Some of the greatest Christian examples in my life are (and were) uneducated. They gave themselves to the study of God through the pages of the Scriptures. What a tremendous example it is for the uneducated factory worker to set before his family the importance of learning the Bible. It’s encouraging to witness the uneducated evangelist who travels to various churches preaching the gospel with no seminary degree but if you pricked him he would bleed Bibline.
Have you ever heard someone say, “Doctrine is not for me, I’m a blue collar kind of guy” as an excuse for not giving himself to study the Bible? The fact is, most of the people to whom the Bible was originally written and addressed were very uneducated. It might shock you to know that most of the people who received the letter to the Ephesian church (likely a circular letter that went to Ephesus and surrounding cities) were not seminary trained apologists. They were not ivory tower theologians. They didn’t find the deep wells of election and the doctrine of regeneration in Ephesians 1-2 as complicated truths cloaked in mystery and only useful for the seminary classroom or moderated debates.
Have you considered the life and ministry of John Bunyan? An uneducated man in Bedford England with a grade school education who worked as a tinker (metal worker) was once raised up by God to be a mighty preacher. Not only was he a man who proclaimed the Word, but he was likewise a pastor-theologian. He didn’t stand up in the pulpit and after reading a deep theological truth say, ‘I don’t know that this means.” Instead, he labored in the Bible and studied to rightly proclaim the gospel.
John Owen was a learned man and a great scholar of his day. He was also a contemporary of John Bunyan. When Bunyan would travel to England, if any notice was given at all, upwards of 1,000-1,200 people would gather at 7:00am before work to hear the uneducated metal worker preach the gospel. Owen would often travel 20 or more miles to hear the man himself. When King Charles heard of Owen attending the tinker’s sermons, he asked why he as an educated man would give himself to listening to an uneducated tinker preach? Owen replied, “I would willingly exchange my learning for the tinker’s power of touching men’s hearts.”
Men can learn to remember statistics of every major sporting event, athlete, and race car driver. Uneducated men can learn to excel in their trade or occupation in life. Uneducated men and women alike can excel at whatever they so desire, but it’s the Bible that is often neglected. We need an army of uneducated blue collar men and women to once again give themselves to the study of the Bible. Another generation is watching and waiting. When we are gone, will our legacy be a building of wood, hay, and stubble or will it be something of eternal value?
I will never forget pastoring a small country church in Kentucky while I was in seminary. The congregation was made up of all blue collar workers and farmers. Not one single professional or highly educated person attended the church. After I issued a challenge to memorize large portions of the Bible, an 80 year old retired farmer approached me. He wanted to accept the challenge. He gave himself to study and read and commit to memory the third chapter of John’s Gospel. After completing it, he stood in the front of the church and recited it in full. I was amazed, humbled, and grateful all at the same time.
Anyone can learn Bible doctrine. In fact, that’s what God intends for all of us—educated and uneducated alike.
Mark 12:30 — And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.
It happened again recently. I was listening to a sermon online and the preacher said, “God told me.” Apparently everyone in the congregation enjoyed it from the response I heard, but I immediately turned it off. This type of communication is becoming more prevalent in Christian circles. It’s showing up in conversations because people are hearing it from the pulpit and reading it in books they purchased from the local Christian bookstore. Perhaps it sounds spiritual or is emotionally stirring to the congregation.
Although the “God told me” method of communicating makes for interesting, suspenseful, and entertaining stories, what people need most is to hear from God. I would like to make a simple request. Please stop saying “God told me” unless the phrase is immediately followed up with a text of Scripture. Have you considered the connection between the “God told me” language and the sufficiency of Scripture? What connection does the “God told me” phrase have with the third of the Ten Commandments?
The “God Told Me” Language Violates the Sufficiency of Scripture
If God spoke to Moses from a burning bush (Ex. 3:4-6), to Samuel in the dark of night (1 Sam. 3:1-9), to Elijah in a cave (1 Kings 19:9), to John the Baptist and others at Jesus’ baptism (Mark 1:9-11), and to Saul (subsequently Paul) and his traveling companions on the road leading to Damascus (Acts 9:4-7)—why would God not speak to us today? That’s a fair question, but it might surprise you to know that God does still speak to us today. He does so through His sufficient and authoritative Word.
In chapter 1 and paragraph 6 of the 2nd London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689), we find these words:
The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down or necessarily contained in the Holy Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelation of the Spirit, or traditions of men.
