A couple months ago, we approached our pastor with a question:
We are getting some questions on prophecy and dreams, and we are curious if you could help us answer them appropriately as we disciple some who have left false teaching?
Our stance is that trusting that we are hearing from God in these ways in fact undermines the sufficiency of scripture, and that this is not a matter of continuationism vs. cessationism. We usually hear “I know, I know…the Bible is the final authority…but…”
We are being accused of swinging to the other end of the spectrum after leaving false teaching and that we are now denying the supernatural and miraculous, which is far from true! Thank you so much for your help!
Unbeknownst to us (and our pastor!), this simple request resulted in a 13 page position paper! We are so incredibly grateful for the time our pastor, Dr. John Greever, put into writing these words that we will be sharing in a seven-part series on our blog. This is part two. Parts 3-6 will follow. We pray this helps your understanding of why the Bible is enough and should be central and most important in our Christian experience.
Scripture as Authoritative Divine Revelation Contrasting with Human Subjectivity: A Position Paper on the Nature and Significance of the Bible in Christian Experience with Particular Reference to Human Subjectivity Applied in Religious Authority
By Dr. John E. Greever
Click here to read the Introduction of Scripture as Authoritative Divine Revelation Contrasting with Human Subjectivity
The Natural Limitation of Human Subjectivity and the Blessing of Divine Revelation
I am not intending in this paper to argue that human experience and subjectivity have no part to play in divine activity in and among God’s people through revelatory history. What I am attempting to say is that human subjectivity is not the basis on which God rests his authoritative truth for understanding and transmission to others. To summarize what I have thus far said is this: God did speak and communicate in times past (Old Testament) in visualization (and in Creation, God still speaks concerning his awesome divine transcendence, as indicating in Romans 1) or in some auditory experience; however, the means by which God speaks concerning salvation and the kingdom, after the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the closing of the apostolic period (when John, the final apostle, died), is through the written Bible.
There is natural limitation to human subjectivity that restricts it as a medium for authoritative divine communication. As indicated before, there can be no validation of truth when human subjectivity is the basis for what God says and expects in and among His people. Most often, the bottom line with human subjectivity ends with, “God told me, and you will just have to believe this is true.” God never wants his people to believe or to live in keeping with a humanly devised and subjective statement like that. Always (and I mean always!) God calls his people to read, understand, and obey God’s written Word.
I am not intending to disregard human emotion and the blessing of (and the gracious accommodation of) God’s merciful and providential activity in the lives of his people. God gave humans emotion, and in regeneration he actuates human affection for holiness and true eternal joy in Christ. There is much mercy and divine favor to be known in this regard, and there is much mystery to how God through his Spirit ministers to and undergirds his people during times of distress and hardship. Surely there is an emotional and subjective quality to this, for which we thank God. The only point I make in this paper is that human subjectivity is never God’s way of framing authoritative pronouncements regarding the Christian life and the church.
The Permanent and Unchangeable Nature of Written Revelation and Bible Translation
Although Christians believe in Bible translations, and a good translation philosophy of the Bible requires appropriate and helpful words and expressions conveying the original text and meaning of the text, the revelation of God as Scripture is permanent and unchangeable. The purpose of Bible translation is to make known in the receptive language what God said in the original autographs (manuscripts) of revelation (for more study on the biblical manuscripts and the self-validation of God’s Scripture, see Michael Kruger’s book entitled, “Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books”). Translation must never be seen as making the Bible understandable and sensible to modern tastes and fashion (although good translations will utilize modern vocabulary to convey the original intend of the biblical text); this is the task of biblical exposition and interpretation. All Christian preaching, teaching, and ministry seeks to make known the word of God using Bible translations in the primary language of the hearers and with exposition and interpretation that builds bridges of understanding to the hearers. At no point of time in Christian ministry is a preacher or teacher to add to the biblical text. His task is to explain and apply the teaching of the Scripture to the hearers. It is the teaching of the biblical text that bears the full weight of doctrinal and moral authority!
The Echo of God’s Attributes in Written Revelation
One of the most basic elements of written revelation is God’s self-revelation in the Scripture. This means that in Scripture God reveals Himself. What does God reveal about Himself in Scripture? He reveals his nature and attributes. We are able to see the sovereignty, the goodness, and the transcendence of God in and through the Bible and its teaching. The Bible reveals God! Law, historical narrative, poetry, wisdom literature, prophecy, Gospel accounts, epistles, and apocalyptic writing all speak of God; God reveals his awesome, sovereign, and good nature to our minds. We learn about God through the Scriptures. Thus, we see what is right and what is good measured by God’s nature revealed in Scripture.
This is important to note in a paper like this, because this helps us to understand the ultimate purpose of divine revelation in human history. God reveals himself in divine revelation for the redemption of the world. He does this by his record of divine intervention in human history developing and pursuing redemption culminating in Christ. As the biblical record details God’s message and actions in human history, revelation bears along divine redemptive promise and fulfillment in Christ. This is best explained and taught through written revelation. This shows God’s love, grace, and righteousness.
We hope that you will follow along as we continue through this series on our blog as Dr. Greever helps us understand why the sufficiency of scripture is so important in the life of the believer.
About the author:
Dr. John E. Greever
Dr. Greever has pastored for over four decades in Texas, Oklahoma, Indiana, and Missouri. During that time he has also taught ministry, Bible, theology and religious classes for Boyce Bible School, the Ministry Training Institute of Oklahoma Baptist University, Trinity Theological Seminary, and the Missouri Baptist University. He has lectured and ministered in Great Britain and has trained students in a variety of places around the world. Dr. Greever holds the Doctor of Theology degree from Trinity Theological Seminary, the Master of Divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and the Bachelor of Arts degree from Howard Payne University. Dr. Greever preaches expository sermons from the Bible, and he seeks to develop true Christian disciples and leaders for a new generation in and through the church and Christian teaching. His passion and vision for the church are faithfulness to the gospel of Jesus Christ in our generation. He seeks to ground the church in its worship, life, and ministry in a biblically based, Christ-exalting, and gospel-centered way.