Tuesday, March 17, 2009

March 18- Sola Scriptura

(Genevan Bible New Testament cover 1599 ed.]
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

3/18- Sola Scriptura

Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. (Acts 17:11)

Calvin (In The Genevan Confession attributed to Calvin and Farel): First we affirm that we desire to follow Scripture alone as rule of faith and religion without mixing with it any other thing which might be devised by the opinion of men apart from the Word of God, and without wishing to accept for our spiritual government any other doctrine than what is conveyed to us by the same Word without addition or diminution, according to the command of our Lord.

The Bible does not depend on the church to give it authority, but upon God’s Holy Spirit. Calvin saw himself less a philosopher and more of a Biblical scholar. Calvin saw scripture as being written by different human beings, but the Holy Spirit overcame the differences of culture, style, language, background to bring about a unity of message and theme. Calvin, more than any other theologian (writes Leith) used the whole canon of scripture as the basis for his theology. Today many downplay the role of the whole canon ("canon" means the accepted scriptures), and they speak of a “canon within the canon" (or some parts of scripture as more authoritative than others). The problem with this is that we pick things agreeable to us, and leave the things out we don’t like- a cafeteria faith. In effect, this is writing scripture according to our own thinking. While we all pay attention to part and ignore part- it is a part of human nature- we should at least TRY to check (or stop)such picking and choosing. There is a balance between making the scripture culturally relevant and ignoring scripture altogether. An example of this would be wearing a hat or wearing our hair a certain way. Some scriptures say we should wear our hair a certain way. But we know from other scriptures God doesn’t care about outward appearance. But clear disobedience to a clear prohibition of God in scripture destroys the purpose of Bible study, and undermines the foundations of the church.
In the recent debate about the ordination of homosexuals, one proponent for the ordination said that “we need to separate exegesis from ethics.” Exegesis is the study of scripture. Ethics is our standards of behavior. So do we really want to separate- put a wall up- between scripture and our behavior? Are we saying we do not WANT scripture to influence our behavior anymore? This is an illustration that we need a new reformation in which God's Word is our authority. Otherwise we are living in the sick kind of mentality that was prevalent in the times of the judges: "Everyone did what was right in their own eyes." Being a Christian means trying to do what is right in God's eyes.
Calvin was very much aware that our sinful nature blinds us to our own faults, and that we do not like to be rebuked by God. If the Bible cannot correct us, then it is a weak word indeed. Scripture alone is our standard (rule) of faith and life. It is not psychology, as good as that is; nor science; nor church tradition; God speaks in all truth- similarly to how God speaks in nature. The heavens tell the glory of God. But the Bible is the spectacles to help us discern God’s real word in nature.

Prayer: Lord, there are many voices giving us advice. Help us to hear your voice speaking to us in scripture and live by it.

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