Thursday, July 21, 2016

Jesus Calling and The Battle for Sola Scriptura

The Protestant Reformation began almost 500 years ago (in 1517) after Martin Luther posted his "95 Theses," which proposed two central beliefs—that the Bible is the central religious authority - (not the Catholic Church) - and that humans may reach salvation only by their faith and not by their works. By the Middle Ages, the Roman Catholic Church had been teaching that one could attain salvation by one's own meritorious works that they alone were the authority, and darkness had settled over the land. Luther's act sparked the Reformation. To this day the Catholic Church maintains that sola scriptura is a "blueprint for anarchy".

Those two central tenets posted by Martin Luther were later expanded to become known as the Five Solas, as Theopedia explains here
The Five Solas are five Latin phrases (or slogans) that emerged from the Protestant Reformation intended to summarize the Reformers' basic theological principles in contrast to certain teachings of the Roman Catholic Church of the day. "Sola" is Latin meaning "alone" or "only" and the corresponding phrases are:

Sola Fide, by faith alone.
Sola Scriptura, by Scripture alone.
Solus Christus, through Christ alone.
Sola Gratia, by grace alone.
Soli Deo Gloria, glory to God alone.
Sola Scriptura is the tenet I'm looking at today. Theopedia explains sola scriptura further-
The inerrant Scripture (the Bible) is the sole source of written divine revelation, which alone can bind the conscience. The Bible alone teaches all that is necessary for our salvation from sin and is the standard by which all Christian behavior must be measured. It is denied that any creed, council or individual may bind a Christian's conscience, that the Holy Spirit speaks independently of or contrary to what is set forth in the Bible, or that personal spiritual experience can ever be a vehicle of revelation.
And here we have the point. Currently, Scripture alone is the sole point of intersection of God's personal revelation of Himself to man. (Hebrews 1:1-2). 'Personal experience can never be a vehicle of revelation.' Never ever.

And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, (2 Peter 1:19).

Satan battles the above five points at every turn. The battle for sola scriptura has been extremely pitched in our era. Book after book published from Christian publishers purport to show how to commune with God by doing certain things that will enhance one's antenna for receiving His personal revelation. People claim visits from Jesus and visits to Jesus in heaven. They claim to have heard Him speak to them and have received personally tailored career advice or new theological commands or projects to engage in (Joanna Gaines of the HGTV show "Fixer Upper" and Beth Moore, are two examples). Book after book emerge from someone claiming to have had a heavenly visit and personal tour of heaven (or hell). Claiming a personal divine word is the new mantra.

Last year's Shepherd's Conference at Grace Community Church was titled the "Inerrancy Summit" and worked to teach attendee pastors the importance of defending truth against all those who seek to undermine the authority of scripture. John MacArthur opened the Summit by listing four reasons why such a summit is needed, one of which is that Scripture is authoritative and pastors and teachers are called to declare it. In his speech, MacArthur gave a quick overview of the progress of the undermining of scripture in our era-
In the 1960s and ‘70s, experientialism began to infiltrate the mainline denominations. This movement tempted the church to define truth on the basis of emotional experience. Biblical interpretation was no longer based on the clear teaching of the text; but rather upon feelings and subjective, unverifiable experiences, such as supposed revelations, visions, prophecies, and intuition. 
The Third Wave movement of the 1980s continued the growth of mysticism within the church, convincing people to look for signs and wonders and to listen for paranormal words from God rather than seeking out truth in the written Word of God. 
The New Apostolic Reformation [NAR] is the latest in these kinds of movements.
FMI on NAR, go here or here

One attack on Sola Scriptura that has persisted for 12 years and is now its own cottage industry, is the book Jesus CallingJesus Calling is a book written by Sarah Young. Ms Young was restless with the Bible and wanted more. She actively sought out hearing from God and these supposed divine utterings were captured by her pen and made into a book. In the book, Ms Young puts the utterings from a "Jesus" into first person.

Being dissatisfied with the complete revelation of God to man in His word is attack #1 on sola scriptura. And there are soldiers who continue to stand on this important point, such as Justin Peters. Here is a short video speaking about the importance of sola scriptura and warning to avoid the Jesus Calling book.

Jesus Calling: The Battle for Sola Scriptura
"Where the battle is really being fought today is over whether or not God's word is sufficient, and evangelicals are losing that battle." ~Justin Peters



If you read, listen to, or follow any teacher who professes Jesus and yet also claims to have personally heard from God or uses personal revelations of teachings they say they've received from God, avoid them. What they are doing is undermining the sufficiency of scripture. The Bible says,

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, (2 Timothy 3:16)

The Bible does not say, All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, plus what I told Beth Moore last week and including what I mentioned to Sarah Young and...

