Throughout the history of the church, God’s people have been tempted and prone to move beyond the sufficiency of Scripture. Once you think the Scriptures are not enough to establish your worldview, it is usually a quick slide into mixing truth with error; incorporating man’s wisdom, worldly philosophies, into your way of thinking.
Once you do that as a professing Christian, you have in effect denied the sufficiency of Scripture (see Article 7, Belgic Confession). It is likely more common that if individual members of the church fall into such error it’s because the church leadership has not guarded the flock (see Paul’s warning to the elders, Acts 20) or has accepted and is promoting this harmful blend.
As an example, during the enlightenment period, also called the age of reason (roughly 1685-1815), there were Christian churches that elevated human reason above the wisdom of Scripture. While their confessions might have reflected the doctrine of Scripture sufficiency, they taught a reason-based morality (aiming to bring about the highest good) rather than the Scripture’s love your neighbor. It was morality apart from the gospel, in effect a denial of the sufficiency of Scripture that teaches a morality of grace; the thankfulness morality that is a fruit of new life in Jesus Christ by His Spirit. James Haldane, 19th century Scottish pastor, noted this infiltration of enlightenment philosophy into the Scottish churches, and over against it wrote the following in his Doctrine of the Atonement:
True philosophy consists in our sitting at the feet of Jesus, and receiving the truth as He has been pleased to reveal it. The Scriptures teach us, that the understanding of fallen man is darkened, and the Holy Spirit alone can illuminate its innermost recesses with the light of truth.”
Sitting at the feet of Jesus since His crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, is listening submissively to the sufficient for-faith-and-life Scriptures His Spirit inspired. The RCUS’s steadfastness in its ministry of the truth as learned and yet learning at the feet of Jesus was evident at the 276th Synod just concluded. The worship services and daily devotions were brought by men who sit at the feet of Jesus and love and trust and proclaim His all-sufficient Word. All the business was conducted in acknowledgement of and in dependence on God’s grace and His Scriptures alone were self-consciously the directing wisdom; there was no evidence of moving beyond the sufficiency of Scripture, praise the Lord! We should be thankful that the Lord has maintained our reformed, biblical, doctrinal purity.
But we as well ought continue to be on guard that the RCUS not allow itself to blend Scripture with any of the ungodly philosophies that pervade our culture. Christ’s apostle Paul warns the church, knowing its proneness to imbibe something other than the pure, simple gospel:
But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it! (2 Cor 11:3-4 NKJV)
Only by holding steadfastly to the sufficiency of Scripture; steadfastly learning at the feet of Jesus; paying diligent heed to what He has taught His church (Scriptures), will we be enabled and empowered to resist the devil’s attempts to sow ungodliness and divisiveness in the church. The mix of truth and error, if we would, God forbid, allow ourselves to go there, well, the concern of the apostle Paul is that we might well put up with it! In other words, a corrupted gospel, not the only one Jesus and His apostles taught, would become acceptable.
Our present culture’s sociological ideas and practices are what is perhaps most often blended into the Christian faith. Sociology, the study of human behavior when organized into groups, comes to erroneous conclusions when it is not based on the Scripture’s testimony to the effects of man’s sinful nature on all societal interactions.
Only the gospel is all-sufficient for not only understanding societal problems, but provides, at the feet of Jesus, the only cure for societal ills at every level, marriage, family, church, nation. Our culture’s sociology has redefined the creational institution of marriage and family structure; it lets gender be subjective, and its concept of justice is out of accordance with the Scriptures. The true Christian church, holding to the sufficiency of Scripture, will not allow its gospel-based sociology to become blended with the foolishness of man’s (see I Cor. 3:19) sociologic ideas and practices.
Especially in the most recent years, the sociological construct called Critical Race Theory has much impacted most institutions, from schools, courts of justice, to the military, and sadly even the Christian church. There are many helpful resources available for understanding Critical Theory as incompatible with Scriptural sociology (for instance, a recent issue of the Clarion, the magazine of the Canadian and American Reformed Church, was devoted to explaining it from a biblical perspective).
Unbiblical ideas of the source of society’s ills, such as “white privilege,” “systemic racism” and the idea of guilt by group identification, justice through power redistribution, are pervasive and may and have actually been imbibed by churches which are not self-consciously and steadfastly sitting at the feet of Jesus. When this ungodly sociology, all or in part, it is imbibed by any Christian church, that’s a red flag to it no longer sitting at the feet of Jesus.
Scripture sufficiently sets forth all the sociological practices that, when followed, establish a functional and blessed society. A society grounded on the sufficiency of Scripture is a Christian society and as such seeks to glorify God also in its sociology. We pray for such, but churches that professes Christ as its Head are already that society and called to be steadfastly preaching and teaching, in its pure and unblended form, God’s sociology, and witnessing it to the world.
Whenever a blending of Scripture and ungodly philosophy, foolishness is allowed in the church, it will inevitably yield a drift from self-conscious and steadfast devotion to Jesus Christ. Let the present and future RCUS continue to hold fast to the sufficiency of Scripture.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths (Prov.3:5-6).
Let us keep sitting at the feet of Jesus.