John H. Gerstner
The Testimony of Divinely Commissioned Messengers as the Basis for Bible Inerrancy
(a) The Argument from Commissioned Messengers to Inspired Bible.
Let us outline the steps of this argument before proceeding to explain it:
1. There is a God. This must be assumed here. This is a small, popular Primer on Bible Inerrancy. Time, space and the nature of the undertaking make certain assumptions inevitable. What is here an assumption (the existence of God) has been proven elsewhere in many, many volumes. If the reader of the Primer does not believe in God’s existence its argument may interest him but it cannot possibly convince him. We must believe there is a God before we can consistently believe that there is a special revelation of God in the Bible or anywhere.
But here we will detour a little for there are many today who say that we can only know the existence of God from special revelation (such as the Bible). Exactly opposite to what we said in the preceding paragraph they contend that God is utterly unknown until he supernaturally discloses himself. We say: God cannot supernaturally reveal himself until he has naturally made his existence known. They say: No, his existence cannot be naturally known until he supernaturally reveals himself.
Let us examine their view. According to it:
First. There is a book, the Bible, claiming the existence and revelation of God.
The paucity of this approach is plain to see. First, we would have no possible tests to ascertain whether the deity revealed in the Bible is what he says he is. We do not know, on this view, that there is such a being nor whether this Biblical being is such. If this be God we can only accept it on his own word. We would not trust a dollar to a human being whose honesty we know only because he claims it. Here we trust our lives to a being whose Godness and whose very existence we know only from himself. Custom inspectors look at a visitor to see whether he resembles the picture in the passport before they admit him to their nation. But here comes a God without passport; a God who wants to rule our lives merely because he says he has a right to do so. If this were not bad enough, we have, second, the further objection that there are many claimants to this role of God. Many books present their candidates. If we worshiped any one of them without credentials we would be out of our mind; if we worshiped all of them we would be multiple-schizophrenic.
No, there must be evidence of the existence of God from the creation, of which we ourselves are the most exalted part, if we are to recognize a further revelation of this glorious being, if and when it comes. So here we assume, what most people do quite rightly assume, that God exists. This we can safely assume here only because it is proven elsewhere. Otherwise, the assumption would be gratuitous.
2. Men were made in God’s image, rational creatures. This point also we must largely assume because of the limitation of this little book. But this is a very safe assumption, is it not? If we were not rational beings, you would not be reading this (or any other) book in your search for knowledge, nor would we be writing books. Aristotle was quite right: man is a rational animal. If we were not rational beings no one could prove (for this involves reasoning) that we were not rational beings. We could not even think that we were not. So our rationality must be assumed for even to deny it is to assume it.
3. As rational beings, men are designed to make their choices on the basis of evidence.
Being rational beings they are not the mere product of natural forces. They choose according to reason (or what appears reason). That is virtually the definition of a rational being. If he were merely the product of external forces how could his own reason and will be operative and if not, how could he be a rational being?
Being rational beings they are not the mere product of supernatural forces. That is, not only does nature not force rational beings but even supernature, that is God himself, does not force them. We would go so far as to say that God cannot force men. By definition, they have been made (by God himself) rational beings. If they were forced, even by God, they would cease to be the kind of beings he had made them; that is, rational beings. So if God forced men they would cease to be men. Or, to put it another way, so long as men remain men they are not forced even by God (in fact, least of all by God who made them rational in the first place).
Being rational beings they cannot be forced by sin. Granted that man is not what he ought to be. Granted that there is something perverse within him. Granted that he does not always (if ever) think what is true and do what is right. Still, this evil bent of his nature does not actually force him to will against his will. The absurdity of the notion is seen in the last statement: “Still this evil bent of his nature does not actually force him to will against his will.” How could he meaningfully be said to will against his will? If he will against his will that would be his will; namely, to will against his “will.” So his willing against his “will” would not truly be against his will; or if it were against his will it could not be his will.
Therefore, man is a rational being. It is his very nature to choose according to the judgments of his mind. Nothing could possibly take that character away from man without taking his humanity away from him.
Consequently, if God is graciously disposed to reveal himself to his creature, man, God must necessarily reveal himself according to the rational nature of his human creature. The necessity is self-imposed and therefore, consistent with the sovereignty of God. God cannot go over or under the “head” of man; he cannot treat him as a God or an animal but as the creature which he, God. made: a rational being.