For everything that was written in the past was written for our instruction, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope. (Romans 15:4)

It is through the scriptures that we gain our instruction and have hope. Scripture alone.




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Further Reading-

Theopedia: Sola Scriptura

Shepherds Conference Inerrancy Summit: all the sermons

Ligonier: What does Sola Scriptura mean?

11 comments :

  1. Elizabeth, back in March some ladies at church invited me to begin an online study of Psalm 22. The teacher would be sending a daily email with readings and study instructions. But the very first day, the teacher sent an email embedded with a graphic painting of Christ on the cross. This offended me because I do not think these depictions are biblical and may even break the 2nd commandment. No picture that man can devise will ever truly depict our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ nor His life and sufferings. They will always fall short and may even lead astray, and so we ought never try.

    Secondly, in that first lesson she wrote:

    • Then find a quiet place (for just 4 minutes and 41 seconds!) if you can. (Do this lesson during naps or after the children are in bed, if you’re likely to get interrupted during the day.)
    • Listen to this dramatic recitation of Psalm 22. Close your eyes, if it helps you concentrate. Imagine Jesus praying these words as He was dying on the cross.
    • Listen to how He alternates back and forth between words of suffering and words of praise.
    • Listen for the turning point in the psalm when the mood and text change from despair to victory.
    • Listen more than once if you can, or listen to this reading the second time.

    It wasn’t the listening to the psalm, but the dramatic recitation and visualization that she focused on that was problematic. She also counseled mothers of young children to have them watch an animated version of Luke 23. In a later lesson she has the children draw Christ suffering on the cross including depicting his suffering body parts. She suggests you draw pictures in your bible next to the metaphorical words used, like lions, bulls, dogs etc. She has the family “acting out” Christ surrounded by His enemies. All of this sent my spiritual discernment antenna up. My understanding of bible study would include prayer, reading and studying the scriptures with the Holy Spirit’s guidance and help using proven bible study tools and methods. But she is encouraging Christians toward drama, artistic depictions and personal visualization. All of that seems to lead away from typical (biblical?) study to a contemplative, meditative type study based on human imagination, and visuals to provoke an emotional response. God has not given the NT saints a physical picture of spiritual things(other than bread and wine in communion), nor are we ever instructed to depict them or to act them out, using our imaginations.

    My understanding is that biblical study is meant to renew our minds and our hearts follow (Romans 12:1). But a primarily visual/emotional focus does the exact opposite by teaching us to look to our subjective feelings and experiences which then shapes our thinking. My understanding is that the scriptures alone are to teach us and to inform our emotions, not the other way around.

    Historically, a focus on drama and visual depictions were associated with the Roman Catholic church, though Protestants are bringing it into their churches more and more. What do you think? Does sola scriptura apply to this topic as well? Thanks.

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    1. You have good discernment antennae! Here's the thing, a church doesn't go off the rails all at once. It appears to, sometimes, but it's actually a slow, incremental process.

      The definition from GotQuestions on what sola scriptura means is (and most ministries define it this in one way or another):

      Sola scriptura means that Scripture alone is authoritative for the faith and practice of the Christian. The Bible is complete, authoritative, and true

      Technically your leader is adhering to scripture alone for study, technically, but the incremental cumulative effect is leading them all down the path as you said of personal visualization, emotional reactions, and extra-biblical activities such as coloring and drama. Those might be personal reactions to scripture, or good entertainments, but it is not the way to TEACH the Bible so as to bind the conscience.

      For example, look here at what you said the ladies' minister said to do:

      • Then find a quiet place (for just 4 minutes and 41 seconds!) if you can.

      Well who can argue with finding a quiet place to study. That's good

      • Listen to this dramatic recitation of Psalm 22. Close your eyes, if it helps you concentrate. Imagine Jesus praying these words as He was dying on the cross.

      No problem closing eyes or imagining Jesus saying the words, He did.

      • Listen to how He alternates back and forth between words of suffering and words of praise.

      This is good teaching, and it's accurate.

      • Listen for the turning point in the psalm when the mood and text change from despair to victory.

      Also good teaching.

      • Listen more than once if you can, or listen to this reading the second time.

      We do need the Bible many times, especially if we're memorizing.

