“Even the most casual survey of the history of modern Christian education shows plainly that Christian schools, on all levels, are little more than spruced up adaptations of the pagan schools down the block. The presuppositions, goals, objectives, methods, curricula, subject areas, materials, etc., with very little (and usually very superficial) change, have been brought over and Christianized. The trouble is that something that in all of its essentials is still at bottom fundamentally pagan cannot be transformed by Christianizing it. Paganism festooned with Christian accouterments is paganism still. Decking out Christian schools with prayer, Bible reading, a Bible course or two, Christian slogans (‘All truth is God’s truth’; ‘We must learn math for God’s glory’) will not do the trick.”
68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God. (John 6:68-69)
When many disciples had abandoned Jesus, offended by his words, Peter and the apostles response was to hold fast to Jesus; why? Where else would they go: if Jesus was who He said He was, then in Him alone was hope and truth. The same can, and should, be said of our doctrine of Scripture. If Scripture is what it claims to be—the very words of the eternal creator, the trustworthy Lord of all—then where else could we turn? It is through the Scriptures that we today know Jesus to be the sinless Son of God who died for our sins and rose again for our justification, if we abandon them, where then is our hope? Will we turn to tradition? The creeds and the Fathers all build on the Scriptures: without a trustworthy foundation supporting their teachings, their testimony is useless. Will we turn to history? it may—and that is a big ‘may’—tell us what happened, but it cannot tell us the significance of what happened. Will we turn to science? it may give us much insight into the world and testify to the glorious creativity of our Lord, but it rests itself on God’s testimony that creation is rational and orderly—that there is unity to the chaos of matter—to function. Will we turn to experience, subjective judgment? without God’s testimony that He created the heavens and the earth, that creation is real and there is God guiding it in His sovereign power, I would have no way of knowing that I exist, let alone that anyone else exists—that I can trust my senses, that there is rationality behind experience so that I can trust the law of non-contradiction.
If the God of Scripture is who He says He is, how can we go anywhere else other than His self-revelation? If God exists, an attempt to live consistently in the world apart from Him can only descend into the utter chaos of nihilistic egoism without a hope of knowing anything. I came to know God and cherish His Word because “God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). But I now cling fast, for where else could I turn? Having beheld the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, where else could I turn, where else could I ground my hope, my joy? Where else could I look for strength in the day of trouble than the fount of God’s self-revelation in Scripture? I hold fast to Scripture because the God I see there is infinitely beautiful and glorious, holding fast my gaze (2 Cor. 3:7-18), and because without this firm foundation, I would be caught adrift in a bottomless sea of skepticism, subverted by the hopeless attempt to explain a created universe apart from its creator. As David held fast God’s Word amidst the trials of physical affliction, I know I must hold fast the Word in the midst of the epistemological onslaught leveled at me by the World around:
3 When I am afraid,
I put my trust in you.
4 In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can flesh do to me?…
8 You have kept count of my tossings;
put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your book?
9 Then my enemies will turn back
in the day when I call.
This I know, that God is for me.
10 In God, whose word I praise,
in the Lord, whose word I praise,
11 in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can man do to me? (Psalm 56:3-4, 8-11)
Our culture today faces an authority crisis, and too often Christians get caught up in it; if we are to truly make, multiply, and mature disciples, we need to be clear on where our true authority lies. In the world around us, authority is essentially found in oneself—someone’s perception of what is true and good—and is mediated through the sciences—what can be measured and tested—, reason—what we can rationally conclude from our own thinking—, or oneself—what is felt or experienced in visions and trances. It seems all too easy for us to make these our authorities as well.
In his epistle to the Galatians, Paul addresses a church that is being deceived by the traditions of man and departing from the true faith; addressing this wavering, Paul makes it clear where his authority lies and so clears the question for us. The teaching Paul has delivered to the Galatians is consistent with the rest of the apostolic preaching (2:7-9), but Paul goes out of his way to show that though his teaching is identical to theirs, it does not originate with them. Why does he do this? Paul knows that God is his true authority, not man, and Paul can trace his gospel directly to Jesus Christ (1:11-12). Paul, as an apostle of the risen lord, has authority to teach and rebuke all the churches, but he is under no illusion as to where his authority comes from.
Paul’s ultimate authority was God and all that He had spoken. Unlike Paul we will not hear Jesus’ voice come from heaven in a cascade of light (Acts 9:3-6), nor will we receive private revelation from the Lord (Gal. 1:11-12), but we do have God’s Word. Jesus prays, in John 17, for God to sanctify his people in truth; He immediately identifies the source of that truth as the Scriptures (17). Paul identifies later all Scripture as God’s authoritative, breathed out, Word (2 Tim. 3:16, cf. 2 Pet. 3:2, 16). Unlike the culture around us, we do not need to languish in a vacuum of truthlessness, rather we have truth—God’s perspective on all reality—available at our fingertips. Where do we go when we are in crisis, when we are in doubt, when we need reassurance of the truth of our faith, or to be grounded in the Gospel? For Paul, it was to God’s Word; may it be so for us.