For 5 years I was the pastor of Trinity International Church in Strasbourg, France. I created this blog with those people in mind. In mid-November 2018 I will become the Senior Pastor of Word of Life Church in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. The focus of this blog will therefore shift, but I pray that people from the blogosphere will continue to find it helpful wherever they might be found.
The churches' websites includes recorded sermons for those who are interested. Click the links below to access them.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Inspired Scripture

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.  2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV)

One Day in School...

I was a religion major in a small university in the United States. Although the school was affiliated with a Christian denomination, it was steeped in humanistic philosophy. My evangelical views sometimes made me a thorn in the side of my professors.

For example, somehow during my final year I had to take a class designed for freshman: Introduction to Theology. It was the final class I needed to take before writing my senior thesis.

During one class period, I raised my hand and said, "Professor, you've been telling us that while Bible has truth in it, modern scholarship has also found that it is full of errors. I am sure that by now modern scholars have developed the definitive list of errors. It would be really helpful for us to have that list, so we would know what we should believe in the Bible and what the mistakes are."

The professor looked at me for a moment and said, "Just a minute" before running out of the room.

Joe Lencioni, shiftingpixel.com
He came back a few minutes later and handed me the list of errors found by modern scholarship!

As he resumed his lecture, I scanned the list. One whole category of "errors" was the "purported miracles" of the Bible. A donkey talking, a bush burning, and a sea parting were all listed as factually untrue. If you are an atheist or hold atheistic presuppositions then miracles must be put on the list of errors. But that isn't scholarship. Scholarship looks at the evidence to decide. The Bible is a book that describes the history of the Hebrew people. It is viewed to be accurate in its accounts of non-miraculous events. Why would it suddenly become inaccurate when describing a miracle? Granted, miracles are highly improbable, but if God did act in history wouldn't we expect an accurate historical account to include those miracles? "Modern scholarship" hadn't proven them to be false and saying they are errors was only a reflection of atheistic skepticism.

There was another category on his list. Things like references to trees clapping their hands, the sun rising, and mountains singing were also on the list of errors. Of course poetic language is involved in each of these passages. One must read and interpret literature in the way it was intended. These weren't errors, only a wrong-headed interpretation of poetic language.

There were numeric errors. For example, one account gives an exact number of people at an event and another gives an approximate number. That isn't an error, but a different standard of reporting. There were genealogical errors which have long been explained via the varying customs of genealogical recording used in different eras.

There wasn't a single item on the list that had been "discovered" by modern scholars. Almost all of the of things on his list had been noted and resolved by scholars centuries earlier. In fact, every item on his list had a plausible explanation. It only took a moment to see that the list really contained no real Biblical errors at all!

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

A Realization.

I realised then that a person's perspective on the authority of the Bible plays a huge role in how they relate to the book and to God. If a person believes that the Bible is filled with mistakes, then they become the authority. The Bible becomes a book of advice, much like any other book in the self-help section of the bookstore. They will read and decide what they like or don't like. They will take its counsel only if it feels right to them, not unlike the advice they hear on a TV talkshow.

But the Bible is not merely a product of human ingenuity. God used human authors to write a book in such a way that it is His Word. It is "inspired". That word means "God-breathed". It is as if he himself wrote it. As such, it is unlike any other book on the planet. It becomes the authority. As our statement of faith puts it, "The Old and New Testament, inerrant as originally given, were verbally inspired by God and are a complete revelation of His will for the salvation of man. They constitute the divine and only rule of Christian faith and practice."

The Bible is the inspired and authoritative Word of God. That means that we are to place ourselves underneath the Bible to learn from it and allow it to change us. We must become biblically literate people who love and cherish the fact that God has spoken to us and given us the Bible as a light and guide for life. 

A Reflection.

As I sat there with his list in my hand, I could not help but wonder about the motivation behind developing a list of errors. I thought about 2 Tim 3:16-17, a passage that teaches that the Bible is inspired by God so that we may be equipped to do the work that he called us to do. The passages says that this equipping takes place in several ways:

Scripture Teaches.

The Bible teaches us about God, about ourselves, and about life. It provides accurate information that can be studied. It was written for our instruction and through faithful application of its truth we will be encouraged and find hope (Rom. 15:4).

Scripture Reproves and Corrects.

The Bible exposes our wrong thinking, attitudes and behaviors. It calls us to correct our course. It challenges us to see things from a new perspective. It calls us to obedience. It calls us to give up selfishness and live a life of love. It calls us to turn away from sin and pursue holiness.

Scripture Trains in Righteousness.

The Bible is like a coach that instructs, corrects, and challenges us so that we learn how to live righteous lives. It teaches us to how to relate to others in a godly way. It teaches us to live a life of worship. It teaches us to develop a lifestyle that reflects the life of God within us.

These four ways Scripture is designed to work in our lives brought the issue of the authority of the Bible into sharp focus. If I am of the opinion that the Bible is a flawed book, a mixture of truth and error, then I am at liberty to take what it says as advice, just like any other book on the shelf. I decide what is right and wrong for me. It leaves me at the center.

But if it is the Word of God, then I must submit to what it teaches. I must allow it to reprove and correct me! I must heed its call to holy living, I must allow it to teach me, I must respond to its commands.

Over the years, I have come to see that often it is the unwillingness to submit to God's Word that is the hidden motivation behind finding reasons to escape its authority in our lives. I've also seen that the Bible has proven itself to be trustworthy and reliable. It can be the foundation for our lives because it is backed up by the authority of God. It is His inspired word.

Those who are interested in solving "problems" in the Bible will want to look at Gleason Archer's Encyclopaedia of Bible Difficulties or Noman Geisler's Big Book of Bible Difficulties

For a greater explanation of the doctrine of Biblical Inerrancy, see the Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy.

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