The Word Above All


The Word above all


Written by ANDRÉE SEU

November 19, 11:03 AM

The Lord began challenging me some time ago to put the Word of God above the word of men. Sounds simple; it is what we Christians formally are committed to. I have found the practice of it to be more difficult.

From the day you commit yourself to the Berean example (Acts 17:11) as a lifestyle, you begin to see how much you are entrenched in a human system and have been filtering all Scripture reading through that system. Over time the Spirit—who lives in you: “… the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you” (1 John 2:27)—is pleased to reveal things to you, as He blesses your earnest desire to honor His Word above men’s. He shows you areas where the theological systems are weak or need to be challenged.

This should not surprise us. It is patent that systems and traditions are fallible—otherwise there wouldn’t be so many of them, and so much argument even within them. For instance, two days ago someone challenged my Reformed orthodoxy on “total depravity.” My response is: Which Reformed doctrine of “total depravity”? Calvin’s? Jonathan Edwards’? Cornelius Van Til’s? None of them agree entirely. Not to mention that the phrase “total depravity” is nowhere to be found in the Bible but is a human formulation or approximation of a whole Bible’s worth of teaching. I would just as soon read Romans 5. There is quite enough in the Bible to chew on.

My daughter, a health food zealot, is fond of reminding me that the further a food is taken from its condition as found in nature, the further its nutritive value has probably been depleted by degree. I worry that the analogy holds true in theology: Theological systems are already once removed from the “raw material” of Scripture itself. So should we not, when presented with teachings or insights, do our best to evaluate them by taking them back to the fountainhead of truth, the Scriptures themselves, rather than immediately, and perhaps only, to our traditions?

“Arrogance!” someone will say. “To think that you are capable of judging for yourself what centuries of your betters have studied and come to conclusions about is sheer arrogance!” Well, what if Martin Luther had bought that argument? We would all be buying indulgences today.

My plea is that we examine the Scriptures daily and do a constant running reevaluation of our cherished traditions (once-removed from God’s lips) against the plumb line of Scripture (directly from God’s lips). My plea is also to renounce the prevalent knee-jerk way we have developed of listening to one another.

There is a pernicious habit of mind—perhaps from time immemorial, perhaps from the Enlightenment—that is reflexively combative, that goes immediately to critique and fault-seeking. You may notice it in yourself if you try, as an exercise, to read a page of someone’s writing with the deliberate determination to look for what is of value in it. You may find that you are not accustomed to reading in that open and loving way. And yet, this manner of reading, though foreign to our times, is precisely what God commands: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise . . .” (Philippians 4:8).

I wrote a column on “weakness.” It was distressing that the person who objected to it did not take time to consider and interact with the biblical passages I adduced, but reacted from a spontaneous defense of what he thought was classical Reformed verity. As a matter of fact, there is no Reformed theologian worth his salt who denies that we can say no to sin (Titus 2:11-12). And let the thoughtful Christian consider that if one is able to say no to sin one minute, why not the next minute? As for the mentioned problem of sin infecting even dreams, I had that same problem, and I prayed about it and have experienced substantial sanctification in my sleep. It can happen.

I am so committed to putting the Word of God above the word of man that I have come to the place where if the Scripture tells me that some victory or overcoming is possible, and even if I do not see it in a thousand men, I will still say it is possible. Remember, I’m the woman who wears a doily on her head at Sunday worship.