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Misunderstanding – Scripture Sufficiency
The Sufficiency of the Scriptures
How is the sufficiency of the Bible to be understood?
What My Net Don’t Catch Ain’t Fish
Before proceeding to the five propositions listed above, it is necessary to say something more about the sufficiency of the Scriptures, and how they are to be understood. Chapter 8 of Prophets of Psychoheresy I, entitled “Integration,” deals with the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture.
A few of the Bobgan’s footnotes refer to Effective Biblical Counselling; but otherwise it is chiefly an interaction with pages 54-70 of Understanding People. It reveals failure on the part of the Bobgans to come to terms with the meaning of the words Crabb has written. The trouble arises I think, because Crabb has used words such as “directly” and “clearly” to describe what many Christians believe is the way that the Bible should deliver up its truth to its students. They believe it should do so easily, without requiring them to think deeply about it. It should yield its counsel in a way that is “direct and clear” as they, the students, define “direct and clear.” Crabb could have chosen to argue with them over their definition (just as I am doing here), but he does not. He lets the wrong definitions stand because they are the terms that such people usually use to describe their own position. He does not mean that he himself believes the Bible is unclear. The Bobgans show that terms of this kind are their own, when they say,
From the Bobgan’s perspective, then, Crabb is finding fault with the Bible. They say:
They have missed the point. He is not finding fault with the Bible; he is finding fault with them as students of the Bible. He does not believe that the Bible is unclear; only that it is not clear in the sense that people such as the Bobgans wrongly define clarity. Nor does he believe that it is insufficient for dealing with problems of living. At one place he gives an example of a young pastor who is baffled by many of the pastoral problems he is meeting in his congregation. Crabb says of him,
The context makes it plain that when Crabb says, “If the Bible really is sufficient to address a counsellor’s concerns..,” he means us to understand, “and it is!” But note what he believes the problem is: ill-prepared pastors. In effect what he is saying is: “Martin and Deidre Bobgan and Richard Palizay, you are lazy Bible students. You want the Bible to deliver up its answers to you according to certain rules which are not entirely the Bible’s own rules. Then you find fault with others who find in the Bible what you do not, on the grounds that, ‘What my net don’t catch, ain’t fish!’”4
Misrepresentation of Crabb’s Doctrine
The Bobgans accuse Crabb of “…adding unverified psychological theories and techniques to Biblical data…” 5 That is false, both as a statement of what Crabb does and as a statement of what he intends. Crabb’s position is that,
In the section of chapter 8 entitled “A Sufficient Bible Without Direct Answers?”, the Bobgans repeatedly misrepresent what Crabb says in Part I of Understanding People. First, they misrepresent his purpose when they say that in the opening chapters of Understanding People he is attempting to “alleviate the problem of integration” [of psychological theories with Scriptural teaching].8 Understanding People is not an apologia for integration, its purpose is to set out a doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture which shows that psychologists are in principle an unnecessary species. Second, they misrepresent the content of what he says, saying Crabb argues,
The first sentence is an incomplete paraphrase of something Crabb says on page 21 of Understanding People, and the footnote for the first and second sentences refers to pages 66 and 67 of Understanding People. I will return to the question of what Crabb means by “framework”, but first the reader should note that the Bobgans commit the logical fallacy of “begging the question” when they say that the insights into human behaviour which Crabb includes there are psychological rather than Biblical. (When the Bobgans talk about “psychological insights” they clearly mean theories that are not supported by the Bible itself, and therefore not true insights at all). As we have already seen, Crabb isn’t presenting his insights as requiring to be derived from outside the Bible (quite the opposite), but a casual reader of Prophets of Psychoheresy I would be led to believe that he is. The Bobgans continue in the same vein when in the next sentence they give a quotation from page 63 of Understanding People, followed by the assertion:
They also assert that Crabb teaches that “one must supplement Scripture with creative thoughts gleaned from psychology.” 11 If you read pages 54-70 of Understanding People (the range of pages footnoted by the Bobgans) you will find that he is teaching no such thing. The Bobgans’ claims mislead their readers about what Crabb actually says there, because the Bobgans insert into everything Crabb says their own wrong view of what he means.
