Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Supremacy of Scripture

When a teacher or preacher speaks of the Supremacy of Scripture he is almost always referring to a doctrine that understands Scripture as the supreme source for truth, and in fact the exclusive source for spiritual truth. In the language of the Reformation it is known as Sola Scriptura, which means that the basis for our beliefs is not tradition or experience or ecclesiastical dictate, it is the written Scriptures alone. And it is true that this doctrine has been eroding and that many religious organizations either completely deny it or dilute its essence.

Luther desired nothing but proof from Scripture when it came to doctrinal truth, and forms of that battle have continued into today. There are many books and messages that deal with the Supremacy of Scripture and the reasons for such a foundational doctrine. And this doctrine has provided a forum for what some call the "truth war" which indicates a battle between those who espouse the supremacy of Scripture and those who in one way or another do not. Some project their opinion with academic reasoning within Scripture while retaining some civility, while others speak and write with acrimony and self righteousness.

I am one who espouses the Supremacy of Scripture, for in the end the opinions of men are just that. But I continue to have a problem with some of those who are the leading and most outspoken proponents of that doctrine. Luther himself espoused the supremacy of Scripture at the possible expense of his own life, however after establishing the doctrinal foundation of Sola Scriptura he seemed to dismiss the core of that doctrine when it came to personal obedience. His reckless language, combined with his indulgence of alcohol, and his overt hatred for the Jews was in stark contrast to his doctrinal espousing of the doctrine of Scriptural supremacy. Without dismissing Luther’s importance in core doctrinal realignment, I suggest he did not strive to live up to the personal mandates of Scripture which are every bit an indispensible part of Scriptural supremacy.

What Luther’s example has shown us is that it is entirely possible to be an outspoken proponent of the doctrine of Scriptural supremacy while denying it wholesale in practice and tone. And such is the case in many quarters of today’s evangelical community. To what benefit is it to aggressively contend for the doctrine of Scriptural supremacy while overtly denying it in the methodology you use to defend it? That scenario becomes a paradox in orthodoxy which dismantles the very doctrine you are supposedly defending. The supremacy doctrine is never limited to the overarching eternal truths concerning the Godhead, it must include the admonitions and commands that are consistent with the personal manifestations of the Incarnate narrative, as well as the dictates of the epistles.

It is indeed counterproductive to argue doctrine in the abstract without the personal revelations, or at least the obvious and genuine pursuit, of the uncomfortable aspects of Scripture which are designed to restrict the carnal “end justifies the means” template of defending the truth. In the end, defending the doctrine of Scriptural supremacy by abrogating the preponderance of Scripture as it applies to love, grace, and personal humility is neither Christian nor Scriptural. It is an overt revelation of disobedience and rejection of the very doctrine you portend to defend. Christ Himself was the antithesis of masculine domination and powerful usurpation, which at its core is why so many were drawn to Him while others rejected Him.

So many today stand on the mountaintop of hubristic judgment of almost everyone who are at varying degrees of doctrinal variance, but are blind to their own Scriptural disobedience. The world knows nothing of our doctrinal squabbles, serious or secondary, but they can see clearly the tone and attitudes that are in direct conflict with the Christ we preach. The cross is the core of our redemption, but it also carries with it the essence of how we are to interact with the world and each other. These “Attila the Hun” expressions of doctrinal dialogues do despite to the Spirit of Christ, and may in fact win the debate but lose the Spirit.

What is our calling? Are we to win the “truth war” or are we to live and project Jesus Christ? And those who claim they are in fact one in the same are seriously misguided. Winning the “truth war” is indeed more about living Christ than it ever was about a round table discussion about doctrinal issues on YouTube that draw “amen’s” from the doctrinal Bourgeoisie and elevate the wisdom of men resulting in the applause of other men. The sounds of “did you see so and so on Larry King, didn’t he really give it to them” are only meant to create a greater self righteousness within those who have chosen sides at the expense of deep compassion for those who are blind and deep gratitude for those of us who have been enlightened by His grace.

We have been sold a doctrinal bill of goods that has camouflaged the truth inside a methodology that is in direct violation of the same Scriptural mandates. Would it be Scriptural to defend the doctrine of the Trinity by murder? Of course not, you say. Then how can it be Scriptural to defend Scripture by self righteousness, demeaning personal attacks, and hubristic dismissiveness? We cannot exalt the supremacy of Scripture if we ignore those Scriptures that apply directly to us.

And here lies the challenge. Are we humble enough to defend cardinal doctrines of the faith in such a way that leaves the outcome to God Himself, or are we to speak in such a way that leverages the battle upon the fulcrum of our own words and the core viciousness of our attacks? God looks after His own Word and His instructions to us are never in contrast to that same Word. Speak the truth in love, says the Spirit, not speak the truth in visceral hatred and that is in itself love. The constant stream of unchristian language directed at the same people over and over again reveals an unwillingness to trust God concerning His own Word and its defense. Is there a God, and has He spoken, and is He able to bring about His purposes in spite of those who have strayed doctrinally, or is He in dire need of our constant attacks and redundant reminders of the same Scriptural shortcomings of others? And is our Biblical teaching so fleeting, so shallow, and so temporary that without the continuing stream of identifying the same false teachers people will stray immediately?

The supremacy of Scripture is not some “pin the tail on the donkey” doctrine that we stick on others, no, it is also high time that we examine our own adherence to the personal aspects of that same doctrine. Doctrinal truth must be lived as well as preached.

Doctrine without works is dead.


Anonymous said...

Excellent post!


eugeneroberts said...

Excellent Rick!

Victoria said...

Wow! Dear Brother, I would fellowship with you and sit under your pastoring with trust if you were geographically near.

You have said well, much of what is forming within me as a message to us in the Faith. It is also much of other the message of other great men of God for our generation, and is the message of the "Radical Reformers" otherwise (wrongly) contemptuously known as the Anabaptists.

Truth is the whole truth. Truth is authenticity. Truth is a Person and His nature is humility and meekness. One cannot preach a doctrine of Truth in a spirit that is false, that is not His HOLY Spirit.

Study history and you will see this is the issue of the first reformation: those magisterial reformers who ,yes, articulated true doctrines, but murdered other disciples of Jesus and who hated and murdered the Jews. They were not exhibiting the nature of the Lord and Lamb whose Name they so brutally "protected."

The radical reformers contended that the issue of AUTHENTIC biblical Faith meant authentic discipleship, that is lifestyle, not simply mental assent to a forensic analysis of salvation and seizure of wordly political power.

Rick, it should interest you that Baptist heritage is rooted in Anabaptist, that is radical reformation, values mora than in magisterial reformation values. You sound like a true son of those anabaptists and of the Firstborn Son, and I am rejoicing to read what you have written here.

I also am suspecting more and more that the issues which caused the magisterial reformers to hunt down, torture, and kill the radical reformers, are still issues to this day, and will again completely divide those claiming the Name of Christ. Some will be the persecutors; others will be the persecuted. Our choices, our true nature, will determine which camp we are finally revealed to be in.

I recommend to all to look into the (actual) history of the reformation, to muse upon it, and to humbly ask the Lord to instruct us. These ARE the issues of these last days. Talk or walk?

May the God of all grace help us to remain humble, to always inquire of the Lord, and to be found IN Him.

Thank you brother Rick.