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Biblicism at face value comes across as an honorable and proper approach to reading Scripture. What exactly is “biblicism”? Dr Lane Tipton gives an helpful definition of biblicism
is any approach to reading Scripture, that does not take the creeds and confessions of the church, (the Reformed confessions of the church) as normed norms that faithfully and accurately render the teaching of Scripture as it is set over against heresy and heterodoxy in various forms.
Dr. Tipton rightly articulates that the Biblicist is someone who reads the Bible without submitting to the Scripture, as it has been read in the orthodox creeds and Reformed confessions in the history of the church. At first glance, some may not have a problem with this, and may even happily embrace this definition. In this brief article I hope to demonstrate some of the dangers of biblicism and why the Biblicist is left exposed outside the safety of the time tested truths of the creeds and Reformed confessions of the church.
When conservative Christians think of a Biblicist, they may think of the conservative Christian that holds only to Scripture and rejects all creeds. However, it is important to understand that biblicism can be embraced by liberals or conservatives. Biblicism does not care if you have liberal or conservative tendencies. Biblicism only cares that you shed the “weight” of the historic creeds and confessions. And it is precisely at this point the Biblicist is in real danger.
One of the greatest negative impacts on the church in recent history has been the Enlightenment. When people began to read the Bible through the assumed lens of neutral history and considered the Bible as any other book, the results were tragic. Liberalism rose up with a force that left many dead churches in its path. They criticized the Bible as being a “community autobiography” that incorporated already existing pagan practices (syncretism). Liberal scholars began the quest for the historical Jesus as they attempted to determine the actual words of Jesus. And still others would accuse the Apostle Paul of having an entire different theology/religion from Jesus. Questioning the supernatural nature of Scripture and of course the resurrection made many abandon Christianity.
All of these schools of thought (and these were only a few examples) were Biblicists. They rejected the inherited traditions and with their new found freedom they led many to despair. The academies impacted scholars who taught men desiring to be pastors, who then taught churches. The Gospel left pulpits and the results were spiritually deadly.
The Creeds and the Confessions of the church play an important role in the history of the church and in the life of the Christian. The Bible is not an historically conditioned book. It is not a product of a community, but is a history of special revelation that has an organic, super natural core, aimed at realizing the covenantal communion bond with God in covenant. The Creeds and Confessions have withstood the test of time and stand not as weights on the heart and mind of the Christian but as a sentinel who has fought the errors of old and helps keeps watch over the church.
When Christians speak on the authority of Scripture we generally use two terms infallibility and inerrancy. These terms are not only descriptions of Scripture but testify to the work of God in revealing himself. We confess that God is absolutely trustworthy and powerful therefore when he reveals himself he does it in a way that is without error and since it is the word of God it cannot err.
When Christians are confronted with Scripture there are only two options available. They can either submit to the Scripture or not. When we make a decision not to submit to Scripture we decide also to reject God. Many Christians are not aware of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy and they may shy away from any idea of a statement on the matter. Some would say it’s either too limiting or too broad. However the Chicago statement which consists of a Summary Statement, Articles of (more…)
When we take hold of the Bible, it is easy to forget the significance of what is in our hands. When you think about it, Scripture is unlike anything else in our life. There is something about Scripture that makes it distinct from all other literature works in history. We say it’s God’s word. We call it God’s revelation. But what does that mean? What are the implications of calling it that?
Jesus saw the Old Testament text as God’s word. He refers to it as the “Word of God” during his trial by the Satan in the wilderness.
Matt. 4:4 But he answered, “It is written,“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Even though it was written by men, Jesus said it was God’s words that were written. And the words that they wrote were eternal.
John 10:35 If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken—
Is it significant that Christ is preached? Is it important that Scripture is preached from? In Romans 10:17, the Apostle Paul tells us that faith comes through hearing and hearing through the word of Christ. What does it mean that faith comes through hearing? What does it mean that they hear the word of Christ? What results from having faith from hearing the word of Christ?
All of us would agree that faith is necessary for salvation. In some areas of Reformed teaching faith is referred to as the “instrumental means” of justification. Or others have called it the “open hand” by which we receive the benefits of the redemption accomplished by Christ. Both of these and others all highlight something special about faith. Faith isn’t something that we can create, force to arise from our own efforts, or be obtained without God. Faith is not something that is from us by nature. If it is not of us by nature, and given to us. Then what has to happen for it to come about? In a mysterious way, it is given to us, and exercised by us. But from how does this faith arise? Through hearing. (more…)
Part 1 is here
We are completely dependent upon Scripture. This should be most obvious because without it, we are deprived of the revelatory Word from God. Without Scripture we are wanting and lacking counsel from God concerning “all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life.” (Murray, 20) The finality of Scripture demands that those who profess commitment to Christ and the church in its collective capacity “direct all thought, activity, objective by this Word as the revelation to us of God’s mind and will.” (20) (more…)
Part 2 is here
Reading through John Murray and his collected writings I have come across an interesting chapter in volume 1, “The Finality and Sufficiency of Scripture”. I found it a helpful reminder for us in a time when such a position may seem out-dated or irrelevant. We are at a pivotal point in our society. Now, more than ever, we must affirm our position of the finality and sufficiency of Scripture. This doctrine, cannot be taken for granted. It is still worth our time and careful examination. (more…)
It needs to be re-stated first that the Protestant doctrine of sola Scriptura has been built on the basis of Scripture alone. I think it is in some ways engaging and maybe it’s a rhetorical device to say “Can you prove it from Scripture alone?” This has always been the Protestant position and never been a difficulty. Perhaps a better question is “how do we know Jesus and the teachings of his apostles?” We all agree that the apostles were the authoritative spokesman for Jesus. There is no disagreement here. Here is a way to shortly phrase the Protestant Reformed thought:
- Jesus Christ is the supreme revelation of God
- Scripture is the only “authoritative” way to know of Christ today because (obviously) he is not ministering in the flesh nor are those original spokesman (the apostles). (more…)