I believe that we in the cessationist tradition need to reconceptualize the work of the Spirit in far broader terms than we have in the past. I wonder if we have not become like the dwarfs in C.S. Lewis’s The Last Battle, so blinded by their own presuppositions that they could not recognize Aslan and his gifts to his children, with the result that they treated them as dung.
I am not arguing here for what we would normally call a non-cessationist position on the charismata. The way this debate has been framed has, I believe, polarized the discussion and obscured critical issues. Among these are the implications of a personal relationship with God, indwelling by the Spirit, the promise of our Lord that he will never leave us or forsake us. Our hymns and devotional literature are filled with testimonies of and exhortations to the personal and the intimate. While admittedly poetic, one well-known hymn still sung by evangelicals proclaims, “He walks with me and He talks with me and He tells me I am his own.”
As noted in endnote 78, the Princetonians drove a wedge between theology and piety while not dismissing either. But even in their own day those who read their theological works had a tendency to reduce the faith to the merely propositional. Years ago during my Ph.D. dissertation research I read the correspondence of many of the Northern Presbyterian pastors trained at Princeton. What I found generally was a faith that was reduced to a belief system. We would not call it “dead orthodoxy” for it was a belief system passionately held rather than one to which mere mental assent was given. But it was a form of conservative theology that was cold, hard, defensive, and condemning based upon propositional (theological) truth. It fell far short of the intimate personal relationship described by the authors of the New Testament.
The modern world saw truth only in terms of presuppositions and logic. The result has been a spiritual vacuum not only in the hearts of unbelievers but of many believers as well. The postmodern world has rejected the modern approach to reality and truth and has turned its attention to the “spiritual.” Our rhetoric, as noted above has indeed recognized that God desires a personal relationship with us. But in fact that personal relationship has been reduced to a “love letter” from God to us. As important as a love letter may be to those who are separated, it cannot replace the personal give and take, and the intimate sharing of personal presence.
While my wife and I were engaged she spent two months in South America. This was before the days of the Internet and cheap international phone calls. We corresponded nearly every day. As wonderful as it was to get letters from her, that did not begin to compare to the joy it was to meet her at the airport, hold her in my arms and talk face to face with her, and to whisper words of love in her ear.
Barth thundered “Let God be God!” Might we not need to take to heart his rebuke and “Let the Holy Spirit be God!”—a God who is free to act in ways of his choosing as opposed to the boundaries we establish?
1 . Philip Yancey, “Would Jesus Worship Here?” Christianity Today, February 7, 2000. (http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2000/002/38.152.html
2 . Dennis J. Bennett In Touch and Emotionally Free, http://www.emotionallyfree.org/dennis.htm
3 . Ed Blake, sermon preached to San Ramon (Evangelical) Presbyterian Church, January 26, 2003.
4 . Jacques Ellul, The Subversion of Christianity, translated by Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986). Chapter 2 (19-51) particularly surveys these exchanges from an historical perspective.
5 . Philip Yancey, What is so Amazing about Grace? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997) 139.
6 . Donald Bloesch, The Holy Spirit: Works and Gifts (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2000) 34.
7 . Bernard Ramm, After Fundamentalism (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1983) 15-20.
8 . For and introductory discussion of these developments see Trevor Hart, Faith Thinking (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1995) 23-70.
9 . Gotthold Lessing, Lessing’s Theological Writings, tr. H. Chadwick, (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1957) 53.
10 . Ibid., 55.
11 . “The early sociology of knowledge (M. Kearl) was dominated by the ideas of Karl Marx and Karl Mannheim, who defined the subject as the relation between knowledge and a social base. Branches of the sociology of knowledge include the sociology of literature and science. How do social institutions influence literary forms or writers? How do scientists decide what counts as knowledge? To what extent are different types of Knowledge socially constructed?
Different types of knowledge (e.g., religious, scientific, political, everyday) are understood to grow differentially within varying social environments. Are there cultural differences in rationality? How does social power, especially when embodied in institutional practices, shape knowledge?
