Friday, January 21, 2011

Are You Over-committed to God's Word?

Who is J.P. Moreland?
James Porter Moreland (born March 9, 1948), better known as J. P. Moreland, is an American philosopher, theologian, and Christian apologist. He is currently Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He received a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Southern California.

He has recently made some statements in an article that reveals his view of scripture, which he himself states is the ultimate authority and inerrant and yet, according to Moreland, the Word of God is not the sole authority.

If you wish to view these statements of his in their entire context, view them here.

Not the sole authority for what? For the "knowledge of God, morality and a host of related important items"; he states that, "in the actual practices of the Evangelical community in North America there is an over-commitment to the Scripture in a way that is false, irrational, and harmful to the cause of Christ. (emph. mine)"

Further he claims that this has produced a "mean-spiritedness" among "the over-commited that is a grotesque, and often ignorant distortion of discipleship unto the Lord Jesus"

An over-commitment to the scriptures in a way that is false, irrational and harmful to the cause of Christ?

 PSALM 119:97
97 O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day.

PSALM 119:140
Thy word is very pure: therefore thy servant loveth it.

JER 15:16
Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts.

I wonder at how Moreland feels that a complete embracing of Scripture as the ultimate authority, but with the exception to any other authority on spiritual matters can be considered an "over-commitment" and that such a devotion to God's Word to the exclusion of all other books of instruction and religious intent is "grotesque and an ignorant distortion of discipleship unto the Lord Jesus"

God exalts His Word above even His most Holy Name (Psalm 138:2)! No other religious book can prove that it is indeed God's Word as does the Bible; various means are evidenced in the scriptures to validate this claim, primarily in the realm of prophecy -

ISAIAH 46:9-10
Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:

The LORD Jesus emphatically stated that to continue in HIS WORD (strange how He didn't mention "other sources"!) we shall be His disciples indeed (JOHN 8:31)!

If the Scriptures are the ultimate, but not the sole authority for, let's say, God: Who He is, what is He like, what He says of Himself, of mankind, of His intentions and plans for this world are, then I would ask:

If the Bible is not the sole authority for God, then what else is? Where else would Moreland have us look as a credible, authoritative source of valid and true information regarding God?

Where such sources agree with the Bible, they are unnecessary, because we can fully rely upon the Scriptures as the veritable source for all spiritual truth. Where such sources disagree with the Bible, they are, quite plainly, wrong.

The Bible is not the sole authority for morality? Even for the Christian?
According to Merriam-Webster's online dictionary, "morality" means:

1- a moral discourse, statement, or lesson; a literary or other imaginative work teaching a moral lesson
2- a doctrine or system of moral conduct; plural : particular moral principles or rules of conduct
3- conformity to ideals of right human conduct.

I would ask you saints, for those of us who are Christians, disciples and followers of Christ, what other source would you consider valid for "doctrine" or instruction in "right human conduct" or as the Bible puts it, "righteousness"?

Here is what the Bible has to say for itself in regards to this matter:

2 TIM 3:16
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

Moreland would have us believe that other sources can teach us about spiritual truth and conduct in life, even for those of us who have faith in the LORD Jesus Christ? What other teachers would he propose?

Buddha? Krishna? Contemplative Practitioners such as Brennan Manning (and Thomas Merton) who refers to those who hold Scripture as the Supreme authority and the ultimate in the revelation of Truth as 'bibliolaters' or those who worship the Bible as though it in itself were God. This term by the way is also used by Moreland, who apparently agrees with Manning. What about empirical sciences? What can they teach us about morality, about faith, about God and spiritual reality?

Psychology - if anything, this only reaches down to the soul level, to the functions and responses of the mind, but can do nothing at all in searching out the spiritual aspect or 'the heart' of man: this is the domain of God alone (see JER 17:10) and His Word (HEB 4:12).

- And just for the record, I don't worship pages of paper with words of ink printed upon them, and wrapped in a leather binding, with a decorative silk ribbon attatched. I worship God, I worship Him Who is the embodiment of Truth, the same Truth that is recorded via inspiration in the holy scriptures.

But getting back to "other sources" that can teach us about truth, what did King David say regarding his teachers?

PSALM 119:99
I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation.

It's somewhat suggestive by Moreland's writing that Christians cut themselves off from valuable sources of information and truth, by rejecting any other body of work other than the Bible.

Yet David has stated that his reservoire of righteous understanding is superior to that of any of his teachers, because he meditates (ponders, considers, thinks upon) upon the testimonies of the LORD (His Word).

Moreland states that in regards to the Scriptures being the sole authority, "the principle of sola scriptora does not entail this claim" nor does the "Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy" (I must confess I am baffled by Moreland's understanding of sola scriptora, when the Protestants fought and died because they would submit to no other authority, primarily papal, and rightly determined that the Bible is all we need for our spiritual life. Have I missed something here??).

