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“Speak where the Bible Speaks…” September 26, 2005

Posted by fajita in Uncategorized.
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“Speak where the Bible Speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent.”

I was out for a jog this morning when this quote entered my mind. I have heard this sentence since I was a boy and thought it to be good. This morning, I didn’t like it.

Not liking this mantra that I have been immersed in for many years did not come bring any sense of relief or comfort. In fact, my not liking this quote disrtupted my comfort. I have counted on this one for years. It was sure. It was safe. It was right. And if it wasn’t right, nothing else seemed righter (righter?).However, my discomfort did not lead me back to embracing this quote full on, but rather left me treading water.

OK, let’s take a look at the quote and see what the good and the troubling parts of it are.

Good:
1. Safe Bet. If you want to say that what is in the Bible is God’s Word, then this quote is safe. If that’s all you want to say.
2. Consumable. There is next to no one who cannot understand and digest this simple sentence. Its simplicity is really quite genius. It almost sounds like a Rick Warren slogan.
3. Clear. Its clarity is remarkable. There is no gray area whatsoever. It is so easy to do, at least it is so easy to believe you’re doing it. There is only one variable with which to deal.
4. Comfortable. It provides a very settled feeling. There is no more work or discernment that needs ot be done. All of that struggling and wrestling is taken care of. There is so much that does not even have to be thought about.

I am sure there is other good to it, but we’ll leave it at that.

Trouble:
1. Reductionistic. Even though Jesus said, in the Bible, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age,” and even though Jesus said, in the Bible, “I will send the Comforter,” and many other things, “Speak where the Bible speaks…” does not allow for the ever present Jesus, the Counselor (Holy Spirit as I understand the passage) to tell us anything besides, “read the Bible.” This quote has effectively muted God for just under 2000 years.
2. Not Biblical. No where in the Bible does it say that the Bible is all there is to God’s Word. Oh sure, someone is going pull out, “do not add or take away…,” but to say that means the Bible is the sum of God’s Word and God does not, will not, and cannot speak in any other way is such a ridiculous stretch of scripture that it would be speaking where the Bible does not speak.
3. Who’s Been Talking To Me? I believe God has spoken to me. I’m not one of those people who gets to hear the audible voice of God. I probably don’t enough faith to hear it an live. However, I have heard God speak in dreams, in “coincidence,” in wise words from friends the people I trust, in circumstance, in emotion, in thought. I have had instance when I spoke words of insight and wisdom to people that I was in no way capable of on my own. I wondered where that came from. Did God speak through me, or am I just that smart? If you know me and heard what I said, it would be easy to understand that it was God and not me. Furthermore, if it is Satan talking to me, why can Satan speak and God can’t?
4. Why pray? If God is done talking, then he’s done answering prayer. There is no need to pray, just read the Bible. If it’s all in there, then what’s the point in praying? God’s just going to point his finger at the Bible anyway.
5. Inhibits Growth. A people without struggle is a people without growth. When making sense of life, the Bible is helpful, but it is not all there is. In a way, the Bible can get in between a person and God. I am not saying it is wrong, but I am saying that God wants us to love Him more than anything else.
6. Promotes idol worship. That got your attention. 🙂 The Bible is one of God’s creations, ranking in the top 5 of all things created, but any created thing getting between a person and God or viewed by a person as being in the place of God is, in fact, an enemy to God. We make an idol of one of God’s creations, the Bible.
7. Return to the Old Law. If we cannot engage with the living God directly, then the Bible isn’t true. Jesus came to “tear down the curtain,” (a thing separating God and humanity) and make the Holy of Holies available to us all. If we have to funnel all interactions, relationship, and everything through the Bible, then the Bible itself becomes the curtain Jesus came to remove. Although Jesus tore the curtain, we got our sewing kits out an repaired it.I’ll stop there, although I could go on.

My point is this: The Bible is some of God’s word. This isn’t pretty and it is isn’t even safe. But “safe, who said anything about safe?”

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Comments»

1. DJG - September 26, 2005

I too cut my teeth on that saying. I too no longer believe it to be true. Because I too have been spoken to by God, and have definately had him answer my prayers.

It scares me sometimes to think of the ways that we (yes me too) have limited God and what he can do and is doing in our lives.

**am I the only one that has a problem typing in the “word verification” arghh!!!**

2. Phil - September 26, 2005

In a speech at the unity meeting of Churches of Christ and Independent Christian Churches, Randy Harris said that we shared three idols:

1) Nationalism
2) The Church
3) The Bible

Truer words have never been spoken.

3. TCS - September 26, 2005

Great post. there are so many things I could list about this saying. I will limit myself to 2

1. on the good, you already listed them
2. on the bad, This is sooo much like the guy in the parable of the talents who’s real crime was that he didn’t trust the heart of the master. So he was afraid and buried his talents (treasure). A entire new (good news) world arrises out of the Bible when it is not his only words. What if ALL those people in the Bible were examples and not exceptions? That Joseph’s dream was not that remarkable but that he always listened for God to speak and so he married Mary, he took them to Egypt and he brought them to Nazareth. All because God speaks in dreams… but what do I know I attend a cofc and think God speaks (audibly).

4. Anonymous - September 26, 2005

“This quote has effectively muted God for just under 2000 years…I believe God has spoken to me.”

