Here’s the scenario: You visit your family doctor for a regular checkup. After careful examination, the doctor begins to ask you about your eating habits.
“Well,” you answer, “I don’t eat anything out of the ordinary; just your typical American meals. The only abnormality may be that I always make sure to take a healthy dose of cyanide as a dietary supplement with every meal.”
“Cyanide?!” your doctor exclaims. “You’ve got to stop that! Consumption of cyanide is lethal!”
You respond. “Oh, come now, doctor! Cyanide is readily accessible to me and actually helps to curb my appetite. I observe no harmful side effects, and the benefits are great. I’m not going to stop taking cyanide unless you prove to me that cyanide is poisonous.”
“Well, that’s simple,” the doctor replies. “Cyanide affects virtually all body tissues, attaching itself to ubiquitous metalloenzymes and rendering them inactive. Its principal toxicity probably results from inactivation of cytochrome oxidase and, thus, cellular respiration, even in the presence of adequate oxygen stores. Consequently, the tissues with the highest oxygen requirements (like the brain, heart, and liver) are the most profoundly affected by acute cyanide poisoning.
“Chronic consumption of cyanide-containing foods results in ataxia and optic neuropathy. Defective cyanide metabolism causes Leber optic atrophy, leading to blindness.”
“Doctor, doctor,” you interrupt, “this is all over my head. I’m not going to believe all of this scientific jargon unless I can understand it.”
“But I’m an expert in my field,” your doctor retorts. “I’ve spent many years studying the human body and medicine. Surely you see the need to listen to experts in areas in which you have no extensive knowledge!”
“I suppose. But I am a born again believer! In fact, I’m a Fundamentalist, and I believe that the Bible is all I need for my Christian life. Sola Scriptura is my battle cry! If you can’t show me in the Bible why I shouldn’t consume cyanide, then I’m afraid I’m going to continue doing what I like. I believe in the normative principle, you know.”
Your doctor is beside himself. “But don’t you think that you should apply your reason and the knowledge of experts in given areas to biblical principles? I mean, the Bible says you should take care of your body, doesn’t it? I’m telling you, from an expert in the field of medicine, that you will disobey that command if you keep ingesting cyanide!”
“But the Bible doesn’t specifically address consumption of cyanide. That must mean that God isn’t concerned one way or another. If fact, the Bible says that all things are lawful! This is just a simple issue of Christian liberty.”
In one last desperate attempt, your doctor insists, “Well, what if I can show you evidence; studies that prove that cyanide poisoning has killed people. Will you take my advice, then?”
“Well, first of all, I haven’t observed it for myself, and I’m not inclined to just believe what some scientist says. Besides, even if I did observe it for myself, it’s probably just a cultural phenomenon anyway. I’m strong enough to handle it. You can draw your lines on safety where you want to, but don’t judge me!”
A silly story for sure. But these same kinds of arguments are used in many areas of Christian decision-making, most of all with music philosophy.
We must realize that Sola Scriptura does not mean anti-intellectualism. It does not mean that we cannot trust experts and use their conclusions to help us make biblical applications. And it does not mean that we have liberty to do anything the Bible does not explicitly address. There is certainly room for discussion and debate about what certain musical styles communicate and whether it is compatable with Christianity, but biblical wisdom at least demands that we engage in such discussions.