4. The evidence for the Inspiration of the Bible is as follows:
a. Men have appeared in history with powers which only God could have given them; namely, miracles.
The discussion of miracles which follows is reproduced from the author’s Reasons for Faith with the kind permission of the publishers, Harper and Row.
Concerning miracles there are two important questions to be asked. First, what is the evidence for miracles and, second, what is their evidential value? If there is to be any argument from miracles, there must first be clear evidence that they actually occur.
Before we proceed to consider the evidence for miracles, let us ask ourselves whether there can be any such evidence. This is a rather absurd question, we grant, but we must consider it. Many persons never face the question at all because they rule out the possibility of miracles before they consider any actual evidence for them. One of the most outstanding Biblical scholars in the country once said publicly, in answer to a question concerning his interpretation of miracles in the Old Testament, “When I meet an alleged miracle, I simply treat it as legend.” This scholar no doubt would not bother reading this chapter or anything like it. He knows in advance that any and all alleged miracles are merely legends. But how does he know it? He does not know it; he merely declares it. However, there are more philosophically minded thinkers who would say that this professor is right in his conclusion but wrong in the way he arrives at it. They agree that there is no such thing as miracles and that records of them must be legends of some sort. But these men attempt to prove their statement and not merely to assert it arbitrarily.
Some would offset the evidential power of miracles by claiming that there never could be enough proof of a miracle in the face of the overwhelming evidence of natural law against it. David Hume once argued that there is more evidence for regularity in nature than for irregularity (supernaturalism); therefore, regularity and not irregularity must be the truth of the matter. The argument is palpably unsound, indeed irrelevant. Certainly there is more evidence for the regular occurrence of nature than there ever could be for any supernatural occurrence. But the argument for miracle is not meant to be an argument against the regularity of nature. It is merely an argument against the regularity of nature in every particular instance. Indeed the argument for miracle rests on the regularity of nature generally. There is no such thing as supernatural events except as they are seen in relation to the natural. And they would not be extraordinary if there were no ordinary against which background they are seen. They could not be signs of anything if they were not different from the status quo. When one argues for the occasional miracle, he is in the same breath arguing for the usually non-miraculous. If all nature became supernatural, there would be no room for miracle; nothing would be miracle because all would be miracle.
At the same time, all the evidence that there is for the regularity of nature generally is no argument at all against the occasional miracle. Such evidence simply argues for the fact that the normal course of nature is natural. It does not rule out or in, for that matter, the possibility that the irregular may happen. It only proves that as long as there is nothing but nature to take into consideration, there will probably be no deviation from the order with which we have become familiar. If there be a God, all the evidence of an undeviating nature from its creation to the present moment does not provide the slightest certainty that nature will continue the same way another moment. The same God who made it and preserved it in the present pattern for so long may have fulfilled his purpose in so doing and may proceed immediately, this moment, to do otherwise than in the past. Only if the evidence for the regularity of nature were somehow to show that there is no being outside nature who can in any way alter it, can there be an argument against the possibility of miracles. But this the evidence does not do, does not purport to do, cannot do. Therefore it can never be regarded as an argument against miracle. In the strictest sense Hume’s objection is irrelevant.
What is the relation of unpredictability in modern physics to the notion of miracle? Certainly the universe is no longer thought to be fixed in the sense that it once was. The quantum theory has satisfied most physicists that there is such a thing as indeterminism, or unpredictable behavior in the laws of nature. As Bertrand Russell has remarked, while psychology in our time has become more deterministic, physics has become less so. Some have utilized the concept of indeterminacy in nature as a wedge for miracle. Having felt fenced in by the arguments based on the regularity of nature, they have welcomed this apparent avenue of escape by which they may remain scientific and still affirm miracle. Indeterminacy runs interference for the power of God, or more piously we should say, makes it possible to believe that God may act miraculously inasmuch as he acts indeterministically in created nature.
So far as we can see, the situation for the credibility of miracle is neither improved nor worsened by indeterminacy. For one thing, indeterminacy is hardly a proven concept. Or more precisely, it would seem more likely that man cannot in every case determine the laws by which nature operates, than that she herself is indeterministic. It is conceivable that in the area of quantum physics no less than elsewhere nature is deterministic, and what is undetermined are the laws of her behavior. Nature may be determined, but man has not determined how. If this is the case, the to-do about indeterminism is wasted mental effort.
