Thursday, January 05, 2012

Guest Post: The Insufficiency of T. David Gordon’s Argument Against the Bible as a Sufficient Guide For Faith and Life

[A beloved and anonymous family member wrote the following article.  It seems timely in view of Dr. Frame's recently released book.]

In his provocatively titled article, “The Insufficiency of Scripture,” [Updated link] T. David Gordon argues that the failings of modern evangelicals are essentially due to too high a view of Scripture—a view of Scripture that says that Scripture is relevant for all of life, not just life as “covenant community members” (the latter being Gordon’s position). Without much consideration for logic, Gordon suggests that wisdom should inform practice, and that wisdom most importantly, “does not come exclusively or perhaps even primarily, through Bible study.”

Simply reading the Bible will not bring wisdom, says he, a statement with which none but the most obtuse believer would quibble. The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, is needed to bring forth godly behavior, but surely the Bible must be read and apprehended in order to be applied. Yet his emphasis is not on the word, “reading,” but on the words “the Bible”. We are urged to read other things because the Bible cannot inform us for life.

Neglecting to discuss verses like Psalm 19:7-8, “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes;” and “in Christ in whom are hidden all treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3) and II Tim. 3:16, Scripture “is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,” Gordon advises Christians to seek wisdom outside God’s holy Word, which he repeatedly calls inadequate to the task of teaching anything but how to live as a member of the covenant community (while never explaining what such membership entails).

Taking the Westminster Confession of Faith (1.6) statement that worship has circumstances that may be regulated according to the light of nature, Dr. Gordon ignores the proviso in the same section that even these circumstances are subject to Christian prudence, and the general rules of the Word which are always to be observed [emphasis mine], and generalizes illogically that this section therefore proves the insufficiency of Scripture for life in general. Apparently Gordon does not understand the regulative principle of worship which states that only that which the Bible commands is allowed in worship. The Westminster Divines wisely added there are circumstances which do not fall under this precise regulation. No Reformed theologian defends what might be called “the regulative principle of life” in which only those things commanded by the Word are allowed in life.

Gordon rightly notes that Scripture recommends obtaining wisdom from those older than us, and even from nature. However, since he seeks to divorce these sources from The Source (the Word of God), Gordon is left with a problem: how will he know when he has received wise counsel? Will the wisdom of Socrates do? How about the wisdom of one’s Unitarian grandfather? Or in the created order, shall the industrious man “go to the sloth” and be wise? Or shall the submissive wife look to the black widow spider or praying mantis? This over-the-top silliness is intended to highlight Gordon’s knot: without the Bible as a standard of truth, how can he know when he has received wisdom? The reason why we go to the ant (one of the creatures he mentions) is that the Bible tells us to do so, and it tells us what to look for in the nature of the ant; the way in which we assess what we hear from older people, is whether what they say is in accord with the teaching of Scripture.

Gordon also bashes "theonomy" not merely as the error du jour, but the error par excellence. Reading Dr. Gordon’s article, one would think that the whole Christian world had gone over to theonomic thinking when, in fact, huge tracts of evangelicalism have never heard the word "theonomy," much less adopted the tenets thereof. The Bible is insufficient, warns Gordon, to instruct and inform the “human-as-legislator” or the “human-as-physician” or the “human-as-mechanic,” as if the most ardent Bible-thumpers (as he calls them) ever tried to discover in Scripture the number of amendments to the U. S. Constitution, or the number of chambers in the human heart, or the number of spark plugs in an engine. He’s tilting at windmills.

Gordon admits that the basis for this article is not Scripture but a Gallup poll revealing high rates of divorce among evangelicals. Dr. Gordon declares “Scripture is manifestly not sufficient” (presumably the Gallup poll has made it manifest to him) “to teach people how to attain” a lifelong marriage. He reasons thus:
1. Evangelicals read the Bible.
2. Evangelicals have a high divorce rate
3. Therefore, the Bible is insufficient for any purpose outside of life as a covenant community member.

This is a leap of logic by any standard. Accordingly, Dr. Gordon’s case against the sufficiency of the Bible has proved itself to be insufficient.

- Anonymous
[Posted by TurretinFan on Anonymous' behalf]



Paul LaChapelle said...

Nice post anonymous.

Ron said...

Well, at least T.D.G. is consistent. He is taking his own advice and seeking wisdom outside Scripture. :)

Tom said...

"Gordon also bashes "theonomy" not merely as the error du jour, but the error par excellence."

Theonomy is the bogeyman par excellence of the Escondido crowd. Calvinism has a high view of the law. Theonomy is merely a systematic attempt to correct some of the errors that have crept into the broader reformed community. Escondido prefers to wander down the path of error.

Godith said...

It's really sad about Escondido's anti-law stance *such as it is.
When I read or sing Psalm 119, I wonder how they cannot LOVE the law.

turretinfan said...

Mr. Landless,

I'll save you from "a barrage of abuse" (your words) by removing your abuse-worthy comment from this blog.


jasonlandless said...

H'mmm... There was nothing "abuse-worthy" in my comment (the whole concept of "abuse-worthy" would be a study in its own right), and if you believe there was, perhaps it would be worth some additional reflection as to why. However, I have long discovered that what is written and what one "hears" is sometimes as different as night from day; a matter of projection. I simply stated that the article above misrepresents the article it purports to critique, which it most certainly does. Being a servant of truth means speaking out about falsehood where ever it is found.

Nevertheless, thank you for your censorship. It is your blog, of course, and you are within your rights to ensure that all displayed comments are strictly complimentary or in agreement with your personal views, but I hope you avoid criticising other believers when they avoid debate or excise unwelcome points - particularly if this is a habitual practice here.