On April 1st, I posted a statement on Facebook (what a wild and wooly place!) in opposition to some postings by Christopher Kirk in his blog, notesfromthebridge.
In his blog, Chris creates a dichotomy between scripture and “living by the Spirit” – as though what the Holy Spirit says in the Bible can’t be trusted, or lacks validity, absent some additional deeper, personal revelation.
In his blogs, he also claims the right to personal revelation and inspiration which contradicts and is more authoritative than the Bible.
Along those lines, his blogs suggest that we cut out significant parts of the Bible because he disagrees with their content (including most of Paul’s epistles); say that the Bible is not the Word of God; and repeatedly attack the plenary authority of scripture (“plenary” means we must submit our own contrary opinions to the authority of scripture).
As Christopher Kirk confirms below in his own words, “the bible is NOT the Word of God” (it’s interesting that those who hold this position never seem to esteem the Bible enough to capitalize it) and “God can tell you to go directly against scripture“.
Chris by all accounts is a very nice, very caring person. Nonetheless, he is among several public voices in the organic and simple church community who vocally proclaim that “the Bible is NOT the Word of God”, and that our personal perceptions, inspiration and revelations (regardless of how they characterize them) trump scripture.
In this, he joins many who have swallowed hook, line and sinker the ideology of “existential theologian” Karl Barth.
To them, it comes down to this: The Bible is not the Word of God, because the only authentic Word of God is their own private revelation of Jesus. They therefore refuse to submit all opinions, doctrines, beliefs and practices to the authority of scripture, unless it conforms to their private (and unavoidably self-affirming) “revelation”. Furthermore, if their own “revelation” happens to line up with the Bible, fine. If not, then the Bible has to go.
Various existential Barthian voices in the blogosphere are now also openly promoting such views, including Milt Rodriquez and his protegé, Jamal Jivanjee (see Beyond Scripture?), along with guys like Marc Winter. To the extent they want to lead God’s people off their existential cliff, I will remain resolute in raising a public warning.
In essence, those who hold their views claim that we can’t trust what the Holy Spirit has revealed in scripture, but must put our trust in their own personal, private and entirely subjective sense of His “leading” and “revelation”. This unavoidably makes the Holy Spirit out to be a liar, because they insist that He may tell us something in private that contradicts what He has said in public through His external, written Word of scripture.
I believe that the Holy Spirit speaks to us today as part of our vibrant walk with the Lord, but I also believe that all opinions contrary to His written Word of scripture must be critiqued by – and brought into submission to – scripture. See 2 Tim. 3:16-17.
As I have said before, the existential views of men like Kirk, Rodriquez, Jivanjee and Winter have derailed many believers and churches. Generally, those who embrace their humanistic ideologies exhibit a lack of growth and maturity, vibrant spiritual health, and authentic spiritual power. Churches that have fallen prey to their existentialism also tend to be anemic, very self-focused, and insular.
I, for one, and the fellowships I relate to, refuse to go there.
My original Facebook post and the ensuing comments and debate, I think, illustrate why more and more are bypassing the Barthian ideology of the “old guard” within the organic and simple church movement, and also the newer, closely aligned ideologies of the “emergent” and “hyper-grace” movements.
All of those deceptive ideologies share a common root: An exalted view of man.
They think, for example, that we deserve whatever conforms to our own sensibilities about what is ultimately true, real and right, or that we have the autonomy to decide what is ultimately true, real and right (while then calling it the “inspiration” of the Holy Spirit).
I, for one, stand firm with all who openly reject and challenge their dead-end humanism, which they falsely masquerade as new “revelation” from the Holy Spirit.
In contrast to them, many are once again beginning to affirm a more vibrant embrace of the Living Word, while also submitting to His written Word.
Anyway, some will be offended, and others say amen, at this debate. But the debate is needed – direct, candid and out in the open.
Unfortunately, though, Chris has informed me he no longer will allow this debate on his blog and is blocking opposing comments that challenge his views, even though he continues to promote and justify those views there. He has that right – after all, it is his blog.
But I likewise have the right to shift the debate here.
Reprinted below is the kickoff to that debate, which began with my Facebook post on April Fool’s Day in opposition to some of Kirk’s views (that post, and all comments, were public, so there’s no violation of privacy in re-publishing it here).
I’ve kept the main comments, but deleted some which are redundant or off topic, as well as some that crossed the line of civil debate and sunk into vitriolic personal attacks against anyone who affirms the authority of scripture. I have NOT deleted any comment, however, simply because it disagrees with me.
Unless the commenter is a public person (they are a blogger, published author, administer a discussion board, etc.), I am only using their first name to identify them.
My Initial Facebook Post
Unfortunately, this is not an April Fool’s joke.
Here’s a blog by Christopher Kirk, which amply illustrates the spiritual rebellion that’s rampant today. It seeks to re-define God – and ultimate truth, reality and morality – based solely on his own perceptions.
It is rooted in arrogance, by presuming a superior ability to obtain higher revelation – and then insisting it is normative for all – over God-breathed scripture itself.
If anyone doubts my growing concern over those who seek to mislead God’s people by the gross misuse of scripture to discredit scripture, and by severing the Living Word from His written Word, this is Exhibit A.
Thus, my comment posted on the blog:
“So let me get this straight. We are to be led by the Spirit. But that can’t include the Spirit leading us to truth via the Bible? Because the Bible is at odds with the Spirit or something, right?
There are so many existential presuppositions packed into your blog that it’s hard to know where to begin.
Ensuing Comments and Debate
Sorry, I don’t see the big deal, he doesn’t disparage the Bible and talks about the importance of it. It’s a valid point that if we don’t have the Spirit breathing life into the pages it will be lifeless. The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 2 Corinthians 3:6. Here’s a quote from his blog: “Please don’t misunderstand me? In the Spirit the bible is the greatest book ever. Without the Spirit it is just another dead letter book”.