Perhaps he _has_ been mute for 2000 years, other than through the Bible. It’s not exactly unprecedented, biblically speaking.

It’s a common conception today that the Holy Spirit speaks to us directly, apart from the Bible. It sounds good, but can anyone please point me to a Scripture that gives us any reason to expect this? I fear that, just as some much of the rest of Christendom has done, we will take our own imaginings to be the voice of God.

CP

5. Anonymous - September 26, 2005

Following up to my previous post, it may be possible that God speaks to us apart from the Bible (even though I can’t find any place where he said he would do so), but how would we _know_ in each case that it was God speaking to us? So, the Bible may only be _some_ of God’s word, but it is the only word from God that we have that is **definitive**. In that sense, then, we would be wise to adhere to the old slogan.

CP

6. Greg Newton - September 26, 2005

I don’t think “safe” can be listed as a “good” trait – but then you seem to end that way.

If scripture is a living Word then we leave the either/or thinking (either God speaks in addition to the text or he has spoken once for all in the text) that seems to underlie the slogan – and anonymous’ comments and recommendations.

God spoke – and continues to speak through what he spoke, as well as speaking as he spoke (which wasn’t through what he spoke!). I know it’s almost a riddle but I think it’s right.

7. TL - September 26, 2005

I’m gonna tell my mama what you said and you’re gonna be in trouble! Actually, I’m not sure she believes it as strongly as she once did.

8. Keith Brenton - September 26, 2005

CP quoth: “…how would we _know_ in each case that it was God speaking to us?”

We can’t. We won’t. We accept His words – however they come to us – by faith.

_Knowledge_, in my book, would be idol #4 to add to Randy Harris’ list. Surety. Safety in knowledge. Safety in our righteousness through our knowledge. Oh, we know we’ve done it right.

Problem is, it don’t mean doo-doo whether we’ve “done it right” or not. It ain’t enough to save us. Only Christ’s blood can do that.

Knowledge don’t keep us humble. (Somebody once said it “puffs us up.”) Self-righteousness don’t keep us indebted to the One who died to pay the debt. We don’t continue in sin so that grace may abound, to be sure; but we do thank God for His inexpressible gift!

Does the Spirit speak apart from the Bible? The Spirit would never speak anything different than what He inspired, would He?

Peter says: “If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God.” (1 Peter 4:11)

Then – if we speak without hearing what the Spirit says – we’re in trouble if we say anything about the Bible other than quoting it word for word, aren’t we?

Don’t you think we’d better believe He speaks to us and rely on Him speaking through us?

Jesus tells the twelve that the Spirit will testify about Him (John 15:26). I find no time limit there.

He says the Spirit will “he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8). I find no time limit there. Four verses later: “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.” No time limit.

He tells them, as recorded in the closing verses of Matthew: “I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” No time limit.

Peter tells the crowd: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far offfor all whom the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:38-39). No time limit. Ever.

That’s *definitive.*

We would be wise to believe it.

9. scott - September 27, 2005

I’ve kicked around in my head for some time a statement that Kip McKean (yes, that one) said some years ago.

“Let’s be silent where the Bible speaks and speak where the Bible is silent.”

Although, still problematic, I believe it is a whole lot better than the original. We can let the Bible speak for itself without our emendations and codifications and allow freedom and charity where the Bible does not venture.

10. Anonymous - September 27, 2005

Hi Keith,

‘_Knowledge_, in my book, would be idol #4 to add to Randy Harris’ list. Surety. Safety in knowledge. Safety in our righteousness through our knowledge. Oh, we know we’ve done it right.’

The Bible talks a lot about KNOWING the truth. In fact, Jesus came (in part) to give us understanding (1 John 5:20). Why would you make knowledge into an idol? And why would you prefer uncertainty? That’s certainly not a biblical virtue. As for “safety in our righteousness through our knowledge”, I know the mindset you refer to, but do not share it.

‘Jesus tells the twelve that the Spirit will testify about Him (John 15:26). I find no time limit there.
He says the Spirit will “he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8). I find no time limit there.’

If Abel, though dead, still speaks (through the record of his deeds), then God can continue to speak through the words of the Scripture without issuing any new revelation. I have no doubt that the Spirit continues to convict through the words he inspired.

‘Four verses later: “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.” No time limit.’

I expected this verse would be mentioned. You are committing what is a very common error today; namely, claiming promises and prerogatives that belong only to the apostles.

Let’s think about this verse for a moment. Do we see Christendom converging into all truth, or diverging further and further into greater confusion and diversity of teaching? It ought to be evident that the verse you quoted cannot apply to us, but only to the apostles.

‘Peter tells the crowd: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far offfor all whom the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:38-39). No time limit. Ever.’

I see no promise here to turn all of the Lord’s people into prophets.

CP

11. Anonymous - September 27, 2005

Hi Scott,
You said,
‘I’ve kicked around in my head for some time a statement that Kip McKean (yes, that one) said some years ago.
“Let’s be silent where the Bible speaks and speak where the Bible is silent.”
Although, still problematic, I believe it is a whole lot better than the original.’

Were you ever in the ICOC? If not, would you like to know how his philosophy, as enunciated above, played out? (I was in the ICOC for 11 years, from 92-2003, so I speak from personal experience).