If nature herself is indeterministic, then what? Then it still would remain highly unlikely that an indeterminism in nature could explain why once and only once, thousands of years ago, a man walked on water, but no one else has been able to do so before or since. Presumably the indeterminism of nature could never be employed to account for such a unique phenomenon. Furthermore, if this is the explanation, Christ himself was deceived. He should have been surprised to be around at the one moment when nature was behaving differently from all previous times. He should have been as much amazed as the others, unless (and here is the hopeless supposition) he were a downright sophisticated fraud who took advantage of the most unbelievable opportunity that the world could imagine. Furthermore, there is the matter of his actual predictions, which would be rendered impossible in an indeterministic universe.
Some would affirm the a priori impossibility of miracles because of the nonexistence of God. They rightly state that a miracle to have meaning must be the work of an intelligent, powerful, and purposive divine being. In this we go along with them. Then they say that since there is no such being as this, there can be no such thing as miracle. And we agree with that. If it can be shown that there is no God, it will also be shown in the same effort that there is no miracle. But the non-existence of God cannot be proven, while his existence has been.
What is the positive evidence that miracles have occurred? A discussion of this subject with any degree of fullness would require an entire volume itself. We must delimit the field. And so we will consider here only the miracles of Jesus Christ.
Everyone knows that the Gospel narratives (considered only as good historical sources, not necessarily inspired) tell of a large number of miracles that were performed by Christ. A great many more are alluded to but not related. This is so generally known that I feel perfectly safe in assuming the readers’ acquaintance with the accounts of Christ’s healing the sick, opening the eyes of the blind, raising the dead, walking on water, multiplying a boy’s lunch to feed more than five thousand hungry persons, and a host of other such deeds.
No one disputes the fact that the Gospel accounts tell of Jesus Christ’s performing miracles. There have been attempted naturalistic explanations, to be sure, but so far as we know no one has attempted the job of showing that all accounts of the apparently miraculous are merely accounts of natural events which were misconstrued by the writer or reader. For example, who would care to show that John’s report of Thomas’ placing his fingers in the side of the resurrected Christ to feel his former wounds was not meant to present an essentially supernatural event, namely, physical resurrection? Persons may or may not believe what John says, but how can they doubt that John presents them as happening? As even naturalistic New Testament critics usually say, there is no doubt that the early Christians believed these supernatural things did occur.
If it be granted that the biographers of Christ say he wrought miracles, the only questions remaining are: can these writers be believed? (please note again we are not, in a circular fashion, assuming their Inspiration but the well-established historical value of their manuscripts) and if so, what do the miracles prove?
Can these writers be believed when they relate that Christ wrought supernatural deeds or miracles? Well, why not? People are assumed to be reliable in their relating of events unless there is some reason for thinking that they are not so. What reason is there for thinking that these writers are not reliable? So far as they are known, they have the reputation of honesty. Was there some bias present which would have tended to corrupt their honesty in the case of these miracles? There is no evidence of bribery by money or position. Their reporting of miracles as vindications of Jesus did not bring them into good standing with the powers in their own community. It caused Peter and John to be imprisoned and all the apostles to be brought into disfavor with most of the Jewish community. It stands to reason that a person cannot advance his own worldly interests by championing a person condemned by law and executed as a criminal.
But what about their other-worldly interests? Is it possible that these men believed that by shading the truth and relating what did not occur they would thereby gain an interest in heaven? Did they think that because of their lying about “miracles,” Jesus would own them in the next world? Merely to ask this question dispels it. The whole picture of Jesus is that of a teacher of righteousness who required his disciples to make righteous judgments and speak the truth which alone could make free. It would not seem reasonable to believe that they could have thought they would please Jesus by telling lies about him and actually earn his praise in the world of perfect righteousness to come.
Or could they have been sentimentalists? That is, could they have supposed that by telling what they knew to be untrue, they could nevertheless do good? Could they have felt that if people could be persuaded that this Jesus was a supernatural being with supernatural powers, they would then obey him and walk in paths of righteousness? Could they have supposed that by doing evil this great good would come? Is it possible that they, knowing there were no miracles, were nonetheless willing to follow Christ to the death, but that others would need the help of such superstition?
