Why We Believe What We Believe: The Doctrine of Inspiration, Part 2 (Ep 6)

The world has a lot of opinions about Christianity. And truth be known, we deserve some of the maligning some of the time. But sometimes they make my blood boil!

This is Episode 6 of “Why We Believe What We Believe”.

Click to read Transcript

INTRODUCTION: The world has lots of opinions about the Bible. The world has a lot of opinions about Christians. Truth be known, we deserve some of the maligning some of the time. But from time to time these comments are so over the top, they do make my blood boil. Maybe you agree with them and maybe you are somewhere in the middle.

In recent years, Sam Harris, Mark Lilla and most notably Richard Dawkins,has said some pretty powerful things against the Bible and against Christianity. In fact, lets’ listen to Richard Dawkins talking about God and the Old Testament. “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction. Jealous and proud of it, a petty, unjust, unforgiving, control freak, a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser, a misogynistic homophobic racist and infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

Now number (1) I give him marks for being able to say all those words without mispronouncing anything. Number (2) Let’s remove the emotion. He makes some very important observations: let’s just take bloodthirsty, ethnic cleanser. If you take a passage of Scripture where God tells the Israelites, “Go in and kill all the people; to destroy the Amalekites completely.” Truthfully, that sounds pretty much like a vindictive, bloodthirsty, ethnic cleansing God, doesn’t it? But the error that Dawkins makes and others who would take a passage out of context, is to understand the larger picture of God as a theocracy. Let me try and explain that: When God called Abram, out of Ur of the Chaldees, and of course we know later he changes his name to Abraham, from Abram, Abraham will come Isaac; from Isaac will come the nation of Israel, that’s called the Abrahamic covenant. The descendents of Abraham would what? Be as the sands of the sea, like the stars of the heavens; they’ll be innumerable. So God’s chosen people came from man name Abraham. As God is establishing Israel as a people, we call this a theocracy. Big word! All that means is they did not have a king or a government like any other nation. God was their king; God’s law was to be their government. So when they start to take the promised land, the land that God promised to give to Abraham and to his people and to his descendants, God gave them specific instructions and yes, He did tell them to go in and wipe out the enemy. Now, why? As a theocracy these other nations that were around Israel would have infiltrated Israel and they would have embraced their gods, the gods of the Canaanite, let’s say for example, which of course becomes a perennial problem for Israel. Now,the short answer to why God would ever allow or to exterminate a people group is: (1) God knew the people group would never repent (2)They hated God’s people (3) Therefore they hated Yahweh. Unlike Dawkins conclusion, that He’s capricious, meaning He does whatever He wants; He’s a raving mad God, and He kills people; quite the contrary. He wants none to perish, but if God knows these people hate him; they hate His name; they hate the people of God; they are always going to be an enemy of God, then in a theocracy there were times when God said to, “Destroy a people group.” Now, if that’s capricious, if that’s malevolent, if that’s vindictive and bloodthirsty from a human level, I’ll give him points. That’s what Dawkins is arguing, but we have to step up higher at a thirty thousand foot level and look at the Bible a little differently than the world throws at us. Again, don’t let the world teach you theology. God takes no joy in seeing people destroyed; God takes no delight in the destruction of the wicked; God’s not a benevolent God rubbing His hands greedily watching people be destroyed. These people were made in God’s image; they’re image bearers. He cares about them, though we must fast forward in the big story of Scripture that He sends His only Son to die for all people and that those who trust in Christ, in Christ alone have eternal life with Him or to say it another way, “Everyone deserves to go to hell. Why should any get to heaven including me and including you?”

Well let’s resume the broadcast, a message given originally at the Moody Bible Institute, unpacking their doctrinal statement and let’s continue looking at Why We Believe What We Believe about the Bible, how we got the Bible, and how we understand it today.

All the Scripture is God-breathed and it has metrics you might say. It’s profitable for, for teaching someone, teaching them the Scripture, teaching them the way to salvation; teaching them the wisdom of God; it’s profitable for correction, for reproof, and for training in righteousness. Vs 17 finishes it out. So that! (Explanation perhaps, exegetical)  So that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. The reason all Scripture being inspired and profitable, the reason that it’s God-breathed for these functions is so that the end result, what happens when you look at the God-breathed Scripture is that we are changed, we’re equipped to do the work God wants for us. Said another way, put your confidence in the inspired revealed Word of God, not in cleverness, or not in some, you know some new thing, but put your confidence here because you’re depending upon Him.

