f The Wittenberg Door: Should We Seek Extra-Biblical Revelations?

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Commenting on Christendom, culture, history, and other oddities of life from an historic Protestant perspective.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Should We Seek Extra-Biblical Revelations?

One of the issues resolved by the Reformers was that of final authority, i.e., Are the Scriptures sufficient for doctrine and life? The Reformers, of course, answered in the affirmative. Louis Berkhof summarized their case as follows:

In Scripture each succeeding book connects up with the proceeding (except in contemporary narratives), and is based on it. The Psalms and the Prophets presuppose the Law and appeal to it, and to it only. The New Testament comes to us as the fulfillment of the Old and refers back to nothing else. Oral traditions current in the time of Jesus are rejected as human inventions, Matt. 5:21–28; 15:4, 9; I Cor. 4:6. Christ is presented to us as the acme of the divine revelation, the highest and the last, Matt. 11:27; John 1:18; 17:4, 6; Heb. 1:1. For the knowledge of the way of salvation we are referred to Scripture only, to the word of Christ, and the apostles, John 17:20; I John 1:3 . . .

Both Rome and the Anabaptists rejected the sufficiency of Scripture. Rome put as Scripture’s rival her church councils and traditions, with the ultimate authority residing in the pope. The Anabaptists, however, had a low view of Scripture for other reasons: they sought guidance from an “inner light” and direct revelations from God, resolving that the Spirit worked apart from the Word because the Word was dead.

Swarmers

Renting the Spirit from the Word by claiming direct revelations from God was something the Reformers could not abide. For that reason, Martin Luther derisively referred to them as “swarmers” because they were “swarming everywhere, deranged by the devil, regarding Scripture as a dead letter, extolling nothing but the Spirit and yet keeping neither the Word nor the Spirit.”

Likewise, in speaking of the link between the Spirit and the Word, John Calvin wrote . . .

Two things are connected here, the Word and the Spirit of God, in opposition to the fanatics, who aim at oracles and hidden revelations apart from the Word.

The Sufficiency of Scripture

The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men . . .

Westminster Confession, chapter 1, article 6(a)

The confession states that everything we need to know for doctrine and life is either expressly or by consequence set forth in Scripture. Moreover, because it is the “whole counsel of God” there is nothing left to be revealed in this life. In other words, the Scriptures are sufficient for all men at all times and therefore can’t be added to.

Incomplete to the Complete

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son . . .

Hebrews 1:1-2

The writer of Hebrews juxtaposes the patriarchs and prophets to Christ. The point being that their writings were partial, incomplete; this is why there was a succession of prophets and books of the Bible. Christ, however, being the pinnacle of revelation, was truth in its entirety (John 14:6; Col. 2:9).

No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.

John 15:15

All that the Father wanted revealed was made known to the Biblical writers. This information, and only this information (Jn. 21:25), was later codified into the Scriptures by the work of the Spirit (Jn. 14:26). It is this completed, inscripturated word that is to be taught (I Tim. 4:13), and it is by this completed work of revelation that we are fully equipped:

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

Furthermore, because God’s revelatory work is complete, we are able to proclaim “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27), and we are able to rest in the knowledge that what we have in the Scriptures is “the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.” (Jude 1:3)

Modern Swarmers

Modern “swarmers” abound. Some, like Harold Camping, Pat Robertson, or the late David Wilkerson, are well known to us, and so is the shame they brought on the body of Christ because of their claims of revelations. But these “God whispers” don’t only occupy leadership roles in major ministries, nor do they only fill the gaudy stages of “Christian” TV programs. Pentecostals, Charismatics, and many Evangelicals seek revelations apart from Scripture. For those seeking these revelations I have two things I’d like you to consider:

First, think about what you’re saying when you say something like, “God spoke to me,” or “God is giving me a word for you,” or, as a former “pastor” of mine would say mid-sermon, “Yes, yes, lord, I’ll say that.” God doesn’t take kindly to those who claim to be speaking on His behalf when He has not spoken. As a matter of fact, this crime is so heinous that, in Old Testament times, God commanded that the offenders be put to death (Deut. 13, 18:20-22, 13:12-13; Ez. 13:1-9; Zech. 13:3).

Second, what’s wrong with the revelation that He already provided? Considering the case made above, why do you think the Scriptures are incomplete? Why are they not sufficient for you? Instead of seeking a new “word,” how about mastering the revelation you’ve been provided (2 Tim. 2:15)?

