I hope Russell Wilson continues to grow in Christ. His recent words serve as a great starting point to talk about the role of Scripture in the Christian life. I believe Wilson is my Christian brother, but he certainly needs some correction.
We're intrigued by the phrase. Any time someone begins their sentence with "God told me..." or "The Lord spoke to me..." our ears perk up. For some people, those phrases are a red flag; for others, those phrases are trumpets signaling forthcoming inspiration.
Unfortunately, it seems as though the majority of Christians are more energized by new things God has reportedly said than the old things God said once for all. Many get excited about new personal revelations -- even if they've never had any themselves.
And this boils down to one centuries-old idea: the sufficiency of Scripture. Is it enough to just read the Bible? Does it say everything we need to know for life and godliness? Or do we need God to speak to us? Is it more helpful to have Scripture plus personal revelation?
Over the course of the last few days, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has made headlines because of some personal revelation he claimed to have had, explained while he was a guest speaker at a church in California (start the video from the beginning here). The recently divorced 26-year old said that God personally spoke to him, ordering him to be a leader to his single mother girlfriend, pop star Ciara, and that he shouldn't have pre-marital sex with her.
Besides the fact that Wilson calls God an "it" at the beginning of the clip (which is a clear indicator of bad theology), the fact that he leans on some personal revelation for spiritual direction is troublesome. The ramifications of this are pretty huge. Let me explain with just one sentence.
The Scriptures make it very clear that men are to be godly leaders (1 Cor 14:35, Eph 5:25-33, 1 Peter 3:7) who are sexually pure (Matt 5:32, 1 Cor 7:1-9, 1 Thess 4:3-8).
Why on earth would anyone need personal revelation about man-woman relationships when God has already spoken so clearly on the topic?
(There are more passages to look at, the ones referenced were just the first ones that came into my head.)
There are two possibilities to answer the question above: (a) Said hypothetical person does not know what the Bible says; (b) Said hypothetical person does not believe that the Bible carries enough authority in and of itself to dictate a person's actions, thus an extraordinary experience is required.
Unfortunately, churches today are made up of many people who fit descriptions (a), (b), or a combination of both. Many professing Christians don't know anything about the First Testament, Paul's epistles, Revelation, and other huge portions of Scripture. The verses they know are "in there somewhere" and are logged in the back of their minds, devoid of any original context. The things they don't know could change their lives if only they had enough faith.
And this is exactly what makes Wilson's statement so awkward. Can you imagine if he would have stood up on that stage declaring, "God spoke today! He said, 'For I so loved the world that I gave My one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him may not perish but have everlasting life!'"?
The response would be, "Uh...that's John 3:16..."
It's deceitful for a person to claim an eternal truth given to all as something that was personally given to him alone. But I'll come back to that.
In watching the interview in its entirety, it becomes obvious that certain things are more important than others. He's a football player, so let's keep score.
If you go to this part in the video, you'll hear about another personal experience that Wilson had, this time when he was 14 years old. Jesus comes into his room and says, "I'm preparing you." The next day, Wilson went to church and, in his words, "the Holy Spirit came over me...I felt something different." He then participated in an altar call. He said this changed his life. (He references it again around the 21:10 and 48 minute marks.) This, plus the revelation about pre-marital sex, makes the score...
Personal Experience: 2 | Scripture: 0
Later on, Wilson tells of another experience where his mother sang his father out of a coma by singing a Christian song in his ear.
Personal Experience: 3 | Scripture: 0
|Wilson being interviewed at The Rock Church.|
At another point, Wilson says he predicted that he would marry his current girlfriend, Ciara. According to his statement, this happened before he ever met her. He didn't share what it was that led him to this premonition, though.
Personal Experience: 4 | Scripture: 0
At this point in the video, Wilson tells the audience of how God spoke to him in the middle of a football play. In fact, it was the last play of his season, when he threw the interception in the final seconds of the Super Bowl. God said, "I'm using you." God reportedly goes on to say, "I want to see how you respond; but most importantly, I want them to see how you respond."
Personal Experience: 5 | Scripture: 0
Finally, Wilson quotes Scripture when he references James (correctly) saying, "Consider it pure joy when you go through trials and tribulations," (James 1:2).
Personal Experience: 5 | Scripture: 1
In his explanation of the gospel, Wilson says some questionable things about what salvation is and fails to reference the Bible. (In fairness, the interviewer astonishingly gives him just one minute to answer the question.) He may not have been ready to explain the gospel on stage in front of a huge crowd, but he should always be ready (or at least Scripture says so). At the perfect moment to break out the Bible (or quote it), Wilson sided with a lax description of what salvation is.
Personal Experience: 6 | Scripture: 1
A little later, Wilson is describing sanctification. He references Galatians 5, saying, "If you walk in the Spirit, you get Spirit things." Then finally, the Bible is taken out and read from, as Wilson quotes Romans 8.
Personal Experience: 6 | Scripture: 2
Wilson quotes the "Ask, seek, knock" verbs from Matthew 7.
Personal Experience: 6 | Scripture: 3
He preaches a sermonette at the end and says that God is speaking to him at that very moment.
Personal Experience: 7 | Scripture: 3
Thankfully, around the 40-minute mark it started to become clear that Russell Wilson knows some parts of Scripture. As I watched the whole interview, though, I was astonished at how much he talked about personal revelation and not the Bible. I am glad he finally talked about Scripture; it was just way overshadowed by his own revelations.
If you're familiar with Russell Wilson's Twitter page, you might be thinking, "He talks about Scripture all the time." It's true that he does share a Bible verse each day on Twitter. However, the Christian life is not summed up by a social media profile. In fact, social media tells others very little about who a person is and what's in his or her heart. Letting a person talk for 48 minutes allows the hearer to understand much more.
It's possible that you might be thinking, "Russell Wilson isn't a preacher or teacher," but that's not true. Any time someone is given a platform to impart knowledge, especially while maintaining influence over others, that person automatically (by default) becomes a teacher.
Or maybe you're thinking, "We shouldn't be tearing each other down like this..." Keep reading.
What is there to make of all this?
This post was not made to try to smear the name of Russell Wilson. There are plenty of other people that make the same kind of claims all the time. This is about the Christian view of Scripture.
I do not know Russell Wilson; I have very limited insight into his life and his beliefs. What he shared at this church, though, showed that (at least for that period of time) God's word isn't as authoritative, important, and sufficient as it should be. It's not really an argument about whether or not God communicates with man outside of Scripture. It's a discussion about what we do with those feelings and thoughts that seem like they might be God.
All experiences have to be compared against Scripture. If those experiences confirm something that God has already said (like most of Wilson's revelations listed above do), we don't quote what we think we heard, we quote what we know God has said.
And why's that? Well, just as Peter stated when comparing Scripture with personal experiences, "We have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place..."
But what if something God has said isn't backed up in Scripture? My suggestion would be to discard that thought. It's not needed. Paul said the First Testament alone is enough to make the man of God complete. If God's written word is enough to make believers complete, then what else is needed? Not personal revelation. After all, revelations that are extra-biblical are often how cults get started.
So, consider: Is the Bible all-sufficient?