Friday, April 23, 2010

Solus Libri - The 6th Sola

This is my final post in this series of responses to my not-yet-continuationalist brethren who dismiss the possibility that God spoke to and led James King through an alligator infested swamp.

Over the past week since making my position known on this topic I have received a couple comments/questions regarding specific passages in the Bible, which at first glance would seem to refute the continuationalist position that the gift of prophecy is ongoing. They are Proverbs 30 and Revelation 22.

Proverbs 30:5-6

"Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.”

Revelation 22:18-19

For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

The argument which is being made by the presentation of these verses is plain. If one claims to have received a revelation from the Lord in 2010, and subsequently after the closing of the Canon, then the one who pronounces such a word is “a liar”. These prophets, “so called”, by their prophecies have added to the Scripture and will soon find themselves rebuked and the recipients of every plague contained in the Bible.

Is this true? Is this what the authors intended us to understand from their statements? Let’s see.

Proverbs 30:5-6

The first thing that pops into my head as I consider the argument is this; if the author intended his readers to understand that there would be no more prophetic revelation then how is it that the Sons of Israel ever accepted another Prophet of God? If Agur, being carried along by the Holy Spirit, meant that anything beyond what He was writing was an addition to God’s Word how did the people of God receive the remaining Old Covenant Scriptures, or the New for that matter? Obviously, that was not what he meant; otherwise John would have never dared record the Revelation for us. So what did he intend for us to understand?

Revelation 22:18-19

The reason that this verse is offered as a refuting text is essentially no different than that found in the Proverbs passage. However, because this portion lies at the end of the last book in our Bible it is presumed by those presenting it that their argument is strengthened. Not so. Again one must simply ask the question, “Is this what the author intended for his audience to understand?” What do you think? Did the Apostle intend for his readers to dismiss the Spirit empowering grace of the prophetic gift when he wrote these words down? Are we to believe that John was speaking to any Scripture outside what he was immediately writing? Was he announcing the end of prophecy at this point in his letter; did he even understand that there was a New Testament Canon or that he was closing it? If not what was John endeavoring to communicate?

The Key is Systematic

So what did they mean? If we are to properly understand these passages two things must happen. First, we must not isolate these verses from their context and import our own ideas into the reading. This is what was corrected above when we looked at the passages separately and examined their authorial intent. Second, we must scour the Bible and search for similar declarations to determine whether a system of interpretation is developed. So, let’s take a look at the rest of the inspired Testimony and see what we find.

Deuteronomy 4:2

“You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you.”

Deuteronomy 12:32

"Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it.”

Galatians 1:6-9

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

When we look at these three passages and compare them with Proverbs 30 and Revelation 22 we immediately see the similarities. The portions from Deuteronomy both declare “You shall not add, nor take away” and “You shall not add to it or take from it.” And we see a commonality between the Galatians passage and Revelation 22 as well. Namely, that a curse is upon anyone who alters the message that was delivered. What else do we see? We discover the object which we are forbidden to modify, the commands of God.

So, what Moses was intending for us to understand was that men should not add to or subtract from what God has already commanded. He was not at all concerned about what God may add, by way of prophecy, in the future. No, his principle concern was that the Children of Israel remain obedient to God’s Law alone. He was warning the people to not heap man made commandments upon what God had already established, as the Pharisees would one day do, and not to subtract from what God had commanded and attempt obedience apart from faith.
Let’s now return to the texts in question and ask ourselves why the authors might have included “do not add or subtract”.

Proverbs 30: I believe that Agur was doing nothing more than quoting Moses’ sermon in his Proverb. It’s interesting, don’t you think, that cessationists run to this passage and completely ignore both Deuteronomy 4 and Deuteronomy 12. Why are they not offered as refuting texts against modern day prophecy? The reason they do this is because it is not possible to proof-text Moses like they do Agur. The reason they make their eisegetical mistake is that they are not reading the passage systematically or in the original Hebrew.

"Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.”

The word translated as “words” in Proverbs 30:5-6
is dabar. This is the same Hebrew word which is translated as “commandments” in Deuteronomy 4:2. Which means, we may also render Proverbs 30:5 in this way, “Do not add to his commandments, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.” Reading Proverbs 30 that way makes it impossible to import the meaning that it is typically given when dabar is translated as “words”. When Proverbs 30 is approached without its context and without an understanding of the original language the uninformed reader imports “Word” (Bible), in place of “words” and error is introduced.

Revelation 22: I believe that the same thing holds true for John’s usage of Deuteronomy as it does for Agur’s. He was quoting Moses. However, given the literary genre which John was writing in makes this Mosaic quote far more powerful and significant. In the wisdom literature Agur was merely quoting Moses but John was establishing that his testimony was equal with Moses’ testimony. In other words, John was declaring his writing Holy Scripture.

So you see, these passages, Proverbs 30 and Revelation 22, may not be used as a polemic against those who prophecy today, that is unless by their prophecy they are adding new meaning to the Scripture. What is ironic about this whole misapplication of Scripture is that those who misinterpret the “don’t add or subtract” passages find themselves far closer to violating this command than those who they are attempting to correct.

Solus Libri - The 6th Sola

Most are aware of the 5 Solas which were a product of the Protestant Reformation. They are Sola scriptura ("by Scripture alone"), Sola fide ("by faith alone"), Sola gratia ("by grace alone"), Solus Christus ("Christ alone"), and Soli Deo gloria ("glory to God alone"). The 6th Sola (which I have just coined) on the other hand is not a product of the Reformation but of those who allow their tradition to interpret the text. Their mishandling of the Doctrine of Sufficiency has unfortunately led them down a path of rejecting the Gifts of the Spirit and believing that the revelation of God is limited to paper and ink.

By the way, Solus Libri, in case you were wondering means (“by a Book alone”)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

why has no one commented on this EXCELLENT post? great job Josh...loved the writing, the message, the tone and the delivery. thank you!

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