From the Comments: Further on whether the scriptures are sufficient

HolySpirit7Following up yesterday’s post, reader David commented,

If there has been no personal indwelling of the Spirit directing and guiding Christians since the death of the apostles then, the New Testament is highly suspect. Early churchmen collected, sifted, and sorted through hundreds of writings for three hundred years or so to finally settle on the canon of Scriptures we have today. Some of the writing of the NT were never doubted, but some were. There is no good reason to accept the complete NT we have today as the word of God except by faith in the Holy Spirit’s guidance of men of the church. Deny the personal indwelling of the Spirit in Christians, you undercut faith in the Bible as God’s word.

I thought this was an excellent point. I added,

You reminded me that in high school we had a Bible class at church on the canon. We were taught that “inspiration” worked at multiple levels —

* The writing of the text.
* The preservation of a reliable text for thousands of years.
* The selection of the correct books to be considered inspired.
* The reading of the text.

And it occurred to me that only the first bullet happened in the First Century. Therefore, the Spirit has been active after the first generation. Therefore, it’s just a question of discovering what activity the Spirit has been engaged in — but not whether the Spirit has been active.

You can argue over the details, but if you push back to the point of saying there’s been no activity of the Spirit on Christians after the writing of the text, then you are exactly right. Why should we have any confidence in the preservation of the correct text? The canon? Our ability to read and interpret?

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About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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19 Responses to From the Comments: Further on whether the scriptures are sufficient

  1. David Himes says:

    Outstanding questions … which every believer should deal with.

    But another twist: The Text is sufficient — but sufficient for what? Certainly for “instruction” etc. Also worth noting, the passage that tells us that is referring to the OT Text, not the NT Text. No where in the NT is a reference to “scripture” a reference to the NT.

  2. JES says:

    I remember while growing up in the CoC as a young man the teaching that the Spirit was only active in history before the Word was in print and distributed, or, until after John’s last words of the Revelation. I never could reconcile this with Scripture.

    I remember documenting over 25/35 different items that Scripture credits the Spirit with “doing” for baptized believers. Unfortunately, I no longer can find this list.

    Are you aware of any documentation that has analyzed this aspect of the Spirit?

  3. laymond says:

    What is missing here, do we have to be indwelled by a spirit other than the one given by God at our birth. God gives us a life/spirit of our own, and it is up to us to do with it as we may. That is the test. When we say we need the indwelling of another spirit, to guide the spirit God has already given us, I believe we cut short the reach of God from outside the human body. I believe God still has the power that all Christians trust, and believe he once exhibited. Why is it that we believe his powers have diminished ? I believe in a God that if it is his will that I live a certain time, He does not have to be in the disaster with me in order to save me. He can even save me from myself, if He so desires. What this indwelling spirit theory reminds me of is the “guardian Angel” theory . I don’t see any evidence in scripture that suggest either theory. I see both theories as dangerous, especially toward younger Christians. If we are guided by a “holy spirit” or protected by a “guardian angel” how can we go wrong. I have been asked that very question, and my answer don’t expect someone else to do (in this life) what you can do for your self. Yes I know you can’t save your own soul, but you can obey God on your own. God did not burden us with a cross we cannot bare.

  4. laymond says:

    As for the New Testament being highly suspect. any time man has his fingerprints on something be suspicious of their reason.
    And David, is absolutely right when he said, No where in the NT is a reference to “scripture” a reference to the NT.
    The timeline proves what David said.

  5. laymond says:

    PS the new testament is man’s testimony , about Jesus testimony, as far as I know we do not have an example of Jesus writing anything, we know he wrote something on the ground, but the wind and rain most likely erased that.

