04 September 2012

Untangling a (too) terse word about affirming sufficiency and meaning it

by Dan Phillips

First, please read this post about James MacDonald's five ways of hearing a word from God.

In that post, I asked this question:
What would be the premise for, and ramifications of, promoting only the way(s) in which Scripture directly and in so many words urges and directs all Christians without exception to seek and find what it itself directly calls, in so many words, a "word from God"?
The subsequent meta pretty well convinced me that I failed the clarity test. In seeking to be pithy, dense and impenetrable... well, I certainly achieved impenetrability. Proof: some of our very best, sharpest readers got lost in the density. So clearly, lack of clarity was mine. Obliging me to untangle my verbage. Which I now do.

Ahem.


Let's begin with something I've sought to communicate many times, with varying success. Here is Buzz Christian. Buzz feels he needs Data-group A.  Buzz  doesn't find Data-group A in Scripture.  Buzz  has two choices:
  1. Conclude that he doesn't need God to give him Data-group A directly, or it would be in Scripture.
  2. Find another way to obtain something he'll call Data-group A... and then deal with Scripture. Or not.
So, clearly many people want to hear things from God that aren't in Scripture. The issue of what things? doesn't really matter at this point. They look at Scripture, and it doesn't have everything they want. What to do, what to do?

Basically, you can do two things:
  1. You can conclude that you don't actually need a word from God relaying those things, or they'd be in Scripture.
  2. You can invent another way to obtain something you'll say are those things... and then deal with Scripture. Or don't deal.
James MacDonald knows people want there to be ways "God speaks," ways to "hear from God," ways to have "the Holy Spirit speak a word," ways to get, as he says explicitly and more than once, "a word from God" — apart from Scripture. And so MacDonald teaches four such ways, and assigns degrees of certainty to them... which is revealing in itself, but we don't even need to go there to arrive at my point.

What I was asking was, Suppose we were to confine our focus to explicit Scripture alone. Suppose we don't start with stories, anecdotes, tradition, or "just what everybody knows."

Suppose we were to say that we will promote only the way(s) in which Scripture directly and in so many words urges and directs all Christians without exception to seek and find what it itself directly calls, in so many words, a "word from God." Suppose we wouldn't try to principlize stories, or torture verses, or lead with anecdotes and try to bend Scriptures which at a twelfth degree of separation might sorta give a kinda hint that such a thing might be in some way something like valid.

Suppose, instead, we said:
"I will only call 'a word from God' what Scripture calls 'a word from God.'  I will only appeal to verses that directly tell all Christians that they can always and with 100% certainly find a word from God. I will only urge Christians to use those means to obtain words from God."
So, I say, supposing we were to say that — on what premises would such a position rest, and what would the ramifications be? Having failed to make my point the first time for most of you (and I'm sorry about that), I'll answer my own question.

The premise for such a statement would be the sufficiency of Scripture, robustly affirmed.

The ramifications for such a statement is that we would only urge Christians to look to Scripture to find words from God. We would only look to Scripture ourselves to find words from God. One hundred percent of our efforts, our devotion, and our attention, would be given to the study, understanding, preaching, teaching and practice of the written Word of God, which absolutely certainly claims to be fully sufficient for such purposes.

Further ramifications would be the instant end of the Charismatic movement (— which they clearly recognize, as witnessed by the unvarying pushback against all genuine affirmations of the sufficiency of Scripture). Also, we would see the utter transformation of the majority of pulpit ministries across the world. Revival would almost surely come in as well — though it's likelier to be a necessary cause than an effect.

Clear enough now?

Dan Phillips's signature


113 comments:

Linda said...

Excellent! I'll percolate on that today

DJP said...

Thanks.

And again, sincerely, to all the good folks who tried hard but found the previous post's verbage impenetrable: sorry. Didn't mean to be.

Pastor Pants said...

Very clear. And very good.

Have forwarded to eldest daughter at CCBC.

Eric O said...

“The ramifications for such a statement is that we would only urge Christians to look to Scripture to find words from God.”

“Clear enough now?” (With respect, yes and no.)

If, when you use the term “hearing a word from God”, you are referring ONLY to those “words” (and principles) written down in the bible, that is the basic teachings, truths, revelations etc., then I would agree with your statement above.

The disconnect I’m having (if I may use James example of the miscarriage) is that James “word from God” has absolutely nothing to do with Scripture. I don’t understand how he could have looked to scripture to know that one of his sheep had a miscarriage.

If James knew she had a miscarriage and said he was waiting for “a word from God” on whether or not to contact her, then I see your argument. That is, God has already given him a “word” in scripture on the role of a pastor which would lead him to comfort his flock.

Nash Equilibrium said...

Thanks - very much clearer and less inpenetrable (although I should have used my hammer drill).

I'm having an online discussion with a theologian friend about the necessity for theologians in order for the church to understand scripture, which this article kinda sorta fits into, as well. Interesting how similar his arguments are to the charismatics (although he isn't one) on the ability of scripture to stand on its own.

DJP said...

It isn't that long of a post, Eric, yet you have completely missed its point. I'm asking nicely and friendly, please reread more slowly and thoughtfully.

Eric O said...

10-4

DJP said...

Thx, E.

DJP said...

And now, unrelatedly: I think we can conclude that the One-Star Hater is a West Coaster. Not up yet.

Jared T. Baergen said...

Well said, DJP. My answer was close, but I still misunderstood a little.

You make an excellent point (which you've similarly made in the past) that if Scripture is sufficient (and it is), and you want to say "God told me", then subsequently quote Scripture. A true stance for the sufficiency of Scripture, then, would have drastic ramifications for how Christians live their lives, and how churches function in our day and age.


Further, simply based on experience, I completely agree that the charismatic movement recognizes the threat that the doctrine of sufficiency poses for their existence. Even mentioning the sufficiency of Scripture around a charismatic will almost always bring about hostility and/or bodily harm. And yet, a theology (if we can even call it that) that so obviously (yet subtly) attacks the sufficiency of Scripture poses one of the biggest threats to the church, Christian living, evangelism, the glory of God, etc. of our day.

