Saturday, May 13, 2006

"God Spoke to Me," and a "Word of Knowledge": R.C. Sproul on Canon Addition

Here is something by R.C. Sproul that is worth reading. What do you think?

"There are few if any people who are lobbying to add contemporary writings to the New Testament. Nevertheless we are living in a time in which countless claims of new revelations are being made. Neopentecostal theology often views messages delievered in tongues or the utterance of 'prophecy' as new forms of revelation. Sometimes these revelations are described as true revelations but not necessarily normative for the church (despite their often containing information that might benefit the entire church). If indeed these are new revelations that have value to the church, we ask, why wouldn't they be added to the canon?

The claims of private new revelations are many. Pat Robertson routinely gets 'the word of knowedge' on national television. God reveals specific illnesses of people who live in various parts of the nation as he prays. I have seen him say things like, 'Someone in Topeka, Kansas, is right this moment being healed of a goiter.' This is an astonishing thing. Here is a man hundreds of miles from the scene who is getting supernatural revelation of the healing of a specific disease in a specific city. What puzzles me is the restricted specificity of these revelations. The disease and the city are named, but never the name and address of the person being healed. Here the prophecy can be neither verified nor falsified.

Oral Roberts tells the nation that God has revealed to him that his life will be taken if he doesn't receive a large amount of money in donations. Robert Tilton promises his constituents that he will mail them a special message from God if they send in their donations. These, of course, are crude forms of modern claims to added revelation. How these claims are entertained by the credulous is a matter of consternation for me.

But it gets more subtle. We hear respected Christian leaders claiming that God has 'spoken to them' and given specific guidance and instructions upon which they are duty bound to act and obey. They are careful to note that this divine speech was not in audible form and there is a disclaimer that this is not a new 'revelation.' Yet the message which is 'laid on the heart' is so clear and powerful that to disobey it is to disobey the voice of God. I am not speaking here of the work of the Holy Spirit by which he illumines the text of Scripture in such a sharp manner as to bring us under conviction or direct our paths. But here the Spirit works in the Word and through the Word. I am speaking of the speaking of the Spirit that men claim is working apart from the Word and in addition to the Word.

Though such claims are more often than not attended by the disclaimer that they are not revelation, the way they function is as revelation so that the distinction between them and bona fide revelation is, in actuality, a distinction without a difference" [R.C. Sproul, Scripture Alone: The Evangelical Doctrine (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2005), 59-60].

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