Make Use of Any Human Author

Puritan Richard Sibbes, in a short book titled A Christian’s Portion [Works, 4:2–38], fleshed out 1 Corinthians 3:21–23. At one place he makes the point that the Church possesses all truth, even that of non-Christian authors. In one passage Sibbes writes [page 18]:

Again, ‘all things are ours’ [1 Cor. 3:21]. Therefore truth, wheresoever we find it, is ours. We may read [a] heathen author. Truth comes from God, wheresoever we find it, and it is ours, it is the church’s. We may take it from them as a just possession. Those truths that they have, there may be good use of those truths; but we must not use them for ostentation. For that is to do as the Israelites; when they had gotten treasure out of Egypt, they made a calf, an idol of them. So we must not make an idol of these things. But truth, wheresoever we find it, is the church’s. Therefore with a good conscience we may make use of any human author. I thought good to touch this, because some make a scruple of it.

Yes, some do even to this day.

6 thoughts on “Make Use of Any Human Author

  1. So, Tony, forgive my thick-headedness, but are you, and Sibbes saying, “Use [heathen] authors and the truth they use, but do not lift them up like an idol. Do not worship them.” ?

    Sorry, I was just a bit confused.

  2. Yes, that is a great line he adds in there. Do not idolize “human knowledge” and authors, but make great use of it for the glory of God. In other words, all that we learn should point us to the source of all truth, not to idolize the human author.

  3. Just read that passage this morning (M’Cheyne!), and don’t get me wrong, I love Sibbes, but that does not seem to be the point of 1 Cor 3:21.

    Paul is arguing for the continuity of the planters and sowers among the Corinthians as given by God to the building of His church, which makes their factions all the more heinous and unnecessary.

    Interestingly, in nearly the same breath, Paul writes “the wisdom of this world is folly with God” (3:19).

    I take this as a good reminder to read every author – unbelieving and believing – with great discernment. For even though Sibbes was sincere, it does appear that in this instance he was sincerely wrong.

    All Scripture is God’s truth (John 17:17).

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