19 January 2007

Sola Scriptura and the role of teachers in our spiritual growth

by Phil Johnson

A less-than-admiring reader writes:

Your identity as a "Baptist"; your endless quotations from Charles Spurgeon; your faithful devotion to John MacArthur; and especially your willingness to call yourself a "Calvinist" are all huge red flags that tell me something is seriously wrong with your theology. Why do you teach a system of doctrine that is named after a mere man? Why are you following human teachers instead of going to the Bible alone? After all, 1 John 2:27 says, "The anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you."

We ought to go to Scripture alone to establish our doctrine! The truth is in God's Holy word, not in any theological system or theology textbook developed by mere men.

Isn't that principle what the Reformation was originally about? Sola Scriptura? Didn't even Calvin himself go to Scripture for the truth instead of reading other men? I believe that if Calvin himself wrote for this blog, he would point people to the truth in God's Holy word, not to a theology developed by some other man.

My reply:

ou have seriously misunderstood sola Sriptura if you really imagine that it rules out human teachers or eliminates systematic theology. The Reformers (including Calvin) often cited the works of Augustine, Tertullian, Jerome, Cyprian, Ambrose, and others—ranging from the early church fathers through Aquinas. They didn't follow any of them slavishly, of course, but they certainly took them seriously. Not one of the major Reformers would have tolerated the claim that because the Church Fathers were mere men they were therefore irrelevant or incapable of shedding any helpful light on tough theological questions.

Sola Scriptura means that Scripture alone is the final court of appeal in all matters of faith and practice. It is an affirmation that "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" and that "nothing at any time is to be added [to the Bible], whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men." It recognizes that there is ultimately no higher spiritual authority than God's Word, so "the infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself; and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture . . . it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly."

But none of that means we're obliged to discard the wisdom of godly men from ages past and require each man to try to discern truth from scratch by reading nothing but Scripture by himself.

As for Calvin, he certainly did "point people to the truth in God's Holy Word"—but one thing he did not do was steer people away from the important theologians of the past. In fact, Calvin's works are filled with references to the Church Fathers—Augustine in particular. Calvin knew it was important to demonstrate that he was proposing nothing wholly novel and that his theology was in the doctrinal lineage of the greatest theologians of the church. He regarded himself as Augustinian, in precisely the same way many today think of themselves as "Calvinists."

If Calvin wrote for this blog and someone responded to one of his posts by refusing to read what Augustine wrote, Calvin would probably write that person off as arrogant and unteachable.

Incidentally, 1 John 2:20, 27 is the apostle John's response to an early outbreak of gnostic-flavored spiritual elitism. He was refuting some false teachers (he called them "antichrists") who insisted that real truth is a deep secret, different from the apostolic message, into which people must be initiated by some anointed swami. The Holy Spirit indwells and anoints each believer, and He is the One who truly enlightens and enables us to understand truth. But He also gifts certain people with a particular ability to teach others (Romans 12:6-7; Ephesians 4:11). So while John was condemning the notion of enlightened masters in the style of Freemasonry and gnosticism, he was not making a blanket condemnation of teachers. He himself was a teacher.

Bonus:

A follow-up message asks me if I am suggesting it's wrong for someone to abandon all books and human teachers and rely only on what he can glean from the Bible for himself. Answer: yes, I think that's wrong because it's arrogant and reflects a sinful kind of unteachability. This is my whole point: sola Scriptura doesn't rule out the valid role of teaching in the church.

Furthermore, it is simply not the case that any common, unskilled, unschooled individual, sitting down with his Bible and no other tools, can expect to come to a full and mature understanding of Scripture without any help from godly teachers who understand some things better than he will ever get it on his own. Here's Bernard Ramm's famous response to the arrogance reflected in such a perversion of sola Scriptura::

It is often asserted by devout people that they can know the Bible completely without helps. They preface their interpretations with a remark like this: "Dear friends, I have read no man's book. I have consulted no man-made commentaries. I have gone right to the Bible to see what it had to say for itself." This sounds very spiritual, and usually is seconded with amens from the audience.
     But is this the pathway of wisdom? Does any man have either the right or the learning to by-pass all the godly learning of the church? We think not.
     First, although the claim to by-pass mere human books and go right to the Bible itself sounds devout and spiritual it is a veiled egotism. It is a subtle affirmation that a man can adequately know the Bible apart from the untiring, godly, consecrated scholarship of men like [Athanasius,] Calvin, Bengel, Alford, Lange, Ellicott, or Moule. . . .
     Secondly, such a claim is the old confusion of the inspiration of the Spirit with the illumination of the Spirit. The function of the Spirit is not to communicate new truth or to instruct in matters unknown, but to illuminate what is revealed in Scripture. Suppose we select a list of words from Isaiah and ask a man who claims he can by-pass the godly learning of Christian scholarship if he can out of his own soul or prayer give their meaning or significance: Tyre, Zidon, Chittim, Sihor, Moab, Mahershalalhashbas, Calno, Carchemish, Hamath, Aiath, Migron, Michmash, Geba, Anathoth, Laish, Nob, and Gallim. He will find the only light he can get on these words is from a commentary or a Bible dictionary.
[from Bernard Ramm, Protestant Biblical Interpretation (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1970), pp. 17-18 (emphasis in original).]

Phil's signature

97 comments:

UncleNut said...

Woohoo -- first comment!

Phil Johnson said...

Yeah, but it doesn't count unless you actually comment on the post.

sk said...

As a person who respects sound teachers and their effort (and recognize the Spirit inspires teaching in some, as the Bible says), and realizes my debt to them for understanding what I do understand of doctrine from the Bible, I still have to say that it should come to everybody at some point that they should make the effort to go to the Scriptures unfiltered and find in them just what it is they are to believe and to do. All the great theologians showed evidence of having done this for themselves at some point. And I do mean actually reinventing the wheel. Or rediscovering it on your own, for yourself.

sk said...

It would be a good exercise, if you've pretty much learned biblical doctrine already, to take a calendar year and make the ONLY theology book you read in that year the Bible.

So when a question comes up on any subject like the church, or justification or what have you you then only consult the Word of God for those subjects.

It would take discipline, but obviously this would be an effective thing to do for developing, or getting deeper, biblical understanding. Or just validating what you know from the Standard itself.

goodnightsafehome said...

* Didn't even Calvin himself go to Scripture for the truth instead of reading other men?*

If your correspondent is going to be consistent - why then is he reading your blog at all? How does he know what Calvin would do...unless he reads him, of course?

centuri0n said...

sk:

I'm pretty sure that Phil would not disagree that the most precious and most profitable resource which you can lay a hand on in the Christian faith is the Bible. It is, after all, the word of God -- as in, "thus saith the Lord".

As to "validating from the Standard", I would agree with that -- except that I'll be you can name 3 people right now who "validate" insanity from the Bible. That is, they lay their convictions into the text rather than drawing them out of the text. And those people tend to be the most intransigent when it comes to accepting correction.

