Professor of Church History and New Testament in the Protestant Reformed Seminary
The church today has lost its spiritual moorings. This is evident from the introduction into the church of various heresies which have infiltrated the church and have sapped her spiritual life. Almost all evangelical and Reformed churches, e.g., have abandoned the truth concerning creation in six days of twentyfour hours and have capitulated to evolutionism. Further, it is becoming increasingly common in evangelical churches to open the special offices in the church to women, a novelty which denies the validity of the church’s position for over 1,500 years of New Testament history.
In many cases, those who have adopted such positions claim to hold to the truth of Scripture. More particularly, they claim to hold to the infallible inspiration of Scripture.
How can this be when Scripture is clear on these issues and both are expressly and strongly condemned by the Word of God?
The answer is easy to find. The claim of belief in an infallible Scripture is a hollow one, for key truths concerning Scripture have been denied.
This pamphlet exposes these erroneous views of Scripture and lays bare the wrong views of Scripture which are so commonly held and which open the door to heresy.
The pamphlet was first delivered as a speech under the sponsorship of the Evangelism Committee of Peace Protestant Reformed Church in Lansing, Illinois. It has been revised and edited to make it suitable for publication in pamphlet form.
May God use this pamphlet to strengthen the faith of those who still fight the battle for the truth of Scripture; and may it serve to bring many to faith in Scripture’s infallible inspiration.
Professor Herman Hanko,
In a certain sense of the word, the title of this pamphlet is a misnomer because it is really impossible, and certainly not necessary, to fight a battle for the Bible. If it is true, as we firmly believe, that the Bible is God’s Word, the Bible will endure until the very end. The Bible does not need our defense. It will endure because it is God’s Word. It is impervious to attack.
In another sense of the word, however, it is important that we fight for the Bible because the truth concerning the Bible is part of the confession of the church of Jesus Christ. We are called upon to defend this confession in the world. It is my purpose to defend that confession in this pamphlet.
Higher Criticism’s Attack On Scripture
It is quite surprising that only in the last two or three hundred years has the battle for the Bible had to be fought. Until the time of the Reformation, and even for a century or a century and a half after the Reformation, there was no need to defend the truth that the Bible is the Word of God because everyone who belonged to the church believed it. The Roman Catholic Church did some terrible things to the Bible. It took the Bible away from the common people of God. It said it was dangerous for the people of God to have the Bible in their possession because the Bible was a book difficult to understand. But the Roman Catholic Church never questioned that the Bible was the Word of God.
For many years after the Reformation, the church as a whole also believed in the truth of Scripture. It is only in relatively recent times that the church has been called upon to defend the truth that the Bible is indeed the Word of God.
The first attacks against the Bible began with what is known as Higher Criticism, which had its origin in Germany somewhere around the end of the seventeenth century and the beginning of the eighteenth century. This higher criticism arose out of the development of modern philosophy and is really a child born from the womb of rationalism. Higher criticism was not found in the church, but in those who dabbled in philosophical matters. It was characteristic of such higher criticism that it denied that the Bible was the Word of God; that is, it denied that the Bible was the Word of God in any kind of a way that was important or significant. It insisted that the Bible was a human production, produced by the church in many bygone centuries to express what the church said concerning God. It is an inspiring book; it is a noble record of a church of centuries past; it can even serve as inspiration to us; it can serve in some respects as instruction; one can be edified by it; its soaring prophecies, its lofty poetry, and its noble thoughts certainly are worth preserving for generations to come. But in no significant way can it be called the Word of God. It is the word of men, men of genius perhaps, but words of men for all that.
I shall not concern myself with higher criticism at this time, although it is still prevalent in the churches, continues to plague many institutions of higher learning, and has entered into the warp and woof of the thinking of many denominations. Those who deny flatly that the Bible is the Word of God are on the periphery of the church and are of little or no concern to me.
It is true that in the last decade or so there are those in denominations which call themselves Reformed who, in the interests of various theological aberrations, are bold to say that the Bible in no meaningful way can be called the Word of God. That is disconcerting, appalling, and a troublesome development. Nevertheless, my main concern is not with outright denials of Scripture as God’s Word.
