The Bible is inerrant, but is it sufficient?
Now that Southern Baptists have settled the inerrancy issue regarding Scripture, there seems to be a healthy outbreak of theological dialogue on a number of other subjects. Baptism, alcohol consumption, Calvinism/Arminianism, election and private prayer language are under re-examination. Is this a sign of a maturing denomination? I am not sure just yet, but the turn toward meaty theological questions is unmistakable.
I would like to add another subject to the current list of theological topics under discussion: the sufficiency of Scripture. How can I suggest such a thing given our denomination’s strong stand on the inerrancy question? After all, Southern Baptists are known as “people of The Book.”
Let me explain. It is one thing to declare oneself a conservative and affirm the inerrancy of Scripture, but it is another to affirm its sufficiency. There is, I believe, a strong, pervasive and somewhat subtle strategy unfolding today among “evangelical Christians.” It involves the sufficiency of the Bible and it is, of course, orchestrated by Satan. It is not unusual for the Bible to come under attack. After all, man has a sinful nature and is inclined to rebel against what God’s Word says. Satan uses that to cast doubt and confusion in the church.
The theology of orthodox Christianity has always affirmed that Scripture is adequate for all matters of faith and conduct, but that is under attack today. Several years ago, in a magnificent two-part sermon on the sufficiency of Scripture, noted pastor and author John MacArthur argued there are five areas in the church where the attack on the sufficiency of Scripture is surfacing in our churches: (1) applying worldly management techniques to the operations of the church; (2) mistaking entertainment for worship; (3) growing infatuation with mysticism; (4) doubting that Scripture is insufficient in helping the family; and (5) injecting psychology into the church’s teaching and counseling ministries.
In the last quarter century, MacArthur notes there has grown to be among church leaders a reliance on “worldly management techniques.” Christian bookstores are flooded with books written on successful corporations and styles of management and leadership. These books are being embraced by the church as if they were the keys to building the Kingdom of God. It is subtle, but it is nonetheless an attack on the sufficiency of Scripture. It is as if to say, “Knowing the Word of God and understanding its principles taught therein related to the growth of the church is not adequate and we must go to the management techniques and the systems of success the world uses in its corporate environment and transfer those to the church if we want the church to really grow and develop.” This, I believe, is a horrific mistake and a sin against God.
Secondly, MacArthur believes there are many in the church who feel Scripture is not “a sufficient diet for the saints … and there must be along with it a certain amount of entertainment.” Has our worship time become a time to make us feel all frothy? Is our attention on our actions rather than on God’s? Millions of dollars of the Lord’s money is being spent in high-tech equipment, for lights and sound to stimulate the senses. Meanwhile, hymns with their rich theological truth are too often discarded.
Thirdly, people are dabbling with mysticism and the occult. The danger is that many partaking in such activity do not think it is that at all. But it is. People now reach into the world of mediums, demon spirits and the devil himself to quench their thirst for supernatural power and ecstatic experiences.
Says MacArthur: “They are searching for miracles and signs and wonders. There are schools now teaching courses in signs and wonders. There are people saying that we can never reach the world with the Gospel unless we can raise the dead and heal the sick and call down fire from heaven and do all kinds of supernatural things.”
You think all this is crazy? Consider the words of Peter Wagner, a so-called expert on church growth techniques whose books you can find in too many seminary libraries, who recently said at the American Association of Bible Colleges Convention: “The simple Gospel is no longer adequate without signs and wonders.” What Wagner is saying is that the church cannot reach the world by simply preaching and teaching the Word of God. We have to have signs and wonders.
There are those who are advocating Christian mantras, or chanting. In fact, and this is just my opinion, some of our choruses seem to take on the characteristics of chants rather than songs of worship to God. Positive thinking and visualization techniques have entered the church Want a new girlfriend, a new car or maybe reach a particular group of people for Christ? Then try some of the self-hypnotic visualization to make it all come true. This is of the occult, plain and simple.
MacArthur calls this infatuation with mysticism as the new religious science. “We have now developed an evangelical science of the mind. Many of the people are getting into Eastern and Hindu thought …. There’s a preoccupation with this mysticism. Psychic power is cultivated. People are claiming authority over the devil, authority over demons, authority over disease.”
Fourthly, the Bible is an insufficient guide to a successful marriage and God-honoring family. There was a time when the church believed that Scripture provided all we needed in these two areas. Unfortunately, it is being replaced with gimmicks and sex techniques.
“It used to be that we could accept what the Bible said in sociological areas, whether it’s homosexuality or the role of a woman,” MacArthur said. “Now we’re hearing that the Bible is rather unsophisticated and cannot comment on these contemporary sociological issues because of its lack of sophistication. And so there is an insufficiency in the Bible’s ability to deal with contemporary sociological phenomena.” MacArthur is correct for this is manifested, for example, in the liberal church with regard to the ordination of homosexuals, and in the evangelical church in the redefining of the role of women away from the traditional biblical teaching.
The final area of attack on the sufficiency of Scripture comes in the form of psychology. Churches are replacing the truths of Scripture for psychology and psychotherapy at an alarming rate. In some instances churches – instead of hiring pastors, evangelists and teachers – are hiring psychologists, fresh with their knowledge of human “wisdom.”
“This again is a subtle way of saying the Bible is insufficient,” MacArthur warns. “In fact, I would go so far as to say there are many advocating today a psychological salvation in place of the new birth. There is nothing in this more than a pseudo-evangelical humanism. This preoccupation with self-esteem and self-love and self-fulfillment and self-actualization that psychology has brought into the church knows no biblical counterpart.”
In short, we have a sinful view of the Bible. I say time to repent and affirm Psalm 19:7-14.
Two weeks ago I wrote briefly about comments