I think the Christian life is not either/or: it is both. The Bible is the final authority; the church is the place where spiritual maturation occurs and is implemented by those who are mature for the sake of those who are not. It is both in the Christian life.

Lee Shelton said...

sk: "It would be a good exercise, if you've pretty much learned biblical doctrine already, to take a calendar year and make the ONLY theology book you read in that year the Bible."

That's probably a good idea, but if you attend a bible-based church with great expository preaching, it might be kind of hard to avoid getting a dose of theology from someone else's point of view.

thebluefish said...

sk,

sounds like a nice theory to just read the Bible and no other books for a year... but who would push away people who can help you along the way? I mean so long as we always keep to Sola Scriptura then reading other people should always be a help - even when what we read is erroneous.

sk said...

It's a scary thing that I wrote, I know...

thebluefish said...

not scary, just seems a bit pointless :)
seems (proverbially speaking) that its foolish to trust just my own take on things, to avoid the help of others...

I like the way that those who have lived before me can challenge me to read the Bible more carefully, and to get over some of my existing ideas.

sk said...

Well, what I said wasn't give up on teachers. I said once you've learned doctrine pretty fully then it is something that may be worthwhile to do, but to each their own.

Jon from Reidville, SC said...

We exist in this thing called the church and this is pictured by Paul in 1 Cor. as a temple that God is building to draw the world's attention to His Glorious Gospel. The foundation of the temple is the Word of God and the chief cornerstone is the Word Incarnate. But 2000 years later we also stand on the shoulders of God's men who have gone before us. What does it say about our view of God is we try to ignore the pastors and teachers that He has given to the church? God has allowed those men to study and write and while we know that their writings are not canonical it is still foolish to ignore them.

sk said...

For a lifetime, sure.

That's why I said 'an excercise.'

I would even grant you a complete concordance. Maybe even a Treasury of Scriptural Knowledge, or a Nave's Topical Index.

Maybe also... The prooftexts of the Westminster Standards! (No, that's going too far. You have to do your own work...)

Tominthebox News Network said...

As the story goes, J.I. Packer was once questioned by student at RTS about the necessity of using commentaries rather than simply studying Scripture alone when preparing a sermon. Packer replied, (tongue-in-cheek) "That's fine if you want to sin against the Holy Spirit."

The point being that the Holy Spirit has been teaching and guiding men throughout the ages. To ignore that is foolish.

To refer to myself as a "Calvinist" doesn't negate Scripture, it rather nicely packages a theological perspective of Scripture. If one asks me what I believe it is very convenient to say "I'm a Calvinist" rather than to, in detail, recount every salient point of my theology.

I wonder if "Pyromanist" could become a new theological catch-phrase....well...hmm.

Kim said...

If we refuse to ever read the teachings of other believers, wouldn't we be following a doctrine of solo rather than Sola Scriptura?

DJP said...

Everything Phil said, plus this:

This crack is self-refuting. Attend, please:

The writer thought (wrongly) that he saw something in Scripture.

The writer thought (wrongly) that Phil was in error.

So the writer wrote that Phil shouldn't read and regard writers.

Therefore, if Phil read the writer and regarded the writer, he would not read and would disregard the writer.

There.

JSB said...

Quite right, Phil. Your critic's charge is simply not biblical:

"It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up." (Eph. 4:11,12)

Tom Chantry said...

JSB,

Exactly right. God has always appointed teachers, and this is not limited to those with prophetic gifts. Consider how the people relearned the Law in the days of Nehemiah:

"Also [a bunch of Hebrew names], the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places. They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading." Nehemiah 8:7-8

God's way of teaching us is often to give us teachers, provided that their method is to 1. Read from the Book clearly, and 2. Give its sense, so that the people understand the reading.

takin said...

This ‘less-than-admiring reader’ parrots the same misunderstanding of sola scriptura I have to deal with over and over again - each and every time I talk to my Roman Catholic friends.

Thanks for your response Phil.

T.

p.s. I thought Spurgeon's sermons were Scripture.

Robert said...

It's been my experience that those who parrot the phrase "I don't follow any man-make system, I just believe the Bible" are usually carrying around a Scofield Bible. The self-contradiction is ironic.

Robert said...

It's been my experience that thoses who parrot the phrase "I don't follow any man-made system" are usually carrying around a Scofield Bible. Think of the irony in that self-contradiction.

UncleNut said...

Reprimand received. Things sure seem funnier after a long day. What was I even thinking?

II Timothy 4:3 also rather plainly indicates that there are teachers of sound doctrine, since "the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching."

I think your flaming reader has a basic misunderstanding of the application of labels. Our minds have a need to categorize beliefs to help us track them. It is so much easier to say "I am a Calvinist" than it is to expound for 30 minutes on the Bible behind TULIP. If I say "I am a Baptist," I am simply indicating that my belief about core doctrines follows those of Baptists more than any other denomination, without listing a gob of references from which those basic Bible doctrines are derived. The label is applied after a belief has been established, not before. That is, the belief/doctrine exists already, and the label simply gives it a handle to make it easier to carry.

Two quotes that stood out: "We ought to go to Scripture alone to establish our doctrine." And if I go to scripture alone, establish my understanding of a doctrine, and then explain it to my children, are they handicapped because they did not go to the scriptures themselves? That's just silly.

"Why do you teach a system of doctrine that is named after a mere man?" I surely do not understand this question. It sounds as if once a man's name is associated with a Bible doctrine, that doctrine is no longer viable.

Echindod said...

I think sk has observed a tendency in some to go directly to others rather than struggling through the Word of God on their own, I have a quote from Scott Hafemann that says this:

"Most students of the Bible do not know how to read (=exegete) for understanding. Instead they merely read for information, gladly pouncing upon an author, holding him or her up with their well-trained eye, and then robbing the text of its conclusions. But although their minds become filled with many stolen treasures, they never fool anyone. Everyone knows they are thieves and can be exposed at any time with a good question. The owner's conclusions have merely become the thief's opinions. And such stealing is wrong, even when the opinions in view are biblical opinions."

The answer is not less teaching. It is better reading. Both of secondary sources and the Bible.
But this is just the theifs opinion who stole the idea from a syllabus, which quoted Scott Hafemann.

Janet said...

Let me guess, the less-than-admiring reader has been reading your blog for what, 3 days?

Daniel said...

I suspect the "less-than-admiring reader" would have a lot of trouble with the part in scripture where Moses (who is already speaking to God face to face) follows the wise advice of his father-in-law in appointing judges over the tens, hundreds, and thousands...

Jim from OldTruth.com said...

In his book Chosen By God, RC Sproul points out that John Calvin did not say anything new that Martin Luther or Augustine had not already said before him.

Hebrews 13:7 "Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith".

