But he answered, “It is written,“‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’”… 

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
(Matthew 4:4; John 8:31-32)

Jesus Is The One Who Taught Sola Scriptura And Led His Reformers To Recapture It

Apprising Ministries reminds you that the Church Growth Movement’s Emerging Church rebellion against sola Scriptura, as you cab see above was taught by Jesus, has gained much strength within mainstream evangelicalism. This means you are going to have learn to listen closely to what people say concerning their view of the Bible. Just because you hear someone tell you how much they respect God’s Word and/or how important Holy Scripture is to them, it does not then follow they are approaching it in the way Jesus would have His Christians do so.

For example, concerning the idea of sola Scriptura recovered in the Lord’s Protestant Reformation, William Webster brings out that:

The Reformation was responsible for restoring to the Church the principle of sola Scriptura, a principle which had been operative within the Church from the very beginning of the post apostolic age. Initially the apostles taught orally but with the close of the apostolic age all special revelation that God wanted preserved for man was codified in the written Scriptures.

Sola Scriptura is the teaching and belief that there is only one special revelation from God that man possesses today, the written Scriptures or the Bible, and that consequently the Scriptures are materially sufficient and are by their very nature as being inspired by God the ultimate authority for the Church. (Online source)

This is the proper approach to Christian spirituality. Against this backdrop, now let’s examine the following from liberal theologian John Shelby Spong, who absolutely rejects the inerrancy of Scripture, the Virgin Birth and Deity of Christ, the vicarious penal substitutionary atonement Jesus on the Cross, and the Bodily Resurrection of Christ. The following is from a transcript I have from The John Ankerberg Show circa 1985 called Spong/Martin Debate On Sexual Ethics. Spong says, “I read the Bible every day of my life. It is the most important book in my life.”

Well, that sounds great, right? Wrong; because here comes the neo-Gnostic double-talk:

But I think it’s important that we understand it… I’m not a biblical “literalist,” and if we define biblical “fundamentalism” to be literal belief in every word of the Scripture being without error, I would say I’m not – neither is the [Episcopal] church that I represent. But I do take the Bible seriously, and I believe that I meet the living Word of God in the words of Holy Scripture – that’s why I study this book every day of my life…

But in the first century and in the early second century, authors who felt they were true to the writings of their mentors would use their mentors’ names. I don’t know any New Testament scholars, for example, that think Paul wrote the pastoral epistles but a disciple of Paul wrote the pastoral epistles and used Paul’s name. It’s a very different Paul that you meet…[1]

Spong’s view expressed above is that of the destructive higher criticism of liberal theology with a touch of mysticism and neo-orthodoxy. He is telling us unenlightened ones “it’s important that we understand” how these spiritually elite neo-Gnostics in their supposedly superior erudition have come to realize that one must move beyond the mere text of Scripture down into the message they then allegorize into it. You’ll get an even better picture of what I’m talking about in the following from so-called Progressive Christian Dr. Marcus Borg.

You need to know that, like Spong, Borg denies virtually every doctrine of the historic orthodox faith and then some. Notice that in the beginning Borg even sounds a lot like an actual Christian as he says in his book The Heart of Christianity, “Christianity is centered in the Bible. Of course, it is ultimately centered in God, but it is the God whom the Bible speaks and to whom it points.” But Borg gives, and then, he takes away:

God is also known in other ways and other religions, I am convinced, but to be a Christian is to be centered in the God of the Bible. This is a mark not of Christian exclusion, but of Christian identity. The Bible is for us as Christians our sacred scripture, our sacred story. Yet the Bible has become a stumbling block for many. In the last half century, probably more Christians have left the church because of the Bible than for any other single reason.

More precisely, they have left because the earlier paradigm’s way of seeing the Bible ceased to make sense to them. Contemporary biblical literalism—with its emphasis on biblical infallibility, historical factuality, and moral and doctrinal absolutes—is an obstacle for millions of people.[2]

Notice Borg’s appeal to human reason; he says he’s “convinced” that “God is also known in other ways.” However, it doesn’t matter one iota what any of us sincerely believes. It matters what the the Lord’s Word reveals to us. No, God is not known within other religions outside of the unique revelation of His Holy Scripture contained only in the Bible. And as deceitful spirits will in their teachings of demons there is a smidgeon of truth that “the Bible has become a stumbling block for many.” But it isn’t the Scriptures themselves over which they stumble; rather it is the Rock of Jesus Christ who crushes those who refuse to worship Him as Lord and Savior (cf. Matthew 21:42-44; 1 Peter 2:1-8).