DJP said...

There y'go, exactly.

So they often say, "Well but there were all sorts of prophecies and all that happened in the NT!"

Yes. Right. One question: was that before, or after the completion and close of the Canon?

Bringing us back once again to the observation I've oft-noted, that to the Charismatic the close of the Canon is just another "and then THAT happened..."

Jay Beerley said...

(A thousand apologies if this is off-track...)

I think it's vitally important to push and inform our people about this issue in our churches. I think the "word from God" lingo is so rampant, people have no idea it's part of a vital piece of theology (sufficiency of Scripture; cessationist/partial-cessationist) that guides how we understand God and His desires for us.

The main thought I had after reading this was how we have failed in making disciples. Why do we have such needy, codependent people who fearfully sit around waiting for all of these "words from God?" How has the church not taught them to embrace the robust teachings of the Scripture, to love God as He has revealed himself, and then to live that out. Ultimately, you're not going to screw up God's plan by choosing the wrong college to go to, even marrying the wrong person, or, dare I say, failing to call the currently grieving flock member because you didn't act on your impulse (that Jared Moore article Challies linked to had a good thought about the suppression of Christian freedom in charismatics).
I think someone should snag your book and do a study about the fear of the Lord being the basis for wisdom and how that REALLY plays out in our lives.

Webster Hunt (Parts Man) said...

My friend and I were talking about this last night. And in the midst of affirming the dangers of seeking a "Word from the Lord", he told me a story about having 2 jobs to choose from, one which would make more money than the other. He told me that he decided to pray about it to seek a "Peace" from the Lord, and then began telling me about how he weighed his options - how he'd already given his word to job "a" and that although going to job "b" would make him a good sum of money, his word was already with job "a" and abandoning that word would not be a move of integrity. And so after carefully weighing the options, using ordinary means, he decided against "b" and for "a".

All that to say this: another issue I see linked with this (and I think Dan or Frank or Phil touched on this once) is the thought that God only speaks through immediate extraordinary means, that He only works through immediate extraordinary means, and that any mediated, somewhat ordinary means can't be from the Lord. It's definitely an extraordinary means that God has spoken in dreams, visions, through angels, fires and clouds, and supernatural miracles, and then finally through God the Son taking on flesh and tabernacling with us! Even more extraordinary that He wrote those things down for future generations to look on and say with surety "Thus saith the Lord". And most extraordinary that God would use ordinary means - the foolishness of preaching, anyone? - to get His word across, and I think that may be a disconnect on why folks think we need a "fresh word". It's unthinkable to them to have to be mediated to.

Unknown said...

As one who has been to both charismatic and other traditional churches, hearing from God and discerning God's will has been one of the most difficult things in my Christian walk. This is thought-provoking. I've reposted the article to Athenians, a Christian news aggregator. You can read the discussion it generates at http://www.athenians.info/stories/affirming-the-sufficiency-of-scripture

Jules said...

"I will only call 'a word from God' what Scripture calls 'a word from God.' I will only appeal to verses that directly tell all Christians that they can always and with 100% certainly find a word from God. I will only urge Christians to use those means to obtain words from God."

But, that would involve years and years of diligent, faithful study and maybe even memorization of God's Word. That's a lot of hard work, Dan.

Jared T. Baergen said...

DJP,

Bringing us back once again to the observation I've oft-noted, that to the Charismatic the close of the Canon is just another "and then THAT happened..."

Ha! If they even go that far.

Usually they will try and make a case that no single verse in Scripture says, "and God closed the cannon"; thus, you're wrong--which also coincides with their magic eight-ball use of Scripture.

And yet, the burden of proof is really on them to show that the cannon is not closed. As soon as you flip the burden of proof, and after they fumble around a little bit, show them any argument for the close of the cannon your heart desires.

And there I go again....

Back to the post: If you're going to say "God told me", "called me", or "the Spirit led me" -- subsequently quote Scripture. Yup. Good insight, DJP!

Jared T. Baergen said...

Jules,

But, that would involve years and years of diligent, faithful study and maybe even memorization of God's Word. That's a lot of hard work, Dan.

Excellent point! No wonder charismaniacs oppose the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture so strongly--it's easier to wait around for a giant arrow in the sky (that will never show up) to point the way, and then claim you saw it (even though no one else did), than to do something that "involve(s) years and years of diligent, faithful study and maybe even memorization of God's Word."

I admit, that really tickles my ears at this hour of the morning.

DJP said...

Jay, yes yes yes yes and yes. Exactly. Well said. It's why I keep ringing this bell from as many angles as I can. Plug in here also The Sufficiency Challenge.

MTHudson said...

Ramifications? You'd hear variations of this exchange in church:

Brother A: Hey, brother B, I have a word from God for you.

Brother B: Fantastic, but I'm in a rush. Give me the reference and I'll be sure to read it when I get home.

And brother B wouldn't have been making a pointed joke, and brother A wouldn't scowl at him for his reply.

Imagine that, Christians walking around commending scripture to each other, encouraging each other to meditate on God's word, growing in grace together. What on earth (or under heaven) would become of the church then?

DJP said...

Ohh Jules, LOL.

DJP said...

Yeah, but MT, then subsets wouldn't have trump cards over their brothers and sisters. We'd all have access to exactly the same percentage of revelation. No hot-lines.

Plus — well, if the thing Obama fears most is "MATH," then the thing the Charismatic fears most is "FALSIFIABILITY."

MTHudson said...

Dogs and cats living together! Mass hysteria!

Jeremiah Greenwell said...

I think part of the problem comes as a disconnect between the sufficiency of scripture and 'the fruit' of the sufficiency of scripture.