Those church goers who argue that we should not regard the "words of man" (but only God's words) find themselves in a difficult situation in needing to explain why they go to church every week to listen to their own pastor speak.

PS: I'd like to congratulate SK (and not unclenut) for having the first comment :-)

donsands said...

Sola Scriptura! Amen!

"And I will give you pastors according to My heart, who shall feed you with knowledge and understanding." Jer. 3:15

Pastors and teachers feed and tend Christ's sheep, in order for the sheep to feed themselves in the pasture of His Word, and so they can do the work of the ministry.

Great post.

Phil Johnson said...

See the addendum to the post.

I gotta agree with whoever said they couldn't understand why someone would even read a Christian blog in the first place if he thinks teachers and commentaries are a violation of the principle of sola Scriptura.

CalvDispy said...

Such an extreme theory of Sola Scriptura is born purely of radical pride and self-centeredness. It assumes that that each believer and he alone is capable of and solely responsible for understanding the Bible without the help or need of others. Furthermore, it destroys the Church. First, it eliminates the need for pastors and teachers. Secondly, it eliminates the fellowship of the believers. If all we need is the Bible, the Holy Spirit and ourselves we don't need other believers to bring encouragement, admonition, etc... because presumably such things would proceed from reflection upon the Bible and other wise teachers of the Bible. What it wouuld make is a million churches of one.

Lance Roberts said...

In Calvin's day it was called Augustinianism.

Charles Whisnant said...

There was a prayer breakfast I attended, and was asked to bring a brief devotional from the Bible.
I started off with a quote from Charles Spurgeon and then later a quote from John MacArthur. I
mention that since I held to the doctrinal belief of “Calvinism,” I believed in the sovereignty of God. This lead me to a quote from John Calvin, out of the Christian Institute about God’s sovereignty.

Finally in my devotional on the Holiness of God, I mention RC Sproul and his book “The
Holiness of God” and his tapes that I had just listen to. I did finally get around quoting a few verses from the Bible.

After the breakfast I could see that one of the pastors seemed a little concerned about my
devotional talk. When I asked him about what was on his mind, he said. “Why didn’t you just
bring your devotions from the Scriptures. When you use the Scriptures there is no need to quote from MacArthur, Spurgeon or Calvin.” “The only book we need to study is the Bible.” “And
why were you trying to show off by mentioning all those men?”

This happen twenty years ago, where was Phil Johnson's blog then, I could have used it.

Charles

KM said...

I don’t generally respond on blogs, but I really like this one (particularly today’s) so I wanted to. I will state upfront that I’m about to expose my complete ignorance here, but I do it for the sake of the one who wrote the “less-than-admiring” letter and those like him/her.
I accidently fell upon this blog when I was searching for a specific subject. The writing was so good on that particular day that I’ve continued to return regularly to see what’s going on. What I have noticed from the administrators as well as the other bloggers is the use of jargon - sometimes lots of jargon.
Obviously, that’s your prerogative since it’s your blog and I don’t have any criticisms about it. I only mention it because I, myself, have not had the opportunity to be taught about the stuff this jargon speaks of.
I don’t know that it’s all that important for me to decide whether I’m a Calvinist or Armenian or what kind of dispensationalizm I believe in or whatever, though I have observed that it is important to some bloggers here. I’m a Christian and I believe the Bible and that’s pretty much it.
But, I do want to say that I would never have looked into these subjects if I hadn’t read about them here. I wouldn’t have bothered to find out what a Calvinist actually is. And, there’s a variety of other terms and teachings that I would never have known about if they hadn’t been discussed here. I didn’t know who Charles Spurgeon was until I read about him here - he’s awesome by the way.
So, to the less-than-admiring letter writer I would like to say this: Just because you don’t like the labels and jargon from teachings of “men” that doesn’t mean the people who stand behind these teachings have poor theology. It just means that these people share some Biblical ideas and teachings, and there’s nothing wrong with that. If you still want to be upset about it, blame the apostles because they started it.

H.C. Ross said...

That gorilla is awesome. I'm giggling now just thinking about him.


I especially like the fact that he uses the word 'Baby'.


Priceless.


And I concur, Phil.

MTR said...

Debates, men, systematic theology... This is all placing God into a textbook. I don't get it... Don't want to.

Do you think in all that debate and theology and bickering there is room for a true God relationship? I hope so, but it sure as heck doesn't work that way for me.

Hung up on man made rules and then attempting to shrink God to fit within is no way to grow toward Christ.

ftm

philness said...

Growth. It comes down to ones growth in the Lord. Did we not all have our theology changed?

northWord said...

So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, "Do you understand what you are reading?"
And he said, "How can I, unless someone guides me?" And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him.

(Act 8: 30 & 31)

if the "less-than-admiring reader" were following their own suggestion of relying soley on scripture I wonder what this person thinks of all these bible verses that point to the obvious?

I Thank God for all the incredibly edifiying people that have been instrumental in shedding some of the scales from my eyes, both contemporary and of olde.
Without His Word first, (and the Holy Spirit) I wouldn't have recognized the edifiying elements of these men and women.
I say "elements" because I don't always agree with every little thing from any "man",
Good to be on guard with man - but soak in the scriptures like water in the desert.
I don't see TeamPyro obsessing over the teachings of any man.

Like km I hadn't heard of Spurgeon til I got here, dicovering him is just one of the many things I'm thankful to you guys for.

candyinsierras said...

sk: once you've learned doctrine pretty fully

I'm not sure I will ever learn doctrine pretty fully. We read the Word of God daily for food, other writings, teachings, and interactions for further understanding. Will we ever fully know until we go to be with the Lord? Volumes and volumes have been written about doctrine, and yet we still interact with one another and wrestle together trying to grow in truth.

Sharon said...

I'm very tempted to send this post to a friend of mine (the guy who thinks Yanni glorifies God with his music!?) who has no interest in attending a church, but rather, thinks sitting in Starbucks and chatting about Christianity is just as valid. "The blind leading the blind" as it were. . . .

Phil Perkins said...

Phil,
I think the first guy that you took apart had a point. He was too extreme, yes. And, yes, it is odd that all these self-taught theologians, now want others to sit at their feet, but there is a point here most of us could learn.

Namely, one of the big problems in Evangelicalism that has led and does lead to all sorts of nasty heresy is the fact that Christians read and read and read and read books, go to conferences, listen to some peach-fuzzed Christian singer, and read Christian bumper stickers. We really don't read our Bibles much as a group. We get too much of our theology from modern, shallow-minded teachers.

Pastor Paul Walker in Grand Junction, Colorado has this rule set for himself: "I don't read anyone who isn't dead." (Not necessarily verbatum.) He says that puts a good safety on input into his mind--the test of time. He makes a few exceptions and MacArthur is one of them.

Unscriptural rules lead to legalism, but making such a rule for oneself may not be a bad idea.

