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NO topic dealt with in theology calls for more careful attention to facts as contrasted with theories than revelation. The subject has often been beclouded by the introduction of needless problems. Abstract and a priori considerations have often ruled the minds of thinkers here. Attention to the facts of man’s common religious life, and particularly to those presented in the Christian revelation, will lead to the conclusions which are called for by a system of Christian doctrine. There are several facts fundamental to clearness of view which may be named at this point. The first is that the very conception of religion contains at its heart the idea of revelation. No definition of religion which omits the idea can stand in the light of the facts. If the worshiper speaks to God, and God is forever silent to the worshiper, we have only one side of religion. Religion then becomes a meaningless make-believe. The second fact is that the general religious life of mankind, with scarcely any exception, exhibits belief in revelation as essential to religion. The apparent exceptions are instances like Brahmanism and Buddhism, which are speculative systems of thought rather than religions. They are philosophies which mark the insufficiency of the ethnic religions. They never have succeeded as philosophies. Always the religious impulse reasserts itself and the gods swarm back into consciousness. The third fact is the unique and unparalleled revelation which God has made in and through Jesus Christ. With the revelation in Christ is to be taken the revelation of God to Israel. The remarkable record of this revelation is presented to us in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. The above considerations show how the doctrine of revelation arises out of the facts of experience and of history. The chief problem is to interpret the facts. In the Scriptures we find an interpretation of the facts. In brief, it is that God revealed himself to Israel in the life and history of the people, and that prophetic men have left us a record of the revelation, and that God spoke supremely in and through Jesus Christ and the apostles. There can be no question that the biblical writers regarded the revelations which came to them as supernatural. It is equally clear that the revelation was mediated to them for the most part through their experience and needs. God was present with his people. He dwelt in them. He guided and cared for them, and slowly made himself known to them.
1. Opposing Views
Before developing the idea of a supernatural revelation further we may note here a few of the opposing views, based on certain philosophic assumptions and world-views.
1. The agnostic does not assert or deny the reality of God, but he does deny
that God can communicate with us. The absolute and infinite is too far removed from man to make himself known to him. Of course we agree at once that we cannot know God perfectly. But we deny strongly the radical theory of knowledge which asserts man’s total incapacity for knowing God and God’s total incapacity for revealing himself to man. As we have seen, man is constituted for God in every part of his being. In his psychic, moral, scientific, philosophic, and religious life, he seeks and progressively attains the truth. Agnosticism denies all meaning to these facts. For him the world is not coherent, not a unitary system. It is awry. The parts of being are out of relation to each other. There is no food for man’s soul-hunger. All of this shows that the agnostic denial of, the possibility of revelation is grounded, in an, unscientific theory of knowledge. In principle it is subversive of all thought in all spheres.
2. The pantheistic denial of the possibility of a supernatural revelation is destructive or the true religious life in another way. It cancels the distinct reality of God as a personal being. It makes of man simply a part of the infinite substance. He is as divine as any other part of being. This view often expresses itself in the form of an exaggerated doctrine of the divine immanence. God is in all things and through all things, and, according to this view, we need not think of him as also above all things. The reply is that if God only speaks through the natural and human development of events, then he is absorbed and exhausted as it were in his own universe.
The doctrine of the divine immanence, which teaches that God is equally present everywhere, leaves no room for anything distinctive in revelation. Everything is divine revelation on this view. And this amounts virtually to the statement that nothing is divine revelation. God never can distinguish himself to our consciousness from his finite creation if we try to explain his action by means of an exclusive doctrine of the divine immanence. The immanence of God is a great and important truth. The Scriptures everywhere recognize it. But the transcendence of God is equally important God’s transcendence is involved in his personality. Personality in man is the chief element in his constitution as bearing the image of God. Man’s personality is developed on the natural level through interaction with matter and human society. On the spiritual level it is developed through interaction with God. The unfolding of man’s personal
religious life then marks his distinction from God at every point. This distinction is a fundamental condition of all the religious life of man. Religion means man in fellowship with God in personal terms. This implies both the immanence and transcendence of God.
