Michael Horton pens "The Gospel and the Sufficiency of Scripture", a feature this month in Modern Reformation magazine. In it he quotes the best-selling Habits of the Heart, where Robert Bellah and fellow sociologists surveyed religion in the United States. They concluded that it is best described as "Sheilaism," named after one person they interviewed who said that she follows her own little voice. Bellah proposes that every American is the founder of his or her own religion, following the dictates of his or her own heart.
Horton's (very meaty) article wants to focus on the integral connection between the sufficiency of Scripture and the sufficiency of the gospel, but must begin with the reality that the American church is basically millions of different ideas of what scripture and the gospel mean. To the average Christian, Christianity is just the relative way they see Christianity.
If we believe Bellah, within each denomination, within each individual church, a person's understanding of scripture and the gospel are individualized by each person to themselves. This makes each Christian responsible for believing something that will make them feel saved, make them feel like a Christian. This, unfortunately being quite true in my humble opinion, is the very anti-thesis of a gospel of grace.
Is it any wonder that American Christians are mired in legalism, deism, mysticism, prosperity-ism, and yes, Sheillaism. In short, we have made the gospel and scripture all about us, when in reality, the gospel is indeed all about Christ, and what he has done, and the grace freely given to us; that we are saved from sin and death by His righteousness, not our own. We have made a Gospel of grace to be "The Gospel + us (how we understand the gospel and scripture)," as if we are meeting God somewhere between heaven and earth for a compromise, or believing the gospel and scripture in a way that makes sense to us in our circumstances. But the gospel (and scripture for that matter) isn't us meeting God partway, it is wholly God giving to us.
Concerning the church, the gospel, and scripture, Horton rightly explains, "While the church is not the master of the text, it is the amphitheater in which the Word creates the reality of which it speaks, the place where a valley of dry bones becomes a resurrected community (Ezek. 37). Just as we come to God with empty hands to receive Christ in salvation, we come to his Word as hearers rather than as judges and lords. Yet even this emptying of our hands is the judging and liberating work of a God who is too gracious to let us have the last word." Amen.