I’ve seen this before when talking to people. They also want to say that you can’t put God in a box or a book as though there is so much more out there. Obviously God is bigger than our puny minds can comprehend, but He has revealed to us all that we need to know through the Bible and not individual experiences.
Jeanne, that latest blog part of a series of blogs which deny that the Bible is the Word of God, denies its plenary authority over his personal subjective perceptions of Christ, and advocates cutting out chunks of the Bible that do not conform to his own sensibilities.
Starla, I believe God can reveal things to us personally and would never limit God to the Bible. Nor, however, would I elevate what I think I perceive God is personally and subjectively saying to me over what He has authoritatively said in scripture. My perceptions are ALWAYS subject to scripture. Those who insist on autonomy, and deny the plenary authority of scripture over their own perceptions, are promoting existentialism.
If you mean individual experiences like Joseph Smith (LDS) had that was total error, I agree. But I do think he shows us things that are personal, and individual, He is different with me than he is with you. to some their relationship is more Father/child, others Friend, others, Lord. Some all of these and changes overtime.
Jeanne, it is not either/or. There is no dichotomy between a relationship with the Living Word and submitting to His written Word. The only ones who try to create that schism are those who want to submit to their own sensibilities, and then foist them on others, divorced from the external truths and norms of scripture.
Where are we told to submit to the word or to have a relationship with the word in the New Testament?
What I meant, Jim, was that God would no reveal to me something different than He’d reveal to you in accordance with salvation or any type of doctrine.
They are the same, Jeanne. God is the Word.
Unfortunately, scripture has revealed many different things to many different people, that’s why we have 40,000 denominations…. Starla, no disrespect but I do not believe that God is the word, God is not the Bible. He has spoken thru it and inspired it, but not the same as the I AM.
Jeanne, as we’d say in the law, that’s a straw man argument…
I was responding to Starla saying that God would not reveal something different to her and another concerning doctrine. And surely he has or we think he has, hence the numerous opinions over the last 2000 years.
Jeanne, that’s why we have a source to bounce our experiences off of. A ruler or yardstick so to speak. Because if I have an experience and it doesn’t line up with Scripture than it wasn’t truly from God. He will not contradict Himself.
Yes, Jeanne, but at least we have an external reference point to discuss and interpret and use as a standard – which is a much better place to be than simply having to accept someone’s claim that “the Spirit told me” as our final authority.
Jim Wright, you know I came out of the Charismagic branch and I saw tremendous abuses of “the spirit told me”, you can’t argue with that once the “Spirit” card was played. It was usually played when someone was trying to justify something they did or wanted to do. Then again, there are situations that we simply do have to trust the leading of the HS, because there are lots of situations not covered. Like decision making between 2 jobs or moving somewhere.
Jeanne, I agree with those situations you mentioned as The Lord just speaking to you alone. My point was that if it affected our salvation in any way then God will make that known to all of us through His Word.
I too came from a cult church. We had a prophet like a Joseph Smith, so I certainly understand now the importance of the Bible and the knowledge it holds for us.
As a former Pharisee I can fully attest to the bible being my guide into truth. I was judgmental, correct, and fully able to ‘defend’ my position. I held to my understanding at all costs. I was sure of my position, yet all the while standing in sand.
In and through the grace of Jesus Christ I was allowed to see my folly, and to see just as Paul stated the Spirit gives Life.
In this post, if you think that Mr Kirk is throwing out the scriptures with his post you are sadly in error.
‘Wake up sleeper’
Again, Jim, my same question to you. The Spirit gives life – so does that mean the Spirit no longer gives life through the very God-breathed words of scriptures? You make a huge presumption in how you limit that verse, which is not supported by the verse itself, its context or the totality of scripture. It is very typical of how those who want to dismiss the authority of scripture over their own autonomy. They do so by misusing scripture by reading back into it their own existential presuppositions.
Jim, you are definitely misreading me and seeing me through a lens that is not pure. The place the Spirit most leads me to is the bible. I just refuse to elevate the bible to a place equal to or greater than God Himself. That would be idolatry and I refuse to go there.
Lets all remember that the ekklesia thrived, stood in the face of tyranny, faced prison, death threats, and death, all with and through the grace of Jesus Christ living within them, and devoid of the bible. Abraham, walked with God, Moses and the Prophets, David and many others (the 7000 that God referred to with Elijah) and they all had One common ingredient…the Spirit of God.
To place this a human reasoning, as it being some wacko left field cult, and dismissing Gods presence, His ability to communicate, to reveal, to educate, or express Himself, borders on…fasten your seat belts folks…
Wrong, Jim. The NT ekklesia had the apostolic message from the very beginning – including their teachings from the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 and ongoing thereafter. They also had the OT. The apostolic message that they received from Christ was there from the very beginning of the church, and it eventually became the written NT. Even those who could not read were able to listen to others who read, for example, Paul’s letters to them (as Paul instructed), or hear those who verbally spread the apostle’s teachings. Through all that, the Spirit indeed led the church into truth. It was NEVER just some “spirit” perceptions autonomous from the external Word of God.
Chris, as to your comment, let’s be clear. You assert a right to elevate your own personal PERCEPTION of God over God’s own external revelation of scripture. There is no other way to cut it, all nice sounding rhetoric aside.
Ok Jim, if we were ever able to set down to a cup of joe and in the spirit of grace, I feel that this could be reconciled, utterly, and completely, and all done in love. Trust me brother I’ve been on both sides, taught, and spoke from both sides, lived both sides, and it all falls in Christ, and Christ alone.
