of divine inspiration language.

Question: I remember reading (not sure where, possibly James White's book) that there's a big schism in the ultra-united roman church about the relation between scripture and tradition. Some believe everything necessary is taught in scripture and the tradition is just clarifying/repeating, others believe the additional revelations in tradition and the Grand Poobah's pronouncements are necessary for salvation. Is that an accurate summary, and if so, does the official cult position vary by Poobah?

DJP said...

Great idea, Trog.

trogdor said...

Yeah, I knew it wasn't an original thought, and I was guessing I read it here or there. But it really drives the point home. If someone says "God told me to buy that house", and I think it's a stupid idea because he's broke, am I playing the role of Korah? In the classic "I got a vision from God that I will marry you", if she says no, is she worthy of the fires of hell?

Someone who isn't willing to say so needs to be rebuked about taking the Lord's name in vain and being a false prophet. Someone who is willing to say so - my goodness, the thought of that is beyond frightening.

ajlin said...

Re: the title of your post.


Especially among conservative Christians who have rejected the liberal view of Scripture-- and have instead affirmed the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture-- yet have embraced the pragmatism of the modernistic mindset.

In Driscoll's case, we have already seen this in his formal rejection of the Regulative Principle of Worship.

Persis said...

"where is the need for non-authoritative, non-inerrant, non-binding semi-hemi-demi-kinda-revelation which is the "continuationist's" stock-in-trade?"

Well said!

I also wonder if the average believer who uses the "God told me blah, blah, blah" lingo is just repeating bad Christianese without realizing what is being implied by that statement.

Sir Aaron said...

@DJP: This was one area, in an otherwise fabulous book, where I disagreed with John Grudem in his systematic theology book (the smaller one, of course).

Sir Aaron said...

@Trogdor: You are much kinder than I. I usually respond with something much more sarcastic.

Robert said...


I would submit that even if people in the RCC say that tradition clarifies or repeats what is taught in Scripture that this idea can lead down the path to tradition superseding Scripture. I mean a smart Catholic priest can make a good explanation of transsubstantiation from part of Scripture. And if the RCC isn't pushing people to read all of Scripture, then that makes it even easier to be duped.

I'm not sure if this is the pattern for all Catholic churches, but the one I was raised in had what is called a misselette in the pews. This had everything you needed to follow mass...the recitals and responses at the various parts of mass, the Scripture to be read, and even the Apostles' Creed. There was no push to bring your Bible and definitely no encouragement to be reading a lot at home.

I'm not saying you're ignorant to any of this, but just wanting to say that the schism that you describe in the RCC could not be as much of a schism as people would hope for. I hope that I'm wrong and that people inside the church are calling out the RCC for not following Scripture.

DJP said...

Aaron, pretty sure you mean Wayne Grudem, but we knew what you meant.


Brad Williams said...

A few years ago, I read "Confessions of a Reformissionary Reverend". I had heard that it was a good back by a solid guy who planted a church in Seattle. That was basically all I knew about Mark Driscoll at the time.

When I finished that book, I realized that I would never use it in the church. One reason was that I had an actual Vietnam Veteran at the church who received two purple hearts. I was offended by the humor of saying that a guy was "twitching like a Vietnam Vet." Secondly, he described a couple of events that could only mean one of two things:

1. He is a bona fide prophet like the prophets of old.
2. He is a liar.

There really is no middle road with some of the things he says. What other option do you have when a guy claims that God gives him explicit visions that come to pass and speaks to him audibly? It either happened, or it didn't. If it happened, how can we not be continuationists? If it didn't happen, how could he not be a liar?

John Schlaack said...

Thanks Dan for the good post! The insufficiency of Scripture certainly is the central issue. I'm curious though... some would say that Don Carson's book (Showing the Spirit) thoroughly dismantles the exegetical argument against the sign gifts ceasing. How would you respond to that? THANKS!

DJP said...

I would say he doesn't. But let's suppose he theoretically does, just for the sake of argument. Then that just takes us right over to today's Pyro post

Sir Aaron said...

I have no idea whay I said John Grudem. Of course, Wayne Grudem.

trogdor said...


First off, that's the first time anyone's ever accused me of excessive kindness. I may be maturing after all!

Second, I think I know why you made that mistake. I often do it for the same reason - I'm ready for some football.

Merrilee Stevenson said...

I know I'm LATE in the conversation, and I haven't even begun to read the many comments over at Pyro today--I don't think I'll ever catch up.

But I do have a question that a couple of you's guys already touched on, which is: How does a sister respond (lovingly, respectfully) when she hears a fellow brother or sister at church talk in such terms? I tend to press my lips together and raise my eyebrows, but that's about all I can think of to "say" without either being sarcastic or preachy--or just talking about it with my husband in the privacy of our home. But I don't think ignoring it with a smile is the right plan of action.

And in any of your experiences, does it necessarily lead to a lengthy conversation about theology? (Not that I mind such conversations, but I can't assume the other party doesn't mind.) I also am not currently/yet in a position of leadership or authority in the church, nor is my husband. We've been members and attending for about 4 1/2 years.

Any other good ideas/questions/statements y'all might suggest or free advice you'd offer?

Robert said...


The thing I always try to do when confronting anybody about any particular issue at church is to point to Scripture and take the time to draw out the basis from Scripture for the point I am making.

As to theological conversations, if somebody is willing to raise a point like that, they should be prepared to answer any questions you have an go through the effort of backing up their statement in light of the argument you make from Scripture. That doesn't mean you should demand things from them or get frustrated, but you certainly shouldn't feel like you have no right to get into a discussion over a controversial issue if somebody brings it up. The worst thing you can do is to leave it unaddressed because other people who are less mature believers might hear what the person is saying and just trust that this person knows what they are talking about.