Biblical Authority in an Age of Uncertainty

Recovering biblical doctrine requires recognizing biblical authority. This lesson from church history reminds us that we need to make thorough and reasonable arguments, all the while keeping our finger in the text and making our conclusions from the text.

Don Carson, Tim Keller, and John Piper discuss the challenge for Christians today, who live in an age where doubt and uncertainty are seen as humble. Does drawing lines and making clear connections from the Bible make you arrogant?

  • taco

    Interesting comments on epistemic certainty/uncertainty. Did Dr. Piper, Dr. Keller, or Dr. Carson unpack that at the end by chance?

  • Steve Cornell

    Ministering in a university town (26 years), I especially see what Keller points out. I am not sure they’ve all thought through the hermeneutical and epistemological issues but generally younger evangelicals seem more reticent about perceptions of Christianity based on propositional declarations. They are less interested in destinations or conclusions and more about conversations and journeys. The dominant cultural context for most of these young people has been one of radical relativism with a strong emphasis on a strange form of intolerant tolerance.

    Perhaps for some (like Rob Bell and Brian Mclaren) their position is a bit of a reaction to the tight lines drawn by their spiritual predecessors (and, as in the case of Bell and Mclaren, they yield to an ironic mimicking of the same spirit they react against).

    But many of these young people grew weary of the tight lines used by their predecessors to distinguish those who were in from those who were out and the emphasis on separation from those outside of the Church. Sadly, this separatist approach usually came with the ugly baggage of legalism– a definite turn-off to younger evangelicals.

    It’s not surprising that themes related to common grace have taken on renewed significance among younger evangelicals. They are drawn toward emphasis on shared humanity rather than differences between believers and unbelievers. They desire to seek commonality over separation and isolation from the “world”. Since we have all been made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27; 9:6; James 3:9), it is argued, we share much in common. We all live under God’s common grace as recipients of certain blessings outside of the boundaries of salvation.

    Perhaps we deserve some of the chastened perspective that these young people bring to the table. But as the men in this clip point out, at the end of the day, authority cannot be avoided — even if agnosticism becomes the reigning ideology. But shift the discussion to ethics and watch how the smoke and mirrors begin to disappear.

  • Will P.

    As a newly graduated Bible College student and one who is about to begin seminary, I think Dr. Keller hit the nail on the head. His observation, at least from my experience, was right on, and so was his exhortation. There is much to think about and I am thankful for these men and others like them.

  • sarah

    this is such a relevant and important discussion for our time. as one who very much enjoys and appreciates dialogue and hermeneutics and what can be gained from all the new Bible scholarship we have been privileged to partake in, i also agree that there is a tendency to lose focus of the actual Word of God and give other issues more weight.

    i feel an urgency in our day for christians to not only take responsibility themselves for reading consistently and carefully and earnestly the Word of God, but also to pray just as fervently that others would be motivated to do the same.

    we as a community must “HOLD OUT THE WORD OF LIFE” boldly and fearlessly, and to do that, it must be rooted in us through much time and use.

    may we read it when we rise and when we lie down; may we talk about it when we walk along the road; may we search for it as for silver and gold; may it be our daily bread.

  • TDM

    When one is totally depraved, how can he even broach the depths and complexity of the major doctrines of the Bible — especially Salvation?

    • Erik L

      One might ask, how did you get the doctrine of total depravity with which to set up this hermeneutic of uncertainty on all other doctrines, such as salvation? Nobody is agnostic everywhere.

      • TDM


      • TDM

        My former Presbyterian (PCA) pastor before I became Catholic.

    • Allan

      By the illuminating work of the Spirit.

  • Robert C

    I wonder if many (including myself) look at the verse: “[This] knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” (1 Cor 8:1) and decide not to study the Scriptures too deeply for fear of becoming arrogant and proud.

    • Jason Alligood


      By making any assertion about 1 Cor. 8:1 you are practicing what you hope not to. You are making an assessment about the Scriptures.

      Furthermore, I would like to point out, while there may be a general principle here, this passage is about eating food offered to idols and the knowledge here is for those who know that idols are “nothings” and can freely eat meat offered to idols. For others, they are still in the mindset of idol worship, because they have only recently left idol worship and been born again, therefore, their knowledge is not as advanced on idols being “nothings”. These people’s consciences are sensitive to eating things offered to idols and those who have knowledge and can eat the meat sacrificed to idols, without their conscience being pricked, do so because they know that an idol is a “nothing”, but to do so in the eyes of those who do not know that would be unloving. Therefore, we must balance our knowledge, with love for those who would be offended at our freedoms. Knowledge can make some one arrogant, while love seeks to edify.

  • Ian

    Is there a link to the full discussion? I’d love to see it.

  • LB

    surprised to see John Piper and Tim Keller and their work peppered throughout what I have always considered a very solid blog

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  • Don Sartain

    I just love the comment about the difference between spiritual humility and epistemological uncertainty.

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