The Sufficiency of Scripture
Fairly recently two of my work colleagues (AJ & DM) really encouraged me in their firm conviction of sola scriptura. The occasion that prompted this conviction of sola scriptura was question I’d asked, enquiring whether Scripture addresses everything pertaining to human life. I was somewhat taken aback by the promptness and firmness of conviction; how couldn't it be they asked, when Scripture is given in order to equip the man of God for every good work (2 Timothy 3:17)?
Before considering the massive implications for such a belief, let us briefly unpack what sola scriptura means. In sum, sola scriptura asserts that Scripture alone is the primary and absolute source of authority, the final court of appeal for all of life. In other words, Scripture is the alpha and omega regarding everything in life and there is no aspect of human existence that is not authoritatively addressed by the Bible.
One passage which reiterates this view is 1 Corinthians 10:31:
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
If Scripture expects us to do everything to God's glory and if Jesus declares that human existence fundamentally depends on all God's words (Matthew 4:4), then there is no human activity that is either validated or repudiated in Scripture. In simple words, there in no activity where someone can say “We can never know whether _______ pleases or displeases God.” John Frame captures this view succinctly when he writes that 'the whole Word applies to the whole world.' (Doctrine of the Christian Life, 152).
Yet as one begins to consider the full implications of this claim you soon realise that this view is somewhat more complex. How for example does the Bible address the issue of what food I should eat? What is the bible's message on what clothes I should wear? Thinking of a contemporary example, is right for a Christian to celebrate Christmas?
In response, I want to suggest that although the Bible appears 'silent' on a wide variety of issues, it nevertheless endorses or renounces these various issues by implication. In other words although the Bible never explicitly mentions the issue of what constitutes a healthy diet or whether it is right for a man to have long hair it nevertheless provides biblical principles which equip us to know the rightness or wrongness of these (or any other) issues.
Two very brief examples to consider. Recently the issue of the state's role in providing public services has been hotly debated. This is especially the case in America, where pundits have been pondering the extent to which it is fitting for the state to provide health care (as the Obama administration is proposing to do). People on either side of the debate have accused their opponents of being uncharitable and sometimes even un-Christian. Very rarely however has anyone (even among “bible-believing” Christians) stopped to consider what the Bible expects governments to do and if such expectation extends to the realm of health care. It is my view that a careful study of how governments are portrayed in Scripture (e.g. in Romans 13 and in 1 Peter 2) limits their role principally to the execution of justice and to provide security.
My second example relates to a case last year where before embarking on a courtship a certain young man spoke to the father of the girl to ask for his permission to court the young lady. On hearing about this, most of the young man's peers sneered and thought it somewhat old fashioned whilst a few of his friends were surprised (and a tad impressed?) that this 21st century youth was being courageous in embracing this honourable tradition. But is it really a matter of tradition? Here we turn to the Old Testament book of Numbers which says
“When a young woman still living in her father's house makes a vow to the LORD or obligates herself by a pledge and her father hears about her vow or pledge but says nothing to her, then all her vows and every pledge by which she obligated herself will stand. But if her father forbids her when he hears about it, none of her vows or the pledges by which she obligated herself will stand; the LORD will release her because her father has forbidden her.” Numbers 30:3-5
In other words a father can revoke a daughter's word. It is his God-given privilege as head of the household to endorse or overturn anything that his daughter has committed herself to. And note the context of what the father can revoke in the passage above, it is a vow to the LORD. If such a solemn vow can be revoked by the father, how much more that which is lesser e.g. courting a certain Mr charming? It is right therefore that fathers expect to be asked about their daughters and it is right that young men seek permission before engaging in courtship.
Thus for the issue of courtship or diet or big festivities such as Christmas and the like, the Scriptures are not silent but rather it is the case that after a careful examination of God's word and an earnest call to God the Holy Spirit in prayer we will discover whether all our activities right down to the films we watch, the food we eat, and the festivities we celebrate bring glory to God or not.
This is a guest post from Kip' Chelashaw
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