Recently, there has been more and more discussion and divide between progressive Christians (liberals) and evangelical Christians (conservatives) over “culture war” issues. Namely, what they believe concerning marriage/sexual ethics and abortion. As I read articles and blogs related to these views I was reminded of J. Gresham Machen and his book Christianity and Liberalism. The book was first published in 1923 and is a great defense of Orthodox Christianity, answering many liberal objections of the day. Machen nailed the foundational issues at stake as he wrote about doctrine, God and man, the Bible, Christ, Salvation, and the Church. I, too, want to point to that foundational battleground and say that the “culture wars” still have to do with where doctrine comes from, the Bible. The battle for this sacred text goes on today and is of utmost importance. As a follower of Christ I believe that the bible is trustworthy and to be interpreted with sound methods. Specifically, we believe the historical-grammatical method of hermeneutics is most accurate and helpful. This method seeks to understand authorial intent through context, grammar of the original language, and how the church has historically interpreted the text. This method, by the way, is the same method that conservative justices use as they interpret constitutional issues (i.e. authorial intent). To clarify, one saying I remember as I was learning this method (haven’t arrived, still learning) said a text of scripture can never mean what it never meant. Those who oppose conservative “culture war” views do so, on the basis of some other kind of hermeneutic. Many of them would say that the bible is a document whose central interpretation changes with the culture. I disagree. What I hope to accomplish in these posts is to argue that scripture is sufficient to speak into our lives and cultural norms are not. I want to do this through an exegesis of one of my favorite texts of Scripture, 2 Timothy 3:16-17. Through these series of posts I will share excerpts from a sermon that I have preached several times. This is an early form of it titled “The Sufficiency of Scripture”.
When we say sufficiency we aren’t just talking about the inerrancy of scripture, but rather inerrancy lived out. Sufficiency means, according to Jimmy Draper and Ken Keathley in their book “Biblical Authority”, that “the Word of God has the ability to address every area of human existence”. So we are saying that scripture, correctly interpreted, accurately addresses every situation of life. To say that the bible is sufficient is to say exactly what 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says: that All scripture…is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness…to make us complete, equipped for every good work.
What the bible gives are a set of clear teachings, principles, and commands that provide the Christian with the framework and tools to deal with all the issues of life. In 2 Timothy 3 Paul exhorted Timothy to look to the scriptures for teaching doctrines, presenting reproofs, providing corrections, and supporting training in the knowledge of God.
Christian leaders today must believe the scriptures are sufficient for faith and practice. We must understand the sufficiency of scripture because, as my pastor reported at a conference a few years ago, “it is likely that we have become inerrancy idolaters. We have become a people who will slam our bibles on the pulpit for the cause of inerrancy, but when it comes to practical use, we discard it for man-centered methods of evangelism, corporate worship, and psychological self-help in the place of absolute truth. It is my sincere prayer that the Spirit of God will rekindle the flame of the sufficiency of scriptures in our churches today.”