Conclusion of “Surprised by the Voice of God

This post wraps up the discussion on Jack Deere’s “Surprised by the Voice of God.” To look at what is true, normal and real, this post summarizes what has been discussed and asks, “how can we know we are listening to the Holy Spirit?”

Conclusion

The issue in all of this is not that we judge each other about the experience. While the experiences may be real, it doesn’t mean that they are true. The description of it may be true, it might be truly what someone thinks happened, but it doesn’t mean that the content of the experience is actually true. An experience can be either: real and true, real and untrue, unreal and true, or unreal and untrue. Just like parables were not real, they were still true and true does not always mean that it is real. The problem at the root of the issue is simply how can we know if it is true? The only way to know is to measure it against a standard of truth. The standard of truth is that it comes from God and it has God as its source. While it is not proper to judge others experiences, we should examine the truthfulness of it. The question is how would we know if it is true? Deere suggests that we trust the voices inside of us that he calls the “spirit.” He is asking us to accept something that doesn’t carry the authority of Scripture. He is asking us to trust something that is inside of us and may not even be from God. Deere is suggesting that we walk by signs and wonders instead of by faith. From an evangelical Christian perspective, a fundamental problem with getting revelation from experience instead of Scripture is that it “makes rather selective use of the Bible and even contradicts many biblical texts.”[1] This experiential model of revelation “deprives Scripture of revelational value and considers it the framework for a ‘language-event,’ an internal encounter in which one experiences authentic being.”[2] Another issue arises with receiving revelation from God only through experience. The characteristic defect is not that its emphasis is on experience, but rather its excessively narrow concept of experience.[3]

While this writer agrees that we need to be humble, willing and obedient, we must also come to God seeking His will and plan for our lives and be “willing to live by faith and trust His ways that are far greater than ours” (Isaiah 55:8, NIV). God is meant to be feared. He is worthy of awe and who are we to demand anything of Him. God has provided us a trustworthy collection of inspired God-breathed books that come with His divine authority equipping His servant for obedience. His Word is filled with historical stories that are unique and are profitable for us because they teach us about and how to follow Him.

Bibliography 

de Bras, Guido. “The Belgic Confession.” Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics. Internet. Available from http://www.reformed.org/, accessed 20 April 2014.

Dulles, Avery. Models of Revelation. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1992.

Deere, Jack. Surprised by the Voice of God. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996.

Henry, Carl F.. “The Authority and Inspiration of Scripture.” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank Gaebelein, vol. 1, 2-35. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979.

Mayhue, Richard. “Alarmed by the Voice of Jack Deere,” in The Masters Seminary Journal. Fall 1997, 151-161.

McQuilkin, J. Robertson. Understanding and Applying the Bible. Chicago: Moody Press, 1986, 240. Quoted in Roy Zuck, Basic Bible Interpretation, 285. Colorado Springs: David Cook 1991.

Pinnock, Clark H.. Biblical Revelation – the Foundation of Christian Theology. Chicago: Moody Press, 1971.

Piper, John. “Thoughts on the Sufficiency of Scripture.” Desiring God. Internet. Available from http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/thoughts-on-the-sufficiency-of-scripture, accessed 20 April 2014.

“The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy,” in Inerrancy, ed. Norman Geisler, 493-502. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980.

Warfield, Benjamin B.. “Inspiration 1-7.” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Internet. Available from http://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Def.show/RTD/isbe/ID/ 4618/Inspiration-1-7.htm, accessed 13 April 2014.

Warfield, Benjamin B.. “Inspiration 8-18.” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Internet. Available from http://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Def.show/RTD/isbe/ID/ 4618/Inspiration-8-18.htm, accessed 13 April 2014.

Wolterstorff, Nicholas. “True Words.” in But is it All True?: The Bible and the Question of Truth, ed. Alan Padgett and Patrick Keifert, 35-43. Cambridge, UK: WM. B. Eerdmans 2006.

Zuck, Roy. Basic Bible Interpretation. Colorado Springs: David Cook 1991.

[1] Avery Dulles, Models of Revelation, (Maryknoll: Orbis Books 1992), 78.

[2] Henry, 24.

[3] Dulles, 81.

What is the normative norm?

As Dr. Deere presents his experience being similar to church of Acts, we must wonder and question what is normal? What is abnormal? What is normative? And what is non-normative? Is all of our experiences going to be the same or different because of our unique backgrounds? This topic discusses what Dr. Deere sees as normal and how modern day church is something different.

What is Normal?

“When I read the stories of the people of the Bible, I did not expect their experiences to be like mine. They were special people living in special times. Their experience of God was unique; mine wasn’t. Mine was more normal, whatever that meant.”[1] The problem is that Deere is expecting every unique individual to have the same unique experience that occurred in Acts. We are all different with different backgrounds and experiences, and while there are some similarities to other individuals, all of our experiences are unique.