On the nuttiness of those that won't accept any teacher, ask one of them who interpretted the Scripture for them or did they teach themselves Hebrew and Greek.

In Christ,
Phil Perkins.

Even So... said...

km, (and others), as far as theological language...

We must all start out as students...

Students are not scholars – when we talk of the doctrine of the perspicuity of scripture it means that we can understand the most basic and fundamental truths about salvation and such, not that we can all have an easy handle on all things.

And so we do need teachers.

The reason we use terms in Latin like sola scriptura and ordo salutis is that they help us to communicate without having to necessarily go over previously understood territory, which would only be a waste of time. They convey in a few words a whole lot of agreed on information, therefore we can discuss things without having to go over material that is already understood. Otherwise we would have to restate all of what is included in every instance in order to communicate the same idea that we want to get to. It helps get to the source of the discourse. When we say “justification”, for instance, we are using that word, a biblical word, to talk of right standing with God, how that is achieved, what it leads to, and so on.

This goes for more nuanced, esoteric, or difficult biblical, theological, and philosophical ideas as well. Take variegated nomism, for example. There are various ideas about how justification and variegated nomism relate to the so-called “New perspective on Paul”. For those who are able to discuss it, they would be flustered to no end to have to explain it to everyone else every time they wanted to discuss its implications, and so we must study, and learn the lay of the land, as it were, in order to progress on to fruitful discussions of doctrines.

Think about how frustrating it is to talk to a Mormon about the Trinity and have them say, “oh yes, we believe in the Trinity”, knowing that they do not understand it as we do.

Now does the Bible use the words variegated nomism, no, but when looking at the whole of scripture, and trying to come to an understanding of how it all fits together, the notion of what it means and its implications are indeed within the scope of biblical discussion.

By saying, TULIP, for example, it is understood by those whom can dialogue about such matters that it a whole system of doctrine, and we can then go about and talk about its implications without having to go over exactly what it all means first, we can move on. It is the nomenclature, the vernacular, the “trade specific” language used by those in theological discussion. Liken this to an electrician, or plumber, or others who do the same things. Imagine if a team of builders had to explain all of the catch phrases to each other every time, that structure would never get finished!

Hopefully now we can see that it has taken nearly 500 words to say this one phrase:
We do need teachers.

YnottonY said...

Richard Muller writes:

"Finally, it ought to be noted that sola Scriptura was never meant as a denial of the usefulness of the Christian tradition as a subordinate norm in theology. The views of the Reformers developed out of a debate in the late medieval theology over the relation of Scripture and tradition, one party viewing the two as coequal norms, the other party viewing Scripture as the absolute and therefore prior norm, but allowing tradition a derivative but important secondary role in doctrinal statement. The Reformers and the Protestant orthodox held the latter view, on the assumption that tradition was a useful guide, that the trinitarian and christological statements of Nicaea, Constantinople, and Chalcedon were expressions of biblical truth, and that the great teachers of the church provided valuable instruction in theology that always needed to be evaluated in the light of Scripture. We encounter, particularly in the scholastic era of Protestantism, a profound interest in the patristic period and a critical, but often substantive, use of ideas and patterns enunciated by the medieval doctors.”

Richard Muller, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms: Drawn Principally from Protestant Scholastic Theology (Baker, 1985), page 284.

donsands said...

"Wrestle together trying to grow in truth"

Amen.

And I love doing it. And I rejoice in reading, prayerfully studying, and learning from His truth together with brothers and sisters in Christ. So that I can become mature, and be used by our Lord in His kingdom being expanded.

"And they continued stedfastly in the apostle's doctrine and fellowship".

"And let us consider one another to stir unto love and good works:
Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together".

stratagem said...

Phil, I am a casual reader of your blog, who by and large agrees with Spurgeon and with you on most subjects. While I agree with you that one can take sola scriptura too far, I also think that you do seem to be obsessive about Spurgeon to the point that you seem almost to worship him, (although I realize that you don't worship him). I would ask you to consider that most of the theological drift that has occurred in recent decades has been the result of so-called "Christian" authors and preachers, not from too much reliance on scripture. In that context, I believe the person you are attempting to refute in today's post has a valid point.
respectfully submitted

Phil Perkins said...

Stratagem,
Well said.

In Christ,
Phil Perkins

Even So... said...

"you do seem to be obsessive about Spurgeon"

"casual reader of your blog"
If you are a casual reader that explains you missing YESTERDAY'S post

Phil: Spurgeon's whole preaching ministry. Do I recommend the approach he used? No.

"I would ask you to consider that most of the theological drift that has occurred in recent decades has been the result of so-called "Christian" authors and preachers"

Spurgeon is from the 19th century...so how is what strategem said well said, (Phil Perkins), considerng what you said was a vaild idea "I don't read anyone who isn't dead"?

"In that context, I believe the person you are attempting to refute in today's post has a valid point."

Obviously that is not a valid context, considering the authorial intent of the one questioning Phil in the first place...he wasn't addressing the issue of false fluffy teachers who lead away from the Word of God, he was addressing the fact that there are, were, and will be teachers who lead us to study the Word for all its worth...

Even So... said...

To wit, I need someone to teach me why beta or blogger or whatever they are calling it now seems to duplicate my comments a lot...

SolaMeanie said...

If this is who I think it is, I went round and round with this guy last year on my blog and didn't get anywhere with him. For someone who supposedly takes the Bible so seriously, he sure doesn't pay much attention to it.

Great response, Phil!

Steve said...

stratagem wrote:

"I also think that you do seem to be obsessive about Spurgeon to the point that you seem almost to worship him."

Stratagem, if you look at Phil's past posts of Spurgeon, you'll notice that almost all of them are nothing more than excerpts that, interestingly enough, speak fittingly to today's issues or to issues being discussed right on this blog. I don't see Phil using this space to lavish praises upon this man. There's an occasional commendation, but they're brief and seldom. For Phil to merely allow Spurgeon to make a "contribution" to the discussion hardly constitutes an obsession.

What's more, there's nothing unscriptural about showing respect for godly teachers. And there's no question that respect for Spurgeon is still very widespread today, given the large numbers of people who still quote him and read his works. Many of his books are still in print. This respect is well earned--Spurgeon was a preacher who handled Scripture well--a rarity in both his day and ours. And his prolific output--multiple thousands of sermons to choose from--make it all the more likely we can find useful gleanings of wisdom from him more than from others who weren't so widely published (or weren't all that biblical, for that matter).

If there's wisdom to be gained from one of God's ministers of the past, why not share it? I've watched this blog from the beginning, and consistently, the Sunday Spurgeon readings are followed by commenters who share they were abundantly blessed by Spurgeon's words.

That the Spurgeon readings are helping to build up the saints is a good thing.

GeneMBridges said...

