I hear you but I don’t hear you: Resolving the superficial contradiction between Acts 9:7 and Acts 22:9

Acts 9:7 says that the men around Paul “stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one.” (NRSV)

In Acts 22:9 Paul says they “saw the light but did not hear the voice of the one who was speaking to me.”

Is this a formal contradiction, or merely a superficial contradiction that can be harmonized? Robert Bowman summarizes[1]:

“Evidently Luke [the author of Acts] means to convey that Paul’s companions saw a light and heard the sound of someone’s voice coming from the light, but only Paul saw the person in the light and heard the words spoken by the voice of that person. This explanation is reasonable, plausible, consistent with the wording of the texts, and supported by contextual elements in both accounts and in the third account found in Acts 26.”

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Is Having the Bible as One’s Final Authority Idolatrous?

When Christians say the Bible is their highest authority, they are not implying that the Bible is itself fully God. At least that is not the sense that I get in my community of fellowship. The Bible is God’s word. It never works to say, “God, I trust you, but I don’t trust your word.” It doesn’t work with anyone. It doesn’t make sense to place someone over their own word, especially when that person has perfectly intentional communication.

One danger is a “Barthian” view of scripture, which says scripture is one step removed from God’s word—that it is a testimony to the word of God, but not the word of God itself (Barth argues for this partly by equivocating between the Word and the word, so as to make the idolatry seem more poignant). I think this is where a lot of Mormons unconsciously gravitate toward (irrespective of one’s view of the reliability of transmission or translation). Not a full bona fide Barthian position, that is, but a kind of one where the written word seems to function to point one to the real “word” (if you will) of one’s infallible, inerrant internal spiritual testimony, given directly by God. It’s almost like a dictation-by-emotion theory of inspiration. Anyways, one reason I don’t buy into a Barthian view of scripture is that scripture seems to have a higher view of itself. The Biblical authors weren’t merely inspired, but the words also were.

Continue reading “Is Having the Bible as One’s Final Authority Idolatrous?”

Daniel Akin on Sola Scriptura

From Daniel Akin in Perspectives on Church Government, p. 38:

“This was one of the battles cries of the Reformation. It is here that apostolic authority is properly located. Apostolic authority is communicated by the canonical writings of the apostles, which carry with them apostolic authority. The Bible as the Word of God [is] thebeliever’s sole authority for faith and practice. It teaches him what to believe and how to live. God has graced the church with both men and women who possess the gift of teaching. They are invaluable to thewell-being of the church, and their importance should never be minimized. Still, God has located ultimate and final authority in his infallible and inerrant Word (Matt. 5:17-18; John 10:35; 17:17; 2 Tim. 2:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:20-21).“Carson addresses this well when he writes, ‘Whereas Christians are encouraged to support and submit to spiritual leadership (e.g. Heb. 13:17), such encouragement must not be considered a blank check; churches are responsible for and have the authority to discipline false teachers and must recognize an antecedent commitment not to a pastor but to the truth of the gospel.’ No believer can supersede the Bible as the final court of decision. Gifted pastor-teachers (Eph. 4:11) and faithful elders ‘who labor in the Word and doctrine’ (1 Tim. 5:17 NKJV) are essential, and they exercise the more necessary spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:28). However, responsibility to live under the lordship of Jesus Christ is directly related to every believer’s obedience to the Word. The work of the Spirit in concert with the Word equips and qualifies the believer to judge and test all things. This responsibility is not limited to a special group within the church, not even the leadership.

Doctrinal accountability is the responsibility of all believers in the body of Christ as they submit themselves to the lordship of Christ under the authority of his Word. As Clowney notes, ‘Church authority, grounded in the Word of Christ, is also limited to it. Christian obedience to church rule is obedience in the Lord, for His Word governs the church.’ ”