Normal is defined as “conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern.”[2] Abnormal can then be defined as “different from what is normal or average.”[3] It is also classified as unusual or exceptional; it does not conform to a certain type or standard. Those who hold a different view from Deere suggests that it is not about normal and abnormal, but it is about things being normative. Which brings up the question of if there is a difference to what is normal and normative. Normative means “of, relating to, or determining norms or standards.”[4] The difference between normal and normative is its connotation. Where the definitions are almost similar between normal and normative, non-normative and abnormal have significantly different connotations. Non-normative is “not based upon or employing a norm.”[5] Non-normative could also be the unusual, the unexpected and also the miraculous.

The point is not that his experiences are abnormal, but that it is non-normative. Deere asserts that Christ and the apostles performed miracles, raised the dead, and heard God’s voice through the power of the Holy Spirit and since modern believers share the same Holy Spirit, we should be able to do the same miraculous works that they did in the book of Acts. Where this argument fails is assuming that while it is the same Holy Spirit, it means that God’s purposes in demonstrating the Spirit’s power are the same today as they were in the first century. There are a limited number of miraculous events recorded in Scripture, yet Deere argues that God wants to do those miraculous, unexpected, non-normative experiences all the time. Essentially, that God wants to do that normatively since He is a God of miracles. What happens is that Deere begins to normalize the miraculous and unique which sadly belittles the unusual and undermines its powerful impact. Deere claims that it is the evangelical Christian’s experience that is abnormal rather than the experience that he and those like him believe. Maybe we ought to remember that because we are all unique, all of our experiences of God are going to be abnormal.

However, we must proceed with caution as Zuck reminded us, “If what happened to someone in Bible times is considered normative for all believers, it must be in harmony with what is taught elsewhere in Scripture. Whether raising of the dead or healing, this is never indicated in Scripture as normative for all believers.”[6] McQuilkin has written, “To be authoritative as a model – a God-given norm for all people of all time – any historic event must be so designated by an authorized spokesman for God. That an event was reported to have truly happened does not necessarily make it a revelation of God’s universal will.”[7]

Deere tells us throughout this book that if we are willing, available and humble God will do the impossible on a normal, everyday occurrence. The reason why it doesn’t happen to us now is not because God can’t do it, but because we are somehow holding God back by our unbelief. If we were to treat the Book of Acts like a normative experience, God will do the impossible in and through you, such acts will then become a normal, common, everyday experience. The problem is that is that the mighty works of God ceases to be unusual. This line of thinking turns God into a magic genie to grant us our wishes instead of a Loving Father who knows what is best for His children.

[1] Deere, 21.

[2] Merriam-Webster, s.v. “Normal,” accessed May 3, 2014,                                            http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/normal.

[3] Merriam-Webster, s.v. “Abnormal,” accessed May 3, 2014,                                            http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abnormal.

[4] Merriam-Webster, s.v. “Normative,” accessed May 3, 2014,                                            http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/normative.

[5] Merriam-Webster, s.v. “Non-Normative,” accessed May 3, 2014,                                            http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/non-normative.

[6] Zuck, 285.

[7] J. Robertson McQuilkin, Understanding and Applying the Bible (Chicago: Moody Press, 1986), 240 quoted in Roy Zuck, Basic Bible Interpretation, (Colorado Springs: David Cook 1991), 285.

Prophecy: Jack Deere’s view on it

Next, we look at how Jack Deere views the office of the prophets and prophecy both in biblical times and modern times. The main definition for prophecy focuses on Deuteronomy 18. While this writer agrees that prophecy is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we must be careful to not elevate that gift to the same level as the divinely inspired Word.

Deere’s View on Prophecy

A serious issue with the book is Deere’s casual handling of the biblical prophets, or as to use his term, those that are “prophetically gifted.” Deere doesn’t believe that a failed or missed prediction makes a false prophet. He will even go so far as to say that the 100% accuracy rule of Deuteronomy 18:15-22 is not the correct interpretation of that text, nor does he hold 100% accuracy view for the New Testament.[1] Thus, let us now look at Deuteronomy 18:18, 20, 22 to see what it says:

[A]nd I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him…. But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, is to be put to death…. If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken.

In reviewing the passage in Deuteronomy, the view of this writer is that Deere has missed the mark. If one claims to be a prophet and speaks presumptuously for God a message that God has not delivered to them, then the prophet is a false prophet. Since they are a false prophet, then they are deserving of death. From this passage, there are two main standards of truth. First, that it must be 100% accurate. Second, that it must match the word of God. This standard would then apply in spirit at all times, not just in ancient Israel. In view of the text, an Old Testament prophet could be defined as one who speaks for God. A prophet is one in whom God has placed His words and because they are from God, the standard of accuracy is 100%. “Deuteronomy 18 does more than establish the prophet as a divinely deputized spokesman; it correlates his mission with the proclamation of God’s divinely given words.”[2]

Contrary to the biblical standard of Deuteronomy 18, Deere instead believes that “the way to discern between false and true prophets is to examine the fruit of the prophet’s ministry.”[3] Deere later mentions that “certainly, truth or fulfillment of prophecy would be part of the good fruit.”[4] By mentioning fruit, he is causing the reader to observe the effects of the prophet instead of the accuracy. While Deere admits that he knows of no prophets that are absolutely accurate 100% of the time, he believes that prophetic error can still produce fruit of the Spirit.[5] At the same time, in viewing prophets in this way, he has made a fundamental mistake saying in effect that God speaks in error.

