On the Scriptures

books2.pngRead the series on the 1833 New Hampshire Confession of Faith so far.

The 1833 New Hampshire Confession of Faith has always been my personal favorite. It is relatively short, Baptist, Reformed, extraordinarily well-written and powerful. It will encourage any Christian’s heart. Here is the first article:

Of the Scriptures

We believe that the Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired, and is a perfect treasure of heavenly instruction;[1] that it has God for its author, salvation for its end,[2] and truth without any mixture of error for its matter;[3] that it reveals the principles by which God will judge us;[4] and therefore is, and shall remain to the end of the world, the true centre of Christian union,[5] and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and opinions should be tried.[6]

Here are some brief thoughts on this article:

We believe that the Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired,

The Bible was not written by ordinary men. It was written by “men moved by the Holy Spirit [who] spoke from God,” (2 Peter 1:21). The Apostle Peter said that “God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets,” (Acts 3:21). This is why the early church considered the Scriptures “the word of God,” (Acts 6:2). The writer of Hebrews quoted Psalm 95:7-11 (Heb 3:7-11), and specifically identified the Holy Spirit as the author of that psalm, even though it was written by a man!

The point is that the Bible is a special book, a unique book. That special book was written by God, through men “divinely inspired,” who were moved to pen precisely what God wanted through the filter of their own personality and character.

and is a perfect treasure of heavenly instruction; that it has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth without any mixture of error for its matter;

The Holy Scriptures are God’s special revelation to men, containing all that is necessary for us to know Him, understand our just condemnation for sin and wickedness, the provision of salvation through Christ’s life, death, burial and resurrection, and for Christian life and godliness (cf. 2 Peter 1:3).

The Bible’s “end” is to teach men about salvation; why they need it, how it is possible, what Christ has done to secure it for His children, and the means God uses to bring men, women, boys and girls to saving faith in His Son.

The Bible is completely truthful, and does not contain any error.[7]

that it reveals the principles by which God will judge us;

The Bible is the sole, infallible rule of faith for God’s people. This means it tells us all about ourselves; how we ought to act, and how we actually act. How we should love God, and how we actually love Him. The way men and women were originally made to serve God, and the way we actually rebel against Him, like the criminals, spiritual terrorists and children of wrath we actually are.

The Bible tells us why we’re sinful and unacceptable to God, explains His holiness and righteousness, and therefore explains the basis for our eternal condemnation and just punishment – if we reject the only way of salvation in Jesus Christ, who said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me,” (Jn 14:6).

and therefore is, and shall remain to the end of the world, the true centre of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and opinions should be tried.

The Bible is at the center of the Christian life, and therefore it is the universal point of contact which makes fellowship and cooperative ministry possible between all brothers and sisters in Christ – regardless of where they hail from.

Some Christians have a bizarre understanding of what the Reformation-era motto “Scripture Alone” means. Some think it implies a Christians needs literally nothing except the Bible. I’ve heard of people who shun exegetical commentaries and other reference books; “I don’t need them! I have the Holy Spirit and my Bible! I don’t want man’s opinion.” What silliness.

The principle of “Scripture Alone” has never meant this. It simply means that, although books, Pastors, creeds and confessions may be very helpful, the Bible is the only infallible rule of faith and practice for God’s people. It is the yardstick. It is the goalpost. As this confession explains, the Bible is “the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and opinions should be tried.”

Ps119:97 Oh, how I love thy law!
    It is my meditation all the day.
98 Thy commandment makes me wiser than my enemies,
    for it is ever with me.
99 I have more understanding than all my teachers,
    for thy testimonies are my meditation.
100 I understand more than the aged,
    for I keep thy precepts.
101 I hold back my feet from every evil way,
    in order to keep thy word.
102 I do not turn aside from thy ordinances,
    for thou hast taught me.
103 How sweet are thy words to my taste,
    sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104 Through thy precepts I get understanding;
    therefore I hate every false way.

Notes

[1] 2 Tim. 3:16, 17; 2 Pet. 1:21; 1 Sam. 23:2; Acts 1:16; 3:21; John 10:35; Luke 16:29–31; Psa. 119:111; Rom. 3:1. 2.