Just a couple of funny things:

Have you ever noticed that most of these sorts of complaints come from "Baptists." I use that in quotation marks since some of them are people that come from traditions in Baptistery that have at one time or another sought to justify their existence through tracing themselves through "The Trail of Blood." That's the trail in which Paulicans and Bogomils are named as "Baptists." Uh-huh.

Then there are the ones that just plain don't know what "Sola Scriptura" means. These are the ones that our Roman Catholic apologists like to discuss, because they use the Bible and nobody else. But that's SOLO Scriptura. "Sola" Scriptura refers to an Aristotelian type of causality: Scripture is the material cause, the sole infallible source of authority of doctrine and practice, but the Reformers smuggled tradition into the defintion by leaving the door open to confessions, theologians, theologies, etc.

These are also people that seem to think that "double truth" is a valid idea. That is, something can be false philosophically and true theologically. In short, truth contradicts itself. The Reformers themselves taught against that: truth is a unity, philosophy is handmaiden to theology not its source.

Speaking of Calvinism, it's always fun to rattle off names like this: Zwingli, Beza, Bullinger, Ursinus, Musculus, Twisse, Bucer....just insert a few here. The point is that "Calvinism" isn't "John Calvin." In fact of that list, Zwingli and Bucer both preceded Calvin. Calvin is a second generation Reformer, and Baptists generally get their sacramentology from Zwingli and Bullinger. Surprise!

And I especially enjoy it when they start talking about "Baptist tradition." In other words, they all, every one of them, have their pet list of Baptist preachers that they name as authorities. Most are living (since they generally have a very limited knowledge of Baptist history, much less church history), but you get the idea. You can't claim to be a "Calvinist," and you can't talk about Dr. MacArthur, but they can talk about (insert name here).

Finally, they never talk this way about Lutherans do they? I mean, do they really think that Lutherans are following a man? Wesleyans? No, this is always a criticism leveled at Calvinists these days. It tells us far more about the critics than the criticism.

Carla said...

I've not read the rest of the comments yet so if this has already been mentioned...

I've had this very conversation with people in Christian "chats" & discussion forums more times than I can count.

Almost always - the folks that use 1John 2:27 to make their case against commentaries & the saints that have gone before us - fall flat when you ask them if it ALSO applies to their very own pastors. That is of course, of the ones that even have pastors. Many professing Christians in these settings don't even have a church or a pastor and do indeed use this verse to justify their Lone Ranger Christianity.

donsands said...

"I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Peter; and I of Christ."

Paul includes in this rebuke, even those who claim to be only of Christ. Unless I'm interpreting this incorrectly.
Interesting.

"Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos", or who is Spurgeon, Whitefield, Luther, Phil Johnson, MacArthur, Graham, Wesley but ministers.

Some plant, some water, and God gives the increase.
We are all workers together with God, and for His glory.
There's no glorying in men here, I know that's true of Teampyro.

The first three chapters of 1 Cor. seem to have the same theme all the way through to the end, where the Apostle says:
"Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Peter, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are your's;
And you are Christ's; and Christ is God's." 3:22-23

Student of History said...

Wow, this is excellent teaching, Phil! Thank you! I was just last week "defending" (so to speak) the use of the Westminster Confession for almost these very reasons. "Notice she does not go to the word of God!" Well, I *did* go to the word of God and used the WC as the standard to jump from. Goodness--when did we all become so knowledgeable and righteous in our own minds?

I thank God every day for the wisdom of men who came before us who illumine the scripture in ways I never could! I certainly don't know all the intricacies of Greek and Hebrew! Were it not for the great men of God I would know far less than I do today.

I am a Calvinist, but I don't tell people I was saved by Calvin. That is just absurd.

Thanks for a great post!

Warmly,
Kate

Jim from OldTruth.com said...

The criticism of Phil supposedly having Spurgeon tunnel vision is ridiculous and misunderstands the historical focus that he brings. There is tremendous benefit to the Church in having a Sinclair Fergusson who specializes in John Owen, a Piper/Gerstner who specialize in Edwards, others who bring BB Warfield to bear for us, and yes - Phil's focus on Spurgeon. Let us never forget these men of the past, and may we listen to their wise opinions and their take on scripture.

I personally don't see Phil interacting with people in the comments citing a constant "well Spurgeon said...". Phil seems to be able to think for himself, and even interact with the writings of scholars and preachers other than Spurgeon.

Phil, be encouraged by the genuine words of KM above. What an excellent testimony to the value of TeamPyro.

Jim from OldTruth.com said...

"He who will not use the thoughts of other men's brains, proves that he has no brains of his own".
--Charles Spurgeon

:-)

Jonathan Moorhead said...

Great timing - this week's Quotation Friday at the Moor showcased the following quote from a list of “Distinctives” from a seminary in your neck of the woods (and I’m not talking about TMS):

“In addition to reading the works of dispensational theologians, we believe that students should read widely in the written labors of non-dispensational theologians such as Luther, Calvin, Hodge, Warfield, etc. Our goal, however, is to train students to do theology independently, thinking through categories of Scripture for themselves.”

Doing “theology independently” is not only impossible, but it is unbiblical and decidedly non-Christian. What about the body of Christ? What about learning from those that God has gifted in the body?

I like how you phrased your response to a similar question: “it's arrogant and reflects a sinful kind of unteachability. This is my whole point: sola Scriptura doesn't rule out the valid role of teaching in the church.”

Doulos said...

I have had discussion with others that use a similar objection re: Calvinism, e.g. "It's a man-made theology." But in reality all theology is man-made, as we seek the truths of Scripture and form reasoned thoughts regarding what and Who we find there. Calvinism or any other "-ism" is simply a shorthand means of identifying a given theological position. Funny how some of these people would probably have no problem following "Rob Bellism" or "McClarenism". But then, that would assume that those two gentlemen actually had reasoned thoughts about God rather than simply "conversations".

sk said...

If you consider the five solas to be biblical doctrine yet you can't speak and think from the Bible where that doctrine is presented then you need to spend some time with the actual Word of God.

Abandoning teachers is maybe the absolute position of the strawman here.

A good teacher doesn't just catch fish for you, but...teaches you how to catch fish for yourself.

We're called into being prophets, priests, and kings. A prophet is a prophet by knowing God's Word. (Don't make me go quoting Dutch Puritans now...)

sk said...

Some people in the thread are arguing really for confessionalism when they are saying teachers. The unspoken fear in many of the comments is if a person turns to the Bible alone they abandon sound doctrine as developed from the Bible over time and, simply put, resides in the true-to-the-Bible confessions.

You can't be afraid of that. If you're a heretic, or a man-centered liberal all along, at least you'll find out, if you spend time with the Bible alone. You won't be able to hide it from yourself, because you went to the Bible and found yourself manipulating it to say what you want it to say. Or, you find yourself placing Creflo Dollar above people like Athanasius and John Calvin (disclaimer: I don't know anything about Creflo Dollar's theological beliefs, the name just sounds sooo wrong). These are good things to know about yourself.