This directs us back to the definition of a prophet. If prophecy can be defined as speaking God’s words, then what Deere terms a “prophetically gifted” person must be called a prophet. While Deere says that the “prophetically gifted” are right most of the time but not all of the time, if they claim to speak the words of God, then by definition they must be called prophets. If the standard of a prophet is that they will speak the words that God will put into their mouths, and because God is who He is and He is the standard of truth, then the prophecy must be 100% accurate. Unfortunately, these “prophets” do not meet the standard of truth that God set out for them in His Word. Deere instead tries to fit God’s Word into his theology. Truth can be defined as “a statement or idea that is true or accepted as true.”[6] Examining truth further, the “root notion of truth is that of something measuring up – that is, measuring up in being or excellence.”[7] God is the only and best standard of truth. When God-breathed out His inspired Word by using the Spirit to guide the biblical authors to write these inerrant words, He gave us His standard of truth.

The issue at hand is not about adding these prophetic words to the Bible. As discussed, the canon is a closed discussion. The issue is if God is speaking these words through these “prophets,” then they are from God and have God as their source. This means that they are also considered inspired, which means they must be true. But when Deere says that not every prophet is 100% accurate and are wrong some of the time, then they cannot be from God because His words meet the standard of truth and come with His authority. These “prophets” simply do not measure up.

[1] Deere, 69.

[2] Henry, 16.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Deere, 326.

[5] Ibid, 68-69.

[6] Merriam-Webster, s.v. “True,” accessed May 3, 2014,                                            http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/true.

[7] Nicholas Wolterstorff, “True Words,” in But is it All True?: The Bible and the Question of Truth, ed. Alan Padgett and Patrick Keifert (Cambridge, UK: WM. B. Eerdmans 2006), 43.

The Sufficiency of Scripture According to “Surprised by the Voice of God”

This post continues the review of the Vineyard Movement leader jack Deere’s book, “Surprised by the Voice of God,” and how it handles the Sufficiency of Scripture. He seems to elevate the experiences, dreams and visions to the same level as Scripture.

Sufficiency of Scripture

The sufficiency of Scripture was a result of God’s divine inspiration of Scripture. The doctrine of sufficiency affirms that Scripture is enough. The Belgic Confession says that, “we believe that the Holy Scriptures fully contain the will of God and that whatsoever man ought to believe onto salvation is sufficiently taught therein.”[1] Inside the pages of Scripture lies everything that is needed for the follower of God to be “…thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:17, NIV); it provides all that is necessary for the Christian to live a godly life. “The written Scriptures were the statute-book by which God instructed, warned, and judged his ancient people.”[2] The stated purpose of the biblical writings is to “give man all that is necessary and sufficient for his redemptive rescue and obedient service of his Maker.”[3] Scripture is sufficient in that it is practical because it is worthy to be taught, studied and obeyed.

“If we take the position that God does not speak apart from Scripture, we are left with no purpose…” for the biblical stories.[4] Deere asserts that his experiences are on the same level as Scripture: “I have confined my discussion to the part of the language of the Holy Spirit that seems most common in Scriptures, or to those aspects that either I have personally experienced or that someone I know to be a credible witness has experienced.”[5] For Deere, he believes that the conservative evangelical believes that the sufficiency of Scripture is the only way God speaks to his followers today. Deere strongly condemns the “Bible deist” for being so confident in their theological methods and interpretations that it is difficult for them to be corrected by experience.[6] On the one hand, he makes a valid argument that many people, evangelicals and others, make the Word of God into God. All too often, some will worship the Bible instead of the Author of the Bible who is revealing Himself in it. His caution about worshipping the Bible instead of God is valuable.

However, he has severely mislabeled the evangelical by arguing that the only way they receive revelation from God is by Scripture alone. This writer would argue that the evangelical model for receiving revelation is much broader than what he has condemned. The evangelical model holds Scripture in the highest regard for God’s revelations, however it also asserts that God reveals Himself through acts of history, through a personal and communal experience with his followers, by revelation through God’s initiative and revealing in Christ, and through an awareness of symbols and experiencing God in creation (For further discussion on models of revelation, please see post on Dulles). As you can see, revelation from God comes from more than just Scripture, but with Scripture as its main standard of truth, all other forms of revelation must be measured against it.

In addition, Deere asserts that miracles are used today to provide guidance to believers. Hence, God is guiding believers today through the same type of miracles he used in Scripture. But, in using this logic, he is assuming that God must continue to use miracles today rather than through the faithfully recorded history of biblical miracles.[7] Thus, according to Deere, what is in Scripture is insufficient for the modern Christian. The issue is that the doctrine of sufficiency never denies the possibility of miracles, it just means “that we [Christians] don’t need any more special revelation. We don’t need any more inspired, inerrant words. In the Bible God has given us, we have the perfect standard for judging all other knowledge.”[8]

In addition, Deere says that, “I can longer conceive of trying to live the Christian life without it.”[9] Unfortunately, Deere isn’t talking about Scripture, but he is referring to the voice of God beyond the Bible. Consequently, in making a statement such as this, he is suggesting that his theology and experiences are far superior to those who don’t hear God’s voice. In his spiritual elitism, because those who do not possess the special knowledge that he and only a few have, the evangelical Christian will never progress in the kingdom of God.

