Now I want to do my own examination of the concept of Sufficiency of Scripture. My reformed brethren will be disappointed to hear that I am not totally convinced that the possibility of the gift of tongues being for today would necessarily have to mean that the canon of scripture is not closed, or that the closed canon of scripture is not “sufficient”. (On the other hand, none of my reformed brethren gave any adverse reaction when I said that I am not actually advocating a cessationist position, so let’s see where this disorganized ramble takes us.)
I agree with Echo that it is important to consider the purpose of revelation; only with respect to that purpose can we answer the question “Is Scripture Sufficient?” With different purposes, we will get different answers. For instance, is scripture sufficient to determine the rationality or irrationality of the square root of two? Or to measure the total amount of matter in the universe? No, it is not. You might object that those are stupid examples, because it is obviously outside the domain for which scripture is intended to be used, while gifts of the spirit are in that domain. OK, well then is scripture sufficient to know how to make wine or bake bread with which to administer the Lord’s Supper? No, scripture is silent. Is scripture sufficient to provide worship music? No, it is not. Hymnody vs. exclusive psalmody aside, the bible contains no tunes.
So then, with Echo’s enthusiastic approval, I will reiterate Daniel B’s answers to Echo’s question about the purposes of tongues, prophecy, and scripture:
Here’s a simple question: what purpose does tongues serve? “He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself” (I Corinthians 14:4)
Here’s another: what purpose does prophesy serve? “He who prophecies edifies the church.” (I Corinthians 14:4)
Just one more: what purpose does the Bible serve? “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (II Timothy 3:16-17)
Now that we see that all three serve the same purpose, namely the edification of the church, we can see that tongues and prophesy served to make up what was lacking in the incomplete canon. NOW, with the completed canon, these supplements are no longer necessary. Now we have the Bible, and pastors and teachers to build us up according to it.
At this point, I will begin making people mad. First of all, I disagree with Echo, in his assessment that Daniel answered the question correctly. Of the many purposes of tongues, self-edification is either the least, or not one at all. Higher than that are two more: edification of the church, and as a sign to unbelievers (both of which require understanding through interpretation, by the way). Which raises the spectre of an as-yet unnamed purpose for revelation: the spread of the gospel. Is the closed canon sufficient for the spread of the gospel? Actually, no, the scriptures that we have are not sufficient for the spread of the gospel into nations with unknown languages. And this purpose exactly matches the obvious purpose of tongues in the apostolic church, to be a sign to unbelievers.
Next, although it is arguably true that “tongues and prophesy served to make up what was lacking in the incomplete canon,” Echo’s conclusion that “NOW, with the completed canon, these supplements are no longer necessary” does not logically, necessarily follow. Likewise, I do not see in the bible where any relationship is established between the existence of tongues (and prophecy, etc.), and the openness of the canon. Thus I don’t see any logical necessity for a closed canon to be accompanied with cessation of the prophetic gifts.There are innumerable prophecies mentioned in the bible that we don’t know the text of, and therefore we have no way to judge whether their purpose was something that could have been fulfilled by the availability of the closed canon.
Let’s turn to Heb 1:1-2, which is commonly cited as a proof-text in this arena:
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.
First of all, if tongues/prophecy/etc. fall under the category “in many ways,” we can’t interpret this passage as meaning that they ceased, because they didn’t cease at the coming of the Son, but rather were outpoured only after the resurrection of the Son. Second, can any Greek scholars tell us how strongly that “but” affirms the second half of that sentence, at the expense of the first half? (Or how about the first half of this one?) Third, if this passage is to be construed as “in these last days he has spoken to us [only] by his Son,” what are we to make of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Peter, James, (I think that covers the New Testament, except maybe for Hebrews)? Or the tongues-speakers and prophets of the apostolic age?
Now let’s turn the other way. Is the bible, as we have it (and as we are able to translate it) not sufficient to meet our needs? What could God possibly want to say that he hasn’t said well enough in the Bible? Wouldn’t it be advantageous to the gospel if God wowed unbelievers by working signs and wonders through his disciples? How about if God brought back people from the dead to explain in plain terms what happens after death? Jesus said “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.” But wouldn’t it be great if God could give us signs of his power and existence? Jesus said (many times) that the generation that seeks a sign will receive only the sign of judgment. Of course, Jesus did confirm his divinity with many signs and miracles (the most important of which, of course, is the resurrection), but he did the miracles on his schedule, not as a command performance.
Thus, if “prophecy” or “tongues” is voluntary, it’s not God, it’s you. If you have to “prime the pump” it’s not God, it’s you. If you have a “feeling”, but are wondering whether God is speaking, it’s not God trying to speak to you, it’s you trying to think. Keep trying.
In I Cor 14, Paul condemns tongues without interpretation. I won’t reiterate my previous post, except to say again that God never intends for his people to be without understanding. Mysteries are meant to be understood, secrets are meant to be made known. Lack of understanding is an indication of judgment.
Thus, if you are babbling in tongues without understanding, it’s not God, it’s you.
If you are a missionary, and you encounter a people whose language you do not speak, and the Holy Spirit enables you to communicate the gospel to them, then it’s God, not you. And if that doesn’t happen, get to work learning the language, so you can start translating the Bible.
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