Truthfulness of God
The Bible is God's Word to man. In this book, God discloses everything He desires man to know concerning Himself, His workings in the past, and His plans for the future. Nothing in the Bible is extraneous to divine revelation. The whole of it comes from God.
Yet today, many who profess a Biblical Christianity boast that they see mistakes in the Bible. Their willingness to cavil at God's Word is, however, reckless and arrogant. If we follow the drift of a few indisputable premises, we soon come to the necessary consequence that the Bible is a book without error or imperfection.
- God can speak only truth. The blame for any mistake in the Bible would rest solely on the human author.
- We must not hesitate to believe and obey any authentic revelation from God.
- Thus, if the Bible were God's truth intermixed with human error, separation of the two would be a duty of the highest importance.
Yet how could we separate them? We could not look to scholars for guidance. Most of them embrace the faddish but foolish opinion that the Bible is merely a collection of popular legends. Religious leaders could not help us either. Those who deny the inerrancy of Scripture offer a multitude of different schemes for partitioning the Bible into truth and error. Moreover, being human, they are all self-serving, changeable, easily swayed by irrelevant considerations, unduly impressed by the current views of esteemed colleagues, and altogether fallible. None would be competent to show us the exact bounds of truth in the Bible. Besides, since our personal welfare would be at stake in every decision whether to believe the Bible, we would be foolhardy if we leaned too heavily on someone else's judgment. In the task of separating truth from error, we would not be prudent to rest until we had satisfied ourselves.
But if we set out ourselves to trim error from the Bible, we would soon be lost in two dilemmas.
- Our motive for investigating the Bible would be discontent with what we already know. Even as we critically dissected this book, we would recognize that our present view of reality cannot give us answers to the important questions of life. Yet if this view is so narrow and inadequate, why should we make ourselves the final arbiter of where truth lies in the Word of God?
- We have a perverse nature that often prefers nonsense to the truth. In our eyes, a particular statement in the Bible may seem like a mistake. But how can we tell that it is really a mistake rather than God's attempt to correct our ignorance?
The supposition that the Bible contains error would thus leave us in utter confusion as to which parts of the Bible are perfect truth and which are not. As a result, nothing in the Bible could evoke from us the unclouded faith and simple obedience that God desires. But God assures us that He has not spoken to us in mumbles amid noise.
I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth: I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek me in vain: I the Lord speak righteousness, I declare things that are right.
Since God promises that He will speak to us plainly, and since the supposition that the Bible contains error has the effect of muffling His voice, we must dismiss the supposition as false. The Bible does not contain error, but is inerrant.
Many spurn the inerrancy of Scripture because they doubt that God could convey complex, perfect truth through mere men using mere human language. But we who live for a moment and see a tiny corner of creation tend to project our own weaknesses upon God. In His inspiration of Scripture, as in the Incarnation, the Holy Spirit was able to create a miraculous blend of the divine and human. Some of the words came to the author as the spoken words of God. Some came to him as the creation of his own mind. Yet because of their divine character, all the words are fully true, and their scope is not limited to the author's prior knowledge. And because of their human character, all the words exhibit the author's peculiar style, personality, and experience.
To prove the Bible an errorful book, someone may trot forward apparent contradictions. Yet these have a purpose. They serve primarily to prevent any man from reaching the truth by his own cleverness.
8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Since the exercise of human intellect is a form of works, God allows no man to reason his way to Christ. A man saved by his wits would have himself to thank. He might spoil heaven's serenity with sounds of boasting. So that mental muscle will afford no advantage in unlocking the riddles of existence, the world plan sets human wisdom on a course away from the simple gospel. As Jesus said,
. . . I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.
Far from giving the intellectual an advantage, God sets him at a disadvantage.
. . . Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.
1 Peter 5:5
An intellectual on the road to Christ sees many signs urging him to turn back. All about him he hears strident propaganda disputing the claims of Christianity and pointing to difficulties in the Bible. To dispel all these difficulties would require knowledge that God has withheld from him. So, he must decide whether they negate the possibility that God exists and is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him (Heb. 11:6). In other words, he cannot move farther along the road unless he exercises faith. If at last he finds salvation in Christ, he will, when he looks back upon his progress, credit it to faith rather than works. From God's Word he will understand that divine grace planted this faith in his heart (Eph. 2:8-9). Thus, he will cherish his salvation as a gift of God.
Intellectuals devoid of faith never get far on the road to Christ. They have no grace-actuated God-wish, no will to believe. Sin has beguiled them into contentment with life apart from God. So, God does not help them find the truth. Indeed, He does not allow them to stumble on the truth accidentally, as it were, by the free play of intellect. He lets the devil persuade them that this road leads to absurdities and insoluble problems. Guided by intellect alone, they gladly decide to turn back.
To state the matter briefly, the difficulties in the Bible test whether a man has faith. If he does not, he is deterred by them from pressing on to the truth. If he does, he finds truth in full measure. Early in his pilgrimage he achieves the truth of salvation in Christ. Eventually, whether in this world or the next, he gathers truth enough to dispel all these difficulties.
Scripture's View of Itself
As we have shown, a proper conception of God as a Being who excels in honesty and forthrightness implies that His chosen vehicle of self-revelation, the Bible, must be inerrant. Yet we hold to this conclusion not only by the force of logic. We hold to it primarily because the Bible, speaking of itself under the names "the law of the Lord," "the word(s) of God," or "the word(s) of the Lord," ascribes perfection to itself. Several texts agree, for example, that the Word of God is pure—that is, without any adulterating falsehood or deception.
7 The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
8 The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
9 The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
11 Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.
5 Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.
6 Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.
The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.
Another text, speaking even more plainly, says simply that the Word of God is true.
Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever.
Elsewhere, we find the remarkable assertion,
For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven.
It is absurd to imagine that a patchwork of truth and error would be a fixture for eternity. Surely, truth alone is worth preserving.
In debate with those who mocked His claims, Jesus resorted to an argument drawn from Psalm 82:6.
34 Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?
35 If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken;
36 Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?
As a warning against trying to evade His argument, Jesus said, "The scripture cannot be broken" (v. 35). The term "scripture" refers to the whole corpus of sacred writings (1). "Broken" is better rendered "annulled" or "abolished" (2). By resting His argument on the brief statement, "Ye are gods" (two words in the Hebrew), Jesus is conferring authority upon very small portions of Scripture—indeed, upon individual words. He is saying most emphatically that everything in the Bible is fully true and reliable.
We find an equally reverent view of Scripture in the writings of Paul.
15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
2 Timothy 3:15-17
Since all Scripture is divinely inspired, we cannot reckon any portion of it as erroneous without making God an accomplice in falsehood.