Throwback Thursday: No Need To Choose

Originally posted on October 21, 2015, this article seems even more relevant now.

Cross and Bible 3A few years ago, someone scolded me on Facebook for holding to the “dead letter of a book” rather than enjoying a “living relationship” with God through His Spirit. I thought of her reprimand a couple days ago when one of Tim Challies’ links to a Kindle deal providentially misdirected me to Tom Olson’s January 22, 2015 blog post, Is It Possible for Christians to Idolize the Bible?

Olson produced helpful arguments as he reasoned from 2 Timothy 3:16 and 2 Peter 1:21 (please read both verses). He maintains that Scripture is breathed out from the Holy Spirit. That being the case, it makes little sense when people try to represent Scripture and the Spirit as being mutually exclusive (as my Facebook critic suggested). Olson explained that God’s Word, as given through the agency of the Spirit, facilitates our relationship with God.

Consider the primary descriptions of Scripture from the Bible itself:

  • All Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Timothy 3:16)
  • For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:21)

Add to this that one of the favored names of Jesus Christ is “The Word,” and you have a Trinitarian testimony that the Bible is not divorced from the Godhead, but is the tangible work of the Trinity in perfect harmony speaking to us.

Simply put, the Bible is the voice of God. The Father breathes out the Word. The Son is the Word incarnate. The Holy Spirit carried along the biblical authors so that they would speak “from God”. The Bible is the voice of God – not just the red letters – the whole Bible. As such, the question “Is it possible for Christians to idolize the Bible?” is inaccurate, because it forces us to drive a false wedge between God and his voice. Prioritizing God’s voice is prioritizing God, and thus prioritizing his voice cannot be thought of as idolatry.

Please know, I get it. The Scriptures and Jesus Christ are different entities. The Bible and the Spirit are unique from one another. But that does not mean we can or should treat them as such, divorcing them from one another.

So why did my love for and reliance on the Bible’s authority offend the woman on Facebook? I can’t judge her motives for certain, nor should I try to do so, but I can think of two possible reasons. Usually, people who accuse Christians of bibliolatry operate from one of two positions.

The less prevalent of the two (I hope) comes from a desire to accommodate sin without outright rejecting God. If we can minimize Scripture’s authority by hearing from “God” as we imagine Him, perhaps we can wiggle out of some demands that the Bible imposes on us. Maybe translators made mistakes, or maybe culture has advanced beyond the antiquated notions of the prophets and apostles. Surely God wouldn’t confine His expectations of us to a 2000-year-old book!

Typically, however, the people who make that accusation believe that the Holy Spirit speaks to people directly. They do agree that the Bible is God’s inerrant Word, and they’ll even say that it’s the final authority for Christians. Furthermore, they actually do wish to live in obedience to its precepts. But they also insist that “relationship” with Jesus must extend beyond the Bible through personal communication from Him. They want to feel His presence and to believe that they have unique relationships with Him.

Yet His Word does retain its authority and it is able to speak to us personally.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. ~~Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)

As we read these precious Spirit-breathed words, He shows us how they apply to us in the 21st Century. Far from being a dead book, the Bible overflows with more treasures than we know what to do with! In holding the Bible in high esteem, we use it as a vehicle to worship its Author in spirit and in truth.

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Saturday Sampler: September 23 — September 29

Birds Sampler

In her guest post for Biblical Counseling for Women, Svea Goertzen muses about a One Hit Wonder — The Impact of a Single Song to demonstrate how someone, even in the depths of suffering, can rejoice in the Gospel.

Visit Growing 4 Life to read Leslie A’s thoughts on “Wordless” Christianity. You’ll see why spending time in God’s Word is so vital to spiritual development.

I’m including Steven Kozar’s The Gigantic Problem Beneath the Really Big Problem a week late because I didn’t see it until this week. But I can’t emphasize strongly enough how crucial his point is in developing discernment through sound doctrine! Kozar’s blog, Messed Up Church, appears on the Pirate Christian Media website.

Unafraid  to write on a difficult topic, Elizabeth Prata of The End Time writes What about hell? I didn’t want to read it any more than you do, but willfully ignoring the reality of eternal damnation has eternal ramifications.

Elizabeth continues confronting us with unpopular truth with When Women Pastor. She stands against today’s cultural climate in favor of Biblical gender roles. She also draws an interesting connection between women as pastors and the rise of Pentecostal churches.

Since we get a double dose of Elizabeth Prata this week, why not also have a double dose of Leslie A? Her piece, What Determines Truth for You?, challenges us to continually examine our hearts.

Personally, I’m not a fan of tattoos. But neither am I a fan of misusing Scripture to support my distaste for them. Peter Krol’s post in Knowable Word, Context Matters: Your Body is a Temple of the Holy Spirit, provides excellent guidance on using 1 Corinthians 6:19 appropriately. So I’ll enjoy my cheesecake while those of you with tattoos enjoy them. Deal?

