Friday, 20 May 2011

Bible first, favourite author second

Now I love Piper & Keller as much as the next man but I felt a prompt from God just last night that it should be Bible first and favourite theologian second. I have begun reading Sam Storms' 'Convergance' and his testimony that his previous 'cessationist' position (that says the gifts of the Holy Spirit are not relevant today) was based primarily on his respect for those who introduced him to that position. In his own words Storms says:

"there is danger in embracing theological arguments based largely on one's respect for the person from whom you first learnt them"

It was after reading a D.A.Carson commnentary on 1 Corinthians and a sober assessment of chapters 12-14 in particular that Storms came to embrace spiritual gifts today (to become a continuist as he calls his new position).

I found reading Storms' account a timely nudge as I can be prone to giving an undue proportion of my time to reading either my favourite authors/theologians or to reading anything other than the Bible. I have always tried to maintain a daily discipline of reading my Bible, not out of a legalistic lifestyle choice but as a commitment to starting the day with truth and the activity of the Holy Spirit in illuminating scripture and provoking a prayer response. My trouble, temptation, is to allow my other reading to have a greater influence - for example my renewed attention on 'justice' coming from Tim Keller's 'Generous Justice' (oustanding book by the way) and not from Isaiah 58/Job/Leviticus and everywhere else in th Bible. I'm not suggesting that it is wrong to receive a provocation from an external source and then end up in The Bible but it is somewhat true that I could develop a theology of justice just from Keller without returning to the word of God. My doctrine would effectively be developed through Bible 'quotes' and the author's convincing arguments rather than being sourced from God.

One of the dangers here is that your current favourite authour/theologian/thinker probably doesn't think exactly in the same way as you. Depending on their various denominational (typed that twice with demon at the beginning!)they view scripture and the world from slightly different worldviews, at least from a variation of the Biblical worldview that you or I may subscribe. I have aligned myself with New Frontiers and their approach to church, ministry, life etc and not with the Presbyterian or Baptist church. For the most part this makes little difference on the largely agreeable elements of our Christian practice but to view these great men as wholly authoratitive and instructive on my personal convictions and doctrines is confused. This train of thought led me to revisit works by New Frontiers leaders where I discovered 'What on Earth is the Church For?' by David Devenish which has become one of the most influential books I've ever read. There is also of course the landmark 'God's Lavish Grace' by Terry Virgo.

I've somewhat moved from what was going to be a simple point - let us not forego the riches of the Bible for what can sometimes be the easier reading of the thoughts of the contemporary successful church leader/author/theologian.
Bible first!

Search This Blog