04 January 2007

The Bible and my decisions

by Dan Phillips

I love the narrative of how God led Adam to do His will.

Genesis 2 (original KJV)
18 And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.

19a And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them.

19not But Adam saith unto God, O no, Lord GOD! I durst not transgress thy perfect will for my life! Do thou tell me what to name these beasts and creeping things, and lo, thus will I name them. Yea, guide me with thine hand upon me, for I would not stray from thy paths! I fain would have an intimate personal relationship with thee, which requireth that all choices be made by thee, with guidance from thine hand, yea, unto the very hairs of my head and the motes of the air!

Well, that's not quite how it went, did it? Instead, we read "and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof." God said, "Name them." He didn't tell Adam what to name them. So Adam studied them, and he named them.

Perhaps that was a one-off. Maybe everything changed after the Fall. Yeah, that's the ticket. God had Adam use his unfallen brains, and had him study, research, analyze, and make his own calls because Adam could run off the default setting of their unmarred, pristine relationship. That would never happen after the Fall.

That must be why David, in his rousing final charge to Solomon, says this in 1 Kings 2:3—
And listen for the inner voice of the LORD thy God, to walk in his spiritual leadings, to keep his inner urgings, and his checks of thy spirit, and his layings upon thine heart, and his burdens, as it is impressed upon thine inner man, that thou mayest prosper in all that thou doest, and whithersoever thou allowest LORD to turn thee:
Okay, so that's not an exact quotation. Actually, it went more like this:
And keep the charge of the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and his testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses, that thou mayest prosper in all that thou doest, and whithersoever thou turnest thyself:
(1 Kings 2:3)
Hunh. If you didn't watch yourself, that passage would give you the impression that God's word gives all the guidelines, borders, and limitations for which He holds us morally responsible. Then beyond that, we can be assured of His blessing as we make wise, responsible choices and decisions in the areas not specifically covered in His word. No mystical tea-leaf readings, no chicken livers, no flutters and bumps are necessary for this relationship. Just free coloring, within the lines.

But David's son Solomon has a very different idea, and he was the wisest man who ever lived! Surely what he says should be weigh heavily in our thinking. The sage-king famously wrote, in Proverbs 16:1 and 9—

No man must plan,
unless the tongue of the LORD whisper in his ear.

The heart of man must not plan his way,
until the LORD move his spirit.

Okay okay, I suppose those are a bit imprecise. In the sense of being dead wrong. The verses actually say:

The plans of the heart belong to man,
but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD.

The heart of man plans his way,
but the LORD establishes his steps.

So Solomon agrees with his father (cf. 6:20-23).

Again, an incautious reader might think God actually means us to plan responsibly, and reserves to Himself the right sovereignly to overrule as He pleases. That doesn't really harmonize with modern MystiChristiAnity. Hmm....

Oh, wait; I know! That was all before the Holy Spirit came. Everything would have to change after Pentecost. That's where we get all the floods and rivers of clear Scriptural doctrine that have so engrossed and captivated many of our past Pyro commenters — all that crystal-clear, explicit Biblical teaching that Biblical teaching is inadequate to produce a personal relationship with God; that such a relationship requires the normal, daily reception of extra-canonical semi-hemi-demi revelations, holy hunches, and heavenly fluttery mutterings.

That sort of mystical guidance is where we get direction for crucial personal decisions like... like... like whom to marry! We know from all popular evangelical teaching that there is just one right person for us to marry, already hand-picked by God; and if we don't marry that one right person, then we'll be haunted for all the rest of our days with the sure and certain knowledge that we are Out of the Will of God, because we have Missed God's Best for Us. And since that one person's name is not in the Bible, we have to get it by direct sorta-revelation.

That's why Paul makes it so clear 1 Corinthians 7. Remember what the inspired apostle says? Sure you do!
The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whomever she feels the Lord leading her to marry, insofar as she seeketh and discerneth his perfect individual guidance as to who that one right man might be.
Oopsie. That's something of an inexact quotation, isn't it? "Inexact," I say, in the sense of being exactly wrong. What is it that Paul actually says, about this, the one most epochal and colossal choice a human being can make, short only of what he does with the Gospel? What is Paul's apostolic statement?
The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.
My, that looks like the same thing we've seen previously, doesn't it? God gives a moral absolute: one may only consider marriage to a Christian, someone who is "in the Lord." No other options should ever even be on the radar.

Beyond that?