Deere continues his attack of the Bible’s sufficiency saying, “but after God wrote the Bible, he apparently went mute, or so it seemed to me, for the only way I could hear him speak was through his book.”[10] But, Scripture passages such as Psalm 19, 119; 2 Timothy 3:14-17; and 2 Peter 1:3 all make claims and promises that Scripture alone is sufficient in spiritual matters. In spite of that, Deere craves more and shows that he doesn’t appreciate what he has in the Bible. In much the same manner as seeking a spiritual “high”, he seems to be craving the “high” instead of the Almighty.

Finally, Deere concludes that “…even knowledge of the Bible was is an insufficient guide to Jesus.”[11] What he is suggesting is that without extra-biblical revelation from God, no one will know Christ in a sufficient manner.[12] That is to move away from the work of the Holy Spirit in one’s life. Although later he contradicts that statement saying, “The most common way the Holy Spirit reveals Jesus and speaks to us today is through the Bible.”[13]

In light of this, the Christian must remember that “the Scriptures are sufficient in the sense that they are the only (‘once for all’) inspired and (therefore) inerrant words of God that we need, in order to know the way of salvation (‘make you wise unto salvation’) and the way of obedience (‘equipped for every good work’).”[14] “For the Bible is God’s Word now. It is his authoritative Word, in and through and by which the Spirit addresses us today….Scripture is indeed what God himself would have us know and would have us obey in the church as the Word of God.”[15]

[1] Guido de Bras, “The Belgic Confession,” Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics, Internet, available from http://www.reformed.org/, accessed 20 April 2014.

[2] Henry, 10.

[3] Ibid, 27-28.

[4] Deere, 281.

[5] Ibid, 156.

[6] Ibid, 253.

[7] Mayhue, 155.

[8] John Piper, “Thoughts on the Sufficiency of Scripture,” Desiring God, Internet, available from http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/thoughts-on-the-sufficiency-of-scripture, accessed 20 April 2014.

[9] Deere, 17.

[10] Ibid, 19.

[11] Ibid, 38.

[12] Mayhue, 161.

[13] Deere, 100.

[14] Piper, “Thoughts on the Sufficiency of Scripture.”

[15] Henry, 10-11.

Jack Deere and the Canonicity of Scripture

This section will continue to look at Jack Deere’s treatment on the visions, dreams and experiences and how they relate to the canon of Scripture.

Canonicity of Scripture

The Scriptures were written by men under the influence and direction of the Holy Spirit, the writings resulted in a product of “divine quality unattainable by human powers alone.”[1] These “sacred writings” being the product of the breath of God, were seen as being of “supreme value for all holy purposes.”[2] They were recognized as being from God and worthy to be called God’s Word. Since they were God’s Word, they were worthy to be obeyed and thus worthy of collection.

These books were identified as being different. They were recognized as being from God and carrying His authority, as opposed to other books written by the same biblical writers, not being collected and preserved because they were not recognized as being inspired and thus from God. The fact that the writing was inspired, that is God-breathed, is what makes it part of Scripture and “canonized” because the basis of canonicity is that the work is inspired.

The New Testament canon was essentially closed, much like the Old Testament, with the lack of apostles and the cessation of prophecy. Many scholars believe that for the most part, prophecy ended or disappeared after the apostolic era. Deere assumes that the miracles of the past should be occurring today.[3] He is arguing for the continuation of these miraculous events. Deere believes that since there is not a single Scripture verse that says miracles will cease, that nothing should prevent it from happening again or continuing. Deere seems to be employing a very broad generalization of an unjustified hermeneutic of Scripture, which is that unless Scripture denies the continuation of experience, those experience have continued and will continue today. Deere takes these claims of miraculous experiences, specifically accepting a person’s claims to have a miraculous experience of God today that was similar to what happened in biblical times, and letting that prove that God is presently working the same type of miracles. This line of thinking errs because it signals reading one’s experience into Scripture to validate Scripture rather than letting God’s Word validate the experience.

“In Bible times, people knew God spoke frequently through dreams, so they took them seriously.”[4] “Dreams have always been an important means of communication…. And one of his favorite ways of speaking is through dreams.”[5] Contrary to Deere’s analysis on the frequency of dreams and visions in biblical times, biblical scholars might argue that they were actually uncommon and scarce. “Consider that in the entire Old Testament (a period of over 4000 years) fewer than 20 specific dreams to less than fifteen people are recorded. Historical instances in the New Testament are not found beyond the six recorded in Matthew.”[6] Even if one were to include “visions” with “dreams”, there are less than 25 recorded in the Old Testament and even fewer in the New Testament.[7]

The point is that apart from a small number of exceptions that occurred over a few thousand years, the exceptions cannot make the rule. These rare occurrences were just that, they were rare. The miraculous and unusual were not normal, everyday occurrences. In both Deere’s treatment of broad generalizations about Scripture and experience validating Scripture, he is assuming that it was normal in Scripture and it must therefore be normal today. In contrast, however, it can be argued that broad generalizations require a great deal of caution, especially in miraculous and unusual biblical cases because God’s plan and purpose for modern believers is significantly different than the early church leaders. “We must be careful not to generalize for today everything that happened in Bible times. This is especially true in narrative passages of the Bible, which report experiences peculiar to individuals in their isolated cases. Because God has done something in the past for an individual does not mean we can expect Him to do the same for us.”[8]

[1] Benjamin B. Warfield, “Inspiration 8-18,” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Internet, available from http://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Def.show/RTD/isbe/ID/4618/Inspiration-8-18.htm, accessed 13 April 2014.