As a practical example, we know a man cannot be saved apart from a revelation of who Christ is and what He has accomplished on the cross (2nd Corinthians 4:6). A fellow Christian may very well be praying for a lost loved one with this in mind, but, depending only on some supernatural occurrence (which is required), may neglect Romans 10:14-17 giving them the responsibility to proclaim the truth. We could call someone like that a hyper-Calvinist, who, in all honesty, doesn't affirm sola scriptura either.

It's not enough to say scripture is sufficient; is it a reality? Is your faith a true faith that natural obedience flows from, or is it merely a professed faith with rotten fruit all around? I'm pretty sure we all need work on that one.

David Regier said...

Just a note from those of us over here in worship leader-land:

"God gave me this song."

It's supposed to sound more humble than "I wrote this song." But it's a trump card. I've used it, and I've repented of using it, but golly, I've heard it so many times about songs that are poorly written, untrue, or both.

And I've heard it from people who are in no way charismatic. But it comes from the same place.

Nash Equilibrium said...

True, David.
Gag.
"God gave me this really mediocre song, to execute poorly for y'all..."

Peter W. said...

Just wanting to push back (in a nice way) on the comments on the close of scripture ending charismatic gifts (at least, the ones to do with words from God).

How do you then address contexts when access to the complete and sufficient scriptures is limited or non-existant. It seems to me that your argument (which is just fine with me!) is that prophecy doesn't exist any more because scripture does. Consequently, does prophecy, or at least some other form of divine revelation directly from God, still exist where the scriptures don't?

I am thinking of contexts such as people groups who speak languages in which the Bible has not yet been translated, or perhaps more significantly contexts where the scriptures are no accessible such as many Islamic parts of the world.

DJP said...

Fair enough, but see: one's first inclination would be to say, "Well, let me think... I suppose..."

So let's go back to the post and let me ask: what does the Bible say? I'm not being sarcastic or sneery. Isn't it akin to saying "What does God do for those beyond the reach of the Gospel?" Is there a para-Gospel or meta-Gospel Gospel? Find me a verse. Doesn't it just take us back to the two (2) options of direct revelation (in Scripture) or general revelation which, in Scripture, only serves to condemn?

Scott Welch (formerly Scooter) said...

David,

Aren't you afraid that the Worship Band Mafia will hunt you down and force you to listen to "Just As I Am" until you recant?

Now, crossing my fingers that spawn another irony cyclone...

1) Dan said, "Conclude that he doesn't need God to give him Data-group A directly, or it would be in Scripture." What a great sentence. It takes God at his Word and trusts that he is better, wiser, and more powerful than I. Can you imagine if we continuously went to our wives with, "How I can trust you to love me today?" when we have a large track record of their faithfulness? How much more so with our Creator!

2)In a funny way, I help deny the sufficiency of Scripture and promote charismaticism by not speaking up when someone says, "God me phumperlinsky." I'm refusing to use God's means of sharpening other Christians: Opening up the Word and explaining it to others.

Robert said...

The thing that I love about the sufficiency of Scripture is how simply it works. A lot of the things that people want to hear "a word from God" about don't require a word from God. There are a few places where Scripture defines a few things as being God's will in the life of a believer (MacArthur gave a sermon on this). None of them involve what job to take or what car/house to buy, but are things like sanctification, salvation, prayers of thanksgiving. How much more peace would Christians have if they were being directed to seek these things instead of a "word from God" before doing anything? Shame on those who lead people to look for such things when we clearly only need Scripture to teach and lead us in the ways of godliness, where we can all find peace.

Tommy said...

Ahh, the sufficiency of Scripture and Ghostbusters references all in one day?

A good way to start off my work week.

Great, great post. Just like it's predecessor.

Rachel said...

As the amount of time I've been on the Christian walk has increased, it's become more and more apparent how logical Christianity is. When going through anything in life if you pick up the habit to pray about it and seek what Scripture has to say about it, it's not only comforting to do so, but extremely logical.

Just reaffirming to yourself that God is completely in control and already knows the outcome of a situation, and whatever it is is for your benefit. Then reviewing the various verses and passages that refer to the reasons for trials, temptations, things life brings, etc. Praying about receiving Godly wisdom (James 1), which (ironically enough) comes through an understanding of Scripture and its practical application. Taking comfort in past answered prayers, all of the historical evidence in the Bible of the faithfulness of God. Knowing that when you are seeking to glorify God in all situations it will bring about something that is in your best interest even if it doesn't look that way to the world.

This list could really go on and on.

The point I'm making is that all of those things have to come from regular discipline in God's Word, and are very logical thought processes. They're not all willy nilly and what YOU want or think is great at this particular moment in time and influenced by waves of emotion. It's not some special 'revelation,' but taking the time to really break down what's going on through prayer and finding applicable Biblical passages. It may not seem as 'special' as prophectic visions and general pandemonium, but it's the kind of thing that truly builds faith that lasts and a dependency on the Lord. It takes time, and doesn't happen overnight.

Jeremiah Greenwell said...

Peter W:

Did you know that if Christ had preached to Tyre and Sidon as He did to Israel that they would have repented? (Matthew 11:20-24)

There's part of your answer. That should make help with this passage:
"Now see that I, even I, am He,
And there is no God besides me;
I kill and I make alive;
I wound and I heal;
Nor is there any who can deliver from My hand."
Deuteronomy 32:39

So was it unfair of Christ to reveal Himself to a people who wouldn't repent when He Himself has said that this other people who were utterly destroyed would have given the opportunity? That's not an area to question God's wisdom in, your response to that should be gratefulness to God that you are privileged to live in a country where there are more bibles than there are people to read them.

Morris Brooks said...

Dan, I really like these posts, but maybe a third one is needed for the "close your eyes and put your finger on a verse for guidance" or the "I just opened my bible and there its was" crowd. After all, their response is they are looking to the Word for a word.

Aaron Snell said...