Cindy and I are very unreasonable parents. We expected our children to learn to brush their teeth. I can remember with each child, from when we brushed them ourselves you know, to teach them how to when you coach them to start brushing their own teeth. Some children grab onto it quickly and some children have no time for brushing their teeth. So any good parent  does what you’re supposed to do;  you inspect to see if your children have brushed their teeth. When their toothbrush is dry and they said they, “brushed their teeth,” they’re busted! When their breath smells like it usually smells; they’re busted! When their teeth are yellow; they’re busted! So we teach them how. I’ve expressed strong disapproval when my children lie to me or wet the toothbrush and lie to me. I make them go back and correct it and brush again. Sometimes I’ve done it three times just to get the point across. I express strong disapproval to correct them and I give them an egg timer. Don’t give them the kind that you can turn because they can cheat on those. You can give them the egg timer, that’s two or three minutes so they must painfully brush, and they’re going to cheat then. They’re going to start right when they go in the room. It doesn’t work, but anyway, I’m training my children to have righteously clean teeth. I’m teaching them; I’m reproving them; I’m correcting them, because I want to train them to do a good thing. The Word of God is such. If you’re in a Sunday School context, if you’re teaching young people, adults, men and women, others, if you are a receiver of this, are you teaching correctly? Reproving on occasion? Setting people straight on occasion for the purpose of training them righteously? That’s the power of this document that we hold.

I remember early on when I came to Christ, I came out of a pretty rough background. You know my story, most of you. I had a pretty foul mouth and my Christian friend who really helped me and discipled me, and I didn’t even know what discipling was in those days, upbraided me one time when I said some four letter word. He just turned around and upbraided me, and I said, “What difference does it make?” He quoted Ephesians 4:29 to me, Let no unwholesome word proceed out of your mouth. He corrected me and it just took that correction and from then on I was ever aware. The Bible is to teach, to correct, to reproof, and to train us to be righteous. You can’t be righteous if you have a foul mouth, Michael. Stott writes, “Do we hope either in our own lives or in the teaching ministry, to overcome error and to grow in truth? to overcome evil and grow in holiness? Then it is to the Scripture we must turn, for the Scripture is profitable for these things.

Why We Believe What We Believe is not important. It’s crucial, men and women, that you know what this Bible says to you and to me. The second verse from our doctrinal statement is from II Peter Chapter one. Turn over there. Context is also important here; I’d like to read vs. 20 and 21. II Peter, a little bit over to your right. II Peter 1: 20-21. Peter writes but know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of ones own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. So secondly then, Scripture is from God through man. First of all, Scripture is the Word from God; I just want to nuance it a tiny bit and say Scripture is from God but here we see through man. Again, our context is important; vs 15,16 we’re learning the idea that be confident, not in some clever story, but in clear facts. Don’t let myths pull you away; just sort of a commercial break, when you read beyond the pale of commentaries and the Bible and all the Bible studies, and I’m not saying you shouldn’t, but when you read beyond the pale of those things, or you read so called Christian books that are not really mored and centered on the Bible, be very careful and discerning in your reading. I’m not saying, “Don’t read it,” but I’m saying, “Argue with it!” “Challenge it, don’t assume it.” Just because some person with a Phd says so. Dismantle it from the Bible! Because you’re inspired inerrant Word of God is clearer than clever mythology.

Peter saw the transfiguration; that’s the context. He was one of the three, James, John, and Peter. When he saw the transfiguration a number of things occurred and that’s what he references here. He was an eyewitness of the majesty or the grandeur of Jesus Christ. Great passage of study if you haven’t studied in a while to see this transfiguration before them and thank God for Peter and the questions he asked because those are questions we all want to ask. “Lord this is so cool, let’s hang out a while and build three booths. Let’s just stay here awhile. Isn’t it good to be here?” Hello Peter, this isn’t about you right now. Peter looks back on that and says, “I was an eyewitness.” Secondly, “I heard God.” “I heard God speak.” So we have the eyewitness and the voice of God confirming who this Jesus Christ is. What are we supposed to interpret from that? When we know something from the Biblical author who was an eyewitness and he’s heard from God the traction in this passage is, that is the inerrant Word of God.

