by John M. Frame
This article was originally published in John W. Montgomery, ed., God’s Inerrant Word (Minneapolis, Bethany Fellowship, 1974). Used by permission of Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, copyright 2005. All rights to this material are reserved. Materials are not to be distributed to other web locations for retrieval, published in other media, or mirrored at other sites without written permission from Baker Publishing Group. http://bakerbooks.com, http://www.BakerPublishingGroup.com.
What does Scripture say about itself’? The question is both momentous and commonplace.
It is momentous: the self-witness of Scripture has been for centuries the cornerstone of the orthodox Christian argument for biblical authority. For one thing, there would never be any such argument unless there were reason to believe that Scripture claimed authority. If Scripture renounced all claim to authority, or even remained neutral on the subject, there would not be much reason for Christians today to claim authority for Scripture. But if Scripture does claim authority over us, then we are faced with a momentous challenge indeed! Acceptance or rejection of that claim will influence every aspect of Christian doctrine and life.
Furthermore, the authority of Scripture is a doctrine of the Christian faith – a doctrine like other doctrines – like the deity of Christ, justification by faith, sacrificial atonement. To prove such doctrines, Christians go to Scripture. Where else can we find information on God’s redemptive purposes? But what of the doctrine of the authority of Scripture? Must we not, to be consistent, also prove that doctrine by Scripture? If so, then the self-witness of Scripture must not only be the first consideration in the argument; it must be the final and decisive consideration also.
Now of course someone may object that that claim is not competent to establish itself. If the Bible claims to be God’s word, that does not prove that it is God’s word. That is true in a sense. Many documents claim to be the word of some god or other. The Koran, the Book of Mormon and countless other books have made such claims. In no case does the claim in itself establish the authority of the book. The claim must be compared with the evidence. But the evidence through the presuppositions furnished by, among other things, our religious convictions. A Christian must look at the evidence with Christian assumptions; a rationalist must look at the evidence with rationalistic assumptions. And the Christian finds his most basic assumptions in the Bible!
As I have argued elsewhere,1 it is impossible to avoid circularity of a sort when one is arguing on behalf of an ultimate criterion. One may not argue for one ultimate criterion by appealing to another. And the argument over Scriptural authority is precisely an argument over ultimate criterion!
We must not, of course, simply urge non-Christians to accept the Bible because the Bible says so. Although there is much truth in that simplicity, it can be misleading if stated in that form without further explanation. A non-Christian must start where he is. Perhaps he believes that Scripture is a fairly reliable source, though not infallible. He should then be urged to study Scripture as a historical source for Christian doctrine, as the original “source.” He will be confronted with the claims of Scripture – about God, about Christ, about man, about itself. He will compare the biblical way of looking at things with his own way. And if God wills, he will see the wisdom in looking at things Scripture’s way. But we must not mislead him about the demand of Scripture. He must not be allowed to think that he can become a Christian and go on thinking the same old way. He must be told that Christ demands a total repentance – of heart, mind, will, emotions – the whole man. He must learn that Christ demands a change in “ultimate criterion.” And thus he must learn that even the evidentiary procedures he uses to establish biblical authority must be reformed by the Bible. He must learn that “evidence” is at bottom an elaboration of God’s self-witness; that “proving” God is the same as hearing and obeying him.
So the question2 of the biblical self-witness is a momentous one indeed. In a sense it is the only question. If by “self-witness” we mean, not merely the texts in which the Bible explicitly claims authority, but the whole character of the Bible as it confronts us, then the question of biblical authority is purely and simply the question of biblical self-witness.
On the other hand, the question is also commonplace: Simply because it is so important, the question has been discussed over and over again by theologians. Although I feel greatly honored by the invitation to speak and write on such a basic question, I must confess also to a slight feeling of numbness. What can I say that hasn’t been said already? What can I say that Giiussen, Warfield, Kuyper, Murray, Young, Van Til, Kline, Ridderbos, Pache, Wenham, Packer, Montgomery, Pinnock and Gerstner haven’t said? Even in this collection, some of the other papers will overlap this topic! No doubt, in a collection of papers of this sort, someone ought to summarize the basic material. But I can’t help thinking it might be best just to quote snatches from other authors whose scholarship and eloquence is far superior to my own. It might be; but I won’t follow that course here, because I do have a few reasons for attempting an individual, if not independent, study.
Past orthodox Christian discussions of this matter have, in my opinion, done a very adequate job on the whole. As in all human endeavors, however, there is room for improvement here. The improvements I have in mind are chiefly two:
1. There needs to be a greater emphasis upon the pervasiveness throughout Scripture of the biblical self-witness. As we suggested earlier, there is a sense in which all of the Bible is self-witness. Whatever the Bible says, in a sense, it says about itself. Even the genealogies of the kings tell us about the content, and therefore the character of Scripture. The way in which the Bible speaks of kings and vineyards and wilderness journeys and God and man and Christ – its manner is a testimony to its character. More specifically: the overall doctrinal structure of Scripture is an important element of the biblical self-witness. For when the Bible speaks of atonement, reconciliation, justification, glorification, it speaks of these in such a way as to presuppose a crucial role for itself. Or, to look at redemption from a more historical perspective, from the beginning of God’s dealings with men God has taught them to give his words a particular role in their lives, a lesson which is taught again and again through the thousands of years of redemptive history. Now when we neglect this emphasis on the pervasiveness of the biblical self-witness, at least two bad things happen: (a) People can get the idea that the concept of biblical authority is based largely on a few texts scattered through the Bible, texts which may not be very important in the overall biblical scheme of things. They might even get the idea that the doctrine of inspiration is based largely upon a couple of texts (II Pet. 1:21, II Tim. 3:16) which liberal scholars dismiss as being late and legalistic. Thus it may seem as though the doctrine of biblical authority is a rather peripheral doctrine, rather easily dispensable for anyone who has even the slightest inclination to dispense with unpalatable doctrines. (b) People can get the idea that Christ and the Bible are separable, that you can believe in and obey Christ without believing in and obeying the Bible. They may think that Scripture is unimportant to the Christian message of redemption.