A More Insidious Denial of Scripture
My main concern is with those who profess to believe that the Bible is the Word of God and yet by, what I can only call, surreptitious and devious means, deny it. This is, surprisingly enough, a position that is taken widely in the evangelical world. Almost all of the literature which is produced in the evangelical world today falls into this category. In the October, 1985 issue of Christianity Today, (the very popular and probably most influential voice of evangelicals in America), a symposium on Bible criticism was featured. The articles were written by scholars from several evangelical seminaries. Not one of the participants in that symposium in Christianity Today was prepared to reject higher criticism. All came to its defense. It became evident that all the scholars from the leading seminaries in this country held to a form of higher criticism.
These men claim to believe that the Bible is the Word of God. At the same time they adopt higher critical methods in the explanation of the Scriptures. This has become so common in evangelical circles that it is almost impossible to find an evangelical professor in the theological schools of our land and abroad who still holds uncompromisingly to the doctrine of the infallible inspiration of the Scriptures. The insidious danger is that higher criticism is promoted by those who claim to believe in infallible inspiration.
Ways In Which Inspiration Is Denied
The truth of the infallible inspiration of the Holy Scriptures is denied in different ways by those who claim to believe this truth.
It is sometimes denied by insisting that, although the Scriptures are infallibly inspired, nevertheless they reflect the mistaken notions and viewpoints of the men whom God used to write them. They reflect a bygone culture. They reflect scientific views that we know today are no longer true but which were considered true by Paul or Peter or Matthew or Moses. And so, it is said, although the Bible is inspired infallibly, nevertheless God saw to it that the human element in Scripture was not so overruled that the mistaken and erroneous views of these men were kept from Holy Writ.
This view of Scripture is used to justify unbiblical positions. Those who defend an evolutionary concept of the origin of the world are quick to insist that they believe that the Bible is the Word of God. If you charge them with denying that the Bible is the Word of God they become extraordinarily exercised and accuse those who charge them with denying inspiration as guilty of slander. At the same time, however, they defend their evolutionism on the grounds that the record of creation, as found in Genesis 1, is not to be taken literally. It may be saga; it may be myth; it may be a doxology which was intended by the church to praise God, the Creator; it may be packaging. But whatever it is, it is not to be taken literally. When God says, ‘Day,’ He does not mean day but something different. In that way they claim to hold to the Scriptures as the Word of God while introducing into the Scriptures heresy.
The same is true of the struggle that is going on at present in the church world over the question of whether or not women may hold ecclesiastical office. There are some who say that, although there are certain passages in Scripture which clearly forbid women to hold ecclesiastical office, nevertheless those passages reflect the culture of the times. Perhaps they are only written because of particular and unique problems that existed in the church of Ephesus where Timothy was pastor, or in the church of Corinth to which the first and second epistle to the Corinthians were addressed. But these passages are not relevant to today’s world. Or, if they do not reflect particular problems that existed in the church of Ephesus or Corinth, they reflect personal opinions which Paul himself held concerning what was best for the church. But in today’s world and in our modern age, those injunctions of the Scriptures are no longer relevant.
Others defend the right of women to hold ecclesiastical office by claiming that Scripture is subject to differences of interpretation. We all believe in the Scriptures as the Word of God. We all accept the same principles of interpretation. But when we apply those principles, they yield different results. Howard D. VanderWiel, for example, in the Banner of March 2, 1992 explains the recent controversy in the Christian Reformed Church over women in office as being ‘differences in interpretation.’ And his point is that all in the Christian Reformed Church agree on the doctrine of Scripture, but these differences are legitimate differences of interpretation and both must be tolerated. Dr. John W. Cooper, in a pamphlet put out under the endorsement of Calvin Theological Seminary, which pamphlet is entitled ‘A Cause for Division? Women in Office and the Unity of the Church,’ took the same fundamental position. We are all agreed that Scripture is the Word of God. We are all agreed on the principles of interpretation. But when we apply those principles we happen to come up with different ideas concerning what they mean. And, therefore, these differences must be tolerated in the church.
