Is the Bible Sufficient, or Do We Need New Revelation?
One of the unfinished items of business for modern theology is the question of the Sufficiency of Scripture. Is the revelation we have in the 66 canonical books of the Old and New Testaments enough for us to rely on for guidance in matters of faith and practice, or do we need new revelations?
Many popular modern preachers and authors are on record as believing that God still speaks today, on the same level of revelation as He did in Old and New Testament times.
If some of us are not receiving such new revelations, it is because we are not very spiritual; we are just not in touch with the Almighty at all; maybe we are not even saved.
Various authors and teachers have expressed themselves on this subject of continuing revelation from God in various ways. Here are some samples:
Mark Driscoll: "When God spoke to me, I had never experienced anything like that moment. God told me to devote my life to 4 things. He told me to marry Grace, preach the Bible, train men, and plant churches. Since that day in 1990, that’s what I have been pursuing by God’s grace." – Real Marriage. (Pastor Morecraft told of a man who told him that God literally speaks to him. Morecraft said that he had never heard God speak, and asked the man what God’s voice sounded like. The man said his voice sounded just like his. Morecraft pointed out what the man had just said, and the man’s reply was, "I never thought about that". Ed.)
Dallas Willard: [We can live] "the kind of life where hearing God is not an uncommon occurrence, [for] hearing God is but one dimension of a richly interactive relationship and obtaining guidance is but one facet of hearing God." – Hearing God, Developing a Conversational Relationship With God.
Benny Hinn: "Please, please don’t think Orlando Christian Center is here to repeat something you’ve heard for the last 50 years. If we quit giving you new revelations, we’re dead."
Tommy Tenney: "God chasers… are not interested in camping out on some dusty truth known to everyone. They are after the fresh presence of the Almighty. . . .A true God chaser is not happy with just past truth; he must have present truth. God chasers don’t want to just study the moldy pages of what God has done; they are anxious to see what God is doing."
Beth Moore: "Boy, this is the heart of our study. This is the heart of our study. Listen carefully. What God began to say to me about 5 years ago, and I’m telling you it sent me on such a trek with Him, that my head is still whirling over it. He began to say to me, `I’m going to tell you something right now, Beth, and boy you write this one down and you say it as often as I give you utterance to say it.’ ”
“And this came as a direct revelation of the Spirit, because this would never have come to me. I know God spoke this over me as he began turning through a concordance in my mind and I started thinking about one Scripture after another.”
James Dobson: [The Lord told him], "You are going to write a book for husbands and fathers, based on the life of your dad. The inspiration will be derived from his values, his dedications, his walk with Me. This is the joint venture of which I spoke two years ago." Dobson’s comment: "I experienced one of those quiet moments of awareness when I knew the Lord had spoken." – "Straight Talk to Men and Their Wives."
Charles Stanley: "Many people do not fully believe that God speaks today. If we think we get direction only through Scripture, then we miss out on much of what God has to share, because He will speak so often through His Spirit, circumstances, and other people. We must make absolutely certain that we are fully convinced and persuaded that God does speak to us personally." – "How to Listen to God."
Gail Riplinger: "Each discovery was not the result of effort on my part, but of the direct hand of God – so much so that I hesitated to even put my name on the book [‘New Age Bible Versions’]. Consequently I used G.A. Riplinger, which signifies to me, God and Riplinger – God as author and Riplinger as secretary."
Charles Trumbull, biographer of C.I. Scofield, described the Scofield Reference Bible as "God-planned, God-guided, God-illuminated and God-energized."
Henry Blackaby: "Does God really speak to His people in our day? Will He reveal to you where He is working when He wants to use you? Yes, God has not changed. He still speaks to His people. If you have trouble hearing God speak, you are in trouble at the very heart of your Christian experience. . .
"Only God can give you the kind of specific directions to accomplish His purposes in His ways. After God spoke to Noah about building an ark, Noah knew the size, the type of materials, and how to put it together. When God spoke to Moses about building the tabernacle He was very specific about the details." – Experiencing God, pp. 36, 75.
David Pytches, on how the Lord spoke to Kansas City Prophet Paul Cain: "The Lord suddenly appeared beside him in the front seat of the car. He told Paul he was jealous of this particular friendship. ‘If you really want the kind of intimate walk with me you profess to want, you must remember that I walked alone,’ he said. That was not the whole substance of the conversation that seemed to last quite a little time, but it was the part Paul has felt free to share of this supernatural encounter." – Some Said It Thundered, pp. 39-40. (God allegedly told Cain that he was never to marry. Years later, charismatic leaders publicly repudiated Cain for having become a practicing homosexual).