  6. Jeff Richardson says:

    Well said Laymond. I would suggest that Jay’s other three points would fall under the providence of God. I believe we have what we need by and through the providence of God. And Mr. Himes, I would disagree. In 2 Tim 3: 10, Paul tells Timothy that he had carefully followed his doctrine. What doctrine was Paul teaching? I believe it was the doctrine of Jesus Christ, which would be the new Covenant. In verse 15, he reminds him that since childhood, he had known the holy scriptures, (the old). Then Paul says, in 16 ALL scripture……It is true that the New hadn’t been written, only spoken, but scripture non the less. And we know from the content of verses 16 and 17 that he is referring to the New, because under the Old, man was never complete, because the sacrifice of our dear Lord had not been given.

  7. laymond says:

    Jeff, I hate to disagree, but David is right in what he said. Doctrine is not scripture. A biblical doctrine is what is believed about Biblical scripture. Just as the indwelled teachings are doctrine, not scripture , I understand when the bible refers to scripture it refers to “Holy Scripture” writings spoken by God, and written by others. The best I can figure “scripture ” refers to writings, not the spoken word. What does the word script mean? it is a written directive.

  8. laymond says:

    From Wikipedia,
    Religious texts, also known as scripture, scriptures, holy writ, or holy books, are the texts which various religious traditions consider to be sacred, or central to their religious tradition. Many religions and spiritual movements believe that their sacred texts are divinely or supernaturally revealed or inspired.

  9. Dwight says:

    All scripture is doctrine, because doctrine means teaching. If we are taught that the Israelites crossed the Red Sea it is doctrine in the sense it is teaching and it is profitable. Now, not all doctrine is going to save us. Knowing that Adam and Eve ate of the tree of Good and Evil won’t save us, but does give us useful information in understanding why we must be saved.
    It is the Christ and His doctrine that saves us, but it just so happens that Christ is taught about in the OT as well (Isaiah for one). The Jews understood the OT as doctrine.
    The Ethiopian eunuch was taught Christ through the OT to the present by Philip. It was all doctrine or teaching, but one led to the other that led to Christ, the savior.

  10. laymond says:

    Dwight, All scripture is doctrine, but all doctrine is not scripture.

  11. Dwight says:

    Laymond, I guess technically true, as being taught math is not scripture, but the word doctrine is usually a term for religious teaching. Not all scripture is Gospel, some leads us to the gospel and some is the Good News of Jesus and some expands the concepts of the Good News.

  12. Dwight says:

    Laymond, let me restates this, “the word doctrine is usually a term for religious teaching, but is really scripture in the purest sense”.
    Much of what is taught in many churches or church systems is doctrine, but not scripture. The teachings of Joseph Smith is doctrine, but false doctrine, as it is not scripture and teachers counter to scripture. The teaching that dancing is sinful, is doctrine, but not based on scriptural reality as not all dancing is sinful, after all David danced before God and did not sin.

  13. Tom says:

    It is clear to me that Peter considered Paul’s writing “scripture.” 2 Peter 3:16

  14. Dwight says:

    Yes, from II Peter 3:16 it almost sounds as though Peter had read many of Paul’s writings and maybe he had, but he at least had confidence in Paul as an apostle and someone to be followed as Paul followed Christ.
    The thing about the apostles writings is that they mostly came rather late in the history of those being saved in some ways. In Acts 2 hundreds were saved and converted, based on the OT scriptures as a base and the apostles vocal telling of Christ. Word of mouth was bigger and faster than the written word. And even those letters were not massed produced for everyone to read, but were probably read aloud to the crowds, who once again spread it by word of mouth.
    Oral telling was the basic means of the word getting from place to place before copying and printing came along. It was still the word. The fact that we have four gospels that sound different proves that the word can still be the word, even if not verbatim, as long as the meanings and thrust are still intact.