Sorry, Jim, it is not reconcilable. Either “all scripture” are words breathed by God himself, and thus are of plenary authority over all other claims of higher revelation, or they are not. See 2 Tim. 3:16-17. A house divided will not stand, and the fact is that existentialism – which elevates personal revelation and inspiration as higher truth and more authoritative than scripture – has divided the Living Word from His written Word. The result has been disastrous for the Body of Christ.
Jim, I can have fellowship with you, and would enjoy meeting you. But that doesn’t minimize the stark reality that you and Chris place your own perceptions and sensibilities – when push comes to shove – above the authority of scripture. I can even like you personally, while properly warning others of the fractured foundation that you and others seek to lay, which has caused the ruin of many. I no more want scripture to the exclusion of a vibrant relationship with Jesus, then I want a self-referential relationship with Jesus to the exclusion of His chosen revelation of scripture.
Jim Wright careful what you judge and who you judge, but thanks a ton for increasing my blog traffic today.
This guy is dangerous…I think Paul warns us about these types. Then again, those warnings may not be warnings at all…depending on how the Spirit guides…
The bible is NOT the Word of God…. Jesus is!
I know a little about the written word, often use Google to find what I’m looking for.
The Living Word knows me, and I know Him, the Holy Spirit reveals Him in ways that never cease to amaze me.
The Bible is good, but in no way can it breathe Life into you or me.
The Living Word is Life, and imparts life, nothing can compare…nothing.
The issue is if I say the Holy Spirit told me this and you say well the Holy Spirit told me that and they are complete opposites, who’s right? How do we determine what is correct?
Jim Wright I cannot see at all how your concerns are related to this blog. All the blog communicates to me, is that we need the spirit and not just the letter.
I read it, and see no reason to concern. He [is] telling that we need the Spirit to interpret the bible well. Interpreting (applying) the bible without the Spirit, so with a carnal mind, will lead to nothing. Just look to the religious folks in Jesus days, they knew the Scripture by heart and really tried to follow it, but it seemed to produce the opposite… Kirk is not saying that we have to live without the Scripture. “… This is why I will not back down or recant…. that we should all be Spirit and NOT bible led. Because the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life! Using the bible while you are walking in the Spirit is awesome and totally life giving.” I understand your concern Jim about folks who trow out the Scripture and say we only need the Spirit (and love). The Bible is clearly authoritative for our lives.. (can you maybe explain more why you have so much problems with this blog?)
Yet, Christopher Kirk makes his position clear in his comment above: “The bible is NOT the Word of God…. Jesus is!”.
That is a classic expression of the existential philosophy of Karl Barth, and if you read much of Kirk’s blog and follow his interactions within the organic or simple church community (of which I am part), he pushes that philosophy very openly. Fortunately, the tide is turning as folks see the lack of health, lack of growth, and lack of balanced wholeness in fellowships that have fallen prey to those views. But such existentialism is not isolated to Kirk – he’s just more explicit about it.
In essence, “Christian” existentialism says that the Bible has value and even, in some sense, is inspired. But it is “not the word of God”, because our existential/subjective perceptions of Christ are more authoritative and higher revelation than scripture. So they reference the Bible, but only see it having utility to the extent it is “inspired” by their own subjective and individual perceptions to then reinforce … their own subjective and individual perceptions. They are trapped in a circularity, with themselves and their own existential views at the center.
They have chosen to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, by claiming the right to judge what is right and wrong on their own terms, but under the dubious claim that the Holy Spirit tells them so (as though the Holy Spirit they know is at odds with the Holy Spirit who gave us scripture and led those who penned scripture – like the apostles – “into all truth”).
Cut through the rhetoric, and is it is unavoidable: They have the hubris (but in a charming way) to then set up their presumed superior revelation from the Holy Spirit over all other external standards, like scripture.
It comes down to this: Their personal, internal inspiration and revelation is more authoritative than what the Holy Spirit has revealed objectively and externally in scripture.
They justify this by taking out of context the truth that Jesus is the Word made flesh, to then deny the numerous references to scripture as being the written Word of God. Thus, they fracture God’s logos – by creating a dichotomy which says we can only know what is true, right and real through our subjective experience of the Person of Jesus, but reject any aspect of scripture which does not conform to their existential views.
Christopher Kirk in another blog last week in fact did that – arguing that significant portions of scripture needed to be discarded based on very dubious and historically flawed reasoning.
Thus, the Barthians among us have a hierarchy that puts their personal perception of Christ and ultimate reality, truth and morality over God’s written word of scripture. So on the one hand they appear to affirm scripture, but ONLY in as much as it continues to “inspire” and conform to their own, self-referential perceptions. They thus rebel against God, by misusing the language of Biblical hermeneutics (inspired, authority, etc.) to reinterpret those concepts in order to deny the authority of God’s Word – but because they have used good words in bad ways, they appear to be embracing scripture when in fact they are relegating it to a position of inferiority to their own existential sensibilities.
All I know is God will never fit in a book or language they can’t contain him. The bible is the word of God that points to the word that became FLESH and now dwells in flesh.
When he refuses to put the Bible even equal with the Spirit, I start to get nervous. I have seen too much of people claiming leading by ‘the spirit’ (better not capitalized) which runs contrary to clear teaching in the Bible and leads to anarchy.
It’s as though they make the Holy Spirit a liar – we can trust what we think He tells us privately, but not what He’s said publicly in scripture. Thus, they and their perceptions become autonomous and more authoritative – and ironically they use the Holy Spirit to justify disregarding the Holy Spirit and His chosen revelation of scripture.
Tash, I agree that God is bigger than the Bible. But does that justify elevating my perceptions of God – and my personal “revelations” – over what He has chosen to externally reveal in scripture (as you have advocated in other comments)?