"To whom she will."

In other words, she's free. It's her choice, without any moral/spiritual onus. Of course, there are tons and reams of wisdom principles that she'd be a barking, drooling, wild-eyed fool not to apply. But she isn't directed to don the swami's cap and go ransacking the ectoplasm.

So there it is: arguably the most crucial decision a human being can make, and she's free to make up her own mind and do her own wise choosing — within the moral absolutes God has laid down.

And so here we see two major and conflicting concepts of the will of God: the pin-prick concept, and Biblical concept.

And so many are so dissatisfied and discontented with the Biblical concept.

Wellnow, that's hardly breaking news, is it?

POSTSCRIPT: you know, if this robust notion of the sufficiency of Scripture ever really caught on, it might save us from de facto morally or materially aiding and abetting men who make absolute fools of themselves and shame the name and cause of Christ, under the banner of continuing, personal, sorta-revelation. (Someone really ought to speak out publicly against such things.)

Dan Phillips's signature


Pastor Mike Paris said...

I can't believe that I am a first responder today. Yes!
"lots of free coloring within the lines" is a great t-shirt motif! I love that expression and used one similar to it when I began to discuss Psalm 119 with some adults in a regular study that we have. As you say, imagine if we would really believe and act on the sufficiency of Scripture. THen we would understand what the psalmist says when he claims spiritual contendness, blessedness, [true] hapiness for the man who is undefiled and who walks in the law of the Lord. Thanks for remaining true to the word!

DJP said...

Thanks Mike. I'm always "astonied" (to stay with the KJV riff) at the folks who start vibrating at this teaching, restlessly demanding "more" than the sufficient Word.

I want to say, "So, you're telling me that you've mastered everything in the 66 books intellectually, spiritually, and practically, and now you're in dire need of more?"

God knows I haven't.

Chris said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Chris said...

I know some people who need to read this. Unfortunately, they're allergic to sarcasm. Can you offer these things in a children-friendly version, or at least hire a Mormon company to edit them for you?

Larry McCallister, Jr. said...

I agree that the marriage Scripture is telling:

"A wife is bound for so long time as her husband liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is free to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord." (1Co 7.39 ASV)

When I was in my twenties, I must admit that my view (of a Christian's freedom to choose which believer to marry) wasn't too popular with other Christian single friends. I believe a common fear is, whether spoken or not, "What if God hasn't chosen someone for me?"

Even So... said...

DJP, Jerry Wragg wrote something in the meta of a Pyro post a while ago that I think will be most useful here....I have great respect for this man, and apologize for the length, but it nails it...

It seems to me that inner convictions operate in a similar fashion and need not be referred to as God “speaking” in new revelations. The more biblically refined my convictions, the more Spirit-driven my strong “impressions”. But if I mistake sensitive and mature spiritual convictions for “direct revelation” from God I will most assuredly “hear” God’s will where He has not spoken, and miss His clear written direction in pursuit of more than He offers.

As I see it, the idea of direct, divine, freshly revealed specifics for my life cannot be a both/and proposition. Either I believe that all inner thoughts specific to my life are directly given by God to complement the general principles of His written revelation, or they are the fruit of a Spirit-trained mind being “led” by obedience-produced convictions.

More to the point…these “promptings” and “impressions” are easily explained as God’s providential leading in a spiritually seasoned believer whose biblical convictions “speak to them” in the milieu of daily living. These strong thoughts can result in experiences ranging from the mundane to the seemingly impossible. They DO NOT demand the belief that God has directly spoken beyond scripture. His providence working through obedient believers is all that is needed (Philippians 2:12-13) to experience His leading.

I do believe that inner-guidance, normally attributed to “God’s leading via personal revelations”, is merely the result, at best, of biblical truth cured over time by the maturing work of the Holy Spirit, or, at worst, self-absorbed inner thoughts and impressions assumed to be related to spiritual inclinations.


James Scott Bell said...

Years ago I read a book called "Decision Making and the Will of God" which took issue with the "dot" theory of God's will -- i.e., there is one, and only ONE decision in all areas that is truly God's will, and we have to listen for God's voice to find it. It's like the dot in the middle of a target. The author's view, OTOH, was that God's moral will is what the Bible is primarily about, and it is clear, and so long as we are under that "umbrella" there are many possible right choices, which God will bless. The book also argued that we are to walk by biblically informed wisdom, not inner voices. I found it instructive at a time I was really searching for God's will.

