Certain teachings are of the essence of Christianity. Often they arc spoken of as Christian fundamentals. They are indeed basic to the Christian religion. The doctrine that the Bible is the Word of God is the most basic of them all, for the whole of Christianity is derived from the Bible. All Christian teachings, whether doctrinal or ethical, are drawn from the Bible. According to Christianity the acid test of truth and goodness is Scripturalness.
The Reasons for Accepting the Bible as the Word of God
There are so-called rational arguments for the proposition that the Bible is the Word of God. Following arc some of them.
The Bible contains prophecies which have been strikingly fulfilled. For a few examples, the Old Testament foretold that the Saviour would he born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), that his mother would be a virgin (Isaiah 7:14), that men would cast lots over his clothing (Psalm 22:18). The New Testament tells us that all this came to pass. Obviously only God, who sees the things of tomorrow as if they had happened yesterday, can predict future events in such detail and with such precision. That is an excellent argument.
The sixty-six books of the Bible were written by a considerable number of men -we do not know exactly how many—over some sixteen centuries. Yet the Bible never contradicts itself. This is a remarkable fact. Two books on relate(t subjects written sixteen years apart by one man would almost certainly contain a number of inconsistencies. The self-consistency of the Bible is evidence that its human authors were all of them controlled by one mind, the mind of the Holy Spirit. Those to the contrary notwithstanding who contend that the Bible contains contradictions, that too is an excellent argument.
Throughout the centuries the Bible has been attacked as no other book ever was, but it has withstood every onslaught. For example, the critics used to say that Moses could not possibly have written the first five books of the Bible, the Pentateuch, for the simple reason that writing was unknown in his day. By this time we know that already in the days of Abraham the Canaanites corresponded with one another by means of inscribed tablets. That fact coupled with the fact that Moses was “instructed in all the wisdom 01 the Egyptians” (Acts 7:22) utterly destroys this contention. For one more example, the Old Testament makes frequent mention of “the Hittites.” It has been asserted that no such people existed. But inscriptions discovered some years ago in the Orient speak of the Hittites as an influential nation. Again the critics were wrong, the Bible was right. Instances of that kind could easily be multiplied. The story of the blacksmith who piled up in a comer of his shop all the hammers which had been broken over several decades on one anvil, while, of course, proving nothing, can illustrate rather aptly the point at issue. The Bible resembles that anvil; the attacks made on the Bible are like those broken hammers. One is reminded of the words of wisdom spoken by Gamaliel to the Jewish Sanhedrin with reference to the preaching of the apostles: “If this counsel or this work be of men, it will be overthrown; but if it be of God, ye will not be able to overthrow them, lest haply ye be found even to be fighting against God” (Acts 5:38, 39).
The Bible’s influence. too, is an argument for its being the Word of God. It has been instrumental in transforming the most wicked of men into saints, criminals into Christians. It is beyond all doubt the most powerful means by which God operates among and in the children of men. It is “living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword. and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
Let us suppose that the foregoing arguments, and several others just as forceful as these, are presented to an infidel. Let us further suppose that this infidel is silenced by those arguments. Does it follow that he has become a believer? Not necessarily. God may, perhaps, use such argumentation as a means to lead the unbeliever to faith, but it takes more than mere argumentation to transform him into a believer. Popularly put, unbelief is a matter not only of the head, but of the heart. The unbeliever’s trouble is that his heart is not right with God. And only God the Holy Spirit is able to give a heart of flesh for one of stone. That He does in bestowing the grace of regeneration, the new birth.
There are compelling reasons for accepting the Bible as the Word of God in what theologians speak of as “the testimony of the Holy Spirit.” That testimony is twofold. The Holy Spirit testifies in the heart of the regenerated person that the Bible is the Word of God. That is commonly called his internal testimony. The Holy Spirit also testifies in the Bible itself that the Bible is the Word of God. That is usually designated his external testimony.