It was an umitigated disaster. Since people no longer knew how to discern between their own opinions, whims, imaginings, and the actual word of God, they spoke boldly with the authority of God, where he had not spoken. They legislated rules for dating, where to live with, who to live with, and quotas for evangelism and giving. They devised tests for God’s will in signs (a la Gideon), rather than looking for it in the Bible.

Today, the ICOC churches are in chaos, and are slowly disintegrating.

I consider the ICOC a more extreme case of what happens when people assume the prerogatives and promises that belong only to the apostles (or, apostles and prophets), as I mentioned before.

CP

12. Fajita - September 27, 2005

CP, it is for the very reason you just stated that what I have said in this post is so scary to me. I ahae been abused by people claiming to hear a word from God. They have manipulated me, hurt me, and betrayed me with “words from the Lord.”

However, my experience of abuse does not (although it is tempting to do so) lead me to believe that God has ceased talking and that I cannot hear from God and speak what He said that is outside of a Bible quote.

13. Anonymous - September 27, 2005

Hi Chris,
‘However, my experience of abuse does not (although it is tempting to do so) lead me to believe that God has ceased talking and that I cannot hear from God and speak what He said that is outside of a Bible quote.’

Me neither. But it did prompt me conduct an across-the board reevaluation of my beliefs and presuppositions, including the idea that God speaks to me apart from the word. And I can’t find any biblical evidence that I should expect that. And seeing the effects that the belief I once held had on the ICOC and scores of other denominations, the results of my study seem even more confirmed to me.

It is not that God is now “mute”, it is that he continues to speak through his written word, which is “living and powerful” (Hebrews 4).

Thanks for the conversation.
🙂

CP

14. TCS - September 27, 2005

CP and all.

CP said “The Bible talks a lot about KNOWING the truth. In fact, Jesus came (in part) to give us understanding (1 John 5:20). ”

If you will check this out and really look at it. Almost always when John uses the word “truth” it is refering to Jesus, that Jesus IS truth, THE truth. The revelation of who God is, what he looks like, what he acts like. It is his normal usage of the word.

It is NOT truth in a western understanding of the word, it is not logical understanding of a subject, instead it is personal experience. it is a-posteriori knowledge of God not a-prori . I may have spelled those wrong… I didn’t check.

God has chosen for us to know him, not know about him, if that makes sense. He offers relationship – intimacy.

15. Anonymous - September 27, 2005

Hi Chris,
‘CP, it is for the very reason you just stated that what I have said in this post is so scary to me. I ahae been abused by people claiming to hear a word from God. They have manipulated me, hurt me, and betrayed me with “words from the Lord.”‘

I wonder if you are referring to people who claimed to “speak where the Bible speaks,” when in fact, they were speaking as doctrine their own dubious inferences.

I grew up in the COC, and returned there briefly after I left the ICOC. One thing I have noticed, is that there are many in the more conservative COCs who would agree with me that God does not speak (or, perhaps, better stated, that God does not make a regular practice of speaking) apart from the Bible, but who nonetheless speak dogmatically on his behalf about things he has not addressed (e.g., saying that instrumental music condemns). In that way, they are like a Pope, a Kip McKean, or like a Pentecostal “prophet” – without realizing it. In any case, they are hardly an example of the fruits of “speaking where the Bible speaks”…

CP

16. Anonymous - September 27, 2005

‘If you will check this out and really look at it. Almost always when John uses the word “truth” it is refering to Jesus, that Jesus IS truth, THE truth. The revelation of who God is, what he looks like, what he acts like. It is his normal usage of the word…It is NOT truth in a western understanding of the word, it is not logical understanding of a subject, instead it is personal experience…God has chosen for us to know him, not know about him, if that makes sense. ‘

Hi TCS,
Having perused the relevant passages at Bible Gateway (see below), I cannot agree with you. It is certainly _one_ of the usages of John, though it seems to be much less common in Paul. Certainly, in many of the passages, truth is equivalent to the factual nature of given propositions.

In any event, one cannot know God without knowing ABOUT God.

I’m quite puzzled by the attachment to post-modern concepts of truth among progressive COC’ers. I understand that many have been justifiably repelled by the dogmatically propagated idea that the COC has a monopoly on truth. But it seems like the reaction to that has been an OVER-reaction, as is so common throughout church history.

CP

http://biblegateway.com/keyword/?search=truth&version1=50&searchtype=all&bookset=2

17. Scott Freeman - September 27, 2005

Interesting insight CP, that is why I said it was problematic. Yet there is so much that is not in Scripture that I can have an opinion on because God is silent. My understanding of Scripture informs and leads me to draw conclusions based on concepts of holiness and righteousness but, because Scripture is silent, I have room for personal conclusions. For example, instrumental music, playing the lottery, etc.
Scripture is silent in those regards, therefore I have freedom. Where Scripture is adamant and clear, i must be true to that.
Of course, that can be abused like anything else. Hence the need for discernment and accountability.

18. Brandon Scott - September 27, 2005

whatever the case, you make some good points here.

God told me to tell you that when you come to my house next week, to bring me $50.

19. Fajita - September 27, 2005

50 bucks? Why didn’t God just tell me to my face?