2. If, as orthodox people maintain, the biblical self-witness to its authority and infallibility is obvious, clear – and certainly if it is “pervasive”! – then we must face more squarely the question of why not-so-orthodox people see the matter differently. At one level, of course, it is legitimate to say that they fail to see the truth because of their unbelief: the god of this world has blinded their minds.3 Sin is “irrational” – it turns away from the obvious. But sinners, when they are scholars, at least, generally do things for a reason, perverse as that reason may be. And perverse or not, such reasoning is often highly plausible. If orthodox people can identify that reasoning, explain its surface plausibility, and expose its deeper error, then the orthodox view of the biblical self-witness will be stated much more cogently.
In the remaining portion of this essay, I shall present an essentially traditional argument concerning the character of the biblical self-witness; but I shall structure the discussion in such a way as to implement the above two concerns – not comprehensively, to be sure, probably not adequately – but to greater degree than one might expect in a paper of this length.4 The first section will examine the role of verbal revelation in the biblical understanding of salvation. The second will discuss the relationship of that verbal revelation to Scripture, and the third will analyze what I take to be the most common and plausible objection to the previous line of reasoning.
I. REVEALED WORDS AND SALVATION
We have suggested that the whole Bible is self-witness; but the Bible is not only or primarily self-witness. It is first and foremost, not a book about a book, but a book about God, about Christ, about the salvation of man from sin. But that message of salvation includes a message about the Bible. For this salvation requires verbal revelation. In saving man, God speaks to him.
A. Lord and Servant
God spoke to man even before man fell into sin. The first human experience mentioned in Scripture is the hearing of God’s word; for immediately after the account of man’s creation we read,
And God blessed them: and God said unto them, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the heavens, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”5
It is appropriate that the hearing of these words be presented in Scripture as man’s first experience. For this was the experience by which the whole course of man’s life was determined. When man heard these words of God, he heard his own definition. God was telling man who man was, what his task was. Everything else that man did was to be in obedience to this command. Whether a shepherd, a farmer, a miner, a businessman, a teacher, a homemaker – his main job was to replenish and subdue the earth in obedience to this command. The command covered all of life, not just some compartments of it. The command was not to be questioned; it was God’s sovereign determination of man’s responsibility. The command asserted God’s claim to ultimate authority; for, paradoxically, while the command declared man to have dominion over the earth, it also declared God’s dominion over man! Whatever dominion man enjoys, he receives from God; he enjoys it at God’s pleasure; he enjoys it out of obedience to God’s command.
Why? Simply because God is God, and man is man. God is Lord; man is servant. God commands; man must obey. To have a Lord is to be under authority. A servant is one responsible to obey the commands of another. What kind of lordship would there be without commands? The very idea is absurd. Without commands, no obedience; without obedience, no responsibility; without responsibility, no authority; without authority, no lordship.
Man was created in obedience; he fell through disobedience – disobedience to another command, this time the command concerning the forbidden tree.6 The simplest biblical definition of sin is “lawlessness”7 – rejection of, disobedience to God’s commands. Therefore just as the word of God defines our status as God’s creatures and servants, it also defines our status as fallen creatures, as sinners.
Redemption, according to Scripture, involves a re-assertion of God’s lordship. The fall, of course, did not annul God’s lordship; God’s lordship over fallen man is vividly expressed in divine judgment against sin. But if man is to be saved, he must be brought to realize again that God is Lord and demands man’s unconditional obedience. When God saved Israel from Egypt, He called himself by the mysterious name Jehovah which, though its exact meaning is uncertain, clearly asserts his claim to unconditional lordship.8 And throughout the history of redemption, God continually asserted this claim by making absolute demands upon his people.
God’s demands are absolute in at least three senses: (1) They cannot be questioned. The Lord God has the right to demand unwavering, unflinching obedience. God blessed Abraham because he “obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.”9 He did not waver10 even when God commanded him to sacrifice his son Isaac, the son of the promise.11 To waver – even in that horrible situation! – would have been sin. (2) God’s demand is absolute also in the sense that it transcends all other loyalties, all other demands. The Lord God will not tolerate competition; he demands exclusive loyalty.12 The servant must love his Lord with all his heart, soul and strength.13 One cannot serve two masters.14 One of the most remarkable proofs of the deity of Christ in the New Testament is that there Jesus Christ demands – and receives – precisely this kind of loyalty from his followers, the same sort of loyalty which Jehovah demanded of Israel.15 The Lord demands first place. (3) God’s demand is also absolute in that it governs all areas of life. In the Old Testament period, God regulated not only Israel’s worship, but also the diet, political life, sex life, economic life, family life, travel, calendar of his people. No area of life was immune to God’s involvement. To be sure, the New Testament gives us more freedom on a certain sense: the detailed dietary restrictions, uncleanness rituals, animal sacrifices and other elements of the old order are no longer literally binding. But the New Testament, if anything, is more explicit than the Old on the comprehensiveness of God’s demand: Whatsoever we do, even eating and drinking, must be done to the glory of God.16 We must never shut the Lord out of any compartment of our lives; there must be no areas kept to ourselves. God’s lordship involves such absolute demands.