To elucidate what is meant by the inward testimony of the Holy Spirit an illustration may prove helpful Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones are seated in the same room. From behind a closed door comes a voice. Smith queries, “Who is that speaking?” Jones replies, “It’s my father.” Smith asks, “How do you know it is your father?” Jones answers, “Of course, it is my father. Don’t I know my own father? And if I know him wouldn’t I recognize his voice?” Who has been born again knows God. Not only docs he have some, or for that matter much, knowledge about God; he knows God in the sense in which Jesus used that term when he said: “This is life eternal, that they should know thee, the only true God, and him whom thou didst send, even Jesus Christ” (John 17:3). Because he knows God he recognizes the voice of God coming to him in Holy Writ.
That the Holy Spirit witnesses in the Bible to the Bible’s being the Word of God is clear from such passages as II Timothy 3:16– “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” and II Peter 1:21 – “No prophecy ever came by the will of man, but men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit.”
Incidentally it may be said here that the authoritative Scriptures are, of course, the original manuscripts. Their authors were led by the Holy Spirit so as to record the Word of God infallibly. And, although subsequent copyists were not so led, it is evident that throughout the centuries God has kept watch over the text of the Bible with a very special providence. As Edward J. Young has said so well in Thy Word Is Truth: “In His mysterious providence, God has preserved His Word. We do not have a Bible which is unreliable and glutted with error, but one that in most wondrous fashion presents the Word of God and the text of the original” (p. 61).
Subtle Denials of the Bible as the Word of God Scripture tells us that Sabin goes about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (I Peter 5:8). it also tells us that the father of lies often operates deceptively as an angel of light ( II Corinthians 11:14). He and his servants have made, and are making, some truly subtle attacks on the Bible as the Word of God.
There are at least two ways of destroying a house. The obvious and quick way is to blow it up with dynamite. A less obvious and slower, but in the long run no less effective, way is to break it down one brick or one board at a time. Admittedly the latter way has an advantage over the former. It will not shock the sensibilities of the occupants of the house quite so much. In his striving to destroy the foundation of the faith of God’s saints, namely God’s excellent Word, the great deceiver often employs subtle devices.
The Roman Catholic Church has always confessed the Bible to be the infallible Word of God. In these days of rapprochement of Roman Catholicism and Protestantism that fact is receiving much emphasis. However, Rome has always denied. and still keeps denying, the sufficiency of the Bible as the Word of God. It teaches that there are two infallibles: the Bible and the Church. And so it holds tenaciously to certain teachings which, although not found in the Bible, have the backing of tradition. Among them are the doctrine of purgatory, the doctrine of the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary by her mother Anna, and, since November 1, 1950, the doctrine of the assumption of Mary into heaven. Protestant mystics are guilty of a similar error. They too say that special revelation was not completed when the sixty-six books of the Bible had been written. Special revelation, say they, is continuous. It comes to them, they claim. through the “inner light,” the “Christian consciousness,” and “religious experience.” So corrupt is human nature that he who today places something else on a par with the Bible is practically certain to exalt that other thing above the Bible tomorrow. And so it is not strange that many traditions of the Roman Catholic Church contradict the Bible. Nor is it surprising that mysticism, prevalent as it is among liberal Protestants, sets much more store by subjective religious experience than by the objective Word of God.