The Scriptures as a Framework
When Crabb says,
the Bobgans seem to conceive of him as teaching that the Scriptures are a structure with holes in it – God has provided the building’s skeleton, so to speak, but we have to shop a
The Pattern Gives You the Answers
In a lecture on the subject “How to Read an Old Testament Narrative,” Dr Noel Weeks has said:
In that lecture the insights that Dr Weeks draws by way of illustration from the O.T. historical narratives have to do with the great themes of faith and of godly kingship. I believe that the Holy Spirit has placed material there in just the same way to enlarge our understanding of the doctrines of man and sin. 16There are lessons to be learned about these doctrines in the contrasts between Saul’s family and David’s, for instance. Similarly, the book of Nehemiah communicates what manly godliness looks like, not by telling you in so many words, but showing you a godly man facing repeated difficulties; and so on. Only when this material is coupled with the propositional truths also found in Scripture can a full-orbed doctrine of pastoral counselling emerge. Trying to develop a doctrine of pastoral counseling from only the propositional statements of the Bible is like trying to apply the Ten Commandments without paying attention to the Pentateuch’s case laws. As the quotations from Dr Week’s lecture demonstrate, the Holy Spirit teaches us that we must take notice of the patterns and contrasts of Scripture, not just its words in themselves. We must learn to ask, “What’s going on here?” Only as we do so do we begin to find all the Bible contains. The Scriptures are sufficient but their practical sufficiency is fully revealed only to those who come to them with this kind of question in mind. 17
The Fallacy of Simplicity
In a commentary on the great doctrinal controversies of the first millennium of the Christian era, the author notes:
Those particular doctrines were the Trinity, and the two natures in the one person of Christ (that is, Jesus Christ was truly God and truly man). The Bobgans understand the complexity of Scripture in respect of those doctrines, but they need to learn that it is also more complex than they think in the matter of pastoral counselling.
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1 Bobgan (1989) p. 120
2 Bobgan (1989) p. 115
3 Crabb (1987)p. 67.
4 I am being blunt here, not to be discourteous but because Dr Crabb’s critics have not understood the challenge that was contained in own courteous words.
5 Bobgan (1989) p. 112.
6 Crabb (1987) p. 29.
7 Crabb (1987) p. 62.
8 Bobgan (1989) p. 114.
9 Bobgan (1989) p. 114.
10 Bobgan (1989) p. 114.
11 Bobgan (1989) p. 115.
12 Crabb (1987) p. 21.
13 This is my analogy, not Dr Crabb’s, but I think it appropriately illustrates the kind of use Dr Crabb makes of the Scriptures.
14 There is a useful discussion of the structure of Biblical law in Noel Weeks, The Sufficiency of Scripture, chapter 2.
15 Lecture delivered in Auckland, N.Z. A cassette tape of the lecture is available from Mustard Seed Tapes, P.O. Box 153, Pukekohe, New Zealand
16 I do not know what Dr Weeks himself thinks about Dr Crabb’s material. I am not trying to use him personally
17 When Dr Crabb speaks of “questions” in pages 54-70 of Understanding People, he means questions that life provokes us to bring to the Scriptures. When Dr Weeks talks in his lecture about questions, they are questions that should be provoked in our minds by the structure of the Scriptural passages themselves. Thus the word “question” has a somewhat different application in the two places. However, my argument does not depend on Dr Weeks and Dr Crabb using the word identically: only on the point that Dr Weeks establishes, that a process of questioning is necessary if we are fully to understand the Scripture, since not all its truths are delivered as propositions. Furthermore, the questions that the Scripture provokes us to ask are always questions that our experience of life causes us to expect to have fruitful answers – there is always inherently a conjunction of life and Scripture in those questions that the Scripture stimulates us to ask about itself. What Dr Crabb does, is to allow life to provoke him to bring to the Scripture a wider range of questions than has previously been customary, and to expect fruitful answers, as we see him doing in pages 163-164 (for instance) of Inside Out.
18 Rushdoony (1968) p. 96f.
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