3. Another view which opposes a supernatural revelation takes the form of
what is commonly known as natural religion. Its position is that the world about us, along with the human reason and conscience, sufficiently reveals God to us. There is therefore no need of a supernatural revelation. God’s existence we infer from the works of nature. Human freedom we know as being conscious of moral obligation. Immortality we infer from our own spirituality and the necessity of a future life to adjust the wrongs and inequalities of the present life. Thus reasons natural religion. There are various objections to the view. The first is that it is a creed based on philosophic inferences rather than a religion. A man might hold all the above items of belief and not be a religious man at all. Religion is experience of fellowship with God, not logical deductions from a particular set of objective facts. The view is defective also in that it does not contain enough knowledge of God to supply human need. Particularly does it come short in its failure to show the redemptive love and purpose of God. It is also glaringly deficient in its suggestions as to the moral and spiritual power needed for the victorious religious life. It has no suggestion for a renewal of man’s nature and the implanting of a love for holiness. The view of natural religion is radically objectionable because it leaves God himself forever silent. His works indeed reveal something of God, the elementary truths of religion. In this natural religion is right. But according to it God never becomes active for man’s enlightenment or salvation. Reason discovers what it can. But God speaks no direct word to the most earnest seeker for truth. The view is essentially deistic. God made the universe and left it running. In a general way he upholds it. He may, as it were, keep it “spinning round his finger,” but he never touches it. These three types of objection to the idea of a supernatural revelation will sufficiently indicate the prevailing views. None of them can make good its claim. The whole subject must be carried over from the realm of speculation and a priori reasoning into that of living experience. The Christian doctrine of revelation rests on a fact basis. It is not an abstract theory, but an explanation of certain events in the spiritual history of the race. The record of these events is found in the Christian Scriptures.
2. Contents Of Revelation
Christian revelation may be defined as containing the following elements:
1. It is primarily a revelation of God himself rather than of truths about God.
This is a cardinal fact. Revelation is in the first instance God making himself known. Truths there are of course. Doctrines inevitably shape themselves as the revelation proceeds. But the primal fact is God entering human experience, and man becoming conscious of his presence and power.
2. On the human side revelation is primarily a spiritual transaction rather than
mere illumination of the intellect. Revelation is an event in the soul, an act of man’s whole nature in response to God’s self-disclosure. Thus revelation is primarily salvation God makes himself known by saving acts to the individual or to the redeemed society. It is easy to see how far removed this is from the bare communication of truth to the mind. There were indeed instances of the latter recorded in the Old Testament. But the uniform law was revelation through the redeeming activity of God. There is a great principle of religious psychology involved in this point. No bare truth about God can be a revelation of God in the Christian sense. Revelation is “acquaintance with” and not mere “knowledge about” God. Even the revelation in and through Jesus Christ would never have been complete without the group of redeemed men to whom it was made. What Christ was as the Revealer of God could only be known through his redeeming power in the disciples. And the world at large could never have known that revelation unless the first group of disciples had left a record of their own experiences. The revelation included necessarily therefore the objective self-disclosure of God in the historical Jesus Christ; the subjective experience off the redeeming power of Jesus in the regenerated society; and the permanent record of that power and that redemption given us in the New Testament. The gospel thus became the possession of the world at large and became an actual transforming power organic in the human race.
3. Again, revelation was rooted in the life and needs of the people. We should
not think of it as a foreign thing grafted on Israel. It was not unrelated to their life and needs, but sprang directly therefrom. The message through the prophets and apostles met an actual situation. It did not spring out of the natural life of the people as its producing cause. It was rather the coming of God into their life to meet an urgent need.
4. Revelation on God’s part evoked an active response on man’s part. This is a
matter of vital importance. It is frequently forgotten in discussions of the subject. Here, as elsewhere in the religious life, man must conform to the universal law expressed by the apostle Paul: We work out what God works in us.