20. Anonymous - September 27, 2005

“…playing the lottery…”

It’s up to 142 mil or so here in TN. And I didn’t even get one out of six numbers last week!
😉

‘Yet there is so much that is not in Scripture that I can have an opinion on because God is silent.’

Those are precisely the kind of issues about which Paul would say to “keep it to yourself” (Romans 14). I wonder if people were ever edified (rather than divided) by a Bible class discussion on gambling…

CP

21. Scott Freeman - September 27, 2005

Great point–I don’t inflict my opinions on people unless they willingly visit my blog.

22. Randy Vaughn - September 27, 2005

Chris,
Perhaps he didn’t tell you face-to-face…but he did me (all the way over here in Africa), with a footnote to BST that I should get a tithe (now that’s another posting!) God really does speak!!
-RV

23. Keith Brenton - September 27, 2005

How do you know I’m in error, CP?

How do you know these promises – and many others Jesus made – aren’t for our ears, too? If they were only for the apostles, does that mean all inspiration ceased with them? And all other promises in those Last Supper moments in the gospel according to John?

His prayer (ch. 17) was not for them alone; can you know for a fact that the promises were? How can you know?

It’s clear that the Spirit was freely given to believers throughout the New Testament. Not all were prophets – and not all prophecy was foretelling the future – but the Spirit did work to convict. And there’s something to chew on: Did the Spirit only work to convict through those speaking, or also to those listening? Was He given before there was conviction, as He was given to some Gentiles in Peter’s presence before there was baptism?

I would list knowledge as an idol because so many folks pursue it to the exclusion of an humble relationship with God. CP, please don’t accuse me of “making” it an idol; that’s the opposite of my intent!

How do you know – or conclude – that uncertainty is not a virtue? It was Job’s humble admission that only God knew it all that was rewarded in the end. It was Adam and Eve’s prideful, ambitious sin to desire knowledge of good and evil that the serpent implied would make them “like God.”

What God requires of us to know is minimal. Three thousand people witnessed a miracle and heard a single sermon and were convicted in their hearts in Acts 2. It’s when we complicate that simplicity with our knowledgeable (and Pharisaic) interpretations / codifications that we get in trouble.

(Sorry, Scott; I respect your humility but I fear I have less and less of it as I get older: I inflict my opinions on people whether they visit my blog or not!)

24. Anonymous - September 27, 2005

Hi Keith,

‘How do you know I’m in error, CP?
How do you know these promises – and many others Jesus made – aren’t for our ears, too?’

I could make a stronger, more involved case if we were talking in person. But since I have to distill (because of the limitations of time and of this medium), I’ll ask you to answer the question I posed to you before:

‘Do we see Christendom converging into all truth, or diverging further and further into greater confusion and diversity of teaching?’

One important thing to do in Bible interpretation is to test whether a given interpretation fits with reality and common sense. Are all Christians, guided by the Spirit, converging into all truth? Is every believer doing greater things than Jesus (John 14)? When we think through these things, and also the experience of the apostles, the matter becomes clearer.

‘How do you know – or conclude – that uncertainty is not a virtue?’

It is simple. The Bible lists virtues in many places, and nowhere is ‘uncertainty’ or anything like it listed as one. (In fact, I am instructed to “find out what pleases the Lord”). Humility, and a sober estimation of myself – the qualities in view in your reference to Job – are very much enjoined on us.

‘What God requires of us to know is minimal. Three thousand people witnessed a miracle and heard a single sermon and were convicted in their hearts in Acts 2.’

I agree that his “entry requirements” are low. But what we need to know to grow, mature, and remain faithful is quite another matter, and hence the need for the rest of the Bible beyond just Acts 2.

CP

25. Brandon Scott - September 27, 2005

So far that’s $50 for Faj.

and now it’s $50 for Keith and CP. You can just wire it to me.

(Randy…we’ll work it out later.)

26. Anonymous - September 27, 2005

I’ll be anonymous #2 or LW to Chris.

I grew up with this saying. I think it was carved somewhere on something at the church building.

The only problem I have with it is that some use it to blatantly blast others over religious matters which they perceive as not being in line with mainline Church of Christ doctrine.

It’s kinda like saying to your wife after the honeymoon that you only promised to love, honor and cherish her but didn’t say a word about taking out the garbage.

The C of C (I like that nick) has used the speak where the bible speaks rule to justify their unique interpretation of certan passages in the bible.

I would challenge anyone from the church of Christ (small c in church) to show me in scripture where it says to build million dollar buildings. Where does it even say to own a building? They worshipped in their homes or in tombs during the first century. Where does it even say to hire a full time preacher?
How about indoor plumbing? I never could understand how some anti congregations forbade eating in the building or installing kitchens but had no problem with indoor plumbing or with a water cooler in the foyer.
I was in such a building once where there were two pulpits, one for the minister and the other for the song leader. Now where is that found in scripture?
Aren’t we ridiculous sometimes?
Even so called liberal churches bow me over with trying to hide their praise team. Why hide them? How could anyone miss them? They are just a high tech choir because each person wears his own microphone on their lapel. Even the Baptists don’t do that. Why not have the praise team up front for everyone to see? They are just a choir when it comes down to it.
Geez, don’t get me started!
Chris, I like your blog.
LW

27. Keith Brenton - September 27, 2005

CP, you’re not answering my questions; you’re avoiding them. But I will answer yours.

