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How Scripture is Insufficient

ScriptureTuesday I linked to an important article by Carl Trueman about the sufficiency of Scripture. I believe this article is so important that I’d like to highlight a few of his points here.

Trueman makes an intriguing statement in his article:

There is a sense in which we might say that Protestants believe in the insufficiency of Scripture.

A statement like that made on this site would be charged with heresy! What did Trueman mean by the insufficiency of Scripture? (By the way, this reminds me of an article by T. David Gordon, “The Insufficiency of Scripture.” John Piper has also made similar statements.)

What he meant was a point that we’ve tried to make here for a long time: the sufficiency of Scripture does not mean (a) that the Bible speaks to every issue or (b) that if the Bible doesn’t talk about something, then God doesn’t care what we do in that area.

What it means is that the Bible is our supreme authority in all matters. Trueman says it this way:

In other words, to speak of scriptural sufficiency is one way of speaking about the unique authority of Scripture in the life of the church and the believer as the authoritative and sufficient source for the principles of faith and practice.

Trueman further makes the point that even though the Bible does not speak to every issue explicitly, the sufficiency and authority of Scripture imply that it does, in fact, have authority over every issue, no matter what it is. He presents one example:

For example, the Bible may not reference stem cell research, but it contains principles that should shape our attitudes to such.

And, I would guess, he would extend this to music as well.

Finally, Trueman makes a strong case for the regulative principle of worship rooted in the sufficiency and authority of Scripture as well. In other words, although the Bible does not speak explicitly in many areas of Christian living, and therefore it is the Christian’s responsibility to actively apply biblical principles to those areas, what the Bible does explicitly are areas of worship and church practice.

Fourth, in terms of public worship, Scripture is sufficient for establishing its elements: singing of praise, prayer, the reading and preaching of God’s Word, the giving of tithes and offerings for the work of the church, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper. As with creeds, Scripture is also sufficient to regulate the agenda and content of sermons, worship songs, prayers, what the money is spent on, who is baptized, and who receives the Lord’s Supper.

A church may not do anything not explicitly sanctioned.

The doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture is so abused today. It is often used as a trump card in discussions of Christian practice; if the Bible does not explicitly address a matter of debate, we are told, then we may not hold dogmatic positions.

Trueman’s statements (ones we have made for a long time) are a refreshing corrective to this error.

About Scott Aniol

Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is director of doctoral worship studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in ministry, worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He is the author of Worship in Song: A Biblical Approach to Music and Worship, Sound Worship: A Guide to Making Musical Choices in a Noisy World, and By the Waters of Babylon: Worship in a Post-Christian Culture, and speaks around the country in churches and conferences. He is an elder in his church in Fort Worth, TX where he resides with his wife and four children. Views posted here are his own and not necessarily those of his employer.