That point has been stretched almost beyond endurance. In a recent article, Hendrick Hart, on the basis of this same principle and appealing, in fact, to the pamphlet written by Dr. Cooper, defends homosexuality. He ascribes homosexuality to the fact that, while indeed there are some passages in Scripture which can be interpreted as condemning homosexuality, nevertheless ‘changed historical circumstances invite the church to deal with biblical passages on homosexuality as we have dealt with passages on slavery, usury, war, or the role of women. With these profoundly historical understandings and situations we have been reassured that we need not read the Bible as calling for the very same attitudes called for in biblical times’ (Reformed Believers Press Service News Release, August 28, 1992).
The Underlying Error of These Views
If you will examine these positions, you will find that in them all there is one common theme. That one theme is this: A great deal of emphasis is placed upon the fact that the Bible contains a human element or a human factor. That human element or factor is explained in terms of the fact that God chose men to write the Bible. He chose a Moses, an Isaiah, a Hosea, a Luke, a Peter, a Jude. And when He chose these men to write the Scriptures, He chose men who lived in particular times in the history of the world, men who had particular gifts, men who had particular character traits, men who held to particular views that were formed in the culture in which they lived and from which they could not escape and, therefore, men whose personality, peculiarities, unique gifts, and cultural influences are all reflected in the Scriptures. They will point out to you that it would have been impossible for the apostle Paul to write Psalm 23. Only a poet could write the beautiful and moving words of that familiar Psalm. It took an Isaiah to fill the earth with the soaring prophecies that have stirred the hearts of God’s people over the ages. Peter could not have written those prophecies. Isaiah was the man who had the gifts, the talents, the abilities, character, and personality that was required to write those prophecies. His personality is indelibly stamped upon his writings. There are vast differences between the Proverbs of Solomon and the staid prose of Matthew, the publican. All you have to do is read the Bible and you will discover this truth.
In support of this position, such higher critics appeal to history and remind us that the church has never denied the human element in Scripture.
If the objection is raised that there is no human element in the Scriptures then, rather mockingly, the response is that a denial of the human element in Scripture implies a mechanical theory of inspiration. It is sometimes called the typewriter theory. The authors of Scripture acted only as secretaries that typed at the dictation of the Holy Spirit so that in no way did their own character or personality impress itself upon the Word of God. If Scripture has no human element the Bible simply dropped from heaven and fell to earth with a plop. And this is an obvious denial of the true character of Scripture.
What is not mentioned and conveniently forgotten is that, although it is true that our Reformed fathers in the past sometimes spoke of a human element in Scripture, they nevertheless maintained that the Bible is in every part the Word of God. They believed this with all their hearts. Today’s theologians believe this no longer.
Does Scripture Contain a Human Element?
We must talk about this socalled human element in the Scriptures. It is my judgment that although our Reformed fathers sometimes used that expression and meant something perfectly innocent by it, nevertheless, the day has come when we do better to drop it and not speak of a human element in the Scriptures at all. It may be objected that this is unscholarly but, having read for many years the fruits of biblical scholarship, one can be pardoned for being cynical about its products. The charge of lack of scholarship does not really mean that much any more.
What those who insist on a human element in the Scriptures forget is the doctrines of predestination and providence. It is wrong to speak of a human element in the Scriptures because speaking of a human element in the Scriptures implies a denial of the doctrines of predestination and providence.
