Monday, March 12, 2012

The Insufficiency of the Word

I have a friend, a Calvinist cessationist, who, in the name of the Sufficiency of Scripture, promotes a practice of Christianity that doesn't really resemble what is described in those pages at all. The Word to him is like a book of charts, which he, by careful use of a trained intellect and skill, can use to navigate the course of his life into the will of God. Never does he have a conviction, an inspiration, never a check, a nudge, and certainly never a revelation--he has his mind and a map.

In light of his deterministic outlook, I suppose it doesn't make sense to worry about this, but I cannot see how the concept of regeneration he holds Calvinistically can be consistent with such a view. Regeneration, according to his view, is necessary, foundational and a work of the Holy Spirit. One would think that something established on the basis of the Holy Spirit communicating something into the human soul would be open to other things being communicated as well, building, as it were, upon the foundation of experience the Holy Spirit laid.

But no, apparently something started by the Spirit can be carried on by human effort, at least that is what it appears like to me. Let God stay in the heavens, we have the Scriptures (and they are sufficient)! But those same scriptures describe the Holy Spirit interactively making what is described in them possible for us to experience. It seems to me that is their point; look, for instance, at the following passages: Matthew 13:9-171 Corinthians 2John 15:26-16:15, Galatians 5:13-251 Corinthians 12:13-31.

The Word truly is our all-sufficient rule for faith and practice. But, whereas the Word is sufficient to describe the kind of things Christians can and should do and believe, the Word can never substitute for the experience of the things it describes. It's not enough to talk about spiritual matters, we need to experience the life of the Spirit. In saying that, I am not suggesting that the Word is not important, I merely am saying that we need to understand its importance rightly.

It is not the hearers of the Word that are blessed, but its doers! That is those who experience what it talks about. The Word is there to tell us what we will and can experience in Christ if we believe. With the scriptures encouragement, may we, with freedom and boldness, endeavor to do so in the Spirit.


  1. The first para is the hub of the issue: an over-confidence in our intellectual capacity to understand and categorise the things of God.

    There's nothing wrong with applying our minds, but the Spirit adds to what we can think and do.

    BTW, you were getting no responses (at least from me) to your excellent posts, because the comment box was acting like a bouncer at a Madonna party. "No, you can't come in..."

  2. Anthea,
    It's nice to hear from you. I did not realize there was an issue with the combox. I'll check it out immediately. I love comments (so long as they're apropos).

    I think you have a good understanding of how this works. God has said, "let us reason together." He has given us the mind of Christ, so God does want us to use our intellect. He doesn't want our intellect to be superior in our reckonings to his Word and Spirit, but to work informed by and in conjunction with them.


Any comment in ill taste or not germane to the post may be deleted without warning. I am under no obligation to give anyone an opportunity to call me names or impugn my motives or integrity. If you can't play nice, go somewhere else and play.