…So goes a popular line when referencing someone who has left. With Matt Olson’s recent posting at his website and Sharper Iron’s subsequent linking to it in their SIfilings, we certainly see that he has left his position he once held as a Baptist pastor. Our Biblical distinctives as Baptists start with, “the Bible is our only (or sole) authority for faith and practice.” In Matt’s opening sentence he repudiates the very foundation of his previously held position as a Baptist. Here is Matt’s opening sentences,
There are many ways we grow in our Christian faith and one of the most significant ways we do this is through the thoughtful reading of good books—often beginning with the Scriptures. Not only are the Scriptures the very words of God, true and authoritative in every way, they go beyond giving us just an intellectual knowledge of God to bringing us into a relationship with Him through His Son. This work is supernatural and transformational. Because of this fact, many believers make an effort to read their Bibles daily. Few, however, expand beyond this to other Christian literature. Over the past two decades of ministry I have become more and more convinced that the study of other literature is an invaluable resource.
Wow! “There are many ways to grow in our Christian faith”?! The greatest harm here is that he intersperses some truth with this off the wall, unorthodox babble. Matt, where is the Scriptural support for such a statement, that we can grow our Christian faith with some other source other than the Word of God? Paul in Romans 10:17 is rather explicit, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Our faith comes by the hearing of the Word of God, not man’s writing no matter how “Christian” his literature might be. Instead, we see the influence of these “two decades of ministry” in which he has been pouring over men’s writings to the point of leaving his Biblical mooring of the Bible being his only source for faith. He has imbibed and accepted the notion of the reformed thinkers that say we need a theologian to give us the understanding of the Scriptures. I have posted in another article this statement,
In a book titled, An Introduction to Classical Evangelical Hermeneutics, Dr. Mal Couch does an excellent job researching and expounding a literal, historical, grammatical approach to interpreting the Scriptures (i.e. Dispensationalism). I would encourage you to find a copy and add it to your library. In chapter 8, titled, The Allegorists Who Undermined the Normal Interpretation of Scripture (pp. 96, 97), he writes,
“With allegory the antics of the gods were purified, but who determined the allegorical interpretations? By whose authority were words and concepts changed? If there were no ‘guidelines’ as to the meaning of the ‘new’ message, how did readers know the authors’ intentions? These problems consistently overshadow allegorical interpretation…
The personality most cited for the change to allegorical interpretation is Philo (ca. 20 B.C.-A.D. 54), ‘A philosophical Jew who possessed both reverence for the Mosaic revelation and fondness for Grecian metaphysics, [who] aimed to explore the mystical depths of significances allegedly concealed beneath the Old Testament Scripture.
Philo taught that the milk of Scripture was the literal but the meat was allegory. Thus, there was hidden meaning. The Word of God had two levels: the literal was on the surface, but the allegorical represented the deeper, more spiritual meaning. Therefore, anyone who simply interpreted the Bible on its most natural, normal way was simple and missing the great meanings of the Scriptures. Ramm writes,
Philo did not think that the literal meaning was useless, but it represented the immature level of understanding. The literal sense was the body of Scripture, and the allegorical sense its soul. Accordingly the literal was for the immature, and the allegorical for the mature.
To reiterate, allegorical interpretation creates meaning through the interpreter. Accordingly, allegorist believes the average person may be reading and interpreting wrongly without the help of a scholar or, in the case of Scripture, a wise, well-trained theologian. Often, even today, allegorists look down their noses at those who take the Bible at face value with a normal, literal hermeneutic.” (emphasis mine)
Since this system of interpretation (which is the basis for Reformed theology) requires “a wise, well-trained theologian” to give the fuller, deeper understanding of the Scriptures, then those who are confessedly not a theologian must locate someone who they believe is and place themselves at his or her feet for further instruction. This leaves them at the mercy of the “theologian” for spiritual growth/maturity rather than where the Scriptures places that responsibility which is on the individual (II Peter 3:18 for starters).
That folks, is dangerous territory. History has shown us repeatedly, that relying on other men for our spiritual understanding because we are unable to comprehend apart from their expertise, has enslaved Christianity and deadened the church to the point of the lost running things rather than the regenerated believer. Reformed theology has no place and cannot reside within a true Baptist church, for our very foundational distinctive is at odds with the foundation of Reformed theology’s allegorizing of Scriptures and subsequent reliance upon theologians for its understanding. One or the other foundation will win out, they cannot co-habitate in a church.
Matt must be rather naïve of the plethora of Christian literature that is out there for the reading when he states, “Few, however, expand beyond this to other Christian literature.” Christian literature is all the rage and has been for quite some time, to the extent that secular publishing houses have bought some Christian publishing houses (Multnomah Press comes to mind) because it makes good business sense. Even when we narrow down “Christian” to the purer sense of the word, this too has experienced growth and popularity. Now I am not against reading good Christian literature. I have a library and desire to see it grow. The volumes I possess are helpful to me, but they do not to grow my Christian faith because I have read them. My faith doesn’t grow because I read author X’s book on Y. My faith grows because I read the Word of God and the author, God the Holy Spirit, takes that Word and transforms me, changes me, conforms me into the image of Christ. Author X can NEVER accomplish that.
Elvis has left the building and Matt Olson has left the anchored, Biblical position of Baptists down through the centuries who rightfully, Biblically stated, “the Bible is our only (sole) rule for faith (and practice).”