You asked, ‘Do we see Christendom converging into all truth, or diverging further and further into greater confusion and diversity of teaching?’and ‘Are all Christians, guided by the Spirit, converging into all truth? Is every believer doing greater things than Jesus (John 14)?’

I see both happening today. As nearly as I can tell, it has always been that way. Some Christians have been willing to be guided by the Spirit AND scripture into unity. Others have only been willing to see things in scripture their way, and draw lines.

We can’t agree even on terms, so this dialog is going nowhere. You’re my brother, but we’re talking different languages; different hermeneutics. Forgive me if I’m exaggerating, but it sounds like you see a God who gives us a Bible and says “That’s all you need. Figure it out for yourself. And if you mess up, I’ll zap you.”

I see a God who gives us His Son, who in turn gives us His Spirit, who in turn gives us a revelation of God’s will through written word and indwelling guidance.

(Brandon, please remind the Spirit that I am still unemployed and will have to delay payment to you until I have secured full-time work. And if He is only listening as well as speaking through scripture, just reassure Him with Malachi 3:8.)

28. TCS - September 28, 2005

Ok sorry Fajita but had to say this. CP said, “One important thing to do in Bible interpretation is to test whether a given interpretation fits with reality and common sense.”

God loved me enough to come to earth and die in my place… oh yeah that makes sense.

I could do more …

29. Steve Jr. - September 28, 2005

I find it ironical that the “Speak where the Bible speaks…” is found nowhere in the Bible. Sorta breaks rank, don’t ya think?

Also, this idea is much more of a Campbellite idea than Stonite. Barton Stone was much more accepting of “revelation” outside of the Bible, specifically when it came to the raucous revivals he was a part of in his younger days. All sorts of “not-in-the-Bible-freaky-crap” going on at those.

It’s important that we recognize that both leaders of the Restoration Movement have important things to say, and we ought to eat the meat and spit out the bones.

30. Anonymous - September 28, 2005

Hi Keith,
‘Forgive me if I’m exaggerating, but it sounds like you see a God who gives us a Bible and says “That’s all you need. Figure it out for yourself. And if you mess up, I’ll zap you.”‘

Nothing of the sort. You are transferring to me your experience with others. Where have I said anything about zapping or messing up?

I have noticed that it is difficult to carry on a conversation that advocates any sort of restorationism/biblicism with those in the progressive Churches of Christ. They usually don’t hear me talking; instead, they hear the reactionary hard-liners they have dealt with all their lives. My own brother does it to me, even though
1) I do not attend any sort of Church of Christ, nor have I ever been a member of one.
2) I have explicitly rejected their exclusivism, their strained prooftext-based arguments, and have detailed my substantial differences with them.
So I can hardly expect different from those on this board, who know little about me, if my own brother does the same.

‘I see both happening today. As nearly as I can tell, it has always been that way. Some Christians have been willing to be guided by the Spirit AND scripture into unity.’

You’ve shifted terms on me. I asked whether they were converging into all truth, but you changed it to “unity”. From my vantage point, error and confusion continue to proliferate. And the only unity I see advancing in progressive COC circles is the kind in which people believe less and less, and thus agree on more.

CP

31. Anonymous - September 28, 2005

Everyone here who believes that God speaks to them, please tell me what God said to you. I want to know what kind of revelations these are (and whether I’ve been having them but not realizing it). After all, we are to “test the spirits”. If they are real revelation, then we should be adding them to our Bible.

CP

32. Anonymous - September 28, 2005

TCS,
‘CP said, “One important thing to do in Bible interpretation is to test whether a given interpretation fits with reality and common sense.”
God loved me enough to come to earth and die in my place… oh yeah that makes sense.’

I wish you’d take a moment to consider what I’m saying, rather than mock. I’m talking about the “Does it add up?” test. If something in the Bible does not seem to add up, it’s quite possible that it is our interpretation that is in error, and not that we are required to believe obvious absurdities. For instance, in your own life, are you doing greater works than Jesus (John 14)? Do you know anyone personally who is or has? Did Peter or Paul do greater works than Jesus? Does it add up that this promise is for all believers?

Please answer candidly.

Thanks.

CP

33. Anonymous - September 28, 2005

Steve
‘I find it ironical that the “Speak where the Bible speaks…” is found nowhere in the Bible.’

It would be impossible for it to have said that, because there was no Bible when the individual books were written. But Peter does tell us to speak as the oracles of God; Paul tells Timothy to speak and teach according to the pattern of sound words that he had received from Paul. And Paul says to keep our various opinions to ourself, and to stay away from silly controversies and things that do not edify. So I would say that “Speak where the Bible speaks, and be silent where the Bible is silent”, is a guideline in keeping with the spirit of the Scriptures.

Why would anyone want to speak where the Bible did not speak today, unless they were convinced they were inspired by God? Such claims were not lightly received in biblical times.

CP

34. TCS - September 28, 2005

CP,
May God bless you as you seek to follow Jesus. I am sorry if I seemed to be mocking you. My point (poorly made) was that I truely believe that God laying down his life or many other parts of scripture make NO sense. Not in a worldly common sense way. Love causes/ requires actions that do not make sense. Therefore to use that as a yardstick to measure may not be wise.