B. Savior and Sinner
But salvation is more than a reassertion of God’s lordship. If God merely reasserted his lordship, we would be without hope, for we have turned against him and deserve death at his hand.17 If God merely spoke to us absolute demands, we would perish, for we have not obeyed these demands. But our God is not only Lord; he is also savior. And he speaks to us not only demands, not only law, but also gospel – the good news of Jesus Christ. But we must emphasize that he speaks the gospel. The gospel is a message, a revelation in words. How can we know that the death of Christ is sufficient to save us from sin? Now human wisdom could have figured that out! Only God can declare sinners to be forgiven; only God has the right to promise salvation to those who believe! The same lord who speaks to demand obedience, also speaks to promise salvation. As Abraham,18 we are called to believe the gospel simply because it is God’s own promise. We know that believers in Christ are saved because Jesus has told us they are.19 Only the Lord can speak the word of forgiveness, that word which declares sinners to be forgiven, and promises eternal life.
Just as there can be no lordship without an absolute demand, so there is no salvation without a gracious and certain promise. Therefore the whole biblical message presupposes the necessity of verbal revelation. Without revealed words, there is neither lordship nor salvation. To “accept Christ as Savior and Lord” is to accept from the heart Christ’s demand and promise. Let there be no misunderstanding: you cannot “accept Christ” without accepting his words! Christ himself emphasizes this point over and over again.20 If we set aside the words of Christ in favor of a vague, undefined “personal relationship” to Christ, we simply lose the biblical Christ and substitute a Christ of our own imagination.
And not just any words will do! They must be God’s words – words of divine, and not merely human authority; words which cannot be questioned, transcend all other loyalties, govern all areas of life. They must be words which cannot be contradicted by human philosophies or theologies – or even by the “assured results of modern scholarship”! Without words like that, we have no Lord and we have no Savior.
But where can we find words like that? No mere philosopher or theologian or scholar speaks such words! Many religions, indeed, claim to have such words; but how are we to judge among these many claims? How do we distinguish the voice of God from the voice of devils and the imaginations of our own hearts?
II. REVEALED WORDS AND SCRIPTURE
Scripture tells us to go to Scripture! Or, rather, the God of Scripture tells us in Scripture to go to Scripture!
Of course we must note at the outset that the Bible is not the only word that God has spoken. God has spoken words to and by his apostles and prophets that are not recorded in the Bible. He has also spoken, in a sense, to the earth, to the storms, to the winds and waves.21 And in a mysterious sense, the word of God may also be identified with God Himself22 and particularly with Jesus Christ.23 But God does not always tell us what he says to the winds and waves, and he has not always provided us with prophets at a handy distance! Rather, he has directed us to a book! That is where we are to go for daily, regular guidance. That is where we may always find the demands of the Lord and the promise of the Savior.
Writing goes back a long way in the history of redemption. The book of Genesis appears to be derived largely from “books of generations.”24 We don’t know much about the origin of these books, but it is significant that (1) they include inspired prophecies25 and (2) they were eventually included among Israel’s authoritative writings. From a very early time, God’s people began to record the history of redemption for their posterity. It was important from the beginning that God’s covenants, his demands and his promises be written down lest they be forgotten. The first explicit reference, however, to a divinely authorized book occurs in connection with the war between Israel and Amalek shortly after the Exodus:
And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword. And the Lord said unto Moses, “Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: that I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.” And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Jehovah-nissi; and he said, “The Lord hath sworn: the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.”26
Not only does the Lord authorize the writing of the book; the content of it is God’s own oath, his pledge. It is the word of God, a word of absolute authority and sure promise. Because God has spoken it, it will surely happen.
But an even more important example of divine writing occurs a few chapters later. In Exodus twenty, God speaks the Ten Commandments to the people of Israel. The people are terrified, and they ask Moses to act as mediator between themselves and God. From Ex. 20:22 to 23:33, God presents to Moses further commandments in addition to the ten, which Moses is to convey to the people. In Ex. 24:4, we learn that Moses wrote down all these words and in verse seven read them to the people. The people received these words as the word of God himself – “All that the Lord hath spoken will we do, and be obedient.”27 They accepted these writtenwords as words of absolute demand! But something even more remarkable occurs a few verses later. The Lord calls Moses alone to ascend the mountain, “and I will give thee the tables of stone, and the law and the commandment which I have written, that thou mayest teach them.”28 Note the pronouns in the first person singular! God did the writing! In fact, the implication of the tenses is that God had completed the writing before Moses ascended the mountain. Moses was to go up the mountain to receive a completed, divinely written manuscript! Nor is this the only passage that stresses divine authorship of the law. Elsewhere, too, we learn that the tables were “written with the finger of God”29; they were “the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables.”30
What was going on here? Why the sustained emphasis upon divine writing? Meredith G. Kline31 suggests that this emphasis on divine writing arises out of the nature of covenant-making in the ancient near East. When a great king entered a “suzerainty covenant relation” with a lesser king, the great king would produce a document setting forth the terms of the covenant. The great king was the author, because he was the lord, the sovereign. He set the terms. The lesser king was to read and obey, for he was the servant, the vassal. The covenant document was the Law; it set forth the commands of the great king, and the servant was bound to obey. To disobey the document was to disobey the great king; to obey it was to obey him. Now in Exodus twenty and succeeding chapters, God is making a kind of “suzerainty treaty” with Israel. As part of the treaty relation, he authors a document which is to serve as the official record of his absolute demand. Without the document there would be no covenant.
