Is the Bible Really All We Need?

A Position Paper on the Sufficiency of Scripture

How do you make important decisions in your life? Do you listen intently to hear God mystically speak to you?  Do you wait for “doors” to “open” or “close”?  Do you try to sense a certain “peace” in your heart?  Christians teach that God’s Word is totally sufficient to guide us through the maze of obstacles that we face on a daily basis.  But can you really find all the answers there?  In reality, many Christians don’t live as though this is true but instead seem to resist the clear and plain teaching of the Scripture and “follow their hearts” or their “gut feelings.”  Why is it so difficult for us to embrace this essential truth, that the Bible is enough?

The refusal to accept the doctrine of sufficiency is not a new phenomenon.  It is simply the latest substitution in God’s war for the souls of mankind.  He has offered “sufficiency” and in our stubbornness, we refuse and demand a superficial Christianity that massages the flesh rather than mortifies it. But, the church doesn’t need help from business marketing strategists, secular therapists, or even well intentioned religionists who claim “a word from the Lord” in our day.  The Church of Jesus Christ in the 21st century needs to rely on Scripture alone in all matters she faces.

To that end, at Heather Hills, “we are passionate about the proclamation and defense of the Scripture, as our final authority for faith and practice.” (Core Value #1) We call the Bible our final authority. Does that mean that the Bible is the only authority? No, there are many God-given authorities in our lives from government, to employers, to teachers, to parents.  However, there is no authority greater than the Word of God.  We believe that if something contradicts the teachings of Scripture, then that something is wrong.  Why?  Because we learn in texts like 2 Timothy 3:16 that “All Scripture is breathed out by God.” Theologians call that inspiration.  It means that the Bible is not a book of human invention but divine revelation.  That’s why it carries the highest authority.

The end of that verse says that the Scripture is able to make Christians “equipped for every good work.” There’s that big, comprehensive idea again.  So, is the Scripture really sufficient for everything? Here is how some intelligent people have defined the Bible’s sufficiency:

  • “The sufficiency of Scripture means that Scripture contained all the words of God he intended his people to have at each stage of redemptive history, and that it now contains all the words of God we need for salvation, for trusting him perfectly, and for obeying him perfectly. (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, 127)
  • 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, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word: and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, the government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature, and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed. (Westminster Confession of Faith, 1.6, 1646)
  • Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation. (39 Articles of the Anglican Church, section 6)

This idea, that the Bible is enough, was famously called sola scriptura during the Protestant Reformation (a.d. 1517-1648). The term sola scriptura means “scripture alone.” The basic idea is that the Bible is all you need for salvation and spiritual living.  This is backed up by texts such as 2 Peter 1:3 which says, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.”  What is the knowledge of him?  It is the knowledge of Christ!  And where does the knowledge of Christ come from?  It comes from Scripture alone.  Hebrews 4:12 says that the Word of God is “living and active,” and cuts through the immaterial part of man into his/her spiritual life.  Isaiah 55:11 says that the Word of God, “shall not return to me (God) empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”  Psalm 19 says, in various ways, the Word of God converts the heart, sanctifies sinners, reforms fools, enlightens the darkened, gives joy to the joyless, and brings people to glory.  God’s Word is completely sufficient for all of life.

It is important to say that sola scriptura does NOT mean that you will find everything in the pages of the Bible.  You won’t find, as one author points out, “DNA structures, microbiology, the rules of Chinese grammar, or rocket science.” Although where the Bible does reference science, history, or any other academic disciplines it is correct, the point is that the Word of God is trustworthy. Within its pages, you will find everything you need to know God and to live for God.

In our contemporary world, some religions minimize or even deny the sufficiency of the Bible.  Some will say that the tradition of the church should stand alongside Scripture as authoritative.  Others will say that a Christian needs the Bible but also needs some kind of mystical experience, like speaking in tongues or hearing the voice of God in your head or listening to your angel.  Still others will put their own spiritual books as equal to the Bible. Therefore, it is important that we both affirm what is true and deny what is false in this important teaching of sufficiency. 

Regarding the Sufficiency of Scripture

We affirm that Holy Scripture contains all the words of God we need for salvation and godly living. We deny the sufficiency of human wisdom, traditions, strategies, or felt needs in superseding or replacing Scripture alone in the life of the Christian.

Regarding the Charismatic Movement

We affirm that the sign gifts (tongues, prophecy, miracles, and healing) of the Holy Spirit were used in the first century church as validating the apostle’s authority and message, but that they gradually ceased as the canon was completed. The Bible is sufficient. We deny that sign gifts are for our day and maintain a cessationist position, opposed to the Charismatic Movement.

Regarding Modern Psychology

We affirm the necessity of biblical (nouthetic) counseling to deal with the spiritual, moral, ethical, and even at times physical needs of people. We deny that secular psychology is even capable of providing real help to people in need.  Sometimes, the observations of psychology are useful; sometimes, they are not.  But as a system, secular psychology is morally bankrupt, opposes Scripture, masks the real needs of people, and is totally inadequate in dealing with the soul.

Regarding Mysticism

We affirm that the canon of Scripture is closed and further revelation is not from God. We deny that any “added truth” to the Bible could be of God. We will not add to the Word of God by relying on ‘Words from the Lord’ (outside of Scripture), ‘God speaking to us’ in our heads, or mystical experiences for decision making.

©2011 by Heather Hills Baptist Church. All rights reserved.

 

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