It is certainly true that God used men to write the Scriptures. He used them in such a way that He did not override their personalities, gifts, writing styles, and cultural conditioning. Nevertheless when God was making preparations to write Psalm 90 [the song of Moses in the wilderness] He did not look about in the world below to find someone who was suitable to pen the words of that psalm for Him. His eyes did not light on Moses to consider the possibility that Moses would perhaps be a suitable instrument to write Psalm 90. He did not find men with gifts and discover men who had unique capabilities and make use of men who happened to be present whom He could use to accomplish His purpose. He determined them Himself from all eternity. He did not find them already fashioned. He fashioned them by His decree of providence. He 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, schooled in the school of God in the wilderness of Sinai for another forty years, and who would be, by the hand of God, shaped and formed, fitted and endowed with such gifts as were necessary to write the first five books of the Bible. God ordained Him. God prepared him. All that was required to make him suitable for the work was God’s work because the Bible was before the mind of God, in its entirety, long before the world began. A Moses, a Zachariah, an Ezekiel, a Daniel – all these and all the others were instruments fashioned by the sovereign hand of the Creator to write that part of the Bible assigned to them by God from all eternity. Yes, God used men. But they were God’s men, shaped and formed by the hands of the Almighty.
The Scriptures themselves never speak of a human element in inspiration. You may look everywhere; it is in vain. Your search will never produce any results. Not one passage in the whole of the Word of God so much as suggests that the Scriptures have a human element.
The two classical passages for the proof of the infallible inspiration of the Scriptures demonstrate this. II Timothy 3:16 reads: ‘All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.’ That is, all Scripture is Godbreathed. Not, all Scripture is Godbreathed, but through human organs. The text does not say that all Scripture is God-breathed, but by human means. No! All Scripture is God-breathed. And it is only because of this that 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 the Scriptures. It would lose its profitability if you would interject into this truth the element of the work of man.
The classical passage in II Peter 1:20, 21 is perhaps somewhat stronger: ‘No prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation.’ What does that mean? That means that there is no prophecy of the Scriptures, no word of the Scripture, which is the private opinion of those who wrote it. You will not find personal opinions in the Scriptures. You will not find that Scripture expresses the private ideas of those whom God used to write it.
In today’s church world that statement of the Scriptures is flatly denied. God says, ‘No prophecy of the Scripture is the personal opinion of those whom God used to write it.’ Today, when it is pointed out to those who so ardently and passionately defend women in office that the Scriptures are opposed to this position, the answer is that this is the private opinion of Paul. The Bible says no Scripture expresses any private opinion.
The text explains why this is true: ‘Prophecy came not in old time by the will of man.’ It was not the will of man that brought about the Scriptures. His will did not play a role in the writing of the Scriptures. His will did not become the fountain or cause of what is found in the Scriptures. If the will of man played a role in the writing of the Scriptures then you would expect, of course, that there are personal and private opinions in the Scriptures. But that is not the way Scripture came. There is no human element in the Scriptures – not even the human element of the will of man.
How then did the Scriptures come into being? This is the testimony of the Scriptures themselves: ‘Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.’ Does that mean that Peter and Paul were not sinners like you and me? No, they were sinners, too. But when they wrote the Scriptures, they were holy men of God; that is, they were preserved by the Holy Spirit from error. They were, in the writing of the Scriptures, incapable of erring.
They spoke! How is it that they spoke? They were moved by the Holy Ghost. It is striking that the word ‘moved’ in II Peter 2:21 is the same word that is used in the book of Acts to describe how a boat is moved across the waters of the Mediterranean by the force of the wind that fills the canvas of the sails and carries it along across the waters. That is how they were ‘moved by the Holy Spirit.’ They were carried along in such a way by the Holy Spirit that in the writing of the Scriptures their own wills did not play a role.
The only explanation for the Scriptures, therefore, is that the Holy Spirit moved them and they spoke as the Holy Spirit moved them. You do not find a human element in that.
Scripture Is a Miracle
The Scriptures are a miracle. The Scriptures are a miracle not in the loose sense in which we sometimes use that term: the miracle of modern medicine, the miracle of modern surgery. But the preparation of the Scriptures by the Holy Spirit 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, as the manna that fell in the wilderness, as the dead man who was raised from the grave by the bones of the prophet Elisha, as the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
It belongs to all that the Bible describes as miraculous. That is why, if you deny the exclusively divine origin of the Scriptures, sooner or later you are bound to deny the other miracles which Scripture records. The two belong together. The miracle of Scripture’s inspiration is a part of all the miraculous works of God which culminate in the work of our Lord Jesus Christ. The miracles of Scripture point to the miracle of salvation in Christ. The record of the miracles is divinely given throughout sacred history as a miracle in its own right. To deny one miracle is finally to deny them all.