      However, the emphasis on listening & drama rather than reading, is that we interject another person into the mix, who has their own inflections, interpretations, and movements (in the case of drama). Why listen to an audio recording when we can just read it? Why add an extra layer to the direct personal communion with Jesus through His word? Do I really have to close my eyes? Do I really have to draw an animal? Why not just say "whatever works best for you" instead of being prescriptive?

      Individually, taken apart plank by plank as I did above, there is nothing untoward. But when it's all put together and is the constant, we can see that the incremental shift is toward mysticism rather than Holy Spirit given illumination.

      Here, Justin Peters has a good explanation on the difference between Illumination and revelation. Your leader isn't relying on revelation...yet. But sure enough, that is where this is headed. It's 9-min long

      https://youtu.be/wI95Htf2NOI

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    2. Elizabeth, thanks for your very well thought out reply. I agree with you. It is not always easy to sort through these things because they may only be headed in a wrong direction but aren't there yet. And so we have to be careful. Justin Peters' video is very helpful as well. Thank you.

      I saw that someone has asked about Elisabeth Elliott. I have actually warned people about her because awhile back I started re-reading her book, The Path of Loneliness…. And I didn’t get very far….

      She quotes Paul Tillich on p. 15, Gerald Vann on p.16, and Peter Kreeft on p. 19, and Sheldon Vanauken on p. 47 – yikes…

      The first time I read this book (years ago) I had no clue who these folks were. But now I recognize at least two of the names. Paul Tillich is a liberal theologian and philosopher, Vann was a Dominican priest, theologian and philosopher from England, and Peter Kreeft is a Roman Catholic philosopher who teaches at Boston College. Kreeft is sort of a ‘Mister Rogers’ for the ecumenical movement. He wrote a dreadful book called Ecumenical Jihad in which he writes of a dream where a Catholic, a Jew, an Atheist and a Muslim all go to heaven and are told that they were accepted by God for one reason or another. Sheldon Vanauken wrote a popular book called a Severe Mercy (which her quote is taken from). His sequel, Under the Mercy chronicles his conversion to Roman Catholicism. I’m afraid we have here a very bad mix of human philosophy, theological error and ecumenism. Mrs. Elliott's brother is/was a Roman Catholic.

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  2. Quick question- I was perusing your blog, and it was timely for me as I am seeking to find a study or a book that a vulnerable friend and I can do together long distance. So much of what I can currently just buy off of a bookshelf is questionable, as you speak to here. I only know of one Christian friend who agrees with me about "Jesus Calling" and it is just EVERYWHERE- so disappointing. So, all this to ask a question. I have always considered Elisabeth Elliot to be sound, and I just also found your list of teachers that you consider sound, and see her name on the list. But this morning on Amazon I saw this book authored by her- God's Guidance: A Slow and Certain Light- and after reading the description, it did not sound that dissimilar to other current teaching about trying to hear God's voice. Curious as to whether you are familiar with this particular book. Of course, I can buy one and look it over. I am particularly sensitive to this topic right now, and when I started reading your sola scriptura post today, it was so timely, but I just stumbled upon it, really... and had no idea it was TODAY'S post. Do I believe that is God's timing? Yes. Do I believe He is impressing something upon me? Yes. So I question how far to go with assuming God never reveals himself apart from scripture (albeit NEVER in contradiction to scripture).

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    1. Hi Anonymous,

      I am so glad there are readers who show that they are cautious and wise! Thank you for your question!

      I am not familiar with a lot of EE's work. I saw the movie and read the book about her time in Ecuador, and I listened to a few of her sermons given to ladies, on Youtube. I read newspaper interviews where she spoke to certain issues in Christianity and her answers were solid. I know OF her reputation.

      I looked at the book you mention and I agree it's unfortunate, the phrasing. I notice it is one of her later books, published in 2006. Finding God's will, hearing His voice, all very undiscerning. All very on trend. But I read one of the Amazon reviews, and this is what was stated:

      ...so different from the simplistic, ten-step self-help books that permeate Christian bookstores today. Elliot moves through the principles of ascertaining God's will, beginning with the foundation of the Lord's prayer, discussing promises, conditions, and objectives, and finally outlining the means.

      That is encouraging!

      You can preview the book on Google Books. I read the last chapter and was perplexed. She said that in the past that God guided people by prophets, dreams, and supernatural signs, and outlined them from the Bible. All that is true enough, but she SEEMED to be saying that can happen today,and gave an example about her father and also Gladys Aylward missionary to China, which I don't dispute...I read of the exact situation she described of a missionary in Africa faced with cannibals, happened to John G Paton in the New Hebrides when HE was faced with cannibals...and she said that it's not usual today but it can happen. so she went to the brink but pulled back. You can preview much of EE's book here-

      https://books.google.com/books?id=hpo2jES6o4wC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false

      but I'd recommend "Found: God's Will by John MacArthur if you want to be SURE that the subject being exposited is solidly handled. It's a little booklet, $2.

