The Bible Under Attack
Until two or three hundred years ago, virtually everyone who claimed to belong to the church believed that the Scripture is the Word of God. True, the Roman Catholic Church, denying that the Bible could be understood by common people, insisted that it should not be given them in their own language. But even then, it never questioned that Scripture was the Word of God. Only in recent centuries has the Bible come under serious attack.
The first attack began with what is known as Higher Criticism. It arose in Germany around the end of the 17th century as an outgrowth of rationalism and modern philosophy. It insisted that the Bible was a human product, brought about by the church in bygone centuries to express what individualmen had to say about God.
Although Higher Criticism, in its extreme form, is still prevalent in many congregations and institutions of higher learning, this is not my chief concern. My main concern is with those who claim to believe that the Bible is the Word of God but surreptitiously deny it by claiming the Bible is both a divine and a human production. It is a position that is widely taken today in the evangelical world.
Denial of Infallible Inspiration
The most common argument that undermines the Bible goes something like this: Although the Scripture is infallibly inspired by God, it nevertheless reflects the notions and viewpoints of the men whom God used to write it, men whose thinking was influenced by a by gone culture and betrays a lack of scientific knowledge.
This view is typically used by those who have adopted the evolutionary theory of the world’s origin. While claiming that the Bible is the Word of God, they insist that Genesis 1 is not a literal account of creation. It may be saga; it may be myth; it may be a doxology intended by the church to praise God the Creator; but whatever it is, Genesis 1 is not to be taken literally.
A similar argument is employed by those who advocate woman elders and preachers. They concede that certain passages in the Bible do forbid women from holding ecclesiastical office. But those injunctions, they say, applied to the culture and customs prevailing at the time when the Bible was written and are no longer relevant in the modern world. Likewise, there are those who agree that some passages in the Bible “can be interpreted” as condemning homosexuality, but that changing social environments require the church to deal with such passages on homosexuality as we have dealt with passageson slavery, usury, war, or the role of women.
Underlying Error – Behind these positions is this common theme:
The Bible, though inspired, contains a human element or factor because it was penned by men that were specifically chosen by God. He chose those men because they lived in particular times in the history, had particular gifts and particular character traits, and held views that were formed in the culture in which they lived. And God allowed their personalities, their unique gifts, and their cultural influences to be incorporated into the Scripture.
The trouble is, such an argument forgets the doctrines of predestination and providence. True, God used men to write the Scripture without overriding their personalities, gifts, writing styles, and cultural conditioning. Nevertheless, when God wanted any given passage recorded, He did not look about in the world below to find someone who was suitable to pen what He had in mind. Rather, He had determined the writers Himself from all eternity. And He fashioned them by His decree of providence.
For example, God eternally ordained in His counsel that there would be a Moses, born at a given time, trained for forty years in the palace of Pharaoh, and schooled in the wilderness of Sinai for another forty years. He was in this way shaped and fitted and endowed with such gifts as were necessary to write the first five books of the Bible. God ordained Moses. God prepared him. All that was required to make him suitable for the work was God’s work.
This vital truth is reflected in Jeremiah 1:4-5:
“The word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Before I formed thee in the belly, I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.”
God worked in this way because God eternally planned the entire Scripture along with each individual which He would use to prepare it.
Human Theologies – The insistence that there is a human element in Scripture leads to yet another error. Increasingly, theologians speak of the theology of Paul, the theology of John, the eschatology of Peter, etc. This is wrong.
The very term “theology of Paul” suggests that Paul’s view of truth was of his own invention. When such language is used, the theology of the Holy Spirit in never mentioned. The fact is that because Scripture is of divine origin, it contains only God’s theology, and the believer, accepting the Scripture as such, is interested only in what God says is truth.
Yet, scholars preoccupied with the idea of a human element in Scripture are intent on explaining how the Scripture came into being from a humanpoint of view. To understand this human element, they say, a great deal of additional knowledge is required.
We are told, for example, that to understand what the Bible teaches, one must be well informed in archaeology, because we can know the ancient cultures in which the Old Testament was written from bones and pieces of pottery. One must study old Jewish, Greek and Roman writings to learn the kind of thinking that prevailed when the New Testament gospels were written. One ought to be thoroughly acquainted with the Greek language as it was used two thousand years ago to know what any given New Testament versemeans.