  15. Tom says:

    What do you mean Dwight, by “almost” and “maybe”? How else would Peter judge that some things in Paul’s letters were “hard to understand”? When Peter warns that “ignorant and unstable people distort [those hard to understand things from Paul’s letters], as they do the ‘other Scriptures,’ to their own destruction,” he doesn’t really leave room for his reader to question how seriously he views those letters. And by extension, it seems to be reasonable to infer that as Peter is referring to Paul’s writings relative to matters he himself has addressed in his own letter, and as he refers to Paul’s writings as derived from God-given wisdom, Peter is also asserting that his own writing carries the same import and is to be considered “scripture.”

  16. Jeff Richardson says:

    Let us remember Paul’s letters. His letters to the Corinthians, the Ephesians, the Colossian’s, to Timothy, the Romans…… scripture for sure. I’m pretty sure they got around. If not, word of mouth spread it. Above when I said yes it hadn’t been written, I was thinking of the bible as we know it. But scripture was indeed being written (letters) and sent.

  17. Christopher says:

    Jay wrote:

    You can argue over the details, but if you push back to the point of saying there’s been no activity of the Spirit on Christians after the writing of the text, then you are exactly right. Why should we have any confidence in the preservation of the correct text? The canon? Our ability to read and interpret?

    Which may be why I have been told Mormons look for a sign from God (according to James) to make them wise as to what scriptures should be followed, the rationale being there is so much confusion caused by differing interpretations, scribal errors, apocrypha and so on that no one can on his own divine what is true.

  18. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Jeff,

    Please define “providence.” Dictionary.com says,

    1. (often initial capital letter) the foreseeing care and guidance of God or nature over the creatures of the earth.
    2. (initial capital letter) God, especially when conceived as omnisciently directing the universe and the affairs of humankind with wise benevolence.

    Merriam-Webster says,

    a often capitalized : divine guidance or care
    b capitalized : God conceived as the power sustaining and guiding human destiny

    In other words, in conventional English, “Providence” is a euphemism for God. But some conservative Church of Christ folks use “Providence” to mean “God acting in a way that does not violate the laws of nature.” But that means God acting only through the laws of nature, meaning that it’s not a directed outcome — which surely can’t be what you mean. So I’m confused.

  19. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Christopher,

    Not sure what the Mormons have to do with anything. Think rather in terms of —

    (1 Cor. 2:14-16 ESV) 14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

    “Spiritual” translates pneumatikos, meaning Spirit-powered or Spirit-enabled.

    Here (2:11) and elsewhere Paul can use the word pneuma to refer to the human ‘spirit’, by which he seems to mean almost what he sometimes means by kardia, ‘heart’, the very centre of the personality and the point where one stands on the threshhold of encounter with the true god. But when he describes someone as ‘spiritual’ (pneumatikos) he does not simply mean that they are more in touch with their own ‘spirit’ than the ‘soulish’ person is, but that the Spirit of the living god has opened their hearts and minds to receive, and be changed by, truth and power from the age to come.

    N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, Christian Origins and the Question of God, (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2003), 283.

    It is because of this that Paul can make the bold assertion that we (the pronoun is emphatic) have the mind of Christ. He does not mean that every Christian can understand all Christ’s thoughts. He means that the indwelling Spirit reveals Christ. The spiritual person accordingly does not see things from the viewpoint of the worldly. He sees them from the viewpoint of Christ.

    Leon Morris, 1 Corinthians: An Introduction and Commentary (Tyndale NTC 7; IVP/Accordance electronic ed. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1985), 65.

    Third, again in antithesis to v. 12, the “natural man/woman cannot understand” the very things that the one who has received the Spirit can. Here the emphasis lies on their inability. Again it is “like is known by like” (see v. 11); without the Spirit they lack the one essential “quality” necessary for them to know God and his ways—“because they are spiritually discerned.” This last phrase demonstrates the fluidity of Paul’s use of language. The word “spiritual” is now an adverb; but the context makes it clear that Paul intends “by means of the Spirit,” not by some intuitive process. For Paul, “to be spiritual” and “to discern spiritually” simply means to have the Spirit, who so endows and enables.

    Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1987), 117.

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