Wednesday, April 27, 2011

How Does God Speak Today?

My wife and I have this friend. She is bright, in her 40's, but not formally educated in systematic theology or Biblical Studies. Yet, when in a woman's Bible study where she was asked, “How does God speak to you?” she responded correctly, “He speaks to me through His Word by means of the Holy Spirit.” Well, you would have thought from the responses she got that she had uttered absolute blasphemy. The participants proceeded to inform her that God speaks to them all the time and in various ways and that our friend should not be so “black and white.”

Of the many foundational truths of the Reformation, one that has to do with the above paragraph and the point of this article is that the Word of God is the absolute authority source for faith and practice.

“The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience, although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God and his will which is necessary unto salvation. Therefore it pleased the Lord at sundry times and in divers manners to reveal himself, and to declare that his will unto his church; and afterward for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan, and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing; which maketh the Holy Scriptures to be most necessary, those former ways of God's revealing his will unto his people being now ceased.
( 2 Timothy 3:15-17; Isaiah 8:20; Luke 16:29, 31; Ephesians 2:20; Romans 1:19-21; Romans 2:14,15; Psalms 19:1-3; Hebrews 1:1; Proverbs 22:19-21; Romans 15:4; ) ” (London Baptist Confession; Chapter 1; #1)

The above quote from the LBC has been one that has given definition to the Reformed movement for centuries and indeed has been a central component to professing Evangelicalism. But note I said “...indeed has been...”

Though the LBC represents my personal conviction regarding Divine revelation, there has been a change floating about in theological circles that has worked itself into the hearts and minds of professing Evangelical for some time now. Some are now offering a new understanding of the Word of God, which says God now speaks to believers apart from and in addition to the Bible. It is an attempt by some to change the historically orthodox view of the “sufficiency and finality of Holy Scripture (R. Fowler White).”

Even a former professor at Dallas Theological Seminary wrote:

“In order to fulfill God’s highest purposes for our lives we must be able to hear his voice both in the written word and in the word freshly spoken from heaven. . . ”

Don't miss this point here. If this former Dallas Theological Seminary professor is correct, then those of us who adhere to the theology of the Reformation that the Word of God is our one and only authority for faith and practice are not only wrong but are also quenching the Holy Spirit.

Essentially, what these folks are suggesting is that God speaks to His people as He always has when He would deliver Truth to the prophets in supernatural means and extra-written: Burning bushes, handwriting on the walls, and talking donkeys are some examples.

So, are these guys like our seminary professor friend right? I do not think so.

What these advocates fail to realize and acknowledge is that in the days in which God did speak to His people through supernatural and other means, it was done in a time when little, if any, of the will of God was in written form. In those days, God's elect were forced out of necessity to rely on what they did have of God's will in written form plus other means. However, today we have a closed canon of Scripture and agree with ages of orthodoxy and orthopraxy that what we have in written form, the Bible, is our sole source and therefore the only authority for faith and practice. And, how and why do we affirm this?

“But why does the church affirm that the canon is closed? The only demonstrable basis for this affirmation is that God’s giving of revelation, spoken and written, is always historically joined to and qualified by God’s work of redemption. Now that God has accomplished salvation once-for-all, in Christ, He has also spoken His word, once-for-all, in Christ and in those whom Christ authorized and empowered by His Spirit (Heb. 1:1-2; 2:3, 4; Matt. 16:15-19; John 14:26; Eph. 2:19, 20). With the completion of salvation in Christ comes the cessation of revelation. Consequently, the church now lives by a "Scripture only" principle of authority To tamper with this principle invites a host of theological and pastoral problems. The proof of this observation can be seen in the effect of these "prophecies" upon many who are being led far afield from the sufficiency of the gospel itself. Its finality and complete sufficiency is, in reality, subtly assaulted by these claims to modern prophecies. ” (R. Fowler White)

In addition, the Word of God itself gives us no indication that He speaks to His elect through anything other than the Holy Spirit illuminating our hearts and minds through the Bible. What those who believe otherwise do when they say that God speaks to them through supernatural and extra-biblical means is detract and distract from the all sufficiency of Holy Scripture and how exactly is that extra-orthodox position not “quenching the Spirit?” (R. Fowler White)

My opinion is that they are doing exactly that, “quenching the Spirit,” in their advocacy of extra-biblical revelation. That's just how serious this issue really is. It is God's Word, Holy Writ, in which God's elect hear His words and receive guidance by the illumination of the Holy Spirit through His written Word.

“The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, dependeth not upon the testimony of any man or church, but wholly upon God (who is truth itself), the author thereof; therefore it is to be received because it is the Word of God.”
( 2 Peter 1:19-21; 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 John 5:9 ) (London Baptist Confession; Chapter 1; #4)