To answer your question “in your own life, are you doing greater works than Jesus (John 14)? ”

I really think you are using this out of its context as a test of spritual gifts or a test of if promises are just to the apostles. First let me say that yes some things seem limited to them (but I am open to that God can do what he pleases). In the context of John 14. Jesus imediately speaks of the spirit of truth (again, I think that means His spirit) will come… it is the enabler of these greater things. Now Jesus could not have meant greater in the fashion of what could be “greater” than raising Lazarus. He must mean it in another sense. Greater in number, greater in that the spirit will be everywhere in all Christians. Many ways to see this as greater. I don’t think it means I will do more than raise someone from the dead, but collectively if we all follow the spirits urgings, whether through the written word or through some other prompting that is in keeping with the written word then we collectively do GREAT things.

So yes it does add up that this promise of greater things is for all that the spirit is for all.

I hope that makes some sense. And I really hope it doesn’t seem mocking. I only hope for all that their hearts be set free from captivity and set loose in a relationship as intimate allies with the LORD.

35. Fajita - September 28, 2005

God told me to move to Jonesboro. God told me to become a therapist even when I thought I should be a minister (two failed attempts). God told me to love _________ and _________ when others would not.

The Bible never got so specific. There weren’t even therapists when the Bible was written. I know God told me this. Whether I knew it in the moment (Which I did sometimes) or I knew it in the rear view mirror, I knew it was God.

So, when I say that God spoke to me, He did. When I say it was something He said outside the bible, it was. I do not believe it was any other voice that told me these things. What I ahve experienced cannot be denied. It happened as I said it did, I am insane or I am lying. I am sticking with the first option here.

36. Brandon Scott - September 28, 2005

Chris…
This just in…God has upped it to $100. Sorry to inform you. But, I’m really, really looking forward to seeing you. 🙂

Seriously–I praise God for you, my brother. You are a gift to me and a gift to so many. I praise God for the way He has led you–and HE HAS. It’s so obvious. And, I think it would be sin not to give HIM the glory–which is exactly what you’re doing.

Love you!

37. Keith Brenton - September 28, 2005

CP, you speak and write literally and it is no surprise that you seem to read the Bible the same way. (i.e., If an item is not listed as a virtue, it’s not.) The Bible is much more than that; more than a law book of what’s okay and what’s not.

You don’t appeal to story, to poetry, to the Spirit, to the nature of Christ. Just law, instruction, command, example, necessary inference.

You tend to call the shots. I should answer your questions, but you feel no compulsion to respond to mine.

If I don’t use the same words you do, I am “shifting terms.”

Was it necessary to state that agreement upon truth leads to unity? Or can we not agree upon that axiom unstated?

It is, I hope, forgiveable though understandable if I and others superimpose on you the logical conclusion that so many other folks – within and outside churches of Christ – have reached about Spirit and scripture from the posits you state.

Do you really want to hear about God speaking directly to people without the medium of scripture?

Adam. Noah. Job. Abram. Moses. Joseph, in dreams. Pharaoh, in dreams. John the Baptist, Jesus, and those gathered at the Jordan River. Saul, en route to Damascus. John of Patmos. Many others. You’re right. “Such claims were not received lightly in biblical times.” But you don’t seem to take the possibility seriously today (“We need to be adding them to the Bible”), so don’t be surprised if few of us have the boldness of Fajita to contribute material for your critical evaluation. From your “vantage point, error and confusion seem to proliferate.”

How sad for you. To live in a world of such blessing, and see only error.

I think God’s Spirit spoke to me a few nights back. As I said before, I accept that by faith; I cannot be sure. I was reading the closing verses of Revelation. By how many preachers I heard them quoted during my childhood and youth as an invitation or “altar call”, I can’t say. But as I read it, something very distinctly outside of me said, “That’s not what it means.”

It wasn’t my wife, who was grading papers nearby. It wasn’t my children, who were in bed asleep.

Something verbally helped me realize that the Spirit and the Bride are calling for Jesus to come in those closing verses … to anticipate His return with joy and not fear, because the best is yet to come.

I’ve had more “revelations” like that over many years than I could possibly recall now.

If you’ve never had an experience like that, all I can think of to say is …

How sad.

38. Anonymous - September 29, 2005

Hi TCS,
I appreciate your gracious words.

Regarding John 14, I want to bring to your attention a couple of reasons why I believe that your interpretation is erroneous. I hope you will hear me out.

First, the text of the passage:

“Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves. Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.” (NKJV)

You said that “we collectively do GREAT things”. But note the wording of the passage again: “he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do”. He! Singular, not plural. No collective action is in view here. Paul makes a point of interpretation in Galatians that turns on the singular nature of a word; I believe it is fair (and logical) to do the same here.

Secondly, regarding the type of great works that Jesus said will be done, you say: “Now Jesus could not have meant greater in the fashion of what could be ‘greater’ than raising Lazarus. He must mean it in another sense. Greater in number, greater in that the spirit will be everywhere in all Christians. Many ways to see this as greater. I don’t think it means I will do more than raise someone from the dead”.

