Question: You have attacked the teachings of Calvin and Augustine. We’ll see which lasts the longest and stands the test of time—the writings of Augustine and Calvin and their contribution to orthodox theology or those of the writers and staff of TBC. Sorry, but history shows that in the world of art, music, literature, and theology God has given some to be head and shoulders above the rest of us. If I was sick I would seek the best, most brilliant surgeons possible. When studying Scripture I will continue to trust and rely on the great theologians, flawed as they may be.
Response: It is good counsel to “seek the best, most brilliant surgeons possible.” However, regarding spiritual matters, the intent to lean upon “the experts” clearly avoids the scriptural admonition to “prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thes:5:21). Who are the experts when it comes to the Scriptures? Should we not test them? We are all flawed. More important, do Augustine and Calvin consistently and accurately “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Tm 2:15)? We have simply pointed out some of their obvious contradictions and errors.
The Lord notes on a number of occasions that “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord” (Jer:17:5). Are we to place people upon pedestals? Even the Old Testament priests were told to not “go up by steps unto my altar, lest thy nakedness be discovered.” We are living in a time when socially, politically, and most important, spiritually, men are turning from their responsibilities and surrendering their thinking to “the experts.” The failure of this approach is becoming only too obvious.
If people regard us as the “answer men,” then we have failed in the task the Lord has given us. We seek to point individuals back to the Scriptures, following the example of the Bereans (Acts:17:11). What you advocate is contrary to the Lord’s admonition and is detrimental to the health of the Body. Those who accept the pronouncements of “big names” such as Calvin or Augustine without “searching the Scriptures daily” are insubordinate to the commands of the Lord.
When Christ rebuked individuals, it wasn’t because they failed to listen to Gamaliel or other prominent teachers. He went to the heart of the matter. The Scriptures were sufficient for the Lord Jesus Christ when He confronted the two disciples who were on the road to Emmaus (Lk 24:13-27). He told them, “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets [not the commentators] have spoken.” And, “...beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (v. 27).
Again, we have not advocated our “TBC opinion” as the standard, and any accusations to the contrary are unsupported and very selective generalizations. What about Calvin and his abuses in Geneva? What about the anti-Semitism/Replacement Theology generated by the teachings of Augustine? It is more than the fact that these men were flawed. As we acknowledged, we all are. The problem is that what they taught is at times greatly in conflict with what the Scriptures say. The Great Physician is the “best, most brilliant surgeon possible.”
It is He who warned against the traditions of men. Now, let’s be obedient to the commands of Christ and although we may find the comments of “great theologians” helpful at times, like all commentaries, the inspiration ceases when we move from the biblical text to the comments of men. We would greatly encourage a prayerful and scriptural reexamination of the position that you have advocated.
As another writer notes, “The reformers had proclaimed the priesthood of all believers, but the Anabaptists, their contemporaries, were not impressed with what they found in the reformers’ churches. The monopoly of the Catholic priest seemed to have been replaced by the monopoly of the reformed preacher. Experts were still disempowering the congregation and hindering it from becoming mature” (Stuart Williams, “Interactive Preaching,” 3/3/08, The Anabaptist Network).