Thursday, June 14, 2012

Some Thoughts On The Bible's Inerrancy

By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen

     Is the Bible the inerrant Word of God? Or, is it an error to say that it is without error? Some Christians say it is completely inerrant, and some say it is partly inerrant. This  topic has been wrestled with for a very long time. At times, it is a topic on the back burner of Christian debate. At other times, it is on the front burner. But at all times it is a significant one, for the simple reason that the Bible is to have  great influence in the Christian life.
     This influence can be seen in the following examples: 2 Timothy 3:15 - 17 says that the Holy Scriptures "are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." And Romans 15:4 speaks of the comfort  of the Scriptures, by which we can have hope. And Psalm 119:11 says, "Thy Word have I hid in mine heart that I might not sin against thee." If you want to do your own homework on this subject, read 1 Corinthians 10, Psalm 1, Psalm 19, and Psalm 119.
     However, if we have doubts about the trustworthiness of the Bible, it will be somewhat comparable to having doubts about the trustworthiness of a spouse, a preacher, a neighbor, a workmate, a family member, a friend, a politician, or someone else. And we all know the effect of such doubts: we don't know when we can trust them.
     Therefore, we need to face the question of whether or not the Bible is inerrant. In his book, "Calvin On Scripture And Divine Sovereignty," theologian John Murray did that very thing when he presented John Calvin's view of the Bible.  He concluded that the famous Reformer affirmed the inerrancy of the Bible. And in so doing, Murray gave a reasonable discussion of the subject of inerrancy. This discussion can be helpful to us today. 
    The following quote from Murray (in red) is taken from chapter 1, page 30, of his just-mentioned book. Murray wrote: "It must be emphatically stated that the doctrine of biblical inerrancy for which the church has contended throughout history, and for which a great many of us still contend, is not based on the assumption that the criterion of meticulous precision in every detail of record or history is the indispensable canon of Biblical infallibility. To erect such a canon is utterly artificial and arbitrary and is not one by which the inerrancy of Scripture is to be judged. It is easy for the opponents of inerrancy to set up such artificial criteria and then expose the Bible as full of errors. We shall have none of that, and neither will Calvin. The Bible is literature and the Holy Spirit was pleased to employ the literary forms of the original human writers in the milieu in which they wrote. If Solomon's temple took sever and a half years to build, as we can readily calculate (cf. 1 Kings 6:37, 38), are we to suppose that it is an error to say in the same context that Solomon was seven years in building it (1 Kings 6:38)? Or if a certain king is said to have reigned twenty-two years (cf. 1 Kings 14:20), we must not impose upon such a statement the necessity of his having reigned precisely twenty-two years in terms of twenty-two times three hundred and sixty-five days. He may have reigned only twenty-one years in terms of actual computation and yet twenty-two years in terms of the method of reckoning in use. The Scripture abounds in illustrations of the absence of the type of meticulous and pedantic precision which we might arbitrarily seek to impose as the criterion of infallibility. Everyone should recognize that in accord with accepted forms of speech and custom a statement can be perfectly authentic and yet not pedantically precise. Scripture does not make itself absurd by furnishing us with pedantry."

