June 3, 2009
Fallibility, Part Two
by Charles R. Swindoll
God's Word is infallible; people are not. Yesterday, we noted that this point is particularly underscored in the realm of leadership. We naturally seek after ministers we can respect and follow. And then---glory!---we come across some whose lives are admirable, whose leadership seems to be blessed of God, and whose instruction is biblical, wise, and dynamic. Everything's great until one such individual teaches something that is different from another minister who is equally admired. That never fails to leave groupies in a confused tailspin.
This is a good time to consider the sage counsel of Bernard Ramm:
How do we settle the truth when two people of equal piety and devotion have different opinions? Does the Holy Spirit tell one person the Rapture is pre-tribulation, and another that it is post-tribulation? The very fact that spiritually minded interpreters come to different conclusions about these matters distresses many people's minds. They have presumed that if a man is yielded to the Holy Spirit, his interpretations must be correct.
But certain things must be kept in mind. First, the Holy Spirit gives nobodyinfallible interpretations. Second, piety is a help to interpretation, but it is not a substitute for knowledge or study or intelligence.
Third, all of us are still in the human body and subject to its limitations and frailties . . . we make mistakes of interpretation in Scripture as well as errors in judgment in the affairs of life.
It is the present temptation of at least American evangelicalism to substitute a class of devout Bible teachers for the Catholic Pope. To such people themeaning of Scripture is that which their favorite Bible teacher teaches. But the Protestant principle must always be this: The truest interpretations are those with the best justification.
I could just as easily have used an illustration regarding a physician's diagnosis or a therapist's counsel. The issue is identical, and it brings us back to where we started yesterday. If I could change a term and put it in the language of a famous historical document: all men are created fallible. Yes, all. If you remember that, you'll have fewer surprises and disappointments, greater wisdom, and a whole lot better perspective in life. Rather than slumping into cynicism because your hero showed feet of clay, you'll maintain a healthy and intelligent objectivity. You'll be able to show respect without worshiping him or her. And when you really need to know the truth, you'll turn to the Scriptures with firsthand confidence.
If you're looking for infallibility, look no further than God's Word.
Reprinted by permission. Day by Day, Charles Swindoll, July 2005, Thomas Nelson, inc., Nashville, Tennessee. All rights reserved. Purchase "Day by Day" here.