Conclusion

All those seeking extra-Biblical revelations must stop trying to find a back door to God (or, as Martin Luther put it, stop trying to view God in the nude). God has spoken, and still speaks, through the Bible—and those same Scriptures remain sufficient for doctrine and life. Not the Spirit working apart from the Word, but the Spirit working through the Word.

The Bible is something more than a body of revealed truths, a collection of books verbally inspired of God. It is also the living voice of God. The living God speaks through its pages. Therefore, it is not to be valued as a sacred object to be placed on a shelf and neglected, but as holy ground, where people’s hearts and minds may come into vital contact with the living, gracious and disturbing God. . . .

James Montgomery Boice, Foundations of the Christian Faith, pg 48

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9 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

LOL. This is very interesting considering that Calvinists seek out the teachings of humans more than any other group I know, except possibly the Catholics. They quote the words of; Spurgeon, Calvin, AW Pink, John MacArthur, John Piper, Jonathan Edwards, and the list goes on, even the author of this article. In fact, I just saw a list on the Wall of a Calvinist of which human authors they prefer? there were literally HUNDREDS of them listed! lol. Pretty amazing for a group that claims to believe in "Sola Scripture". lol.

--Heidi

12:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But in fact, Calvinism comes from the minds of men, not from Scripture. That's why they quote and revere their false teachers so often..and of course, name their beliefs after a human like all cults do.

--Heidi

12:21 PM  
Blogger The Catechizer said...

Greetings, Heidi. I’m not sure that I understand your view. Thinking Christians (not just Calvinists) seek insight from Godly, learned men (it’s not just me, God, and my bible). This helps us to learn what God is teaching in His word. Pentecostals seek revelations beyond God’s word. In other words, they want God to speak to them outside of the bible. These are two very different things. The first is trying to better understand what God has revealed in holy writ, while the second is trying to find new holy writ.

Regarding the Scriptural foundation for Calvinism, I recommend you read the series Who’s Sovereign in Salvation before making such sweeping statements as it “comes from the minds of men, not from Scripture.” I believe that it demonstrates that the strength of Calvinism is its exegeses. I look forward to hearing back from you afterwards.

http://wittenberg-door.blogspot.com/2011/08/whos-sovereign-in-salvation-part-1.html

12:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's my point, Will. You don't practice Sola Scripture. You do go beyond the Scriptures to the minds of men. Do you not think you are a saint, Will? If so, then you are a godly man who also has the abiity to understand the bible if you have the Spirit in you as 1 cr. 2:12 explains. So again, why seek the teachings of men when you have the bible right in front of you?

Oh and btw, my knowledge comes from Scripture, not from other men like Calvinists. So no, I'm not interested in listening to a video or a book by a human author when I have the bible right in front of me and the Counselor, the Holy Spirit as my guide. One can't get a better Teacher than Him. I'm sorry that all you can refer me to is more books by human authors rather than to Scripture. But then you're a Calvinist, so your beliefs come from the minds of men, rather than the mind of God. So thanks for proving my point

1 John 2:27, "As for you, the anointing you have received remains in you and you do not need anyone to teach you." If you have been anointed by the Holy Spirit, Will, then you don't need all these human teachers with whom you fill your Wall. But if you don't have the indwelling Holy Spirit, Will, then none of these teachers can help you. Knowledge and understanding of God come from the Holy Spirit, not the human mind. 1 Cr. 12:9, 1 cr. 2:11-14. A degree in Seminary no more makes a person a man of God than circumcision of the flesh makes a person circumcised of the heart. We have no confidence in the flesh. Phil. 3

--Heidi

12:24 PM  
Blogger The Catechizer said...

Thank you for responding, Heidi. I’m still trying to understand your view, but should I? If I’m wrong and we should not learn from others, wouldn’t I be wrong to learn that from you? Also, if you’re right and those texts teach that we ought not learn from others, how does it square with other texts that seem to teach differently? For example, one of the qualifications for an elder is the ability to teach (I Tim 3:2) and that he exhort (teach) others (Tit 2:6); also, in Titus 2, we find that even the men and women of the church are to teach their fellows. Plus, it seems to me, that if we are to worship God with our mind (Mat. 22:37) that we would do that through learning, and we don’t learn by thinking that we are smarter, wiser, or more “anointed” than all others who came before us.

