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. Below is part three. Parts 4-6 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
Click here to read PART 2 of Scripture as Authoritative Divine Revelation Contrasting with Human Subjectivity
The Role of the Holy Spirit in Written Revelation
Let us spend some time thinking about the role of the Holy Spirit and written revelation (the Bible). This is important for a number of reasons, one of the most vital of which is the often mistaken ministry of the Holy Spirit in subjectivity revelation claims. Often the life and ministry of the Holy Spirit are twisted wherever human subjectivity is elevated. This results in people assuming authority by virtue of the Holy Spirit’s ministry.
We must realize that there is no disagreement between the Bible and the Holy Spirit’s ministry. Indeed, the Holy Spirit inspired the Scripture, and the Holy Spirit gives illumination to God’s saved people for a right application of the Scripture. Those who seek to divide these two, seek to divide an indissoluble union. The teaching about the Holy Spirit in the New Testament (including the teaching about the coming and ministry of the Holy Spirit by Jesus in the Gospel of John) does not lead one away from a biblical focus of Christian truth; actually, it does the opposite. The Bible is a book from God and through the Holy Spirit engages our hearts and lives for the believer’s continued repentance, growth in grace, and comfort in the promise of God in the gospel. How is the Holy Spirit connected to the Word of God, the Bible?
- Transmission, Inspiration, and Superintendency – Throughout revelatory history the Holy Spirit transmitted the Word of God to the human writers; He inspired them to write, and He watched over them to superintend the communication process, so that the product of the writing of Scripture was perfect, inerrant, and authoritative.
- Regeneration and Illumination Interacting with the Human Soul – Many people confuse illumination with revelation. Christians, by God’s magnificent mercy and kindness, will sometimes find discernable guidance and help from God’s providential oversight as the believer studies and prays over the Scripture. Many times, Christians cannot detect or “see” how God is providentially working in their lives, but He is! But there is often a tie between the believer obeying the revealed will of God in Scripture with God’s providential guidance in life. If we are wise, we will limit our concern with God’s revealed will in the Bible, leaving the guidance in life to the Lord, as we prayerfully seek his leadership (Deuteronomy 29:29, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.”)
With respect to the interpretation of the Scripture, the applicable and proper engagement by the Christian with the Scripture, and with a holy desire to obey the voice of Jesus contained in the Scripture (through mental and spiritual understanding of the meaning and power of the biblical text), the Holy Spirit gives to the Christian in Bible study and meditation of the truth a glorious illumination (understanding with a strong desire to believe truth and obey it) whereby the Christian comes to understand and love the biblical truth in the text, seeking to honor the Lord by application of the truth into life.
- The Scripture and Christian Discipleship – The use and application of the Scripture and its teaching in the life of the Christian is fundamental and vital for the living of the Christian life. The Scripture (not human subjective thinking and didactic teaching) serves the individual Christian and the church in the following ways.
- Authoritative Teaching – Authoritative moral and doctrinal teaching comes only from the Bible through proper biblical hermeneutics (proper interpretation of the Bible). No other source of moral and doctrinal teaching must be considered from God. No human mind or idea may be considered authoritative unless it comes directly from the clear and consistent teaching of the Bible.
- Binding the Conscience – For obedience to God, the human conscience (the moral regulator given by God to humans in the image of God) will be bound by conviction formed through belief that comes from understanding what God says and meant in the Bible. The human conscience does not stand alone; it must be bound by the teaching of the Scripture, which is the authoritative revelation of God for humans. No other moral or doctrinal teaching must be considered authoritative, except as it conforms to the clear and consistent teaching of the Scripture.
- Obedience – The Christian must consider the teaching of the Scripture the framework that guides him in obedience in life. All human teaching is to be considered helpful only as it conforms to the teaching of the Scripture. The purpose of preaching and teaching the Bible is to be a help to Christians, so that they understand the meaning of Scripture for obedience to God.
- Growth and Development – The Christian will grow in obedience and sanctification as described by the Scripture as the Christian grows in Christ and matures in the faith. The Scripture will be the instrument by which the Holy Spirit operates to give holy power through grace to mortify sin and develop godliness in character.