I'd like to hammer directly on a point that Dan in his posts and others in the meta have been tapping around, but I think is the next necessary step we should explicitly take here:

Many lay claim to the doctrine (or at least a doctrine) of the sufficiency of Scripture. However, such a premise will - or should - naturally lead you to say, "I will only call 'a word from God' what Scripture calls 'a word from God.' I will only appeal to verses that directly tell all Christians that they can always and with 100% certainly find a word from God. I will only urge Christians to use those means to obtain words from God."

The thing is, though, it doesn't, at least not always. And you can't have it both ways. Our Charismatic brothers and sisters want to be quick to affirm the sufficiency of Scripture, at least on paper. Since they've been a topic of conversation here recently, I'll quote the first line from the Assemblies of God Statement of Fundamental Truths:

The Bible is our all-sufficient rule for faith and practice.

There it is, in black-and-white ink, yet for some reason it is not serving as the premise for how they address the issue of the "word from God." This is why, in my answer on the other post, I said "a real doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture" and why Dan used the term "robust" - Charismatics often have a theoretical adherence to this doctrine, but practically they don't.

Todd said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Homer Poe said...

If further prophecy is 'a word from the Lord' (and it is) and if 'the canon is closed' (and it is) is an argument for 'no further prophecy' (and it is), then how do we as cessationists deal with the fact that prophecy will be brought to bear at a later date? I'm thinking of Joel 2 during the end times.

In the off chance that this has been dealt with numerous times with several posts I apologize up front. In such a case if you could just point me in the right direction for those posts that would be cool. Thanks.

Aaron Snell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aaron Snell said...

In the interest of full disclosure and honesty, there very well may be things that I affirm on paper and don't believe in practice. I hope there aren't, but if so, I would see the pointing out of those things as the wounds of a friend.

Also, I'm aware that "black-and-white ink" is a dumb thing to say.

Jeff Hoots said...

As a certified public accountant licensed in the State of Indiana, I would like to know where Mr, er, Dr. McDonald got his reliability percent numbers? Have they been peer reviewed?

I suppose, though, that we are peer reviewing them as we speak.

DJP said...

Well no, Jeff, if I'm understanding the mindset of The Gospel Coalition{tm} and other kingmaker organizations and individuals today, unless you pastor a church of at least 5000, you and I are not peers, and our thoughts are not worthy of acknowledgment, let alone serious consideration.

donsands said...

What if a new convert comes and says, "Is the Books of Maccabees considered Holy Scripture?"

I know a few have thought so. Of course the Catholic Church does.

Is there a short and sweet answer to show someone that the Protestant Bible is the beginning and the end of God's truth, his Word? Does that make sense?
Any thoughts?

Thanks Dan for the encouraging post to embrace God through His Word only.

Linda said...

@ Jules, you make a very excellent point!

I also would say that it's "hard work" to "acknowledge God in ALL our ways and HE will direct(our) path". It requires submission, humility, time, trust, patience, dependency and surrender to the supremacy of His Lordship and word as final authority.

I've noticed that many people are long on feelings and opinions, but short on scripture. This separates cultivating a relationship of intimacy with Christ by his Word(sanctification)-John 17:17

thus we have anemic Christians running around shadowboxing because they don't know the word of God and are bringing opprobrium to the Church of Christ.




Linda said...

donsands, I've read some articles on that. I think it's a start to point out that the only books Jesus ever said "It is written" or ever referred to as "all the Scriptures" were "the law and the prophets"

in Luke 24:27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he-(Jesus) explained to them what was said in (ALL)the Scriptures concerning himself." so Moses and all the Prophets equals ALL the (OT) Scripture

David Sheldon said...

"Buzz" Christian. Cute. A hidden message, no doubt.

To say we believe in the sole authority and sufficiency of Scripture (and mean it!) means we do not make active or passive provision for anything else – as your article indicates!

The “Spirit” in me, as a Christian, already finished His absolutely perfect job when He breathed out the Holy Scriptures through His Spirit-anointed apostles and prophets. That means the “Spirit” in me does not equate to “fresh words from God” or the “spiritual gift” of impressions or third category prophecies. Although perfectly sufficient, God’s words are not to be confused with God’s providence which is God acting in or upon us or our circumstances. He does this even when we are unaware of it by acting upon our thoughts just like He changes the course of a king’s heart.

But to be led by and discern spiritual things (1 Cor. 2) is to be led by the Spirit’s thoughts…which are in words…which are Scripture…which Paul preached to them and they received…which we understand…if we have the same Spirit and read ALL the sufficient Scripture. Spirit speech done – signs of the apostles done - canon closed. Why go to, believe, or “listen” for something different/better? Fresh isn’t better when it is deception. The Spirit has an on-going illumination job – not a fresh speech job.

“If your imaginary revelation is not according to this Word, it has no weight with us: and if it is according to this Word, it is no new thing…” – Charles Spurgeon

The sufficiency of the Scripture is the issue of our day and ultimately the issue of the sole mediation of Jesus Christ understood by Word and Spirit only. (i.e. “evangelical” is quickly becoming “catholic”) This is why most of our evangelical churches are being caught up in sensual, mystical “worship” and care little about the whole Word of God preached. We need to get this big time and we need to take your issue here very seriously. An entire generation is not only being led away from the sufficiency of Scripture, it is being led away from the real Lord Jesus Christ and God of the Scripture and it manifests itself in this issue.

“The devil has no better way to conquer us than by leading us away from the Word and to the Spirit.”-Martin Luther

David Sheldon
www.4truthministry.com
Mansfield, Ohio

Carl C. said...

(In line with Jules' comment)

I think I'll take you to task on this, Dan. I don't believe Scripture alone is enough for a modern Christian like me. But just to give you the benefit of the doubt, I'm going to master everything in the Bible first, and get back to you with my rebuttal.

...

Seriously, The Sufficiency Challenge you linked to (+ Tom Chantry's 99% example there) is to me the sharpest tool in the cessationist's toolbox. As a former charismatic who thought he affirmed Scripture's sufficiency, I couldn't find ANY wiggle room in your bold argument. Here's to a lifetime of learning and putting into practice God's Word.

