Bible only? A response


I thought a comment posted on my “Evangelicals and psychiatric services” article was worth re-posting here, along with my response. I’d be interested to hear others weigh in on this “Bible only” issue:

Karen said 4 days ago:

Chris,
I haven’t read the previous articles on evangelicals, as of yet anyway. I appreciate what you’ve written in this one. I have a question. Have you written any articles on how to respond to other Christians who criticize you for seeking answers to questions in other places besides the Bible? It doesn’t really matter what issue the questions concern. I have a really hard time dealing with Christian family members & friends who believe that all answers are found only in the Bible, & for those who go to others resources are sinning. Thanks.

You said 14 hours ago:

Well, two responses.

First, I do point out to students who are inclined to this sort of “bibliolatry” that while the Bible has always been a primary source for Christian churches, it has not been the only source. Most Christians have always, until the past century or so, turned also to the wise writings of a wide array of writers and thinkers who have thought carefully about the gospel, and have used these “traditions” as a hermeneutic lens through which to understand the primary revelation of Scripture. For most of church history, Christians have understood those traditions as helpful, if secondary, guides and sources of wisdom for life–NOT as an independent, second source, equal to Scripture in authority.

Second, and more obviously: there is a huge range of human experience and knowledge that is not explicitly covered in the Bible (to give just one shocking example: there are no explicit directions in the pages of the Bible on how exactly to organize a church and conduct worship! No wonder there are so many denominations . . .). On this huge category of things, which include most life decisions, Christians should seek to be faithful to the broad principles of Scripture and to the known character of God and the history of his interactions with humanity. They should think carefully and make a plan, and seek the wisdom of many counselors–the bigger the decision, the more trustworthy people you should talk to about it.

It is also not a bad idea, in dealing with the many big decisions and life issues we face, to pray and ask God to guide us in our understanding–even asking the famous question of Charles M. Sheldon’s novel In His Steps, “What would Jesus do?” But we should remember Sheldon’s wise words: when you ask that question, you are not asking what Jesus would do, being Jesus, as if there was some single decision that would always be right for the sort of situation you are facing. Rather, you are seeking the Holy Spirit’s wise guidance on what Jesus would have you do, with your own particular gifts and limitations, your own personality, your own network of relationships, and so forth. Good old Charles Sheldon. Liberal in theology, but nonetheless full of of gospel wisdom! You might want to put his name in a search on this blog–I’ve posted a couple of articles on him.

Hope that’s helpful, Karen!

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2 responses to “Bible only? A response

  1. Charlie Clauss

    Was it Chesterton who said, after being asked what book he’d want to have if stranded on a dessert island, said “Shipbuilding.”

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