Wednesday, June 1, 2011


By Pastor Bruce Oyen

      This article is a warning about experience-based theology, by which I mean theology or beliefs that are based on subjective, personal experience thought to be revelations from God, and not on objective revelations in the Bible known to be from God.
     There is a great need for this warning about this, for many persons, many of whom might be true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, claim to experience these subjective revelations from God, and many others readily accept such claims as true. Examples of these subjective experiences upon which some persons' theology is based are the claims of some to have died and gone to heaven or to hell and to have returned to tell about it.
    There is an inexplicable willingness among Christians to accept as true someone's claim to have had a special experience or revelation from God of some kind. This willingness has reached the point of gullibility for many persons. Some seem to have come to the point of believing anything and everyone's experience as though it all is Gospel truth, so long as it the experience of a professing Christian.
    Many Christians seem to not know the apostle John's truly divinely-given teaching about testing the spirits to see if they are from God. John's teaching is found in 1 John 4:1 - 3. While John's teaching had to do with a specific problem in his day, it can be applied even to those who do affirm the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith, for true Christians can be misled by evil spirits, and they can innocently believe their experience of one kind or another is from God simply because it does not contradict any of these fundamentals. For more of John's warnings about accepting false teachings that come in the name of truth, read his second letter.
     Other writers of the New Testament also speak to this matter of being careful about what we accept as truth. Let us consider two examples.
     The first example is from the apostle Paul. In his letter to the Galatian Christians, chapter 1:6 - 9, he very dogmatically said that the Gospel message was a settled matter, and even if he or an angel preached a different Gospel, it was to be rejected and the source was to be condemned.
     The second example is from Jude. The Lord led him write a short but very important letter of the New Testament. In verse 3 of his letter, Jude said Christians should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints. (All Christians are saints because they belong to Christ.) The reason for Jude's exhortation to contend for the faith is given in the next verse, which tells us of the false teachers who were infiltrating the ranks of Christians and misleading them. These persons very cleverly distorted the truths of the faith, and thereby turned truth into error.
     Well-taught Christians might easily be able to see it and reject it when error is passed off as truth. If we have been indoctrinated in the fundamental doctrines of the Bible, we are not as susceptible to accepting error as those who are not grounded in those doctrines.
     But, it has become obvious that well-taught Christians are in danger of readily accepting the experienced-based theology mentioned above. But why are Christians in danger of doing so? I believe it is because, though we might believe the Bible to be the written Word of God, we have not been indoctrinated to reject any so-called new revelations from God, or extra-Biblical experiences, even if  sincere Christians claim to have had them.
     We don't need to go heaven or hell to learn what those places are like. All we need to know about them is found right in the pages of the Bible. And the same is true about anything else that God knows we need to know: it is in the Bible. 2 Timothy 3:16 and 17 is still true, the main point of which is this: the whole Bible is from God, and is infallibly profitable for learning what we should believe and how we should behave. We need to follow the principle that every truth we need is contained in the Bible. It is the well from which we draw the water of truth. It is the tree from which we pick the fruit of truth. It is the pantry from which we get the bread of truth.
     However, what do we see in Christian circles? A rush to buy the latest book giving the experience of someone who claims to have gone to heaven or hell and who came back to tell about it. The Bible says a lot about both these places, and its description of them is infallible. So, why all the excitement to read about a 4-year old boy's trip to heaven and back? Is it because we think he learned something about heaven not found in the Bible itself?  I think he is sincere, but I don't put any faith in his experience. The description of heaven given in the Bible is all we need to know. The same is true about hell.
     In conclusion, let me give some quotes that support deriving all our doctrines from the Bible. These quotes are representative of what has always been believed by orthodox Christians.
     The first quote is taken from the doctrinal statement of the Baptist Bible Fellowship, International, as found on the website of the Baptist Bible Fellowship, International. It says:     "We believe that the Holy Bible was written by men supernaturally inspired; that it has truth without any admixture of error for its matter; and therefore is, and shall remain to the end of the age, the only complete and final revelation of the will of God to man; the true center of Christian union and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and opinions should be tried."
    This same point was made in William Cathcart's Baptist Encyclopedia, written in the 1800's. Part of the last paragraph of its article on the inspiration of the Bible says this:
    "...we believe that we have in these Scriptures the sole and sufficient divine authority and rule regarding the way of salvation, and regarding every Christian doctrine, duty, and hope. Christians ask no other standard. No human authority can for a moment take its place. What it teaches they feel bound to believe; what it commands they feel bound to practice, and that only.”
    The next quote is taken from Bible-believing theologian John L. Dagg's Maual Of Theology, which was written in the 1800's. The quote is taken from his chapter on the origin and authority of the Bible. It was taken from the Reformed Reader website.
    Dagg wrote: "Whether, as a rule of faith, of duty, or of hope, the authority of the Bible is supreme. We may rely on the testimony of men, but they sometimes deceive us. We may regulate our conduct by the command of those who are over us, or by the dictates of our own conscience, but rulers may command what is wrong, and conscience is not infallible. We may cherish hopes founded on human promises, or the natural tendencies of things, but human promises are often delusive, and the promises of Nature are buds which, however beautiful and fragrant, are often blasted before they produce fruit. God never deceives. 'The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away, but the word of the Lord endureth forever.' When the Bible speaks, all else may be silent, and its decisions leave no room for doubt and admit no appeal."

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