Some of our readers will remember the TV series, Father Knows Best, starring Robert Young and Jane Wyatt. It ran for six seasons from 1954 to 1960. Before going to television it was comedy hit on NBC radio from 1949 to 1954. The TV version presented an idyllic family of the 1950s and featured Robert Young as a wise father who offered his children sage advice whenever the situation called for it. It has been a long time since I have watched any of the old episodes, but I cannot image any of the kids in that family, after they had been set straight by their ever knowing father, to say, “Dad, we wish you would tell us more! We need more details to help us avoid the ever present pitfalls of youth.” Somewhere in the world there might be a child of such a disposition, but not in my experience, and my wife and I have reared six kids.
It is equally difficult for me to imagine the personality that would say, “God, I wish you had said more to us in your word. We need more details as to how we should live. I, for one, am just not comfortable with the principles that you have left to guide your people, and I need more specific direction from you to help me through the maze of decisions that I must make every day.” Once in a while such a personality comes along, but they are rare, strange and unfulfilled. Oh, I know that sometimes we wish we had more information about particular questions and areas of thought that might be troubling us. That is to be expected. We usually satisfy ourselves in the realization that one day we will be able to sit down with the redeemed of all the ages, and ask the Lord more about the issues that most trouble us. It is amazing to me, however, that anyone who claims to believe and teach the scriptures would regard them as insufficient to our needs as they constitute the totality of God’s revealed will for us today.
In my reading recently I came across a statement from the late, great Guy N. Woods that addressed this peculiar human trait. What follows is an excerpt from a lesson titled, “Areas of Christian Duty” delivered by brother Woods at the church in Sharpe, Kentucky on November 29, 1987. It is included in the book, Shall We Know One Another in Heaven? And Other Sermons, by Guy N. Woods (Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate Co., 1988), 70-88. This quote is taken from pages 77-78:
Suppose the Lord had given us specific and detailed rules governing every conceivable circumstance among all people in all places, in all ages. It would be an exceedingly difficult task merely to read through the books in a lifetime, much less to become familiar with all the rules therein. And so the Bible, in large measure, is a book of principles. Of course, there are indeed many specific laws in it; on the other hand, there are numerous principles the application of which must be done in harmony with the varying circumstances under which we live.
It is remarkable that human nature is strangely adverse to the acceptance and application of principles in human conduct. Most of us want specific and detailed legislation, and if the Lord does not supply it we have no difficult in supplying it for ourselves and especially for our brethren! Most of the controversy and consequent factionalism among the Lord’s people through the years has resulted from this persistent and widespread disposition, – of making laws where God made none, and of presuming to speak where He has not spoken.
Far back in the early days of Israel following the giving of the law at Sinai (Exodus 20:1ff), some eminent Rabbi decided that he would take the general principles of the law and from them deduce what he considered to be their proper application. And so he did. As the years passed, some other eminent scholar among them decided that the explanation of the text by the earlier Rabbi needed exposition, so he proceeded to explain the explanation. Of course another – down the line – concluded that the comments on the comments needed commenting on, so he proceeded to comment on the comments of the comments, and so it went. By the time our Lord came to the earth there was a tremendous mass of this traditional material to which the Jews were answerable, it often being regarded by them as equal in authority to, and in some cases superior to the Old Testament scriptures themselves. Jesus said that they made the commandment of God void by these traditions (Matthew 15:1-9).
Even in such particulars as the miracles and the works of Jesus, the divine record leaves us uninformed as to all that occurred (Jn. 20:30-31; 21:25). What is recorded is sufficient for our knowledge and certainly enough to bring the searcher of truth to the point where he or she can believe that Jesus is the Christ, and that by believing they might have life through his name. Let it be understood that God’s word is sufficient to all things (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Indeed, the Father knows best!
by Dennis Gulledge