And as a wolf in sheep’s clothing it’s little wonder that Marcus Borg finds the Bible’s “moral and doctrinal absolutes” to be an “obstacle” for him. God has already told us of false prophets like Spong and Borg — The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:14).If you’ve become involved with such as these Jesus will tell you — “Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit” (Matthew 15:14).

So Selfishly Singing: “Me, Me, Me…”

As we close, for now, here’s an excellent example of the neo-orthodox approach to the Bible where—not unlike Spong and Borg themselves—one does, in a way, take a bit more than a literal approach to Scripture. However, in this view—following the mythology of neo-orthodox theologian Karl Barth—one attempts to “sense” the voice of God within the texts of Scripture, which become inspired for the individual supposedly as the Holy Spirit illuminates it to them personally. The Bible teaches that Scripture is already inspired (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16).

The following is from “cultural architect” and “distinguished futurist” Southern Baptist pastor Erwin McManus from an interview with Relevant Magazine. While McManus himself is old news, sadly, this is also the approach of far too many within the mainstream of the evangelical community today. Unfortunately, it’s a fruit of their sordid lust affair with the corrupt Counter Reformation Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism gleaned from apostate Roman Catholicism and repackaged by Living Spiritual Teacher and Quaker mystic Richard Foster.

While what McManus says below sounds very pious, it actually relegates Scripture to a secondary status ala plura scriptura:

EM: Knowing God, knowing His heart, knowing His character is really about falling passionately in love with God and experiencing His love. Of course, there are dynamics to that: the Scriptures are essential. God speaks through the cosmos, God speaks through creation, God speaks through human experience and conscience, God speaks through everything, yes—but I do see the Scriptures as the primary access, a portal into God’s presence. I began to have a clear sense of God’s voice in my life through reading the Scriptures and hearing God’s voice through the Scriptures.

RM: You’ve said in the past that “Scripture is God through the improvisation of people’s lives.”

EM: Well, I build my life not on the Word of God, but the voice of God. The Scriptures are to me the instrument that God has placed in history for me to learn the voice of God. I treasure the Scriptures. (Online source)

Your key to understanding where Erwin McManus jumps the track is his highly subjective statement, “I build my life not on the Word of God, but the voice of God.” Again, as Satan does, he takes us into a very fine difference; but, it’s a critical one. The Word of God in the text of the Bible is the voice of God; and we must always go by what the text itself says, and not what we think—or wish—it means. The crucial problem is, because of years of Bible studies where people sit around discussing “what does that verse means to you,” so many in the professing Christian community were never taught — knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation ( 2 Peter 1:20).

Christian apologist Bob DeWaay will help you understand what this verse means as he shares:

The meaning of the Scripture is determined by the Holy Spirit inspired author. In other words, these writers were inspired by the Spirit, and so [what they wrote] didn’t come from their will, it came from the Holy Spirit Who spoke from God. So therefore the interpretation of the Scripture is to determine the meaning of the Holy Spirit inspired author.

Now your own interpretation would be the postmodern idea that reader determines the meaning. A private interpretation is “this means this to me.” Have you ever been to a Bible study where they do that? Everybody gets their Bible. “Read a verse.” And you read a verse. [Then someone asks], “What’s that mean to you?” [Looking around the room], “What’s that mean to you? What’s that mean to you?” [And so on]. “Okay, next verse.”

Well, what do you have but private interpretation? Somebody’s saying I’m going to infuse my meaning into the Scripture rather than finding out what the Holy Spirit said to me through the Holy Spirit-inspired author.[3]

With all of this now in its proper Biblical context, I’ll leave you with a very pertinent warning: If you can’t tell the difference between fleece and fur today, then you’re going to lose your spiritual arm right up to the elbow. After-all, Jesus taught us long ago:

And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.” (Matthew 16:1-3)


End notes:

[1] The John Ankerberg Show, transcript, 3, emphasis theirs.

[2] Marcus Borg, The Heart of Christianity [New York: Harper Collins, 2003], 43.

[3]  Faith at Risk 3 Conference, “How to Discern A True Work of the Spirit,” DVD Chapter 5, 12:38-13:57.

See also: