Sufficient Fire Fallout: Initial Thoughts/Reactions

I attended the Sufficient Fire conference on Friday and Saturday of last week, and truth be told, I’m still reeling a bit. So much information. So much good teaching. I didn’t attend all of it (just the 6 general sessions), but I took about 30 pages of notes and my mind and heart were sufficiently overwhelmed by the end of it.

I’ll post some choice quotes/paraphrases from the sessions this week, but I wanted to start with a bit of an overview and some feedback.

The conference consisted of sessions taught by Phil Johnson, Dan Phillips, and Frank Turk, who blog(ged) collectively at Pyromaniacs. (Phil has retired from blogging, but his posts are often reposted for the benefit of current readers.) This blog has been an incalculable benefit to my growth as a Christian, and as a Christian thinker.  Dan is a pastor here in town, so by God’s providence, they decided to host their very first conference here, for free, about 30 minutes from where I live.

The subject of the conference was the sufficiency of Scripture: how the canon of Scripture is complete and fully sufficient for Christian life, and how extrabiblical “revelations” or “prophecies” or “experiences” are not only unnecessary but downright dangerous and even damning. Throughout the six general sessions, the speakers demonstrated what the Bible consistently teaches that God interacts with mankind through His Word(s), and that these communications require the proper response. The truthfulness and trustworthiness of Scripture has ramifications and repercussions on the conduct of our lives and the content of our message.

So what did I get out of Sufficient Fire? First and foremost, it gave me a renewed and refreshed love for God’s word. Hearing the Word read publicly and preached so passionately filled my heart with joy. Secondly, the conference challenged me to love people more, especially in the Church and double-especially those who I’ve been given the responsibility to serve. Most importantly, I think this conference served to remind me of what’s really important, how the message of the Gospel of Jesus is more important than any other endeavor I could pursue with my life.

I’m still working out the implications of this, but: for the last few months, I’d been starting to doubt my desire and commitment for the ministry. I’ve been reading and listening to the work of several types of creatives, writers and entrepreneurs and artists. The draw of a writing career grew more and more attractive. Meanwhile, I found myself growing weary of the idea of lifelong church-work.

The two days I spent listening to and interacting with faithful ministers and churchmen reminded me why the work of a pastor is so vital, and why the message of the Gospel is worth spending my life and energy to proclaim. This is not to say that writing won’t be a part of that; God made me a writer, and words are my gift and my tools for doing what He has made me to do. But if my words only serve to build my platform and advance my name and reputation, they would be worth nothing and would benefit no one. If my hope is to write blogs and books that change lives, my words must be in service of a greater message than the fancies of my imagination. There is only one message that will change the heart, the life, the world: Jesus died to save sinners.

My hope is that I’ll never grow tired of proclaiming it.

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I’ll post notes from the individual sessions this week. As soon as the audio/video from the conference has been posted, I’ll link it here.

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10 thoughts on “Sufficient Fire Fallout: Initial Thoughts/Reactions

  1. Question. And I really don’t know if there’s not an answer to this, so it’s not baiting here. I’m curious what the official thought for this is. So, at what point did God tell the writers of the Bible that the Bible was complete, and did they write that down somewhere? And nothing else was written after it? I recall John, I think, saying something about it. And if the official word came hundreds of years after the last Scripture was written, in one of those meetings they had about it, how can we say that meeting wasn’t extra-biblical revelation while remaining consistent?

    Other semi-related thought. The Jews of the 0000s thought the Scripture was complete too, and you can kind of understand why since there’d been a dry spell for 1000 years or something. Sort of like our dry spell. (Though I’m not positive the Jews of that time believed in a completed Scripture.)

    • Give me a couple of days to do somzzze research. My reading assignment for class is on this very subject, and i want to walk through it well. Thanks for the question!

    • I think that Hebrews 1 helps answer this question, especially the last part. The Jews didn’t have a complete revelation because at the close of the OT, the promised Messiah had not come to save them from their sins. But, as Hebrews 1 states, though in past times God has spoken to us through various means, in these last days He has spoken to us by His own Son.

    • Okay, now that I’ve done my homework, I’m able to answer this! (And please know that my research is incomplete, so there may well be more to add to this that I’m not aware of.)

      The answer to the question of the closed canon begins by understanding how canonicity is understood. In the Old Testament, the books that are considered Scripture were generally written by prophets (Samuel, Isaiah, Nathan, Jeremiah, etc.)—those who spoke authoritatively with “the word of the Lord.” Even those books not written by prophets (e.g. the books written by David or Solomon) were still considered Scripture because they were consistent with the revelation that was already received. All this to say, after Malachi finished his book around 435 BC, there were no more recognized prophets who arose. Even rabbinical literature from the period indicates that no one since Malachi has “had the Spirit of the Lord.” During this period, the OT canon was pretty much complete. There is apparently clear evidence from this 400-year period that these 39 books of the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings were considered the complete Scriptures.

      In the time of Christ and the Church, the 27 books of the New Testament were written over the space of about 60 years, by conservative estimates. Even as the authors were yet living, these books were being considered Scripture (I think I’ve mentioned elsewhere in these posts that Peter referred to Paul’s writings as Scripture, and Paul quotes Luke’s gospel in the same breath as Deuteronomy, as Scripture. The tests for canonicity in the NT period were that the books were written by the apostles or close associates of the apostles (or Jesus) and/or they were consistent with the other books of Scripture. (Another element, I think, was that the words of these books carried an intangible power that other books of the period did not.) Thus, with the death of John, the last living apostle, the generation of the Apostles ended and with it, the end of the writing of Scripture.

      If these are the standards for what is considered part of the canon, other pseudepigraphical NT “gospels” (the ones that were written later and attributed to apostles like Thomas and Judas) fail the tests of canonicity on all 3 counts.
      So basically, the Church in the first two centuries had the books, and recognized them as Scripture, but not all the churches had all the books (the difficulty of “worldwide” circulation in an analog age). Slowly, over the first 200-300 years, the copies of the books of the NT spread. What you have, then, in the 4th century is simply clarification and confirmation of what the Church was already holding to as New Testament Scripture.

      Incidentally, the NT church recognized the complete OT canon as well. Melito of Sardis wrote a letter in 170AD that specifies the 39 books of the OT canon as Scripture.

      The books of the Apocrypha were considered by the early church to be interesting, useful for teaching history and ethics, but not Scripture. They were referred to by the church fathers as “books of the church” but emphatically not canon. However, since they were included in the Septuagint (Greek copies of the OT) this caused confusion, especially for later theologians who didn’t know the ancient languages. There was wide disagreement in the Catholic Church among different popes and bishops over the role of the Apocrypha, until the Council of Trent in 1659, in which the RCC stated emphatically that the Apocrypha was holy writ. However, it’s likely that this was fueled by Luther’s criticism that certain church dogmas (like purgatory and praying for the dead) were based on texts from the Apocrypha and not actual Scripture.

      I hope this answers your question. Thanks for your patience. If anything is unclear, please let me know.

      • That is really interesting, thanks! That clears a lot of subsidiary thoughts up. I believe my overall thought was, just because a group of people decides something, does that make it right? And I didn’t find that explicitly addressed in your answer. If a group of people started writing new Scriptures today, and referred to each other’s writings as Scripture, co-validating each other, I’d be skeptical. I guess the difference is Jesus instigated the flurry of new Scripture, whereas today we have no such instigation. But I can see how that would be confusing to Mormans and Muslims… (<– light irony)

        I'm still unclear who decided the canon was closed, that there would be no new revelation, and why they had the authority to decide such a thing, and how we're so certain both of their intent and their absolute authority.

        But now I want to read a post-apocalyptic novel about new revelation from God, with Jesus appearing to people and miracles and such.

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