Professor Ralph Janssen taught in the seminary of the Christian Reformed Church in the early 1920s. He was deposed from office for his views on Scripture. He denied their exclusive divine origin. In doing this, he denied many of Scriptures miracles. But, although at that time he was deposed from his office, his views have won. He, first of all, insisted that the Scriptures have a human element. He insisted that it is the business of the seminary to explain that human element in Scripture. But this led to a denial of other miracles. The water that came out of the rock at Rephidim was not water that was created miraculously by God; it was there all the time. It just so happened that when Moses hit the rock with his stick he hit a piece of the rock where the rock was very thin and he broke through that thin piece of rock to release the water. But the water had been there all the time. Why had it been there all the time? Janssen’s answer was: Science has proved that there is no such thing as the creation of new matter. The law of the conservation of matter and energy means that the amount of matter and energy is stable and fixed. God, having once created everything, never creates anything again.
Is it impossible that the God who created the heavens and the earth and all that is in them could not create water in the rock? Why is that impossible? Janssen said this contradicted science. We cannot be contradicting science, after all, because science is the general revelation of God. Science is the word of God, too. And what science says is true. So there was no miracle at Rephidim.
There was no miracle when the Israelites picked up manna. They found bushes in the wilderness which grew these little white seeds on them. It seems strange that enough bushes could be found in a wilderness where in the summer the temperatures reach 100+ degrees to feed three and a half million people for forty years! But the denial of the miracles began with an insistence on the human element in the Scriptures. This led Janssen to a denial of other miracles. Scripture is a part of the miracle, not only because it includes in it the record of miracles. It is a part of God’s miraculous work of salvation in Christ. David alone could write Psalm 23; not Paul. It required a poet. Nobody denies that. But that David could write Psalm 23 by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in such a way that it was totally God’s Word, so that David was carried along by the Holy Spirit as the wind carries along a ship as it sails the waters of the sea, that is the miracle of the Scriptures.
Those who want to talk about a human element in the Scriptures today become so extraordinarily preoccupied with the human element in the Scriptures that they rarely talk about the divine element. That is, they rarely, if ever, talk of what God says in Scripture. This leads to heresy.
‘Openness to the possibility of the supernatural does not imply the acceptance of every claim in Scripture that a supernatural event has occurred. We need not force authors of Scripture to agree on every subject’ (New Testament Criticism and Interpretation, ed. by D.A. Black & D.S. Dockery; p. 87). In other words, we ought not to be surprised if the Scriptures contradict themselves. But does the Holy Spirit contradict Himself? Did the Holy Spirit forget what He said in Genesis so that He says something different in Galatians? ‘Most modern scholars have given up believing that the gospels may be viewed as historically reliable except in certain places’ (Idem., p. 508). These are the words of evangelical scholars.
The insistence on a human element in Scripture leads to another error. Increasingly, theologians speak of the theology of Paul, the theology of John, the eschatology of Peter, etc. It is even sometimes maintained that Paul was not entirely in agreement with Peter in, e.g., the area of eschatology.
But this is wrong. The very name, ‘Theology of Paul,’ suggests that Paul’s view of truth was of his own invention. But even more than that, when such language is used, no mention is made o the theology of the Holy Spirit. If the Scriptures are of divine origin, the Scriptures contain God’s theology. And the believer, accepting the Scriptures as such, is interested only in God’s theology. He does not really care what Paul may have thought about reconciliation. He is not interested in what John thought about the doctrine of the last things. But the believer is vitally interested in what God wrote about these things, for to believe what God says is to be saved; to deny what God says is to perish.