John Ellis, writing for adayinhiscourt (his personal blog), ruminates on #BelieveWomen Versus the Presumption of Innocence. His empathy for accusers and the accused alike encourages us to think Biblically instead of rushing to judgment.

What’s Behind the Social Justice Gospel-ers? Colin Eakin answers that question in his riveting essay for Pyromaniacs. His assessment couldn’t be more accurate! Ladies, I beg you to read this one.

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Saturday Sampler: September 2 — September 8

Twist Blend Flowers Sampler

There’s nothing like studying Scripture itself, ladies. I love the way Michelle Lesley constantly encourages us to turn away from canned Bible Studies (which usually aren’t doctrinally sound) in favor of cracking open our own Bibles. Look at The Mailbag: How can I get started studying the Bible itself? for her practical suggestions.

Dealing with people who say God spoke to them or talk about other manifestations can be tricky. Never fear! Clint Archer of The Cripplegate offers great counsel with How do I evaluate claims of supernatural experiences? He has some superb ideas. But we need to question his assertion that he’s Clark Kent.

Hannah Roberts-Antunes invites us to #CheckYourHeart in her post for Biblical Woman. Notice the encouraging twist she brings out from Scripture to distinguish godly self-examination from morbid introspection.

Is It God’s Will to Always Heal? by Tim Barnett of Stand To Reason tells the heartwrenching story of his friend Alex, who has brain cancer. Learn how false teaching multiples this young man’s suffering.

In Things Above Us, Allen Nelson IV writes How to Cut Up Your Bible as an encouragement to cherish the Word of God. In the current evangelical climate, we sadly need reminders like this one. As an added bonus, Nelson produces some of the finest writing I’ve ever seen in a blog post.

Check out John Ellis’ Why Sex Outside Marriage Is a Sin in adayinhiscourt for a perspective that often gets ignored. Whether you’re struggling with sexual temptation yourself or you’re raising teenagers who need guidance in this area, you can certainly benefit from this article.

Why is personal holiness dependent on avoiding false teaching? Mike Ratliff of Possessing the Treasure answers this question with Personal holiness is not an option. I love this demonstration of using discernment for godly reasons.

Take a look at Phil Johnson’s Biblical reasoning in A Gospel Issue? He gets to the heart of why so many of us see serious danger within the evangelical embrace of the Social Justice Movement. And, if you haven’t done so already, please consider signing The Statement on Social Justice & The Gospel.

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Saturday Sampler: August 26 — September 1

Vintage Tulip

I love Elizabeth Prata for many reasons. In particular, I love her boldness to speak unpopular truths in her blog, The End Time. Her essay, Shout Your Abortion, and John Owen on infanticide, offers no apology for unmasking the basic brutality behind the willful termination of a pregnancy.

Equally outspoken, Leslie A of Growing 4 Life answers the question, What Does the Bible Say About…(Being Relevant)? We should carefully consider the Scriptural arguments she makes.

Ancient Church 01Clint Archer, writing for The Cripplegate, examines Charismatic and mystical experiences in his pithy piece, Are claims of supernatural experience really that harmful (in 500 words)? You need to read this one!

Plucking Forbidden Fruit by  SharaC appears in Into the Foolishness of God with an interesting observation for control freaks.

The Christian Counseling & Educational Foundations blog includes Is Reading the Bible a Chore or a Delight? by Steve Midgley. You’ll appreciate his practical solution for making your time in God’s Word more enjoyable and fruitful, I think.

If you’d like to see an interesting perspective on developing ethnic diversity in local Little Girl Welcoming Advanced Maskchurches, look no further than The Domain for Truth, where SlimJim writes Ethnic Churches: A More Better Way than Bashing Them. I can’t remember when I’ve read an article this fascinating and thought-provoking! Even better, SlimJim writes as a pastor of an ethnic church.

Reading Michelle Lesley isn’t always safe. The Holy Spirit often uses her writing to convict me. See if her post, Wise to the Ways of the Worldly: 4 Ways Worldliness Sneaks In, and the Scriptures to Slay It doesn’t expose something in you. Dolly's portraitThat’s okay — conviction is a good thing!

In his article for Pyromaniacs, Colin L. Eakin underscores the importance of discernment. Sheep, or Wolf? A Call to Discern explores reasons that evangelicals fail to exercise discernment and suggests ways that we can cultivate this necessary skill.

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It Was Just A Thought …But God Used It

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn 2012, John spent most of his two-and-a-half month hospitalization at a rehab hospital, so he had to be transported by ambulance to doctors’ appointments at Massachusetts General Hospital. Consequently, I had to take The RIDE by myself to meet him at doctors’ offices. Usually, I did so with relatively few difficulties (for The RIDE, that is). But one memory from that period still haunts me.