Verses 20 and 21 are discussed and debated at great length. Here’s my simple attempt to define it. Prophets did not invent prophesy; prophesy came from God. That’s the way I would put it on the lower shelf. Prophets did not invent prophecy. Prophecy came from God. We had no weegie boards; we had no crystal balls; we had no plates in a hat. Prophesy came from God. Prophets did not say, “Ooh, let’s invent it; let’s think about it. let’s prognosticate; let’s be nostradamus.” No!  These prophecies came from God.

The phrase moved by the Holy Spirit is very important. Many of you have already studied this. For some it will be a review. Moved has many different nuances, the way the authors of the New Testament use it. It can mean to guide, to lead, to bring, and to drive along. Listen to just one reference to put some color on the way the term is used. In Acts 27:15, we read, And when the ship was caught in it (the storm) and could not face the wind, we gave way to it and let ourselves be driven along. The storm was so bad, they’d thrown the tackle overboard. They couldn’t do anything more and they just let themselves be driven by the wind. That’s a great picture of inspiration, isn’t it? That God somehow through His Holy Spirit drove these men to write these words. Somehow he moved them to do that. It’s a wonderful picture. I had a professor in grad school that used to talk about the big A author and the little a author. One of them is God the Father, but yet he uses the human impress and style and personality of the individual.

Well just a few observations before a concluding illustration. First, Scripture is the Word of God. Secondly, Scripture is from God through man. Let’s talk about a couple terms very briefly: The word verbal and plenary. We use those a lot. Let’s just define them so we all know what they mean: Verbal of course just means the word; Verbal inspiration would push against concept inspiration. There’s sort of the concept in there, but it’s not the Word. We hold to, I hold to a verbal inspiration, not dictation. God did not need human authors. If He wanted to dictate He could have dictated it to an angel to put it on a parchment and hand it to man as a sacred document, but God in His super intention used men to put these words together. We talked about the original autograph, secondly. Those are what you can envision Paul or his amanuensis scratching those words on a parchment; Isaiah scratching them on a scroll. Those autographs were inerrant. And by the way, when you study textual criticism and how we got our Bible, your Bible is so accurate. The handful of problems and challenges would fill a couple of pages of this Bible and you could and put them all together-a couple of pages. You’ve got an incredibly reliable document that we hold, so verbal and autograph. Thirdly, the word plenary. We say verbal plenary inspiration. Plenary is a fancy word for full, for that concept of all of it. Paul’s writings sometimes are vilified. Many people say, “Oh, that’s Pauline” which is really odd to me. By the way, here’s a real interesting test for you and me when people attack the Bible and I don’t want to just glam and just say, “Liberals, who attack the Bible,” because many people we would call conservative no longer hold to the Doctrine of Inerrancy. Very few seminaries and Bible colleges in the U.S. hang onto a verbal plenary inspiration. Most of them have moved away from it very subtly, but very clearly. What they will say is, “Because Paul held this harsh doctrine, it must not be inerrant.” Now think about this for just a moment. When do the people who attack inerrancy ever attack “Well God really isn’t loving? We’re not supposed to be merciful and kind.” We can’t trust that passage because that’s an Old Testament passage about mercy, so we compartmentalize our use of the Doctrine of Inerrancy and inspiration to attack something we don’t like. See what I mean? Seldom are a person who is against inerrancy and inspiration attack something they like in the Bible. They only use it as a wet stone to sharpen their issue that it’s to Pauline or to New Testament, or some other ridiculous statement. When Peter endorses Paul’s writing as God’s Word; when the New Testament apostles hand those letters to us, this is not Pauline men and women; this is God using Paul to give you and me a book; this is God using Isaiah to give you and me a book; this is God using Moses for Moses authorial leadership; this is God using David as he wrote a song, a lyric, a hymn, so don’t just run away with sort of the notion that, “Oh, well it’s too this or too that.” Verbal plenary, all of it. Charles Ryrie writes Inspiration is God’s superintendence of the human authors so that using their own individual personalities they composed and recorded without error His revelation to man in the words of the original autographs. It’s really good! That’s a really good statement. Someone said, “Language is human. The Message is divine and that’s the Book you hold.”