[2] 2 Tim. 3:15; 1 Pet. 1:10–12; Acts 11:14; Rom. 1:16; Mark 16:16; John 5:38, 39.

[3] Prov. 30:5, 6; John 17:17; Rev. 22:18, 19; Rom. 3:4.

[4] Rom. 2:12; John 12:47, 48; 1 Cor. 4:3, 4; Luke 10:10–16; 12:47, 48.

[5] Phil. 3:6; Eph. 4:3–6; Phil. 2:1, 2; 1 Cor. 1:10; 1 Pet. 4:11.

[6] 1 John 4:1; Isa. 8:20; 1 Thess. 5:21; 2 Cor. 13:5; Acts 17:11; 1 John 4:6; Jude 3:5; Eph. 6:17; Psa. 119:59, 60; Phil. 1:9–11.

[7] See the excellent discussion about inerrancy Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1998), 246-265.

An Embarrassment of Riches – The Reliability of the New Testament

I’ll be starting a series on the preservation of the scriptures soon. In preparation for this, I thought I’d share this neat infographic with you. The bottom line is that we have a huge amount of copies of the New Testament. It is by far the most well-attested book from all of antiquity. This series will focus on God’s providential preservation of His word for His people. In the meantime, this picture illustrates just how many copies of the various New Testament documents we have in comparison to copies of other ancient works.

Find other outstanding infographics at Visual Unit.

nt_reliability1

Why You Can Rely on the Canon

This is a short interview with Dr. Michael Kruger, author of Canon Revisited, a wonderful book I recommend. He also maintains a very helpful website, Canon Fodder. In this video, Dr. Kruger briefly discusses why Christians can trust the books of the New Testament.  It’s only 8:00 long, so watch it if you have a moment or two . . .

Sufficiency of the Scriptures (Part #1)

open-bible

A critical issue in our increasingly post-modern times is the sufficiency of the Scriptures. Both Roman Catholics with their sacred tradition and Charismatics with their emphasis on continuing revelation via the Holy Spirit give lip-service to the Holy Scriptures. However, to these groups, the Scriptures are not the sole authority for Christian faith and life. This is a significant dividing line, one with profound theological ramifications. Consider the results of a 1980 Gallup poll which sought to determine Christian’s opinions on religious authority. The question was, “If you, yourself, were testing your religious beliefs, which ONE of these four religious authorities would you turn to first?” The results are sobering, even more so when one acknowledges the statistics are 33 years old:[1]

table

The sufficiency of the Scriptures has fallen upon hard times. This series will examine what Scripture itself has to say on the matter. First, some brief statements from both orthodox Christians and Roman Catholics on the sufficiency of Scripture will be provided to set the stage, so to speak. Second, a biblical theology of books by several New Testament writers will be presented and their particular views on the sufficiency of Scripture analyzed in context. Third, an exposition will be presented on several critical passages relating to the sufficiency of the Scriptures. Fourth, the distinctly Baptist (and biblical) position of the New Testament being the sole authority for church polity is presented. Fifth, conclusions will be drawn. It will be demonstrated that the Scriptures alone are the only infallible authority for Christian faith and life.

Brief Statements

The objective principle of Protestantism maintains that the Bible, as the inspired record of revelation, is the only infallible rule of faith and practice.[2]

Scripture alone is the inerrant, infallible record of God’s revelation to mankind. But Scripture is more than the record of God’s revelation; it is itself the only infallible, inspired revelation from God that exists today. This is not to say that Scripture is equivalent to the sum total of all revelation that God has been pleased to disclose (Jn 20:30-31; 21:25). But it is to say that Scripture alone constitutes and conveys all that is necessary for God’s glory, man’s salvation, faith and life.[3]

The Reformers did recognize a Christian tradition, but only a Christian tradition based on, and derived from, Scripture, and not one that equaled or even surpassed it in authority.[4]

Roman Catholic theologians recognize two well-springs of divine authority; Scripture and Tradition.

Sacred tradition and sacred Scripture, then, are bound closely together, and communicate one with the other. For both of them, flowing out from the same divine well-spring, come together in some fashion to form one thing, and move towards the same goal . . . Hence, both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal feelings of devotion and reverence.[5]

James Cardinal Gibbons, a 19th century Catholic theologian, wrote:[6]

Now, the Scripture is the great depository of the Word of God. Therefore, the Church is the divinely appointed Custodian and Interpreter of the Bible. For, her office of infallible Guide were superfluous if each individual could interpret the Bible for himself.

