Called Pastors and a Standard Sacred Text

In making the case for a Standard Sacred Text of the Bible for the English-speaking church I am often asked, “How does the Bible become the standard?” The questioner desires to know the mechanism and the means whereby the believer and the English-speaking church at large is able to know and then claim a Standard Sacred Text. Over the warp and woof of this blog as well as in our books and argumentation we have offered considerable treatment to this very question. The sum of the answer is as follows: Once the believing community comes into possession of the Scriptures, assuming the words contained therein are indeed the inspired words of God, the Holy Spirit begins to speak to the people of God through the word of God and the people of God accept those words of God to be the words of God in English by faith.

What I wanted to do today was address a different aspect of this process and I want to do it by means of an illustration. As I have said before, illustrations or examples are not meant to prove a point. Rather, they exist to explain a point, and the point I want to explain is the affective aspect of receiving a Standard Sacred Text. Having studied with Dr. Gary Habermas whose work on Christian doubt is exceptional, we know that particularly men tend to doubt based on how they feel and less on the data. The data can be clearly observed by a man but any substantial “what if’s” that remain are enough to conjure sufficient affective doubt which ultimately keeps the man from accepting the data. As such, part of the enterprise of convincing a man boils down to this affective side of his judgment. In order to access that part of the human objection I offer the example of a pastor called to a local church.

There have been several times when I have been in the presence of pastoral men. As to the preaching of the word, these men have clung closely to the word of God, spent time in study and meditation. The messages he preaches have already been preached to and found root in his own heart. As to his pastoral care he is firm yet loving. He is wise with his words. He weeps with those who weeps. He has compassion on those who are hurt. He strengthens the weak. He also wisely rebukes sin. Sometimes he is gentle to the gentle soul and sometimes he stern to the hard hearted, but he never compromises the truth. He understands the state of the human race and recognizes that he is one of them. He has a wit that can bring a laugh as well as stifle a loose tongue. Wolves fear him, and the sheep find safety in the shepherd’s staff as well as consolation and exhortation in his words. He is a true under-shepherd of the Good Shepherd.

If any of you have had the pleasure of being under the ministry and leadership of such a pastor, you know the feelings that come with that experience. Indeed, I think we both can agree that the Holy Spirit by the word of God has worked in both the pastor’s heart as well as the people’s heart by faith to bring such an arrangement of shepherd and sheep together – a perfect fit. “This is our pastor,” the people say, and “These are my sheep,” the pastor says, and these things are not said merely because they are true but because the speaker’s affect enjoins him to. In such an arrangement the sheep often call the pastor to let him know they will be out of town. Similarly, the pastor has a unique love and care for his sheep which he does not have for the congregation across town. The communion between the pastor and his sheep is so close it is almost palpable.

What do we say of pastors who will not shepherd their flock, but rather put other ventures first [e.g., book publishing, popularity, Instagram followers, and conference invitations]? Or how about the congregant that spends a Sunday or two with this pastor in his church and then a Sunday or two at another church and then Sunday or two at yet another church. What do we say of church-hoppers? Generally, such behavior on the part of the pastor or congregant is at a minimum unhealthy and more likely a lack of spiritual virtue and immoral.

Just as we would not encourage bouncing between churches so we here at do not encourage bouncing between versions. If such bouncing back and forth is not to be done between the sheep and the shepherding of the under-shepherd how much more ought it not be done between the sheep and the shepherding of the Good Shepherd through His word. Indeed, to experience the faithfulness of your under-shepherd and for the under-shepherd to experience the faithfulness of his sheep is something like experiencing the faithfulness of your Bible to you and of you to it. Thus, we encourage you dear brothers and sisters to seek the Lord’s face and by His grace choose you this day a standard sacred text.

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