During the days of the Old Testament, God was communicating to prophets in order to write Holy Scripture and to prepare the way for Jesus’ birth. All of the audible communication of God has direct connection to the redemptive plan of God to save sinners. God’s direct communication with His people was not centered on what to eat for breakfast, the need to give money to a random person at a bus stop, or to go join a group of college students at a morning workout.
During the days of the New Testament, and the early church period, God’s audible voice, although rare, was connected to the redemptive plan of God in Jesus Christ. Once the Bible was completed, there was no longer any need for God to speak to people audibly or to provide direct (divine) communication. God has communicated everything necessary for faith and life, worship and service, in His sufficient Word. To use the “God told me” language violates the sufficiency of Scripture. Simply put, it needs to stop.
It’s strange that many churches that once stood courageously for the inerrancy of Scripture in the past frequently employ the “God told me” language in their pulpit today. We don’t allow Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses to play the “God told me” divine revelation card, and we shouldn’t allow Baptists or Presbyterians or Methodists or mainstream evangelicals to have a free pass on this crucial issue.
The “God told me” language majors on our stories rather than God’s story. We need more of God and less of us in our singing and preaching today. If people are genuinely hungry to hear from God, we must direct them to God’s Word. To raise children on “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so” and to emphasize the authority of God’s Word is a good thing. But, when those same children arrive in the worship service on the Lord’s Day and hear a preacher waxing eloquent about how God talked directly to him in the early hours of the morning — that’s severely inconsistent. John MacArthur writes:
Preoccupied with mystical encounters and emotional ecstasies, [many] seek ongoing revelation from heaven – meaning that, for them, the Bible alone is simply not enough. [With them], biblical revelation must be supplemented with personal “words from God,” supposed impressions from the Holy Spirit, and other subjective religious experiences. That kind of thinking is an outright rejection of the authority and sufficiency of Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16–17). It is a recipe for far-reaching theological disaster. 
The “God Told Me” Language Uses God’s Name in Vain
Although some people unintentionally use the “God told me” vocabulary without understanding the implications, in other cases, certain people and preachers use the phrase as a means of claiming that they actually heard directly from God. This intentional use of God’s name is a clear violation of the third commandment (Deut. 5:11).
For whatever the reason, some people feel compelled to us God’s name as a stamp of approval on their stories, their decision to move churches, their decision to go into the ministry, or their decision to take a job transfer. Either way, it’s not true. It’s intellectually dishonest. We as evangelicals must not allow people to continually get away with using this language. We certainly shouldn’t celebrate it. Hear the word of Charles Spurgeon from a sermon he preached titled, “The Paraclete,” October 6, 1872:
Take care never to impute the vain imaginings of your fancy to Him [the Holy Spirit]. I have seen the Spirit of God shamefully dishonored by persons – I hope they were insane – who have said that they have had this and that revealed to them. There has not for some years passed over my head a single week in which I have not been pestered with the revelations of hypocrites or maniacs. Semi-lunatics are very fond of coming with messages from the Lord to me, and it may spare them some trouble if I tell them once for all that I will have none of their stupid messages… Never dream that events are revealed to you by heaven, or you may come to be like those idiots who dare impute their blatant follies to the Holy Ghost. If you feel your tongue itch to talk nonsense, trace it to the devil, not to the Spirit of God. Whatever is to be revealed by the Spirit to any of us is in the Word of God already – He adds nothing to the Bible, and never will. Let persons who have revelations of this, that, and the other, go to bed and wake up in their senses. I only wish they would follow the advice and no longer insult the Holy Ghost by laying their nonsense at His door. 
It is through the Word of God that we hear God proclaim to us the reality of sin (Rom. 3). From the Scriptures, we hear God declare good news that makes us wise unto salvation (2 Tim. 3:14-15). God speaks from His Word to correct us and warn us of error (2 Tim. 3:16-17). As we continue to hear God speak through His Word, we grow into spiritual maturity and experience the ongoing renewal of our minds (Rom. 12:1-2). God speaks today, but we must not cling to extrabiblical revelations. Such words are empty and impotent sayings that are more closely associated with mysticism than Christianity.
Important questions to ask when someone uses the “God told me” language:
- If the “God told me” language is used in the context of a sermon preached by one of your pastors (or a guest preacher), rather than attacking him online, setup a private meeting to discuss the matter in person. Show respect and ask for specifics to be sure you are not misunderstanding.