Contrary to this view, Proverbs 11:4 tells us that wisdom is found in the counsel of others. Proverbs 19:20 says, “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.” Furthermore, what does it mean when Paul says that all Scripture is profitable for teaching if no one is to teach others and no one is to learn from others? Especially since he says that without this teaching we wouldn’t be equipped for good works (I Tim. 3:16-17). And not only that, but Paul tells Timothy to pass on his, Paul’s, teaching to others in 2 Tim. 2:2: “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”

Practically speaking, how does this work? Do you only read fiction? Is there no teaching in your church? What if someone tries to teach you something, how do you respond? If I changed my view based on what you’ve wrote would that be sinful? How do you guard against thinking that everyone who disagrees with you is not a Christian since your beliefs come directly from the Holy Spirit? Or is that what you believe? (Your comments above could be taken that way.)

12:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I gave you Scripture to learn from, Will, you give me men to learn from. So ponder on the Scripture i gave you along with; 1 cr. 3:1-23.As for reading, I read only the bible because that's the only source of absolute truth on earth. That's why I can spot the wolves from the sheep. If you don't know Scripture first, Will, then you can't spot a true teacher from a false teacher. But for someone who claims to believe in Sola Scripture, Will,you're sure doing everything you can to REFUTE IT!! LOL. You fight hard to justify why we should go beyond what is written! lol. 1 Cr. 4:6 tells us not to. So Calvinists don't even believe their own words! So I'll leave you to your contradictions, Will, because all cults contradict themselves and Scripture.

So your refutation of 1 Jn 2:27 wasn't very good. That verse and all verses stand as true. Calvinists have a habit of interpreting one verse to contradict another. That's trying to turn God into a liar which is a house divided against itself that cannot stand which makes it a hallmark of Satan's servants, not the true sheep. Good-bye:)

--Heidi

12:27 PM  
Blogger The Catechizer said...

Heidi, I must admit, you leave me at a bit of a standstill. I took the time to offer a well-reasoned, biblical argument against your position that we ought not learn from others. Your response was to simply dismiss it by saying it “wasn’t very good.” Of course claiming that an argument isn’t very good doesn’t prove that it isn’t (ridicule is not a refutation).

You didn’t even bother to answer my questions regarding your view. Instead, you did what I feared you do: trump me with your spirituality. It appears you do believe that anyone with whom you disagree isn’t a Christian, which is why I’m apparently a cultist, a person who turns God into a liar, and a servant of Satan. On your view, it seems, one is not a Christian based on his faith in the doing and dying of Christ, but instead on how he measures up to your idiosyncratic views.
You also ascribed to me positions I do not hold, such as implying that I put the words of men on par or above Scripture. You also falsely claimed that all I did was offer you the words of men. Where? Not once in our conversation did I quote anything but Scripture. You claim that I’m refuting Sola Scripture. Again, where? You’re long on accusations and claims, but short on truth and evidence. Since you claim to take the bible seriously, what does it say about bearing false witness?

If you care anything for the truth, Heidi, then you should desire an honest, respectful dialog, instead of erecting straw men so that you can triumphantly knock them down. I invite you to read what I wrote, and if you find fault, challenge those ideas thoughtfully and graciously. Who knows? Maybe you’ll show me wrong and we’ll both be the better for it.

In 2 Cor. we are called to be “ambassadors of Christ.” An ambassador represents him who sent him. While having this dialog we are representing Christ. When doing so we either bring glory to His name or shame. Let’s work together to bring glory by reflecting thoughtfully and biblically upon our positions, carefully and honestly engaging the ideas of the other, and always remembering that believing true things is much more important than besting someone.

12:29 PM  
Blogger MklGrmz said...

If I understand correctly, it seems as though Christians are to ignore anything taught by men regarding the Scriptures. This would, however, seem to eliminate the need for sermons or Bible studies, or even discussion about Scripture with other believers, for to do so would be to learn from other men. I don't understand the danger of learning from others with the common goal of growing in the understanding of Sola Scriptura.

8:19 PM  
Blogger The Catechizer said...

That is Heidi’s point: we are not to learn from men. If we do so, as she said, we are servants of Satan. This, of course, does not apply to her as she chastises me for not heading her instruction.

6:40 AM  

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