President George W. Bush: "God told me to strike at al Qaeda and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam; which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East."
Richard Foster, in Celebration of Discipline, p. 24: "To bring people to believe that they can hear God’s voice seems so difficult. Members of the Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC have been experimenting in this area for some time. Their conclusion: ‘We think that we are 20- and 21st-century people; nonetheless, we have hints that one can receive directions as clear as those given Ananias, "Rise and go to the street called straight." Why not? If God is alive and active in the affairs of human beings, why can’t his voice be heard and obeyed today? It can be heard and is heard by all who will know him as present Teacher and Prophet."
Statements of Faith That Teach the Sufficiency of Scripture
I am very skeptical as to these claims that God is still speaking today on the same level as He did in Old and New Testament times. Such claims raise questions as to how we can authenticate new revelations and be sure that it is really God who is speaking.
In addition, we need to consider that such claims are contrary to the principle of the sufficiency of Scripture, as it has been expounded in various confessions of faith over the centuries. I am in agreement with the following statements that express that what we already have revealed in the Bible is sufficient guidance for us in matters of faith and practice:
First London Confession of Faith, Baptist, 1644: "In this written Word God hath plainly revealed whatsoever he hath thought needful for us to know, believe and acknowledge, touching the nature and office of Christ, in whom all the promises are Yea and Amen to the praise of God." [No other revelation needed – the Bible is enough].
Westminster Confession of Faith (Presbyterian), 1648: "The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men."
Second London Confession, Baptist, 1677: "The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience." [Here again, the Bible is sufficient – no added revelation needed].
Orthodox Creed, Particular Baptist, 1678: "Neither ought we, since we have the scriptures delivered to us now, to depend upon, hearken to, or regard the pretended immediate inspirations, dreams, or prophetical predictions, by or from any person whatsoever, lest we be deluded by them."
Baptist Bible Union, 1923: "We believe that the Holy Bible was written by men supernaturally inspired; that it has truth without any admixture of error for its matter; and therefore is, and shall remain to the end of the age, the only complete and final revelation of the will of God to man."
French Baptist Confession of Faith, 1924: "We believe that the Holy Scriptures reveal to us all that we must know in the spiritual realm. We believe that they need not be modified or completed by any other revelation in the course of the present dispensation."
Free Will Baptist Confession, 1948: "These are the Old and the New Testaments; they were written by holy men, inspired by the Holy Spirit, and are God’s revealed word to man. They are a sufficient and infallible rule and guide to salvation and all Christian worship and practice."
General Association of Regular Baptist Churches, 1976: "We believe in the authority and sufficiency of the Holy Bible."
"The Scriptures are God’s inerrant revelation, complete in the Old and New Testaments . . . The Scriptures provide the standard for the believer’s faith and practice, reveal the principles by which God will judge all, and express the true basis of Christian fellowship." [Notice the statement that the Bible, as God’s revelation, is "complete]."
What the Bible Teaches on Sufficiency of Scripture
2 Timothy 3:16-17 teaches that Scripture is sufficient not just to teach us the way of salvation (as expressed in some confessions of faith) but for all matters of faith and practice:
"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works."
Jude 3 exhorts us that we "should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints." This implies a once-for-all revelation of the content of Christian faith, delivered to us in the First Century AD. In theory, if new revelations from God are still coming through today, then the basic content of the faith would change from week to week.
Deuteronomy 4:2 and 12:32, Proverbs 30:6 and Revelation 22:18 warn against adding to God’s words. I suppose these warnings could be construed as only a prohibition to adding specifically to the Law of Moses, the Proverbs and the Book of Revelation. Obviously, God Himself would still have the right to add to His words, if He wished to.
Do we have any solid evidence that God has added to His Word since the close of the New Testament canon? Can anyone supply me with the written transcript of a genuine new revelation from God, and authenticate it, proving that God really spoke it?
In the absence of such evidence, I will continue to hold to the principle of the sufficiency of God’s Word. Instead of a subjective, mystical attempt to "sense" how God might be speaking today, we need to concentrate on studying what God has already revealed, and then obey it and put it into practice.