If that’s your point, then I’m sorry to be blunt, but your apparent logic defies not only scripture, but reason itself.
The bible is a mirror which shows you who you are my friend. The whole of scripture is all about Jesus and Jesus is all about you! So what does that make the bible? A mirror that adds nothing to u! It only reveals what you already have. I love the bible I study it day and night Greek and Hebrews but I know it adds nothing to me it only reveals.
If Jesus, Who is Spirit, relied upon scripture, so should we. We are Christ followers, not men pleasers. You can not separate the Word of God, from the Word of God, it endures forever. Remember, the Word of God created all that is, we stained it, and through the Word of God, He removed the stains and is reconciling all things unto Himself. His Word is bigger than scripture, but is contained therein, as a mirror for us.
It’s also a mirror for what He reveals through the Spirit. God will do nothing contrary to His Very Nature as revealed by His Word, scripture.
Thanks Jim for giving more background info… I believe all the Word is authoritative for our lives, otherwise there is no solid ground to stand on anymore. It’s all or nothing. But how about applying it to our lives? Every person sees it through their ‘colored glasses’ and interpreted it according to what he seems is right (in all honesty). Some read it with a simple mind others go ‘deep’ and study it in Greek/Hebrew. Of course we need the Spirit to help us and some Scriptures are easier to follow than other. Doesn’t it boil down to the fact that those who have the best and most fruit are the ones that understood the Scriptures the best?
Christopher Kirk, Jesus is the Word of God, incarnate in man. He is all. Scripture is the recorded Word of God, where all of His prophesies, and promises have come true. You cannot separate the two. The Holy Spirit will reveal the truth that is scripture the way God intended it to be revealed. It is Alive.
Maybe I am misunderstanding something, but I must say that I agree with Christopher Kirk, if he is trying to say that the Bible without the Spirit is a “dead book”. Unbelievers (and I’m generalizing) might mentally know the Scriptures, but obviously it does not give them life unless it leads them to the One who has life John 5:39. Please don’t misunderstand me, I am an avid Bible student and I most definitely agree that we cannot have the Spirit and not the Bible. The Holy Spirit will always point us to the Living Word and will be our Teacher of the Written Word enabling us to keep all He has commanded. (of course leading us to repentance when we fail). Jim, did you see that he said you misunderstood him?
Revien, thanks for understanding my heart in this. I love my bible and spend very much time there.
Jim, It’s hard to see how you get to Point B just on the position in Chris’s blog. It seems like a pretty aggressive exaggeration. Not that I think that the letter without the spirit is dead or anything . . . .
Thanks Hal Miller I appreciate your understanding.
Jim Wright to me your accusation against me is like you are telling me the earth is flat when I know it is round, or that the sun revolves around the earth instead the earth revolving around the sun. What should you do next? Burn me at the stake because I am a heretic? Kirk Out!
Chris, I have never attacked you personally, nor would I. I have only addressed your issues – which you keep raising in your public posts, including your repeated insistence on your blog and in FB comments on various forums that “the Bible is NOT the word of God” and that we must elevate our personal, existential perceptions what what we FEEL the Holy Spirit is telling us over the authority of God’s external Word of scripture. Some, like Hal Miller and others may want to minimize the significance of your doctrine, but the historic “fruit” of it is very clear. It robs God’s people of the mature balance that God intended for us, and it robs His people of authentic spiritual authority.
It is always interesting to me how those who hold your position routinely engage in negative characterizations of others who hold to the authority of scripture, but get a “persecution” complex when their own views are challenged. So let’s keep it on the issue and not go into personal attacks, like asking if I want to kill you. Really, Chris, that’s beneath you, isn’t it?
Kirk, fear not, you’re not lost in space. Jesus said, “I will leave you the Holy Spirit to be your comfort and your guide.” That was Jesus, the true living Word that made that statement. Interesting that He didn’t say I leave you the Holy Bible. Good thing He didn’t because there wasn’t one to leave. The early church was vastly illiterate, and there were very few NT scriptures to teach from. Yet, the early church grew to 20,000,000 by 300 AD. No KJ, NIV, American Standard at hand. Listening to the Holy Spirit was their primary source of guidance. Kirk, continue to boldly go where few Christians dare to go – led first and foremost by the Holy Spirit.
Pal, I think we are starting to go over old ground here. That argument (that we don’t need to submit to the authority of God’s written Word of scripture because the early church had no Bible) just doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. They had the OT. They had the apostolic teachings – verbally and the letters – which became the NT. They had those who spread the apostolic teachings as they were mentored and discipled and went out.
Pal, do you really think the early churches began in a vacuum, just sitting around in an empty room waiting for the Holy Spirit – as to whom they would have known nothing other than being taught Biblical truth about Him – to come and give them total, new revelation without any Biblical foundations being laid? Seriously?
Paul and others taught and laid those foundations. Those teachings and foundations became the New Testament. They had access to the same truths and message we do. We just have better access because the Holy Spirit, who indeed leads us into all truth, caused the same truths and teachings and foundations upon which the early churches operated to be assembled into what we now call the New Testament.
After reading through all the comments I believe there are some good warnings you give, but there is a great deal of truth to Kirk’s post as well. I am not fully in line with the Barthians, at least if they are as you describe them. I think the scriptures give us invaluable knowledge on how to live the way, truth, and life. However, without the Holy Spirit they are dead words. Further, submitting to the authority of the Bible can be subjective and objective, and people are right when they say beating people over the head with it is counter productive. Those that claim to live and teach by ‘sola scriptura’, by scripture alone, do very little in their church life that is by scripture alone.Further, many men get so puffed with biblical knowledge they can’t hear what the spirit is saying. I think this is the crux of the problem. The Bible doesn’t give direct, clear answers to many of the challenges we face, and it takes listening to, and discerning what the spirit is saying to understand what direction to take at times.
