Friday, January 06, 2017

A Lamp Unto My Feet

I dislike much of my nighttime dreaming. Most of the time it is spotty, a flickering and dark dream not in a spooky way, but in a literal sense. I can't see well. The lights come and go. Typically, they are not well lit. I don't like trying to operate in situations without light.

Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible. It is built on the Hebrew alphabet and is 176 verses of what might be called "An Ode to God's Word." One I'm sure you've heard is
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psa 119:105)
That's all well and good, except these days God's Word is under attack from all sides. Of course, the atheists and "free thinkers" (which, for some reason, does not include "free to think that the Bible is true") have always denied it. But it also comes from "believers" (which seems a bit of a contradictory term when they claim to "believe" ... just not God's Word). This has actually been going on for much of my lifetime, like back in the '70's when the conservative Fuller Theological Seminary declared that the Bible was not God's Word, but contained God's Word. From all sides it's "No, it is not infallible" and "No, it is not inerrant" (which, if you're not paying attention, is a claim that "Yes, it is fallible and it is erroneous") and "No, it is not God's Word" (It can't be if it is fallible and erroneous) and, ultimately, "No, we can't rely on it because, at best, it is a human construct interpreted by fallible humans without any reason to trust its words or their interpretation." In this view, then, it cannot be claimed that God's Word is a lamp to my feet or a light to my path. Perhaps it has some things of value, but we can't really be sure which parts those might be, if it is reliable, and, as such, we must conclude that it cannot ultimately be authoritative.

I argue the reverse. It is God's Word. It is not "inspired" -- it is God-breathed. It is "exhaled" by God. As a product of God using human writers, it has the truth and authority of God. To the extent that our translations align with what God "exhaled", our Bibles are infallible, inerrant, truthful, reliable, and authoritative. While they may, at times, be hard to figure out, they are in all matters of real significance clear and understandable for all. And, in fact, I take this stand with many other believers (without quotes around the word) both today and in all of Church history.

So, why do I believe that? Many reasons.

The Bible claims to be God-breathed (2 Tim 3:16-17). Many of the writers claim to be directly quoting God or getting direct revelation from God. Jesus considered the Scriptures to be from God. Beyond that, the Bible is an absolutely unique book. Written over thousands of years by multiple writers, it retains a consistent message without contradiction. (If you've ever played the Telephone Game, you can get the significance of such a thing.)

The amount of fulfilled prophecy in the Bible is truly inexplicable apart from its supernatural origins. One or two guesses might be done, but the standard imposed by the Bible is 100% accuracy, and so far, so good.

There is the manuscript evidence. The Bible was finished in the first century, and it is the most documented ancient writing of all time. There are more than 5,000 pieces of the New Testament extant, most within 200 years of their original writings. Beyond these, we have Old Testament manuscripts that date back more than 100 years before Christ and are, as it turns out, word for word what our Bibles say today. Consider, also, the effect of this consistency. In the question, for instance, of the authorship of the four Gospels, modern scholars often scoff, assuring us that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John likely did not write them, thereby removing them from the category of "Scripture". As it turns out, however, every existing manuscript of these Gospels that include a name assignment includes the same name assignment. That is, when manuscripts from the same time from Rome, Lyon, and Egypt all have the same Gospel names, how could that happen? I'm pretty sure their Internet wasn't that fast. It seems to require that each was using an oral account or a copy of the original manuscript that included the same ascription of authorship to the same people. This kind of manuscript consistency confirms rather than casts doubt.

There are other reasons. Some will point to archaeological evidence. No archaeological find has ever controverted Scripture, and Scripture doubted has often been vindicated by later archaeology. In a similar vein, there are many extrabiblical writings that confirm biblical claims. These are nice to have; I just don't rely on them. Some will point to the changes the Bible brings in the lives of people who read it and take it to heart. It is true that changed hearts make changed lives, so this is nice to have, but I don't rely on it given the deceived nature of the human heart. Some will talk about the scientific accuracy of the Bible. Before its time, the Bible spoke of a round Earth (Job 26:10; Isa 40:22), the vastness of the stars (Jer 33:22), and the fact that the Earth did not ride on a turtle's back or whatever other means of support earlier cultures ventured (Job 26:7). I don't rely on these, either. It is interesting that the Bible is so forthright over its own failed characters, like drunken Noah, David's adultery and murder, and Peter's denial of Christ. Not a normal thing to find in writings intended to convince rather than speak pure truth. And, of course, Jesus claims, "Your Word is truth." (John 17:17)

There is lots of evidence for the Bible as a divinely-breathed, supernaturally-overseen, book of truth. Refuting it comes easy to many, but they do it by disregarding the evidence, not by demonstrating that it's false. More importantly, if "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path," it can only be so if it is truly illuminating. Given the "free thinkers" and the "Christian skeptics" and the whole "The Bible is not infallible, inerrant, nor entirely God's Word" naysayers, I cannot see how they operate like I do in my unpleasant dreams -- by flickering and unreliable light. Doubt it if they want, but don't expect me to disregard the evidence, ignore Christ, and follow along blindly ... literally.


Anonymous said...

Where do Muslims go wrong in figuring their Quran to be too perfect to be written without divine guidance?

For example, see this page----

Craig said...

I'd argue that their doctrine of abrogation pretty much rules out the Koran being perfect, either that or Allah changes his mind.

Stan said...

First, Islam claims that the Qur'an is Allah's Word and Christians claim that the Bible is God's Word. Since they contradict each other, one thing we can know for sure -- it cannot be that both are true. One or the other or both may be false, but it cannot be that both are true. Further, Muslims claim that the Aur'an claims that the Gospels and Torah are true ... except that they're not. That is, they contradict themselves.

Christians take their Bible to be divinely inspired on the basis of faith because their Bible says so and because there is evidence that it is so. Muslims take their Qur'an as divinely inspired purely on the basis of faith. It was not written over thousands of years by a variety of authors with a single, coherent message. It does not contain unvarnished, verifiable prophecies all of which have actually occurred (with the obvious exception of the ones that are still pending). It does include contradictions. The problems with the Qur'an are not merely translation or word differences; they are substantive. Islam believes that their Qur'an is divinely inspired on the basis of a self-authenticating miracle. That is, it is, therefore it is.

Christians might take on faith that the Bible is God's Word. They might and they should. But it doesn't have to be on the basis of credulity -- belief without reason or evidence.

Stan said...

Doctrine of Abrogation. An actual doctrine to handle contradictions. Interesting. Not good, but interesting.