Later, more words were added to the document; and we read in Deuteronomy that Moses put all these words in the ark of the covenant, the dwelling place of God, the holiest place in Israel, “that it may be there for a witness against thee.”32 The covenant document is not man’s witness concerning God; it is God’s witness against man. Man may not add to or subtract anything from the document;33 for the document is God’s word, and must not be confused with any mere human authority.
This divine authority takes many forms. In the extra-biblical suzerainty covenants, certain distinct elements have been discovered34: the self-identification of the lord (the giving of his name), the “historical prologue” (proclaiming the benevolent acts of the lord to the vassal), the basic demand for exclusive loyalty (called “love”), the detailed demands of the lord, the curses upon the disobedient, the blessings upon the obedient, and finally the details of covenant administration, use of the document, etc. In the law of God, all of these elements are present. God tells who he is,35 he proclaims his grace through his acts in history,36 he demands love,37 he sets forth his detailed demands,38 he declares the curses and blessings contingent on covenant obedience,39 and he sets up the machinery for continuing covenant administration, laying particular emphasis on the use of the covenant book.40 All of these elements of the covenant are authoritative; all are words of God.
Theologians generally oversimplify the concept of biblical authority. To some theologians, it is God’s personal self-manifestation (as in the giving of the divine name) which is authoritative. To others, it is the account of historical events. To others, the demand for love is the central thing. To others it is the divine self-commitment to bless. But the covenantal structure of revelation has room for all of these elements, and what’s more, places them in proper relation to one another. There is both love and law, both grace and demand, both kerygma and didache, both personal disclosure (stated in “I-thou” form) and objective declarations of facts, both a concept of history and a concept of inspired words. The covenant document contains authoritative propositions about history (the servant has no right to contradict the lord’s account of the history of the covenant), authoritative commands to be obeyed, authoritative questions (demanding the vassal’s pledge to covenant allegiance), authoritative performatives (God’s self-commitment to bless and curse).41 The propositions are infallible; but infallibility is only part of biblical authority. This authority also includes the authority of non-propositional language as well.
We have seen that the idea of a “canon,” an authoritative written word of God, goes back to the very beginning of Israel’s history, back to its very creation as a nation. The Scripture is the constitution of Israel, the basis for its existence. The idea of a written word of God did not arise in twentieth-century fundamentalism, nor in seventeenth-century orthodoxy, nor in the post-apostolic church, nor in II Timothy, nor in post-exilic Judaism. The idea of a written word of God is at the very foundation of biblical faith. Throughout the history of redemption, therefore, God continually calls his people back to the written word. Over and over again he calls them to keep “the commandments of the Lord your God, and his testimonies, and his statutes which he hath commanded thee.”42 These are the words of absolute demand and sure promise, the words of the Lord. These were the words that made the difference between life and death. These were the words which could not be questioned, which transcended all other demands, which governed all areas of life. When Israel sinned and returned to the Lord, she returned also to the law of God.43
From time to time there were new words of God. Joshua added to the words which Moses had placed in the ark.44 How could a mere man add to the words of God in view of the command of Deut. 4:2? The only answer can be that Joshua’s words were also recognized as God’s words. The prophets also came speaking God’s words,45 and some of them were written down.46
Thus the “Old Testament” grew. By the time of Jesus there was a well-defined body of writings which was generally recognized as God’s word, and which was quoted as supreme authority, as Holy Scripture. Jesus and the apostles did not challenge, but rather accepted this view. Not only did they accept it, but they actively testified to it by word and deed. The role of Scripture in the life of Jesus is really remarkable: although Jesus was and is the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, during his earthly ministry he subjected himself completely to the Old Testament Scripture. Over and over again, he performed various actions “so that the Scripture might be fulfilled.”47 The whole point of his life – his sacrificial death and resurrection was determined beforehand by Scripture.48 Jesus’ testimony to Scripture, then, is not occasional, but pervasive. His whole life was a witness to biblical authority! But listen particularly to what Christ and the apostles say concerning the Old Testament! Listen to the way in which they cite Scripture, even in the face of Satan, to “clinch” an argument, to silence objections.49 Listen to the titles by which they describe the Old Testament: “Scripture,” “holy Scripture,” “law,” “prophets,” “royal law of liberty…… the oracles of God.”50 Listen to the formulae by which they cite Scripture: “It is written”; “it says”; “the Holy Spirit says”; “Scripture says.”51 All of these phrases and titles denoted to the people of Jesus’ day something far more than a mere human document. These terms denoted nothing less than inspired, authoritative words of God. As Warfield pointed out, “Scripture says” and “God says” are interchangeable!51
And consider further the explicit teaching of Jesus and the apostles concerning biblical authority:
1. Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets: I came not to destroy, but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, ‘till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass away from the law; until all things are accomplished. Whosoever therefore shall break one of the least of these commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.52
Jots and tittles were among the smallest marks used in the written Hebrew language. Jesus is saying that everything in the law and the prophets (equals the Old Testament) carries divine authority. And obedience to that law is the criterion of greatness in the kingdom of heaven.
2. Think not that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuses you, even Moses, whom you trust. For if ye believed Moses, ye would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?53
The Jews claimed to believe Moses’ writings, but they rejected Christ. Jesus replies that they do not really believe Moses; and he urges them to a greater trust in the Old Testament. He urges them to believe all of the law, and thus come to accept his messiahship. We see here that Jesus did not merely quote Scripture because it was customary among the Jews. Rather, he criticized the prevailing custom because it was insufficiently loyal to Scripture. Jesus’ view of Scripture was stronger than that of the Pharisees and Scribes. Jesus sees Moses justly accusing the Jews because of their unbelief in Scripture. Believing Moses is the prerequisite to believing Christ.
