The “Cereal-Aisle” Syndrome

Historic confessions and creeds protect the Church from foolish "cereal aisle" autonomy.

Navigation out of the current hermeneutical chaos will come only by a functional trust in Scripture’s authority – studying in a manner that derives what Scripture is. God has spoken and done so without stuttering. He has given the Church, in the canon of Scripture, what we need “for life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3). His Spirit guides the Church to understand what he intends for us (1 Cor. 2:12-16).


The grocery store cereal aisle has become a common metaphor for distinguishing the West from the rest of the world, and rightly so. Just after we moved to Eastern Europe years ago, my family and I began the hunt for cereal in our city. In due course, we found three cereal options. Yes, three. First we were disappointed, then resentful. Really? Only Honey Nut Cheerios, off-brand corn flakes and Muesli?

Yet our internal pushbacks did not last for long. Oh, not because our (children’s?) yearning for Cocoa Puffs and Tony the Tiger got completely snuffed, but something even more satisfying and freeing took over. Limitation birthed newfound freedom, a liberty far preferable to our former cornflake cornucopia. We discovered the clarity and joy of simplicity. No longer was the cereal aisle an enemy of contentment, but in its simplicity we discovered a peaceful, non-confusing, isle of contentment.

When we returned for visits to the United States, we found ourselves simply undone, even freshly disgusted by the cereal attack. Too many choices. Rainbow-colored boxes of all sizes–complete with nutritional charts, cartoons, crossword puzzles, and chances for free vacations at Disneyworld–launched their crusade against our souls. Which cereal should we buy? Whose label do we trust anyway? Who can possibly decide which cereal is the legitimate breakfast of champions?

A message lies behind the plethora of choices. It is actually quite simple. Cereal choice is completely up to me. I really am Cap’n Crunch. I am Count Chocula.

Yet there is a problem. So is everyone else. And who decides when each member of the family reigns as King Kellogg and leads as General Mills? Family feuds can even erupt over which flavor of Cheerios to buy. War ensues and, in the end, no one finally wins the Lucky Charm.

Cereal choice produces cereal chaos, because serial choice produces serial chaos. Despite the relentless rhetoric to the contrary, unlimited choice does not free us; it binds us. Autonomy at work does not bless, it curses. To put it more contextually, the unalienable rights of Americans are not the unalienable truths of Scripture.

In a manner combating the “cereal aisle” of contemporary thought, Scripture puts us in a distinct place, and it is not a place of autonomy or sovereignty. We are created, not Creator. We are servants, not masters. We are stewards, not owners. We are dependents, not independents. We are the children, not the Father.

These categorical truths, which dominate the pages of the Scripture, must take their rightful place in our study of it. We are recipients of Scripture’s meaning, not creators of it.

Historic categories of the doctrine of Scripture include authority, sufficiency, necessity, and perspicuity (clarity). Many in recent years have argued that the real battle for the Bible is more about its sufficiency than its authority. With thanks to Kantian thought construction which deems the Bible irrelevant to science and many other fields, surely biblical sufficiency needs fresh and ongoing address.

Yet today something even more basic than biblical sufficiency suffers. The Bible’s sufficiency, necessity, clarity and even authority as commonly expressed, do not get to the bottom of the current crisis of confidence in Scripture.

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