Question of the Month: April 2011

date Apr 14, 2011
author Voddie Baucham topics & issues Discipleship, Education, Family Integration

"How does the doctrine of the Sufficiency of Scripture mesh with Paul's acknowledgment of disputable matters (Romans 14:1) and Jesus promise that the Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth (John 16:12-15)?

To give specific application to some of the issues you frequently address: Is it possible that God has led, and will lead, some parents (based on a myriad of factors that only God can truly know, judge, and specifically address) to send their child to the local public school? Is it possible that the Holy Spirit actually does call some men into Youth Ministry or some wives/mothers to vocations outside the home?"

This question is another instance where I get to kill two birds with one stone. First, I have received numerous questions about decision-making/supposed gray areas. Second, I get lots of questions about whether or not the Bible has clear instructions concerning the education of our children. Allow me to address both the textual issues surrounding the specific passages in question, and the specific questions that arise from our assumptions about those texts. 

The Textual Question 

First, lets look at the texts in question. The first passage, Romans 14:1 is a classic text in these types of conversations, while the second, John 16:12-15, is a bit unusual. Paul does acknowledge "disputed matters" in Romans 14. However, he also enumerates them, thus giving us an idea as to what he meant. He was obviously not saying that all matters are in dispute. The entire chapter goes back to the issue of food again and again (see Rom. 14:2,3,6,14,15,17,20, 21,23). Obviously, Paul is referring to Jewish customs, and particularly dietary laws. It is completely illegitimate to expand this to other issues that are addressed directly in the Scriptures. 

Second, the John 16 passage is misapplied almost as frequently as it is read. The context makes it clear that the matter being addressed is the Holy Spirit's work in the lives of the Apostles that preserved for us an inerrant Bible. For instance, Jesus says, "When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come." (John 16:13) This is not about Christians making life decisions; this is about the doctrine of revelation. It is quite ironic that we re-read this in a way that actually undermines the sufficiency of Scripture by making it a matter of personal revelation in times of need. 

Therefore, we must first acknowledge that the Christian life is not a mystical maze through which we find our way via secret nudges, intuition, and personal experience. The Bible is sufficient for all matters of faith and practice. "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work." (2 Tim 3:16-17) And again, "His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence," (2 Pet 1:3)

The Specific Application

Therefore, we must answer the specific questions in light of these theological truths. I'll attempt to answer them in turn:

Government Education 

First, is it possible for God to "lead" some people to send their children to the local public school? Yes, it is possible (I'll get back to this in a minute). However, the more important question is, does the Bible give us clear instructions on the discipleship and development of our children? Again, the answer is a resounding YES! Therefore, we must first acknowledge passages like Deut. 6:6,7; Psalm 1; Prov. 1:7; Mt. 5:17-20; 18:7; 22:21; Luke 6:40; Rom. 12:1-2; 2 Cor. 10:5; Col. 2:8 to cite just a few. Therefore, it would take an extraordinary set of circumstances (i.e., a court order as part of a custody case) for a Christian to argue that God has "led" them to send a child to the local public school. The text simply is not silent on the matter. This is not Romans 14:1. 

Youth Ministry 

Second, is it possible that God calls some men into Youth Ministry? No... and, yes. God could theoretically call a man to Youth Ministry, but that's the wrong question. The question is, does God call the church to have Youth Ministry and the answer to that is a resounding NO! It is not a biblical ministry. No one can make a biblical argument for it. God is not silent about the organization and structure of his church, or the home. He is not silent about jurisdictional issues either. Therefore, I can know for certain that God has called ME to "Youth Ministry" because he has made me the father of teenagers (with more to come) and commanded me to disciple them (Eph. 6:4; cf. Deut. 6:6,7), but I cannot extrapolate that to a church-based, man-made ministry and lay it at God's feet. 

Working Mothers 

Third, is it possible that God calls some women to vocations outside the home? Yes. I have always acknowledged this. The question is a clear example of the caricature that has been painted of me in an effort to erect easily-defeated straw men. I have NEVER said that a woman cannot have a vocation outside her home. I have, however, agreed with passages like Titus 2:5 and others that make it clear that women who are wives and mothers are called to be keepers of their homes, and anything else they do must contribute to, and not detract from that calling. It is a fool, however, who does not acknowledge that women are often left alone (through the death of or abandonment by a spouse, etc.), or compelled by frowning providence (i.e., a disabled spouse, layoffs, etc.) to pursue work that is less than ideal for a wife and mother. 

In all of these issues there are common threads. 1) Modern evangelicalism has abandoned thoughtful biblical exegesis in favor of a personal, mystical, pragmatic/utilitarian approach to faith; 2) Those who make any effort to conform their life and teaching as closely to Scripture as possible in such an environment are often seen as rigid at best, or legalistic at worst; 3) I have attacked sacred cows (Public education, Youth Ministry, and Feminism) that are simply OFF LIMITS among modern evangelicals; and 4) the result is that people are forced to a) prove me wrong through the careful exegesis of Scripture, b) paint me as an extremist, or c) appeal to personal experience and a mystical approach to decision-making. 

Unfortunately, since there is absolutely no biblical warrant for any of these three issues (Prov. 31 as an appeal for working motherhood is the closest anyone comes to using the Bible to defend any of these), what usually occurs is a combination of b and c.