There is nothing in the Bible to warrant the Roman Catholic notion of implicit faith; that is, the unintelligent acceptance on sheer authority of the dogma of an ecclesiastical superior. There is nothing in Scripture to warrant the idea of mechanically dictated truth to a merely passive intellect. Men sometimes think of revelation as if the mind of the prophet were as a blank sheet of paper on which the Holy Spirit inscribed God’s message. On the contrary, the human faculties were, as a rule, intensely alive and active. The truth disclosed was molded in the forms required by the personality, training, and circumstances of the human organ of revelation. Here again we have a principle of great significance. God’s revelation is designed to awaken and develop human personal. Never is it intended to crush or weaken it. Observe the care with which Jesus revealed himself to the early disciples. “Who do men say that I am?” was his question at one stage of his public ministry. When Peter replied correctly Jesus pronounced him blessed. Jesus meant that men should discover him. The revelation was not complete until they responded actively. His parables were framed expressly to awaken thought about him. In a sense then God’s revelations can only become revelations when they become our discoveries.
3. The Record Of Revelation
We have in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments the record of God’s revelation of himself to his people. There are two was of approaching the question of the authoritativeness of the Scriptures. One puts much emphasis on the processes, the other upon the results, of inspiration. The former seeks to enter the realm of religious psychology and to show how God’s Spirit imparted the light necessary for the inspiration of the biblical writers. The latter is more practical and dwells rather upon the outcome of the process in the Bible as we have it.
1. The psychological method seeks to distinguish between revelation, illumination, and inspiration. Revelation is the super natural communication of truth to the human messenger. Illumination is the spiritual insight imparted by God’s Spirit, enabling the human mind to grasp the meaning of the truth. Inspiration is the divine guidance and control of the messenger in delivering or recording the message. These distinctions, when properly understood, are justified. The revelation in and through Christ was given before the illumination required for its understanding in the minds of the early disciples. Again, illumination is bestowed by the Holy Spirit upon all obedient children of God. Spiritual insight, without revelation and inspiration in the strict sense, is the common possession of believers. It would be a mistake, however, to hold these distinctions in too radical a manner. They are useful for thought. But the
elements separated in thought are not always separate in fact. Revelation is usually accompanied by illumination. Inspiration also is most frequently attended by revelation and illumination.
2. As a result of the psychological method certain theories of inspiration have arisen. In brief outline they are as follows: The naturalistic theory of inspiration holds that as God dwells in all men, all are inspired. The degree of inspiration depends upon their natural capacity, mental and spiritual. It is obvious that this is not the biblical doctrine of inspiration. Another theory is that inspiration is illumination rather than infallible guidance into truth. It thus leaves room for many and varying degrees of truth and of error in the outcome. Another is called the plenary verbal theory of inspiration. It holds that every ward of Scripture was selected by the Holy Spirit and dictated to the writer. One form of the theory of plenary inspiration is called the theory of dynamical inspiration. This maintains that the thought rather than the language was inspired, and that men were enabled to declare truth unmixed with error, but permitted to convey their ideas in forms of their own selection.
a. With regard to these theories it may be remarked that none of them is an exhaustive or adequate expression of the teaching of Scripture. Most of them no doubt contain elements of truth, but they attempt the impossible. It is not within our power to analyze fully the process by which God’s Spirit operates upon the human mind in providing for us a record of his redemptive dealings with men. There was great variety in the circumstances of the biblical writers, and great diversity in their gifts and capacities and in the forms employed for setting forth the truths revealed. In some cases inspiration led to the selection merely of historical material, as in the historical books of the Old Testament. In others the facts were given and inspiration led to their interpretation. In the case of Luke, as he informs us, careful research was necessary. Inspiration did not exempt him from the ordinary task of the diligent historian. b. Most of the psychological theories of inspiration start from a false premise. They begin by asking how God could have given to us a reliable guide for our religious life, and they proceed to answer the question by a theory which seems to meet the end in view. They proceed thus: If the Bible is God’s word to us, then it must have been given in such and such a manner. The true method, on the contrary, is to study the Bible inductively in order to learn what its claims are and what success it has had in meeting those claims, in the experience of Christians of the past and present. This is the experiential and practical method of approaching the doctrine of inspiration. It is much more concerned with the result than it is with the process of inspiration. What is the Bible, and what place does it hold in our religious life to-day? How does it
meet the religious needs of men? This is the practical question. The Bible itself contains the best answer.
