Science in Christian Perspective
From JASA 8 (December
In II Timothy 3:14-16 we read, "But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of,' knowing of whom thou has learned them; and that from a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in thrist 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."
. In his recent thought-provoking volume, Faith and Reason, Nels Ferre says his students are constantly coming to him (in the way that I wish mine would come to me) about the matter of what one should believe in a day like ours. One student in particular, he says, came to him and confessed, "When I just accept everything that I have been taught, believe all that is expected of me in my home, I find that I have a very neat, lovely little package of faith. , But unfortunately, I discover that I have nothing to say to anyone who believes differently and refuses to examine his faith (I would add, nor can I pacify my own conscience with respect to what I believe)." On the other hand, the student declared, "When I try conscientiously to think through the reasons for my acceptance of this doctrine or that doctrine, I discover that the more deeply I think, the more clearly I see that, as a matter of fact, there are no foundations for my doctrine."
The predicament of that student is the predicament of many, many students throughout the world. For anyone who has lost faith in the authority of the Bible, this predicament is inevitable. Such a 'person must always be asking, "What is the truth? What shall I believe? How can I know whether this doctrine is true or the opposite, doctrine is true?" Even he who has found a tentative. conclusion must admit," 'This is the best answer . I have, found thus far, but after all, my solution is based simply upon the evidence to which I, as a finite man, have had access. I must maintain an open mind, however, because tomorrow I may discover new facts. And new f acts may shed new light upon the truth. Thus I shall have to change my mind, if I am honest with myself."
In answer to these uncertainties of man, Christians down through the centuries have pointed to the Bible. The Bible alone, they testify, points man unerringly to Jesus Christ as Saviour. The Bible alone is the infallible rule of faith and practice. It alone can speak with the authority of the omniscient God Himself. It
In 1792, Harvard University called a man named Henry Ware to join its faculty as professor of Bible and theology. There were some doubts as to his position on certain doctrinal issues. Apparently he did not believe in the fall authority of Scripture. Ware said that he did believe in the deity of Christ, although some had doubts as to whether or not he really did. A few years later, that same man, Henry Ware, wrote a book against the deity of Christ, and became one of leaders in the Unitarian movement throughout nineteenth century.It was not long until the institution that admitted a professor who doubted the inspiration of Scripture, and who came to doubt the deity of Christ, became an institution that no longer stood for Christianity or even for mere theism. Harvard today is a secular institution, tolerating Christianity, but certainly not propagating it.
The pattern seems very clear: The first doctrinal deviation from an orthodox Christian faith on the part of an individual or an institution is almost without exception a denial of the verbal inerrancy of 'the Scripture. Certainly in colleges and universities across the length and breadth of America that pattern is inescapably clear. Those institutions which formerly stood for orthodoxy, and now have departed from that faith, have begun their departure at the point of the verbal inerrancy of the Bible.
Where do we find a college which has rejected the verbal inspiration of the Bible, but which has, nevertheless, preserved its orthodox faith on all other points? Where do we find a denial of faith in the verbal inerrancy of Scripture and yet a flaming missionary zeal for spreading the gospel of Christ crucified, buried, and risen again? Where but in institutions standing for the full inspiration Of Scripture do we find the historical person, Jesus Christ, exalted 'as God (not in some nebulous sense but as the second person of the triune God) ? Where but in institutions standing for a high view of inspiration do we f ind a Christian faith which insists rigorously that Christian living must extend down into the practical details of the Christian life? Where but in churches which set forth the Bible as the inerrant Word of God do we find laymen (I am not speaking now of ministers, of professional theologians, but of laymen) who know they are Christians and can give an unequivocal testimony to the saving power of Jesus Christ?
History has made this issue very clear. Orthodox Christianity is like a towering mountain surrounded on all sides by precipitous cliffs. Its summit levels off into a broad and spacious plateau. He who accepts the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture stands safely and firmly upon this plateau. Those who reject verbal inspiration may think they are standing firmly upon the mountain of orthodoxy, but actually they have slipped over the edge of the broad plateau and its safety; they are clinging to the steep and rocky sides which defy all attempts to secure a foothold. Inevitably they fall down the hazardous incline until they are crushed on the rocks below, having given up the whole of orthodox Christian faith.
That is the lesson of history. I do not deny, of course, that an individual who rejects the verbal inspiration of the Bible can be a Christian. I know many men. who deny the verbal inspiration of the Bible and yet certainly are Christians. I do not refuse Christian fellowship to a man who denies the verbal inspiration of the. Bible. I am glad to welcome into the fellowship of Jesus Christ anyone who has personally accepted Jesus Christ as his Saviour and Lord. I do not say that the man who rejects the verbal inspiration of Scripture cannot be a good and earnest and nobleminded. Christian. I simply affirm this: history has showed us that the inerrancy of Scripture is a doctrine which has served as a hedge for orthodox Christianity. Those who have held to it by and large have held to a full-orbed orthodox Christianity. History also has showed us abundantly that those who do not hold to this doctrine have inevitably departed from orthodox Christianity at many, many other places as well.