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

What James Arminius Said About The Bible And Faith

By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen

     James Arminius is the man after whom Arminianism is named. He was a profound thinker and writer on theological subjects. Many of his writings can be found in the set of books called "The Works Of Arminius." They can also be read on various internet websites, such as this one: The following quotes are taken from this website, though I have the books containing "The Works Of Arminius." To also see a drawing of Arminius, click on the link above.
     In this posting, some quotes will be given from Arminius on two topics: the Bible and faith. Both quotes are from volume 2 of his Works. I agree with Arminius on these subjects.
What Arminius said about the Bible
     Arminius said many good things about the Bible. One's respect for it, and belief in it as the Word of God will be enriched by reading his statements, a few of which are presented here in red. Note that Arminius said the Bible is infallible     Here are the topics covered by Arminius in his section on the Bible:
Disputation 5: On The Rule Of Religion, The Word Of God, And The Scriptures In Particular
Disputation 6: On The Authority And Certainty Of The Holy Scriptures
Disputation 7: On The Perfection Of The Scriptures
Disputation 8: On The Perspicuity Of The Scriptures
Disputation 9: On The Meanings And Interpretation Of The Holy Scriptures
Disputation 10: On The Efficacy Of The Scriptures
    These quotes about the Bible are from section 5 of his private disputations:
   “5. God communicates this external word to man, either orally, or by writing. For, neither with respect to the whole of religion, nor with respect to its parts, is God confined to either of these modes of communication; but he sometimes uses one and sometimes another, and at other times both of them, according to his own choice and pleasure. He first employed oral enunciation in its delivery, and afterwards, writing, as a more certain means against corruption and oblivion. He has also completed it in writing; so that we now have the infallible word of God in no other place than in the Scriptures, which are therefore appropriately denominated ‘the instrument of religion.’
   “6. These Scriptures are contained in those books of the Old and the New Testament which are called ‘canonical:’ They consist of the five books of Moses; the books of Joshua, Judges, and of Ruth; the First and Second of Samuel; the First and Second of Kings; the First and Second of Chronicles; the books of Ezra and of Nehemiah, and the first ten chapters of that of Esther; fifteen books of the prophets, that is, the three Major and the twelve Minor Prophets; the books of Job, the Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Canticles, Daniel, and of the Lamentations of Jeremiah: All these books are contained in the Old Testament. Those of the New Testament are the following: The four Evangelists; one book of the Acts of the Apostles; thirteen of St. Paul’s Epistles; the Epistle to the Hebrews; that of St. James; the two of St. Peter; the three of St. John; that of St. Jude; and the Apocalypse by St. John. Some of these are without hesitation accounted authentic; but about others of them doubts have been occasionally entertained. Yet the number is quite sufficient of those about which no doubts were ever indulged.
   “7. The primary cause of these books is God, in his Son, through the Holy Spirit. The instrumental causes are holy men of God, who, not at their own will and pleasure, but as they were actuated and inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote these books, whether the words were inspired into them, dictated to them, or administered by them under the divine direction.”
     These quotes are from section 6 of his private disputations:
"9. The Scriptures are canonical in the same way as they are divine; because they contain the rule of faith, charity, hope, and of all our inward and outward actions. They do not, therefore, require human authority in order to their being received into the canon, or considered as canonical. Nay, the relation between God and his creatures, requires that his word should be the rule of life to his creatures.
"10. We assert that, for the establishment of the divinity of the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, this disjunctive proposition is of irrefutable validity: Either the Scriptures are divine, or (far be blasphemy from the expression!) they are the most foolish of all writings, whether they be said to have proceeded from man, or from the evil spirit."
What Arminius said about faith
      These statements should dispel the false idea held by many that Arminius did not think God's grace was needed in order for someone to put faith in Jesus Christ for salvation. Of course, Arminius differed from John Calvin in an important way: Arminius believed that, though faith is a gift from God, it can be permanently resisted. But Calvin believed in irresistible grace. 
      The quotes (in red) are from the last section in volume 2, which is about  the examination of certain articles.
     "9. Faith is a gracious and gratuitous gift of God, bestowed according to the administration of the means necessary to conduce to the end, that is, according to such an administration as the justice of God requires, either towards the side of mercy or towards that of severity. It is a gift which is not bestowed according to an absolute will of saving some particular men; for it is a condition required in the object to be saved, and it is in fact a condition before it is the means for obtaining salvation.
    "10. Saving faith is that of the elect of God; it is not the faith of all men, of perverse and wicked men, not of those who repel the word of grace, and account themselves unworthy of life eternal, not of those who resist the Holy Spirit, not of those who reject the counsel of God against themselves, nor of those who have not been ordained to life eternal. No man believes in Christ except he has been previously disposed and prepared, by preventing or preceding grace, to receive life eternal on that condition on which God wills to bestow it, according to the following passage of Scripture: "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself." (John 7:17)