4. Distinguishing Marks Of The Biblical Revelation
In harmony with what has just been said we proceed next to name some of the leading characteristics of the Scriptures. These are given as a general survey of the contents of the Bible itself.
1. The biblical revelation is historical and experiential. This means that
individuals in Israel and the people of Israel lived in conscious relations with Jehovah. It means also that Jehovah made himself known to them in their individual and national history. Nothing stands out in clearer light as to the writers of the Old Testament than their consciousness of God. This appears in many passages. Many of the psalms are little more than fervid narrations of God’s dealings with Israel. (See Deu. 26:16; 28: 1; Psa. 107: 1 ff.; 44: 1 ff.; 105: 1 ff.) The prophets lived in the divine presence. The consciousness of God with them was a part of their own self-consciousness. It was their uniform claim that Jehovah spoke in and through them. (See Jer. 1: 4; Eze. 2: 1; Hos. 1: 1; Mic. 1: 1; Hag. 1: 1.) The same fact appears in the New Testament, but under changed conditions. Jesus declares the truth about God, and those who receive the revelation record it in our New Testament books. The promise to them is that they shall be guided into truth by the Holy Spirit. (Joh. 16:13)
2. The biblical revelation is regenerative and morally transforming. In the early stages of the revelation the ethical qualities of the people do not shine with the same radiance as in the later. But it is clear that one chief object of the revelation is moral transformation. To think of the sheer communication of supernatural truth as the most important object or result of revelation is to misconceive it. There is a growth from immature forms of morality in the early parts of the Old Testament to a perfected morality in the New Testament which presents a striking contrast between the outward and inward, the temporary and permanent, the special and the universal, the provisional and the final. The Sermon on the Mount alone is abundant proof of this statement. (Matthew 5 to 7.) 3. The biblical revelation is genetic. This means that the parts are vitally
related to each other. The revelation proceeds like the unfolding of an inner life principle: We do not find the prophets warring with each other in sentiment and aim. Each takes up the thread of teaching at the point where his predecessors left it off. They build on each other. This is the fundamental law of all progress. The traditionalist worships the ancient forms and will have no change. The radical is so intolerant of the old that he would destroy it. The
prophets and apostles avoided both errors. The continuity of the teaching of the Bible is one of its most marked qualities.