- Is this direct communication from God necessary if we already have the completed canon of Scripture (all 66 books)?
- Is the person using the “God told me” language in order to manipulate you in some way?
- Is the person seeking to validate their poor life decision by attaching God’s name to it?
- Is the “God told me” language being employed in the context of asking for money?
- Is the person using the name of God to aspire to an office in the local church?
- Is the “God told me” language in direct contradiction to any doctrine or truth revealed in Scripture?
An appeal to those who preach and teach the Bible:
- Remember Paul’s words to Timothy—Preach the Word (2 Tim. 4:1-5). We should preach the Word and not our stories.
- According to Ecclesiastes 12:14, one day we will give an account of every secret thing and every careless word that proceeds from our mouths (Matt. 12:36).
- It is our duty to maximize God and minimize ourselves in the pulpit. If people leave church services remembering your riveting story about God talking to you instead of remembering God’s Word, you’ve done the people a great disservice.
- Your “God told me” language makes others who obviously don’t hear Him speak in an audible voice (everyone in the congregation) feel sub-par in their Christian life. It also serves as a means of puffing up your spiritual level to an elite status above the normal Christian. This shouldn’t be the goal in preaching.
- If God didn’t actually speak to you in audible voice, please stop using the phrase, “God told me” when you’re telling stories in your sermons.
- Brother pastor, if you have someone speak in your pulpit who uses that type of language, it’s your responsibility to correct it with your people. Their spiritual maturity and development depends upon you being faithful in this area.
Don’t immediately classify a friend as a lunatic or a heretic if they use the “God told me” language in their communication. However, when you hear people talking in this manner, it should serve as a big red flag. Exercise wisdom and gentleness when confronting this error among friends or church members, but in the case of calling out false teachers, mark them so that others will not be led astray.
- John MacArthur, Strange Fire, (Nashville, Nelson Books, 2013), 218.
- Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “The Paraclete,” October 6, 1872 [Sermon].
Just a few years ago we were having a conversation about the boundaries of female sports journalists in professional NFL locker rooms. Today, we find ourselves having a much different conversation regarding the restroom privileges of those who are openly transgender and those who merely self-identify as the opposite sex. Just recently President Obama issued a letter to the public school system in the United States that calls upon the school system to refrain from discriminating against transgender students. Today we find ourselves having very complicated conversations at break-neck speed in our culture. The cake bakery freedom issue is old news. Today’s news is centered on transgender discrimination policies that will essentially allow anyone to use any restroom of their choice. How do we navigate in this cesspool culture that’s moving at break-neck speed? How do we train our children to be steadfast? This is where sola Scriptura matters and remains the foundation from which we must find clarity in an age of confusion.
What is Sola Scriptura?
It was Martin Luther, on October 31, 1517, who protested against the Roman Catholic Church and the abuse of indulgences by nailing his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. Nobody, including the Augustinian monk himself, would’ve predicted the explosion of controversy that would erupt after the protest was made public.
Martin Luther (1483-1546) would rise to the forefront of this movement that has become known as the Protestant Reformation. At the core of this movement was a commitment to God’s Word. The Reformation was not about Calvinism. The Reformation was about the recovery of the authority and the sufficiency of Scripture. As a direct result, the Reformation had a profound impact upon the pulpit as men stood and proclaimed the Word of God boldly and this in turn had a lasting impact upon the church as a whole.
The battle cry of the Protestant Reformation was sola Scriptura. The Reformers believed that the Scripture alone was necessary to communicate the gospel. Out of the Reformation era came five definitive doctrinal positions that categorize the convictions of those men and women who risked everything to defend the faith once delivered to the saints. These Latin slogans are:
- Sola Fide, by faith alone.
- Sola Scriptura, by Scripture alone.
- Solus Christus, through Christ alone.
- Sola Gratia, by grace alone.
- Soli Deo Gloria, glory to God alone.
The foundation whereby these statements stand or fall is sola Scriptura. If the Scriptures are not trustworthy, how can we know the truth of our human depravity, the glory of Jesus’ substitutionary death, and the amazing grace of God granted to depraved sinners for His eternal glory? The Reformers looked at the Roman Catholic Church’s attempt to choke out the authority and primacy of Scripture among God’s people and they took a courageous stand. As long as time continues and until Christ returns, we must be reminded that there will be a perpetual attack upon God’s Word. That truth should be our reminder that from the Scriptures we must stand with resolute confidence in our prevailing evil age.
