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.

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