4. Another outstanding characteristic of the revelation of the Bible is that it is
gradual and progressive. The recognition of this fact is one of the most important results of the modern critical study of the Bible. It is an easy task to show that every leading idea of the biblical revelation undergoes change in the sense of growth and expansion in the course of the history. The conception of Jehovah himself is first presented with emphasis on the attribute of power. He is thought of chiefly in his relations with Israel. Slowly the idea is transformed into the splendid conception of Isaiah in which Jehovah is portrayed as infinite in all his attributes, and yet full of condescension, grace, and love. In the New Testament we have the crowning revelation of God as the infinite Father who sends his Son to redeem the world. The principle of a gradual and progressive revelation sheds light on several problems which may be mentioned here. a. It supplies the key for the interpretation of certain psalms and other Old Testament passages in which God seems to be represented as a vindictive being, rejoicing in his power to inflict suffering even upon the innocent along with the guilty. (See Psa. 137: 9; 109: 5-20.) The Old Testament law of divorce is not the same as that of the New Testament. Certain offenses which civilization no longer visits with penalties so severe were punishable in Israel by death. Now all these facts can be understood if we think of the Bible as the record of God’s self-disclosure to a people incapable of more rapid development. It is impossible to reconcile them with any theory of inspiration which regards all parts of the Bible as equally absolute and final. Jesus expressly rejected the view. A large part of Paul’s writings are opposed to it. The book of Hebrews is an elaborate and formal argument to show that the Old Testament revelation was preparatory rather than final. All this is but illustrative of the divine pedagogy in the training of a race. There was no moral and spiritual method of forcing the process of growth. It required free action on man’s part. Men must learn obedience. Often it required severe discipline to teach it. But until they could grasp the truth it was vain to proclaim it. And so Jehovah gently led his people and bore with their infirmities and moral blindness until he could lead them out into a larger moral and spiritual life. b. The gradualness of revelation sheds light on the question of delay in the great revelation in Christ. In the New Testament Paul often employs the phrase “the fulness of times” in relation to the coming of Christ into the world. There was a ripening of the divine purpose. But there was also a maturing of human
receptiveness for Christ. If Christ had come at the beginning of the revelation, the moral and spiritual preparation necessary on the part of the people would have been wanting. No doubt he came as soon as the incarnation could prove effective for the end in view. The idea of epochs and dispensations in God’s dealing with men is based on a profound law of man’s spiritual development. It has to be kept in mind by all who would understand the revelation in Christ. c. The gradualness of revelation sheds light on the principle of development, in so far as that principle is applicable to the Scriptures. Many moderns have sought to apply to the Old Testament history a theory of natural development which eliminates entirely the need for any supernatural presence or power of God. As we have seen, there is beyond question a principle of growth and development in revelation. Indeed, there is no body of religious literature on earth which compares with the Scriptures in steady progress from lower to higher forms. But this is not evidence against, but rather in favor of the divine guidance. It is an impressive mark of divine wisdom. Here were writers of varied gifts, separated by long intervals of time, surrounded often by unbelief and deadly hostility, speaking out their messages often at fearful cost in pain and suffering. Sometimes they spoke under protest, as in the case of Jeremiah, and yet urged on by an inward voice they could not resist. The result is a body of literature covering a period of a thousand years, possessing a marvelous unity along with a marvelous progress. We may indicate the underlying principle of progress by the following statements: at each stage there was a communication of life and truth needed for that stage; the revelation contained in itself the principle for development to the next higher stage; the advanced stage in turn conserved the principle the of the preceding stage and contained the germ which should expand into the next higher; the lines of development all converged toward fulfilment, in Jesus Christ, the crowning revelation. It is unnecessary to trace here the various lines of development in the progressive revelation. It is sufficient to point out that it is ethical, containing a deepening appreciation of the higher moral ideals; that along with this there is a marked development of the consciousness of sin and guilt; that this deepening sin-consciousness is attended by a growth in the sense of need for atonement; that the need for atonement is coupled in a marvelous manner with an enriched conception of God’s grace; that the conception of God himself is slowly rounded out into that of a Being whose purposes include all mankind; that the course of the history slowly converges upon the One who in his Person and work is to transform the temporal kingdom into a spiritual and universal one for the redemption of mankind. These facts are “writ large” on the pages of Scripture.
One point needs to be added as to the gradualness of revelation. By this it is not meant that revelation was continuous and uninterrupted throughout the Old Testament period. There were great deliverances and deeds of Jehovah at special periods and great crises of Israel’s history. The deliverance from Egyptian bondage and the great events which followed was one of these. To this period the people ever looked back with gratitude. In the period of the Exile there was a great revival of the prophetic inspiration and power. The miracles of Jesus, and especially his resurrection, were the most notable of all God’s great acts of deliverance. The special deed and the special redemptive message were outstanding features of a revelation which, regarded in its whole course and extent, was also progressive and gradual. Both aspects of the truth should be held in mind.