And so such scholars become so preoccupied with this human element in Scripture that they are intent on trying to explain from a human point of view how the Scriptures came into being. We are told, e.g., that if one really wants to know what the Scriptures teach, and one has due regard for the human element, then one must study the writings of the old Jewish rabbis against the background of which the New Testament gospels were written. One must read books on archaeology because the Scriptures can only be understood if one knows the ancient cultures, a knowledge of which comes from bones and pieces of pottery. One ought to read widely in the Jewish Talmud. One had better be thoroughly acquainted not only with the Greek language but with how Greek was used two hundred years before Christ was born, how the language developed, and how Greek was used in the time in which Jesus lived. How ministers are going to make two sermons a week I do not know if all these things are necessary for an understanding of Scripture. And I certainly do not have any idea how the people of God are going to understand the Scriptures if they have to know all these things. We do not have the time to read what the rabbis wrote. If what the rabbis wrote is important to our understanding of Scripture then we are never going to be able to understand the Word of God.
All this does not mean that a study of these things cannot be an aid to Bible studies. But they are not essential to an understanding of Scripture. A man who has not been trained in biology certainly does not know as much about a rose bush as a horticulturist. But this lack of knowledge does not mean that he cannot have roses in his yard which he enjoys. And no one can say that he does not know a rose. He may, in fact, know things about that rose which a specialist in the field cannot know. Preoccupied with the details of the structure of the plant, a specialist may have little time or inclination to enjoy the beauty of the rose. So a believing child of God understands the Scriptures in which he finds his salvation even though he is unaware of the latest findings in archeology. He may, as a believer, know Scripture in a way in which an archeologist never does: Scripture as profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.
The Bible Belongs to the Church
The Scriptures are a miracle – the great miracle of the ages. The great miracle of God is the salvation of the church through Jesus Christ.
Contrary to much popular understanding, the Scriptures are written for the church. They are not written for the world at large. I am offended when in universities there is a religion course which is entitled, ‘The Bible as Literature.’ I am offended by that because a university does not have any business taking my Bible and treating it in its religion classes as a matter of literature. That is tantamount to their discovering the letters of my wife that she wrote me before we were married and taking them to a religion class and teaching a class about the literature of my wife’s letters that she wrote to me. The Bible cannot be taught as literature.
This is not to say that it is not literature. It is some of the most glorious and beautiful literature that has ever been written. But it cannot be taught as literature. The Bible is for the church. It is not for a university. The Bible is the loveletter of Christ, the Bridegroom, to His elect bride. And what the Bible has to say, therefore, is no one’s business except that of the bride.
What is the message that rings through the Scriptures from beginning to end? It is the great truth of Isaiah 40:1: ‘Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people, said your God.’ Christ, the Bridegroom, writes a personal, private letter of love to His bride so that she may have that letter while they are separated from each other for a little while. When they are together and the wedding is consummated at the return of Christ there will not be any need for the letter. But, in the meantime, the church has the letter. And it is hers!
The Scriptures and Sovereign Grace
One can maintain the truth concerning the Holy Scriptures as the Word of God only if one maintains the fundamentally Reformed truth that salvation is by grace alone.
What has happened in our day? The doctrine of sovereign grace has been denied. The church has fallen into the error of Arminianism; i.e., that there is a human element in the work of salvation; that man himself must contribute something to his salvation. But if one introduces into the work of salvation the work of man, this human element is also going to be introduced into the inspiration of Scripture. The two stand or fall together. If one introduces into the Scriptures a human element, one will also introduce into the work of salvation a human element. If salvation is the work of God, the Scriptures are the work of God. The two stand or fall together.
No wonder that fundamentalist circles are always fighting the battle for the Bible. Arminianism in soteriology leads to Arminianism in Scripture. How can one expect to maintain that the Bible is the Word of God when Arminianism in soteriology and in the doctrine of salvation has become common doctrine? And how can a church today piously pray for faith to believe an infallible inspiration of the Scriptures when it has lost the doctrine of sovereign grace in the work of salvation? The Scriptures belong to the work of salvation so much that without the Scriptures there would be no salvation. Salvation itself is dependent upon this book. That is the marvel of Scripture.
