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The Reformed Doctrine of Inspiration [1] (4)

Category Articles
Date January 6, 2006

4. The Relevance of the Doctrine for Today

Many professing to be Christians and leaders in the Christian Church would regard this discussion as completely irrelevant. They have no place in their thinking or in their lives for an infallible revelation communicated to us by God. The doctrine of the divine inspiration of infallible Scripture has repercussions in every area, and no doubt that is why the ungodly and lawless spirit of man rebels against it. Rejection of the divine inspiration of Scripture removes from Scripture its unquestioned authority over the faith and life of man. Rejection of the divine inspiration of Scripture leaves us with a fallible and erring Bible and with a fallible and erring Christ, if any Christ at all.

The fundamental significance of the doctrine of the divine, full, verbal inspiration of the Scriptures today, as in every age, is that it makes all the difference between a Bible which is inerrant and authoritative on every matter with which it deals and a Bible which is subject to the judgement of man and leaves man as the infallible authority. Either man is to sit in judgement on the Bible and accept its teachings, not because they are given by the Word of God, but to the extent that they fit in with his own view of things; or man is to sit before the Word of God and bow to the authority of God who speaks there – his belief and experience and action being determined by the revelation given by God.

The Reformed and Biblical doctrine of Inspiration means that we must be dependent upon, and submissive to, the Bible in its entirety as God’s Word and as our only “rule of faith and life”. [2] As soon as it is clear what the Word of God says, we must concur with it in our thinking and practice, “casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor 10:5). An inspired Bible is the last word on every subject with which it deals, the last court of appeal in every controversy.

The inspiration of the Bible is of fundamental relevance to the principles applied in the translation of the Scriptures from the languages in which they were originally given. It is also of fundamental relevance to the choice that is made of a version of Scripture. Scripture ought to be translated to give, not only the thought, but also the very words of God. We should be concerned to have a version of Scripture which we can depend upon as an accurate translation of God’s words – a translation which reproduces as closely as possible the grammatical and idiomatic forms of the original text, a translation based upon the principles of formal equivalence rather than dynamic equivalence. This we have in the Authorised Version.

The continuance of the Reformed, Protestant Church depends upon the maintenance of the Reformed doctrine of Inspiration and upon the maintenance of such theology and preaching and practice and discipline as depends upon the Word of God for its authority. Romanism is bolstered by tradition and by the authority of the Church itself. Liberalism puts the self-proclaimed scholar in place of the priest. Large sections of the professedly-Evangelical Church have been carried away either with pluralism or mysticism. The Reformed, Protestant Church was built upon the supreme, sole and sufficient authority of the inspired Word of God, and when it loses that it loses the reason for its existence and loses its divine strength.

Indeed, the continuance of Christianity as we have known it depends upon acceptance of the divine inspiration of the Bible. When men move away from submission to the authority of the Divine Word, whether they replace it with the dogmas of an infallible Church or the theorising of scholars or the human consciousness of men, they lose the doctrine and the life of Christianity. A trustworthy Bible provides us with a definite system of theology. Take away confidence in the Scriptures as the infallible and unerring Word of God, and there is no basis for asserting the truthfulness of the Christian religion. Men left to themselves will come up with a gospel very different from that proclaimed in the Bible. In the nineteenth century, professedly Evangelical and Calvinistic churchmen thought that they could undermine the inspiration and authority of the Word of God and yet retain their gospel. History has shown the folly of that notion. If men do not accept what the Bible says about itself, why should they accept what it says on any subject?

What is Christianity? It makes all the difference whether one seeks the answer to that question from an inspired, infallible Bible or somewhere – anywhere – else. The Christianity which obtains when the Bible is supreme is very different from the Christianity so-called which will prevail when anything else takes that place and subjects the Bible to it. The one is genuine and the other is false, even if they happen to correspond in some of their ideas.

The effectiveness of the Church in the world as an instrument for the accomplishment of God’s purposes of grace depends upon her possession and use of an inspired Bible. On what other basis can the Church demand the attention of men for what those in a state of nature regard as foolishness or find to be a stumbling block? The inspired Word of God determines the message of the Church to the surrounding world. It determines the methods which the Church is to use in her attempts to make that message known.

It is itself the great instrument which the Church is to use; she is to spread the Word of God and preach that Word faithfully. The possession of the inspired, infallible Word of God is a large part of the strength which the Church possesses in her endeavour to fulfil her mission. Her mission is, in essence, to bring the Word of God to bear upon men, to summon men to hear the Word of God and to submit soul and mind and morals to it. Her preachers have much encouragement to proclaim the message of the Bible accurately and faithfully in the assurance that it is divine truth itself, and that the conviction of this is wrought in the souls of sinners by the power of the Holy Ghost. We can see the effects today on her message, of the professing Church departing from the inspired and infallible Word of God, and also on her methods and her warrant for demanding the attention of men. And even where the truth is maintained in these areas, the Church may suffer a crisis of confidence because she is not living as she should in the realisation of the significance of having in her possession the inspired, infallible Word of God. We do not have to apologise for the inspired Word of God but only publish and preach it.

As far as our approach to those who do not bow to the authority of Scripture is concerned, the doctrine of Inspiration suggests that we should not deal with them in such a way that they are made to feel that they have the capacity or the right to judge the credentials of the Word of God. While we should endeavour to remove any doubts, more or less honestly held, which are capable of being removed by human testimony or evidence, we should begin with them from the assumption that God is and that God has spoken. We should encourage them to read the Bible for themselves. D A Carson wrote in 1996: “Two years ago I gave a series of evangelistic talks to a small group of scientists near Chicago, all with earned doctorates. From previous experience, I went in expecting that two-thirds would not even know that the Bible has two Testaments. I discovered that my estimate was a trifle low.” He suggests that “surely part of the effort to find out what Scripture is requires that we read Scripture and see what it says of itself”.[3]

On the personal level, the doctrine of inspiration provides us in the Word of God with a divine foundation for our faith and with a divine authority for our lives. It gives us direct access to what God has spoken. It brings the Word of God directly to bear upon us. It searches us to the depth of our being. It provides us with a basis for the most sure hope. It makes it possible for us to have fellowship not only with the writers of Scripture in their beliefs and experiences and way of life but also “with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 Jn 1:3). It is the means of making possible in this twenty-first century a personal religion that is identical in every essential aspect with that of the first disciples of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and all those down through the preceding centuries who were looking for His appearing. True personal religion in all its aspects is a response to the Word of God – faith, repentance, love, obedience, hope and every other Christian grace is wrought in the regenerate soul by the Holy Spirit through the instrumentality of His Word.

The relevance of this doctrine to us will manifest itself supremely in our own attitude to the Scriptures. As we seek to contend for the doctrine of inspiration, “we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders and with divers miracles and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to His own will?” (Heb 2:1-4). “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently; being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: but the Word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the Word which by the gospel is preached unto you” (1 Pet 1:22-25). “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Pet 1:19-21).

1 The final article in the series.
2 Westminster Confession 1:2.
3 The Gagging of God, pp 42,162.

Taken with permission from the Free Presbyterian Magazine, January 2006
Website of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland: www.fpchurch.org.uk

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