5. Closely, connected with the idea of this gradual and progressive revelation
is that, it is also unitary and purposive. All that we have just said as to the gradualness indicates as well the unity and purposiveness of God’s revelation. It is only necessary to add a few points to bring the latter into greater clearness. There are at least five things which serve this end. First the purpose of God is seen in his selection of one nation from among many. Through that nation he reaches all nations with his saving truth. Secondly, his purpose appears in the geographical position of Israel, the very center of the inhabited world of that age. Thus, like leaven in a lump, the life of Israel could slowly transform the rest of the world. Thirdly, his purpose appears in the divine guidance which led to the permanent record in writing of God’s dealings with his chosen people. None of the prophets knew the place their words would hold in the literature of the race. Fourthly, God’s, purpose is seen in the supreme role which his recorded revelation has played in the actual history of the world. We note in the Fifth place that the same purposive action of God is seen in the providential steps which led to the formation of the canon of Scripture. This arose not as an expression of ecclesiastical authority; it was the result of a vital inner process of selection. The divinity of the contents of the Scripture books, not church decrees, led to their incorporation in one body of literature.
6. The biblical revelation is congruous with man’s general intellectual and
religious life. The bible, correctly understood, interferes in no way with man’s search for truth in the realm of science, philosophy, and other departments of intellectual effort. The Bible is not a book of science nor of philosophy. It is a
book of religion. It only asks that science and philosophy recognize the facts of man’s religious life for which it stands. The biblical revelation does not require us to hold that no truths about God were known to the nations other than Israel. Many of the fundamental ideas of the Bible are seen in imperfect or distorted form in the general religious life of mankind. This does not discredit, but confirms the truth of the biblical revelation. These religious ideas were God’s means of preparing men for the revelation in Christ. Men were enfeebled and blinded by sin. Yet the religious impulse never died in them. They sought God. The various systems are the result of their seeking. The special revelation in Christ is God’s clear answer to them.
7. The revelation is supernatural. The Old Testament prophets constantly claimed divine authority for their words. This reference of their messages to God or God’s Spirit is so uniform, so unvarying, that it has all the impressiveness of a phenomenon and a law. (Num. 11:23; 20:24; Isa. 55:11; 66: 2; Jer. 1:12; 4:27 23:28-30; Mat. 24:35; Joh. 5:24; 2Ti. 3:16.)
How shall we account for it? Were these men self-deceived? Were they afflicted with diseased minds? It is impossible to believe this in the light of their lofty and sane moral teachings and of their commanding position in the world to-day. If men object that such revelations are psychologically impossible, we may reply by pointing to the influence of our human mind and will upon other minds and wills. Mysterious? Yes. But nothing is more mysterious than the action of our own wills. The prophets knew as we know what came from without to them. Their whole personal and religious life was developed in reaction upon God and his will, revealed in and to them. Their own selfconsciousness was the proof of their God-consciousness. Their own wills and God’s will interacted without confusion of the one with the other, without absorption of their will in God’s, or loss of their individuality in the infinite substance. Certainly these are the conclusions thrust upon us as we read what these men say to us in their written words. We cannot analyze or define accurately all the processes. The details elude us. But the great outstanding fact is beyond dispute if we are to credit what these men tell us about their own experiences. Jesus Christ clearly recognized the unique and permanent value of the revelation of God through the Old Testament writings. (Mat. 21:42; 22:29; Mar. 14:49; Luk. 24:27; Joh. 5:39.) They spoke of him. With Jesus it was a commonplace thought that the Old Testament was God’s self-revelation.
The apostles also claimed divine guidance for their messages. They were the witnesses to the facts of the life of Jesus. They were the interpreters of Christ to us. Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to them for future guidance. The apostle Paul is especially clear in his statements regarding the influence of God’s Spirit in his work. (1Co. 2: 4, 5, 10-16.) In one notable passage he states generally the doctrine of inspiration: “Every Scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work” (2Ti. 3:16). However we may translate these words, the great outstanding fact remains that the apostle regarded the Scriptures as derived from men who were guided by the Holy Spirit of God. A general opposition to everything supernatural on the part of many of course forbids the idea of anything supernatural or special in the biblical revelation. For the present it need only be replied that the facts as we know them do not warrant an impersonal conception of being as a whole; that personality is the supreme fact; and that personality cannot be confined within the chain of physical law; and that if the universe is ultimately personal, and if God is a God of grace and love, there can be no possible objection on theoretical grounds to the idea of a supernatural revelation.