I do not know how often now you have read through the Scriptures from cover to cover. But they are that kind of book that every time you read them they are new and fresh. There are things in the Scriptures that you never knew were there – treasures that are mined from them. There is not another book in the whole world like that! To believe them is to be saved.
The Miracle of Scripture’s Power
I have a library full of books. When I read a book I close it and say, ‘That’s that. I read the book.’ I put it on the shelf and say, ‘I don’t have to read that book again. I know what’s in that book.’ But you can never do that with the Bible.
Let me tell you a little story. It is a story that affected me profoundly. One of my professors in the days of my seminary was Rev. Herman Hoeksema. We were sitting in the lounge having coffee on his seventieth birthday. And as is characteristic of an old man on his birthday he was reminiscing. In the course of his reminiscences he made this astounding remark: ‘You know, men,’ he said, ‘from a certain point of view I wish I could live another seventy years. I wish that because now that I am seventy years old I think that I am beginning to understand the Scriptures a little bit. And maybe in another seventy years I could make some progress.’ But then he quickly shook his head and said, ‘No, no. I don’t want to live seventy more years because I am going to be in heaven in a short time and then I’ll understand perfectly.’ But the astonishing part of it was that he had forgotten more than we had ever hoped to know. And here was a man who, at seventy, said, ‘I think I’m beginning to understand the Scriptures a little bit.’ That is because of their depth. You can read them a hundred times and they are always new. That is part of their miracle. Their miracle is that there is not another book like it because when you believe the word of the Scriptures, when you believe what the Scriptures say, then you believe Christ.
I read, not so long ago, the autobiography of Lee Iacocca, the president of the Chrysler Corporation. I read what Iacocca said about himself. After I read that book I knew what Iacocca said about himself. But if you asked me, ‘Do you know Iacocca now?’ my answer would have been, ‘No, I don’t know him.’ No book can give me the knowledge of a person. It can give me some knowledge about a person, but never the personal knowledge of acquaintance. The Scriptures can and do give us such personal knowledge when we believe them. The Scriptures, in believing them, bring us to Christ Himself. We stand before His face. They are not a biography or even an autobiography. They are the powerful book that they are because in believing them we lay hold on Christ! And in laying hold on Christ we lay hold on God. That is a miracle.
Faith Alone Believes the Scriptures
The Scriptures are a book which, believing them, give us Christ Himself. This means that the Scriptures must be received by faith as the Word of God. There is a lot of misunderstanding on this point. We do not prove that the Scriptures are the Word of God. Practically every commentator and practically every book on Introduction to the New Testament feel compelled to prove that the Scriptures are the Word of God and feel compelled to prove that what the Scriptures say is true. Let me quote: ‘Contrary to the fear of many historians’ openness to the possibility of the supernatural does not entail the acceptance of every claim that a supernatural event had occurred. Every such claim must be evaluated case by case with attention to such things as the nature of the event and especially the evidence backing up the claim. In the latter the extent and character of the witness to the event are especially important. The Bible is open to historical research and investigation and the historical accuracy of the record must be decided on rational and empirical grounds’ (Idem., p. 87 – my emphasis, HH). In Galatians we read: ‘Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ.’ Well, did Paul write that epistle or did h not? You say, ‘Well, it says so.’ Yes, but I do not know. We have to prove it. And so writers spend a hundred pages of extraordinarily learned investigation proving that, after all, Paul wrote Galatians. My threeyear old child or grandchild whom I take on my knee when I read Galatians says, ‘Why of course Paul wrote that. It says so right there, Grandpa.’ But that is not enough, it is said. You have to prove it.
And so the Bible becomes the object of rational and empirical proof. We cannot accept anything without proving it. We may not do that. We may not attempt to prove the Bible as the Word of God. When someone comes to me and says to me, ‘Prove that the Bible is the Word of God,’ I say, ‘Well, the Bible says so! Read II Timothy 3:16. Read II Peter 1:21. It says so.’ He says, ‘Yes, but how can I be sure that it is true what the Bible says?’ I say to him, ‘Man, if you don’t believe what the Bible says, then I’m sorry, but I can’t help you.’ The point is, that the kind of proof which the rationalist and empiricist want is the kind of proof which the believer does not need; and which, if it could be given, would not convert or persuade a single soul. Those who will not accept the Bible as the Word of God will not be persuaded if Gabriel himself came from heaven and said it was, or if the voice of God from on high said, ‘The Bible is My Word.’ The scholars who would scurry from their classrooms would say, as the Jews did when the voice of God came from heaven to Jesus, ‘It thundered.’ There is no proof you can muster that will convince the unbeliever, for faith is the gift of God.