      Hope this helps some! thanks again

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    2. Thanks so much- I appreciate your thoughtful response. I also saw your other response, and appreciate your handling of tougher questions. Of course, I wouldn't expect you to know of every book off the top of your head, either :-). But I appreciated a lot of your info here. I will throw one more thing out there... in looking for your list of "good" authors, I landed on your analysis of She Reads Truth. I have seen their stuff going around, and honestly, if something is "popular" I am generally wary, but knew nothing concrete. I realized through reading your analysis that I know one of the ladies quite well. I don't say that to say she is not presenting things in an undiscerning manner- she may well be. But also, sometimes an internet analysis of a person can be a little off-base. I will not name the name of the person in question, but she is a dedicated homeschooling mom, and was presented in a very different light. As for her teaching/writing/discernment- it may be in question. And so I would challenge your readers to PRAY for these ladies, and remember that they may well love the Lord and have been pulled off track themselves. While we must watch out for false teaching, we can remember that Satan is the common enemy, and that while cautioning against certain groups/movements/writers/teachers we can also pray for their eyes to be opened to sound scriptural truth. Thanks much! - Robin

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    3. Hi Robin,

      I agree with you that internet analysis can be a little off-base, just as much as it can be off base when someone knows the person in question quite well, emotions and relationship clouding the analysis. I did engage personally with a couple of them and if my engagement was with the same woman as you mention, one of the ladies was totally unteachable and the other was gentle but the result was that she rejected the doctrines presented, so the bottom line is she was unteachable as well, just nicer about it.

      As far as praying for them, in Christian liberty I agree that it isn't a sin to pray for them but I also would gently like to mention that people often forgive the false teacher by softening their evil deeds by saying they are just a little off base. No, they are not just a little off base. If they are twisting scripture and persisting over time in perversion of the Gospel, despite having been contacted and are unrepentant, they are evil. In fact, they are the judgment of God upon us, letting those who want ears tickled to heap these false teachers up. In other words, God says, 'You want to hear what YOU want to hear and not what I want to tell you, OK, then, here are all the teachers you can stomach! Heap them up, why don't you!' (2 Tim 4:3).

      If a movement or group or organization or teacher is new, I hold off analyzing them. Time always tells. So if I am even writing about them at all it means they have persisted in their false teachings for a while and can safely, biblically be categorized as false. And if they are false, they are evil.

      Here are some thoughts on NOT praying for the false teachers. I really liked this article becuase of the scriptural stance and consistently biblical thought. I agree with it also.

      https://defendingcontending.com/2009/10/05/are-we-supposed-to-pray-for-the-wolves/
      "We can no more pray into Heaven an “accursed” false prophet who’s “reserved” for destruction any more then we can stop God through prayer from burning up this present earth that He’s “reserved” for fire (2 Peter 3:7)."

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  3. Thank you for this posting. I look forward to spending time reading and listening to all you have provided here. I do enjoy Mr. Peters writings and wisdom, as well as yours! :)

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    1. Thank you Friend, for your kindness! You're welcome for the resources, I hope they help you or others. Goodness, I'm certainly not in the same category as Mr Peters :O :)

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  4. Hi there- I asked a polite question yesterday seeking some feedback, since I see no way to dialogue other than commenting. I see that I did not make the comment cut, which surprises me, since I was reaching out with a question as a sister in Christ, and was not argumentative or offensive. -Robin

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    1. Hi Robin,

      Yes I received your question and yes it was polite, thank you. Your comment didn't NOT make the cut. For comments that ask a complicated or thoughtful question, I often hold it in the queue for a while until I think, research and pray. I never answer emotional and heartfelt questions quickly. I fully intend to answer, just not off-the-cuff so as not to cause a stumbling block or offer false hope or wrong doctrine. FOr a comment like "I like your blog" or "Good job" which only requires a quick 'thank you' response, sometimes you'll see comments written after yours posted first.

      In the "About this Blog" tab there is an email address you're free to use.

      As for your question, it's good, and there are also four other comment questions from women who have asked equally difficult-to-answer immediately questions. I also have a bunch in the email bin waiting an answer. I promise I'll get to yours. I've set aside time this afternoon to clear the comment queue and email bin.

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