The Catholic Church correctly teaches that our Lord and His Apostles included certain important duties of religion which are not recorded by the inspired writers (Jn 21:25) . . . We must conclude that the Scriptures alone cannot be a sufficient guide and rule of faith because they cannot, at any time, be within the reach of every inquirer; because they are not of themselves clear and intelligible even in matters of the highest importance, and because they do not contain all the truths necessary for salvation.

The next post will be a biblical theology of several books of the New Testament on the matter.


[1] Mike Willis, “The Unread Bible,” Truth Magazine, May 1, 1980, 291-292. http://www.truthmagazine.com/the-unread-bible.

[2] Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, 7 vols. (Peabody, MS: Hendrickson, 2011), 7:16.

[3] David T. King, Holy Scripture: The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith, 3 vols. (Battle Ground, WA: Christian Truth, 2001), 1:43.

[4] Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, vol. 1, combined ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1996), 169.

[5] Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents, Austin Flannery, O.P., general editor (Boston: St. Paul Editions, 1980), 754-755. Quoted in King, Holy Scripture, 50.

[6] James C. Gibbons, The Faith of Our Fathers, ch. 2. http://www.cathcorn.org/foof/8.html

The New Testament Books are the Earliest Christian Writings We Possess

Below is a linked article to a short blog series entitled “10 Basic Facts About the New Testament Every Christian Should Memorize.” The author is Michael Kruger, author of an excellent book on the canon of the New Testament entitled Canon Revisited.

This excerpt is from the first in the series, which emphasizes that Christians should know that the NT writings are the earliest Christian writings we have!

One of the most formidable challenges in any discussion about the New Testament canon is explaining what makes these 27 books unique.  Why these and not others?  There are many answers to that question, but in this blog post we are focusing on just one: the date of these books.  These books stand out as distinctive because they are earliest Christian writings we possess and thus bring us the closest to the historical Jesus and to the earliest church.   If we want to find out what authentic Christianity was really like, then we should rely on the writings that are the nearest to that time period.

The full article is here.

Scripture as Historical Source Documents

I must draw everybody’s attention to the new work by Candida Moss, entitled The Myth of Christian Persecution. I will reserve judgment on her work because I have not read it; however, I encourage everybody to read a short article where she summarizes her views on the matter here.

There is a tendency with liberal Christians and non-believers to deny the authenticity, let alone historicity, of Scripture from the outset. No serious scholar, of any theological persuasion, would deny that the NT is the most widely attested document from the ancient world. We can be more certain about the text of the NT than any other document from antiquity. However, such critics a priori dismiss them as historical source documents out of hand because their worldview will not accept anything else.

“Sure, they’re old documents,” they say. “We can’t actually take them seriously, though. They’re religious, after all . . .”

The irony is that such critics are blind to their own hostile starting point of enmity against God (Rom 1:18), while at the same time they castigate Christians for making inspired, inerrant Scripture their own starting point!

There is a wide divide between liberals and non-believers on one hand, and conservative, Bible believing Christians on the other. There is a tendency to want to toss the Bible aside and dive into the early church fathers to rebut some of Moss’ claims from her article. Surely the church fathers have a good amount of information to offer us, but we must never give up the validity and historical accuracy of the Scriptures themselves. If we do, we’ve already lost the battle before it even began.

This graphic, from Answers in Genesis, captures the opposing worldviews at play in any apologetic encounter. The picture depicts evolution vs creationism, but you get the idea . . .

The ultimate irony here, however, is that Moss contests the most basic fact of Christianity – Christ died for our sins and suffered persecution because He dared to proclaim the His divinity and preach the Gospel of the Kingdom (Mk 1:14-15). Christ promised the disciples that persecution would inevitably follow and prayed for their safety (Jn 17:14-15). The Gospel is inherently offensive to sinful men. How can it be otherwise? Moss’ contention that early persecution was a convenient myth is (1) an explicit contradiction of the testimony of Scripture and (2) an implicit admission of an exalted view of man, in that she would deny the Gospel is inherently offensive to sinful men who have no fear of God (Rom 3:9-18).