John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, briefly held the position that people can reach perfection in this world. However, unable to find examples of perfect people, he gave up this position.
One of the intriguing aspects of Biblical authority and human experience is that the later should be evaluated by the former. The Psalmist tells, “Taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8)”. We all understand that this is metaphorical language, but there has to be something in the reality of our fellowship with God that we can see in our experience we have found out that God is good. In fact, another Psalmist says that the Lord is good all the time.
Now, if there is a group of people who come to the conclusion that the Lord is not good, does that invalidate the Biblical statement that the Lord is good? The classical argument was that all of our feelings are evaluated by the veracity (truthfulness) of the Scripture and if some particulars are not experienced in our lives, than that principle has been invalidated. This invalidation started with the philosopher Hume who declared that resurrections cannot happen because they did not happen in his days. Because he was a philosophical skeptic, anything that he did not consider repeatable was declared invalid or even denied as ever occurring.
Last week, I quoted Luke Johnson who went beyond the position of Hume. He agrees that the Scripture is clear when it comes to the issues of homosexuality, but then decided that on the basis of his friends’ experience, the Scripture has to be expurgated. The God that Johnson likes cannot say these things and in order for him not to say these things, they have to be declared false. Our experience has become our new authority.
The Enlightenment told us that if we cannot rationalize certain Biblical truths, we should discard them. The current scholarship tells us that if it does not match our experience, we should discard it. The Scriptures tell us that the Word of the Lord rests secure and those who love the Lord should depart from evil.
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During one his election campaign speeches, President Obama said, “This is above my pay grade!” For those of us who teach and preach, to give an answer correctly from the Scripture is not above our pay. Like good and trusted ambassadors we should be willing to say, “This is what our government stands for,” or in theological terms, “This is what the God of the Bible says to us and to all humans.”