3. The Jews answered him, “For a good work we stone thee not, but for blasphemy; even because thou, being a man, makest thyself God.” Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your law, I said, ‘Ye are gods’? If he called them gods unto whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), say ye of him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘Thou blasphemest’; because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?”54
A difficult passage, this; but note the parenthesis. Concerning a fairly obscure Psalm, Jesus says that “scripture cannot be broken.” It cannot be wrong; it cannot fail; it cannot be rejected as we reject human words.
4. For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that through patience and through comfort of the scriptures we might have hope.55
Here, the apostle Paul tells us that the Old Testament is relevant, not only for the people of the Old Testament period, but for us as well. It teaches us, gives us patience, comfort, hope. And most remarkably, the whole Old Testament is relevant! None of it is dated; none of it is invalidated by more recent thought. Of what human documents may that be said?
5. And we have the word of prophecy made more sure; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: knowing this first, that no prophecy of scripture is of private interpretation. For no prophecy ever came by the will of man: but men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit.56
Note the context of this passage: Peter expects to die soon, and he wishes to assure his readers of the truth of the gospel.57 He knows that false teachers will attack the church, deceiving the flock.58 He insists that the gospel is not myth or legend, but the account of events which he himself had witnessed.59 Yet even when the eyewitnesses have left the scene, the believers will still have a source of sure truth. They have the “word of prophecy” – the Old Testament Scriptures – a word which is “more sure.”60 They are to “take heed” to that word, and forsake all conflicting teaching; for the word is light, and all the rest is darkness. Moreover, it did not originate through the human interpretative process; it is not a set of human opinions about God; nor did it originate in any human volition. Rather the Holy Spirit carried the biblical writers along, as they spoke for him! The Holy Spirit determined their course and their destination. The Bible consists of human writings, but its authority is no mere human authority!
6. All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work.61
Note again the context, for it is similar to that of the last passage. Paul in this chapter paints a gloomy picture of deceivers leading people astray. How shall we know the truth in all this confusion? Paul tells Timothy to hang on to the truth as he learned it from Paul,62 but also to the “holy scriptures”63 (which, we note, are available even to us who have not been taught personally by Paul). This Scripture is “inspired of God” as the KJV says, or more literally “Godbreathed” – breathed out by God. In less picturesque language, we might say simply “spoken by God”; but the more picturesque language also suggests the activity of the Holy Spirit in the process, the words for “spirit” and “breath” being closely related in the original Greek. Scripture is spoken by God; it is his Word; and as such it is all profitable, and it is all that we need to be equipped for good works.
Both Old and New Testaments then pervasively claim authority for the Old Testament scriptures. But what about the New Testament scriptures? Can we say that they, also, are the word of God?
We have seen the importance of verbal revelation in both Old and New Testaments. Both Testaments insist over and over again that such words are a necessity of God’s plan of salvation. As we have seen, the concepts of lordship and salvation presuppose the existence of revealed words. And in the New Testament, Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior. It would be surprising indeed if Jehovah, the Lord of the Old Testament people of God, gave a written record of his demand and promise, while Jesus, the Lord incarnate of whom the New Testament speaks, left no such record. Jesus told his disciples over and over again that obedience to his words was an absolute necessity for kingdom service and a criterion for true discipleship.64 We need the words of Jesus! But where are they!? If there is no written record, no New Testament “covenant document,” then has Jesus simply left us to grope in the dark?
Praise God that He has not! Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to lead his disciples into all truth.5 After the Holy Spirit was poured out on the day of Pentecost, the disciples began to preach with great power and conviction.66 The pattern remains remarkably consistent throughout the Book of Acts: the disciples are filled with the Spirit, and then they speak of Jesus.67 They do not speak in their own strength. Further, they constantly insist that the source of their message is God, not man.68 Their words have absolute, not merely relative, authority.69 And this authority attaches not only to their spoken words, but also to their written words.70 Peter classes the letters of Paul together with the “other Scriptures”!71 Paul’s letters are “Scripture”; and we recall that “Scripture” is “God-breathed”!72
We conclude, then, that the witness of Scripture to its own authority is pervasive: (1) The whole biblical message of salvation presupposes and necessitates the existence of revealed words – words of absolute demand and sure promise; without such words, we have no Lord, no Savior, no hope. (2) Throughout the history of redemption, God directs his people to find these words in written form, in those books which we know as the Old and New Testaments.
III. REVEALED WORDS AND MODERN THEOLOGIANS
Our conclusion, however, raises a serious problem. If the witness of Scripture to its own authority is pervasive, then why have so many biblical scholars and theologians failed to see it?
We are not asking why it is that these theologians fail to believe the claim of Scripture. The unbelief of theologians is at bottom rather uninteresting; it is not much different from the unbelief of anyone else. Yet it is surely possible to disbelieve Scripture’s claim while at the same time admitting that Scripture makes such a claim. And some liberal theologians have indeed accepted this option: the Bible claims inspiration and authority, but modern men cannot accept such a claim.73 But others have refused to admit even that Scripture makes that claim! Or more often: they have recognized this claim in some parts of Scripture, but they have judged this claim to be inconsistent with other, more important Scriptural teachings, and thus have felt that Scripture “as a whole” opposes the notion of authoritative Scripture in our sense.
