Ask RC: What should I do when feeling completely overwhelmed?
Lambs to the Slaughter
It is a sure sign of the perversity of our world that we find ourselves having to grade, to rate, to rank the perversity of our world. There is not one evil out there, nor even one evil in here. Instead evil has as many faces as the world has fingerprints. It is a second sure sign of our perversity that we succumb to the temptation of grading perversity on a scale of its closeness to us. That is, because we are evil, we judge our own evil to be good, our friends’ evil to be fair, and only evil in distant time zones to be truly evil.
Ask RC: Why did God destroy the city of Sodom?
Sheep Hating Shepherds
It’s just not done any more. Church discipline is hopelessly out of style. It went out with the Inquisition. We’ve discovered something new and better−grace. So called churches around the country have determined that Paul cut his ode to love short in I Corinthians 13. Not only does love bear all things, believe all things, hope all things and endure all things, but it permits all things. Church discipline is crowded out by grace and love, or, if we were being more honest, it is crowded out by the fear of lawsuits, slanderous attacks and by hatred. The Bible, however, is clear. Any father who spares the rod does so not out of love for the son, but because he hates him (Proverbs 13:24.) In like manner, elders who refuse to exercise the power of the keys in the household of God hate those they are commanded to love. It is not merely unsafe. It is not merely dangerous. It is hatred.
More prevalent still is that the sheep hate themselves. How many self-professing Christians refuse to come un- der the blessing of church discipline? They will not join a local church, believing themselves accountable only to their own desires. How many others have joined “churches,” but have joined churches run by hirelings? Stud- ies suggest, by the way, that that mega-church down by the interstate did not get so big by bringing in the elect from the four corners of the world. Instead mega-churches become mega by attracting the already churched, those looking for anonymity and autonomy. You can come and go, and no one even needs to know you were there.
Are you in a church that would, if you were unfaithful to your wife, unrepentantly so, bar you from the Table of the Lord? Are you in a church that, if you denied, unrepentantly so, the bodily resurrection of Jesus, would de- clare you to be outside the bounds of the church of Jesus Christ? If you are in a church that would not discipline you for such sins, but you are certain that you would never fall into such sins, your sheep hating shepherds are watching over a fool. If on the other hand, you have such shepherds, and you are wise enough to know you can fall into grievous sin, then run, flee now. Find a local body with shepherds who will hold you to account. Find a local body with shepherds who will love you. If you don’t know the situation in your church, ask. Ask your pas- tor first if the church would discipline you under those circumstances. If he says they wouldn’t, ask him why on your way out the door. If he says they would, ask him when was the last time they did so. If he can’t remember, chances are he is selling you a bill of goods.
If you know yourself, and if you do not hate yourself, you have no choice. Do not worry if the preacher isn’t dynamic. Do not worry if the youth group isn’t sufficiently hip. Do not even worry if the pastor has an accurate eschatology. Worry about whether the shepherds will love you. And when they do, give them thanks. Let them that watch out for your souls, who must give an account, do so with joy and not with grief, for such would be unprofitable for you.
Ask RC: Is sola Scriptura in the Bible?
No, and yes. The Bible does not have specific text that suggests that the Bible alone is our final authority in all matters of faith and practice. Those who delight to point this out, however, typically Roman Catholics and the eastern Orthodox, typically miss the point. First, their energies more often than not are aimed at the Anabaptist error that we call solo Scriptura. Here the person affirms that all he needs is himself and his Bible. The wisdom of the church in history, the community of believers, are all deemed irrelevant to understanding the things of God. Solo scriptura is reprehensible and ignorant and a-historical.
Sola Scriptura, like the Scriptures themselves, recognizes that God has gifted the church with teachers and pas- tors. It recognizes that the church has progressed and reached consensus on critical issues in and through the ancient ecumenical creeds. It affirms with vigor that we are all standing on the shoulders of giants. But it also affirms that even these giants have feet of clay. And there is where the Bible does in the end teach sola Scriptura.
Sola Scriptura is a biblical doctrine not because the Bible says so. That would be a tautology- the kind of argu- ment we find in that collection of lies the Book of Mormon. Instead the Bible is our alone final authority because it alone is the Word of God. It has been attested, authenticated, by God Himself. Miracles serve as the divine imprimatur, the proof that this is a message of God. This is how Nicodemus reasoned when he said, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him” (John 3:2). This is also how Jesus Himself reasoned when He first forgave the sins of the paralytic lowered through the roof. In response to the unspoken charge that He had blasphemed, Jesus told the man, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house” (Matthew 9:1-8).
I would be quite content to add as a second infallible and inerrant authority the ancient creeds of the church un- der the following conditions. First, those who gathered to formulate these creeds would need to have their mes- sage authenticated by miraculous works. Let them raise men from the dead. Second, we must add those creeds to our Bibles. If both sources are equally authoritative, why do we separate them? In like manner, I’d be content to add as a second infallible and inerrant authority the statements of the Pope when He speaks ex cathedra. First, however, let him raise men from the dead. Second, let us add his words, assuming he would even tell us what they were, to our canon. But wait, there’s more. I want an authoritative list, in both instances of what these mes- sages are. Ask someone Orthodox to show you exactly where you can read their infallible tradition and you will receive slippery ooze. Ask someone Roman Catholic for a list of infallible papal or consiliar statements, and you will receive the same.
Finally, there is this problem. In both instances, Rome and Orthodoxy, you run headlong into the problem of the infinite regress. That is, those who are less strident in their views on tradition, who deny that tradition carries additional content to the Scripture, instead argue that tradition gives an infallible and inerrant interpretation of Scripture. Okay. Where then can we find an infallible and inerrant interpretation of the interpretation? Assuming we could succeed there, of course, we would need an inerrant interpretation of the interpretation of the interpre- tation. Ad nauseum. No, the Bible is God’s Word. It is perspicuous, understandable. It says what it means and means what it says. It is attested by the miraculous power of God. And it is all these things, alone. It alone, all by itself, equips us for every good work. Flee anyone who tells you that more is required to understand, or more is required to obey. If you’d like to learn more, I’d encourage you to get and read my friend Keith Mathison’s outstanding book The Shape of Sola Scriptura.