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.

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