The Issue of Authority
For many years, the Roman Catholic Church had a strangle hold upon the Bible. The Roman Catholic Church wanted to control the Bible, adding to it their traditions, and subjugating the authority of the Bible by the authority of the magisterium. The issue of authority was at the heart of the protest of the Reformation. Once upon a time, the Roman Catholic Church was willing to burn people at the stake to maintain control of the Bible. Likewise it must be emphasized, once upon a time Christians were willing to endure the hot flames of persecution in order to preach and publish the Bible in the common man’s language. Where are such men today?
It seems as if all politicians and many mainstream preachers alike have lost confidence in God’s Word. They have elevated popular opinion, and in some cases unpopular opinion, to a higher plane than the truth of holy Scripture. When the apostle Paul was preparing Timothy for pastoral ministry in the city of Ephesus, he wrote the following words:
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Before getting to the classic pinnacle of Paul’s letter in 2 Timothy 4:1-5 where Paul emphatically called upon Timothy to “preach the Word,” he began with a clear statement regarding Scripture’s source and sufficiency. Regarding the source of Scripture, Paul said that “all Scripture” is “breathed out by God.” The phrase, “breathed out by God” is one word in the original Greek text – θεόπνευστος. This particular word literally means that all Scripture comes from the breath of God. In other words, God is the source of the Scriptures, therefore the Scriptures are authoritative. We must teach our children to look to the Word of God as their ultimate authority. We must seek to elect politicians to office who likewise have a greater fear of God than they have for man.
We live in an anti-authority culture that rejects rules, laws, and ordinances, but if we will make a difference and speak truth it must not be from the deep wells of personal opinion. We must build our positions and take our stand upon the sure foundation of Scripture. Just as confident as Luther was regarding the authority of God’s Word in the indulgences debate, we must face our own debates with the same confidence in the same authoritative Word.
The Sufficient Word
If we are forced to make a decision to bake a cake for a homosexual couple’s wedding or to boycott Target, we must make our final decision through the lens of holy Scripture. It doesn’t matter if we’re debating the age of the earth, life in the womb, or transgender restroom privileges, the Scriptures are sufficient to guide such decisions. Preachers should not look outside of Scripture in order to address such complicated issues. The Bible is sufficient on the subject of human sexuality and all other ethical issues that we may face in the ages to come. There is no book like the Bible. The Word of God will never need an update, revision, or correction in order to comply with culture. It will always be the culture that must be revised and altered in order to comply with God’s Word.
Nearly 500 years ago Martin Luther made his famous “here I stand” speech before the authorities of the Roman Catholic Church. We need men and women who would be willing to make a similar stand against the opinions and cultural downgrade of our present day. Since the Bible is a sufficient map given to us in order to navigate the landscape of a confused culture, it’s vital that pastors and parents alike instruct the children and the church regarding the sufficiency of the Bible. If tomorrow’s church will make such a courageous stand, the church today must be teaching from the foundation of sola Scriptura – the Scripture alone is our guide. The Bible is not an ancient and outdated book. That’s why men once upon a time taught on the perspicuity of Scripture. We must do so once again. Charles Spurgeon rightly states:
This weapon is good at all points, good for defense and for attack, to guard our whole person or to strike through the joints and marrow of the foe. Like the seraph’s sword at Eden’s gate, it turns every way. You cannot be in a condition that the Word of God has not provided. The Word has as many faces and eyes as providence itself. You will find it unfailing in all periods of your life, in all circumstances, in all companies, in all trials, and under all difficulties. Were it fallible, it would be useless in emergencies, but its unerring truth renders it precious beyond all price to the soldiers of the cross. 
*That’s one reason why we need more sermons, not less. We need more gospel preaching and teaching, not less. That’s why we need more church services, not less. However, that’s a different subject for a different article on a different day.
- Charles Spurgeon, “Spiritual Warfare in a Believer’s Life,” (Sermon Matthew 4:4).
One of the main questions Christians face is based on the reliability of the Bible. How do you know the Bible is true? Why do you believe the Bible is the Word of God? On what grounds do we embrace the Bible? The Bible is a unique book to say the least. It was compiled over a period of 1,500 years by forty different authors from various different geographic locations. These authors were all different in many ways. For instance, there were two kings, one tax collector, and a lowly goat farmer who make up the diverse list of human authors of the Bible. Yet, the question remains, how do you know the Bible is true?
