11 September 2012

Leaky Canons and moralizing Gospel misfires: an analogy

by Dan Phillips

On the way to this piece's point, two things must be made very clear:

First: every unglorified saint has doctrinal blind spots and inconsistencies. You do, I do. There's no helping it. You credobaptists see it clearly in your pedobaptist brothers, and they see it clearly in their Arminian brothers, and on it goes. And if you ask me what my blind spots are, I'll be forced to ask in reply what it is about "blind spots" you don't understand. We all have them, and that's what that Remedial Theology 101 class is all about.

Second: some Leaky Canon brothers are splendid preachers of the Gospel, and of a great many other solid-gold Biblical truths. They are as sound on the issue of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone, as any man ever has been since Paul wrote Romans and Galatians. The parallel I'm going to suggest is not in any way meant eo ipso to impugn the Gospel soundness of a Leaky Canoneer simply because he is a Leaky Canoneer.

Having said that, then...

It struck me forcefully, as I was praying today, that there is a parallel between the Leaky Canon position and the false gospel of moralism.

What is that false gospel? It is the idea that we need more and/or better rules. It sees Jesus as a great teacher, a great enabler, a great example. It brings in Biblical imperatives as laws we must keep to win God's favors, and then moves perhaps to improve on those laws for that same reason. It's similar to the classmate at seminary who, when I suggested that the student handbook's section on conduct just single out directly-Biblical issues such as lying and stealing and immorality, replied that all that just "isn't specific enough."

To that, Biblical Christians reply that more rules would just damn us more. We're sinners. We don't live up to the light we have. More light just means more condemnation, more rules means more guilt. If the problem were lack of guidance, they might help. But the problem is sin, and rules simply serve to stir sin up (cf. Rom. 7:5-11, etc.). That is why we need sovereign grace to save us. Not more rules.

What does that possibly have to do with the Leaky Canon error?

We have sixty-six books full of the inerrant, sufficient, and morally-binding revelation of God's heart. It claims to impart absolutely everything we need to know in order to know and serve God.

So let me ask:

Is there any sane, rational, even-marginally-sentient being who would claim that the professing Christian church as a whole is doing a very good job of teaching and preaching the contents of those sixty-six books?


Then let me ask this:

Is there any sane, rational, even-marginally-sentient being who would claim that professing Christians as a whole are doing a very good job of studying and learning and practicing (let alone even working to support churches that teach and preach) the contents of those sixty-six books?


Leading us inexorably to ask: 

That being the case, how can anyone argue that what we really need is more words from God?

But wait, it gets even worse!

Given that 106 years of Leaky Canon errorism has not yet produced even one universally-acknowledged syllable of prophetic-level revelation from God, and given that in the light of that 100% failure they have worked hard so to lower the bar and redefine what they promise so as to remove it from the arena of falsifiability, we must reword that question:

How can anyone argue that what we really need is more semi-sorta hazy mumbly jumbly foggy indistinct words from God at several degrees of removal?

More words from God, given our failure to be faithful to what we already have, and absent repentance, would simply mean more failure and more faithlessness.

But more words from God that really aren't necessarily words from God, but that maybe might kinda be words from God, and that claim to be essential for a real and vital and living relationship with God, though they require 1000 time-and-focus-devouring-and-diverting qualifications...?


All of which takes us right back to the sufficiency challenge, and leaves Leaky Canonism as exposed and repugnant (— in its distinctives!) as it should have been all along.

Dan Phillips's signature


Unknown said...

As a marginally-sentient being who professes Christ yet is falling short of studying, learning and practicing the contents of those sixty-six books,

if I would just study, learn, and practice what is in there, I would have no need of more words from God.

It could be that simple.

Unknown said...

We are called to practice the commands of God, no more, no less. The fact that the majority of the professing church gets it wrong does not change this truth.

Cathy said...

And yet- the great irony is that those who hold to sola scriptura are often called Pharisees by the ones who add the extra burden of divining new/extra words from God.

DJP said...

Yes ma'am. Well caught.

The Bible Christian said...


I live that most everyday, accused of being a legalist just because I love His word and hold to sola scripture

Pontius Pilate asked Jesus... What is truth?

The sad fact was, truth was staring right in his face.

For the some professing Christians truth is staring right in there face with the word of God and they don’t even know it!

We might as well have a blank bible to fill in anything we want.

R.C. said...

Wow. Hope you can find my blind spots, because you sure did a number on this one. Thank you. Well and compellingly said brother

DJP said...

Thanks very kindly, R.C.

One-star hater hated it, though.

Esther Jones said...

I am going to write a longer version of this, with more details, as a blog post sometime. For now...

The other day I stood in an assembly of about 300 6th graders. The music was loud and familiar and appealing to the students. The speakers were dynamic. The presentations were visually stimulating.

But the message was JUST BE NICE. BE NICE BECAUSE WE SAY SO. Boiled down to it's essence, that's the message of the entire hour.

And I stood there and thought--my Lord and my God, this is the worst legalism I have ever encountered.

Because we are supposed to have freedom FROM religion in our schools, we have given ourselves over to a hopeless legalism. There is no reference point, no reason why for being good. No help for the dead who cannot be good even if they want to.

But my guess is that the reason that presentation was even available to be given in a public school was because someone said "God told me to start this ministry..."

“Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.
Lk 11:46

one busy mom said...

@Jeff Hoots: agreed!

Ok Dan, last week you asked what the ramifications would be if we actually took God's word for what it claimed to be, then this post on top of that....ouch. It's getting uncomfortably convicting hanging arround here.

The sad truth is even though I absolutely believe in the sufficiency of scripture - the ammount of time I put into learning and studying it is beyond pathetic. At least the leaky canoners have a wacked out theology to blame. Me? nothing but sheer laziness. And so, duly chastized, I will attempt to better practice what I claim to believe!

DJP said...

Thanks, OBM. Your comment heightens the value of the post. And amen: professing sufficiency and living it are two different things, aren't they? Though the latter should surely follow the former.

BTW, I think you've also put your finger on why so many are attracted to Leaky Canoneering.

joel said...

I appoligize if this is off topic but it got me to thinking about the tendency of some in the moralizing gospel crowd to also cling to specific translations of the bible. The bible simply is not the inherent, binding, revelation of God unless it is in such and such a translation, i.e., King James. When you believe that the bible has only been preserved in 17th century English then the whole idea that biblical principals can be clearly understood and applied just through the reading and careful study of the bible becomes kind of foggy.

joel said...

How do you star a post. I don't see anyway to do it.