Own Dictionary – I am not saying that a study of these things cannot be an aid to Bible studies. But they are not essential to understanding the Scripture. The Bible is its own dictionary and commentary, for Scripture interprets Scripture. God speaks in Scripture. He speaks to those who come to Scripture in faith. It does not require the wisdom of the world to be understood. In fact, God says in 1 Corinthians 1:26-27: “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.”
The two classical passages for the proof of the infallible inspiration of the Scripture demonstrate this. We read in 2 Timothy 3:16: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God.”
That is, all Scripture is God-breathed. The text does not say that all Scripture is God-breathed, but by human means. It simply says, all Scripture is God-breathed, and it is only because of this that all Scripture is “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”
If you would qualify or modify the God-breathed character of Scripture in any way you could not add the rest of what is said concerning Scripture. It would lose its power to save, for man’s word cannot save anyone from sin.
The statement in 2 Peter 1:20-21 is even stronger: It begins, “No prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.”
This means that there is no word in the Bible that is the private opinion of the humanthat wrote it.
Why is it so?
The text itself explains: “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man.”
It was not the will of man that brought about the Bible.
Holy Men – Had the will of man played a role in the writing of the Scriptures, then some personaland private opinions would be expected to be in the Scriptures. But that is not the way Scripture came.
How then did the Scriptures come into being?
The Bible’s own answer:
“but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”
Peter and Paul and Daniel and all the other men that were used by God to write parts of the Bible were all sinners like you and me. But when they wrote the Scripture, they were holy men of God; that is, they were preserved from error by the Holy Spirit. In their writing of the Scriptures, they were incapable of erring.
Moreover, when they spoke, they were moved by the Holy Ghost. That word “moved” is the same word that is used in Acts 27 to describe how the ship taking Paul to Rome was driven by the force of the wind. It was out of the control of the men on board. So, the holy men writing the Bible were carried along by the Holy Spirit in such a way that in the writing their own wills did not play a role whatsoever.
A Miracle – The Bible, we must keep in mind, is a miracle. The writing of the Scripture by the Holy Spirit through holy men is the same kind of miracle as the fall of the walls of Jericho, as the water that came out of the rock in Rephidim, and as the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, if one denies the exclusively divine origin of the Scripture, sooner or later one is going to deny the other miracles which Scripture records. The two belong together. The miracle of the Scripture is a part of all the miraculous works of God.
One can maintain the truth concerning the Holy Scripture being the Word of God only if one maintains the fundamental truth that salvation is by grace alone. Sadly, the doctrine of sovereign grace has also been substantially denied of late. The church has fallen into the error of the doctrine of free will i.e., there is a human element in the work of salvation; that man himself must contribute something to his salvation. When the work of man is introduced into the work of salvation, the human element is also introduced into the inspiration of Scripture. The two stand or fall together. The miracle of Scripture is part of the miracle of salvation.
Faith Alone – In the final analysis, we must realize that the Scripture is a book which, believing it, gives us Christ Himself. This means that the Scripture can only be received by faith. Proof that the Bible is the Word of God does not lie in rational and empirical proof. The unbeliever denies Scripture, not because he is ignorant, but because he is wicked. Only saving faith can change man’s hatred of God. Faith receives the Scriptures because faith gives one living fellowship with God in Christ.
Supposing I am abroad and my wife writes me a letter from home. As I eagerly read that letter, someone says to me, “How do you know your wife wrote this letter? Maybe someone typed it and forged her signature.” I’ll say to him, “Well, I know this is her letter because I know her. This is the way she talks. This is the way she writes. These are the things she would talk about.”
Personal – That’s how it is with the Bible. When someone comes to me and says “Prove to me that the Bible is written by God,” then I say, “I believe it is because I know the Author. This is the way He would write. His signature is on every page! This is my heavenly Father talking to me. This is my Bridegroom writing to me, His Bride.”
And if he says, “I don’t see it,” then I say, “I’m sorry. There is nothing I can say to convince you. I just pray that God will open your eyes.”
That is what faith is, is it not?
Faith is not a leap in the dark. Faith is not the acceptance of something which no one can prove, a kind of blind acceptance of the unprovable. Faith is the bond that puts one in fellowship with Christ. Faith causes us to know Him as our Christ.
And then when His letter comes to us, we say, “This is what He would say. This is what I want and need to hear. I know that He wrote it. I’m married to Him. He is my Bridegroom. And if you don’t believe that, I’m sorry. The letter is not for you anyway. Please leave me alone. I want to read my letter.”
By Herman Hanko