First, we should avoid the really poor reasons that many people give to this question. It doesn’t matter if your pastor said it’s the Word of God, that’s not a good enough answer. If a skeptic asks you to give an answer to why you believe the Bible is the authoritative Word of God, the fact that your parents raised you in such a way doesn’t hold much credibility. So, why should we believe the Bible? This ancient book has been around for a long time, so how do you know the Bible is true?
The Jesus Answer
When answering the question – “How do you know the Bible is true?” – Jesus really is the answer. I realize that “Jesus” is often the answer to most questions during Bible study time for children. However, don’t overlook the child’s answer too quickly. If you examine the majority of the nonChristian religions, their major similarities are often their attack on the deity of Jesus Christ. The Mormons, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the Muslims all three assault the deity of Jesus. However, Jesus has proven that He and the Father are one (John 10:30) and that He is indeed God who came to us in human flesh (John 1:14). What’s the proof? The resurrection of Jesus from the dead. B.B. Warfield writes:
A dozen ignorant peasants proclaiming a crucified Jew as the founder of a new faith; bearing as the symbol of their worship an instrument which was the sign of ignominy, slavery and crime; preaching what must have seemed an absurd doctrine of humility, patient suffering and love to enemies – graces undreamed of before; demanding what must have seemed an absurd worship for one who had died like a malefactor and a slave, and making what must have seemed an absurd promise of everlasting life through one who had himself died, and that between two thieves. 
Christianity would have been nothing more than a strange man proclaiming a strange message, and the Bible would be nothing more than a strange book in a long line of strange writings from ancient religious history without the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. The resurrection changed everything. In fact, the resurrection of Jesus validated the Bible.
The way in which Jesus used the Bible matters. Did He embrace it as reliable? Did Jesus approach the writings of the Bible as authoritative? Read through the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 5-7 and see how Jesus preached the Word, interpreted the Word, and embraced the Word as divine in nature. Jesus used Jonah as an illustration of His resurrection in Matthew 12:38-40. Not only did Jesus predict His own resurrection, but He used an Old Testament text to illustrate it. In doing so, we get a peek into the way Jesus approached Jonah. Apparently Jesus, who was raised from the dead, believed in a literal interpretation of the fish swallowing the prophet Jonah and spitting him up three days later. Jesus approached the Scriptures with respect and dignity, and embraced them as God’s Word (Matthew 22:41-45).
The Self Authentication of the Bible
How do you know the Bible is true? The Bible is unlike any other book. It has the tone of authority that vastly supersedes other books. In 2 Timothy 3:16, we see the internal claim of the Bible to have God as its source. Tatian, a second century disciple of Justin Martyr, took time to examine the writings of pagan religions. Tatian was a man who had a brilliant mind and it was through this God given ability that he looked at the world of religious writings. Notice what he says about the Bible in his work titled, Oration to the Greeks (c.165):
I was led to put my faith in these by the unpretending cast of the language, the inartificial character of the writers, the foreknowledge displayed of future events, the excellent quality of the precepts, and the declaration of the government of the universe as centered on one Being. And my soul being taught of God, I discern that the former class of [pagan] writings lead to condemnation, but that these [Scriptures] put an end to the slavery that is in the world (29). 
Interestingly Tatian was captivated by the fact that the Bible itself bears the mark of heavenliness. In other words, the Bible has the mark of divinity, holiness, and authority in ways that cannot happen through the mere hand of a human author. As Tatian speaks of being taught of God, we are reminded of the words found in Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
The Unity of the Parts
How can one book written over a period of 1,500 years, by forty different human authors, in three different original languages, from three different continents, with many different genres possess such a unified message? As we read the Bible, the unity is apparent from the beginning. From Genesis to Revelation, there is one unified voice, one unified purpose, and one unified mission. The totality of the Bible is centered upon Jesus Christ. Jonathan Edwards once said, “Go often to your Bible to hear the great God Himself speak to you. There you may hear Christ speak.” 
What scheme of humanity could span such vast time periods, geographic locations, and linguistic barriers to come together in a cohesive unity that points to Jesus Christ as the savior of the world (John 4:42)? Sure, when one person writes a book and makes claims of divinity, it’s easy to remain unified, but when a book spans such a vast time period and possesses shared human authorship while remaining unified is abnormal to say the least.