There is an insuperable objection to this “pious fraud” idea. As we have already mentioned, Christ himself is depicted as a teacher of strict truth and righteousness. If the disciples had told deliberate and huge falsehoods, their very zeal would have led them into the grossest kind of disobedience. They would also have known that their own souls were in peril, for Christ had said that a good tree brings forth good fruit and that he would say to liars in the last day, “I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matt. 7:22, 23). “If you love me,” Christ had said, “keep my commandments.” It seems incredible that the disciples in their very zeal for Jesus would zealously disobey his commandments, that in their desire to be with him and advance his cause they would seal their own doom.
So much for the inherent improbability of such a course on the part of the disciples. But there is equally great difficulty in the external situation. Even if it were conceivable that the disciples so forgot their Master’s teachings and their own spiritual interest as to violate thus grossly his canons of righteousness, it does not at all follow that those to whom they addressed themselves stood to be deceived. After all, the disciples would have foisted these “pious frauds” upon those among whom they were supposed to have been done. They would have told the very people who were supposed to have been present on the occasion, the fiction that Jesus fed five thousand. They would have told the people of Cana themselves that Christ turned water to wine at a feast in their small community, which everybody in that community would immediately deny ever took place there. The “pious fraud” idea, even if it were psychologically thinkable, could be historically thinkable only if it were perpetrated in a different land at a different time. But that in the same generation these things could have been preached as having occurred among the very people who knew that they had not occurred is hardly credible.
Although the witnesses of these events might have gotten away with such reports among highly credulous strangers who knew nothing about the events in question, they could never have deceived the very people among whom the miracles were supposed to have taken place. It would therefore seem impossible to impeach the honesty of the witnesses. All the factors actually favor their honesty, which must be assumed in the first instance unless there is some reason for questioning it. But when we examine any possible reasons, we find none. Candor requires that their record be received as a record of what they thought took place.
But the question still remains whether what they thought took place did actually take place. Granted that they meant to tell the truth, did they succeed in their honest intention? With the best of intentions men have often been grossly mistaken. Is it not possible that these writers were similarly mistaken? In other words, there remains the question of the competency of the witnesses.
We note, in the first place, that they had the best possible jury to test their competency — their own contemporaries among whom the events related were said to have taken place. If the writers had been palpably contradicted by the facts, the people to whom they related the facts would have been the very ones to expose them. If they had been misguided zealots, the non-zealots to whom they spoke could have spotted it in a moment and repudiated it as quickly. If they had garbled the actual events, eyewitnesses in quantity could have testified to the contrary. If these historians had actually been bigoted, benighted fanatics with no historical sense, incapable of distinguishing between fact and fancy, between occurrences in external nature and in their own imagination, thousands of Israelites could have made that very clear.
As a matter of fact, their record went unchallenged. No man called them liars; none controverted their story. Those who least believed in Jesus did not dispute the claims to his supernatural power. The apostles were imprisoned for speaking about the resurrection of Christ, not, however, on the ground that what they said was untrue, but that it was unsettling to the people. They were accused of being heretical, deluded, illegal, un-Jewish, but they were not accused of being inaccurate. And that would have been by far the easiest to prove if it had been thought to be true.
Actually, the Israelites of Jesus’ own day, so far from denying his miraculous power, admitted it. They not only admitted it, but they used it against him. Precisely because he did miracles, they condemned him. That is, they attributed the miracles, which they admitted he did, to the power of the devil (Matt. 12:24). We are not here concerned with the accusation but with the incidental admission. What we are concerned with here is that hostile contemporary leaders freely admitted that Jesus’ miracles were true, however evil they held their origin to be. The fact they did not dispute, only the interpretation of it. The witness they did not question. The competency of the writers was not doubted by the very generation which alone could have challenged it. It seems highly irrelevant, on historical grounds, for subsequent generations to raise such questions when the generation in which the events are said to have occurred did not do so. Later generations may object on philosophical grounds or argue a priori that these things could not have happened. Those arguments have to be met on their own grounds as we have attempted to do. But the historicity of certain events cannot be questioned by people who were not there when they were not questioned by the people who were there. We may or may not agree with the Pharisees’ interpretation that Christ did his works by Satan’s power, but we are in no position to contest the Pharisees’ knowledge of what he did. They were there and we were not.
