Saturday, December 01, 2007

Some Evangelicals Dumping Sola Scriptura??

A fellow Christian blogger and good internet friend (Mark at Chester Street) has made me aware of a recent controversial essay written by J.P. Moreland which was delivered at The 59th Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society held November 14-16, 2007 in San Diego, California.

Herescope has a blogpost that shares a link to Anton Bosch's website. Bosch writes some pertinent comments about this rather blatant shift in focus.

Why have I given so many link that contain so much information about this topic? Because I wanted to demonstrate that Mark and I are not the only ones who are concerned about what Moreland has written.

My analysis?

Here's a copy of a comment that I posted at Mark's blog:

Hi Mark,

Thanks so much for sharing Moreland's paper with me. I agree with your analysis! I really got worried when I read:

"Today, I am more convinced of inerrancy more than any time in my Christian life, but the charge of bibliolatry , or at least a near, if not a kissing cousin, is one I fear is hard to rebut. To be more specific, in the actual practices of the Evangelical community in America, there is an overcommitment to Scripture in a way that is false, irrational, and harmful to the cause of Christ. And it has produced a mean-spiritedness among the over committed that is a grotesque and often, ignorant distortion of discipleship unto the Lord Jesus."

Everything after the word "but" sounds so similar to what the gay christian movement would claim in order to continue in its rebrobate theology! Doesn't it?? It also sounds "emergent-church-ish."

Perhaps I could be misinterpreting Moreland's meaning when he wrote:

"...a mean-spiritedness among the over committed that is a grotesque and often, ignorant distortion of discipleship..."

To me, it sounds eerily similar to what gay christians often use as an excuse to lay claims of "hate" against orthodox, biblical, Christian
believers...doesn't it?

This can be very dangerous.

Dare I mention that he almost sounds like he is countering what Isaiah says here?

Isa 42:1 Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, [in whom] my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.

Of course, that portion of Scripture is talking about Jesus. Judgment belongs, ultimately, to Him alone. However, as followers of Jesus, aren't we supposed to share the entirety of the Gospel (including the bad news of judgment) and point to Him? We are supposed to point out that His judgment will befall all of those who do not repent and accept Christ as Savior and Lord of their lives!

As Matthew Henry states in his commentary on Isaiah 42:1 -

"Let our souls delight in Christ, rely on him, and rejoice in him; and thus let us be united to him, and then, for his sake, the Father will be well pleased with us."

Unlike Anton Bosch, I don't think that Moreland is a false teacher in this. I just think that he is in error about this particular opinion that he holds. Fellow Christians will let him know about it, too!

As I read through the article I have to admit that Moreland did a good job revealing the history of what has transpired in the educational realm at the university level (i.e. drifting away from God, the Bible and teachings of Jesus Christ towards total secular humanistic ideas) quite well.

However, I don't think he made his case for his initial premise very well at all. The accusations (in that quoted paragraph above) were not, IMHO, addressed correctly nor proven to be true. Maybe I need to read it again. But my first impression was, as Mark had pointed out in an email message to me, "him making a mountain out of a molehill."

My first thought regarding blogging about this was to be hesitant. Sometimes, it's just not smart for a female "layperson" to counter a well-educated male, Christian scholar who is so highly regarded in most Christian circles. But it appears that he has raised the ire of many people. Ted Olsen (writing in Christianity Today) and Anton Bosch, for example.

This is good. It goes to show that when a person attempts to trump the wisdom and knowledge of God's revelation to us through the Scriptures with his/her own, fleshly and prideful form of education; the Holy Spirit's guidance upon our hearts, minds, souls and spirits will not allow us to be fooled.

Plus, other Christian brothers and sisters can (and should!) call us out on such errors in thinking.

I am always grateful when people correct me! None of us are perfect.

However, God's Word IS PERFECT!. It is the plumbline of Scripture that allows imperfect Christians to share HIS PERFECT WORD with an imperfect, sinful, rebellious, and evil world!

What was missing from Moreland's analysis, was that he should have said that if Scripture is not used as the sole source of knowledge and authority on any given topic, it should still remain as the "plumbline" to determine the ultimate source of relevant knowledge and authority. In other words, the additional sources that one might want to use (which, in some cases, like the archaeological finds case example in Moreland's paper) which doesn't appear to need Scripture to determine what the find reveals, none-the-less, should not go against what is written in Scripture. If it does, then the person doing the interpretation is in error; not Scripture.

The Bible informs us that the Holy Spirit of God reveals the infallibility of Scripture to the mind of the believer. Therefore, what we, as Christian believers preach and teach should never counter what God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit reveals in said Scripture.

Again, it is that plumbline that keeps us straight and out of the error realm of interpretation (which can happen at times because we are fallible whereas God and His Word is infallible).

It's just my opinion, of course, but on this subject, I think that Moreland may be relying more on his fleshly thinking rather than on the mind of Christ that Paul speaks of in Scripture.

1Cr 2:16 For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.

HT's: ChesterStreet, Herescope


Matt W. said...

In truth, I think that you and Moreland are actually in agreement here. I think that "Overcommitment to Scripture" is a misnomer, and while I certainly don't know Moreland personally, I would suspect that he used this sensational wording as a way to garner attention for his essay. I wouldn't say that he was wrong in his assessment, but he certainly would have been well advised to give the kind of "plumbline" clarification that you gave in your commentary.

He did use a lot of history and such to explain how he felt this happened, but it got a little confusing as to what he was actually saying his problem was. What I got out of it was that we should not, as some Christians do, assume that there is nothing to be learned or gained spiritually if it is not contained in the pages of the Bible, but that it is still critical for us to remember that the Bible is the ultimate authority, and anything that contradicts it should be discarded.

The only place where I'm thinking he may have been wrong was in saying that "giving close scrutiny" is the same as discarding. I would say that, while there could certainly be things to be learned that are not contained in Scripture, we need to be wary of those things, and approach them carefully, and prayerfully, so as not to be duped by some false teaching, or false wisdom.

Christinewjc said...

Hi Matt W.,

Thank you for your insightful comments!

You wrote:

"What I got out of it was that we should not, as some Christians do, assume that there is nothing to be learned or gained spiritually if it is not contained in the pages of the Bible, but that it is still critical for us to remember that the Bible is the ultimate authority, and anything that contradicts it should be discarded."

VERY well said! Perhaps you made Moreland's point better than he did!

I don't think that most Christians believe "that there is nothing to be learned or gained spiritually if it is not contained in the pages of the Bible."

A "secular-humanist" education is crucial in this life as well. It allows us to discern truth from error. Christians have a reasonable faith, and don't need to discard logic and/or rational thinking.

Of course, atheists, skeptics, and agnostic might disagree. In my conversations with them, they often think that I, as well as all Christians, don't have open minds. But I try to point out that their "faith" in logical reasoning is not an absolute law that governs the universe. Nor, is it to be considered a set of rules which govern behavior.

What are they often missing? Godly wisdom. The only place they can get that is through the Bible, the Person of Jesus Christ, and believers who share the gospel and God's Word with them.

I have learned a tremendous amount of spiritually influencial knowledge and wisdom from fellow Christian believers. I have also gained from reading the books of Christian authors. However, the fact that we have that plumbline of Scripture to detect what is biblically true vs. what should be deemed deceptive, keeps us from falling into error, heresy, and apostasy. The book of Jude warns us that such things will escalate even within the churches the closer we get to the end times. It is now happening at an alarming rate.

Your last paragraph is wisdom at its best! Similar to:

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. Colossians 2:8

I hope you will continue to visit and share more great insight here!

In Christ,