The Preservation of the Bible
I was recently talking with a man from our church, and he was telling me about his conversations with a co-worker who refuses to believe the Bible. The skeptic was trying to throw off my friend by talking about discoveries through archeology and science. My friend said, “The more they discover as they continue to dig and explore, the bigger my God becomes with each new discovery.” That is a very true statement indeed.
If a person is on trial for breaking into his neighbor’s home and stealing jewelry, before the individual can be prosecuted and convicted of the crime, the jury will need some tangible evidence to prove he committed the crime. For instance, they will need some form of evidence such as finger prints, DNA, or perhaps pictures from a security camera. When it comes to the Bible, people ask for proof that it’s reliable and can be trusted. The good news is that we have proof in the manuscript evidence. The manner in which the Bible has been preserved over time validates its reliability.
If you take the other writings from history that predate the printing press, you will find that they too have manuscripts. Just like the Bible, they were copied down by scribes. For instance, we have 7 copies of Plato’s historical writings. We have 2,400 copies of the historical writings of Homer. When compared to the manuscript evidence of the New Testament, we have over 5,800 manuscripts. This dwarfs the other writings from other authors from ancient history. In fact, we have copies dating back to within a couple of hundred years of the original author for the New Testament Bible while manuscript evidence of the average classical author are no earlier than 500 years after his original autograph. The point is clear, the Bible has been preserved well over time without the printing press, without the Internet, without high definition copying systems, and the sheer manuscript evidence alone speaks volumes about the reliability and veracity of Scripture.
In the mid 1940s, a little shepherd boy was walking alongside the desert, and like little boys often do, he started throwing rocks. He aimed into a cave as he passed by, and when he heard a strange noise, he entered the cave to see what his rock had hit. What he discovered in that cave has become known to us as the Dead Sea Scrolls. Those manuscripts provided additional clarity and support to the already vast manuscript evidence of the Bible.
The 1689 London Baptist Confession, in Article 1.4 on the Scriptures states, “The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, depends not on the testimony of any man or church, but wholly upon God its Author (Who is Truth itself). Therefore it is to be received because it is the Word of God.” Throughout time, earthly kings have assaulted the Bible, skeptics have attacked the Bible, nations have rejected the Bible, heretics have perverted the Bible, atheists have ignored the Bible, and agnostics have avoided the Bible. However, the Bible remains true, trustworthy, and authoritative. The Bible reigns as king in the library of human history. From internal and intrinsic evidences to archeological discoveries and tangible manuscripts, the Bible continues to be validated as the Word of the living God. The prophet Isaiah was right when he wrote these famous words, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (Isaiah 40:8).
John Piper addresses anxiety and points people to the solution in God’s Word. He writes, “Anxiety is an emotion. It is not a decision. We don’t decide to get anxious. It happens to us. Jesus attacks anxiety in Matthew 6 with truth, with facts, promises, and reasons.” For the full article and Look at the Book labs, click here.
- The Divine Origin of the Bible, Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1991, I.432.
- How Do You Know the Scriptures are from God? One Testimony in the Early Church
- Selections from the Unpublished Writings of Jonathan Edwards, Ballantyne and Company, 195.
Yesterday, thousands of people packed into Grace Community Church in Sun Valley California for the 2015 Summit on Biblical Inerrancy (aka – 2015 Shepherds’ Conference). Many people are questioning the reason for such a summit while others insist that the “Battle for the Bible” is over. It only takes a brief review of the current news regarding the Bible to see that the battle over inerrancy is far from over, and if history is any indicator, it is likely to repeat itself.
Rob Bell, a former megachurch pastor (Mars Hill Bible Church), has now departed from the church and is now “churching” with a group of friends as they now journey through life together and serve their community. Bell has turned into somewhat of a spiritual advisor for Oprah Winfrey and she is promoting Bell as a spiritual leader, coach, and expert on spirituality. Oprah has herself stirred up a dust cloud with her troubling beliefs about Christianity. Oprah’s views about God have been raising eyebrows for years. A video posted on Youtube titled, “The Church of Oprah Exposed” has been viewed literally millions of times. In that short video, Oprah denies the exclusivity of Christ. Bell, like Oprah, has been creating quite a cloud of controversy with his bold inclusivism and a clear departure from the church and the Bible as the Word of God. His book, Love Wins, created quite a stir in the evangelical world. In his book, Bell basically argues for a form of Universalism (Tim Challies’ review of his book was helpful). In his teachings on the Bible, Bell writes:
First, circular arguments are not helpful. For example The Bible is divinely inspired because it says it is. Any book could say that. Not only is this argument not helpful, but it’s terribly confusing for people who have never read the Bible.