Anonymous said...

I really have been enjoying your posts lately. I praise God for them.

Kim from Hiraeth said...

"Just free coloring, within the lines."

The same phrase stuck out to me, too.

It's a matter of indicatives and imperatives, isn't it?

If we don't know what God has said, we'll always be wondering how to keep our coloring in those lines. . .

Ben Stevenson said...

I agree that on many areas, such as who we marry, we are free to make decisions, provided the decisions are not immoral.
However, the Bible does record instances where people did receive guidance on the acts they took, where it would not seem that the decisions involved choosing between something morally right and something morally wrong. See Acts 13:2, Acts 16:7, Acts 16:9.

Donette said...

I just finished "Led by the Spirit" by Jim Ellif. Excellent book that makes you reconsider what "spirit led" looks like. The church I grew up in would never add to the Scripture, but convinced me that there was already a Scripture verse that was meant to direct me to whom I was to marry or where I was to go to college. This is important to hear, for all who continually fall back on "liver shivers" and such to discern the will of God.

donsands said...

Another fine teaching of the Word from the Word.

1 question: "So David agrees with his father"?

DJP said...

Oops! Fixed. Thanks!

DJP said...

Ben—you raise a good and complementary point. If we were in room together, I would say this very emphatically, and probably tap my index finger on a table top. So please read it that way:

When God says it, it becomes a moral issue.

That's the definition of a moral issue.

So there's the issue the dotty folks don't always deal with. If these sorta-rev's of theirs are God's word, they sin if they don't do them.

Connie said...

Well said! I'd also like to point some people to this post, but like c.h.h. said, "they're allergic to sarcasm".

Some people tend to wrestle with God's will and decision making in hindsight. By that I mean, if things didn't go well (as defined by them and/or society) for them in a particular area, they assume that they "missed God's will". There tends to be a complete disregard for God teaching/training/growing them through trials/suffering, or the possiblity that they suffered the consequences of foolish and/or selfish motives. This often stands out when chatting and/or counseling women in "unhappy" marriages.

Appreciated many of your other points, too--personal revelation, sufficiency of scripture, etc.

I VERY much like your thought of "lots of free coloring within the lines"!! It WOULD make a great t-shirt (Carla, Carla, Carla????)

DJP said...

Thanks Connie. Yes, I actually knew a girl of that mindset, hundreds of years ago.

She'd known a married lady who had "felt the call" to The Mission Field. But then she had married a guy who didn't. Now she would Spend The Rest Of Her Life In Regret, knowing that she had missed God's will for her life.

(Boy, don't you envy that husband? What a happy little marriage that must be, knowing that his wife's telling everyone this story.)

So this girl lived in fear of having the same happen to her.

Phil Johnson said...

Good post.

And nice use of the magic eight-ball graphic.

Doug said...

Great post in relation to the will of God and modern "spirit-led" decision-making.

One question came into my mind, though. How does this "free coloring in the lines" relate to the sovereignty of God? If God is absolutely sovereign (as in "lot cast in the lap" sovereign), how does this work?

Solameanie said...

Great post, Dan. I even linked my blog to it in conjunction with a shot at Pat Robertson and his latest "word from the Lord."


DJP said...

Doug -- Great question. Your answer: Deuteronomy 29:29; Proverbs 16:1 and 9.

IOW, it is our responsibility to choose and act on the basis of provided information. It is not our responsibility to second-guess God's sovereign will, which is always accomplished.

That's a short-form answer. Helpful?

Daniel said...

J.D. - that was a very good quote.

Kaffinator said...

Hi Dan, a very thought-provoking post. I'm interested to see how the "coloring within the lines" notion stands up to James 4:13-17.

In this passage we meet the sort of fellow who says "this is my plan: do business and make a profit". Nothing I know of in scripture prohibits doing business and making a profit. He might as well have said, "this is my plan: color with the green crayon." Yet James calls him an evil, arrogant boaster. Why?

Because our poor subject didn't say "if the Lord wills, I will use the green crayon." Not, "if the Lord allows" or if the Lord "does not prohibit". If the Lord thelo: wills, wants, desires, or wishes it. The boaster proceeds grandly and publicly to the easel with green crayon in hand, in foolish ignorance of the fact that the Lord has a different crayon in mind. In fact, verse 17 teaches that knowing the right crayon to use and using a different one is indeed a sin.