Pal, I will not allow the abuse of scripture to negate the authority of scripture. I also am rightly subject to criticism and rebuke if I, or anyone else, engages in the sort of practices you describe. Like so much these days, we need to STOP forming our doctrines and practices in reaction to real wrongs, and hold firm to what God wants to say to us, both subjectively as the Holy Spirit continues to speak to us, but ALSO through His written word. And ALWAYS, submit to His external Word of scripture when our internal perceptions of Christ, and what He wants of us, runs counter to scripture.
Jim, I also believe the early church was more spirit led than it was scripture led. The early church grew like a contagious virus until Rome stepped in. They had no printing presses, and yet was twenty million strong. It is a commonly known fact that the early church was vastly illiterate. The Jesus “virus” was spreading primarily by the spirit, not through Bible studies. That doesn’t mean the scriptures were insignificant, but they were brought in after the spirit cleared the path.
The illiteracy argument also doesn’t stand scrutiny. In the Jewish tradition, scripture would be read out loud, and then discussed, and Paul obviously borrowed that practice when he asked that his letters be read to the churches. That is common even in cultures today with high illiteracy rates. Regardless, the teachings would have been rooted in truths that came from scripture and the Apostolic teachings that became scripture. The spirit led them, but not divorced from the same teachings and foundation we have available to us today. We just have the advantage of those teachings and foundational truths being formalized into the NT.
I’ll jump in by saying this:
1. It is an undeniable fact that the scriptures are divinely inspired and are in fact the written word of God to us useful for very many things and life itself.
2. It is an undeniable fact that people use the scriptures to justify just about everything they want to, reading it through their own, personal understanding, thus making the written word useless to give life.
Both of the camps here have a valid point.
1. Without the Spirit of God revealing Jesus/Truth to a person, he/she may read the written word of God (millions have) and NOT see the Truth and be lost or misguided.
2. Those who see the above happening, swing to the other far side and become the judges of the written word of God by (as JW rightly says) subverting it to their own understanding – in fact(!) doing the very thing they are trying to get away from under the umbrella of guided by the living word not written.
All of the above carries dangers if not applied precisely right, in the right “balance” of written Word must conform with living Word to be authenticated.
How do we do that?
1. We know for sure that written Word is the revealed living Word some time ago, tested and by the admission of all – we use it to be inspired and fed by.
Why is there an issue then if we use the written Word as an anchor and the road map not to stray in our own sensibilities when we think we hear the living Word talking to us? If Kirk says the Living Word leads him to the Written Word – They are one and the same! But if there is a contradiction between the two I submit, based on logic, experience of generations of the brothers/sisters before us and the very arguments laid out here, that the Written Word is paramount. And fear not all those who live by Living Word – if you have the Living Word – you have nothing to fear in the Written Word as they were both given by the same person who is same yesterday, today and forever – JESUS! You need BOTH and BOTH were provided to give us a full life.
SIGH…..I will not defend myself….the truth is evident to all who seek Him.
You say you don’t attack Chris and others you go against personally Mr. Wright, but you misrepresent what they are saying, always throwing in your new favorite nebulous but oh so scary accusation “existentialism”. Chris and the rest of those bloggers on your crusade against list have NEVER written as you have accused “we must elevate our personal, existential perceptions what what we FEEL the Holy Spirit is telling us” [over the plain meaning of the words of scripture].
I am sorry you don’t get what they are actually writing. I’m sorry many take what they are writing to the extreme you rail against. They also don’t get it. We find many who are new to organic church bring their institutionalized doctrines with them. We understand, we have all come from differing denominations who cling firmly and at times desperately to the doctrines that made them righteously split off. They drill them into their children’s minds, you must believe and memorize this doctrine to be a member of our church! It is implied in a million little ways that their denomination is the only one that holds the real Truth. They warn of the dangers of letting go of the doctrine, it is a slippery slope my little pupil… if you let go of this, our special doctrine (and we have the Bible verses to prove it!) you will be lost… you will burn in hell …
Your plenary doctrine is one of those bogey men. The modern theologians went gone WAY beyond scripture when they reasoned it out. But in such a modern world they needed to make Christianity modern too, to fit the scientific method.
You are wrong, Mr. Wright…So please sir, get off that high horse you’re on before you hurt yourself.
Do you think the Holy Spirit speaking is a mere “feeling” that can’t be distinguished from your own thoughts and emotions? Do you think your deceitful heart is more powerful? Is that what they told you?
This has been a very good thread, and I have learned a great deal from it. It has helped me gain a much more balanced view of things regarding the scriptures and the spirit. Bottom line is we need them both. They give breath to each other.
Many things strike me from this discussion so far. First let me say that I agree with Chris, more so than Jim here. Why? Because I understand that I could not understand the written word without the Living Word working with in me. Without the Spirit, the writings are just letters on a page.
I also hold that the Bible is not the Word of God, rather it is true testimony of the True Living Word, Jesus/God. The writings led me to seek out God and still lead me to seek out God. To know him, and not just know about him. I find the motivation to seek relationship with God and with his family through the writings.
One here has made the common fallacious statement that since the Bible is called the word of God it is equal to The Word (LOGOS) that John opens his gospel story with. This literalistic idea fails to understand what John was writing and the historical context of the early gnostics in which he wrote. The LOGOS (Word) was a concept of gnostic teaching, that one must seek union with to understand “truth”. John writing in that context, uses their terminology to draw their attention to the one true and living God, who is not a impersonal truth, but is a real being who can be directly related to. One can become a true “son” of God through the one true and living Word.
