So Nimm Denn Meine Hande...

Friday, May 05, 2006

The Foundation of the Answer to the Question of Cessationism: Part 5

Okay. Now it's been a few weeks since my last installment, so let's review:

1. The Bible is sufficient to instruct us regarding all matters pertaining to life and godliness on any topic, so it's also sufficient to instruct us regarding cessationism and non cessationism.

2. General Revelation is interpreted by Special Revelation (The Bible interprets experience).

Okay. So in the last post, we examined the question of the relationship of Genereal and Special Revelation. Today, we're going to examine the nature of the current validity of the formal principle of the reformation. Sounds simple? Good! It is!

Before we get running like maniacs, let's define the phrase "formal principle". The formal principle is another name for what is otherwise known as Sola Scriptura. Now I've been asked to give a definition of Sola Scriptura before, but I have found a great one from James Boice, which I take from the preface (page 10) of a work he editted called Here We Stand: A Call from Confessing Evangelicals (Grand Rapids, Baker Book House, 1996). Boice writes of Sola Scriptura, saying:

When they used these words the Reformers were indicating their concern for the Bible's authority, and what they meant to say was that the Bible alone is our ultimate authority - not the pope, not the church, not the traditions of the church or church councils, still less personal intimations or subjective feelings, but Scripture only. These other sources of authority are sometimes useful and may at times have a place, but Scripture alone is ultimate. Therefore, if any of these other authorities differ from Scripture, they are to be judged by the Bible and rejected, rather than it being the other way around.

In other words, the Bible is the final word on anything; above all tradition and feeling.

One must remember that in Luther's day (as well as our own), the Catholic Church held to the equal authority of the Pope, the Church traditions and the Bible. The Bible could be 'trumped' by the Ex Cathedra (divine, authoritative pronouncment) sayings of the pope or by quoting some historical creed or the findings of some past church council. Much of Catholicism in Luther's day was a complete spiritual circus, and almost none of it was grounded in Scripture (short of names and places).

In modern times, we don't have a pope or authoritative church least us Protestants don't. I'm a Mennonite, and the closest thing we have to an authoritative declaration is any decision made by the national Mennonite Brethren Conference...and as of late those don't seem to actually say much besides "do whatever you think the Bible says you should do, but don't make too much stink about it". (lol) But, we do still have other ways of 'trumping' the scriptures.

One of them is an appeal to experience. That one was pretty much dealt with in the previous post, but it is the most common.

Another 'trump card' used against the scriptures is an appeal to 'professionals'. In our society of 'professionalism', we like to listen to the 'experts'. If Dr. Phil says something regarding relationships, you'd better write it down. If Simon, Paula and Randy say that you are a crappy singer, you'll never make it in music (And I'd like to point out that all three of them were complete wash outs before they got their current gig! Their most recent claim to fame was that 14 years ago, all three of them had been married to Emilio Estevez...or something...). If you have some crazy idea, it seems a lot less crazy if you can quote someone with a Phd who thinks so as well. All personal ranting aside, we don't like authority, but we also love to know what the 'experts' think (though it seems that we often want the experts to only affirm that we're 'right').

One more 'trump card' is 'logic'. I love this one. Due to the levels of education in our society, everyone has studied a little, but has learned enough to think that they actually know something (one of my favorite professors in graduate school said that education is the process of learning more and more about less and less until you learn almost everything about almost nothing. HA!). I've often had debates with philosophy students who confuse 'logic' with 'ability to comprehend'. Many people think that if they cannot grasp something, it's necessarily 'illogical'. If I had a dime for everytime I've heard "So God is all powerful and is love but still allows evil and suffering? That's SO illogical!", I'd be eating something more expensive than Doritos right now.

So, is the Bible still the ultimate authority, over and above experience and other 'authorities', and even above human understandings? Yup. Why? Well, God has thought all possible thoughts. You're reading this because in eternity past, God designed language and communication, as well as consciousness and thought, and then designed the whole works to operate perfectly so that people could ultimately read my blog. That's his creation; his design. We're examining it and learning how things work (though there's still SO much to learn). God, on the other hand, has the blueprints and understands everything comprehensively. So, when God says something he knows precisely and completely what he's talking about more than anyone, and more than all people combined.

Plus, God has an objective position from which to view reality, so he seems everything in it's cosmic context. God knows how the butterfly in ancient Tibet actually effects the child on the playground in modern Los Angeles. All of creation, including all of time, lies clearly before God, who perfectly and comprehensively perceives and understands it all. All of time was laid clear as part of God's plan that he designed in eternity past. Every event that ever happened and ever will happen has ultimately been ordained by God, and was planned long before the first day of creation. Not only that, but God sees all of time more accurately than I see the 2 dimensional surface of the monitor that I'm typing on right now. He seems every corner, ever tiny bit of it. There's nothing in all creation, past, present or future that escapes his every present, when God says something, he sees it more clearly than anyone else ever could, or even all people combined.

So, does Sola Scriptura still apply today, the same as it did in Luther's day? Well, God hasn't changed. He's still smarter and more well informed than you or I. The Bible hasn't changed, and the God who wrote it hasn't changed. The world has changed, but not so much in form as in practice. What I mean is that people still lust in their hearts; they just have different ways of feeding that lust in this era. Murdering is still sin, though now days it's more common to get shot than killed by an individual wielding a sword. Sin is still sin, and mankind is still in the same predicament as he was in Jesus' day. The dance has changed, but the song is still the same.

How does this apply to cessationism? Simple. If the Bible says "X is true" and your experience, or your churches doctrinal statement, or your pastor says otherwise, the Bible is still the ultimate authority. Your interpretation of your experience is called into question, and possibly your interpretation of the Bible, but the Bible isn't ever, EVER trumped by an experience, regardless of the experience (not to pick on the appeals to experience, but they're by far the most common 'trumps' used against scripture). Nuff said for now, though I have one more post on this issue. In my next post, I'll give a steamroller of a biblical example of this. Until Next Time,

The Armchair Theologian


Anonymous rk said...

So God is all powerful and is love but still allows evil and suffering? That's SO uncomprehending!

Maybe thats only worth a nickle!

7:10 PM


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