Have You Made God’s Word Your Absolute Authority?

Do we give Scripture a place of absolute authority over our lives? Do we truly believe in Sola Scriptura?

These questions are what drove my infatuation with Scripture recently after my conversion. It didn’t take my brother or I very long to see that accepting Biblical truth expressed straightforwardly and objectively didn’t come without costs. On the outset most churches, pastors and Biblical scholars openly affirm Sola Scriptura. They claim that God’s word should be fully embraced by Christians, even the “hard truths” of Scripture. However, many do not see the subjective lens through which they subject Scripture to their systematic theology.

At the heart of Western Reformed theology lies a systematic theological framework which is used to filter “difficult” passages. In personal study I noticed this early on, especially regarding Soteriology (the study of Salvation). What is more difficult than embracing biblical truth considering one’s personal salvation? What could be more important than how we examine our lives in respect to the most central and important theme of Scripture: Redemption, the Gospel?

Yet, it has fascinated me just how much theological baggage has been placed philosophically at the forefront of Western Biblical interpretation and to the extent of blinding or barring others from evaluating what the text has to say for itself.

Are Bible Studies Less About Study?

Currently I am attending Bible Study Fellowship, a ministry organization which promotes the importance of reading and understanding Scripture. Here is their mission statement:

The mission of Bible Study Fellowship is global, in-depth Bible classes producing passionate commitment to Christ, His Word and His Church. Our vision is to magnify God and mature His people as they cultivate a deeper relationship with Him. [1]

I love attending these groups and enjoy the men’s study group I am a part of. I cannot stress how beneficial it is to be immersed in Scripture around fellow believers who have a desire to strengthen and edify each other. Even still, the aforementioned issue has pervaded these study group sessions.

BSF produces their own material from which to lead the groups and as one who is deeply concerned with accepting God’s word objectively and in its entirety, I was saddened to see that the study notes were heavily entrenched with a Western systematic theological framework and leading questions. As our group approached Romans 8 and 9 the study notes moved from an interdenominational perspective and embraced textbook Calvinistic theology. It became apparent to me that the study was no longer about objectively learning from Scripture exegetically but instead embracing strong systematic interpretations which had been the dominant force of Western Christian thought.

Instead of setting aside personal bias and drawing observations directly from the biblical text, our group instead focused specifically on this systematic framework and discussed the passages solely through that doctrinal lens. As our study progressed to Romans 11, I watched as the study notes deliberately avoided specific passages which (from a straightforward reading) would contradict their framework. It was as if BSF had submitted the importance of objective biblical study for the sake of making appeasement with dominant Western doctrines.

When I did not conform as BSF had done and specifically pointed out this fact in my study group, I was of course met with emotional opposition. Nothing blatantly disrespectful but the responses were:

“I don’t know, I’m not a biblical scholar”
(appeal to authority fallacy)

and

“Maybe this is one of those places of contradiction in the Bible.”
(argument from incredulity)

and

“We just have to accept that maybe we cannot understand these issues.”
(appeal to mystery)

These responses made me realize that in order for the group to progress through the bible, we couldn’t linger and debate any one topic. But then, what is the purpose of a Bible study, if not to objectively come to conclusions regarding passages like that which I pointed out. Why must I accept one’s interpretation of Romans 9 as a “hard truth” but neglect the straightforward remarks Paul makes in Romans 11 which are just as much “hard truth”?

He Did Not Leave Us to Walk Aimlessly

We know that God’s word has the only place of absolute authority over our lives, not men or scholars or doctrines. So, we can rest assured that Scripture provides for itself the answers to its own “troublesome” remarks. “For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).

We know that God is a logical being (cf. Num. 23:19; Mark 3:25), so we can know that God’s word will not contain logical contradiction. God is not the god of confusion (cf. 1 Cor. 14:33), He also provides us His Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth (cf. John 16:13).

We know that God’s word is revelation (cf. 1 Cor. 2:10; Eph. 3:5), it is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Ps. 119:105). The only mystery referred to in Scripture, is the mystery of redemption revealed in Christ (Rom. 16:25; Eph. 3:4; Col. 2:2; 4:3). This is not to say that we can have knowledge of everything or that mysteries relating to God do not exist. Rather, we can rest assured that what is contained in Scripture has been revealed to us.

An appeal to mystery therefore only works with things we cannot logically comprehend (like the unfathomable riches of God’s grace[2]), not with things that logically contradict (such as a logical conflict between manmade doctrines and Scripture).

So What, Then?

I would, therefore, like to encourage my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to reevaluate whether they are approaching Scripture objectively, or through the lens of manmade doctrines, or even a heavy leaning (biased/subjective/agenda-driven) bible study with leading questions. If you are a believer who is genuinely passionate in your study for truth. I challenge you to set aside any subjective material, empty your mind of doctrines and preconceptions and allow the Spirit to guide you as you are immersed in the only authority that matters: God’s word.

SOURCES

[1] Taken from https://www.bsfinternational.org/about/mission-values

[2] Job 9:10; Romans 11:33; Ephesians 3:8

By |2018-02-14T16:49:27+00:00February 14th, 2018|blog|0 Comments

About the Author:

Husband, father, and contributing author to Bereans Aflame (among other blogs), Terence is an astute student of theology. He received his B.S. in Psychology and Bible from Dallas Christian College in 2015. He is interested in philosophy, world religions, and Ancient Christianity; considers himself nondenominational, and is ardent for apologetics and evangelism.