[2] Benjamin B. Warfield, “Inspiration 1-7,” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Internet, available from http://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Def.show/RTD/isbe/ID/4618/Inspiration-1-7.htm, accessed 13 April 2014.

[3] Deere, 26.

[4] Deere, 217.

[5] Ibid, 219.

[6] Richard Mayhue, “Alarmed by the Voice of Jack Deere,” in The Masters Seminary Journal, (Fall 1997), 151-161.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Roy Zuck, Basic Bible Interpretation, (Colorado Springs: David Cook 1991), 284-285.

Deere’s Treatment of Scripture

This section begins the focus on Dr. Jack Deere’s treatment of Scripture in his book, “Surprised by the Voice of God.” We will begin with an overview and then look more closely at the authority of Scripture and how Deere treats these revelations.

Deere’s Treatment of Scripture

“The Bible is the sacred Christian book. The fate of Christianity turns on its supernatural origin, the factuality of its redemptive history, and the validity of its teachings.”[1] The central and pivotal doctrine of Scripture is the doctrine of inspiration, it states that all Scripture is God-breathed and has God as its source. Since it is “wholly and verbally God-given, Scripture is without error or fault in all of its teachings, no less than what it states about God’s acts in Creation, about the events of world history, about its own literary origins under God, and its witness to God’s saving grace in individual lives.”[2] As a result of being from God, the inspired Scriptures carry with it the doctrines of inerrancy, authority, canonicity and sufficiency. This means that the Scriptures that God breathed out through the work of the Spirit to give us these trustworthy words come with His authority and are worthy of preservation so that His people may be equipped for obedience.

But what happens when someone starts to elevate a different revelation to have the same authority as the inspired Scriptures. What happens when we replace the authority of Scripture with our own experiences? What happens to God’s Word in a person’s life when they no longer look to it for revelation, but look to oneself? What happens when one starts skewing the lines to make the Bible fit into one’s life and theology instead of having the Bible provide one’s theology? In the next few sections, Deere’s treatment of Scripture will be examined against the doctrines of authority, canonicity and sufficiency to show how Scripture is mis-treated and his experiences have replaced Scripture’s primary revelatory role.

Authority of Scripture

Scripture is authoritative because it comes from God; it has God as its source. Since it is from God it has His divine authority and thus it is to be obeyed. God breathed out His instructions so that all who believe in Him will be “wise for salvation” (2 Tim. 3:15, NIV). Recalling that “all Scripture is God-breathed” (2 Tim. 3:16, NIV) means that Scripture is completely inspired. All of it has the authority of God. Some concepts or themes may not have the same importance as they once did or apply to the culture today, but that does not mean it is any less authoritative. There are some themes in Scripture that are more timeless or more important than others. Propositional truth is linked to a context in time and space because it uses language that is expressed in time and space of that certain culture. Even though some truths are more timeless than others, the Bible is still entirely authoritative because it is from God.

Deere argues that we have varying degrees of authority in Scripture. In discussing the present forms of prophecy and ongoing propositional revelation, he believes that visions, impressions and dreams have divine authority, but they do not have the same authority as Scripture. In making this statement, Deere suggests that all things that come from God have a varying degree of authority. Deere argues, “Nor am I saying that experience and Scripture are equal standards of authority for us.”[3] In his system, he is claiming that there are certain divine revelations that are more authoritative than others. This allows him to affirm that not only does Scripture have authority, but the experiences have authority as well. The issue is that if they are both from God, they should both have the same divine authority. God cannot be separated and neither can His authority.

In speaking of one’s obligation to obey spiritual promptings, Deere makes a contrast between the Bible having absolute authority over all believers and “divine personal guidance” having authority only over the person that it was given to.[4] In contrasting these two messages, he is stating that Scripture has one level of unique authority that applies to “all believers, everywhere, at all times.”[5] However, the divine messages have another level of authority because it applies to a limited time and place. Deere’s view of authority is significantly different from the view that sees all of Scripture having the authority of God. The commands in the Bible are not expressing God’s rules for all people, everywhere and in every time. There are some commands which are bound by time and others bound by culture. The Bible needs to be interpreted because some of it is relevant and applies to us today, while some of it does not, however it is all true and authoritative. The basis for his argument is that these visions, dreams and impressions have a different authority than the Bible.

Deere believes that the Bible is true but it does not help in interpreting the voices from God. “But probably more often than not, a naïve commitment to tradition often drowns his [God’s] voice in a sea of confidence in human methods and rules.”[6] What he is alluding to is that the extra-biblical voice of God is more reliable than the biblical voice of God. Deere is arguing that those who have incorporated a traditional form of Bible study are actually using a deficient method, while commending those who are supposedly interpreting the truth correctly because they are using the “voice” to know what Scripture is actually teaching.