The passage doesn't say how to know which crayon to use. But neither does it lie peacefully with this idea that we color wherever and however we want as long as we reckon we're inside "moral boundaries".

FX Turk said...

Until TeamPyro upgrades to New Blogger, this is my handle here.

Don't everyone loose it for my avatar.

Oh, and thanks, Dan, for the plug of the petition.

Timotheos said...

I just received an article related to this subject called, 'Confidence in the Word' from a pastor friend of mine that dealt with the same subject.

Connie said...

I love these posts/comments (note I did NOT say "conversations")cause I get to see/read how others "get" or "don't get" something that presents no problem for me. On the other hand, I more frequently see how others "get" things that simply escape me!!

In my understanding and practice, "coloring in the lines" is merely pointing out that God has given us freedom within the context of His principles laid out in scripture. We are "free" to proceed accordingly--the resulting blessings or consequences are contained within what He has already ordained and set out to accomplish.

I've heard it said that if you want to KNOW God's will for today, wait until tomorrow. :-) Therefore, I can rest in the knowledge that what happened yesterday--no matter how I perceive it--happened according to God's will. I am obligated to make decisions based on my knowledge of God's Word and His ordinances.

David A. Carlson said...

In conjunction with Phils post yesterday - Isnt there more to this issue than just one side - don't we have to believe both?

Does the Holy Spririt does have a role in our decision making? Is the bible suffient for leading a godly life, without the indwelling of the holy spirit? Is not the indwelling of the Holy Spirit required for the gospel to not be understood as foolishness and a stumbling block? To qoute D. Wallace

"(9) The Holy Spirit’s guidance is still needed in discerning the will of God. The rationalism in our circles makes decision-making a purely cognitive exercise. There is no place for prayer. There is no room for the Spirit. I believe there is a middle ground between expecting daily revelations, on the one hand, and basing decisions solely on logic and common sense on the other. I may not receive revelations, but I do believe that the Spirit often guides me with inarticulate impulses. "


Is not believing both more "robust"?

To further qoute D.W., in a discussion of his personal viewpoint

"Although the sign gifts died in the first century, the Holy Spirit did not. "

C.T. Lillies said...

You know this is a startlingly new concept to me so thanks for fleshing it out Dan.

Golly, I guess I can start using that brain of mine now for something other than a storage bucket for evangelicalisms...

"...the word of God is not bound."
--2 Timothy 2:9

Nicholas Z. Cardot said...

That is an awesome post! Excellent!

Robert said...

You said:
'I want to say, "So, you're telling me that you've mastered everything in the 66 books intellectually, spiritually, and practically, and now you're in dire need of more?"
God knows I haven't. '

Excellent point!
I feel exactly the same way. I am SO behind in doing what I already know from God's Word, why do I need any EXTRA revelation?!?!

DJP said...

Kaffinator, I have to say, I've never seen a more bizarre handling of James 4:13-17. This is a section about arrogant presumption, not a condemnation of failing to seek personal revelation.

James has called on his readers to humble themselves before the Lord (v. 10), he's reminded them that the one Lawgiver can save or destroy (v. 12), and now he scorches those who speak presumptuously about the future, as if they controlled it (vv. 13-17). Only God controls the future. Therefore James reminds them that they are a mist, and their very existence is uncertain, dependent on the sovereign will of God (vv. 13-15).

In other words, James is leaning on the same truths as Proverbs 16:1 and 9, which were brought out in the article (which, I notice, you overlook). It is our God-given responsibility to make plans — but God sovereignly rules and overrules as He sees fit. Man properly proposes; God inevitablyl disposes.

What possible sense could your odd refashioning make of v. 15 — "you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we will live...'"? If this notion of God's personal, mystically-communicated will is to be forced into the text here, then what is James telling us to do? Try to determine whether God's personal will for me is to live or not, before I decide to go on living?

The notion collapses under its own absurdity.

DJP said...

David, I'm not sure what to tell you. You don't actually interact with the post, nor with its Biblical content; you don't offer me any actual Biblical content of your own to respond to; instead, you quote some cute and trendy turns of phrase from Prof. Wallace.

So I guess I can just shrug and say yeah, that's the sort of thing I labored to refute, Biblically, in this post, as I have in many others. Like this one, and this one, and this one, just to pull out a few.

DJP said...

Robert, I'm with you. It'd just be more stuff I'd mess up.

It's like the Roman Catholic and his magisterium. He tells us we can't really understand the Bible for ourselves; we need the magisterium to explain it to us.