- Proclamation and Ministry – The preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ comes from preaching the text of Scripture that presents the gospel and its doctrines. The preaching of the text of Scripture purifies, strengthens, and edifies the souls of Christians in their experience of salvation sanctification. Preachers and teachers must not preach and teach anything that is outside the bounds of the teaching of the Scripture (opinions may be offered, but authoritative pronouncements must be Scriptural). All human teaching is helpful to the degree that it elucidates and explains the meaning of the text of Scripture in the lives of others.
The Danger of Subjectivity as an Authoritative Basis
The use of the term “subjectivity” at this point refers to human understanding, human experience, and human thinking as sources and basis on which obligatory moral and theological ideas are based.
- Human Subjectivity as the Source – There is a major difference between human subjectivity as the source of God’s teaching in contrast with human writers being called and used by God to convey His eternal truth through them in the writing of Scripture. In the first case, human subjectivity becomes the final appeal to truth, while in the second case human experience is under the direct control of God to write God’s truth, and the Scripture written becomes the source of teaching. This makes God the source of teaching, not humans. When we reckon Scripture as authoritative, we give glory to God.
- Human Subjectivity as the Authority – There is also a major difference between thinking of human viewpoints and thoughts as authoritative compared to human Scripture writers giving and explaining what God wanted to say through divine inspiration presenting God’s revelation to people, which in turn serves as the written authority for moral and doctrinal belief and practice.
- Human Subjectivity as Application – It is important to apply the correct understanding of the Scripture; Bible study is incomplete without correct application of the biblical truth to life. But a problem comes when application of the Scripture is then turned into obligatory and authoritative belief preached to others. Human application (through human subjectivity) is not the foundation of belief and the framework by which we understand Christian orthodoxy. This belongs to Scriptural teaching.
The Great Risk of Mixing Human Subjective Authority and the Authority of Scripture
So far we have considered the dangers of human subjectivity as the means by which authoritative teaching is given. In this particular section, I want to address the specific and extreme danger presented to the church when Christian and church leadership use the HUMAN SUBJECTIVITY model for preaching and teaching, instead of the Bible.
- Signs and Symptoms of Inappropriate Subjective Christian Preaching and Teaching
What are some of the signs that a preacher or teacher is mixing biblical authority with human subjective authority? Here are some indicators that this is happening:
- Using self as the source and emphasizing self, instead of the Bible
- Avoiding biblical texts and teachings, and adding to the Scripture
- Misusing, twisting, and manipulating the Scripture for validation of personal teaching
The essential problem indicated in this list is very clear: anytime a human being (preacher or teacher) presents himself as the authority and the embodiment of truth discernment and religious power, or when a human teacher changes the teaching of the text to fit a preconceived bias and desire, then this removes the emphasis on the Scripture and the authority of God found in the Scripture. An attack on the Bible is an attack on God! This is the age-old problem of the idolatry of self (elevation of self), which attempts to de-throne God from His sovereign and exalted position.
- The Sad Harvest of Human Subjectivity in Christian Preaching and Teaching
It is difficult to overstate the tragedy that occurs when humans substitute their thinking as authoritative, instead of the Bible. Here are some of the sad consequences that occur when humans displace the Scripture:
- 1. The Bible is neglected, eventually contradicted, and ultimately supplanted.
- 2. People are manipulated and abused by preachers and teachers.
- 3. People look to human leaders, instead of God, putting their faith in humans instead of God.
- 4. The people frame their hope and expectation on sinking sand (false teaching).
- 5. Leadership training perpetuates human thinking, instead of God’s Word.
- 6. Christ is supplanted as the Lord of His church, and Satan attempts to destroy God’s kingdom.
- 7. Apostasy occurs.
Human history is littered with the sad theological and moral collateral damage that has been caused in human lives when God’s authority in Scripture is cast aside for human subject authority. Untold tragedies occur societally, religiously, theologically, and socially when this happens.
Next time, we will take a look at some positive results that happen when Christians and the church properly and rightly view the Bible as God’s Word.
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.