Carl C. said...

As an aside, I hope you don't tire of thinking this issue through from even more angles and putting it out there. Some tough-skulled people like myself don't get it at first whack.

Nash Equilibrium said...

I LOVE what Dan just wrote about TGC and kingmaking and not being a peer with a CEO Pastor. So true and insightful!

Reminded me of something very memorable I read several years ago about LeaderMan vs. the Servant Leader, see link here. (I am not html literate enough to know how to do a link so you'd have to cut & paste, sorry). I've experienced these Leader Men firsthand and can vouch for the accuracy thereof!
LeaderMan vs. Servant Leader

DJP said...

David: "The sufficiency of the Scripture is the issue of our day."

Amen. Preach it, loud and often and broadly.

As to "Buzz" — just a name. Usually it's "Bud."

DJP said...

Carl: "But just to give you the benefit of the doubt, I'm going to master everything in the Bible first, and get back to you with my rebuttal."

LOL; I am TOTALLY OK with that.

Linda said...

how are our emotions tied to the truth of God's word? I know we can't rely on them since we are fallen and our emotions are affected by sin.

Example: Sometimes I have "felt" God's peace when I'm obedient to his word or joyful-but it's always HIM being my Peace. On the other hand I have had peace diminish and a heaviness in my life if I've been disobedient to God's word. I know it's real, Christ is a Person whom we have (holy) affections towards.

Cathy M. said...

I've heard several versions of the "Ways God Speaks..." seminar. It's never presented without an emotional story where God's providence is twisted into a "God Speak." Notice his statement: "Don't tell me the Spirit of God didn't tell me to call her!" Confronting someone with that kind of attitude fills me with trepidation, especially a pastor.

Suppose -indeed- we only call Scripture God's word... should go without saying, but the whole "Experiencing God" thing has been around for more than 20 years sowing this error in almost every church, bible study, and youth program. While the biblical premise rests on scripture's own sufficiency claim, one unintended ramification will certainly be a constant need to defend it against the silly claims of misinformed, delusional folks who will serve up massive rations of grief every time you do. I'm just saying, we need to prepare to articulate our position biblically, lovingly, and often... sometimes to people who ought to know better.

DJP said...

One of the points I'm trying to hammer home, Cathy, particularly in these last two posts, is —

Folks like MacD get a universal "pass" by saying, "Of course, we must test the results by Scripture."

...so why not test the means by Scripture? If we start out not rigorously demanding a flat-out Biblical demonstration that GOD urges us to use these means, who cares what we test with what?

As I've said, why not listen for God's voice by using chicken bones, cloud patterns, and every fifth word Oprah says — as long as we test the results by Scripture?

Jules said...

The above comment brings it all home, DJP. Case closed.

Cathy said...

Don't forget the ouija board. This is the argument I often use with my mystical Christian friends. I try to get them to admit there has to be a line, a boundary that God has drawn in how He speaks with His people. If they wont admit that, then they are saying all means are acceptable, possible, equal. That means they are thinking no differently than a pagan. They might as well go to a psychic, read the horoscope, get out the tarot cards, and then weigh all of the "answers" with scripture.
If they say- "well, no, of course God is not going to speak to us through a ouija board." Then I ask, "Well if God will communicate with us in some ways/through some means but not in others, then where is that line? And how do we know where it is? How can you know 100% -all the time- that God is speaking to you? What sets us apart from pagans when it comes to hearing from God?"
Any way- I agree that this issue is huge and far reaching, and that we all need to be contending for the faith in this area. I so appreciate all the contending you have done Dan!!

Nash Equilibrium said...

Careful, Dan. By insisting on testing the means by scripture, next you'll be inspiring James MacD to add "set a bush on fire and wait for a voice to be heard."

Cathy M. said...

Ahh... Sufficiency Sensei has issued a new pointy weapon. Of course! The "test results" parry IS always the way continuationists affirm their "God speak" while dodging association with less tasty morsels of spurious revelation. Why shouldn't the means be subjected to the same test?

It would be helpful to see this argument simulated in real scenarios where you engage someone who, for example, claims God told him to give you a check for $113.23. Seriously, we all run into these situations almost weekly. How do we proceed? Should we always engage?

DJP said...

Forty Days of Burning Bushes On the Church's Roof?

DJP said...

Cathy has me wondering whether the time is ripe for introducing a new post tag: "Mr. Pointy"?

Jules said...

If we test the practice by Scripture there would be no need to test the results by Scripture because Scripture does not instruct us to exercise the practice.

Nash Equilibrium said...

DJP: "Forty Days of Burning Bushes On the Church's Roof?"

NOW you're thinking like a CEO Pastor!



Linda said...
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Linda said...

486the only proof that we have a "more sure word" from God is Scripture Alone....

If someone has urges to call someone and claims that this was "From God" then I'd have to ask "do you have any proof of that being from God according to scripture?" We have no criterion to go by..

I don't doubt that God can and does draw us in certain situations though. I've woken up in the middle of the nite with an "urgency" to pray for a particular person before. The very next day I have found out that indeed they were in some kind of danger where they needed prayer..The only difference was I never ever claimed it to be a "word from the LORD". Was it from God? I believe so but I have no benchmark to go by.

So in all honesty I can understand where James MacDonald is coming from.. I'm not dismissing him completely ONLY when he tacks on that it IS a "Word from God"

WE Do also have an example from Scripture with Paul..

Act 16:6 "Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia."

So how did Paul know it was the Holy Spirit that kept him from preaching the word in the province of Asia"?

There's nothing in the word of God to go by at this point

Nash Equilibrium said...

As I keep telling my wife who occasionally listens to MacDonald, his lack of discernment in one area keeps manifesting itself in new areas, and that was before this latest video.