Where this doctrine has been held, institutions have stood for Christ. Where this doctrine has fallen, insitutions have fallen from Christ. And that is not an accident. There is an inner logic as to why that should be so. Some short-sighted people may say, "Well, let us accept the doctrines of the Scripture, but not hold to the inerrancy of Scripture." But how, can that be done? The doctrinal authority of the apostles and inerrant inspiration stand together. Emil Brunner, a neo-orthodox theologian of some repute, declares that in his judgment, it is unquestionable that the Apostle Paul held to a very high view of inspiration. Certainly, so Brunner is convinced, any fair-minded scholar must see that the Apostle Paul held to the view of inspiration commonly accepted by the Jews of his own day. Notice the dilemma into which anyone who takes that view must fall. Paul's doctrine of Scripture, on the testimony of men such as Brunner, is a doctrine of the verbal inerrancy of the Bible. Is the Apostle Paul, then, in his writings of Scripture, an authority in doctrine or is he not an authority? If he is an authority for doctrine, then let us 'accept his doctrine of the Scripture. If we reject his doctrine of Scripture, then let us admit that he is not an authority for doctrine; we do not believe the doctrines which he teaches because he teaches them, but rather, we pick and choose among his doctrines, selecting only those doctrines of the apostle which we choose to accept and no others. It is impossible, therefore, to accept the doctrinal authority of the apostles without accepting also the full inspiration of Scripture.
This same logic, like a good sword, can be driven still more deeply into the opponent of verbal inerrancy. The Lordship of Christ and the inerrant inspiration of Scripture likewise stand or fall together. Jesus said "Scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35)." He also said, "Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass f rom the law till all be fulfilled (Math. 5:18)." "Not one tittle of the law" can be set aside as vain (Luke 16:17). For our Lord, "It is written" settled every question of the day. The words of the written Scripture are the words of the Holy Spirit of God (Matt. 19:4). The apostles were "fools and slow of heart not to believe all that the prophets had spoken." Recent scholarship-radical, modernistic, neo-orthodox, liberal-evangelical-has tended to more and more to agree that Jesus, the Man of history, believed unequivocally in the ordinary view of inspiration held by the orthodox Jews of his day. Hence, the dilemma stands. Is Jesus now Lord? Or is He not Lord? If Jesus is Lord, then let us not equivocate. Let us accept Jesus' Lordship when it comes to His teaching with respect to the Bible. If Jesus is not really Lord, then again, let us not equivocate. Let us not pretend to accept His Lordship. Let us not give Him an empty title and mockingly place upon his head another crown of thorns.
The real issue regarding inspiration has become abundantly clear. History has shown us unmistakably -what is the central issue, and logic has showed us why history reads as it does. The question comes down to this: do we take the Bible seriously, or do we not? For those who accept only parts of the Bible, the Bible cannot really be an authority at all. He who picks and chooses among the doctrines of the Bible does not really accept the Bible as an authority. For him, rather, the Bible becomes only a sourcebook for ideas each of which is accepted as true for some other reason than that the-Bible teaches it.
Such a person slips consciously or unconsciously into a form of rationalism. He accepts those parts of the Bible that can be rationally defended. He accepts those part&.1hat approve themselves to him historically. Each doctrine, if he is consistent, must be defended at the bar of reason or must be rejected as unproved. Only the philosopher and the archaeologist can determine what parts of the Bible may rightfully be accepted and what parts must not be accepted. The average man, not professionally trained, is lost and bewildered. He cannot find his way through these abstract philosophical arguments and this array of historical facts; and he never discovers the truths that man needs for his soul's good.
however, another alternative. Some theologians turn to subjectivism. "Yes," they say, "I, too,
parts of scripture; I receive all those parts
of Scripture in which the Spirit of God speaks to my
enabling me individually and personally to see
voice." Not 1long ago
down the lake shore drive in Chicago suddenly swerved off the Avenue and plunged into Lake Michigan.
A bather whom the car had barely missed jumped into
the water, and opened the car door to rescue its driver.
Later, the police asked the driver what had happened.
he replied, "the Spirit
God told me to drive
into Lake Michigan." I don't believe !hal the
of God told him
drive into Lake
women in the South proclaimed that the Spirit of
ordered them to take snakes and to walk out into a
river, holding those serpents over their heads.
their followers stood horrified on the shore, the
women walked out into the water, holding the
over their heads, and singing hymns. They drowned.
don't believe the Spirit of God was speaki ng to
them, bidding them to go out into the water.
The reductio ad absurdum of this subjectivism revealed in a recent article in Time magazine. One of the subjectivitists, a neo-orthodox thinker, Karl Bart rebuked in scathing tones another subjectivist orthodox thinker, Reinhold Niebuhr. Reinhold Niebuhr, Karl Barth charged, does not take the authority of the Bib le seriously. When he finds that the Bible agrees with him, he accepts the Bible but wh en he finds that the Bible does not agree with him he rejects, it. I myself, so he affirmed, repudiate this hit and miss attitude towards the Bible. With a hearty amen I concur in what Karl Barth said-but in next breath I add, 'Et tu, Brute?" For Karl Barth himself does not take the whole Bible seriously. As long as both he and Niebuhr refuse to take the Bible really seriously, and receive only that in it which hap pens individually and personally to strike home to their hearts and minds as they read it, how can come to any other conclusion but to this basic subjectivi sm to which they both hold?
As orthodox Christians we believe that the Bible is true. We believe that it is an authority. We rec what it declares not because it appeals to us, but cause it says so. We believe that what the written Scriptures say, God says; and therefore the Scriptures are completely trustworthy. And in this view we find that the living Word of God, Jesus Christ our Savior and the written Word of God, the Bible, are joined in a harmonious unity. For the living Word said
the written Word, "Search the Scriptures, for are they which testify of me (John 5:39)." Our Lord, Himself, accepted the authority of Scripture; He re buked those who would not receive the authority of Scripture; He urged all men to receive the authority of Scripture; and we do not accept His Lordship unless we follow His bidding. The judgment of histo ry has showed, and logic confirms this judgment, that we cannot long retain the Divine Christ and His true Lord ship, unless with His Lordship we are willing also willing to accent the authority of the Bible.