Putting the same question differently: is it possible to construct a sound biblical argument for biblical fallibility? Some theologians, amazingly enough, have said “yes,” despite the evidence to the contrary we and others have adduced. Is this simply a wresting of Scripture in the interest of a heresy? Is it at bottom simply another form of modern unbelief (and therefore as “uninteresting” as the unbelief alluded to earlier)? In the final analysis, I would say, the answer is yes. But some analysis, final or not, is called for. The argument must be scrutinized, lest we miss something important in the biblical self-witness.
We are not here going to argue specific points of exegesis. Some thinkers would question our interpretation of Matt. 5:17-19, arguing that in the Sermon on the Mount and elsewhere Jesus makes “critical distinctions” among the Old Testament precepts. Some, too, would question our reading of the phrase “inspired of God” or “God-breathed” in II Tim. 3:16. And indeed, some would argue from II Pet. 1:21 (but in defiance of II Tim. 3:16!) that inspiration pertains only to the writers of Scripture and not to the books which they have written. For enlightenment on these controversies, see the references in the footnotes. In general, we may say that even if it is possible to question a few points of our exegesis, the evidence is so massive that the general conclusion is still difficult to avoid:
The effort to explain away the Bible’s witness to its plenary inspiration reminds one of a man standing safely in his laboratory and elaborately expounding – possibly by the aid of diagrams and mathematical formulae – how every stone in an avalance has a defined pathway and may easily be dodged by one of some presence of mind. We may fancy such an elaborate trifler’s triumph as he would analyze the avalanche into its constituent stones, and demonstrate of stone after stone that its pathway is definite, limited, and may easily be avoided. But avalanches, unfortunately, do not come upon us, stone by stone, one at a time, courteously leaving us opportunity to withdraw from the pathway of each in turn: but all at once, in a roaring mass of destruction. Just so we may explain away a text or two which teach plenary inspiration, to our own closet satisfaction, dealing with them each without reference to the others: but these texts of ours, again, unfortunately do not come upon us in this artificial isolation; neither are they few in number. There are scores, hundreds, of them: and they come bursting upon us in one solid mass. Explain them away? We should have to explain away the whole New Testament. What a pity it is that we cannot see and feel the avalanche of texts beneath which we may lie hopelessly buried, as clearly as we may see and feel an avalanche of stones!74
Not even the cleverest exegete can “explain away” the biblical concepts of lordship and salvation and the necessary connection of these concepts with the revealed words of Scripture! No exegete can explain away all the verses which call God’s people to obey “the commandments, statutes, testimonies, ordinances” of the Lord; all the “it is written” formulae; all of the commands delivered by apostles and prophets in authoritative tone.
Rather than such detailed questions, therefore, we shall confine our attention to broader considerations which have carried considerable weight in contemporary theological discussion. For just as we have argued that the biblical concepts of lordship and salvation require the existence of revealed words, so others have argued that certain basic biblical concepts exclude the possibility of such words!
The primary appeal of these theological views is to the divine transcendence; as the following quotes from Karl Barth and Emil Brunner respectively will indicate:
Again it is quite impossible that there should be a direct identity between the human word of Holy Scripture and the Word of God, and therefore between the creaturely reality in itself and as such and the reality of God the creator.75
It is therefore impossible to equate any human words, any “speech-about-Him” with the divine self-communication.76
Such statements have a kind of primitive religious appeal. God alone is God, and nothing else may be “equated with him.” To “equate” or “directly identify” something else with God is idolatry. Now surely we must agree that Scripture endorses this sentiment, for Scripture clearly opposes idolatry and exalts God above all other things! And if this is the case, then it seems that Scripture requires us to distinguish sharply between God Himself on the one hand, and language about him on the other; the transcendence of God is surely a central biblical concept! And if transcendence requires us to eliminate all thought of “revealed words,” even though other biblical doctrines suggest otherwise, then perhaps we ought to give serious thought to this issue.
However, Barth’s concept of “direct identity” is a difficult one, as is Brunner’s reference to “equating.” What does it mean to assert – or deny – a “direct identity” or “equation” between God and language? Clearly, no one wants to say that “God” and “language about God” are synonymous terms! Nor has anyone in recent memory suggested that we bow down before words and sentences. Even the most orthodox defenders of biblical infallibility maintain that there is some distinction to be made between God and language. Further: even the most orthodox agree that the words of Scripture are in some sense creaturely, and thus specifically because of their creatureliness to be distinguished from God. On the other hand, if such words are God’s words, and not merely human, then they are closely related to him, at least as closely as in words are related to me. If God has spoken them, then their truth is his truth; their authority is his authority; their power is his power. Barth is willing to say that from time to time Scripture becomes the word of God; therefore he admits that some close relation between God and Scripture is essential. The question then becomes: in what way is God “distinct” from this language, and in what way is he “related” to it? A pious appeal to God’s transcendence, eloquent though it may be, does not really answer this sort of question. Both the orthodox and the Barthian would like to avoid being charged with idolatry. But what kind of distinction between God and language is required by the divine transcendence?