My reply is, "And who explains the magisterium?"

I'll say this. I've never yet met a leaky-Canon advocate who's so mastered the 66 that he's in genuine need of more.

Kaffinator said...

Hi Dan, please accept my apology for my apparent lack of clarity; I did not mean to suggest that James 4 was a call to seek personal revelation.

You wrote about steering clear of scriptural no-no’s and said, “beyond that, we can be assured of His blessing as we make wise, responsible choices and decisions in the areas not specifically covered in His word.” I don't see how being “assured of His blessing” of a given plan squares with the kind of humility that James is calling for. This is one reason I'm suspicious of the coloring-book metaphor.

Anonymous said...

It was a really good message, it was kind of confusing though, sometimes I do have feelings of what to do based on experiences, or from the Bible or from a true godly friend who's been decades in the Lord.

But being content I understood that part very well! I really want to strive like Paul. HE said he learned how to be conent, not just all of a sudden got it, but learned even when he had enough, or he had nothing. I think that's what he said.

I have a really big question. Like Paul says in Phillipians 3:8-11 I just strive in my heart to consider things rubbish, but sometimes when I read it I feel like I put games a lot like playing them a lot, but I try to play them in the Lord. Then when I think about it it's really nothing, it is striving to know Christ and power of his resurrection, fellowship in sharing in his sufferings, and somehow attain to the resurrection of the dead!

I just don't know how to balance that, when I play video games. Please explain.

Robert Ivy said...

Dan, just a few questions.

1. So is there anything to learn from God actually bringing the animals to Adam to see what he would name them? Perhaps God can also interact with us?

2. What should we make of David's frequent prayer, best exemplified in 2 Sam 5:19 and 23, along with the Lord's clear and incredibly articulate response. (Also see Spurgeon's excellent handling of this in Morning and Evening Morning Feb. 9)

3. What do we make of God's guidance of the nature of that recorded in Acts 13:2, 16:7, and 16:9, those mentioned by Ben Stevenson? Doesn't that demonstrate that God speaks like that?

It seems to me that these verses teach that God does speak outside of what is written and therefore the Bible is sufficient to teach us to hear God's voice outside of scripture. Perhaps scripture is sufficient for more than you claim it is?

But I do agree that there is many a time for simply wise decision making.

Patrick Chan said...

Speaking of freedom re: whom to marry, might I please take this moment to freely offer myself to available single Christian females?

I don't want to waste your time, so let's get right to it. Here are 10 reasons why you should take me up on my offer:

1. I am Christian. I suppose this isn't so much a "good reason" as it is a basic commonality one would expect to share in a Christian marriage. But sorry, I gotta put it here 'cos otherwise this is gonna be one short list.

2. Judging by the photo on my Blogger profile, I am mysterious. Which, from a judicious perusal of the back covers of cheesy romance novels at a local Borders bookstore, ladies appear to find attractive. Well, maybe "attractive" isn't quite the right word in my case... Be that as it may, one should always expect life should measure up to Danielle Steel.

3. I would also add I'm tall, dark, and handsome, but I think only the "dark" appellation would apply. Still, one out of three ain't bad. In fact, in baseball, that's a .333 average!

4. Also, I can do basic math. This probably doesn't seem like it'd be a compelling reason. Okay, fine, I agree. See, I'm also agreeable!

5. By the way, I'm really poor at sports. I'm no athlete. I'm quite weak. Even now, I can barely throw a pitch over home plate. True, in a regular-sized baseball diamond, this is pretty hard for your average Joe. But I'm talking about Little League.

Oh, wait, how is this a good thing, you ask? I'm glad you asked! Because I'm so poor at sports, I probably won't watch that much stuff on TV. Therefore, I'll have more time to spend with you.

On the other hand, you may not want to be seen in public with an unathletic, weak man. Hm, I'm really not helping my case, am I?

6. Due to a childhood injury, I can't smell all that well. Which would be both a pro as well as a con. Pro: feel free to avoid breath mints 'cos I can't tell anyway. Con: what if I do the same?

7. I have injuries. Sure, it may seem like I'm damaged goods. But let's think of this in a more positive light. Perhaps I have scars because of all the horrific ordeals I've been through in life? Perhaps in my former life, I was a brigand and a rogue? Or a gangsta thug on the run? Or perhaps I was a really stupid, rebellious child who was jumping on a water bed when he shouldn't have been, and thus the injury was my own fault. But why fuss over the details?

