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. (WCF 1:6a)
The Westminster Confession states unequivocally that the whole counsel of God is found in the Holy Scriptures either by direct reference or by “good and necessary consequence”. The Scripture has been handed down to us from the inspired apostles and prophets through various agencies of God (editors, copyists, translators, archeologists, etc.) We have been blessed to have extant manuscripts going back hundreds even thousands of years that corroborate the Scriptures we have in our hands today (recognizing some translations are better than others). And yet I come across people in the inner city who often refuse to take God at His Word in favor of other expressions of authority. I have noticed there are at least five expressions of this I hear over and over again in the busy streets, homeless shelters, barbershops, inner city discount stores and projects – “I Feel”, “But My Mama Said”, “You Don’t Know What I Been Through”, “I Want” and “I Need”. All of these have a common basis discussed throughout the five volume set of cultural analysis set forth by theologian David F. Wells – the individual autonomous self. I want to explore over the next few entries how each of these expressions subvert the authority of the Word of God.
The first is “I Feel” or ones individual intuition and thinking. This person may know the Bible says and then say, “but I feel”… Such a person is described in Proverbs as being wise in their own eyes (3:7, 26:12). They act as if they have this intuitive sense that is sharper than the Sword of the Spirit. “I know the Bible says, ‘Do not steal’, but what if you are hungry, have no money and are ineligible for welfare?” “I know the Bible says marriage is the only way, but I just don’t feel God would want me to be denied love ‘cause we can’t get married right now.” Eve felt they should be able to eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. After all it looked good (lust of the eyes), appeared to be good for food (lust of the flesh) and would make one wise (the pride of being smart) (I John 2:16). But she did not know she was unable to discern the deeper reality embodied in the Word of her Creator and the rest is history. Fast forward to the time of the apostles and we find that the Jews felt a crucified man could not possibly be their Messiah. The Greeks were pretty sure the message of the cross was just plain foolishness (I Corinthians 1:23).
According to Wells, the modern autonomous self has its own basis for leaning to its own understanding. The Enlightenment thinkers demanded to be freed from all external authority - God, religious authority and tradition - in order to make up their own minds (The Courage to Be Protestant(CP), P 61). Add to that “expressive individualism” that “assumes that all people have a unique core of intuitions and feelings that they are entitled to express” (CP, pg 70). Such a sovereign self is “no longer able to hear anything that would contradict (his or her) own intuition about what is true and right” (God In the Wasteland, pg 78). Thus, you have a person who can hear the Word preach, taught or counseled at the local rescue mission and but then say in small group, “Yeah, but this is how I feel about it”. What you would hope to hear is someone grappling with the truths of the gospel like the Berea believers in Acts 17:11. Instead, you hear their opinions, themselves as the reference point, as if trained by the Enlightenment philosophers.
The Confession states that all things necessary for His own glory and man’s salvation, faith and life are contained in or can be deduced from Scripture. Prayer and study are necessary for us to see beyond our own eyes through the lens of Scripture. Isaiah said it as plain as anyone could say it - “…let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (55:7-9).