One of the most ancient of all heresies is that the Word of God is in the Bible but the Bible is not the Word of God. That heresy is also extremely prevalent today. It has been said that only the New Testament is the Word of God, not the Old; that only the words of Jesus in the New Testament are the Word of God, not the words, for example, of Paul; that of the words of Jesus only the Sermon on the Mount is the Word of God. Karl Barth, who has long told us that the Bible becomes the Word of God when it truly affects the reader or hearer, also assures us that the Bible is the Word of God although it contains . numerous human errors. Emil Brunner has said that listening to the Bible is much like listening to a phonograph record of Caruso. As in the latter case one hears the voice of the great Italian tenor but also at least a little scratching of the needle on the record, even in the case of Hi-Fi, so in the former case one hears the voice of the infallible God but also unavoidably the voices of the fallible human authors of the Bible. A young preacher once told me that he could put the stamp of his approval on the teaching of the Lord Jesus by and large, the only exception being Jesus’ teaching of eternal punishment. What is truly alarming and highly deceptive, some self-styled conservative theologians are agreeing with the Socinians, the liberals of the Reformation age, that the Bible is indeed the infallible rule for faith and life, but contains many teachings which have no direct bearing on faith and life and in those teachings is fallible.
To name one more deceptive denial of the Bible as the Word of God, there are those who say that the authority of the Bible is only that of an expert. As the ancient Greeks were expert in matters of art and the ancient Romans were expert in matters of law, so, we are told, the ancient Hebrews were expert in matters of religion; and the Bible came into being when the most expert of these Hebrew experts recorded their religious experiences. We are advised that it would be foolish of us to refuse to give heed to those experts. However, even experts are fallible. Before the great depression of the thirties more than one expert financier kept predicting uninterrupted prosperity. And expert astronomers are not agreed on the composition of the moon. If the Bible has only the authority of an expert, it is fallible. But the Bible claims to come with the authority of the sovereign God. “Thus saith the Lord” is its theme. In short, it lays claim to divine infallibility.
The Importance of Upholding the Bible as the Word of God
There is a story of an army which had suffered defeat in battle and was now in precipitate flight. The victorious army kept shooting down one fleeing soldier after another. However, at long last the defeated army arrived at a place of safe retreat, the only thing wrong with it by then being that not a single soldier was left alive. That story has been applied to the Bible. Once we grant that not the entire Bible is the Word of God, we are sure to lose one part after another until finally nothing is left of it but the covers. So we are told. Is that an exaggeration? Rather it is an understatement. He who would decide by his own wisdom what in the Bible is the Word of God and what is not, is not going to lose the entire Bible but has lost it. By the very act of setting himself up as the judge of the Bible he has denied that it is the Word of the sovereign God.
Many theologians today tell us that the Bible is not the infallible Word of God but a fallible human witness to the infallible personal Word of God, Jesus Christ. Confusion worse confounded is difficult to imagine. How do we know that Jesus is the infallible personal Word of God but from the Bible? If the Bible is fallible, perhaps this teaching of the Bible is in error. And did not Jesus himself tell us that the Bible is infallible? He asserted, “The Scripture cannot be broken”—and affirmed, “Thy Word is truth” (John 10:35, 17:7). He declared, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matthew 5:17–18). If the written Word is not infallible, the personal Word is a liar. In short, nothing could be clearer than that the infallibility of the Bible and the infallibility of the Christ stand or fall together. He who denies the former rejects the latter.
Two supremely important questions are with us every moment of our lives. It is utterly impossible to dodge either of them. They are: What is true? and what is good? God has answered both of these questions for us in the Bible, and, of course, his answers arc right. To reject the Bible as the Word of God is to reject those answers. And he who docs that is like a vessel drifting on the ocean without rudder or compass. He is at sea in the most complete and most terrifying sense of that term.
He who rejects the Bible as the Word of God has nothing to live by. Neither docs he have anything to die by. Unless we are going to live until the second coming of our Lord, all of us are sure to die. “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Are we ready for the judgment? Are we prepared to meet God? We are only if we believe in him whose name is the only name “under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12) and who declared, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father but by me” (John 14:6). The one and only Saviour is the Christ of Holy Scripture.
During the last weeks of his life Professor Kuiper, whose incisive and instructive articles often appeared in TORCH AND TRUMPET, busied himself with preparing for publication a volume entitled THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO. God did not allow him to complete this work. We are pleased in this issue dedicated to him from whom we learned so much to print this material which was intended to serve as the opening chapter.