The sociology of knowledge examines how types of social organization make the ordering of knowledge possible. There is less focus on the differing social locations and interests of individuals or groups. How do different social and cultural environments produce different knowledge systems? The social modification of knowledge may occur through processes such as knowledge production, knowledge encoding, knowledge transmission, decoding, storage of knowledge, and decision making and combinations of the previous. This causal connection between knowledge and society is seen as reciprocal—society affects knowledge and knowledge affects society” (description of the discipline of Sociology of Knowledge posted by the sociology department of the University of Texas San Antonio: http://colfa.utsa.edu/Sociology/masters/
12 . Stanley Gundry, in his presidential address to the Evangelical Theological Society (“Evangelical Theology, Where Should We Be Going?” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 22  11), stated:
I wonder if we recognize that all theology represents a contextualization, even our own theology? We speak of Latin American liberation theology, black theology, or feminist theology; but without the slightest second thought we will assume that our own theology is simply theology, undoubted, in its purest form. Do we recognize that the versions of evangelical theology held to by most of the people in this room are in fact North American, white and male and that they reflect and/or address those values and concerns?
Likewise John Jefferson Davis (“Contextualization and the Nature of Theology” in The Necessity of Systematic Theology, 2nd ed., J. J. Davis, ed. [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1978] 177) has noted:
…if systematic theology is essentially a “biblical theology” that merely repeats and arranges the statements and categories of Scripture, then which biblical theology is the really biblical one? The Lutheran? The Reformed? The Wesleyan? The dispensational? The very variety of theological systems within the evangelical tradition alone, all claiming an equally high regard for the authority of Scripture, is in itself an indication that there are factors beyond the text itself which shape the Gestalt of the system. In no case does the exegete or theologian come to the text completely free of presuppositions. We can to a degree become more critically aware of our presuppositions, but we cannot eliminate them entirely. There is an inescapable element of personal judgment which shapes the theologian’s vision, just as it does the artist’s or scientist’s.
13 . Alister McGrath, Genesis of Doctrine (Oxford: Blackwell, 1990) 89-90.
14 . Nancey Murphy, Beyond Liberalism and Fundamentalism (Valley Forge: Trinity, 1996) 4-7.
15 . Stephen Douglas Bennett, “Thomas Reid and the Scottish School of Common Sense Philosophy: Historically and Philosophically Considered” (Th.M. thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1980) 47-50.
16 . G. Stanley Hall, “On the History of American College Textbooks and Teaching in Logic, Ethics, Psychology and Allied Subjects,” Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, n.s., 9 (1893-94) 158. Quoted by Martin Terrance, The Instructed Vision, Scottish Common Sense Philosophy and The Origins of American Fiction (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1961) 3.
17 . See Thomas Reid, Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man (London: Macmillan, 1941) 389-91.
18 . Ibid., 186.
19 . Reid balanced his empiricism with an emphasis on intuition that gave his epistemology a dualistic bent. In addition, he was adamant about the limits of empirical inquiry; induction could not answer ultimate questions concerning first causes (Bennett, “Thomas Reid,” 62; cf. Reid, Essays, 399-400).
20 . Reid, Essays, 338-39; 384-86. Cf. Daryl G. Hart, “The Princeton Mind in the Modern World,” Westminster Theological Journal 46 (1984) 4.
21 . B. B. Warfield, “Apologetics,” Studies In Theology (reprint ed.; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981) 3. He viewed the primary task of apologetics, not as “the defense, not even the vindication, but the establishment… of that knowledge of God which Christianity professes to embody and seeks to make efficient in the world…” (italics added.)
22 . The Mercersburg Theology admittedly incorporated elements of romanticism and idealism, then current on the continent.
23 . “In time, the Reformed rationalism and sacramental theology of Turretin permeated the ranks of much of American Presbyterianism. However, at Columbia Theological Seminary in South Carolina, the Professor of Theology, James Henley Thornwell, and the Professor of Church History and Polity, John B. Adger, employed Calvin’s Institutes as the text for theology and ecclesiology with the result that many Southern ministers were Calvinistic in their sacramental theology.