8. The biblical revelation is sufficient certain, and authoritative for all religious ends. This means that the Bible meets all the requirements of the religious life of man as the inspired literary record of the self-revelation of God.
Here we note one or two errors which are to be avoided. First, we must not imagine that the biblical revelation removes the necessity for the direct action of God’s Spirit upon men. Man’s approach to God is direct. Spirit with Spirit can meet. It is the presence of God’s Spirit in men that enables them to understand, appreciate, and use the Scriptures aright. The Bible is not statutory. It is not of the nature of a legal code. It is a book of life principles. To the regenerate man the most convincing of all the evidences of the divine origin of the Bible is the identity of his own spiritual life with that revealed in the Bible. The Christian finds a saving gospel there. The Bible is the collection of writings which explains to him the life he has found in Christ. He thus sustains a relation to the Bible which is independent of all theories pertaining to its literary structure. Another error, to be avoided is the application of false standards to the Scriptures. This mistake has often been made. Men have applied the scientific
or philosophic test to the Bible and have rejected it because it does not at all points square with their own conclusions. This is the cardinal error of some modern men in their approach to the Bible. Modern scientific methods are of recent origin. If the biblical writers had been divinely taught the truths of modern science and had announced them prematurely, the result would have been to discredit rather than to commend their messages. Suppose, for example, that in the Nineteenth Psalm, which has much to say about the heavenly bodies, the writer had announced the modern scientific formulation of the law of gravitation: Bodies attract each other directly as the mass and inversely as the square of the distance. What would have been the result? The mere supposition shows how completely foreign to the biblical writers was this modern scientific point of view. What is the infallibility of the Bible? How is it to be tested? Dr. Marcus Dods says:f7 “The whole matter hinges here. What is the infallibility we claim for the Bible? Is it infallibility in grammar, in style, … in science, or what? Its infallibility must be determined by its purpose. If you say that your watch is infallible, you mean, as a timepiece; not that it has a flawless case, not that it will tell you the day of the month, or predict tomorrow’s weather. The navigator finds his chart infallible as a guide to lighthouses, and shallows, and sunken rocks, but useless to give him the time of day or to inform him of the products and races of the lands he is bound for. A guide may infallibly lead you over a difficult and not easily found pass, although he is ignorant of any language but his own and knows little that happens beyond his own mountains.” It is strange indeed how often the friends and foes of the Bible have created false issues about it. We must let the Bible tell its own story and not hold it to false standards and tests. It shows us God’s presence among his people using men of varying capacities, who were guided in the selection of a great variety of means for conveying the truth; adapting the means to the end in view and the need to be supplied; employing always the language of common life; sometimes using forms of pictorial representation suitable for a child-race; at others rising to the lofty eloquence of Isaiah and the sublime conceptions of a God infinite in majesty, power, grace, and truth; the whole culminating in the matchless revelation of God in Christ. The Bible then is a book of religion, not of science. As such it has proved hitherto and will continue to prove in the future, man’s sufficient and authoritative guide. In conclusion, then, the Bible remains in its place of authority for Christians. It is a vital and living authority, and not a mechanical and ecclesiastical one. It is our authoritative source of information as to the historical revelation of God in Christ. It is regulative of Christian experience and Christian doctrine. It is the
instrument of the Holy Spirit in his regenerative and sanctifying influences. As regulative and authoritative it saves us from subjectivism on the one hand and from a bare rationalism on the other. It holds us to the great saving deeds of God in Jesus Christ, the Redeemer and Lord. It is final for us in all the matters of our Christian faith and practice.
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