This corroborative testimony of contemporaries, friends, and, especially, enemies, is the main vindication of the competency of the Gospel witnesses. But there is also the feasibility of the documents themselves. These miracles are not fantastic things such as those recorded in the apocryphal accounts of Jesus. They are of a piece with the character of Jesus himself — benign, instructive, redemptive. He himself was a special and unique person; it is not surprising that he had special and unique powers. Indeed, it would be more surprising if he had not had them. Never man so spake, never man so lived, never man so loved, never man so acted. As Karl Adam has said, Jesus’ life was a blaze of miracle. Miracles were as natural to him as they would be unnatural to other men. He was a true man indeed, but he was no ordinary man. Miracles are surprising when attributed to other men; it would appear surprising if they had not been associated with this man.
Some have asked whether the miracles may not be naturally explained as the result of Christ’s unusual knowledge and understanding of the laws of nature. May he not have possessed some occult acquaintance with the secrets of nature that enabled him to unleash certain of her powers in a perfectly natural manner, however supernatural it may have appeared to those unfamiliar with these esoteric laws?
To this there are several negative replies. For one thing there is a moral objection. Jesus himself referred to his works or allowed others to refer to them as evidence of his supernatural power. It would have been palpable dishonesty to do so if he had known all the time that he was merely exerting secret, but natural, power. Thus he asked his disciples, if they could not believe him for his words’ sake, to believe him for his works’ sake (John 14:11). He reassured the doubting John the Baptist of the reality of his Messianic calling by appealing to the miracles he wrought (Matt. 11:2-4). He did not object when Nicodemus said, “We know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him” (John 3:2). The blind man whom he healed believed on him because of this miracle, and Christ took full advantage of that belief to press his claim to being the Messiah (John 9:35f.). He refuted the Pharisees who had criticized him for forgiving a man’s sins, by pointing out that he was able to do the equally supernatural thing of instantly curing his sickness. “Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go into thine house” (Matt. 9:5, 6).
The Messianic prophecies had frequently foreseen the Messiah as a miracle worker. Jesus not only knew this but obviously pointed to himself as qualified in this very particular. If he did not believe himself to be possessed of supernatural powers, He must have known himself to be engaged in palpable fraud and deliberate deception. So from the moral angle, if Christ wrought what he wrought merely by an unusual knowledge of nature and not by supernatural power, he must have been a lying deceiver. That is more difficult to believe than any miracle with which he has ever been credited.
Second, on the supposition before us, his own argument in his defense would be an argument against him. That is to say, when the unbelieving Jews claimed that he did his works by the power of Beelzebub, he replied, “How can Satan cast out Satan? And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end” (Mark 3:23ff.). But if Christ really did not do true miracles but only took advantage of his superior knowledge to play on the credulity of his times and later times, then he would have been perpetrating fraud as the prince of deceivers, and as such he would have been the devil’s instrument. For he regarded the devil as the father of lies, and he would have been his son. Not only is such a thing utterly unthinkable from a moral standpoint, but it is, as his argument makes it, utterly irrational. For Satan would have been using lies to destroy his own kingdom. By these frauds of his servant Jesus, he would have been establishing the kingdom of Jesus which was founded on truth and which called men to repent of their sins. Thus Satan’s house would have been divided against itself, for Christ, the son of lies, would by his lies have been destroying his father’s kingdom of lies.
Third, if Christ had had the kind of knowledge which this theory attributes to him, such knowledge would have been as miraculous as the miracles it attempts to explain away. For centuries before and for centuries after, no other person but this solitary, untutored Jew knew how to walk on water. Modern science has performed many amazing feats in this century, but it still is nowhere nearer than it was in Jesus’ day to multiplying loaves and fishes by a mere word. Machines can compare, classify, and do hitherto unbelievable things, but with all their powers they still depend on the feeble mind of man their inventor. They cannot even put a question to themselves but can only operate with their wonderful efficiency along channels made for them by men. Certainly none of them can anticipate an historical event tomorrow, much less predict the fall of a city a generation hence as precisely as Jesus did (Matt. 24:1ff.). This explanation of the miracles of Jesus, therefore, requires as much, if not more, explanation than the miracles. It would be the miracle to end all miracles. Intellectually, it would be straining the gnat and swallowing the camel.
b. Miracles are God’s seal to mark men unmistakably as his messengers.
