President's Blog

Biblical Authority and Capitulating to Culture

Several years ago I had a conversation with a pastor colleague who espoused that my orthodox view on hell was flawed, that churches must become affirming, that abortion was not inherently wrong, and devout believers of other religions would be welcomed into Heaven. God would receive anyone universally who were devout in faith. Just be the best Muslim you can be.

When I sought to point out Scripture that contradicted his views, he dismissed the authority of Scripture. On another occasion someone stated to me that Noah’s story didn’t have to be true to support their faith. It was likely myth, but that didn’t lay waste to their faith. I didn’t have the heart to point out that Jesus clearly believed Noah’s story to be a factual historical reality (Matthew 24:37, Luke 17:26). If Jesus was incorrect on the facts of this footnote in history; where else did He get it wrong?

The Authority of Scripture

The cultural shifts today seem to be occurring at breakneck speed. It’s breathtaking to watch and try to take it all in. What is disconcerting is the speed to which so many friends within the evangelical church are espousing views once considered unorthodox. I would humbly posit that a growing weariness and disbelief in Biblical authority is the culprit.

When I mentioned to my friend that his views were no longer strictly orthodox he challenged me saying his views could not be classified as heretical because with a clear conscience he could sign The Apostle Creed and Nicene Creed.

While I affirm that these two creeds largely capture what is Biblical and what it is to be Christian I did respond with a question: “When did signing a creed make someone a devoted follower of Christ?”

These creeds were based on the authority of Scripture. If you question Biblical authority, it follows suit you should challenge the supposed truth statements deposited in any creed.

J.I. Packer defined Biblical authority as: “The Christian principle of Biblical authority means, on the one hand, that God purposes to direct the belief and behavior of His people through the revealed truth set forth in Holy Scripture; on the other hand it means that all our ideas about God should be measured, tested and where necessary corrected and enlarged by reference to Biblical teaching.”

What the Bible says about Scriptural Authority

What does the Bible say about its own inherent authority over our faith and practice as Christians? How does Scripture classify itself? How does Scripture describe degrees of doctrine? Does the Bible mention areas of freedom and debate? Here is a reminder of four general categories applied to Scripture:

1. Sound Doctrine

  • 1 Timothy 1; 1 Timothy 6:2-5, 2 Timothy 4:1-5; 2 Timothy 2:14-19; Titus 1:9; Titus 2:1

Christians are to “correctly handle the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15) and “teaching [of] sound doctrine” (Titus 1:9). Sound doctrine is the standard by which all other teaching is measured. What qualifies as sound doctrine is its priority and clarity in Scripture, how it bears on the character of God, the defense of the Gospel and its impact on the church.

2. Disputable Matters

  • Romans 14; 1 Corinthians 8:11-16

These are theological concerns where Scripture is silent or the issue is one of opinion or personal preference. Occasions where a theological issue is supported by an acceptable Biblical hermeneutic but comes to a different conclusion than yourself. We’re not to judge the “weaker” brother over a disputable matter (Romans 14:13) so that the weaker brother might not “stumble” (1 Corinthians 8:13). We are always to ensure that our conscience is clear when determining a personal position on disputable matters (Romans 14:5-8; 1 Corinthians 8:12).

3. Unsound Doctrine

  • 1 Timothy 1; 1 Timothy 4:1-5; 2 Timothy 4:2-4; Titus 1:9

Believing Christians can espouse unsound doctrine. This occurs when a disciple of Christ strays far enough from a matter of sound doctrine (in belief or behaviour) that they need to be corrected. However, they should not be considered a false teacher, heretic, or apostate. Some Scriptures explicitly name unsound doctrines like 1 Timothy 1 which states perjury, lying, and slave trading to be unsound belief and behaviour. Paul’s rebuke to Peter falls within this category (Galatians 2:14).

4. Heresy

  • 1 Timothy 1; 1 Timothy 4; 2 Timothy 4; 2 Peter 2:1-3; 2 Peter 2:12

Heresy tears at the very foundation of the Gospel. Also known as false teaching and blasphemy in Scripture, heresy is described as “shipwrecking the faith” and being “handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme” (1 Timothy 1). They have “abandoned the faith”, teaching what they’ve learned from deceiving spirits and demons (1 Timothy 4) and denying their sovereign Lord bringing swift destruction on themselves (2 Peter 2).

My hope and prayer is that our Fellowship of churches (and leaders) will be ever vigilant to defend Biblical authority. This is the “linchpin”* that prevents the church from capitulating to our culture and allow further drift among those who self-identify as evangelical Christians.

*linchpin: one that serves to hold together parts of elements that exist or function as a unit, as a whole.