“These two strains of Reformed sacramental theology came into conflict when John Nevin published his controversial The Mystical Presence in June 1846. Nevin, professor of theology of the seminary of the German Reformed Church at Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, had been much influenced by German philosophy, especially that of Hegel, and also by the High Church movement of the nineteenth century. Nevin had been a student of Charles Hodge at Princeton but later repudiated Hodge’s sacramental theology. He sought to demonstrate the historical decline of the doctrine of the Supper that had occurred in the Reformed churches and also to revive Calvin’s doctrine which had been codified in the Belgic Confession, one of the symbols of the German Reformed Church. Hodge responded to Nevin’s volume in 1848 in a long article in the Princeton Review. (Charles Hodge, “Doctrine of the Reformed Church on the Lord’s Supper”, The Biblical Repertory and the Princeton Review, 20 [April 1848]: 227-77.)
“First, he tried to demonstrate that the symbols of the Reformed churches did not contain the high doctrine of the Supper that was set forth by Calvin in the Institutes. Next, he made the incredible assertion that Calvin’s true opinion, pertaining to the nature of Christ’s presence in the Supper, was to be found not in the Institutes but in the Consensus Tigurinus, a symbol that was framed for the purpose of uniting the Swiss churches. He implied that the view set forth in the Institutes was intended by Calvin to be a mediating position in order to conciliate the Lutherans. Finally, he refuted Nevin’s theory of the Supper with its Hegelian overtones” (Brian Nicholson, “Calvin’s Doctrine of the Spiritual Presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper,” Antithesis 2.2 (May/June 1991) (© Covenant Community Church [OPC] of Orange County, 1991) (http://www.reformed.org/webfiles/antithesis/v2n2/ant_v2n2_presence.html
24 . Rom 8:16. The central passage upon which the doctrine of the witness of the Spirit is built is said by some to refer to the fact that the Spirit bears witness with our spirit to God, not that the Spirit bears witness to our spirit in any sort of experiential way. Although I am not aware of whether Hodges has put this in print, Dr. Bob Wilkin, President of the Grace Evangelical Society, made this very point in the interaction after his paper, “Assurance: That You May Know” delivered at the National ETS meetings in New Orleans, November, 1990. See Daniel B. Wallace’s essay in this volume, “Romans 8:16 and the Witness of the Spirit.”
25 . S. Lewis Johnson, Jr., “How Faith Works,” Christianity Today, September 22, 1989, 23.
26 . Notitia refers to factual knowledge; assensus is assent to facts; fiducia is personal trust.
27 . For example, he states of the woman at the well that she “received this saving truth in faith” (Zane Hodges, Absolutely Free [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1989] 42). The point here is that he describes faith as trust in facts, rather than trust in a person who was in fact in her presence. Concerning faith, Millard Erickson has noted: “…the type of faith necessary for salvation involves both believing that and believing in, or assenting to facts and trusting in a person. It is vital to keep these two together. Sometimes in the history of Christian thought one of the aspects of faith has been so strongly emphasized as to make the other seem insignificant” (Christian Theology [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1989] 940).
28 . See, for example, The Gospel Under Siege, 14.
29 . M. James Sawyer, “Evangelicals and the Canon of the New Testament,” Grace Theological Journal 11.1 (1990) 29-52.
30 . Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, 3 vols. (reprint ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975) 1.152.
31 . F. F. Bruce discusses surveys the concept of apostolicity in the early church and documents numerous mentions of this factor as being a primary criterion in canon determination. He also mentions other issues related to apostolicity which were mentioned by some patristic writers as offering evidence that a book was indeed canonical (The Canon of Scripture [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1988], 256-269, especially 256-258). R. Laird Harris, surveying the same material, insists that the sole criterion was apostolic authorship (Inspiration and Canonicity of the Bible [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1957, 1969], 219-245, especially 244-245).
32 . B. B. Warfield, “The Formation of the Canon of The New Testament,” The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible (reprint ed.; Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1970) 415.
33 . Ibid.
34 . Ibid. (italics added).
35 . B. B. Warfield, “Review of A. W. Deickhoff, Das Gepredigte Wort und die Heilige Schrift and Das Wort Gottes,” The Presbyterian Review 10.506 (1889) (italics added).
36 . See The Westminster Assembly and Its Work (New York: Oxford University Press, 1931) 212.
37 . F. L. Patton, “Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield,” The Princeton Theological Review 19 (1921) 369-91.