If the evidence is convincing that Christ did work miracles, what do these miracles prove? Miracles as such do not prove that Jesus was more than a man. For though men do not have this power as men, they could be enabled by God to perform them in his name. Miraculous power belongs only to the Author of nature, but apparently it is not incommunicable as God’s omniscience, omnipotence, or eternality must be. So the power to work miracles is not necessarily proof that the person who has that power is God himself. But it does prove him to be sent from God, for only God has this power and can delegate it. This is the very conclusion which Nicodemus drew when he said to Jesus, “We know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him” (John 3:2).
At this point, however, we face another problem or question. Is it not possible that there are other, nonhuman beings who, though not the Author of nature, are nevertheless able to influence nature in supernatural ways? Apart from revelation, we cannot know there are not such beings; we therefore consider the possibility that Christ’s miracles were wrought by a man who had received his power from some supernatural being other than God, whether good or evil. If there are such beings, and they are good, then they are in subjection to God and his servants. If, therefore, they communicated their powers to the man Jesus, they must have done so in obedience to the will of God. Thus their giving of power would be essentially the same thing as God’s giving it, for they would give it in accordance with his will.
If these beings are evil beings, what then? Then they are not subservient to God and do not deliberately do his will. In that case they would not necessarily have power over nature, for that would obviously be in the hands of the Author of nature and of those to whom he willingly permits it to pass. If, therefore, these evil spirits possess any such power as we are here supposing, it can only be by the permission of God. So the question is, is it conceivable that God would permit these evil spirits to possess such power? Maybe we cannot answer that question, but we do not have to. The question that really concerns us here is not whether such spirits could possess such powers, but whether, even if they could, they would be able to communicate them to a human being. But we do not even have to answer that question, for we are dealing with a specific human being, Jesus Christ. So the question precisely is: if there are such evil beings and these beings are permitted by God to have power over nature which could conceivably be communicated to some human being, could they conceivably communicate it to such a human being as Jesus Christ? We have already shown that they could do so only if they wished to destroy themselves. They would be empowering him to make converts to a kingdom which was set up to destroy the kingdom of evil. They would be giving power to one who would use it only for good when, by definition, evil spirits would want it to be used only for evil. They would be providing an instrument for healing when they wished only to spread sickness and death; they would insure the success of the person best fitted to insure their own failure. If these evil spirits were intelligent spirits, they simply could not do such a thing even if God would permit it. And is it possible that God would communicate his great power to a man after his own heart by spirits utterly alien to him? So, from the standpoint of the devils themselves or from the standpoint of God himself, it would seem inconceivable that Christ’s supernatural power could have been derived from Satan, if there be such a being. And since there is no other conceivable source from which his power could have come, it must have come, as Nicodemus said, from God.
As observed above, what is shown of Christ in particular would apply in general to all true miracle workers from whom the Bible comes.
c. God’s Message Is Indubitably True.
There are only two ways by which any person can come to say something that is untrue: either by ignorance or lying. A person may either mean to speak the truth but not know it; or know the truth but not mean to speak it. Thus the error must come from a defect of mind (not knowing enough) or a defect of heart (not loving the truth). God suffers from neither limitation and therefore cannot speak untruth. His message must be true indubitably.
First, God cannot err from ignorance. His knowledge is infinite. There is nothing which he does not know. All things which exist, exist of his power and will and cannot lie outside the range of his knowledge. If there were anything which God did not know it would lie outside his domain. If so, he would not be infallible, all-powerful, independent; in short, he would not be God.
Second, God cannot err by lying. If God lied as well as told truth his creatures could never know which was which. Nor would it do any good to ask him for if he lied he would tell us that the truth was falsehood and falsehood was the truth. This would be cruel. It would leave the creature in hopeless confusion. It would also be unintelligent on the part of Creator for his creature would be of no use as he wandered hopelessly in the dark. So, if God lied he could not be God for he would not be good or intelligent or holy.
Thus, God’s message is indubitably true. He could not lie if he would nor would he lie if he could. He could not be wrong if he would and he would not be wrong if he could.
d. God’s Message Includes the Inspiration of the Bible.
