Is All Scripture Inspired? – A Review by Brian Garrard
John Charles Ryle (JR), was born in 1816 and after his conversion served as a minister of a number of Anglican parishes. He was appointed as the first bishop of Liverpool in 1880 and remained in this office until shortly before his death in 1900. He is probably best known for his Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, but his other books have also proved to be very popular. Many of these are still published by the Banner of Truth and continue to provide spiritual benefit. The above1 first appeared in JR’s Old Paths in 1878, while the present edition in this format first appeared in 2003. The book has five chapters including the introduction, plus two appendices.
In the introduction JR sets out to examine the subject of the inspiration of Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16) and does so in two main ways. First, by showing that the Bible is given by God and is, consequently, miraculous. Secondly, he demonstrates the extent of this and shows that it not only covers all the Bible but the very words as well. Certain quotations and references may be a little dated and some modern arguments be unanswered here but, for all that, the essential truths are present. Indeed, what is written sounds remarkably up to date.
With Chapter Two, ‘The Bible is Inspired,’ JR endeavours ‘to show the general truth that the Bible is given by inspiration of God’ (page 5). As proof of this, he maintains that ‘the Bible itself fairly examined, is the best witness of its own inspiration’ (page 6). Six facts are drawn together to ably demonstrate this and include the great fulness and richness of Scripture’s wisdom, the Bible’s unity and harmony, its accuracy, and its remarkable effect upon people and nations who receive it.
In chapter 3, ‘Every Word of the Bible is Inspired’ (pages 24-36), the author examines the extent of biblical inspiration. Its origins are divine and miraculous and cover each word. ‘Every book,’ JR writes, ‘and chapter, and verse, and syllable of the Bible was originally given by inspiration of God’ (page 28). In an age that saw the emergence of the Higher Critical movement, he refused to move an inch in their direction, asserting plainly the verbal inspiration of God’s Word. To him the Bible is the perfect rule of faith and practice, especially as it makes internal claims to be inspired. Besides, important scriptural principles can turn on ‘precise wording’ and this could not be true if the Holy Spirit did not give the very words of the Bible. In addition, it settles all controversies in religion, is the ‘instrument of public preaching and instruction’ (page 34) and is a source of comfort to God’s people. If the words were not from heaven then none of this could be true.
Turning to Chapter Four entitled, ‘Objections Answered,’ it is worth acknowledging that objections to the Bible’s inspiration have increased over the last century and become more subtle. Yet JR’s defence is still relevant despite being written more than 130 years ago. Christians will doubtless find his reasoning helpful even in answering modern errors. Of course, biblical scholars have carried out more work since JR’s time and readers may do well to consider the books mentioned at the end of this review.
Chapter Five concludes the main body of the book (pages 48-53) and consists of practical, and what the author calls, ‘plain’ application. He urges his readers not to neglect the Bible and does so with a sense of urgency. Pressing for the need for reverent and fervent Bible reading, JR writes, ‘God has given us the Bible to be a light to guide us to everlasting life. Let us not neglect this precious gift. Let us read it diligently, walk in its light, and we shall be saved’ (page 53).
There are two Appendices. The first contains quotations from theologians of earlier centuries namely, Bishop Jewel, Richard Hooker, John Owen and Thomas Chalmers. Appendix Two is entitled, ‘Not corrupting the Word’ and is a chapter taken from another of JR’s books, Warnings to the Churches. He cautions against corrupting and dealing deceitfully with God’s Word. This can be done by throwing doubt on its full inspiration, failing to adequately preach its doctrines, and giving ‘defective practical application of it’ (pages 66-70). Finally, he urges preachers to speak God’s Word as those who truly believe it and are commissioned by God. They must also remember that they are in God’s sight and presence and are called to declare Christ to their fellow sinners.
This little book is an excellent introduction to the subject of the Bible’s inspiration. For those who desire to progress further then the following (amongst others) might be helpful: The King James Version Defended by E. F. Hills (The Christian Research Press), Thy Word is Truth by E. J. Young (Banner of Truth), The Lord Gave the Word by M. H. Watts (TBS) and Three Modern Version by A. Macgregor (Bible League) or the author’s expanded work, 400 Years On — How does the Authorised Version stand up in the 21st century? (Visionsolutionsni).
Taken with permission from the Bible League Quarterly, July-September 2013
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