In a warning about elevating interpretation above Scripture, Pinnock says, “The intent of the text is secondary to the needs of the interpreter. The Bible no longer rules us; we rule it!”[7] As believers, we can never allow our own interpretation or knowledge to have primary authority in our lives. While Scripture needs to be interpreted, it is Scripture that is authoritative.

[1] Carl F. H. Henry, “The Authority and Inspiration of the Bible,” in The Expositor’s Bible

Commentary, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979), 3.

[2] “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy,” in Inerrancy, ed. Norman Geisler (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980), 493.

[3] Ibid, 127.

[4] Ibid, 284.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid, 249.

[7] Clark H. Pinnock, Biblical Revelation – the Foundation of Christian Theology, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1971), 223.

Surprised by the Voice of God Review

The following posts will comprise a series of smaller parts that make up the whole of the bigger review. This review was issued to seminary students to do a critical review of the Jack Deere’s book, “Surprised by the Voice of God.” Part of this review is to identify the good and the bad parts that make up this book. While the book challenges the reader to look at their own life and not be happy with a static life with God, it calls into question some of its methods or what it tends to elevate. I hope that all of us will be able to experience the fruit of the Spirit, but also the gifts of the Spirit will be exhibited.

SURPRISED BY A DIFFERENT REVELATION

If you are a humble, willing and available Christian, then there is a way to hear the audible voice of God and have prophetic visions, dreams and impressions. All this could happen on a regular, normal basis that far exceeds what most Christians experience and could even exceed what the church of Acts experienced. In the book, “Surprised by the Voice of God,” Dr. Jack Deere provides a simple formula to experiencing God on a normal, direct, consistent basis.

There are various claims throughout the book that Deere makes about himself and his associates receiving divine messages about the future, as well as information regarding others and their issues. These experiences reportedly include precise information about other people (13-17), events that are both past and future (343-58), and specific direction regarding one’s life (286-88). Each one comes with some amount of success to make the stories sound plausible. At the heart of the book, Deere explains why he believes God is speaking to Christians today on a frequent basis to those that are keen to listen. According to Deere, the same phenomena that a Christian reads in Scripture, should represent what our normal Christian life is like today. He believes those experiences did not cease once the apostolic era and New Testament canon was closed.[1] Throughout his book, Deere subtly and convincingly structures his argument by: appealing to Scripture to validate his case, claiming to hold Scripture as an authority and frequent illustrations that support his ideas.

However, as he makes his claims he sends the reader down a very dangerous path. He calls into question the authority, canonicity, inerrancy and sufficiency of the Bible. He elevates experience to the same level or authority as Scripture. In his generalizing of Scriptural interpretation, he makes the miraculous into something normal, which is also to say that his Christianity is superior to others, or that if we aren’t experiencing what he does, it is because we are prideful idolaters. The goal of this essay is to review the claims that Deere makes in his book and provide an alternative view to his conclusions.

[1] Jack Deere, Surprised by the Voice of God, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 276-278.

The Sufficiency of Scripture and Concluding Thoughts on Inspiration

The final doctrine on the inspiration of Scripture is discussed briefly here in the form of the Sufficiency of Scripture. The conclusion ties the last few posts up and discusses the overarching theme on the importance of the inspiration of Scripture.

Doctrine of Sufficiency

The third doctrine that resulted from the doctrine of inspiration is that of the sufficiency of Scripture. This doctrine affirms that Scripture is enough. The Belgic Confession says that, “we believe that the Holy Scriptures fully contain the will of God and that whatsoever man ought to believe onto salvation is sufficiently taught therein.”[1] Inside the pages of Scripture lies everything that is needed for the follower of God to be “…thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:17, NIV); it provides all that is necessary for the Christian to live a godly life. “The written Scriptures were the statute-book by which God instructed, warned, and judged his ancient people.”[2] Henry concludes that the stated purpose of the biblical writings is to “give man all that is necessary and sufficient for his redemptive rescue and obedient service of his Maker.”[3] Scripture is sufficient in that it is practical because it is worthy to be taught, studied and obeyed.

God, in His infinite wisdom, gave us everything He wanted us to know in His inspired Word. He gave us what we needed and because it is from God, He gave us enough. If He wanted us to know more, He would have provided that to us. Sufficiency doesn’t mean that the Bible contains all the truths of this world or all that we need to live as obedient stewards of this world. It also doesn’t mean that all of God’s revelations were or are included in the Bible. There are truths outside of the Bible, like science and economics for example. “The sufficiency of Scripture means that we don’t need any more special revelation. We don’t need any more inspired, inerrant words. In the Bible God has given us, we have the perfect standard for judging all other knowledge.”[4]

The doctrine of sufficiency is that God has thoroughly, competently and completely provided all that is necessary in His Word for His believers to obey Him.