I believe the basic problem here is that he has little discernment, and therefore he is qualified to sit in the pews, not in the pulpit.
But, he got a degree and jumped through all the right hoops, and in modern America that's what "qualifies" a person as a pastor. SAD.

DJP said...

I want to know, and no snark is intended, which of these ways played any part in his decision to feature a long-known false teacher as a Christian leader, to disregard every bit of warning from wise and Biblically knowledgeable brothers, to lob him softballs and fall short of doing anyone any Kingdomly good, to blow off critics as racists and haters, to show Voddie Baucham the door when he wasn't playing along, and to cut off connections to the sound. Such intransigent, bullheaded stubbornness — I'd like to know the source.

Jules said...

All but one of the ways played a part in MacDonald's decision to prominently feature T.D. Jakes in the Elephant Room II.

To be blunt, charismatics pay lip service to testing every "word" against Scripture. To do this, one would have to study and know Scripture and if one studies and knows Scripture one would not be seeking a "fresh word". One would know that the Word of God is wholly and utterly sufficient.

Jules said...

p.s. You forget escorting Chris Rosebrough out of the building and threatening him with arrest.

Jennifer said...

Dan,

I'd love to hear your response to Linda's comment.

She is saying that God urged her to pray at a particular moment - isn't that the same thing as James MacDonald said?

I just want to make sure I am clear on what you are saying.

So to Linda you would say, "no. God does not work in 'urges' any more than tea leaves. You ate bad pizza and woke up and prayed. God does not lead people to pray at specific times he only tells us to pray without ceasing so you have not been led by the Spirit in your late night prayer."

Is that about right?

Carl C. said...

Good question. IF he limited himself to the 5, (which he probably doesn't):
1. From Word of God itself
2. From Word through person
3. From person not contradict Word
4. From Holy Spirit to my spirit
5. In a dream to my mind
I'd say his answer would be #4, reworded as "I heard a still, small voice inside". Of course as Jules says, in practice that's where the buck stops, because the Word-test is never really carried out.

DJP said...

Jennifer, I'm saying this friendly: this post and its predecessor comprise my response to all such.

How did Paul know? The way any apostle or prophet knew God was speaking directly to him. I'm neither. I know God is speaking to me when I open the Bible.

Nash Equilibrium said...

I think he probably got the idea to do the things he did in the ER fiasco when he listened to a still, small voice in side him. Well actually, it was probably a loud, screaming voice we call the Ego, but I'm not sure that's a theological term!

Morris Brooks said...

I alluded to this in an earlier comment, but my take on these people, (and I will call out McDonald in particular) is that they have an authority issue. Their issue is with the authority of the Scriptures over them in every area of their life, spiritual or otherwise; and they resist it.

When they are free to decide whether they have heard a word from God, and how they have heard a word from God, that puts them ultimately in charge; and therefore subject to no one else but themselves.

Jules said...

Jennifer:

I think we can all recount stories like the one Linda shared. A friend or family member comes to mind and we pray for them. This may happen at any time of the day or night.

The real question is, why would we instantly ascribe this as nudge from God?

jules

donsands said...


"So how did Paul know it was the Holy Spirit that kept him from preaching the word in the province of Asia"?"-Linda

Paul was a little different than you and me Linda.
He was chosen as an Apostle, and He actually went to glory.
God doesn't do these things any more.
And He simply lives through us by His Word, which is His Truth, which is the Bible.
We need to trust His Word and live a normal life in His grace and love.

Some people will say, "Hey, if I could only see a miracle, then i would believe! If one was raised from the dead I would believe!"

No they wouldn't.

Lazarus was raised from the dead, and they still didn't believe in Christ Jesus as Lord. And they even saw that he was raised from the dead.

The Gospel truth is the power of God that quickens a dead soul, and it is awesome to those who are of God:-Who have been rescued from the darkness and devils of this world.

I do wonder if the Books of the Maccabees I & II are not a true portion of the Scripture though.

I shall have to study this.

Keep on keepin' on sister. His truth and love are here with us in His Word. G and feed on it, and go to church as often as you can. And share your love for Jesus, and never be ashamed of your love for the Risen Lord.

Nash Equilibrium said...

"The real question is, why would we instantly ascribe this as nudge from God?"

A: Because "I know that I know!"

That was easy.

Jules said...

A: Because "I know that I know!"

Could it be because we actually trust our senses and experiences more than we trust God and His Word?

Mike Mittelstadt said...
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Mike Mittelstadt said...

Forgive me--I'm slow about these things and sometimes deep discussions give me headaches, but thanks; this is an important topic.
As a new Christian I used to think mostly in terms of intuitive feelings as a result of prayer. Now (having studied more Scripture and one or two books about "seeking God's will" I think (and please correct me if I'm wrong) that it's more about studying Scripture, and, being informed by it and steeped in it, making my "own" decisions about such things job choices or how to cope with adversities in my personal life (not to rule out counseling by my pastor and other Christians, of course.) Sometimes I wish God would whisper clear instructions in my ear or put neon signs in the sky, but of course it doesn't work that way. I love to read commentaries and hear sermons by theologians I respect--but, of course, those messages, though based on Scripture, are from human beings (smarter than I am, granted, but human) and therefore nowhere near the same as inspired Scripture.
As I've mentioned in my very few earlier posts on this forum, before I was a Christian I got my first inkling about surrender to God (in a sense) from AA, which talks about seeking God's will and "intuitively know(ing) how to handle situations which used to baffle us. Again, though, such a thing requires the study of Scripture, does it not? And the "word" it provides is advice on specific conduct, descriptions of how things are, doctrine, and a general sense of right and wrong (I think) on matters it doesn't spell out. Or have I totally lost the point? (Wouldn't be the first time:) )

DJP said...

Yes. Maybe a thirty-seventh way to say what I've said thirty-sixth other ways (and believe me, I am constantly looking for the most effective is this:

We arrive at God and Scripture with expectations. When God and Scripture doesn't meet them, we set out to find another way to get them met.