I had to leave before the appointment ended, knowing The RIDE was scheduled to pick me up at a specific time to return home. I arrived at the waiting area with about five minutes to spare, so I tilted back my wheelchair, knowing that RIDE drivers are supposed to come inside and call passengers by name.

After about ten or 15 minutes, the thought struck me that I should wander outside and see if my van was there. Maybe I subconsciously recalled a paratransit van in Memphis leaving me at work years earlier, or maybe I just felt antsy, but I drove my power wheelchair outside and surveyed the pick-up area.

I did see a van, so I asked if he was there for Deborah. He said he certainly was. He boarded me, and we made the journey home with no particular incident.

Later that evening, however, I learned Read More »

Phil Johnson Says Providence Is Remarkable

Cessationists often get accused of having nothing beyond an intellectual faith. Our accusers suppose that, because we distrust personal experiences in favor of the Bible, we implicitly deny God’s activity in our lives.

Their assumption couldn’t be further from the truth! I’ll address this topic myself next week, but in the meantime I implore you to find an hour to watch Phil Johnson’s YouTube video on providence. It answered some of my questions, so perhaps it will lay some groundwork for ensuing discussions.

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“But My Experience Is CHRISTIAN!”

Experience Bible

If you want attention on Facebook, simply post something to the effect that God no longer speaks directly to people. Even better, include a quote by Justin Peters. You’ll get impassioned (though occasionally nasty) diatribes in your comments feed for days!

Once in a while, someone will argue from Scripture. I respect such people, even if I disagree with their application of God’s Word. At least they want to remain Biblical in their stand for continualist teaching.

The vast majority of continualists, however, rely primarily on their personal experiences to refute the notion that Read More »

You Can’t Argue With Experience — Except When You Can

Lady's BibleHe chose Revelation 12:11 as his text. Not the whole passage. Just the solitary verse.

And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. (ESV)

From there, he focused his sermon on the phrase, “by the word of their testimony,” emphasizing the supposed power of using our personal experience as a tool for evangelism. Throughout the sermon, I nodded in unquestioning agreement. That is, until he said,Read More »

Saturday Sampler: July 29 — August 4

2006_0719DownTownCrossJuly060010Leslie A definitely hits the bullseye with her Growing 4 Life blog post, What Is Your Litmus Test? Oh boy, do I wish every pastor in the world would read her words from the pulpit!

In How God Speaks To Us Today, Tim Challies draws from the first four chapters of Hebrews to demonstrate God’s chosen method of communication. He doesn’t go with the popular teachings on this subject, but instead lets Scripture inform him. Maybe more of us should follow his example of discernment.

Since John and I are currently reading Revelation together, The Book of Revelation Is Not About the Rapture by Richard Gilbert in Core Christianity caught my attention. You might find this article encouraging if this Biblical book intimidates you.

Arthur Fedlier BustI’m not a fan of either Pope Francis or the World Council of Churches. Leonardo De Chirico’s August post in Vatican Files, 152. “Either Ecumenical or Proselytizer”? No. There is a Better Option exposes the joint attempt to keep Christians from proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I’d hoped Albert Mohler would comment on last weekend’s Revoice Conference, so I was glad to see Torn Between Two Cultures? Revoice, LGBR Identity, and Biblical Christianity appear in my inbox. He certainly presents an insightful analysis of the conference and its ramifications.

My Charismatic friends won’t like Why There is No Such Thing as the Gift of Tongues in The Cripplegate, but I think they ought to consider the arguments that Eric Davis FAO Shwartz Bearmakes.

You’ve got to admire Michelle Lesley for courageously writing Women Preaching: It’s Not a Secondary Doctrinal Issue. She’ll undoubtedly get flack for her firm stand on this matter. The thing is, she’s absolutely right!

Thankfully, Denny Burk weighs in on last weekend’s infamous conference in St. Louis with Revoice is over. Now what? I have a few minor reservations about his article, but I include it here because of his extensive work on the topic of human sexuality.

Todd Pruitt, in his post for Mortification of Spin, adds to the analysis of the Revoice Sacred CodConference by writing Same Sex Attraction, Temptation, and Jesus. He’s watched more of the conference videos than I have, and therefore can address one disturbing aspect that I didn’t know about.

Elizabeth Prata leaves us with An Encouragement befitting her blog’s title, The End Time. With all the garbage going on within evangelicalism, essays like this offer sweet comfort.

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Saturday Sampler: July 15 — July 21

Lollipop Sampler

Happy Tenth Facebook Anniversary, Stephen by Stephen McAlpine is funny. I  guarantee you’ll chuckle as you read the first several paragraphs. But his observations should sober us. And encourage us to use social media in ways that honor the Lord for as long as we can get away with it.

In his weekly contribution to The Cripplegate, Clint Archer answers the question, Are there prophets today (in fewer than 500 words)? I could answer in one word. But Read More »