I got a book the other day in the mail from a publisher, from NavPress, brand new book out by Sam Harris called Letter to a Christian Nation. Lest you think the issues of inerrancy and inspiration are unimportant, listen to what Sam Harris writes in the beginning of his book. You believe the Bible is the Word of God and that Jesus is the Son of God and that only those that place their faith in Jesus Christ will find salvation after death. As a Christian, you believe these propositions, not because they make you feel good but because you think they’re true. Before I point out some of the problems with these beliefs, I would like to acknowledge that there are many points on which you and I agree. We agree for instance, that if one of us is right the others wrong. The Bible is either the Word of God or it isn’t; either Jesus offers humanity the one true path of salvation, (and then he cites John 14:6,) or he does not. We agree that to be a true Christian is to believe  that all other faiths are mistaken and profoundly so. If Christianity is correct and I persist in my unbelief, then I should expect the torments of hell. Worse still, I have persuaded others and many close to me to reject the very idea of God, they too will languish an eternal fire (Matt 25:41) If the basic Doctrine of Christianity is correct, I have misused my life in the worst conceivable way. I admit this without a single caviant. The fact that my continuous and public rejection of Christianity does not worry me in the least should suggest to you how inadequate I think your reasons for being a Christian are.

I don’t know if it makes your blood boil, but it about sent me out of the roof and he’s exactly right. One of us is right and one of us is wrong. Why you believe what you believe is not important, men and women. it is not about tolerance and love, and acceptance. Why you believe what you believe is crucial! It’s a matter of an eternal destiny for people who are living a lie and deceive and you and I get to be part of the community who believes this is the Word of God. Cherish it! Study it! Learn! Pound your head against it! Read it! Read it! Read it! because herein is life and elsewhere is death.

Prayer: Our Father in Heaven, we thank you that you revealed your Word to us in a book we carry around and put it on an electronic device and read it on a computer and mark it up on a hand version. Help us to cherish the message from you, not to be people who worship the document but to be people who know the God of the Word. Help us to be men and women unashamed of the Gospel of Christ. Thank you that you gave us your Word in Jesus name amen.

I believe it was Spurgeon who said, “No one ever outgrows the Scripture. It widens and deepens with our years.” My good friend Ron Rhodes has a marvelous website called Reasoning From the Scriptures, and he writes, No one is born an atheist. People choose to become atheists as much as they choose to become Christians and no matter how strenuously some may try to deny it, atheism is a belief system. It requires faith that God does not exist. So as we began we end thinking about how the world is going to challenge what you and I believe, if you believe the Bible. If you come to the Bible by faith, you trust it as God’s Word, then you can have the confidence to know that even though the worlds going to hammer you and me on our crazy belief system which side of the fence do you want to be on? Trusting God at His Word? God’s Word inspired to men to write it down, given to you and me, so that anyone that wants to know the mind of God can read it in print. Don’t let the world teach you theology and don’t let the world teach you what the Bible says. Yes, we must acknowledge there’s some hard parts of the text; yes, there’s some difficult stories; yes, there’s some things that we scratch our head about, but don’t let those few exceptions change your view of God. I hope you’ll join us tomorrow on the broadcast when we start thinking about Jesus Christ, the topic of Christology. “Ology” of course just means the study of something. Biology, the study of life; zoology, the study of animals; Christology, the study of Christ. Why is it important to know the person, the work of Jesus Christ and how critical this is in your doctrinal beliefs? In one way, you might say this is the most important one, although I hate to say one is more important than the other. But what we believe about Christology is very important, the person and work of Jesus Christ. I hope you join us tomorrow on the broadcast. We’ll look at Jesus, the name Christ, the word Messiah, and a whole lot more. This is MichaelEasleyinContext.

Michael Easley

About Michael Easley

Michael is husband to one, dad to four, and host of Michael Easley inContext.

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