24 January 2013

Sufficiency of Scripture concisely defined

by Dan Phillips

I can't believe I haven't posted this before. It's the best concise definition I've ever seen, and it comes from this book, page 220 (reviewed here).

"Scripture contains all 
the divine words needed 
for any aspect of human life."

There y'go. You're welcome.

Dan Phillips's signature


Nash Equilibrium said...

Good find!

Now I can stop looking for modern-day prophets! At last! :)

Michael Coughlin said...

Might I make an addition?

I think the quote adequately clears up the lack of need for any more "divine" words, but it seems to leave room for the idea that those divine words provided are not exactly enough; that is, I believe there is room for someone to say, "Yes. I believe all the divine words needed for this aspect of human life are in the scripture. Now let me give you my un-divine ideas/opinions.

Anyway, I get it; and I think the quote is "accurate," I just don't think it clearly refutes exactly what it needs to refute. The quote refutes the need for extra-biblical revelation...but I always thought of the sufficiency of scripture as more than just "the canon is closed," but rather that the scripture itself is sufficient to perfect man unto every good work without the need for any outside help or other religion's "good ideas."

Steven said...

But Dan, how am I supposed to know who I am to marry, what college to attend, whether to buy a particular car, how many kids I am supposed to have, where to live, what I am supposed to eat for breakfast, which pair of socks to wear, or which side of my mouth I start with when brushing my teath? Certainly I NEED to hear a word from God on all of these subjects, right?

OK, I am baiting you to go off on a rant. An excellent definition of the suffciency of scripture. Now if we would only read the scripture and live accordingly, there would be a lot less nonsense.

DJP said...

All that's spoken to right here.

Biff said...

In the '70's I went to a church that had this motto on its sign: "The Bible - All you need to know about all you need to know."

DJP said...

I like it. I really like it.

Nash Equilibrium said...

but.. but... then of what use are Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland and Pat Robertson?

Solameanie said...

Five Star Lover.

DJP said...

My very question.

Tom Chantry said...

I think Michael Coughlin made an extremely perceptive comment.

Nash Equilibrium said...

I agree Michael's observation is really good; but at the same time, "dangerous" to a large percentage of the pap sold out of Christian bookstores today. For the most part I can't stand to even look at the stuff!

Robert Warren said...

of what use are Benny Hinn...

England always needs comedians, and it would only take a small name change to salvage Benny Hill's old dressing room.

Nash Equilibrium said...

RW: hilarious!

Today's post is proof that the best things often come in small packages.

St. Lee said...

I recently received a comment on my blog (which deals with two subjects - Christianity and old Harleys)saying "if only the bible could lead us to the answer of why we burn up pistons." My response was to the effect that the answer may be there so we need to keep on looking...

Anyway, in my convoluted way of thinking that bit of humor fit in pretty well with today's excellent post.

Kerry James Allen said...

St. Lee, no need for the Bible to explain something as mundane as burned pistons when the answer is right in front of us and included in your post: Harleys.


Hmmm...Chantry is in Milwaukee. Maybe saying this wasn't a good idea.

St. Lee said...

Kerry, I am pretty sure that by "answer" he meant solution.

If Tom is in Milwaukee, maybe he has an inside track on finding the answer (hint - the answer won't be found at the factory)

I'll get back to looking now :-)

SamWise said...

Where have I heard this before?

"How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to your word."
Psalm 119:9

"Your testimonies are my delight;
they are my counselors.
My soul clings to the dust;
give me life according to your word!"
Psalm 119:24-25

"Incline my heart to your testimonies,
and not to selfish gain!
Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things;
and give me life in your ways."
Psalm 119:36-37

Tom Chantry said...

I don't know from burnt up pistons.

All I know is that every other guy in my neighborhood has an old Harley, and they all spend more time "fixing" them than they do riding them. And that includes the guy who works graveyard shift at the Wauwatosa plant.

Kerry James Allen said...

There you go, another DJP axiom courtesy of Tom Chantry. As TeamPyro always adds, "You're welcome!"

Kerry James Allen said...

And from Spurgeon:
"Like the seraph's sword at Eden's gate, it turns every way. You cannot be in a condition which the Word of God has not provided for; it has as many faces and eyes as Providence itself."