But the child of God who comes to the Scriptures by faith, which is the only way to come, does not need that kind of proof.
Let me give you an illustration.
Supposing you had come to Adam in Paradise, when he stood in the midst of God’s world and when heaven and earth and every creature sang loud doxologies of praise to God, and you had tapped Adam on the shoulder and said, ‘Adam, prove to me that God made the world.’ Adam would have said, ‘Are you out of your mind? If you can’t hear the Word of God in the singing of the birds and if you can’t see the word of God in the flowers, I don’t know what kind of proof I can muster that will possibly persuade you, when the whole world is full of the Word of God and all of it shouts of God its Maker. If you can’t hear that, I can’t find any proof to convince you.’
Supposing I am in Germany and my wife is in Grand Rapids and she writes me a letter. I eagerly tear open that letter to read it. Supposing someone comes to me and says, ‘How do you know your wife wrote this letter?’ I say, ‘Well, look. Her signature is here.’ He says, ‘Yes, but how can you be sure? Maybe someone forged her signature. After all, it’s typed. Maybe someone sat down at a typewriter and then typed her name.’ I will say to him, ‘Well, I know this is her letter. This is the way she talks. This is the way she writes. These are the things she would talk about. These are the things I want to hear. And if that isn’t proof to you, well, I’m sorry. Let me alone because I want to read the letter.’
That is the way 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, ‘Well, it says so. His signature is on every page!’ And if he says, ‘Well, I don’t see it,’ then I say, ‘I’m sorry. I don’t know what proof I need to convince you. But I know it is! This is my Bridegroom writing to me in all my sorrow.’ And he says, ‘How do you know that?’ And I say, ‘I know Him. This is the way He would write. These are the things about which He would speak.’
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 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.’
I know, I know with a certainty, I know beyond all proof that He whom I love, to whom I belong, and with whom someday I shall dwell, is the Savior who wrote to me in this sorrowful life this glad and marvelously wonderful letter without which I cannot get from here to glory.
That is faith.
And that is the only way to come to the Word of God. If you do not come that way, the Scriptures are not going to speak to you. Luther said that four hundred and fifty years ago. You come as a little child. You come humbly. You do not need to read the rabbis. You do not need to know the latest in archaeological findings. You do not need to know the Greek and the Hebrew. You do not need to be learned in Talmudic lore. All you need is the spirit of a little child, the spirit of Samuel who said, ‘Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth.’ Then the Scriptures will speak to you. It does not make any difference whether you are a little child or whether you are an old man. They will speak to you. They will speak to you of things great and marvelous because they will speak to you of that which is your salvation.
There were saints in the past who went to the stake for this Bible, who hung from gallows for this Bible, who were drowned or roasted over open fires because they wanted this Bible. Nothing like that is required of us, not yet. Someday it might be, but not yet. Are we going to let them take it away from us?
It is not hard to answer them. It is not hard to put all their socalled learning to flight. I believe that the Bible is the Word of God and that what it says is true. And I believe it because Jesus Himself says so in Scripture.
That Bible I am going to take with me because this way that you and I have to walk is a very difficult way, a way of suffering, of shame, of disappointment, of grief, of pain, of persecution; a way that is impossible to walk, that really we cannot walk except we take this Word with us. And wherever we take this Word, whether we take it along with us to the hospital or to the cemetery to bury our loved ones; whether we take it in our hearts to prison and the gallows, that Word is enough – always marvelously, wonderfully enough for all our needs, because it brings to us Christ.
May God give us grace to fight in defense of that truth.