Rising Above The Scriptures
Editor's Note: What is attributed here to certain labels is not indicative of the label as a whole.
I'm really hoping the title made you puke. Hyperbole. Hopefully, you gagged a little in your mouth. The whole concept of "rising above the Scriptures" is pretty silly. At no point in the Christian walk do Scriptural texts ever cease persuading us that our hearts are deceitful (Jer 17:9) and we need justification. We can't rise above Scripture.
Now few would disagree with me up to that point. But the title of the post reflects another concerned. I'm worried that certain understandings of the Bible persuade men they may remove themselves from the audience. Don't get me wrong, there are transitions within the Scriptures. There are multiple audiences found throughout the pages and any given person will not fit into each. But I am cautious of a naively implied use of speech-act theory. I say naively though because many people don't know what speech-act theory is. Wikipedia to the rescue.
That may or may not help. But the theory, in overly simplified terms, boils down to a speech-act (a statement pronounced or written) can speak different things to people depending on their relation to the speaker (what audience they're in). For me, this continues to be used in unsettling ways by some Calvinists who think certain texts of Scripture don't speak to them simply because they've experienced something or arrived at some doctrinal conclusion.
The list of Scriptures is long. Almost every author in the Scriptures provides a warning to his church audience to inspect themselves and their standing in relation to Jesus Christ. Many of these verses have been utilized by those in favor of a less-sovereign election. Election though is not the purpose of these verses. These verses certainly don't speak to the loss of election. They speak to a lack of knowledge concerning election:
5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! - 2 Cor 13:5
9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. - 2 Peter 1:9-10
12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. - Hebrews 3:12-14
Here's where the speech-act theory comes into play. Many Calvinists can read these verses and presume they're not the audience of these texts. Yet, the only way that we cannot be the audience is be assured of our election. This is where the breakdown occurs. Since the Puritan movement, there has been a desire in the church to know if we're elected. This was implemented through recounting of heartfelt conversion and adequate expressions of spiritual fruit. This has been more disastrous for the church than helpful. It has caused election to become the subject of debate and not the sovereign grace of God. The truth is that Calvin himself taught that our election was hidden in the eternal decrees of God. And one of his most potent statements brings to light this fact:
To every man, therefore, his faith is a sufficient attestation of the eternal predestination of God, so that it would be a shocking sacrilege to carry the inquiry farther; for that man offers an aggravated insult to the Holy Spirit, who refuses to assent to his simple testimony. (Comm. John 6:40)
Now Calvin was talking about the extreme who sought their salvation apart from living the Gospel. But the reverse is no better. It is not works that assure us of our election. Is not a religious experience that assures us of our election. It is faith. Yet, many would prefer to elevate themselves above Scripture to a place where the warnings are not pertinent to them because of their doctrine, experience, or spiritual fruit. The root of evangelicalism are covered in these thoughts from pietism on down to revivalism. They seek to elevate themselves beyond the revealed word of God to the secret things of God. Permit me to shake my head.