all we need to live obediently?
Let’s talk about the origins of this idea. First from the scriptures themselves:
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
“Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” Jude 3 There are other passages which are used to defend the idea that the bible is “all we need,” but those suffice for now.
From my reformed friends, by way of the Westminster Confession of Faith (1:6) we read:
“The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added.”
Notice the universals in these two statements: “all,” “complete,” “thoroughly,” “every,” “whole,” “all,” “nothing,” “at any time.” I’ve always found the idea of the sufficiency of scripture just a bit pragmatically contradictory amongst those who lean on it. What do I mean? Well, it seems that those who are staunch proponents of it are also those who rely heavily on creeds, confessions, and catechisms. The response is often, “well, those things are ‘based’ on scripture, so it’s okay.” Fine, I get it. Then the burden of proof is to show that they ARE “based” on scripture and are valid logically and biblically. This is where I often hear the silly and absurd comment, “but they back up what they’re saying with scripture.”
Having been steeped in the reformed tradition, and having listened to countless sermons, I’ve seen the use of drama, music, stories, sermon illustrations, and a host of other analogous means by which the truths of God are communicated. And yet, for the most part, they hold to the doctrine of the “sufficiency of scripture.” So, am I missing something here?
Certainly I can’t find how to navigate the latest MAC OS in the Bible. Or, for that matter, fly a plane, cook a stellar meatloaf, or even dress like a hip pastor. When people say, “the bible is all we need,” then, they must mean something else. The bible tells us to “study the ant’s ways” Proverbs 6:6, to learn from them. There are conclusions that can be drawn and applied by studying ants. Will our conclusions ever supersede scripture? I doubt it. Can we benefit spiritually from studying the ant or a dragonfly or perhaps even our pets? I think most would say we can.
What about our stories and our testimonies? Are the members of the body of Christ “living letters?” “The only letter of recommendation we need is you yourselves. Your lives are a letter written in our hearts; everyone can read it and recognize our good work among you.” 2 Corinthians 3:2
My intention here is not to lay out a complete doctrine of “The sufficiency of scripture,” but to start a conversation about what it means for the church today. I suspect that this will be the first of a few posts on this issue, but for now, a few questions:
What should “the bible is all we need” mean?
What should’t “the bible is all we need” mean?
Is there ever a time when our subjective thoughts or conclusions should override the objective scriptures?
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