The problem with this is that, looking at the verses again (not to mention the context in John regarding Jesus’ “works”), Jesus is talking about the type of extraordinary works that will attest his veracity, such that others could not do. “Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves.” He can not here speaking of good deeds in general, but of his miraculous, God-powered works and teaching, that cause people to believe (and no excuse for _not_ believing, John 15:22-25). The apostles were indeed similarly attested with such great works (Acts 14:3, Mark 16:20, Acts 19:11-12, Acts 4:16, Acts 5:12-16, Acts 2:43). They did do greater works than Jesus. They taught with inspired words, and they performed countless miracles. (Obviously, some others who the apostles laid hands on also did some great works, but nearly not to the same degree as they [2 Cor 12:11-12]).

Thanks for listening. I hope you will study these things out, because we confuse, demoralize, and lead astray people when we teach them that they should expect to do things in their lives that only the apostles could do.

Casey (CP)

39. Anonymous - September 29, 2005

Hi Keith,
‘CP, you speak and write literally and it is no surprise that you seem to read the Bible the same way. (i.e., If an item is not listed as a virtue, it’s not.) The Bible is much more than that; more than a law book of what’s okay and what’s not.
You don’t appeal to story, to poetry, to the Spirit, to the nature of Christ.’

Only when it’s appropriate. Much of the Bible is literal, but I try to be sensitive to the use of idiom, metaphor, hyperbole, apocalyptic language, symbolism, etc. In the case of “uncertainty” as a virtue, I see it listed nowhere, nor do I see it implied either. Should I then conjure it out of the “penumbras” and “emanations” of the Bible, just as the Supreme Court conjured (supposedly from the Constitution) a right to abortion?

‘You tend to call the shots. I should answer your questions, but you feel no compulsion to respond to mine.’

If so, it is not deliberate. Please point out which question you think I’ve neglected, and I’ll attend to it at once.

‘Was it necessary to state that agreement upon truth leads to unity? Or can we not agree upon that axiom unstated?’

I’m glad you agree that truth is a vital component of unity (although how much agreement in truth is necessary is an open question, for the moment). But I resist a shift to “unity” from “truth”, because truth is less nebulous and more “measurable” (so to speak) than unity. If we are agreed in the truth of a given matter, it means we believe the same thing about that matter. But the wording of the passage is “ALL truth”. The apostles were agreed in matters of doctrine (although there was some confusion for a time between them over whether that was the case [Galatians 2, Acts 15]). But if the Spirit is truly leading all Christians into “all truth”, we should be seeing an ever-expanding circle of doctrinal agreement among Christians, even on small matters. That we do not see this, makes it obvious to me that Christians are not being led by the Spirit into all truth.

‘Do you really want to hear about God speaking directly to people without the medium of scripture?’

I do not doubt that it happened, or even that it could still happen, since it is God’s prerogative. The question is whether we are to _expect_ it, as a matter of course. The answer is clear to me: No.

‘How sad for you. To live in a world of such blessing, and see only error.’

This seems rather condescending and presumptious of you. I greatly appreciate all the blessings that are in Christ. On the other hand, I’m keenly aware that “the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one” (1 John 5), who has an interest in sowing error and confusion, and is very effective in doing so.

‘I’ve had more “revelations” like that over many years than I could possibly recall now.’

I call them epiphanies – a flash of insight. This happens not just with the Bible, but with other, less exalted pursuits. Not all epiphanies are from the Lord, no matter how attractive or right they seem. If I have a flash of insight, I still need to do due diligence to make sure it is the correct interpretation. (We are to “test everything…test the spirits…rightly divide the word of truth”). And it may very well be that the Lord has given me insight about something in his already-inspired, already-written word (Psalm 119:18, Proverbs 2:1-6, James 1:5). This is not the same as a brand-new revelation, or a day-to-day personalized guidance, or being led into “all truth”. We have no reason to expect these things.

Casey

40. Anonymous - September 29, 2005

Chris,
Thanks for the examples. I hope you will bear with me and won’t mind if I ask for more detail. With these questions, I am not mocking, but genuinely want to understand the phenomenon you are describing. The questions only require a “yes” or “no”, although you are of course welcome to elaborate.

– Did the word of the Lord come to you in the same definitive manner as it did the prophets in the OT?
– Did you see a vision, as Peter did in Acts 10?
– Did you hear an audible voice?
– Were there specific words in what God said to you, or just general impressions/ideas?
– Can you find an experience in the Bible (or most especially the NT) that parallels or mirrors your experience?
– Was there any confirmation of the word, as in a (literally) miraculous event?
– Is it possible that what you attribute to God was your own ideas, or that of others?
– Or is it possible that he sovereignly orchestrated events to guide you, rather than giving a Spirit-inspired revelation?

Thanks again.

Casey

41. Fajita - September 29, 2005

Casey, thanks for the questions. Everything can be explained in terms of naturalism or supernaturalism, miraculous or simply unexplainable, God spoke or God arranged (which I really don’t see a difference in that one.)

If I answer your questions, you aren’t going to believe me. If I answer them you are going to explain my answers differently than I gave them. I am not going to convince you and you aren’t going to convince me. God moved in my life with clear communiucation such that I thought if I moved in any other way than what I was told, I would be, without a doubt in my heart, going against what God desired for my life.

I don’t believe that your list of questions is valid for a number of reasons. God’s ability to communicate is not contained within the ideas you can generate, even if you get them all from the Bible (properly interpretted or not). Until the burning bush, no one had ever thought God would speak that way. God never said he was done talking and he never said he would only talk in the ways the Bible reports.

