The protestant departure from Sola Scriptura, the principle that the Scriptures alone provide all the truth needed to find salvation and to grow in godliness, has troubled me for some time. I find it at the root of many false teachings as well as the rampant desire for God experiences and personal revelation. I was planning to post about Sola Scriptura today thanks to a message I listened to yesterday, but I’m going to hold off one more day. Instead, I want to share part of a very important piece by Dan Phillips (@BibChr on twitter) of The Pyromaniacs blog.
Phillips’ piece is a “pre-review” of a book called How Then Should we Choose? edited by Douglas S. Huffman. It has three sections about discerning God’s will and making decisions, one of which is called the “specific will” position. In the book Henry and Richard Blackaby advocate this viewpoint, which Phillips criticizes as unbiblical (I completely agree!). Even though the critique was written back in 2009, I think it is still important today because the Blackabys’ influence has certainly grown.
Responding solely to the chapter written by the Blackaby’s on their “specific will” argument, Phillips writes: “This chapter is just about the single most appalling trainwreck I’ve read in recent memory, whether viewed exegetically, hermeneutically, theologically, or pastorally. The implications, if taken and followed out seriously by anyone (—God forbid!), are absolutely catastrophic.”
Yes, catastrophic. Here’s why:
“Foundationally, the Blackabys argue that there is a one-for-one continuation between all Biblical narratives and our lives today; we should expect no change,” Phillips notes.
In other words, the experiences of Abraham, Moses, David and others were normative and our walks with God should be just like theirs. Nevermind what the Bible says:
“So forget Hebrews 1:1-2, with its portrayal of a purposeful revelation that is unfolded in differing portions and differing manners, coming to climactic fulfillment in Jesus Christ. Forget intra-canonical indications of purposeful ebbs and flows in the revelatory activity of God (1 Corinthians 13:8-10[see here]; Ephesians 2:20; Hebrews 2:1-4). Forget the Biblical pattern of miraculous event, divine interpretation, verbal rehearsal of that interpretation (i.e. Exodus 10:1-2; 13:8, 14-6;Deuteronomy 6:20-25; Psalm 145:4-7, etc.). Forget even the successive covenants (Jeremiah 31:31-40 [old covenant, new covenant, hel-lo-o?]; Romans 9:4; Hebrews 8, etc.). All is leveled to make way for their theory,” Phillips continues.
I’ve said it before and I realize it ticks people off, but hearing voices from God is not a normative part of the Christian life. We also don’t need Him to whisper in our ear every time we have a decision to make. He’s given us his Word in the Bible and we can glean so much wisdom from it. We can make decisions! (For more on this subject: Read Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung or Is That You Lord? by Gary Gilley).
Phillips identifies a secondary problem with the “specific will” position put forward by the Blackabys: “Non sola Scriptura. The insufficiency of Scripture is a major pillar to the Blackaby position. About this they are emphatic — in all but the use of that phrase. They do say many nice things about the Bible, allowing (for instance) that it is ‘the primary way God communicates with His people’ (p. 55). ‘Primary,’ but not nearly the sole way.”
There’s the rub. By misapplying prophetic revelation they argue that God does speak directly to people today giving them “divine directives.”
“Having made a chaotic and hermeneutically irresponsible mish-mash of Scripture and its claims for itself, the Blackabys bear down on individual Christians. And what their theory does is terrible to behold.
How to divine the Divine? Say you are convinced that you must hear God’s voice, must receive this flow of extra-canonical revelation that the Blackabys say is essential for a relationship with God. How do you do it? How do you hear God’s voice?”
Based on my research, the answer to that question winds up being contemplative prayer and other mystical practices.
I hope you’ll visit Pyromaniacs and read all of what he has to say because this notion that we need to be listening for God, or worse that some people have heard from him and have written down those revelations for all to read (Ahem … Sarah Young’s many books) have flooded church bookstores, “Bible” studies and pulpits all over the U.S.
It is my sincere view that this concept is dangerous to the faith, and that individual Christians everywhere need to get back to the Sola Scriptura position and be basing their lives and decisions on the Bible. More on that tomorrow.
- Just Do Something … a Giveaway (steakandabible.com)
- Sermon Recommendation: MacArthur on the Sufficiency of Scripture (steakandabible.com)
- Pastor James Murphy on Mysticism and Experientialism (steakandabible.com)
- Watch Out for the Heresy Two-Step (steakandabible.com)
- Giveaway: Is that You Lord? (steakandabible.com)
- Is Deception Calling? A Review of Jesus Calling by Sarah Young (steakandabible.com)