8. I'm offering myself up on a weblog. Not only on a weblog, but in the combox of a post of a weblog. You may immediately think, "Desperate"! But let's not jump to conclusions. To look at it another way, if we snip off the last two letters of the word "Desperate" and replace it with a "d" and an "o," we have: "Desperado."

9. As you can probably tell from my last name, I am Asian. Which makes me exotic. And as we all know, exotic Asians are few and far between in this world. That's what makes us exotic. Does this sound circular? Well, we are an enigmatic people. We hail from "the Far East." Or "the Orient," if you will. Land with lots of mist, myth, and other strange and puzzling items such as the Chinese finger trap and poorly dubbed kung fu movies. Again, that's what makes us exotic. And, again, there are so few of us. For example, there are only about 1.5 billion of us in China.

10. Finally, let me offer up this last reason why you should consider me: because if you don't, I will make another list which will be ten times worse than this one! Is this a threat? Oh, no, not at all! It's simply a kind invitation for you to consider. Please? (Or I'll really do it!)

And of course, thank you, Pyros, for starting the fire and setting my heart aflame with love.

On a serious note, though, this was a good post. Thanks, Dan, for posting it. And for putting up with the likes of me. ;-)

DJP said...

Thanks for the clarification, Kaffinator.

Then perhaps our disconnect is in the meaning of "blessing." While I realize that, to many, it is synonymous with "success," I don't see it that way in the Bible nor in life. What I mean is that we needn't fret about whether or not we're in God's will, if we're in God's [revealed] will as I tried to lay it out Biblically. But I didn't mean we can be sure that God will "sign off" on our plans, in the sense of making them all succeed as we wish. I hoped that my citation of Proverbs 16:1 and 9 would have headed off that misunderstanding.

But thanks for giving me the opportunity to clarify.

DJP said...

Patrick Chan— the very least one must say is, that you've taken Pyro comments in a direction they've never gone before. I can see Phil considering a Lonely Burning Hearts feature. Okay, maybe not.

(Very funny; first chuckle of the day. Thanks!)

Chris Hamer-Hodges said...

Nice straw-man, but what have you proved? You have fallen into the classic cessationist fallacy of equating sufficiency with totality. The fact that we don't need to flounder in inactivity without a direct word from God by no means proves that they cannot and do not happen.

In fact I've heard this argument before. The Sadducees believed that the continuing revelation of the prophets undermined the authority of the Torah, and in so doing they did injustice to the very word of God they sought above all to honour.

Yet the Scriptures of the Prophets in no way invalidates the word of God in the Torah, and the New Testament in no way invalidates the Old.

You know, you might just come to the conclusion that God is capable of speaking without contradicting himself!

There is no more Scripture, for sure, but think through what it means if there is no more revelation...

If sufficiency means totality, then God can not say another word... ever! Eternity is going to be a very quiet place. God is incapable of doing what even a rookie preacher can do - take the eternal truths expressed sufficiently in the Scriptures and apply them to our current life. Worst of all... if sufficiency means totality, then God has become what he has always despised: a mute idol.

Here's the breaking news: God still speaks!
He doesn't speak because we need additional revelation to know his will or form our doctrines. He speaks because he is a speaking God. That is the God which the sufficient Scriptures themselves reveal him to be. There is no other God.

If you believe in a mute god, you are an idolater, and you tacitly demolish the very sufficiency of the Scriptures you seek so passionately to preserve.

DJP said...

And once again, when someone speaks up for the sufficiency of God's Word, as attested by the Word itself (Proverbs 6:20-23; 2 Timothy 3;15-17, etc.), here is Chris. With his one-string guitar. To play his one note.

Without so much as one verse to back up his religious tradition.

And seemingly unbothered by the fact.

DJP said...

Robert Ivy, in reverse order:

Yes, Ben did raise those texts. And I responded, at 7:09 AM, January 04, 2007. As you don't raise a new issue, I don't have a new response.

I know of no Christian who disputes that God did speak by direct revelation, before the completion of the Canon.

As to God bringing the animals to Adam, I'd simply draw the conclusion that God orders all things, exhaustively, after the counsel of His will. Of course (as I develop in the post) I won't therefore take my place next to the witch doctor, and try to read the tea leaves of providence to divine God's encrypted code. I'll apply the Word and wisdom, for the reasons developed at some length in the post.

See more development of these thoughts HERE.

donsands said...