Nash Equilibrium said...

St. Lee,
The Bible may not tell about pistons, but remember that Aaron did throw a rod (just as Harleys are known to do).

Michael Coughlin said...

Speaking of Harleys. Oh, forget it.

Thanks for the kind words, gentlemen.

St. Lee said...

Nash, that was hilarious, but now I am beginning to feel that I have steered the comments off track. I apologize for that.

donsands said...

John Frame's quote is excellent. And also, we do need pastors like Frame, or teachers, and ministers of the Word to take God's all sufficient Word, and help us eat it, and it truly is real food.

Thanks for the terrific quote.

Jennifer said...


Could you apply this theology in a practical way so I could see how it's lived out. For example as you were deciding to move to Texas to pastor your church - how did you use God's Word to speak to that decision? Some would pray for wisdom and guidance from the Spirit and claim "outside revelation" kind of promptings or urgings. Would you discard that kind of language and just go for praying that the Spirit opens up His Word to speak directly to the decision?

Can you flesh it out a bit so I could see it in action?


DJP said...

Hey Jennifer.

Did you happen to read this, to which I linked above? Does it help?

Jennifer said...

Thanks Dan.

That was helpful to put a bit more meat on the bones. But I'm such a "hands on" learner so could you take that post and show me how it works practically. I'm not saying it wasn't practical but illustrations of life examples can make the lights go on for me.

If it's not too personal to ask - how'd you walk through a major life decision without relying on any sort of "urgings" or "promptings" or "I feel that the Lord is leading" kind of stuff. I have been reading a lot of Spurgeon (cause you guys love him so much) and he can be a bit squishy sometimes in this area too (using language that is awfully close to James MacDonald's sermon you spoke about).

Anyway - if you have the time to quickly show me a good practical example from your life it would be super helpful.

God Bless.

Five Solas said...

Jennifer, I agree that Spurgeon and other sound men have in church history have used language that sounded "squishy in this area" too. But I would suggest that these men lived in a day when the cessation of prophecy was generally accepted and when the providence of God as the divine Actor behind all events had been well established in their own teaching. Consequently, they knew that their hearers and readers would understand that God has promised to speak in His Word, even to the hearts of men through illumination of Scripture.

But we live in a different day, when an unbiblical charismatic movement has dominated the Christian scene, particularly with regard to some doctrines. We live in a day when people consider such "holy hunches" as extra-biblical revelation (even if they would not call it as such). We live in a day when people say "God talked to me," and, because this is a personal experience, and because personal experience is seen as the ultimate standard of truth, they add, "You can't question it!"

In other words, we live in a day when Dan's biblical clarifications are both helpful and essential.

There are several books which are helpful concerning how to biblically seek God's guidance. -Decisions, Decisions by Dave Swaverly
-Free to Be Wise by Kirk Youngblood
-Guidance and the Voice of God by Phillip Jensen and Tony Payne

Nash Equilibrium said...

Not only that, but in Spurgeon's day everyone talked in a much more wordy, indirect way for the most part. Being as direct as we are today would have been considered rude, especially if directed toward a woman or if put into writing. I read a lot of things from the 1700s and 1800s, and it is so wordy, nuanced, and indirect that at times you must read it several times to even understand what the point was that they were trying to get across. People are far too impatient for that style of communication, today.

Jennifer said...

5 Solas,

Totally agree with the need for this kind of post ... still, can you show me an example of how this works in your life? I understand the concept, the arguments, the theology ... now just trying to get some application.

Hoping someone can very simply lay down how this has played out in their life.

When someone comes to you and says, "How do you hear from God when trying to process a life choice? Do you pray? What do you pray for? Do you just read your Bible? Will God lead in any way in your heart (urging, prompting, convicting, confirming, etc)?" How do you answer this person?

Five Solas said...

Youngblood offers these key principles for biblical decision-making and guidance:

(1) We do not need to know God’s sovereign will and how He is providentially bringing it about before we make a decision (Deut. 29:29).

(2) The Holy Spirit’s role is to convict, teach and conform us—all through the vehicle of the Word of God (John 16:8; 17:17).

