Monday, April 17, 2006


I had Mormon missionaries pay me a visit recently. I warned them that we might end up having a “lively” conversation, but they proceeded into their presentation undeterred. I was a little disheveled in my Saturday morning pajamas, but I braved the open doorway for about a half hour exchange. At one point they asked me if I had read the book of Mormon. I told them I had. They asked me what I thought. I told them I was unimpressed. I said, “When you read the Bible and the Book of Mormon, you realize that one of these books is truly beautiful, and the other has a lot of makeup on in an attempt to look beautiful.” I don’t have any problem putting the Bible up head-to-head with any other purported revelation. It more than holds its own. It is quite clearly in a league of its own, intrinsically. The Bible has the “ring of truth” to it. It is its own best evidence for what it claims to be.

Emile Cailliet, in his book Journey into the Light, describes his first encounter with the Bible. He did not believe in God (he was a naturalist). He was not religious (he was a philosopher). He was writing a book as a kind of self therapy. His wife gave him a Bible as a source. He had never read it before. He rushed into his study and began to read. Later he wrote:

I read, and read and read with an indescribable warmth surging within. I could not find words to express my awe and wonder. And suddenly the realization dawned upon me: This was the Book that would understand me. The very clue to the secret of human life was disclosed right there in everyday language.

The Word of God is truly living, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword. As we get into the Bible, it gets into us. We interpret it, but it also interprets us. Martin Luther once commented, “The Bible is alive. It speaks to me. It has feet. It runs after me. It has hands. It lays hold of me.”

It measures six-by-nine
But it can fill the largest hall.

It measures six-by-nine
But it can touch the deepest need.

It measures six-by-nine
But it can reach any heart,
Bridge any gap,
Open any door.

Yet it only measures six-by-nine.

John Wesley wrote “I am a spirit come from God, and returning to God. I want to know one thing; the way to heaven. God himself has condescended to teach me the way. He has written it down in a book. Oh, give me that book! At any price give me the book of God. Let me be a man of one book.”

How long has it been since you spent some time with the Book? Not for study or sermon preparation. But for you?

[In the 90s I took the time to write out a Personal Doctrinal Statement...if you would be interested in the entire statement, email me...following are the first several paragraphs, dealing with Presuppositions, and my Beliefs about the Bible...]

For as long as I can remember, I have been interested in God. There is a good reason for this: As long as I can remember, He has been interested in me (1 John 4:19).

For me, the discussion of God (“Theology” - theos, God + logos, discourse) is no mere academic exercise. God is my Father, and I am His child. I am fascinated by His love for me, and enjoy spending time in His presence, hearing his words.

I am thankful for parents, teachers, pastors, and professors who have helped me to know Him better. The following statements summarize what I’ve come to know thus far.

My Presuppositions

Prior to stating my beliefs it would seem appropriate to reveal the presuppositions which have been the foundation for my conclusions.

I hold three primary assumptions in this statement of belief:

1. There is a God (Genesis 1:1).

2. This God has disclosed Himself to man (Psalm 19, Romans 1, I John 5:9-12, John 1:14, Philippians 2:5-11).

3. Man, by reason of his being in the image of God, is able to receive and comprehend God's revelation (Romans 1:19,20).

I am prepared to concede that these propositions are non-demonstrable and that I cling to them as true on the basis of a sovereign work in me that has caused faith (Deuteronomy 7:6-11; Romans 8:28-30). Yet, these presuppositions have corresponded accurately with the facts of the world around me.

My Beliefs About the Bible

The sources of information from which I have derived my beliefs regarding the Bible are two-fold: 1) from statements within the text of Scripture that make self-disclosure as to the Book's nature, and 2) from an examination of the phenomena which we find as Scripture. While I see the value of both means of investigation, I have given priority here to an exegesis and understanding of the statements which Scripture makes itself respecting its nature. [This is consistent with my approach in other religious inquiries.] As aids in this endeavor I have called upon reason, tradition and previous statements of faith.

I believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the verbally and plenarily inspired and inerrant Word of God (II Timothy 3:16). I hold the Bible, as originally given through human agents (II Peter 1:21), to be without fallacy or error in all that it states and see this as a most crucial article of faith with implications for the entire life and practice of Christians everywhere (II Timothy 3:16,17), being that the Bible contains the full content of the extant written revelation of God for mankind. With the great fathers of Christian history I declare my unreserved confidence in the total trustworthiness of the Scriptures, believing that any view which imputes to them a lesser degree of inerrancy than total is in conflict with the Bible's self-testimony in general and with the teachings of Jesus Christ in particular. Out of obedience to the Lord of the Church I seek to submit myself wholeheartedly to His authoritative view of Holy Writ, and, by God's grace, to subsequent compliance with the direction found therein. (Adapted from the Ligonier Statement of October, 1973)

I believe the 66 books of the Bible to be "God's Word" (Matthew 15:6; John 10:35; Hebrews 4:12). As such the Bible stands alone, and cannot be categorized with other literature as to its character and content. It is the unique and recognized record of God's revelation to man. Amazingly, the Bible was composed over a period of 1500 years by over 35 human authors. Yet it over and over again declares itself to be the Word of God and is without contradiction in what it says. Its authority, influence, subject matter and supreme character set it apart as "The Book." Archeology, geography, history, science, psychology and Christian experience all confirm what Christ himself said nearly 2000 years ago, "Thy Word is Truth" (John 17:17).

I believe that God has manifested His Word to us in accord with the supreme purpose that He should receive the honor, glory and praise of His created order (Romans 5:2,11). The revelation of God (or about God) has provided man with a worthy object for love and devotion, has given him ground for faith and peace of mind, and has given him assurance of salvation in time and eternity.


By revelation I mean "unveiling" (from Greek apocalypto), and in the realm of theology, the whole process by which God has made Himself known to man. This includes the general revelation of God in the human conscience (Romans 2:14-16), in nature (Psalm 19:1-4), in history (Acts 14:17; 17:24-30) and in man's thinking ability (Romans 1:18-20). It also incorporates several special forms of divine self-disclosure, such as Theophanies (Exodus 3:2f), dreams and visions (Numbers 12:6-10), miraculous events (Genesis 9), prophets (Exodus 4,7), apostles (Acts 1,10; I Corinthians 9,15), Jesus Christ (John 1:14,18; Hebrews 1:1f) and the Scriptures, which not only bear witness to the other modes of revelation but are themselves God's revelation.

These various methods of mediation are necessitated by the fact that God is transcendent (Isaiah 45:15), and man, by reason of the fall, has been impaired in his ability to receive Divine disclosure (I Corinthians 2:14; II Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:1f; Romans 1:28). God has, then, by His grace, chosen to communicate propositionally and personally with sinful man (Titus 2:11-14); not simply to unleash facts, but to bring man into fellowship with God.


"Inspiration is that inexplicable working of the Holy Spirit whereby He guided the human authors of the Bible in choosing the very words they used in writing every portion of the original manuscripts, so that the Bible is in all parts infallible as to truth and final as to authority." The very writings are the product of God's creative breath (II Timothy 3:16), though the human imprint is unmistakable throughout. While there are various theories which have been proposed as a solution to this tension (that it is a divine product, yet produced by man) the position which reflects most accurately the teaching of Scripture is that inspiration is "concursive", involving the divine involvement of the Holy Spirit throughout the writing process (II Peter 1:21) so that the very words which were placed on the original manuscripts could be said to be "God-breathed." I believe that, in addition to at times revealing supernatural truth to the writers, the Holy Spirit was in sovereign control of the varied aspects of the literary process, including the author's background, experiences, literary ability, selection of sources (if utilized), vocabulary and emotions. Yet, the Holy Spirit at no point impaired human personality.

The extent of inspiration is clearly plenary, applying to all portions of Scripture (II Timothy 3:16) in both Testaments (I Timothy 5:18). The intensiveness of inspiration is definitely verbal, as this is evidenced by the claim of the classical text (II Timothy 3:16), emphasized in the testimony of Paul, that he spoke with "words...taught by the Spirit" (I Corinthians 2:13), and indicated by Christ when He declared that even the smallest part of a Hebrew word or letter could not be broken (Matthew 5:18).


I believe that the Bible is inerrant, and that in all that it intends to assert there is not contradiction between it and truth (fact). Since the very words of Scripture are the product of God's creative breath, and since God's character is without flaw, error or imperfection (Titus 1:2; Numbers 23:19; Hebrews 6:18), the Scriptures likewise are without error. This fact is evidenced over and again from even the closest scrutiny of the sacred text. What difficulties that may remain (though few indeed) I believe can and will be accounted for when either more facts are uncovered, our interpretative processes are more properly applied, or we are enlightened in glorification. Until that time I choose to unflinchingly uphold the total inerrancy of Scripture. Within the structure of my theocentric (God-centered) world view, I will trust God and admit my own finiteness rather that set my reason up as judge and impugn Scripture.