Jim, I agree with Tamera, why hold to a man made doctrine of plenary authority? Are you also going to say that every single word in the Bible is inspired by God to be exactly where they are? Many who hold to this doctrine of plenary authority, say this too.
And in your view, which theological camp is the one and only correct one to interpret the writings by? All of the different theological camps use the bible as their one true authority. Yet they all disagree in some ways, big or small. So all of them are not correct and true in each of their biblical statements. Truth though having many different facets, can not be both true and false. To hold that all theologies are correct because they are based on the plenary authority of the Bible would mean that truth has no one single truth, but many different ones.
I find that life in Christ is most like a journey. We start with our new faith in Christ and grow in grace and the knowledge of the truth, as the Spirit leads us, step by step. The goal is to build the relationship with God and his family, in love and in truth.
To some it seems to me that they think that life in Christ is like a school course, where the goal is to pass some examination. To them knowing the Bible in all of its authority is most important. Otherwise how could they pass their exam?
My point is that in this life in Christ, we all have some things right, and some things wrong. It has always been this way and always will be. When someone sets up a system of religion where only their own interpretation and doctrine is true, and all others are judged as false and heretical, problems come in. Such as John Calvin having individuals killed because they disagreed with his doctrine, reference here the murder of Michael Servetus by John’s Geneva government.
The Spirit leads us to love as God loves us. To treat others in the family of God as though they are dealing directly with Jesus. The Spirit leads us to forgive one another as God in Christ Jesus forgives us. Yes, we read that, but some who hold to a high view of the authority of the scriptures, do forget these truths, as did John Calvin…
The issue of hermeneutics (how one interprets the Bible) is one I have not raised, and is separate from the foundational issue of the authority of scripture. Certainly there is overlap between the two, but those who what to keep diverting this discussion into interpretation are avoiding the core issue.
To say that God is the ultimate source of truth is a true statement, but also a statement that avoids the central question of how does God speak and how do we know we are hearing Him? He speaks to us subjectively, for sure. But to then deny that He has chosen to authoritatively speak through the written word of scripture, as an external standard for what is true, real and right and as a check on claims of private inspiration and revelation, is a non sequitur (the conclusion does not follow from the premise).
Chris and others in the organic church community have repeatedly proclaimed the superiority of one’s subjective perceptions of God’s voice over scripture. I reject their views, and it is appropriate to do so publicly to the extent they publicly promote those views. If that offends, then so be it. But there is a growing segment of the organic church community that rejects the existentialism of the past, because they have seen its fruits: anemic and insular churches, introspective faith, and lack of spiritual authority.
The organic church movement, to the extent it has fallen prey to such existential ideologies, has gone no where – except in tiny isolated pockets that are barely holding on as their numbers keep shrinking. I, and others, say it is time to stop rebelling against God’s authority, by once again submitting to His external Word as we also hear His internal voice.
To elevate personal inspiration and revelation over scripture – as the ultimate check and balance on all claims as to what God has said – is to fall back into the very guru authoritarianism and man-centered control that so many of us have fled.
To deny that scripture is the word of God, and thus carries plenary authority over all private inspiration and revelation because it stands unaltered by any opinion of man, is to deny the very words of Jesus.
Jesus Himself, red letter, said that the “Word of God” is “scripture, which cannot be altered”. John 10:35. Obviously, he was referring to the Old Testament, but in the New Testament the apostolic teachings that were foundational for the early church, which were a central part of the earliest recorded gathering of the ekklesia. (Acts 2:39-40, “Those who accepted [Peter's] message were baptized … and they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching…”) Note that this was true FROM DAY ONE in the early church.
Those apostolic teachings, which became the New Testament, are repeatedly called the “Word of God”. As eventually communicated in various letters by Paul, according to Peter they are “scripture” – thus validating their status along with Peter’s and the other Christ-appointed apostle’s teachings and letters. 2 Pet. 3:16-17.
Those who want to deny the plenary authority of scripture to support their existential philosophy do so by denying that it is the Word of God. You can’t have one without the other. By trying to do so, however, they do violence to scripture’s self-attestation of itself as the written word of God.
How can it be that “all scripture is God-breathed”, yet NOT be the very word of God? 2 Tim. 3:16-17.
God’s written Word of scripture stands firm, regardless and independent of anyone’s claim of personally being inspired by the Holy Spirit to accept or reject, or even distort, the propositional truths of scripture.
There is angst over those who have misused scripture, and even accusations that I push distorted doctrines under the mantle of the plenary authority of scripture. To those who say this, I challenge you. What are my views on eschatology, predestination, penal atonement, the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, whether we can lose our salvation, or any of the host of other secondary, non-essential doctrines that people love to debate?
Tell me my views, and cite to any instance where I have tried to push such issues on the Body of Christ. If you can’t, then please stop projecting your own woundedness – over someone having abused you with scripture – onto me. Really, you have no basis for doing so, because I have NEVER done that. Rather, I have simply challenged those who speciously say that scripture is not the word of God and promote their self-claimed right to elevate existential perceptions, inspirations and revelations as carrying more weight – more authority – than the external standards given to us by God through scripture.
If that offends, then so be. Here I stand, I can do no other…
Very well stated with much to chew on and contemplate.
Every day these verses seem more real. The decline just continues to accelerate.
2 Timothy 3:1-5 (KJV)
This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
Jim, yet it is about hermeneutics here. How you interpret what the word of God is, is all based on your hermeneutic. Is it every letter that is recorded in the Bible? Which language? Only the original languages or are some translations also hold the same authority as the originals? Perhaps those who hold that the KJV is also divinely inspired are right? You may say this is a secondary argument, but is it not key to accepting what is the word of God ?