Jesus Christ, the “teacher sent from God” taught that the Bible (Old Testament) was the inspired Word of God. “Scripture,” he said, “could not be broken” (John 10:35). Every “jot and tittle” was to be fulfilled (Matt. 5:18). He claimed to be divine (Matt. 11:27; John 10:30; 14:9) and also said that the Scriptures bore witness of him (John 5:39) which implied their Inspiration. He argued from details (John 10:34) and recognized Biblical authority by the formula: “it is written” (Mark 11:17; Luke 18:31). This is admitted by virtually all modern scholars as one of them put it: Christ’s teaching concerning the Old Testament Bible was “fundamentalistic.”
Likewise, Christ authenticated the New Testament by promising to send the Spirit to lead the apostles into all truth (John 14:26). This leading the apostles in turn claimed (cf. for example, II Cor. 12; 13) as they wrote or sanctioned the writing of the New Testament.
e. Therefore the Inspiration of the Bible Is Indubitably True.
One may and must question whether a message is from God but one cannot question a message which is once shown to be from God. This is the basic point which those who rest the Inspiration for the Bible on the Bible’s own testimony overlook. They rightly and righteously recognize that the Bible must be instantly accepted as what it says it is; namely, the Word of God. But they overlook the fact that the Bible is not instantly accepted because it says it is the Word of God. They are unconsciously persuaded of the Bible’s divinity on other grounds. Consequently each time they hear the Bible referring to its Inspiration they know and accept this as true. Nevertheless they forget, because they never consciously recognize, that the truth of this self-affirmation is established on other grounds and merely confirmed by the self-affirmation.
There can be no higher proof of anything than the ipse dixit of God. God speaking is Truth speaking. What God says is so, is so. It could not be otherwise. If God could be supposed to have made an error our world and all worlds are in ruins. Reason, meaning, life and all have perished instantly. We may ask these prior questions about God’s existence necessarily assuming the validity of our thinking processes as we do. These lead us to the knowledge of God. He, in turn, verifies the validity of our prior assumptions. But if he did not exist, or if he could err (which are one and the same thing), then the very thinking processes by which we arrive at the conclusion that God does not exist are so many gratuitous assumptions. Therefore if God could err, error would have no meaning for truth would have no meaning. Nothing would have any meaning. Nothing would even be.
So God who is truth, who cannot err, has inspired the Bible and the Bible is truth and cannot err.
The Testimony of Divinely Commissioned Messengers as the Basis for Bible Inerrancy (cont.)
(b) The Argument from Inspired Bible to Inerrant Bible.
So far we have shown the Inspiration of the Bible. But some will say: “You are supposed to show more than that: namely, the Inerrancy of the Bible.” They seem to think that it is possible to have an inspired Bible which is yet an errant Bible. Or, to put it another way, they suppose that it is possible to have a partially inspired Bible. If this were so we would readily grant that we have not proved our point. If the Bible is partially inspired and partially not inspired, there can be no denying the possibility of error in the uninspired part of the Scriptures. So let us attempt to show the movement from inspired to inerrant Bible.
1. An inspired Bible means an inerrant Bible. They are one and the same thing. To put it another way: an inspired Bible is a completely inspired Bible. If it is completely inspired it is, as we have shown above, a completely inerrant Bible because God cannot err or lie.
Why do we say that for the Bible to be inspired is to be completely inspired? The question should be the other way around. That is, if a message is said to he inspired why does anyone say that it is only partly inspired? We have said above that God commissioned these Bible writers and that they wrote under his commission. If this is so, why would we not assume that all that they wrote rather than certain parts of it were inspired? We admit that if they said that their message was only partly inspired that would prove that such was the case. But then for those parts they would not be speaking as the divinely commissioned writers but on their own, as it were. In other words, the burden of proof is on partial inspirationists and not total inspirationists. They must show that these writers who claimed Inspiration for the Bible exempted certain parts of it from their claim.