Norman Kraus (The Principle of Authority in the Theology of B. B. Warfield, William Adams Brown, and Gerald Birney Smith [Ph.D. dissertation, Drew University, 1961] 270) rightly observes concerning Warfield’s use of reason:
His “evidence,” on his own admission, did not amount to demonstration, and yet he sought to escape the logical consequences of this admission by claiming that “probable” evidence though different in kind from “demonstrable evidence” is nonetheless objective, rational, and capable of establishing certainty of conviction. Thus he claimed that the probable evidence which he had produced was of such a quantity and quality as to overwhelmingly establish the rational ground for and force mental assent to the message and authority of Scripture. But in the final analysis, he was unable to close the gap between probability and absolute certainty with a rational demonstration of mathematical quality… And as long as the gap between probability and demonstration remains, there also remains the necessity of a subjective and volitional response to the appeal of truth before there can be certainty [italics added].
38 . See M. J. Sawyer, “Evangelicals and the Canon of the New Testament,” Grace Theological Journal 11:1 (Spring 1990) 29-52
39 . C. W. Hodge to A. A. Hodge, July 6, 1881, Hodge Papers (Princeton University). (Italics added.)
40 . With reference to the Westminster Confession doctrine of the witness of the Spirit Warfield stated:
“…the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.”
This beautiful statement of the Confession has sometimes of late been strangely misunderstood…. A man needs a preparation of the spirit [sic], as well as an exhibition of the evidences, in order to be persuaded and enabled to yield faith and obedience. If this be not true the whole Reformed system falls with it. It is then neither to be misunderstood as mysticism, on the one hand, as if the “testimony of the Holy Spirit” were expected to work faith in the Word apart from or even against evidences (Warfield, Westminster Assembly, 212. [italics added]).
41 . J. I. Packer, “The Ministry of The Spirit In Discerning the Will of God,” in this volume.
42 . Bob Wilkin, “Assurance: That You May Know,” delivered at the national Evangelical Theological Society meeting in New Orleans, November, 1990.
43 . Calvin, Institutes 3.2.15.
44 . He bases this position on texts such as 1 John 5:11-13: “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. The one who has the Son has this eternal life; the one who does not have the Son of God does not have this eternal life. I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know [eijdh'te] that you have eternal life.”
45 . “Psychological certainty may be justified or unjustified, as in the belief that the moon reflects light or is made of green cheese. Propositional certainty is never justified or unjustified; it simply obtains or does not obtain, someone must have made sure or become justifiably certain of the proposition. Thus certainty of propositions requires psychological certainty plus its justification” (Encyclopedia of Philosophy [New York: Macmillian, 1967] 2.67. See also Thomas C. Oden, The Living God [San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987] 382-404, and Otto Weber, Foundations of Dogmatics [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988] 195-198).
46 . Contrast this to Calvin who states unequivocally that we know that we are saved by a direct act of faith, rather than a reflex act! Cf., e.g., John Calvin, Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God (London: James Clark, 1961) 130-131.
47 . Bell, Calvin and Scottish Theology, 82. Bell, summarizing Calvin, notes: “If we look to ourselves, we encounter doubt, which leads to despair, and finally our faith is battered down and blotted out. Arguing that our assurance rests in our union with Christ, Calvin stresses that contemplation of Christ brings assurance of salvation, but self-contemplation is ‘sure damnation.’ For this reason, then, our safest course is to distrust self and look at Christ” (28).
48 . Ibid., 98.
49 . Jack Deere, Surprised by the Power of the Spirit (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1993).
50 . Ibid., 55-56.
51 . Isaac August Dorner, A System of Christian Doctrine (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1897) 2.175.
52 . Abraham Kuyper, Principles of Sacred Theology (reprint ed.; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1980) 624.
53 . Ibid.
54 . Donald Bloesch, The Holy Spirit, 36.
55 . Bloesch, The Holy Spirit, 36. Note above the Princetonians’ apologetic for canon.
56 . Thomas F. Torrance, Karl Barth, Biblical and Evangelical Theologian (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1990) 221-222. See also Bloesch, The Holy Spirit, 36, and C. Fitzsimmons Allison, The Cruelty of Heresy (Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse) 20.
57 . William Placher, The Domestication of Divine Transcendence (Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox, 1996) 87.
58 . Ronald Nash, “Gordon H. Clark,” in Handbook of Evangelical Theologians, Walter A. Elwell ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993) 182-83.