Barth is most reluctant to give any positive description of this relationship. Commenting upon II Tim. 3:16, he says:
At the centre of the passage a statement is made about the relationship between God and Scripture, which can be understood only as a disposing act and decision of God Himself, which cannot therefore be expanded but to which only a – necessarily brief – reference can be made. At the decisive point all that we have to say about it can consist only in an underlining and delimiting of the inaccessible mystery of the free grace in which the Spirit of God is present and active before and above and in the Bible.77
Inspiration, says Barth, is a mystery, because it is an act of God’s grace. We cannot define what it is; we can only assert the graciousness of the process. At another point, however, he does venture to describe inspiration, alluding to the term used in II Tim. 3:16:
Theopneustia in the bounds of biblical thinking cannot mean anything but the special attitude of obedience in those [biblical writers] who are elected and called to this obviously special service…But in nature and bearing their attitude of obedience was of itself – both outwardly and inwardly – only that of true and upright men.78
Inspiration is an act of God to create in men a special attitude of human obedience. It does not give them more than ordinary human powers. Therefore,
The Bible is not a book of oracles; it is not an instrument of direct impartation. It is genuine witness. And how can it be witness of divine revelation, if the actual purpose, act and decision of God in His only-begotten Son, as seen and heard by the prophets and apostles in that Son, is dissolved in the Bible into a sum total of truths abstracted from that decision –and those truths are then propounded to us as truths of faith, salvation and revelation? If it tries to be more than witness, to be direct impartation, will it not keep from us the best, the one real thing, which God intends to tell and give us and which we ourselves need?79
The question, of course, is rhetorical. Barth is appealing to something he thinks his reader will concede as obvious. And this much we will concede: that if the Bible tries to be more than it is, if it exceeds its rightful prerogatives and usurps those of God Himself, then it will indeed hide from us the real message of God’s transcendence. But what are the “rightful prerogatives” of Scripture? That must be established before the rhetoric of divine transcendence can have force. The rhetoric of transcendence does not itself determine what those prerogatives are.
It is clear from the last quoted section at least that Barth denies to Scripture one particular prerogative – the prerogative of presenting “truths of revelation in abstraction from” God’s saving act in Christ. But what does “in abstraction from” mean in this context? An abstraction is always some sort of distinction or separation, but what kind of distinction or separation? An orthodox theologian will insist that the biblical “truths of revelation” are not “in abstraction from” God’s act in Christ. On the contrary, we learn about this act, we come to adore this act, because the Bible gives us a true account of it.
I think that in the back of Barth’s mind – perhaps in the front of it! – is a concern of many academic people. When we teachers see students cramming for theological exams, stuffing truths into their heads, we sometimes wonder what all of this has to do with the kingdom of God! And the students wonder too! The whole business of “mastering truths” somehow seems “abstract.” It almost trivializes the message. Often there is here no real sense of the presence of God, no real spirit of prayer and thankfulness; it seems as if we are taking God’s word and making a game of it!
Well, theology examinations, theological study can be a spiritual trial! But surely if we lose touch with God in studying His truths, it is our fault, not his for providing the truths! And sometimes, at least, the study of truths can be downright inspiring; sometimes, even in the academy, the law of the Lord purifies the soul! The evil in Barth’s mind (as I understand him) is not an evil that can be remedied by eliminating the concept of revealed truth. It would be nice if such personal sinfulness could be eliminated by such a conceptual shift! But the sin of trivializing God’s word is one of which we are all guilty – Barthians as much as anyone! We cannot eliminate that in Barth’s way, nor ought we to try to construct a doctrine of Scripture that will make such trivialization impossible. That is the wrong way to go about constructing doctrinal formulations. Doctrines must not be arbitrarily constructed to counteract current abuses; they must be constructed on the basis of God’s revelation.
“Abstraction,” then, can’t be avoided by renouncing the idea of revealed truths or revealed words. Nor can it be avoided by renouncing biblical infallibility. And in the absence of any other clearly stated threat to God’s transcendence in the doctrine we have advocated, we are compelled to stand our ground. The orthodox view does not “abstract revelation from God’s act,” and it does not compromise the greatness and majesty of God. On the contrary: the true greatness of God, his Lordship and saviorhood as described in Scripture, requires the existence of revealed truths. Without such truths, we have no Lord, no Savior, no basis for piety. Without such truths, all that we say, think and do will be hopelessly “abstracted” from the reality of God. Without such truths, we have no hope. A Barthian or liberal or “neo-liberal” theology can provide no such words; it can locate no words of absolute demands and sure promise. Rather such a theology retains the right to judge the truth or falsity of all words with no divinely authorized criterion. Such theologies must be decisively rejected by the church of Christ, if she is to have any power, any saving message for our time. When Scripture speaks for itself, it claims to be no less than God’s own word, and the claim is pervasive and unavoidable. Insofar as we deny that claim, we deny the Lord.80 Insofar as we honor that word, we honor Christ.81
1 See my other paper in this collection.
2 We shall cite some of the most helpful sources, in these questions. The classic nineteenth century work on the subject, still useful, is L. Gaussen, The Inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, trans. D.D. Scott (Chicago: Moody Press, 1949). The most impressive piece of scholarly work in this area to date remains B.B. Warfield, The Inspiration and Authority Of the Bible, ed. S.G. Craig (Philadelphia; Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1948). In relating the doctrine of inspiration to a comprehensive Christian world and life view, Abraham Kuyper’s Principles of Christian Theology, trans. J.H. De Vries (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1965) is unsurpassed. Almost the only new things that have been said in the last few years about the doctrine have been said by Meredith G. Kline in his Structure of Biblical Authority (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1972). A helpful guide through the issues raised by New Testament biblical scholarship is H. Ridderbos, The AuthorityOf the New Testament Scriptures. ed. J.M. Kik, trans. de Jongste (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1963); The soundest overall guide to the theological controversies (in my opinion) is C. Van Til, A Christian Theory Of Knowledge (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1969); cf. his “unpublished” syllabus, “The Doctrine of Scripture” (Ripon, Cal.: Den Dulk Foundation, 1967). For general summaries of the issues, see: The Infallible Word, ed. N. R. Stonehouse and P. Woolley (3rd rev. ed.; Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1967) [the article by John Murray is especially helpful];Revelation and the Bible, ed. Carl F.H. Henry (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1958); and, on the more popular level, but most eloquent and cogent, E.J. Young, Thy Word is Truth (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1957). Other recent works useful to resolving the question of the Bible’s self-witness are R. Pache, The Inspiration and Authority Of Scripture, trans. H. Needham (Chicago: Moody Press, 1969); C. Pinnock, Biblical Revelation (Chicago: Moody Press, 1971); and J.W. Wenham, Christ and the Bible (Chicago: Inter-Varsity Press, 1973).