I'm saying that if we really believe God, which requires that we really believe Scripture, we won't. We will instead turn and re-thing our expectations.

And BTW, there are LOTS AND LOTS of things I'd like God to do differently. There are many times I've dearly wished he'd crack the Canon just once to tell me something, answer some question, make some decision.

But He's God, and I'm not. Which has massive cognitive implications.

Or is supposed to.

Mike Mittelstadt said...
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Mike Mittelstadt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
AJM said...

Thanks for this post Dan and commenters.
Someone in my family believes she receives direct communication from God in the form of premonitions (her term)
She is a member of a Baptist Church.
After much discussion she said that she refused to put God in a box.
I hope this is in the shadow of the topic but , as a 30 year member of a SBC church, I thought my denom blinked when it didn't push hard on both Authority AND Sufficiency as well as the consequences.

Mike Mittelstadt said...

So our focus, then, should not be on OUR expectations (defining "expectations" as notions in line with our own desires and/or preconceptions) but on GOD'S. And the Bible is the only place He makes His expectations known.

So we shouldn't be saying something like, "I just KNOW God wants me to go off my diet, but it's not spelled out in the Bible, so I'll circle the doughnut shop 500 times until He clears me a parking space near the door."

Or "I've always been taught that two plus two equals seven, so that must be from God, but it's not expressly stated in the Bible, so I'll go stare at the wallpaper and God will show me the right equation in the floral pattern."

Is that the idea? Or did I misunderstand what you meant by "expectations"?

I'll shut up now. :)

Linda said...


DJP -"How did Paul know? The way any apostle or prophet knew God was speaking directly to him. I'm neither. I know God is speaking to me when I open the Bible."

We all have the Holy Spirit so I fail to understand your comment.

Paul attested to the Holy Spirit and not directly to Hearing "a word of God" or claiming it was a "Word from the Lord",As James Mac Donald does

I never appealed that this was a "Word of God" neither but simply believe that it had to be something God led me to do..

Linda said...

and lemme add this since we are what seems to me separating people from intimacy with Jesus Christ who is a living dynamic person and not just wooden. Paul even pursued a (relationship) with Christ along with staying within the confines of Scripture as final authority..

we tend to limit God’s work in our lives by not allowing Him to empower us. This is what caused the late Dr. A. W. Tozer to say, “If the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from the church today, 95 percent of what we do would go on and no one would know the difference.”


Nash Equilibrium said...

Linda
What does the Bible say the fruit of the Spirit is? Does it say it is being "led," to do something specific, in the modern parlance? Does it say the fruit is a word from God? What about prophecy? Tongues? Does it say any of those things are the fruit of the Spirit? I'm no theologian but just going from memory they are something like love, joy, peace, kindness, gentleness, and I can't remember the rest, but they are all along the same line: character traits.

I think where you are getting hosed up is from being conditioned by modern televangelists, charismaticists, book writers and other "pop Christian" sources to the point that you now associate (as I once did and many still do) the work of the Spirit with something more showy and unusual, rather than these difficult to practice character traits.

I doubt Tozer would disagree with me if he were alive here.

donsands said...

"..believe that it had to be something God led me to do."-Linda

Actually God is sovereign in all we do for Him, if we are indeed His elect children. It is he who works in us to will and to do.

And it is a privilege to love and worship God in one sense, and yet we are made to worship Him in another sense.

I say that, because you seem to believe to have a relationship with god, we need to have moments of Him "touching" us, or giving us "holy Goosebumps".

I like what Nash said about the fruit of the Spirit. The first fruit is love.
We love Jesus, don't we. And love is a wonderful gift we have in our hearts, along with peace, and joy. These are all wonderful fruit we display for the glory of our Lord and for our Savior and Friend.

The main thing for our brothers and sisters today is to eat the Word. Consume it, and know it, and love it, and rejoice in the Word with all our hearts.

The Bible is such an incredible gift from God, who made heaven and earth and all that we see. And He sustains all things in His power and might.

Five Solas said...

All of this talk about "hearing God's voice" outside Scripture is reminding me of a song by Chris Rice:

I would take no for an answer,
Just to know I heard you speak,
And I'm wondering why I've never,
Seen the signs they claim they see,
A lotta special revelations,
Meant for everybody but me,
Maybe I don't truly know You,
or maybe I just simply believe...

Chorus:
Cause I can sniff, I can see, and I can
count up pretty high; but these faculties
aren't getting me any closer to the sky,
but my heart of faith keeps poundin' so
I know I'm doin' fine but sometimes findin
you is just like tryin to smell the color nine.
Smell the color nine...

Now I've never felt the presence,
But I know You're always near,
And I've never heard the calling,
But somehow You've led me right here,
So I'm not lookin' for burnin' bushes,
Or some Divine graffiti to appear,
I'm just beggin You for Your wisdom,
And I believe You're puttin' some here...

Chorus

Nine's not a color...
and if even if it were you can't smell a color,no
that's my point exactly.

Linda said...

Nash Equilibrium, I agree with you that many of the gifts have ceased. I don't have a problem with that. In all respect though, please don't jumble me up with Charismatics.

I don't agree with them neither and I believe they have done so much damage and disservice to the Holy Spirit by giving him a "black eye"..

I believe that the Holy Spirit placed this as a burden to pray for them that nite. I really do.There's just no other explanation. And I also believe that the Holy Spirit does prompt us as he did Paul. I don't believe this has ceased. This should not be lumped up with just for the Apostolic age. I recognize God's hand at times guiding and leading me. It has to line up with Scripture..


"He intercedes for us with groaning, prompting us to pray, (Romans 8:26)
He searches our hearts (Romans 8:27)

I do love that you brought up the fruit of the Spirit Nash(smiles)

I was thinking earlier about this:

18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24 And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Ephesians 5:18,22-24

trogdor said...

Testing the results by scripture rather than testing the means by scripture - that pretty well sums up the justification for megachurches and especially multi-site churches.

