While the Bible is the sufficient word of God, we should not try to make it address every question life poses. Lately I have been more and more encountering those who try to make the Bible speak to things it does not. But not only this, a more prominent idea being thrown around out there is a kind of quasi-relativism, where if the Bible does not speak to the issue, we can not and should not make with any certainty any statements whatsoever.
First, this is a logical error, and to a certain extent, it shows the epistemological crisis within many evangelical circles. The Bible has been (correctly) the ground for the all the doctrines of the faith. It is our primary source for all the orthodox teachings of the Christian faith (more on this later). But this emphasis has resulted in no small amount of confusion concerning the nature of truth outside the revealed Word of God.
The truth is that there is truth that man can apprehend outside the Scriptures. In fact, the Bible in several places tells us to work at determining this truth. 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 says, “But test everything; hold fast what is good, abstain from every form of evil.” Some believe that this refers to the prophesying mentioned in verse 20, but I do not believe so. The conjunction could be connecting the previous idea, but it could also be a mere casual addition of a new element to the list. The point, I believe, is that Paul wanted the Thessalonian church to prove what is right and what is wrong. I have written more on the importance of this theme in the New Testament elsewhere. When these things are proven, they are true.
This is not to say that proving what is right and wrong in certain situations is always easy. Nor I am saying that we always know “without a shadow of a doubt” that what we have proven is the Truth. Sometimes there is a great deal of doubt. If we doubt, we should not partake in the activity. Paul makes that much clear in Romans 14:23. The “high road” is better in these situations.
Therefore when someone asks for a “chapter and verse” to say that Christian contemporary worship is anti-worship, they error on a couple fronts. First, they bring an inconsistent standard into the conversation. I might as well ask them to give a “chapter and verse” that contemporary worship is good worship.
But more importantly, they misunderstand the nature of Scriptures. The Bible is not a rule book intending to give regulations for every possible activity that will come up. In fact, the Bible itself tells us to prove the rightness or wrongness of things.
As I said, usually in debates concerning whether questions are right or wrong, the test demanded is “what is wrong with it?” But the underlying assumption here is as dangerous as the absurdity of the question. For to ask “what is wrong with it” assumes that the adherent of the activity believes the practice to be good. This only leads to an equally important question: why is it good? I believe that we should be working as best we know how to prove not only the immorality of actions, but the morality of actions as well. We should not only be able to show why what we do not do is evil, but why what we do do is good.
I would like to return, though, to the question of the truthfulness of our conclusions. Do we impose a “second book of authority” when we insist that there is truth outside yet derived (secondarily) from the Scriptures? To be sure, the Bible must play a role in determining the morality of our actions. But what about when it does not explicitly address our cultural particulars? Can we be sure? Can we assume that our conclusions are truth?
I will conclude with these questions tomorrow.