Saturday, November 09, 2013

Bring my cloak

I was shocked by Waldron’s answer to Brown’s question, “Can you point to any text of the New Testament where we’re told to stop prophesying?” He replied honestly something like, “I don’t need to. Because we don’t only base doctrine on the explicit teaching of Scripture, but on reasonable deductions from Scripture.” I feel once we get to pick and chose which bits of the New Testament we are going to obey, we have undermined fatally the Sufficiency of Scripture.

Although I disagree with Waldron's overall position (just as I disagree with Brown's overall position), this is a ludicrous distortion of Waldron's position. Instead of relying on Warnock's paraphrased snippet, let's begin by giving a verbatim quote of the question and answer. I realize it's tedious to manually transcribe an oral debate, and it's possible that my own transcription isn't word-perfect, but since Warnock is commenting on just one answer, it isn't asking too much to write out the question and answer in full. Here's what I heard:

Brown: Could you just give me one explicit NT verse that says stop prophesying. We have verses that say seek prophecy, don't put out the Spirit's fire, don't forbid speaking in tongues. Those are explicit commands. Can you give me one explicit verse that says stop doing this, this is now reversed. 
Waldron: And my answer is I don't need to because I don't believe that we base all of doctrine on the explicit testimony of Scripture. The Westminster Confession says that we may base genuine doctrine on good and necessary consequence inferred from Scripture. And I infer that the commands of 1 Cor 14:1 assume the existence of prophecy, and when that prophecy faded out, as those who had been given it passed away, and as the canon was closed, that since the canonical character of prophesy is clear, that therefore the commands of 1 Cor 14:1, like many other commands of the NT and of OT, have now become, not false, but passé, because the situation they were given in light of has passed away.

Compare that to Warnock's interpretation. 

i) Waldron doesn't think the NT teaches the explicit continuation of prophecy. So it's not like he's opposing inferences to explicit NT teaching in that respect.

ii) Since he thinks the NT implicitly teaches the cessation of prophecy at the death of the apostles, he thinks the corresponding commands became moot. 

Now, one may disagree with the inferences he draws, but he's not "picking and choosing" which bits of the NT to obey. And his theological method in no way undermines–much less fatally undermines, the sufficiency of Scripture. 

Consider this NT command. Indeed, Pauline command:

When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments (2 Tim 4:13). 
Does Warnock obey that command? Is his guilty of picking and choosing which bits of the NT to obey if he fails to obey that particular command? Has he fatally undermined the sufficiency of Scripture by his noncompliance? 
Of course not. He couldn't obey that command even if he tried to. It's a topical, timebound command that's been rendered obsolete by the passage of time. The situation that occasioned that command has come and gone. It's impossible for a modern-day Christian to obey that command. And it was never a universal command in the first place. Never a command to the church, but to a single individual. 
Now, admittedly, that's quite different from 1 Cor 14:1, but the contrast is deliberate. There's nothing inherently wrong with Waldron's position. He may still be wrong, but not in principle. Not in terms of how he framed his answer. Waldron doesn't think it's even possible for a contemporary Christian to obey that command. 

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