Soon I hope to write more about the last column’s subject of un-Biblical patriarchy, especially contrasted with more-Biblical views of male/female roles.
Spiritual Superheroes! still needs a sequel. But the prospect of Photoshopping Dave Hunt into The Hulk frightens me a bit, and not just on a technical level. Still, it’s coming.
How about another game? For the job of trying to learn Biblical discernment for God’s glory and our growth, I’ve found recently one way of simplifying the task: the game of Rock, Paper, Scissors, adapted for an even more spiritual purpose.
Christian camp counselors, start your note-taking! This is sure to be a hit at campfire discussions everywhere, when the kids are all spiritually high and ready to learn.
Rules of the game
True to this little game’s purpose, I think I can back up how it works with Scripture.
Let’s call the new form Anecdote, Christian Teaching, Scripture. Shout it out like a game-show audience: “AN-EC-DOTE! CHRIST-IANNN TEEEACH-INNNG! SCRIPTURRRRE! Yayyyy!”
(Grinning game-show host bounds happily on the stage, thrilled to be there)
Yes, that’s right, it’s Anecdote, Christian Teaching, Scripture! While the contestants enter, let’s go over the rules! In the original game, scissors can cut paper. Rocks can damage scissors. Paper can cover rock. Each item can be beaten by something else.
But in Anecdote, Christian Teaching, Scripture, a personal Anecdote and Christian Teaching can beat each other — and Scripture, the revealed Word beats both previous items. Sometimes Anecdote beats Anecdote, but only if it’s backed up by Teaching which in turn is backed up by Scripture. And if Teaching contradicts Scripture, guess which one of those wins.
That’s right, studio audience! Scripture wins again.
Shall we see if these rules are supported by Scripture itself? Wait, what’s that? Someone in the audience is shouting, claiming something about a circular argument. While the game-show security staff remove him, let’s go over one reason why Christians do in fact seem to say “Scripture itself proves Scripture is the highest authority.” Heeeeeeeere’s Wayne to explain.
Someone may object that to say Scripture proves itself to be God’s words is to use a circular argument: We believe that Scripture is God’s Word because it claims to be that. And we believe its claims because Scripture is God’s Word. And we believe that it is God’s Word because it claims to be that, and so forth.
It should be admitted that this is a kind of circular argument. However, that does not make its use invalid, for all arguments for an absolute authority must ultimately appeal to that authority for proof; otherwise the authority would not be an absolute or highest authority. This problem is not unique to the Christian who is arguing for the authority of the Bible. Everyone either implicitly or explicitly uses some kind of circular argument when defending his or her ultimate authority for belief.
A few simple examples will illustrate the types of circular arguments people use to support the basis for their beliefs:
“My reason is my ultimate authority because it seems reasonable to me to make it so.”
“Logical consistency is my ultimate authority because it is logical to make it so.”
“The findings of human sensory experiences are the ultimate authority for discovering what is real and what is not, because our human senses have never discovered anything else: Thus, human experience tells me that my principle is true.”
Each of these arguments utilizes circular reasoning to establish its ultimate standard for truth.1
Thanks, Wayne! Now let’s see if Scripture beating Anecdote and Teaching, every time, is a way of thinking and living supported by Scripture itself.
Scripture beats Teaching
And Pharisees came up to [Jesus] and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
Matthew 19: 3-6
Scripture beats Anecdote; Scripture beats Teaching; Teaching beats Anecdote (but only if supported by Scripture)
Recall that the Galatian church has bought into un-Biblical ideas about how to be and/or stay saved. They treated supposedly essential lifestyle rules as equal to the Gospel of God’s grace.
In response, Paul wrote a passionate, firm and wonderful letter that includes this near the start:
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.
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
Galatians 1: 6-12
Anecdote beats Teaching (but only if supported by Scripture)
To the same audience, the Apostle Paul goes on to defend himself by citing his life experiences. But he backs up his experiences with the truth, against teaching that personally attacks him.
For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.
Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother. (In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!) Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” And they glorified God because of me.
Galatians 1: 13-24
Anecdote beats Teaching (but only if supported by Scripture); Scripture beats Anecdote, Scripture beats Teaching
To believers, the apostle Peter wrote:
For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
2 Peter 2: 16-21
Scripture beats Everything
To Timothy, a young pastor, the apostle Paul wrote:
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3: 14-17
Time to play!
Contestants, do you understand the rules? Do you? Exccccellent! Then finally it’s time to play:
“AN-EC-DOTE! CHRIST-IANNN TEEEACH-INNNG! SCRIPTURRRRE! Yayyyy!”
Scenarios will be suggested by virtue of whoever can get there first to suggest one! Because I, your humble host, am here first, I shall begin, and with a very easy one.
Scenario One! You’re a Christian pastor, married, with three children, working in a Ministry™. You also happen to be hitting on one of the Ministry™ secretaries. You tell her you’re sure it’s God’s will for you to be together. Anecdote!
(Host looks around in silence) Wwwell, all right then! If you have a harder one, give it a whirl!