Give Me a Man with an Open Bible!

As Christians, we must insist that authority is not derived first from experience, but from Scripture.

There is tremendous benefit in learning from someone who has been there and done that. But we don’t need such people. And it’s not like they are not qualified to teach or lead or counsel because of the experiences they’ve gone through. Their experience is valuable to us only to the degree that it is consistent with what God makes clear in his Word.

 

It’s the age of the expert, the age of the specialist. And sure enough, there’s a growing theme in the Christian world that experience is a necessary prerequisite to authority. If you want to know about parenting, you need to talk to a parent. If you want to know about marriage, you need to talk to someone who has been married. If you want to know how to suffer well, you speak to someone who has suffered.

This theme is prevalent and attractive. And while there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with it, I think it carries a subtle danger. It tells us that authority comes through experience. Yet as Christians, we must insist that authority is not derived first from experience, but from Scripture. Greater than our need for people who have experienced it in their lives, is our need for people who will teach it from the Word.

Now, let’s be careful. Let’s not over-react. I believe in the value of people committing themselves to studying and understanding a particular area of life or theology. I believe in the value of books and conferences and other contexts for specialized teaching. There is tremendous benefit in learning from someone who has been there and done that. But we don’t need such people. And it’s not like they are not qualified to teach or lead or counsel because of the experiences they’ve gone through. Their experience is valuable to us only to the degree that it is consistent with what God makes clear in his Word.

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