It is not that I refuse to answer your questions out of spite or anything, I just think you are not asking the right questions. They leave me or God no room for explaining really happened in my life.

42. Anonymous - September 29, 2005

Hi Chris,
Refusing to answer is, of course, your prerogative. I hope you can see, though, why someone would be skeptical of something that has no Scriptural justification, especially given that we are commanded to “test everything…test the spirits” – which is all I’m doing here. Your argument that he _might_ do it in an unexpected way is not exactly compelling.

‘God never said he was done talking and he never said he would only talk in the ways the Bible reports.’

I would dispute this, but it’s probably pointless, since no one here has demonstrated a willingness to carefully reason through relevant Scriptures. Indeed, Scripture citations in support of various points here have been conspicuous only by their relative absence.

The high degree of credulity here is a bit breathtaking, given the history of people claiming falsely or erroneously that God speaks to them (both in biblical times and afterward). No one hear shows much concern that what Jeremiah prophesied might be relevant to them or others making similar claims:

“They speak a vision of their own heart, Not from the mouth of the LORD…Indeed they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart…The prophet who has a dream, let him tell a dream; And he who has My word, let him speak My word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat?” says the LORD. “Is not My word like a fire?” says the LORD, “And like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?…Behold, I am against those who prophesy false dreams,” says the LORD, “and tell them, and cause My people to err by their lies and by their recklessness. Yet I did not send them or command them; therefore they shall not profit this people at all…And the oracle of the LORD you shall mention no more. For every man’s word will be his oracle, for you have perverted the words of the living God, the LORD of hosts, our God.” (Jeremiah 23)

Is no one concerned that they will blur the distinction between God’s word and theirs? That each man’s word will become his oracle?

Casey

43. Fajita - September 29, 2005

Words can be put in the mouth of God either with or without scripture. Your assumltion that no one is concerned about what Jeremiah said is a cut and paste use of scriture. God did not preserve Jeremiah’s words for this purpose. Your sense of entitlement to do so is unnerving.

Look, I am not interested in arguing my experience as it not up for debate. What God has communicated to me, in his own way, is in no way counter to the charater of God revealed clearly in scripture.

44. Anonymous - September 30, 2005

Hi Chris,
I’ve thought more about your previous post, and I see you have a new one that rejects my use of the passage in Jeremiah.

You said,
‘Words can be put in the mouth of God either with or without scripture. Your assumltion that no one is concerned about what Jeremiah said is a cut and paste use of scriture. God did not preserve Jeremiah’s words for this purpose. Your sense of entitlement to do so is unnerving.’

My citation of Jeremiah was simply to warn what often happens when people begin speaking their supposed revelations from God, apart from his true word. Every man’s word becomes his oracle, God’s word is perverted, and the people are harmed, not profited. All of this has been amply born out by history. It was an appropriate use of the passage.

I want to return briefly to your previous message:
‘Until the burning bush, no one had ever thought God would speak that way. God never said he was done talking and he never said he would only talk in the ways the Bible reports. It is not that I refuse to answer your questions out of spite or anything, I just think you are not asking the right questions.’

It’s strange to me that the “right questions” are not the ones that are suggested by occurences recorded in Scripture. You tacitly admit that your experience is unprecedented in the Bible.

‘I am not going to convince you and you aren’t going to convince me…Look, I am not interested in arguing my experience as it not up for debate.’

I am persuadable, but only with arguments from Scripture. Otherwise, I would be intellectually dishonest, believing only what I was determined to believe.

With that, I will sign off, for now. I’ll check to see your final response, if any.

If anyone wants to continue a conversation, contact me through this page on my (as yet, content-less) blog:
http://perkinscentral.com/casey/contact

Casey

45. Fajita - September 30, 2005

God directed me to move to Arkansas, a place that would not rank in the top 10 of places I would like to move. Through prayer, discernment, and so on I decided that I would follow God’s direction. He did not speak to me in a way He spoke in the Bible, mainly because there is nomention of the internet in the Bible, but He did indeed speak.

When I followed this direction, I have not only been blessed (which is not necessarily the litmus test for confirmation of hearing God), but I have been given more opportunity than I can handle to bless others. My faith has increased, been challenged like never before, and is far better (in my opinion) than it would have been not moving.

There is not one shred of evidence to suggest that the move I made was not good, was disobedient, was self-willed, or was the will of Satan. It is possible that this was all luck, but I put a lot more faith in God than I do luck, so luck is out for me.

Now, with the accumulating evidence that this move was not only good for me (again, not the litmus test), but good for my family, the people around me and the people put in place for me to grow with, how can it be anything other than God?

Other options:
1. Luck & Coincidence (over and over again). Again, I doubt luck and have faith in God.
2. Satan. If this is Satan, it is a terrible strategy because so much keeps working out for God.
3. My self-deception or self-will. Man, if I was going to exercise self-will I’d do it in Maui. The mosqito infested rice fields of Northeast Arkansas would not be my choice. I wouldn’t choose the humidity, the wussy winters, the (and please forgive my Southern friends) Southern culture.

If all you got is that what God told me or how He told me is not recoreded in the Bible, then dude, you’re a Deist. God must have written the Bible and went away since we don’t need him anymore.


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