UPDATE: Here’s the audio. Enjoy!
This session was entitled, “This Word and No Other–Tell Me Why.” Like Phil Johnson before him, Dan Phillips argued that the sufficiency of Scripture is the central issue of our day. He proceeded to cite 3 really well-known evangelical pastors/authors, who have recently talked about the need for “getting a word from the Lord.” One of these is the duo of Henry and Richard Blackaby, most well known as the authors of the mega-hit devotional study series, “Experiencing God.” Phillips reported that the Blackaby’s have argued (in his contribution to a book called How Then Should We Choose? **) that hearing the “still small voice” of “God” in your heart, and then testing to make sure that word was from God, is a normal and necessary part of mature Christian life.
Phillips flipped the table on this assumption by making a counter-claim: The whole Bible should tell us if we need anything outside of the Bible, in order to have a normal Christian life. He then began a tour-de-force through the Scriptures, starting from page one, and argued that every time God spoke to and revealed Himself to men, it was verbal and it was unmistakable.
I can’t even begin to hit all the high points here, but it was masterful. Highlights:
- In regard to the Ten Plagues of Egypt: “The experience of Joe Egyptian [living miles down the Nile from the palace] makes no sense if he didn’t hear the words of God.”
- Are the miracles the most important part of the Exodus from Egypt? No, because they aren’t reenacted every year. Rather, during the Passover celebration, the faith is transmitted every year through words.
- Never once does anyone have a relationship with God by impressions, feelings, or misty ideas that need to be tested.
- The prophets prosecute Israel by holding up the revealed word of God and declaring what the people are doing wrong.
- Notice the prophets always say, “Thus says the Lord.” [As opposed to, “I think this is what God put on my heart, maybe…”]
- In Joshua 1:8-9 and Psalm 1:2, the blessing of God is upon the one who meditates on His words
- Why did the Sermon on the Mount impress the listeners? Because of the authority of the teaching Jesus delivered verbally.
- The book of Acts can rightly be called the Book of the Spread of God’s Word, because over and over it says that the word of the Gospel of Jesus spread and was received. It wasn’t the miracles that changed people’s lives, but the word of God proclaimed.
In summary, Phillips said that the entirety of Scripture divides specific “revelation” into two categories: God’s Word, and Not-God’s-Word. God’s Word is powerful, inerrant, and carries the full authority of God, demanding our belief and obedience. The canon of Scripture, he says, is either open or it’s closed. If it’s open, then God’s still giving inerrant, universally binding words; if closed, He is no longer giving them. The very idea of an “errant, non-binding word from the Lord” is a completely foreign concept to Scripture (and can be rightly called anti-Scriptural). The tenuous, subjective impressions that many Christians try to assign as “the leading of the Spirit” have no authority in Scripture and are never described in Scripture as being legitimate.
The New Testament, Phillips concluded, is manifestly final. Scripture is fully sufficient for us to have a relationship with God. And when people elevate their subjective feelings and experiences, and canonize them with “God told me,” they elevate the meaningless while cheapening the true revelation of God.
Both Phillips’ and Johnson’s sessions really gave me a lot to think about. Though I haven’t done so lately, I know there have definitely been times in the past where I’ve assigned divine origin to my thoughts/feelings/impressions, or times when I’ve looked for “signs” to get God’s stamp of approval before making decisions. But I find Phillips’ exhaustive survey of God’s revelation in Scripture to be compelling. There is no record of God mumbling his revelation in which the human receiver of this “impression” needed to decipher it. It’s just not there.
So. Two sessions in, and I was feeling mentally exhausted already. There was so much to consider from just those two talks. So I wasn’t prepared for the punch to the chest in Session #3…
Your Turn: What do you think about Phillips’ argument that the Bible gives no credibility to anything outside of God’s clear revealed Word? What counter-arguments would you mount to this assertion? Is there something you think he’s missing? Let’s talk about it in the comments.
**Correction: This post noted previously that Phillips was referring to an argument the Blackaby’s made in “Experiencing God.” This was a misunderstanding on my part that has been corrected above. Thanks.