Question 3 of the Westminster Larger Catechism asks, “What is the Word of God?” To which it answers: “The holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are the Word of God, 1 the only rule of faith and obedience.” 2
A lot of things can be said about this, but the point I wish to draw attention to is this: sola scriptura means that the Bible trumps everything, including experience.
I have known many people throughout my life that were at one point skeptical, even cynical, of Charismatic experiences, but who now believe in them – not because of explicit scriptural teaching and clear exegetical treatment of the relevant passages, but because they, or someone they know, has experienced something. I don’t know how to put this charitably, so I’ll say the only way I know how: this is pantheistic self-deifying mysticism. Harsh words? I think not.
First of all, all mysticism, regardless of its religious affiliation, is pantheistic in nature. It is a looking within oneself to find the divine spark or some other equally blasphemous term for the god within us all. The Reformers call this Enthusiasm. The word comes from the Greek words en and theos, meaning the “god within.” If your personal experience leads you to believe things contrary to Scripture then you have made your experience more authoritative than God. What else is this if not self-deification? Is it any wonder then that so many of the Word Faith heretics claim to be little gods running around on earth?
In Acts 3:21 Peter informs his audience, and us, that Christ must remain in heaven until the time of the restitution of all things. Along comes Benny Hinn claiming that Jesus appear bodily tp him and walked around the room leaving footprints in his carpet. I have every Scriptural reason to call him a liar. Peter’s statement precludes Jesus bodily appearing to anyone before His second advent. Therefore whatever left footprints in Benny Hinn’s carpet was NOT Jesus. End of story.
Actually calling Hinn a liar is the nicest thing that could be said about him, because it could be much worse. He could’ve had a real “spiritual” experience where a force masquerading as Christ walked around his room. The Charismatic world would be far better off if Hinn were simply a liar than if he were spiritually deceived and purveying this deception to millions of his viewers. I suspect the truth is somewhere in between.
Scripture gives us a pretty clear idea that the dead go to their respective destinations immediately. They do not roam the earth as disembodies souls searching for justice or looking after loved ones left behind. Yet I can’t tell you how many stupid ghost stories I’ve heard. Now either the ghost in the picture is real and therefore Scripture is wrong or the Bible is right and there was no ghost. Yet people routinely place more stock in their experiences, or imagined experiences, than in Scripture.
I used to be impressed to the old saying attributed to Leonard Ravenhill that “A man with an experience is never at the mercy of a man with an argument.” With all due respect to the late Rev. Ravenhill, I have to state that that saying is hogwash. Truth must be objective or it is inconsequential. If my experience trumps the propositional truths of Scripture, then I might as well throw my Bible away and start attending the local Vineyard church!
1 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:19-21
2 Ephesians 2:20; Revelation 22:18-19; Isaiah 8:20; Luke 16:29, 31; Galatians 1:8-9; 2 Timothy 3:15-16