Theology Thursdays: What is the Bible’s authority on theological controversies?
Updated: Nov 9, 2019
The Bible has the final “say” on all theological controversies. In other words, when it comes to highly contested passages and interpretations of those passages, the theologian must step aside and let the Word of God be “controversial.” Why? The Bible teaches that man is fallible. Therefore, because God is infallible, man must take the inferior position when proclaiming, “thus saith the Lord.”
The mystery of God is His possession (Dt. 29:29). In other words, He can do with His “mystery” whatever He wants (and frankly, the older I get, the more I believe most of life is a Divine mystery). It is not surprising that the Word of God would contain mysterious things because God is a mysterious God that may not ever be fully understood by man. That is not to say that the perspicuity of Scripture is at all obscured or unattainable. God himself has said, “the things revealed belong to us” (Dt. 29:29b).
Therefore, what many define as “controversies” may, in fact, be nothing more than personal preferences standing in the way of the “revealed” truth.
It is also a process. I remember reading in the preface of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology, where he said, “It is not that Christians lack the ability to understand doctrine; it is just that they must have access to it in an understanding form. Once that happens, I think that many Christians will find that understanding (and living) the doctrines of Scripture is one of the greatest joys” [emphasis mine].1 As we learn more, perhaps fewer “controversies” will be controversial.
The Bible has the authority on that to which it speaks directly. For example, if movies of Hollywood were not mentioned in the Bible, then it may not have direct “authority” over whether a person watches Hollywood movies (although there are plenty of “direct” commands that speak authoritatively on much of the content of those movies).
Allow me to quote Krista: “The counselor who represents the Bible as though it speaks directly on some of these ‘theological controversies’ often does so to protect his own personal convictions by making them pet theological controversies that are often divisive within the Body of Christ. It does not add to the relevancy of God’s Word to create the illusion that God speaks directly on topics He does not.”
2 Peter 1:3 says, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.” The Word of God always has answers. It is assumed that the reader is deficient not the perspicuity of Scripture or the clarity of Scripture (Grudem—“persistent disagreements on some subject through the history of the church”).2
Proverbs 3:5-7 says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, An Introduction to Bible Doctrine [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994], 18.
Grudem, Systematic Theology, 109.