Monthly Archives: December 2010

This wild, untamable beast is in everyone’s house. It is not a dog or a cat—far from it. It is more ferocious than the most aggressive predator you know of, more vicious than the fiercest lion, and more insidious than the most cunning snake—yet more alluring than any treasure you have known. Its grotesqueness is indescribable: horrific stench, insoluble filth, unimaginable ugliness.

Some think they can tame it and control it, and for a time they can do so by keeping it locked up in a cage. This strategy is doomed to failure, however, for eventually they feel sorry for the beast and decide to release it from confinement. “Just for a short while,” they assure themselves, “and then back in the cage it will go.” Then it wreaks utter havoc and destruction in their home. But it won’t stop there. It will jump through one of the windows and attack others in the neighborhood, affecting them as well. Only with difficulty and pain can the beast be returned to its cage. Nevertheless, sooner or later the owner’s heart will once again go out to it, sympathizing with the beast and longing to release it yet again. Thus the horrible cycle will repeat.

The only way to deal with the beast is to exterminate it. Complete annihilation is the only solution. There can be no mercy for it: A knife must be taken to the beast’s throat, or a gun to its head, so as to destroy it once and for all. Again, though, our love for the beast works against us even there. How hard it is for us to take such drastic measures against it. We sympathize with it, foolishly take pity on it, and pamper it, telling ourselves the lie that the beast is really not all that bad.

“[S]in is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” (Gen. 4:7b)

“For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (Rom. 8:13)

“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming.” (Col. 3:5–6)

“I have no creed but Jesus.”
“I don’t hold to (insert theologian’s name here); I hold to the Bible.”

These are popular sentiments among many believers today. They do sound rather pious at first, don’t they? After all, what’s wrong with holding to the Bible alone for guidance and doctrine? As protestants, we claim it’s the divinely inspired and “God-breathed” word of God (2 Tim. 3:16). It is this very divine inspiration that gives it its authority above all other authorities. So what’s the problem?

Several.

For one, this sentiment ignores the Holy Spirit’s work in the church throughout history. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would lead His disciples “into all the truth” (John 16:13), and that is precisely what He has been doing in and for the Church all along now. From the time of the early church’s battles against heresy, down through the time of the Reformation and up to the present day, the Holy Spirit has been leading and guiding the Church to articulate vital doctrinal truths in order to defend her against dangerous teachings. If we were to ignore this historical theology, we would be dooming ourselves to repeat church history all over again. Like the early church, we would have to deal with a variety of heresies. How would we do that? We would handle it in the same way the early church did: by consulting Scripture in order to formulate the truth over against such heresies. But what sense does it make to ignore all that work that has already been done? Why reinvent the wheel?

To elaborate on this, although these doctrines have certainly come from the Bible, they are presented in the Bible in a seed format, as it were, and accordingly they need to be drawn out and set down thoroughly. This does not mean that the Bible is insufficient; what it does mean, though, is that God uses men in the church to labor in the word and teach and defend the truth.

The fact of the matter is that, though such statements are probably well-meant, those who hold them would have us believe that we don’t need gifted men to teach the Church and labor in the word and doctrine. What is worse, according to this view, we have never needed them. They would have us completely disregard Calvin, Luther, Augustine, Bavinck, and a host of other theologians who were used by the Holy Spirit to guide the Church.

Secondly, the sentiment reflects a warped view of sola scriptura, one that I doubt the Reformers ever had in mind. Sola Scriptura does not exclude the need for teachers in the church; otherwise, the passage about gifting in the church in Eph. 4:11–13 would be invalid and unnecessary. Sola Scriptura does not mean Bible-only, but rather that the Bible is the only infallible rule for Christian faith and practice.

Thirdly, the sentiment is highly unrealistic because those who hold such an anti-theologian view have undoubtedly been shaped and influenced by theologians of one stripe or another. Nobody lives in a vacuum. Their own adherence to creedal formulations of the doctrine of the Trinity, for example, belies this fact.

It is God who gave pastors and teachers to the church. That fact alone requires that we take them seriously. Should we believe everything they teach without confirming it by Scripture? Absolutely not. Then again, we should not ignore them either. We do so at our own risk.