"God still speaks!"


And, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every [all, the whole] Word that proceeds from the mouth of God."

And we can never add to it, nor take away from it. Prov. 30:6; Rev. 22:18-19

Chris Hamer-Hodges said...

DJP, for all my (many) faults, I've not yet sunk to an ad hominem repost.

I'm here because you threw down the gauntlet to interact more frequently. If you stop plucking your "leaky-cannon", "demi-hemi-semi" string, I'll happily strum another chord.

If you'd rather I didn't comment, just say. I'm happy to debate theology and the word, but I'm not going to stick around if things get personal.

DJP said...

You've still given me no actual content to respond to, so the Biblical argument of the post stands.

It might be interesting to compare the range of my post-topics at Pyro with the range of your post-comments at Pyro, if you want to do the research.

Robert Ivy said...

Your response made me think of another question.

If God spoke by direct revelation before the completion of the Canon then would it not have been better for those in the midst of times of Scripture writing to wait and hear from God directly? Why didn't they do this? Certainly God promised them "You will seek me and find me. When you seek me with all your heart" Jer 29:13 (I'm just trying to get to the heart of the issue.)

As for my rebuttal of the article you directed me to (and all your other cessationist posts) see HERE.

Phil Johnson said...

Dan: regarding decision-making and the choices we make, check this video (HT: Nate Busenitz and Tim Challies).

Just remember: the average Christian in the pew would see absolutely nothing wrong with the message of that song. Given that view of "free will," you can see why what you and I believe about divine providence and God's sovereignty (even in the midst of moral agents' free and uncoerced choices—or, as you put it, free coloring within the lines) is a hard concept to process.

Be patient with our commenters. These truths aren't easy to process for those who don't have a thoroughly biblical understanding of what divine providence means.

I may post on this one day, but I am convinced this confusion (about whether God regularly sends people spiritual IMs in order to supplement his written Word and make his will clear to us) stems from a deficient understanding of Providence. You nailed it well here. But it's not an easy concept, and even the simple fact of what you are saying will be hard to grasp for someone steeped in charismatic or mystical presuppositions.

Keep plucking that string, though. And don't get frustrated when lots of people find it's a discordant note to the song they have playing in their heads.

C.T. Lillies said...

As someone who has just recently attempted to teach a "small group" the concept of providence let me assure you that there are at least 16 million or so Christians out there who not only haven't the foggiest idea what Providence really is but they also are diametrically opposed to it and its implications. A post like that would surely rattle some cages.

"...the word of God is not bound."
--2 Timothy 2:9

theinscrutableone said...

Given that Dan and his minions are doing a fine job of defending the sealed (i.e., not leaky)-canon view of decision-making, I won't try to improve on their efforts. However, I'd like to share a couple of examples of both kinds of decision-making, both leaky and sealed:

Leaky: single Christian guy desires Christian wife. Prays fervently, and "God" gives him prophecies and dreams that suggest that he's going to marry a particular gal. Stops looking and turns down several interested women because "God" has shown him whom he's going to marry. Waits five years for dream to come true before he concludes that it came from some other source besides God. Since giving up on waiting for his special revelations to come to pass, he's concentrated on prayer and ordinary means to seek out and prepare himself for a suitable helpmate.

Sealed: same single Christian guy, still unmarried and by now throughly disillusioned with leaky-canon decision-making, learns that his landlords are selling the house in which he lives. He begins with prayer that God would grant him wisdom, and proceeds to make decisions that are within Scriptural bounds. He pays no heed to dreams, impressions, etc.. Instead, he uses all ordinary means at his disposal to make the decision that seems best given Scriptural principles and his present life situation. Result: he purchases a nice affordable older house that just happens to be equidistant between his workplace and the wonderful Reformed Baptist church he found months after buying the house. Although he was never consciously aware of any kind of special revelation or inspiration during the process of buying the house, he now acknowledges the hand of God through Providence which brought him to the right house at the right time and in the right place. Amazingly, God was able to lead this guy's footsteps perfectly well without having to resort to whisper in a still-small voice.

Obviously, I'm sure that my leaky-canon friends can come up with their own testimonies about how God used some kind of special guidance to help them make a major decision. I won't try to naysay any such testimonies, but yet I will submit that sealed-canon folks such as myself have discovered that God is well able to guide His children without providing them with any special revelation besides the Scriptures.