59 . Ibid., 183-84.
60 . Carl F. H. Henry, God, Revelation and Authority (Waco: Word, 1979) 3.429.
61 . David P. Hoover, “Gordon Clark’s Extraordinary View of Men & Things,” IBRI Research Report No. 22, 1984 (posted at: http://ibri.org/22gordonclark1.html
Similarly McDowell comments of Clark’s work, “The trouble primarily is caused by the fact that Clark imagines truth and meaning, or knowledge, in propositional terms, and therefore fails to comprehend performative utterance…. ‘Knowledge and meaning always have the form of a proposition’” [149; cf. 150] John C. McDowell, “Review: Karl Barth’s Theological Method, 2nd ed (Jefferson, MD: Trinity Foundation, 1997).” Posted on John McDowell’s Theology and Philosophy Page: http://www.geocities.com/johnnymcdowell/
62 . P. Andrew Sandlin, “A Conflict of Apologetic Visions,” The Chalcedon Report, December 2000 (http://www.chalcedon.edu/report/2000dec/sandlin_conflict.shtml
God’s revelation to man is religiously holistic, not reductionistically rational. We are not saved by ideas; we are saved by union with Christ communicated, to be sure, in the propositional ideas of the Bible.
63 . Ibid.
64 . Millard Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1983) 1.196.
65 . See Nancey Murphy, Beyond Liberalism and Fundamentalism (Valley Forge: Trinity, 1996) 15-19.
66 . Timothy Phillips, “The Argument for Inerrancy: An Analysis,” Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation vol 31 (June, 1979) 80-88
67 . Donald Dayton, “‘The Battle for the Bible’ Rages On” Theology Today 37 (April 1980) 82 (http://theologytoday.ptsem.edu/apr1980/v37-1-article6.htm
68 . Bloesch, Holy Spirit, 39-40.
69 . Ibid., 40
70 . Ibid., 40: “…Although truth is not a property of propositions, propositions can attest truth.”
71 . Ibid., 44.
72 . Ibid.
73 . Ibid., 46-47.
74 . With reference to the concept of language games Wittgenstein argued that if one actually looks to see how language is used, the variety of linguistic usage becomes clear. “Words are like tools, and just as tools serve different functions, so linguistic expressions serve many functions. Although some propositions are used to picture facts, others are used to command, question, pray, thank, curse, and so on. This recognition of linguistic flexibility and variety led to Wittgenstein’s concept of a language game and to the conclusion that people play different language games. The scientist, for example, is involved in a different language game than the theologian. Moreover, the meaning of a proposition must be understood in terms of its context, that is, in terms of the rules of the game of which that proposition is a part. The key to the resolution of philosophical puzzles is the therapeutic process of examining and describing language in use” (Microsoft Encarta, s.v. “Wittgenstein, Ludwig Josef Johann,” http://encarta.msn.com
75 . Vern Poythress, Symphonic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987) 69.
76 . Ibid.
77 . Ibid., 46-47.
78 . Charles Hodge, as representative of the Princetonian position, displayed a great antipathy for any emphasis on the subjective nature of Christianity. At one point he stated: “The idea that Christianity is a form of feeling, a life, and not a system of doctrines is contrary to the faith of all Christians. Christianity always has a creed. A man who believes certain doctrines is a Christian” (Biblical Repertory and Princeton Review 29  693). C. R. Jeschke states of the Princetonians (“The Briggs Case: The Focus of a Study in Nineteenth Century Presbyterian History,” Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Chicago, 1967,” 56):
The strict compartmentalization of formal theology and the life of piety that came to prevail at Princeton reflected in part the growing irrelevance of traditional modes of thought and inherited statements of faith for the needs of the church in a rapidly changing world. The fact that Hodge and his colleagues, like most of their contemporaries, were unaware of the sickness in the theological body, only permitted the condition to worsen, and heightened the reaction of the patient to the cure, when its true condition was finally diagnosed.