Conclusion

God has provided all mankind a true and accurate account of Him and His redemptive works that comes with His authority, been He has preserved and collected through all the ages and has equipped those who read this book everything they will need to listen and obey Him. This all started by God breathing out the very words that we can read today. It all started with inspiration when God breathed out these trustworthy words that came with His authority to be preserved so that His people may be equipped for obedience. “For the Bible is God’s Word now. It is his authoritative Word, in and through and by which the Spirit addresses us today….Scripture is indeed what God himself would have us know and would have us obey in the church as the Word of God.”[5] John Piper sums it up nicely saying, “the Scriptures are sufficient in the sense that they are the only (‘once for all’) inspired and (therefore) inerrant words of God that we need, in order to know the way of salvation (‘make you wise unto salvation’) and the way of obedience (‘equipped for every good work’).”[6]

The doctrines of authority, canonicity and sufficiency are all derived from inspiration. When God gave us His inspired works and these doctrines came to be, He provided the Christian examples of how God has worked in history, how He is working today and how He is equipping us for the future. He has provided us a profitable collection that is trustworthy and more than enough.

[1] Guido de Bras, “The Belgic Confession,” Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics, Internet, available from http://www.reformed.org/, accessed 20 April 2014.

[2] Henry, 10.

[3] Ibid, 27-28.

[4] John Piper, “Thoughts on the Sufficiency of Scripture,” Desiring God, Internet, available from http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/thoughts-on-the-sufficiency-of-scripture, accessed 20 April 2014.

[5] Henry, 10-11.

[6] Piper, “Thoughts on the Sufficiency of Scripture.”

Bibliography

de Bras, Guido. “The Belgic Confession.” Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics. Internet. Available from http://www.reformed.org/, accessed 20 April 2014.

Erickson, Millard J.. Christian Theology. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1983.

Geisler, Norman. “Canonicity of the Bible.” Internet. Available from http://www.pinpointevangelism.com/ The-Canonicity-of-the-Bible.pdf, accessed on 20 April 2014.

Henry, Carl F.. “The Authority and Inspiration of Scripture.” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank Gaebelein, vol. 1, 2-35. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979.

McGrath, Alister E.. Christian Theology: An Introduction. West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.

Piper, John. “Thoughts on the Sufficiency of Scripture.” Desiring God. Internet. Available from http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/thoughts-on-the-sufficiency-of-scripture, accessed 20 April 2014.

“The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy,” in Inerrancy, ed. Norman Geisler, 493-502. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980.

Warfield, Benjamin B.. “Inspiration 1-7.” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Internet. Available from http://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Def.show/RTD/isbe/ID/ 4618/Inspiration-1-7.htm, accessed 13 April 2014.

Warfield, Benjamin B.. “Inspiration 8-18.” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Internet. Available from http://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Def.show/RTD/isbe/ID/ 4618/Inspiration-8-18.htm, accessed 13 April 2014.

Doctrine of Canonicity

The continuation on the doctrines of the inspiration of Scripture. This post features part two, the doctrine on the canonicity. Please note, due to size constraints, this is just an abbreviated, big-picture overview. This is not a comprehensive examination on the full doctrine of canonicity.

Doctrine of Canonicity

The doctrine of canonicity could also be called worthy of preservation. The books of the Bible were collected and set apart as Scripture because those who had compiled them could see that they were worthy of preservation and were authoritative. The “canon of Scripture refers to a limited and defined group of writings, which are accepted as authoritative within the Christian church.”[1] Geisler refers to canonicity as the “authoritative books inspired by God for inclusion in Holy Scripture. Canonicity is determined by God….Its authority is established by God.”[2] “The word canon…is a pointer to authority…which belongs to God in His revelation through Jesus Christ and the Holy Scriptures.”[3]Written by men under the influence and direction of the Holy Spirit, the writings resulted in a product of “divine quality unattainable by human powers alone.”[4] These “sacred writings” being the product of the breath of God, were seen as being of “supreme value for all holy purposes.”[5] As the early church read these books, meditated on them and collected them, they recognized them as Scripture. Why? Because these certain books came with the authenticity as being God’s inspired Word. They were recognized as being from God and worthy to be called God’s Word. Since they were God’s Word, they were worthy to be obeyed and thus worthy of collection.

These books were identified as being different. They were recognized as being from God and carrying His authority, as opposed to other books written by the same biblical writers, not being collected and preserved because they were not recognized as being inspired and thus from God. The fact that the writing was inspired, that is God-breathed, is what makes it part of Scripture and “canonized” because the basis of canonicity is that the work is inspired.

The issue of canonicity is a closed discussion. The Old Testament canon is linked to books written by the priests and the prophets. Some of the writings, particularly of Moses, were collected and preserved in the Ark of the Covenant. The closing of the Old Testament canon is mainly due to the 400 years of silence and lack of prophets. The New Testament, on the other hand, is linked mainly to the apostles. These writings were given to the early churches as opposed to being given to the people as it was with the Old Testament. The New Testament canon was essentially closed, much like the Old Testament, with the lack of apostles and the cessation of prophecy.

The doctrine of canonicity can be defined as a collection of sacred writings worthy of preservation and collection that meet the standard. The basis for canonicity is that they are inspired by God.

[1] Alister E. McGrath, Christian Theology: An Introduction (West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011), 12.

