Monday, October 16, 2006

Mohler Critiques John Stott

Read Mohler's post here.


John E said...

Dr. Mohler's last sentence:

"The New Testament is our authority for knowing Christ and the apostles." --Who says? This a nagging question that Stott comes much closer to answering than Mohler.

I admire many things about Dr. Mohler, but I have been disappointed on more than one occasion with his reasoning.

Ben said...

John E,

Perhaps you could answer Mohler's question then, if his implied answer is inadequate:

"What access to Jesus and the apostles do we have apart from Scripture? The 'apostolic witness to Christ' is found in the New Testament -- not outside of it. Where else could it be found?"

Would you not agree that there is irony in Stott's statement, "We believe in the authority of the Bible because Christ has endorsed its authority."? How can he ground biblical authority in Christ's endorsement of it when it is by Scripture that we are aware of Christ's endorsement?

John E said...

We are not aware of Christ's endorsement you speak of by biblical authority, but by apostolic authority.

Books do not have authority, authors have authority.

Anonymous said...

I see the usual evangelical confusion in Mohler's comments, between the witness to Christ and Jesus Himself.

We don't believe a set of propositions or have some correct presuppositions that drag us into heaven. God in Christ saves each one of us by faith through grace.
In Christ, we are gifted with a living relationship with God whereby we can say 'Abba'.

The propositions, our theologising and our recognition of what has happened to us, the acknowledgement of God as our God comes later and is our grateful response to God.

Jesus Himself is the gospel!

kevin mcfadden said...


"Books do not have authority, authors have authority."

How can we divide the two? An author, by definition, writes words. If the author has authority (in this case apostolic authority), then his words have authority.

The NT is the embodiment of apostolic witness and authority. Christ gave his apostles for the foundation of the church but they are dead now, with their witness and teaching given to us in the documents which were "God-breathed" and given "so that the man of God may be complete" (2 Tim 3:16).

Of course, if one believes in apostolic succession (which gets to what you are thinking, I think), then apostolic authority is found in both the Scripture and the continuing witness of the "apostles." But here's the question--who says (to echo your first comment) that there is such a thing as apostolic succession?

Anonymous said...

on books don't have authority, authors have authority...

well, where are we then on the missing letters Paul sent to Laodicea and another one apparently to Corinth? Apparently not inspired and no one ever thought so, or else they would have kept them, don't you think?

The inspiration is in the canon, and nowhere else.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Ben said...

John E,

RE: "We are not aware of Christ's endorsement you speak of by biblical authority, but by apostolic authority.

Books do not have authority, authors have authority."

I'll play along. How do we know authoritatively what the apostles believed if it is not through Scripture?

I'm still awaiting an answer to Dr. Mohler's question below that does not constitute a smokescreen on your part:

"What access to Jesus and the apostles do we have apart from Scripture? The 'apostolic witness to Christ' is found in the New Testament -- not outside of it. Where else could it be found?"

For the record, I agree with Kevin.

John E said...

Kevin! Good to meet you here. We've had this conversation before in person, and been deadlocked as to much agreement. The only thing I can think to say is that you should have to agree that I am at least no worse off than you are as to my reason for accepting apostolic succession compared to your reason for accepting only what the apostles themselves wrote in Scripture. What tells you that you are to accept only the authority of the Scriptures, and why am I not compelled likewise? Furthermore, I have no assurance that you know what the apostles meant when they wrote it, and that is very important, since I see apostolic succession clearly supported by the Scriptures and you obviously do not. Then there is the testimony of the Church Fathers, who I think we can agree understood the Scriptures better than you or I. They in some places defended apostolic succession, and most of the time simply assumed it to be true. Is there anything here that I haven’t mentioned to you before? Maybe it would be worthwhile to talk again in person about this, but I don’t know.


I’m afraid I’ve given you the impression that I was trying to hide something. I am not; I am a Roman Catholic, therefore I believe in apostolic succession as Kevin has said. It should be clear to you now what I believe we know about Christ apart from the NT.

John E said...


The missing letters are not in the canon because those that had the authority to do so rejected them.

God bless,

Ben said...


That sheds some light. Thanks. I was operating under the assumption that your statement that we're aware of Christ's endorsment of Scripture by apostolic authority was referring to statements to this effect within the canon. Now I understand this not to be the case, and I see that you were answering the question from your presuppositions, not evading it.

I suspect that we're going to hit an impasse because of our conflicting presuppositions, but I wonder if I might not toss a couple questions your way:

1. When you say that authors have authority, not books, are you not presupposing that God as the primary Author could not have invested His authority in a book. And in conjunction with that . . .

2. I will very quickly wade out of my theological depth on this point, but is it possible that in saying books do not have authority, that you are imposing too great a disjunct between the Logos and Scripture? If all authority is given to Christ (Matthew 28:18), then is it possible that this authority is as closely tied to Scripture as the Logos is to Scripture?

3. It seems throughout the progress of revelation that God speaks His Word to his messengers. Are you saying that the messengers, whether prophets or apostles, were the authority rather than the messages that were spoken to them? Were all their words invested with equal authority--even those of which they never said, "The Word of the Lord came to me . . ."?

Thanks for your thoughts.

L P Cruz said...


I wager an answer which you are looking for, in what Stott said...
Although the question of the New Testament canon is complicated, in general we are able to say that canonicity is apostolicity.

I think the question is this... is Jesus true because the Bible says so, or is the Bible true because Jesus says so.

Ben said...

I don't think that statement is nearly well-defined enough to begin to address the question. Are canonicity and apostolicity precisely equivalent? In other words, is the converse true? Is apostolicity canonicity, in Stott's view? There's a big difference.

In other words, I don't think it answers the question at all.

Neither is your question the "real question." Obviously, the latter is true, if one accepts the question as it's phrased to be a valid question. But I'd still like to hear an answer to Mohler's question:

"What access to Jesus and the apostles do we have apart from Scripture?"

If the honest answer is some inner feeling or extra-biblical tradition, please say so.