(3) God only guides or leads His people today:
(a) By providence (which we know after the fact)—Prov. 16:9; 21:1
(b) By Scripture (which we can know before we act)—Ps. 73:24; 119:9-11; Prov. 3:1-8.

(4) God is a gracious God who has provided everything we need in order to do what He wants us to do (2 Peter 1:3; 2 Tim. 3:15-16).

(5) God holds us fully responsible to search out and follow His moral will (God’s written Word) in all of life (2 Tim. 2:15).

(6) If we make a decision based on biblical commands and principles alone, we can fully trust that we are pleasing God in our decision, and fully trust that He will providentially (by circumstances outside of our control) change our choice if it is not within His sovereign will (Ps. 119:30; Prov. 16:9).

(7) To rightly interpret and apply the Word of God we must use a prayerful, literal, historical, contextual, and grammatical method of studying it (2 Tim. 2:15; 2 Peter 1:20).

(8) No one is ever outside of God’s sovereign plan (Lam. 3:37-38; Rom. 8:28-29; Eph. 1:11).

(9) Every believer needs pastoral oversight and the body of Christ to help him stay true to God’s Word (Prov. 18:1-2; Heb. 13:17).

— from Kirk Youngblood, Free to Be Wise: A Guide to Biblical Decision Making

God has given us His Word to guide us, filled with commands, prohibitions, exhortations, principles, etc.

We are responsible to study the Word and apply it to every aspect of our lives.

The illumination of the Spirit in our hearts and mind helps us to both understand and apply the Word. (The Spirit's guidance is always through the Bible).

God has given us the responsibility and freedom to choose within the parameters of scripturally informed wisdom to make a decision.

Therefore, when faced with a specific decision, we are to gather information about the options, examine them in light of Scripture, pray to God for wisdom, seek counsel from godly men/women, etc. and make a decision.

And then, trust God to providentially guide our steps through His sovereignty.

donsands said...

"How do you hear from God when trying to process a life choice?"-Jen

Pray. Trust in the Spirit of Christ, and His truth that he loves His children; every child. An

His Word truly is where I go, as I try to trust in His sovereign Hand to lead me.

And I also am always growing in His grace and truth, so that I can learn more and more about my Savior, even when I go through the painful trials; or especially when I am on the rougher road.

I have a terrific statement from Joni on this, which my pastor shared last week in his sermon. I wish I could share it.
What an amazing example she is for us all.

Maybe this will help: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6LWV8nqQ1Tw

Have a great Lord's day in our Lord's house with our Lord's people.

Pastor Todd said...

Does that include the OT?

trogdor said...

Sorry I'm so late to the party. Let's see if I can summarize and give an example for Jennifer's question.

1) If scripture directly addresses it, there you go. The answer to "should I commit adultery?" is always and everywhere "NO!!!". Should I continue to meet together with other Chrisitans and consider how to spur one another on to love and good deeds, all the more as we see the day approaching? YES!!! And so on.

2) No longer be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renwal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

By nature we are enemies of God, thinking in ways diametrically opposed to His will. When we are born again and reconciled to God, our entire worldview changes and is increasingly transformed (by studying God's will revealed in scripture) to reflect God's revealed will. We grow in wisdom and understanding, and think through these decisions, weighing what we know about God/us/the situation, and make the best choice.

That's it. It's really not more complicated. If it's commanded, do it. If it's not directly addressed in so many words, weigh the evidence with your mind that increasingly thinks as God designed, and choose.

Personal example: who to marry. Was there a specific scripture telling me to marry Tricia? Of course not. So how, oh how, did I ever make this decision?

I thought through what I should look for in a wife. I started listing qualities of what a good wife should be (most of which are identical to "what should a Christian be", not incidentally), and who I knew who fit the bill. After the first four or five all came up the same person, the answer became pretty obvious. So after smacking myself for not realizing it sooner, I went and married her.

No still small voice, signs in the heavens, fleeces laid out, lots cast, entrails read, or anything like that. Just thinking through what God said, figuring out how best to live up to that, and going and doing it. Ta daaaa!

DJP said...

Jennifer, Trogdor (as usual) says what I'd say, probably better.

If there's a Biblical command or prohibition, obey it.

If there isn't, find the germane Biblical objective, and pursue it as wisely as possible.