I arguably came out of my first theological influence (a dispensationalist, vaguely Christian Identity fellow from the South, not that the two go together) by turning to the Bible alone for a period. Once I had the Bible in me, the whole Word of God, I was able to scan the field and move towards sound doctrine.

Touchstone said...

Phil,

I don't think your response to your "non-admirer" is wholly disingenuous, but it's a good way towards it. I will agree with your analysis of Calvin. He was a very well read, if selective study of many prominent thinkers before him, and was thoroughly informed by them; if he were blogging back in his day (!), no doubt he'd invoke the words of Augustine and many others, routinely.

But as I read it, your critic here is making a point which you agree with superfically -- the Bible is the 'final court of appeal' in matters of practice and faith -- but you jump off at this point in support of the other great (pro-Calvinist) theologians by way of embracing the "wisdom of godly men", as if that were somehow epistemically independent of the axiom of sola scriptura.

In other words, consider this question. Of all the writings and teachings that have come before us, which are to be deemed "godly", "wise", and "true"? The foundational answer to this lies in the individuals reliance on their own interpretation of scripture. That is, Augustine isn't accepted on his own authority or standing, independent of Calvin's affinity for his words, or your affinity for same, or mine either. Rather, Augustine is embraced by sola scriptura subscribers because of his concordance with the pre-existing ideology the reader brings to the table.

This is very hard to dispute, the more one reads the ECF. There certainly are ECFs that make congruent and even importantly suggestive points in favor of sola scriptura, but on the whole the broad witness of the ECF is very weak -- and I think that's putting it charitably -- in buttressing the ideology that is reified as the modern doctrine of sola scriptura in Reformed circles today.

So, were these godly, teaching-gifted men? Is their counsel as valuable as the others who were more sola scriptura-friendly? It seems quite hard to make that case, reading Calvin, or any of those who followed in his theological pathway.

Rather, Calvin, you, me, and all others who recognize no superordinating ecclesial authority on earth (a 'final court of appeal' above the Bible itself) rely first and foremost on our own understanding of scripture, as your critic is advocating at the root of this. Proceeding from this, we find theologians and and thinkers that are compatible (often just partially compatible -- we accept certain teachings, and reject or ignore others from the same individual).

There's nothing wrong with that. But this post of yours seems to loudly assert its most important points by what it doesn't say: ultimately, in Reformed thinking, the individual is the final court of appeal in determining what the Bible says in matters of faith and practice. The Bible doesn't interpret itself -- it takes a mind/heart/soul to draft anything from the text (and arguably the mediate influence of the Holy Spirit , to boot, depending on how extreme one is about the need for illumination even in the most basic ideas).

So, you don't discard the wisdom of all teachers, but you define who you embrace as an edifying, wise teacher by you're presuppositions about the Bible itself. It must be that way; if you accepted Tertullian or Irenaeus in their orientation on Tradition, you wouldn't be a 5-point Calvinist; they aren't compatible. That doens't mean you won't be familiar with these guys' ideas, but you won't be pointing to Tertullianesque principles about Catholic Tradition as a part of your positive message on this blog.

Why is that? Well, those notions don't agree with your presuppositions. Would you suggest that you embrace the ECFs equally, or based on their historically prominence, and not on their compatibility with the TULIP framework you take as a starting point?

If you do run the ECFs and all other Christian thinkers through your pre-existing set of axioms -- axioms that are founded in your own reading of scripture, where you are the Supreme Court in all matters of faith and practice, ultimately, then how would say that your different from your critic epistemologically? I can't see that you would be, and suggest this is something worth acknowedging up front.

I fully endorse a broad reading of historical Christian theologians, and particularly a familiarity with the ECFs (although I would say increasing familiarity there makes dogmatic sola scriptura arguments increasingly harder to maintain). But ultimately, sola scriptura has the individual at the root of all authority, which seems to be what you call (indirectly, by quote) "veiled egotism", on the part of the critic.

It seems to me a distinction without a difference to suppose that one who informed first and only by one's reading of scripture is fundamentally different than one who is informed first and ultimately by one's reading of scripture. In the latter case, where you are reading a wide range of thinkers, no doubt one comes to new insights that you haven't thought of. But only inside the framework of one's axioms. You are using your foundational understanding of scripture to approve or reject the competing ideas of the various theologians out there. They aren't teaching you at a fundamental level, which seems to be what you are appealing for here, but rather just passing or failing with their contributed ideas in their perceived compatibility with what you understand from your own exegesis, right?

All of which is to say: it seems duplicitous to me to appeal to the value of all the other theologians out there if their contributions are ultimately subordinated to your own reading of the text, even as you diminish a critic's appeal for standing solely on one's reading of the text. You and your critic are both Popes unto yourselves -- not infallible, obviously, but ultimately at the top of the authority chain in determining what the Bible does or does not say. Calvin's fine so long as he agrees with your axioms. But for someone else who does not (say Schleiermacher!), his teaching is not embraced. Not because he's not been a "teacher", but because he fails in light of your own, individual authority over scripture.

-Touchstone

Phil Perkins said...

To Echindod, good point. Even if you stole it. Ha.

To Evenso, I was referring to the "socalled Christian authors."

To Philness, with you, Johnson, and me, could we consider this comment thread phulphilled?

In Christ,
Phil Perkins.

Cindy said...

I John 2:27

Cindy said...

Oh and that is all I have to say with the KJV only.

Sharon said...

Cindy, did you even read what Phil said about those who use this verse to supposedly support their "All Bible, All the Time" position?

Or were you making another point that wasn't specifically articulated?

Martin Downes said...

I think it is safe to conclude that you have answered a fool according to his folly

Cindy said...

Sharon,

I know people on this blog are not going to agree with me and that is ok, but I just believe that far too many Christians depend too much on commentaries, John Calvin, and other men rather than the wonderful Holy Spirit. And if you choose to depend on the Holy Spirit more than pastors and commentaries, then some may think you are a crazy Charasmatic (not sure if I spelled that right) or something.

The Holy Spirit plays a very active role in the life of the believer, and it is up to us to pursue that vital relationship with the Holy Spirit. And certainly I am not opposed to reading books from wonderful Godly people nor am I opposed to listening to sermons from Godly people, I am just saying that first and foremost our greatest desire should be asking the Holy Spirit to guide us, (not our pastors or running first to a commentary), as we grow in Truth and knowledge

Habitans in Sicco said...

Cindy's own list of "favorite links" speaks for itself.

Sharon said...

Cindy:
Fair enough. I don't fully agree, but what confused me was your simply posting a chapter and verse without comment. I wasn't sure what your point was.

Jerry Morningstar said...

Loved the first two comments.

somebody once said something like this: "It makes no sense to think so much of what the Holy Spirit has shown us [by illumination] and so little of what He has shown others [i.e. by ignoring what the great theologians have said]."

as Phil pointed out - the position is veiled arrogance

Cindy said...

call me arrogant....that fine, I won't lose any sleep over it.