Andrew Hoffecker has challenged this perception of the Princetonians, contending that those who make such assertions ignore the wealth of devotional material left by Alexander, Charles Hodge, and Warfield (Piety and the Princeton Theologians [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981]). Despite Hoffecker’s defense of the Princetonians themselves, it is not too much to say that many even among the Old School read only the theological material of the Princetonians. This fact contributed to a cold creedal orthodoxy among a significant contingent of the Old School with its stress on pure doctrine. Even the great Greek grammarian Basil L. Gildersleeve, himself a Princeton graduate, decried the “baleful influence of Princeton” stating that there was from there “very little hope of a generous vivifying force” (Letter from Gildersleeve to Charles Augustus Briggs, Briggs Transcripts, 5.470 (Twelve ledger books hand-copied by Emilie Grace Briggs comprising a transcription of Charles Briggs’ personal correspondence, Union Theological Seminary Library).
79 . Gordon H. Clark “Behaviorism & Christianity,” This article has been taken from Against the World: The Trinity Review, 1978–1988, Copyright © 1996 John W. Robbins. It is published by The Trinity Foundation, P.O. Box 68, Unicoi, TN 37692. (http://www.cfcnb.org/1999wia/aug1999.htm
80 . Jeremy Taylor, Selected Works, ed. Thomas K. Carroll (New York: Paulist, 1990) 374, 371.
81 . Bloesch, Holy Spirit, 47.
82 . Archibald Alexander, The Log College (reprint ed., London: Banner of Truth Trust, 1968).
Cf. also the following points by James Sawyer specifically in connection to church history and tradition:
"Church historian Kenneth Scott Latourette observed that nineteenth-century American Protestants tended “to ignore developments which had taken place in Christianity in the Old World after the first century.” A common assumption was (and is) that theology is simply built on the Bible, or that our system of theological understanding is simply “the Bible’s own view of itself.” In some camps, the cry “No creed but the Bible” has in effect cut groups off from their heritage as Christians and evangelicals. Yet this implies that the Holy Spirit has taught the church nothing over the past twenty centuries. This mentality that the Bible alone is the authority for and source of theology has sometimes had a divisive result that has seen groups split over differences in their understanding of Scripture — often without any benchmark or guiding principle other than a commitment to biblical authority. The “Bible alone” mentality has often been accompanied by a naive Biblicism that assumes that the text has a “plain meaning” and denies, usually implicitly, that all reading of the biblical text involves interpretation.
...The Reformation doctrine of sola scriptura has become a mere slogan. Among much of popular evangelicalism sola scriptura has become nuda scriptura, “bare” Scripture open for anyone to interpret apart from any tradition or even a competent hermeneutic.This has unwittingly let in through the back door the Enlightenment view of knowledge as objective, unconditioned, and universal, and applied these qualities to the text of Scripture.
In the minds of many contemporary laymen and women as well as many uneducated clergymen and women, sola scriptura has become a bumper sticker type slogan that has not context and gives the permission, if not the right to read the scriptures apart from the tradition of the church’s broad understanding and impose their own meaning on the text...
We believe that the Church of Jesus Christ was founded on the day of Pentecost and is composed of all those who have believed in him down through the centuries. Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to the Church to lead it into all truth. Yet we have in a real sense locked our understanding of the work of God into the pages of Scripture.
John of Salisbury, the 12th century English author and Bishop of Chartes (in France) observed: "We are like dwarfs sitting on the shoulders of giants... they raise us up, and by their great stature add to ours." If Jesus was telling the truth then we must admit that the Spirit has been teaching the church throughout the past two thousand years. If we ignore this and look to the Scripture alone without taking into account what has transpired before us we at best run the risk of reinventing the wheel. More likely we will ignore the lessons learned by Spiritual giants over the centuries and substitute our own meager and impoverished understanding.
John Jefferson Davis, theologian at Gordon-Conwell Seminary states it well: "The problem in rejecting all church history and tradition is that the reflections of less gifted minds tend to be substituted for the wisdom of the spiritual and theological giants of the past. . . It merely substitutes new traditions--those of the denominational leader and his followers--for older ones...
We stand in a broad stream of nearly 2000 years of theological and spiritual history. When we build our theological conceptions on the Bible alone, we are showing an incredible arrogance. We are displaying the attitude of the Corinthians whom the Apostle Paul rebuked saying, "What! Did the word of God originate with you, or are you the only ones it has reached?" (1 Cor. 14:36) We are saying in effect that in 2000 years God has taught no one but ourselves."