Kent, those are your issues. Resolve them as you deem fit. They are secondary to the authority of scripture as God-breathed. I start there, not with the secondaries, as you want to do.
So then we are each left with our subjective opinions, while we continue to learn of the Spirit all truth, and he leads us in the path of life.
Huh??? I start with God’s own self-attestation in and of scripture, rather than assuming the right to judge – based on human opinion and reason – what is and is not God’s Word. Certainly there is subjectivity in how we then interpret scripture, but again, that is another issue. Feel free to take it elsewhere. It is worth discussion, but not the topic here.
Sorry, Jim, but there is a subjective interpretation as to how to apply the term “word of God” to the writings of the bible. Perhaps you need to study that topic before judging everyone else by your own subjective opinion.
And Jim, no those are not my issues…..I posted what I have read others question or state, to bring up the point of subjective interpretations when applied to our opinions as to what is the word of God.
If taken to its logical conclusion, your premise negates the very efficacy of all language. Yet God chose language – in written form and also verbally – to reveal Himself and what He wanted to tell us about His creation, ourselves, and ultimate truth, reality and morality.
If you have a problem with the efficacy of language, then take it up with Him. Otherwise, your view is just the dog chasing his own tail, in endless circles, because nothing means anything since all words are subjective.
The first flag in this piece can be seen early on by Christians with the mind of Christ when you said “Many folks think and preach that we are supposed to live by the bible, but that is not really true is it?” Of course it is true! Jesus said we live by every word that proceeds from God! Psalms declares “Thy Word is a Lamp unto my feet and a light to my pathway.” Jesus further said “Heaven and earth shall pass away but the Word of God abides forever.” The Holy Spirit will always be faithful to the Word of God and the Word of God is always the ultimate judge and jury. If you do not understand the Word of God, you can pray for wisdom and the Spirit will lead into all truth but never detached from the Word of God. The Spirit cannot contradict the Word of God for “The Word” The Logos of God is in fact Jesus Himself who John said “The Word Became Flesh and lived among us. [Kirt's blog] needs major editing and probably should be ’round filed’ for The Spirit will never contradict the Word.
So then Salvatore, is it right to sell one’s daughters into slavery? There are commands in the word of God that the righteous are permitted to do so, and giving detail as to the hows and whys.
Kent, you mistakenly are referring to the Jewish Laws and Customs of the OT. We, NT Christians are not under that Law, but the saving grace of Jesus.
How is it, Kent, that you profess to understand perfectly my words written here, but think it is such a problem understanding God’s words written in scripture??? Really, your premise is fundamentally flawed and when logically applied negates the efficacy of ALL language.
Peter addressed this very point when he noted that Paul’s writings are scripture, yet some are ignorant and distort them. Nonetheless, that did not detract from the fact that they were still scripture. 2 Pet. 3:16-17 (“There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures”).
Your argument is self contradictory. You use words to discount the efficacy of words, and to claim all words are impossible to know because they are subjective.
But then the church has never accepting the writings of the bible alone as the basis of authority. It has always accepting the work of the Holy Spirit in leading the church into all truth. It has always accepted the interpretation of Godly men to understand and establish authority. It has never been sola scriptura, not even in the Reformation. It has always been the scriptures plus tradition and teaching.
Wow, Kent. I taught church history at both the grad and undergrad level. That is patently wrong. Please provide a citation. Regardless, I have no problem with tradition because I believe that the Body of Christ is an interpretive community – past and present. Yet even tradition, when it clearly contradicts scripture, must bend to scripture.
Bottom line is whatever and where ever the Holy Spirit leads you MUST be confirmed in the written word of God. It is our protection against wrong spirits. If it’s not in the written word, it is not a leading from His Spirit.
Not to fuel, but just for comment, I’ve witnessed personally pastors who claim extra spiritual-revelation whereas much of what they teach and preach cannot be confirmed by God’s written word, which is our supreme authority. I have seen these people lead churches down a path hard to come back from.
… Jesus did say that his sheep would know his “voice”, not writings…a voice implies a listening, not reading…
Seems to me that words which are God breathed and then written down also represent the voice of God… But then again, I might be subjectively deluded!
I see Kent, you think the scripture is subject to your own private interpretation and refuse to accept it at face value. Well then one convinced against his will is of the same opinion still, so enjoy your private interpretation… Indeed the intent should be to build each other up in the Lord but Christ must have the glory and the Word of God must have the preeminence not our personal opinions.
Hey Ray, but God can tell you to go directly against scripture too, like when He told Peter to violate the Law when He said kill and eat food previously said to be unclean. For the record I have NEVER said that any of my thoughts, writings or other musing are on par or greater than scripture and I never will.
This has been an extremely enlightening discussion! I have never had one with a professing group of Christians where some of them have ideas that militate against the Word of God which God has put above all else! The Biblical Canon of 66 books was affirmed by The Council of Hippo (A.D. 393) and the Council of Carthage (A.D. 397.) Since this discussion from its inset seems to pit being led by the Spirit with the Canon agreed upon by the church fathers before AD 400, I submit that what the Holy Spirit guided John to write in Revelation 22:18 was based on His foreknowledge that The Revelation would not just be the final inspired work intended to comprise The Word of God but that it also applied to the entire Book from Genesis to Revelation! Also, if the Work of Salvation was finished at Calvary as one of our Lords words from the cross declared, then the future ‘revelations’ of the likes of Joseph Smith, Mary Baker Eddy, and Charles Taze Russell are not gospel but heresy! To believe that we invent truths contrary to scripture because we are led by the spirit, is exactly the satanic lie behind doctrines of devils. Sola Scriptura and Solo Christo!