Mark said...

Cindy,

How do you know the Holy Spirt did not guide the one who prays to be guided to Calvin, Luther, Polycarp, Clement, Piper, Sproul etc?

Also, you took 1 John 2:27 out of context. John was not talking about Godly teaching, but the evils of listening to those who preach a different gospel. His main target was the gnostics. He was warning of false gospels and those who are antichrist. Not using Paul or Peter to understand the only texts they had at that time. What we call the Old Testament.

Mark

Tominthebox News Network said...

Another point to consider is that often times one may look to teachers and preachers as confirmation of what he has studied in Scripture and has already been taught by the Holy Spirit.

Let's say I study a particular passage and interpret it one way. It's exciting to go to a commentary and discover that so-and-so interpreted it the very same way! And upon reading the writings of others I begin to discover that they all have been brought to the same basic interpretation. Such a thing is exciting! It confirms the movement of the Holy Spirit throughout the ages and even in my own life. What He revealed to me, he also revealed to someone else 100, 200 even 500 years ago and more.

But sometimes I go to a commentary and find a totally different interpretation, then I check another, and another, and behold all of these men agree and I begin to discover, still by the guidance of the Holy Spirit through the gifts he has given to others in the body, that I have misinterpreted the passage. Often I see where I went wrong along the way.

And even less common I find myself disagreeing with the commentator, as we all do with certain issues. Face it, Reformed Baptists may call themselves "Calvinists" and admire John Calvin but I'm sure they disagree with his views on baptism.

The point is I think there should be a balanced use of the writings and teachings of others. Believers are to dig, study, wrestle with texts, and search the Scriptures, not always immediately just flip open Matthew Henry (I use him just as an example). But there's the opposite extreme which Phil is addressing here. One should not throw out Matthew Henry. To do so is very arrogant, and it basically accuses the Holy Spirit of never having worked in the hearts and minds of believers prior to one's own personal experience.

Cindy said...

habitans in sicco-

My list of favorite links are men and ministries that I trust because the Lord has led me to these ministries and they have been instructive in my growth but they came only after I sought the Lord for guidance.

And like I said before to Sharon, I am not opposed to reading commentaries or other books by Godly men and women. I do have a commentary, the only one that is collecting dust, from Jonathan Edwards....."The biblical rational theology of Jonathan Edwards". But I will say this, my Bible does not collect dust.

Mark said...

The links do reveal much about Cindy and the links here reveal much about the Pyromaniacs. Oh a double edge sword that. What does it reveal about me?

I now have an understanding where Cindy has gotten her information and attitude toward commentaries. But to listen men and churches who sale their own commentaries, books, guides.....why is scripture not enough? Did the Holy Spirt lead you the Dave Hunt? Did you test that spirit? Why is Hunt ok, but Calvin not? (ok we know that answer) but then a link to Gill etal.

I am sorry, but someones crediblity is circling a bowl and it ain't the superbowl.

Cindy said...

mark...

Oh wow, I should have known that if I side with an Arminian (Dave Hunt) I would get a spanking!!!!!!

I am not Arminian but I am not a 5pt Calvinist either. I mean who cares really whether one is Arminian or Calvinist. Some Cavinist hold to their precious, beloved John Calvin as if he should be venerated. The unholy popes do that. And if you don't agree 100% than you don't belong in our " Calvin group".

R.C. Sproul wrote a book, "Willing to Believe"....interesting it was, but I truthfully do not care anymore what John Calvin teaches or semi-pelagius views. The "Calvin Club" is like a secret sect or something. It sounds so ridiculous. Perhaps John Calvin's hemmoroids are gold. Then I suppose you could venerate him.

Catez said...

Making judgments without knowing peoples hearts there I think Cindy.

KJV only? Which KJV? it's been changed several times. Do you mean the 1611 version, because that is the original unadulterated KJV.

How do you think they went about making changes to it?

Were you just "led" to KJV only or were you influenced by the teaching of some-one to take that position?

Is sola scriptura only KJV - and if so were all the people prior to it being translated in error for reading a different version?

Phil Johnson said...

Enough.

Let's get back on topic. Cindy isn't the topic here. Neither is Calvin. Neither is the KJV.

And can we move the level of the conversation back about 10 notches up the propriety scale?

Thanks.

If you don't understand what I mean by "propriety," better not to post any comments at all.

sk said...

Dave Hunt isn't KJV-only. (I'll stand corrected if I'm wrong on that.)

Maybe we can put foward something like an axiom for this subject:

Just as regeneration precedes faith, it can probably be stated truthfully that engaging, or coming into contact with, the actual Word of God precedes doctrinal understanding.

Cindy said...

Well Phil, I was beginning to feel that I finally had a purpose for my existence.

But that's ok. Have a good night everyone. And may we all be led by the Holy Spirit.

sk said...

"And may we all be led by the Holy Spirit."

Amen to that.

Word and Spirit.

Catez said...

Sorry Phil. And Cindy.

Can't think of anything else to say on the post. Others have covered it for me - the bible relates the importance of teaching, sola scritura directs us to be teachable.

Timotheos said...

It would seem to me that as I study the Scriptures it is possible that I might come to a conclusion that is neither biblical nor orthodox. And, being that in our day it is pretty easy to find someone to support my belief however ridiculously unbiblical, I had better be careful who I choose to support my exegesis.

And, if I discover that there is no valid support of my exegesis - then I should reconsider what it is that I have concluded - 'scripture is not open to private interpretation.'

The teachers that I choose to consult or quote as I teach or preach should only support or amplify my exegesis.

However, the key is that I am studying the Scripture and seeking to understand what the Author intended.

C.H.H. said...

Matthew from From the Morning said,

"Do you think in all that debate and theology and bickering there is room for a true God relationship?"

Who is God? Why don't we all have a relationship with Him? Why do we need one? How do we get it?

Don't answer any of these questions, because that would be theology.

Also, some people will disagree with you, and then you have debate. Some people who don't like that might even call it bickering.

Sorry.

Chris

UncleNut said...

Woohoo -- last comment!

sk said...

"Yeah, but it doesn't count unless you actually comment on the post."
- Phil Johnson

ajlin said...

"Your identity as a "Baptist"; your endless quotations from Charles Spurgeon; your faithful devotion to John MacArthur; and especially your willingness to call yourself a "Calvinist" are all huge red flags that tell me something is seriously wrong with your theology."

Funny, the items in the list above were, to me, all huge red flags that told me something is seriously right with your theology. I guess it's a matter of perspective.

Kim said...

I'm sorry, but I have to say this. And I don't mean any disrespect whatsoever. That picture of the "enlightened swami?" makes me think of Mr. Blue Raja.

Charles Whisnant said...

Just think, if we didn't have other teachers to help us in our preaching and teaching and spiritual growth many good men might have to ask for an increase in salary. Some broadcasts might not have the income without the ofer of books for an offering.

