The Whole Counsel ...
I read this fantastic quote by Don Carson today in his critique of the 'Emerging Church' and Stevel Chalke:
“At what point does an ‘orthodoxy’ that is more ‘generous’ than God’s become heterodoxy? Not for a moment do I want a vote cast in favor of the narrow-minded, whining, fault-finding, picky, sectarianism with which Christianity has sometimes been afflicted. Rather, what is called for is biblical fidelity. One can be biblically unfaithful by being much narrower than Scripture; one can be biblically unfaithful by being much broader than Scripture. Both sides call it faithfulness; both sides are seriously mistaken. How can we know By returning to Scripture, again and again, and refusing to be uncomfortable with the categories that God himself has given us, but seeking to learn and digest and believe and obey the whole counsel of God, as far as we see it, without flinching, without faddishness”
The whole mystical "Whole Counsel of God" has been quite an issue with me ever since I was seriously impressed by Ern Baxter's mission. He was driven by the desire to preach the whole counsel of God and did so amazingly. Yet the question troubles me ... what IS the "whole counsel"?
John Piper has just preached the best sermon I have ever read on the expostion of the key text:
Acts 20:24-31 - it is God-centred as always and throughly worth the time to read it. The link is: http://www.desiringgod.org/library/topics/leadership/20050616_toward_spiritual_awakening_and_unity.html
I think the quote of Carson's is absolutely crucial - that we cannot be uncomfortable with the categories that God Himself imposes. Terry Virgo told the acount of when he went to see Dr Lloyd-Jones over a pastoral issue. He was facing opposition over signs, wonders and spiritual gifts and the introduction of them into his church. The Doctor responded that: "The greatest sin of the evangelical church is to put God into a box". I seriously wonder whether anything at all has changed. The discomfort with God's categories - with God's counsel is shocking and it can be found in most churches.
Yet what interested me the most about the Carson quote is that he sees error on both sides of the tension. There is error in being "narrower" than Scripture and there is error in being "broader" than Scripture. So the responsibility of any self-respecting theologian is to establish the Scriptural principles laid down and follow them. My small knowledge of Scripture suggests to me that the principles for church life are pretty amazingly broad. A read of the New Testament is thrilling! My personal conviction based on my last two years interesting experience in a Sovereign "Grace" church is that they are guilty of being "much narrower than Scripture". And according to Carson that is biblically unfaithful.
To come back to that quote, it is been extremely useful - now my thoughts follow the framework that Piper laid down in his excellent sermon to try and establish the whole counsel - what is it, how do you preach it, believe it and live it?