Friday, June 03, 2011

Arguing for Biblical Conservatism

More from the conference...

One of the most common objections to conservative Christianity from other Christians is the "sola scriptura objection." It usually goes something like this. The Bible does not say anything about worship styles; therefore, when conservatives argue that some styles of worship are acceptable and some are not, they are denying the ultimate authority of the Bible.

Michael Riley presented a session which gave two arguments in response to this objection. (Note that what is written here is my wording. Michael said it much better than this.)

First, the aseity of God demands that we not only believe as we ought to believe but also love as we ought to love. God's own nature means that there are real standards for how we ought to worship him. Now, you need to get this argument down pat so that you can whip it out the next time someone derides your conservative worship. As you as you start talking about the aseity of God, you will sound really smart, and your opponent will just be frozen without anything to say in response. Actually, I made that up. That is not a good reason to use this argument. This argument truly puts forward something very important.

What is God's aseity? "A se" is a Latin phrase that basically means "from himself" or "of himself." A more common way to speak of God's aseity today is to talk about his self-existence or independence. God exists necessarily from himself, and he does not depend upon anyone or anything outside of himself. In reality, everything else depends upon him. He makes it what it is. Since God makes everything what it is, all truth depends upon him. The meaning of everything depends upon God. Likewise, since God makes everything what it is, all beauty depends upon him. The value of everything depends upon God. All of creation comes to us pre-valued by God, and it is our obligation to value it the same way that God values it.

Here is an example. When God created this world and put Adam in the garden of Eden, God said that it was good. This is a value judgment. What if Adam would have looked around after he was created and said, "This place is a dump"? Adam would have been guilty of not valuing the creation as God valued it.

The long and short of this argument is that even our affections and value judgments must match with God's affections and value judgment. We all know that our worship expresses our affections and value judgments. Thus, we are responsible to strive to make our worship compatible with God's loves.

The second argument Michael expressed was that if we truly believe that the Bible is our final authority, then we must take seriously the forms of Scripture as well as its propositional content. In other words, the way that the Bible says things ought to matter to us, and we ought to respect those forms in the way we communicate the content of the Bible. For example, the Bible does not communicate the truth of the resurrection of Christ to us in the form of a comedy routine. It does not use trivial forms of artistic media to get us to learn our spiritual ABCs. The form matches the content. Those who claim to hold to "sola scriptura" but ignore all appropriate ways in which the Bible communicates to us are actually falling far short of holding to the full authority of Scripture.

I believe these arguments need to be given full weight, and I'm glad that Michael articulated them. More arguments could be given directly from the Scriptures themselves which show that ignoring matters of style or matters of affection is not the way to stay true to the Scripture. Conservatives want to take seriously the whole counsel of God.

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