We would not have the writings of the early fathers. This generation of preachers and teachers would not have the joy of reading the great preachers of the past.

Think of the next generation of preachers who would not have the writings of John MacArthur, or J.I. Packer, or Chuck Swindoll.

Yes, we should know our Bible, and know how to study the text. How are we going to know "how" without a teacher?" We should be grateful for those who make it easier for us.

Spiritual growth happens when the Holy Spirit quickens our mind and gives us understanding of what we learned from our study of the Scriptures.

Is it possible to have an understanding of the Bible without other teachers? How did we learn to read the Bible? How did we come to know the meaning of words that are in the Bible?

There is a struggle for a deeper understanding of God's Word in those of us who earnestly want to live as Christians. We have a desire to be rich in knowledge of the whole armor of God. We desire to know God and He has revealed Himself in His Word. So we must know His Word. This is what matters, to grasp and learn the Word in all its  significance and actuality.

In order for this to be achieved we need tools which will lay out for us helps of deeper knowledge of the Word. These tools or means where by we learn give us greater ability to know God and His Word.

Teachers who can open our minds to the Old and New Testament for us, expecially from the view point of the original text.

It is true however, our belief remains absolute and certain: the Holy Spirit is the only true  determinant to the Word of God. Nevertheless, the appeal for the Holy Spirit does not exclude earnest and emergetic study.

jigawatt said...

A human teacher tries to teach Phil not to trust human teachers. Simply amazing.

How does this person view any ministry past evangelism? Once someone professes faith in Christ, you just hand them a Bible and send them away?

This reminds me of some guys I once knew who had such a skewed view of 1 Tim 2:12 that they tried their best not even to speak to a woman about the Bible out of fear that the woman might teach them something.

Echindod said...

Interestingly enough Touchstone wasn't responded to, so let me be the first. You make a valid point that we are not a tabula rasa, but you have overlooked and/or minimized the role of the scriptures to shape our presuppositions, and the role of the Holy Spirit. But I will still not side with sk and Cindy. We need the study of Backgrounds to better understand the text. Case: what is a ziggurat and how can it affect our understanding of Gen 11. The Bible as it self is sufficient for Salvation and Sanctification but if you want to understand at a deeper level You must have a better understanding of the Historical setting and literary methods and *gasp* an understanding of the original languages.... So yes sk, once we understand Mesopotamian Culture, Egyptian culture, Northwest Semitic Philology, Sumerian Literature, Hittite/Anatolian, Literary composition, fluency in Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic, Greek Culture and literature, the Pseudapigrapha, Roman policy culture and literature, archeology, sociology, Church History, and a fully articulated Systematic theology and dogmatic development in its corresponding philosophical challenges (all of which have contributed to who we are) THEN we should spend a year alone reading nothing but the bible. Until then, let us read until our Eyeballs fall out, testing everything we read with scripture and allowing it to shape or presuppositions.

Barrett, M said...

There is some danger in this argument on both sides. The intellectuals on this post have done a good job defending their position with Scripture and logic, and for the most part I agree. I also believe that ignoring solid teaching outside of Scripture is stupid.

But the danger is that you leave the impression that the high minded or the educated among us possess a deeper or higher place in the Kingdom. That is just not true.

I realize nobody has said that outwardly but the impression is there nonetheless. The Gospel has always been focused on the "simple" invitation we give to the little ones, the least, the widows, the orphans, and Jesus doesn't offer many plaudits to the theologically correct.

So if we were forced to choose between agonizing over our correct Calvinistic theology, or agonizing over the "least of these", I feel safer with the latter.

The sad part of this post may be that some will theologically and effectively take my argument apart and still never focus on the "least". God forbid.

Denise said...

"First, although the claim to by-pass mere human books and go right to the Bible itself sounds devout and spiritual it is a veiled egotism."

"Furthermore, it is simply not the case that any common, unskilled, unschooled individual, sitting down with his Bible and no other tools, can expect to come to a full and mature understanding of Scripture without any help from godly teachers who understand some things better than he will ever get it on his own."

We are to go to Scripture first, not just finally.

Sadly, it seems that Scripture and the Holy Spirit isn't enough for most professing Christians and that saddens me.

It appears, that the Word is the milk and theologians are the meat.

To say we can't know what Scripture really means without going to man is making theologians the meat, dare I say the Magesterium, by which one can really understand the Word.(Please know I'm not trying to be rude or flippant here.)

This breaks my heart truly.

2Ti 3:15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

2Ti 3:16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitabl for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

Psa 119:99 I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation.

Man does not give us wisdom nor understanding: only God does through His Word and Holy Spirit.

Pro 2:6 For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;

sk said...

I'm in sympathy with Denise's comment.

donsands said...

"To say we can't really know what Scripture means"

I have learned from God's pastor's. I have learned from God's teachers.

Did I really need them? God gave them to me, so I guess I did.

It's all God, and His grace. One plants the word, and another waters the word, but God gives the increase.

Surely pastors are called by His grace to take the sheep into the pasture so that they feed themselves.
I praise and thank God for all of His pastors and teachers, those whom are His genuine shepherds of the sheep, who feed and tend His people with all humility and integrity, and who give all the glory to God the Father, through Jeus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Luther is one of my favorite teachers. Look forward to meeting him, so we can both worship God, and give Him all the glory due His name.
There's only One great teacher, and yet He does sovereignly gift teachers within His Church.

God bless, and have a great Lord's day.

sk said...

Let's just no co-opt the shepherd/flock metaphor in the direction of man. Jesus Christ is the Shepherd, His Spirit is the teacher.

And we're all called to be prophets, priests, and kings in God's Kingdom.

Echindod said...

sk, Maybe you should read your bible. 1 Peter 5 clearly exhorts the elders to shepherd the flock of God. And maybe you should look at the etymology of the word Pastor. God gives the gift of teaching for the oversight of his sheep. Christ is the Good Shepherd (Which is clearly an OT allusion) nobody is denying that, but there is also another metaphor speaking of the overseers being shepherds.

sk said...

If you read again what I wrote I said let's not "co-opt" the metaphor to man. That implies man 'solely.' This is the gravitational pull within fallen man. There are too many 'pastors' spouting too many ridiculous things for such things to be stated with such confidence. Jesus is the Shepherd, the Word of God is the standard, the Holy Spirit is the teacher and the source of discernment. The priesthood of all believers is a responsibility not to be shirked off onto others.

Student of History said...

I think "donsands" touched on something very fundamental to understanding this whole idea of teachers (be they Calvin, Sproul, etc.)--that God is sovereign over all our learning. I loved what he stated, "I have learned from God's teachers. Did I really need them? God gave them to me, so I guess I did." This is a wonderful grasp of the absolute sovereign hand of God in our lives--and in our teaching.

Warmly,
Kate