Irrelevant. Its quite enough to know that the Bible itself declares to be God's Word (and proves it) and if it is the ultimate authority (and it is) then we can rely upon it as our sole authority.

 2 PETER 1:3
According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:

Any that would seek to supplement the Word of God with "other sources" of spiritual truth would do well to heed the warnings of scripture:

REV 22:18
For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: (See also DEUT. 4:2; 12:32)

Moreland appears to be saddened at the 'over-commitment to the Bible' and as a result there is a lack of sufficient address towards "natural moral law"; what does this phrase mean? Moreland addresses this elsewhere.

"...there is something called natural moral law sourced in general revelation (certain knowable truths revealed by God through creation). Simply put, an advocate of natural moral law believes that there are certain moral laws or norms that are true and can be discerned by all men and women . . . These moral norms do, in fact, come from God, and the existence of such objective moral norms provides strong evidence for the existence of a moral, personal God. But one does not need to believe in God or appeal to Holy Scripture to know that certain moral precepts are genuine moral absolutes."

Dividing the moral agency written in everyone's conscience from the Holy Scriptures (each derived from the same source, that is God), will (and is) ensure the development and character of a panentheistic (God in all things) view that in turn will assist in the building of a world religion apart from the true and living God, and replace Him with a god that will re-write the morals of humanity; in such a re-writing this god will demand worship and the slaying of all who will refuse to do so (REV 13;18).

Encouraging morals for the good of society and the social and civil health of any people is a good thing of course; I wouldn't say that God reveals this natural moral law through creation however (mother nature is not moral: 'she' will feed millions from the bread basket of the earth, but turn around and kill millions more from tornados, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes and plagues). Rather God writes His law upon the hearts, that is the conscience of us sentient beings that are His creation.

Should Christians focus scholastic endeavors upon this particular study? While such an endeavor may reap temporary beneficial consequences, once these morally-enlightenend people step out of this world and into the next, what will such an education accomplish for them?

Moral people will spend an eternity in hell if they are not saved by the blood of the Lamb of God, if they are not born of His Spirit, if they do not possess eternal life through knowing God and His Righteous Son, the LORD Jesus Christ (JOHN 17: 3; 1 JOHN 5:20).

Moreland appears to value "other sources" from which to glean truth about God, morals and other issues. Some of these 'other sources' will prove interesting to examine for us:

I give you Berit Kjos of Crossroads ministry:

Contemplative Proponent: J.P. Moreland

Read particularly the "BOOK WARNING" about The KINGDOM Triangle, by J.P. Moreland

Also from LIGHTHOUSE Trails:

Is It Really Bibliolatry?

"There may be a logical reason why Moreland and Manning condemn those who adhere to the Bible too strongly. Both have something in common – their promotion of contemplative spirituality. And those who turn to contemplative mysticism, often shift their focus from the moral (doctrine) to the mystical (as Henri Nouwen suggested). J.P. Moreland is in the same camp as Manning. In Moreland’s 2006 book, The Lost Virtue of Happiness, he talks about rediscovering important spiritual principles that have been lost.

Roger Oakland explains:
Two of the spiritual disciplines … are “Solitude and Silence” (p. 51). The book says that these two disciplines are “absolutely fundamental to the Christian life” (p. 51)…. Moreland and Issler [co-author] state:

'In our experience, Catholic retreat centers [bastions of mysticism] are usually ideal for solitude retreats… We also recommend that you bring photos of your loved ones and a picture of Jesus… Or gaze at a statue of Jesus. Or let some pleasant thought, feeling, or memory run through your mind over and over again' (pp. 54-55)…."

And from the same LIGHTHOUSE Trails article:

"In a four-part article written by Moreland on Focus on the Family website, Moreland encourages the spiritual disciplines. In Part II of Moreland’s article he says, “A spiritual discipline is a repetitive practice.” Moreland favorably references contemplative-promoter Dallas Willard to describe the importance of silence and solitude. He adds: “People are coming to see that repeated bodily practice in the form of spiritual exercises/disciplines is at the heart of spiritual transformation.” 1Moreland’s recent release, Kingdom Triangle, is also quite telling. Dallas Willard wrote the foreword..."

Let all who love the Word of God, and desire nothing but the Word of God in matters regarding the church and her spiritual life, cling tenaciously to the Holy Scriptures, and let such as Moreland continue down the road of apostacy; as for us and our houses, we will serve the LORD! (see JOSH 24:15).

I intended on including another article regarding this matter from The TRUTH Under FIRE, by Anne Kisly, my co-writer and fellow saint in the Kingdom of God, but didn't remember until after I posted this article of my own.

Nevertheless, here it is!
Jan. 08, 2011