Some have accepted this burden of proof. Let us examine one of the very few texts to which they appeal to show the merely human writing of certain parts of the Bible. Paul’s words in I Corinthians 7:10, “And unto the married, I command, yet not I, but the Lord, . . .” First, we note that this proves far more than our friends want to prove or can admit. If these words were intended by Paul as this interpretation would have it, then he is uninspired unless he specifically claims to be inspired within the contexts of his writings. “Not I but the Lord,” according to this view, means that it was Paul alone who had been speaking but at this particular juncture the Lord himself speaks. That this is not the meaning we have already shown by proving that the Bible writers claimed the authority of Christ in writing. They were commissioned by God to give his message. On the view being considered, Paul would be going back on that and rarely, on occasions such as this one, actually claims Inspiration for himself. According to this, then only a tiny fragment of the Bible is the Word of God. Second, another construction of these words is possible which would fit with Paul’s overall doctrine and appears, therefore, to be his meaning. He may, according to the words themselves, be here distinguishing his particular revelations on the subject of marriage from that which came from the teaching of Jesus himself. (Jesus, in fact, did teach in Matthew 5:32 that infidelity was a just basis for divorce by the innocent party but said nothing about separation which Paul here reveals as another just ground for divorce.)
Paul is also thought to contradict total Inspiration doctrine when in I Corinthians 1:16 he says he is unable to remember whether he had baptized any others. But how this in any way, directly or indirectly, denies his Inspiration at that moment is never shown. It is merely insinuated. The insinuation seems to be that God could not inspire forgetfulness. But God’s Inspiration guarantees only Inerrancy not necessarily total recall. If Paul remembered wrongly we would have an uninspired Paul; but a Paul who does not remember is a Paul who is inspired to record that very fact for our instruction (presumably, concerning the nature of Inspiration, what it does and does not include, what it does and does not exclude).
2. There are not merely implicit but also explicit statements that the Bible is completely, and not merely partially, inspired. The classic text is II Timothy 3:16. We cannot in a small work go into a detailed exposition but can merely say here, as is generally granted, that the correct translation of this text is: “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (RSV). “Not one jot or one tittle” (the slightest detail, that is) of the law shall pass away until all is fulfilled (Matt. 5:18; cf. also I Cor. 2:13). This could never be said of any partially fallible law. Christ and Paul could not make their arguments rest on single words (John 10:35; Gal. 3:16) if Inspiration did not extend to the individual words.
3. If the Bible were merely partially inspired we would be worse off than if it were totally uninspired, for we would then have the excruciating task of distinguishing the Word of God in the Bible with no means for so doing. No one who has ever advocated the partial Inspiration view has provided us with a means of separating the inspired and uninspired parts. Some think that Luther, for example, used the doctrine of justification by faith alone as the touchstone of Inspiration. We do not think that is an accurate understanding of Luther; but, for the moment, let us suppose it is. How could Luther or anyone else know that justification by faith is true, if not on the ground that it is taught by the Word of God? If the Bible is the Word of God because it teaches justification rather than justification being the truth of God because it is taught in the Bible by what means do we know this? We have shown how we know that the Bible is the Word of God and how from this we could know that justification is true, but how can anyone prove that justification is true and able to serve as the touchstone to the Word of God? This is a basal fallacy of the “Confession of 1967” (cf. appendix) which virtually makes “Reconciliation” as the mark of the Word of God.
If we pushed this matter to fundamentals we would find ourselves back on one of the wrong bases for the right doctrine which we considered in Part I. This is no doubt the reason that adherents of this view prefer merely to advocate it rather than argue for it; that is, to assume that one can know what part of the Bible is inspired and what part is not (but neglect to tell us how to do this little thing).
We said above that the partial Inspiration doctrine is actually worse than no doctrine of Inspiration. With no doctrine of Inspiration you would be most unfortunate; however, you would not be doomed to searching for it where it could not be found. On this present view one would have to search without ever knowing whether he had found. By comparison, searching for a needle in a haystack would be child’s play for you know there is the needle and given sufficient effort and time it can be found. But on the partial Inspiration theory you know that a great and invaluable mine of divine truth is there but you also know that while you must seek for such a treasure it is impossible that you would ever find it. You could never know that you found it even when you had it in your hands, as it were. You could hold the precious gold of God’s Word in your hand and not be sure that it was not human slime while, on the other hand, you could hold human slime and not be sure that it was not God’s precious truth. You must ever be searching and never coming to the knowledge of the truth.
Thus, we believe that we have shown that the Bible is the Word of God inspired, and inerrant. Not everything that God says, he says in the Bible. We have indicated that he revealed himself to us before he revealed himself further and savingly in sacred Scripture. But everything that the Bible says, God says.