[2] Norman Geisler, “Canonicity of the Bible,” Internet, available from http://www.pinpointevangelism.com/The-Canonicity-of-the-Bible.pdf, accessed on 20 April 2014.

[3] The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, 499.

[4] Warfield, 8-18.

[5] Warfield, 1-7.

A DEFINITION OF AUTHORITY OF SCRIPTURE

The next few post will continue to exam the doctrines that are tied to Scripture, such as authority, canonicity and sufficiency. This post provides an introduction to the subject as well as a look at the authority of Scripture.

A DEFINITION OF AUTHORITY, CANONICITY & SUFFICIENCY

The central and pivotal doctrine of Scripture is the doctrine of inspiration, that states that all Scripture is God-breathed and has God as its source. Furthermore, inspiration is “the supernatural influence of the Holy Spirit upon the Scripture writers which rendered their writings an accurate record of the revelation, or which resulted in what they wrote actually being the Word of God.”[1] As a result, the doctrine of inspiration is made up of four separate doctrines: inerrancy, authority, canonicity and sufficiency. Each of these doctrines are all by-products or derivatives of the doctrine of inspiration.

Recall that the doctrine of inerrancy can be defined simply as Scripture being true and without error. Since it is “wholly and verbally God-given, Scripture is without error or fault in all of its teachings, no less than what it states about God’s acts in Creation, about the events of world history, about its own literary origins under God, and its witness to God’s saving grace in individual lives.”[2] In an attempt to bring clarity and a greater understanding on the doctrine of inspiration, the purpose of this writing is to expand the awesome work of inspiration by defining the doctrines of authority, canonicity and sufficiency of the Scriptures. The Bible is authoritative because it has God as its source and since it is his Word, it is to be obeyed. Scripture is worthy of preservation and collection because they were recognized as being God’s inspired Word. Inside this authoritative collection of God’s inspired sacred writings, is everything the servant of God needs to follow, worship and live a godly life. Having defined inerrancy previously, these three doctrines will now be further examined

Doctrine of Authority

The doctrine of authority can be defined as that which is to be obeyed. As authoritative, Scripture reveals God and His commands and promises. Since Scripture has God as its source, we can attribute it to being God’s Word and having all the authority of God, thus Scripture is to be obeyed. Scriptures “authority rests on its divinity and its divinity expresses itself in its trustworthiness.”[3] The Bible presents itself first and foremost, as the Word of the Lord, given to man through chosen recipients and transmitters of divine redemptive revelation.[4] Since the Bible is a result of the divine work of the Holy Spirit working through the biblical writers, “the product of their activities transcends human powers and becomes divinely authoritative.”[5] Scripture is to be obeyed because with God as the Divine Author, He breathes out instructions for His people and all mankind.

Yet many deny the authority of Scripture. They deny that Scripture was inspired by God and that it is authoritative. Critics will speak of degrees of authority, but in doing so they misunderstand what authority is. As mentioned previously, Scripture as a whole is authoritative. Every part of it comes from God and shares His very attributes, including His authority and trustworthiness. It is evident from Jesus’ own teachings and testimony that He viewed every word of Scripture as a word of God and thus authoritative ascribing God as its author.[6] Jesus appeals to the indefectible authority belonging to every part of Scripture, as both He and the New Testament writers make their appeal indifferently to every part of Scripture, to every element in Scripture, to its most incidental clauses as well as to its most fundamental principles, and to the very form of its expression (cf. Matt. 5:18). [7] This is not to say that every part of Scripture applies to every situation. One must recognize that some passages don’t apply in certain contexts. Some passages are more timeless and important than others, but all of Scripture comes with the authority of God. Henry warns us that “Whoever would speak of God as authoritative over human life, yet clouds the authority of the Bible, in effect obscures an authoritative God.”[8] “Without an authoritative Scripture, the church is powerless to overcome not only human unregeneracy but also satanic deception.”[9] In denying the authority that God gave to the Bible, the Bible has been reduced by one’s critical reasoning and has elevated that reasoning in direct opposition to Scriptural teaching.[10]

The doctrine of authority can be described as a function of God’s inspiration of Scripture that carries His sovereignty as the source of Scripture bearing His characteristics to reveal instructions to be obeyed. Scripture’s authority is profitable for the servant of God to do His will and “make you wise unto salvation” (2 Tim. 3:15, NIV).

[1] Millard J. Erikson, Christian Theology, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1983), 199.

[2] “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy,” in Inerrancy, ed. Norman Geisler (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980), 493.

[3] Benjamin B. Warfield, “Inspiration 8-18,” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Internet, available from http://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Def.show/RTD/isbe/ID/4618/Inspiration-8-18.htm, accessed 13 April 2014.

[4] Carl F. Henry, “The Authority and Inspiration of Scripture,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank Gaebelein, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979), 4.

[5] Benjamin B. Warfield, “Inspiration 1-7,” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Internet, available from http://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Def.show/RTD/isbe/ID/4618/Inspiration-1-7.htm, accessed 13 April 2014.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Henry, 11.

[9] Ibid, 13.

[10] “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy,” in Inerrancy, ed. Norman Geisler (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980), 502.