Second, insisting that this book was written by God is not helpful. It was written by actual people. For people who are new to the Bible, telling them that it wasn’t written by people is terribly confusing as well. Start with the human, claim that first, then work your way to the divine.
Third, the Bible is not an argument. The people who wrote these things down had very real experiences of the divine and did everything they could to put those experiences in words. Those experiences were filtered through their consciousness, culture, worldview, and personal history. The stories in the Bible were told because they meant something profound to the people who first wrote them.
All doctrine and dogma and theology was first mystical experience. Someone had an encounter with the divine. And then they set out to articulate what happened.
What is really confusing and unhelpful is to suggest that all theology was first a “mystical experience” that was later written down. Theology is the study of God and it begins with God – not experience. God is revealing Himself through His Word, and the Bible is not the product of mystical experiences as Bell suggests.
In a recent interview with Oprah, Bell issues a warning to the churches that refuse to accept homosexuals into their membership. He said:
I think culture is already there and the church will continue to be even more irrelevant when it quotes letters from 2,000 years ago as their best defense, when you have in front of you flesh-and-blood people who are your brothers and sisters, and aunts and uncles, and co-workers and neighbors, and they love each other and just want to go through life with someone.
The point is clear, in a world full of progressive thinking, shifting politics, and a combination of postmodern and new age mysticism, the doctrine of biblical inerrancy matters. For those men and women who have never known what it means to battle for the Bible, it’s important to know the issues at hand and to be able to give an answer to the skeptic who asks, “Why do you believe that book – the Bible?” The doctrine of inerrancy is directly connected to the core of Christian truth. Is Jesus the only way to be reconciled to God? Did Jesus really rise from the dead on the third day or is that just a nice little story for children’s church?
In Paul’s final letter before he was beheaded for preaching the gospel, he took time to address Timothy – his son in the faith. As you read Paul’s letter, he doesn’t sound anything like Rob Bell. There is conviction and urgency in his tone. Before he arrived at the climatic passage in his letter found in 2 Timothy 4:1-5, he wrote these words in 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” The Greek term, “breathed out by God” is “θεόπνευστος” and it’s a unique word that contains “θεός” (God) and “πνέω” (to breathe or blow). The literal rendering could be – “the breath of God.”
Paul instructs Timothy by using this word, which was found only in that one place in the New Testament and no other place in all of Greek literature prior to Paul’s usage. Many scholars believe that Paul coined the term himself. Nevertheless, the point was clear to Timothy and has remained so through church history. From Clement to our present day, the term “θεόπνευστος” has been used as a technical term to describe the divine origin of the Bible.
To “tone” down our preaching and to become more inclusive in our approach as opposed to quoting “letters from 2,000 years ago” would be tragic. Yet, that very thing is playing itself out in the American culture today. It’s more than homosexuality. That is merely one issue among a lengthy list of ideas that are standing in line to test the waters among the evangelical church. Will the pastors today have the backbone to remain steadfast and immovable in the face of growing hostility? We must remember the conviction for God and His Word that men such as William Tyndale and John Rogers once possessed. Where are those faithful men and women who would rather be stoned or burned at the stake for God’s Word than to compromise in one jot or tittle? Once upon a time such men roamed the earth. As I stated in my sermon in the 2015 G3 Conference, we can trust our families, our churches, and our souls to the truth of the Bible. Rob Bell’s world may be increasing, but the promise of God delivered to us by Isaiah remains true, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (Isaiah 40:8). Rob Bell’s world may seem far away from your world, but just a glance at the evening news or a conversation with a teenager will reveal why inerrancy matters.
B. B. Warfield writes, “θεόπνευστος is ‘God-breathed,’ produced by the creative breath of the Almighty. And Scripture is called θεόπνευστος in order to designate it as ‘God-breathed,’ the product of Divine spiration, the creation of that Spirit who is in all spheres of the Divine activity the executive of the Godhead…What it affirms is that the Scriptures owe their origin to an activity of God the Holy Ghost and are in the highest and truest sense His creation. It is on this foundation of Divine origin that all the high attributes of Scripture are built.“1
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The 2015 Shepherds’ Conference – FREE Livestream
1. B. B. Warfield, The Works of B. B. Warfield, Vol. 1, Revelation and Inspiration, 280.