Sometimes people say that the Bible is the only book we need to fulfill the Christian life. Ultimately it must be said that even less than the Bible is enough, which is really to say that something more than the Bible is enough: God himself. If God is not present here and now, if we cannot reliably consult God in all matters of life or ministry, and if God is not trustworthy in even the lowest practicalities of our existence, then 67 books of the Bible will be as equally worthless as 66.
I do not want to introduce new doctrine, and I also know that God has provided the Bible for our benefit. Trust rightly placed in the Bible is faith that what God gives is enough. God even gives us whole literary traditions beyond the Bible, including the writings of non-Christian authors. If the Holy Spirit’s guidance is enough, then we could theoretically learn about God through any written thing — in theory. However, I am not writing about literary criticism, I am writing about God being very practically enough.
Sometimes people become Christians through books and they do not have the aid of Christian community. I once met a man who learned English by reading the Bible and he and his wife were saved from a vicious cult because they stuck to the Bible and held to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We need good Christian fellowship, but sometimes God deprives us even of things that we need. In my conversations with him, I tried to encourage the man to seek Christian community, but he will do better if he follows the guidance of the Holy Spirit ahead of my advice.
What if you have a new Christian in front of you and you have only one hour to teach the essentials of the Christian life? Let us say that this person will have to face every sort of physical and psychological torture for many years after you are done. Now also forget that you have ever read an apologetics book or even finished elementary school. If the Holy Spirit is not wise and powerful enough to preserve your crash course student, then no further training will help. Considering the numbers of people who essentially lose their faith in seminary, education is no life of God in the inner being.
As for myself, I have read the Bible eleven times in my life (and portions of it many more than eleven times), and I have even gotten relatively thorough instruction in how to understand the Bible. I have quality fellowship in abundance. I have practically experienced God’s provision through various trials in my own life and even learned how to deal with things I have never experienced. (It sometimes pays to be a bookworm.) Even so, I have cursed God more bitterly and uttered more unspeakable things against him after all of this than before. If the Holy Spirit is not able to keep you to the very end, then I do not know who is.
There is a great deal of talk about what the Holy Spirit does and does not do today, and if he still does it, under what conditions he might do it and where. If a rhinoceros sings opera and dances lightly on your head — all without causing you the least bit of pain — the improbability of the thing in no way cancels the fact of its happening. They say that the Holy Spirit does not do miracles today or that certain spiritual gifts have expired. They say that the Bible is God’s primary way of speaking to people today and there is not new prophetic revelation beyond what it contains. All I can say is that we have to attend to the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives and allow him to do what he wants to do in us and around us. What we do to the Holy Spirit we do to God. He is God.
The Bible is the word of God, and the words on monuments of fallen empires are the words of dead things that will never rise again. People wiser and more experienced in the Spirit than I am can say more about the way he works, but if his work here and now is not a fact, then theology is a dead profession.