And yes, I know, I was wrong. By the time we started to seriously think through the means, we were already so dug in that we had to consider whether it was worth leaving over. Now I know. And knowing is half the battle.

donsands said...

"I recognize God's hand at times guiding and leading me. It has to line up with Scripture.."

Does His hand guide sometimes, and yet it isn't His hand? And are there times you have prayed without His hand to guide and the prayer was still a good prayer?

There's a lot of if's in all this kind of thing Linda.
I have seen Christians go way down a hard road thinking God isn't hearing them, and God is hearing them, when they feel His touch, and they don't feel His touch.
It can be quite confusing and damaging even to some. Have seen it.

the Scriptures are His truth, and we can simply trust His truth for me.

Aaron Snell said...

trogdor-

You do realize that you've got the GI Joe theme song stuck in my head now.

Jules said...

Linda:

I'm curious. You state, "I believe that the Holy Spirit placed this as a burden to pray for them that nite. I really do.There's just no other explanation."

Based upon what?

You then quote/misquote what appear to be portions of verses:

"He intercedes for us with groaning, prompting us to pray, (Romans 8:26)
He searches our hearts (Romans 8:27)

Try as I may I can't find what version you're using.

Linda said...


Jules-"Based upon what?"

Jules I have no "solid" basis. I truly believe it was from the Lord still. As I did give the example of Paul being hindered. Did Paul have any evidence that it was from the Holy Spirit? I would surmise he did not.

This is the thing it's subjective truth - I agree with this post that we have no evidence to base ALL our subjective experiences on-none. And this is why I LOVE God's WORD because it is SOLID truth that I always have a basis or anchor in my life.

- I apologize for not posting the whole verse:

26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God."
Romans 8:26-27


Nash Equilibrium said...

Linda, I think that verse in Romans is referring to the HS actually praying for us and interceding for us instead of the HS showing us what we ought to pray for. So I don't think that verse really applies the way you are thinking it does, based on what it actually says.

Jules said...

Thank you, Nash. That was going to be my next comment :)

Linda said...

Thank you Nash for clarifying that verse for me. I misinterpreted it and I'm thankful to the LORD for you and Jules helping me and correcting me

Nash Equilibrium said...

No problem, glad to help. Take care sis.

Jules said...

Amen, and glory to God and His completely sufficient Word.

Robert said...

trog,

Nice G.I. Joe reference. I always say that and my wife just gives me this blank look.

Terry Rayburn said...

How firm a foundation
Ye Saints of the Lord
Is laid for your faith
In His excellent Word.

What more can He say
Than to you He hath said...?

Terry Rayburn said...
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Terry Rayburn said...

solus hymnus :)

Linda said...

Excellent song Terry Rayburn along with your smiling face!

semijohn said...

In my denomination (I will not repeat the name of the denomination but its initials are PCA) I think they have a belief about being called to the ministry (ordained), about how a ministry candidate must have an internal call to the ministry. This kind of sounds extra Biblical to me. Can you comment on this, Dan. Or do you go the way of Decision Making and the Will of God, where at least one of the authors rejected the notion of internal call to ministry and looked at his own decision to enter ministry in a more "practical" way?

DJP said...

First, I want to know why you're not All-the-way John. What's up with that?

Second, really, I am trying to get people to think. So do me a solid: re-read the post, read what I propose, and you tell me the answer to your question. This one really isn't rocket science.

Tom Chantry said...

Solus Hymnus...

...Bwa-ha-ha-ha-haaaaaaaaaaaa!

Just what I needed at the end of a too-stressful Saturday!

Eric Kaminsky said...

Immature Christians take a strong feeling, interpret the results of taking action on said feeling after God has cleaned up the mess Romans 8:28, and then attempt to magnify and clarify this experience for our own glory ignoring entirely the fact that our "inspiration" was possibly Satanically inspired and was converted by God's providence because He loves us.

These habitual patterns lead to the magnification of experiences and semi-verifiable results. It is using the electron scanning microscope to view this insignificant thing called my life and making it look like the Sears Tower. It is the personification of Pride and will tickle the ears of the immature Christian.

The alternative approach takes something of ultimate significance, the Word of God, that seem insignificant to our finite minds, and exposes it for its true nature. The word of God can look small, boring, too hard, archaic, too simple, too complex. The high powered telescope shined upon the word of God transforms this seemingly distant star into what we can perceive as bright and hot as the sun. This approach sanctifies believers and may turn away false converts. This approach is the way of true humility.

These posts have slandered James McDonald in no way and have only desired to point to a better way. They are a call to responsible pastoral preaching to preach the word in season and out of season. Personal stories magnify the man. Pride leads to destruction

DJP said...

Very well said, Eric.

semijohn said...

Thanks for responding, DJP. I think I have my answer. As for your answer, while the idea of semi being not "all the way" was not lost on me when I chose it, it is not the actual main idea behind the username.

"Semi" as I used it is actually a location reference.

DJP said...

Thanks, SJ.

Glad you commented again, because I wanted to try to be sure I was being clear: my response to you wasn't meant to be snarky or dismissive. I see this as a "give a man a fish / teach a man to fish" situation, and I'm trying (week after week!) to teach Pyro readers to fish.

(c:

semijohn said...

No problem, Dan. Seems to be a "sneaky leaky" cannon issue for some. And if somene can figure out by chance what my username refers to, they can figure out where I went to seminary.

Paul said...

Loved this article- thanks so much! I think someone also asked does it also cover worship leaders and music and the answer should most definitely be "yes!" Perhaps those who organised Passion 2013 should have thought of that as they invited "Jesus Culture" into the mix- who happen to be at the forefront of not affirming the sufficiency of Scripture in song or life!!! Bless you for your work sir!

Paul (UK)

Michael Coughlin said...

Great article. I'm glad you started writing on this important topic.

Haha. These need to be read and re-read. Thanks.