Testimonies such as mine (yes, I am the "single Christian guy") are, of course, in no way conclusive evidence in favor of either canon view. For such, we must turn to the Scriptures. I share these testimonies only to provide an example of how leaky- and sealed-canon decision making has worked in the life of a believer who's spent time on both sides of the fence. Although God is obviously able to guide His Elect without and against means, He's just as able to infallibly guide them with the most ordinary of means. I submit that the ordinary working of His invisible Hand through Providence is at least as amazing as His extraordinary works. Is it not amazing how God directs the steps of His children with utter perfection whether with or without means?


DJP said...

I have minions?

dan w said...

When the Lord guides us,it is never in a way that contrdicts His Word.In this day there is a real need for sound biblical teaching,without anything mystical or charismatic,Dr Peter Masters ,minister of the Met Tab wrote a book called Steps For Guidance,this was crucial for me as I had come out of the charismatic movement,and all that that entailed.

theinscrutableone said...


Of course you have minions! All good bloggers, not to mention quite a few not-so-good bloggers, have minions. The really good bloggers are endowed with mighty minions. Think of it as just another one of the "perks" that come inside the very same "Acme Komplete Blogger's Kit" that contained the personalized soapbox on which you now stand. :-)


Robert Ivy said...

Well because it seems like my last question will go unanswered and I would still like to make a point: I just wish we could trade "Christlike" or "Godly" for "Biblical" more often. And become a people more enthralled with that all-satisfying God in three Persons than we're enthralled with the book that we hold in between our hands. That's all I'm fighting for.

ibelieve said...

While I whole heartedly agree with the general advocacy of the idea that God gives us a framework in which to act, making his will plain to us, leaving us with many choices which are lawful and pleasing to Him, yet I think that we are often insensible to just how incapable we are to HEAR that word or to rightly apply it to our circumstances without the aid of being led by the Spirit of God. I fear that those who think they are, know but little of themselves, and have much to learn of God's ways as well. I heard a reputable preacher teach that Samuel was said to have a "listening heart", translated as that he was "wise" in some translations. In making wise choices in life, (and I've made my share of UNwise one's), it is imperative that we maintain a biblical view of OURSELVES as yet possessing a fallen nature, and liable to not rightly APPLY the things we know from the word, or to misunderstand them in the first place. We mustn’t attempt to relieve ourselves of the responsibility to "walk in the Spirit".....to be "filled with the Spirit".... to be "led by the Spirit" as the sons of God..... that is biblical, no? Why is this an emphasis in the NT? Its because without that, we are in the flesh, and cannot please God.
If the idea of being led of the Spirit of God is merely that we are to consult the scriptures and make a go of it, as then God has ALREADY led us once and for all, and there is no need to be “led” present tense, at all, and the biblical model of BEING led PRESENTLY is then all “mystical tea-leaf readings, chicken livers, flutters and bumps”, as this author seems to advocate. I have to wonder if he thinks, “Guide me O Thou Great Jehovah” was written by Benny Hinn. But if we are to BE LED by the Spirit of God, as the bible teaches, then this is an ever present need to HEAR how God may be communicating to us NOW. It is a false dichotomy to teach that since we have a general framework in which God expects us to act generally, that we have no need of being led of Him in that place specifically, because we are wholly capable of botching up our lives within the myriad of choices that may appear to us as biblically warranted. A search of “lead me” in the Psalms will yield some interesting results… or “guide me”. According to this author, it seems that God has already supposed to be wholly done with such a work, and we’re left with a providential Deism, where God has spoken, and affords us no further providential help or guidance by His Spirit. I just find that so very carnal and insensible… and unbiblical.
Every Christian is beholden to seek the Lord and walk with Him in a personal way, coveting and rejoicing in, the communion of the Holy Spirit, and seeking and receiving Him as our Guide through life. As far as I'm concerned its the essence of what it is to be a Christian, and when we lose that emphasis, we are backslidden at best. As for me, I wish to both study that scriptures so that I have a standing knowledge of the ways of God as a framework for life, but also to seek HIM, and to be filled with Him, so that in all my stupidity, blindness, sin and error of heart or purpose, I won't fail to either rightly understand or judiciously apply, the wisdom that God has afforded me in His word, lest by presuming upon my knowledge and application of it, and ignoring my native opposition to it with a yet fallen capacity, and my constant need of divine help and guidance throughout life, I simply forget God, and stray from His will in the tyranny of my own self-sufficiency.


david worrell said...
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