I hear your argument Jim and your concern for error if we do not accept the authority of scripture and it is our plumb-line. But even those that have the strident view of the authority of scripture still come up with some very erroneous doctrine, all the while claiming that their doctrine is straight from God’s Word and is their plumb-line. Clearly holding the view that the scripture is the authority and it’s God’s Word is no way a guarantee that we will arrive at sound doctrine.
Yes, but Jeanne, at least we have the external standard of scripture to correct those who abuse scripture. However, if personal inspiration and revelation is higher than scripture (or the meaning of scripture depends on it and thus is subservient to it), then what common standard do we have to appeal to? Chris or whomever can say “God told me”, and in his reality, that’s the end of the discussion. That sets up true tyranny, because there is now no higher external standard.
Although God often speaks to us personally (at least, I hope so!), He also gave us His external word as the plumb line (as you say) to discern and judge our – and other’s (when necessary) – subjective perceptions.
And Chris, that is great that you claim to have never exercised your self-proclaim right to contradict scripture. But saying you have that right – that’s the problem, especially when you then teach it to others.
To get from the words of Jesus that we will be led by the Spirit to all truth, one must read a single passage.
To get to the Bible being the final, infallible authority, you must construct man-made towers of theology. Because the Bible does not make such a simple statement about itself, one must start with, “It says God breathed (I think, that phrase wasn’t used before, but we’ll go with it); therefore that must mean it’s straight from God (even though he could have delivered it directly); therefore it must be infallible and inerrant; therefore it must reign above all other ways of hearing from God.”
Then, you must complicate the simplicity of Jesus’ Spirit statement by saying, “Oh no no, Don’t you see from our oh-so-simple argument above, that Jesus just meant that the Spirit would only lead his hearers to writing the Bible and THAT would lead you to all truth.”
The Bible was written by men being led by the Spirit into truth. It never once calls itself the necessary filter for hearing the Spirit. You need not accept such theological gymnastics that serve only to complicate the gospel.
And Jim, if you had prioritized the flesh and blood person of Chris over and above putting a theology in its place, you would know a man that values the bible more than you do, because he esteems it in its proper place. You would also know a man whose life has been a miracle story. A miracle that only an active God in his life could explain.
It is sad that those who put themselves forward as leaders in the Body of Christ can persistently and very publicly attack a key foundation of the faith (God’s authority expressed through His written Word), and do so for years. Yet when someone finally publicly responds and points to the folly of what they have published, cries of personal attack are raised. Rubbish. I have been direct in my response to Chris’s public statements that his existential perceptions (regardless of what he wants to call them) are more authoritative and valid than the written Word of God – which he even denies is the Word of God.
It is time for clear speaking, open questioning, and wise discernment. The times demand it. Stop crying persecution, and man up to your positions, defend them if you can, and let the Body of Christ decide.
The Gymnastics continue. I am very concerned for the foundation on which your teaching is built, Jim…on the principle of a cancerous attack on the body of Christ. “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.”
It seems to come down to trust, if you or I trust our individual, or collective understanding of scripture then this is our place of hope, and trust.
On the other hand we can trust Jesus, trusting Him to lead and guide us individually, and collectively into all Truth. This position is open, receptive, and teachable, using scripture, and life to teach and guide us all ‘in’ His Way.
I can bore you with the details of 17 years in a bible thumping highly conservative, and Pharisaical ‘church’ (WCG, Herbert Armstrong) and assure you we were well versed in the scriptures.
I also can assure of the life giving difference in walking with Christ ‘in’ and through His life giving grace, and the indwelling presence of His Spirit.
It may serve us well if we remember the lessons of Acts 15, and how the ekklesia came together to reason out a very difficult situation. And in the end, the stance of scriptural ‘authority’ gave way to the fruit of the Holy Spirit. From this there was healing, and a highly dynamic Spirit led, and Spirit fed Body.
May we be filled with His grace and peace.
May we have eyes to see, and ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to the ekklesia.
Jim Wehde and Jim Puntney, your arguments are the final place of retreat for those who want to be leaders, but not accountable. It takes various forms. “Touch not God’s anointed”, don’t rebel against “God’s covering”, etc. As some of the problems within the existential wing of the organic/simple church community are increasingly coming to light, I see your rationales surfacing more and more. Essentially, we can’t be discerning and hold others accountable for their public teachings because we must “trust” and remain silent, or we can’t protect the Temple or the Body of Christ (or whatever metaphor one choices) by speaking out on public issues or public teachings that might harm others. The Bible is clear that we are hold each other – and especially those who claim to be teachers and leaders – openly to account and are to openly challenge those who depart from sound doctrine. If you know of a verse that says otherwise when it comes to those who lead, without taking it out of context, please enlighten us.
Jeff, if the criteria for scriptural fidelity is never abusing some truth, then we are in deep doo doo. Because some men abuse their wives, does that invalidate marriage? Really, how far do you want to go with your criteria?
Let’s hold to what is true, and deal with the abuses.
The main issue I have with existentialism in the church is that it’s not Biblical, and on practical terms, it simply doesn’t work. The existential wing of the organic/church, as well as the so-called emergent church movement, have largely failed. Their churches tend to short lived or anemic, and lack authentic spiritual power (to have authority, one must submit to authority, after all – including submitting fully to the Lord and His Word).
As noted church historian Carl R. Trueman has stated: “Look, if I wanted a pretentious and incomprehensibly abstract theology with an impeccable record of emptying churches, I’d convert to Barthianism, wouldn’t I?”
Friends, let’s be wise and not follow the Pied Pipers of Barthian theology over their existential cliff.
Because many people participated in this debate, and some of them may not follow it here and thus be able to respond, I am not allowing comments below. If you think you have something that must be said, feel free to contact me directly and I’ll consider adding it below.
However, I’ll likely pick up on some of these themes in future blogs, and invite comments there.