The word "canon" means a rule or standard, and "in relation to the Bible it refers to the collection of books which passed a test of authenticity and authority" (Ryrie). The canonicity of the books of the Bible is not ultimately determined by man as much as it is observed by him. Man simply recognized the intrinsic properties within the 66 books of Scripture which set it apart as God-breathed, and thereby the infallible Word of God. This is possible due to the fact that God has throughout history made it clear when He is communicating, by self-authenticating that correspondence. Scripture likewise bears those inherent qualities by which it is evident that it is a divinely "expired" document. We may recognize that Scripture is God's Word as well as we would recognize that a diamond is a diamond. The substance of the authenticity is not external, but internal (I Thessalonians 1:5).

A priority of faith is necessary in the process of canonicity. The Holy Spirit bears witness with my spirit that these are God's Words (I Thessalonians 2:13; I John 5:9; 2:20,27; John 16:13,14).

While I admit to a certain subjectivity in this matter, I do not hold to a blind faith or faith in a vacuum, for there seem to be objective, identifiable evidences which have served as criteria by which the books were "discovered." Though none of these principles stand alone, together I believe they weave a formidable grid for man to recognize the special authority of God's Word:

1. Is the book AUTHORITATIVE? Does it ring with "Thus saith the Lord?"

2. Is the book PROPHETIC? Was it written by a prophet or apostle (or under them?)

3. Is the book AUTHENTIC? Was it written where, when and by whom it claims?

4. Is the book DYNAMIC? Does it change lives?

5. Is the book RECEIVED? Has the book been generally received by God's people?

6. Is the book ACCURATE? Is is free from any demonstrable, factual error?

7. Is the book CONGRUENT? Does it correlate with other scripture?

I believe that special strength is found within a synthesis of the first two principles so that we can say that those books which claim to be the Word of God and were written by an apostle or prophet (or someone under their auspices) are canonical (John 16:13). Likewise principle 5 has merit in that our belief in a sovereign God who is personally involved in the lives of believers would presuppose an overwhelming unanimity among God's people; something which has indeed occurred in relationship to the canonicity of Scripture.

As to whether the canon is closed, I concur with those throughout history who have thought that it is. This comes from an integration of Scriptural and Theological evidence. Particular Biblical evidence is gleaned from the contexts of Genesis 1,2 and Revelation 21,22. The parallels and fulfillments that are found in these passages, and the statement of Revelation 22:18,19, hint at limits of the canon. The book of Revelation appears to be the natural literary conclusion to the Bible, and is believed by many to be the last book written.

Theologically it would logically follow that if God has indeed preserved additional material to that which we presently have in our possession He would have revealed such to His church. But this has not taken place. Furthermore, because of the nature of the apostles and prophets as foundational in the initial organization of the church (Ephesians 2:20), I do not believe additional inscripturation to be a possibility at this later date, since the apostolic and prophetic offices were temporary and were not continued beyond the first century.


I believe that the Bible, when properly interpreted, asserts the ultimate and final standard of truth for faith, practice and understanding. As such it demands our inquiry (Acts 17:11), our submission (Hebrews 4:12), and our obedience (James 1:22; John 10:35). It is completely accurate and trustworthy in all matters to which it speaks, whether these be religious or not. While the Bible may be considered to be great literature, it is much more than this; it is the Word of God to us and our supreme, unchanging authority in a lawless age. Scripture is something with which we cannot enjoy the privilege of indifference; its divine character demands our allegiance.


Interpretation is the process of explicating the meaning of Scripture. It is both a science and an art since it involves both principle and skillful technique. "The basic principle of interpretation is to interpret plainly" (Ryrie). Normative interpretation begins with the concept that "When the plain sense makes good sense, seek no other sense." This involves an understanding of the words, context (both grammatical and historical) and the theme of the writing. It does not negate the use of figures of speech, idioms and phenomenal language, but instead allows for the complexities of human language with special hermeneutics. The believer can depend upon the Spirit to guide him "into all the truth" (John 16:13; I Cor. 2:6-16) so that he can enjoy the great profit of Scripture (II Timothy 3:15-17; John 17:17).


Scripture clearly teaches that the Word of God will be eternally preserved (Psalm 119:89,152,160; Matthew 24:35; I Peter 1:23). God will evidently see to it that His Word will not be eliminated but will be perpetuated to all generations. Approximately 5000 New Testament manuscripts give evidence that God's Word has indeed been carefully preserved, and, in a trustworthy manner. It can be maintained safely that the Holy Spirit has guided and superintended the preservation of His Book throughout the centuries. To the extent that our Bible texts reflect the words and sense of the original manuscripts, we have God’s Word.

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