3 II Cor. 4:4.
4 As such, the paper will also fail to do justice to other legitimate concerns.
5 Gen. 1:28.
6 Gen. 2:17, 3:6, 11f.
7 I John 3:4.
8 Ex. 3:14; note context. In later years, when this sacred name was considered too sacred to be pronounced, the Jews read the word Adonai, Lord, in its place.
9 Gen. 26:5.
10 Rom. 4:20.
11 Gen. 22:18.
12 Exod. 20:3, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”
13 Deut. 6:4f; cf. Matt. 22:37ff and parallels in the other Gospels.
14 Matt. 6:22ff.
15 Matt. 19:16-30; cf. 8:19-22, 10-37, Phil. 3:8.
16 I Cor.10:31 – A New Testament dietary law! Cf. Rom.14:23, II Cor.10:5, Col. 3:17.
17 Rom. 3:23, 6:23.
18 Rom. 4:19f.
19 John 5:24.
20 Matt. 7:24-29, Mark 8:38, Luke 9:26, 8:21, John 8:31, 47, 51, 10:27, 12:47-50, 14:15, 21, 23f, 15:7, 10, 14, 17:6, 8, 17. The relationship between Christ and his words is essentially the same as that between God and his words in the Old Testament.
21 Psm. 119:90f, 147:15-18, 148:5f, Gen. 1:3, Psm. 33:6, 9. cf. Matt. 8:27.
22 John 1:1.
23 John 1:14.
24 Gen. 5:1; cf. 2:4, 6:9, 10:1, 11:10, 27, 25:12, 19, 36:9, 37:2.
25 Gen. 9:25-27: though Noah is speaking, he is administering covenantal blessing and curse which can only take effect under divine sanction. The fulfillment of these words at a much later period shows that these words were in essence the words of God. Cf. Gen 25:23, 27:27-29, etc.
26 Ex. 17:13-16. The language here suggests a parallel with the divine “book of life,” as though this earthly book were a kind of copy of the divine original.
27 Ex. 24:7.
28 Ex. 24:12.
29 Ex. 31:13.
30 Ex. 32:16; cf. also 34:1, Deut. 4:13, 9:10f, 10:2-4. Moses too is said to have done some writing in Ex. 34:27f –probably portions of the law other than the ten commandments. And yet the written work of Moses is no less authoritative than that of the Lord himself – cf. Ex. 34:32. Moses was the mediator of the covenant and as such was a prophet conveying God’s word to the people. Cf. Ex. 4:10-17, Deut. 18:15-19. The unique “finger of God” writing therefore is not necessary to the authority of the documents; humanly written documents may be equally authoritative, as long as the words are God’s. But the “finger of God” picture places awesome emphasis upon the authority of the words.
31 Kline, op.cit. in note 2 above.
32 Deut. 31:26.
33 Deut. 4:2, 12:32; cf. Prov. 30:6, Rev. 22:18f. How then, could any additions be made to the document? For some additions clearly were made (Josh. 24:26, etc.). Since no man could add or subtract, the addition of a book to the covenant canon carries with it the claim that the addition has divine sanction.
34 Kline, op.cit.; we are listing the elements Kline finds in treaties of the second millennium, B.C. He regards the decalogue and the book of Deuteronomy as having this basic structure (thus implying a second millennium date for Deuteronomy!), and he regards the entire Old Testament canon as an outgrowth of these “treaties.”
35 Ex. 20:2, “I am the Lord thy God”; cf. 3:14, etc.
36 Ex. 20:2, “…who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.”
37 Ex. 20:3, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Cf. Deut. 6:4f where the term “love” is actually used to denote this exclusive covenant loyalty. The demand for love follows the account of God’s gracious acts in history, and is regarded as the vassal’s response of gratitude for the Lord’s benevolence. Cf. the New Testament emphasis, “We love, because he first loved us,” I John 4:19.
38 Ex. 20:12-17. Though the division cannot be sharply made, the first four commandments might be said to represent the fundamental love-requirement, while the last six describe some of its detailed outworkings.
39 Ex. 20:5f, 12. We have been tracing these covenant elements through the decalogue, but we could have used many other parts of Scripture as well.
40 This emphasis is not found in the decalogue, but it is a major emphasis of Deut. (see 31:24-29) which Kline also identifies as a covenant document.
41 Performatives (“I pronounce you man and wife,” “You are under arrest,” “Cursed be all who do not obey”) do not merely state facts, but “perform” various sorts of actions. When spoken by one in authority, they “accomplish” what they set out to do. Performatives of the Lord in Scripture are uniquely authoritative, but their authority is not adequately characterized by the term “infallibility.” “Infallibility” is important, but it is only part of the meaning of biblical authority. “Infallibility” is, not too strong, but too weak a term adequately to characterize biblical authority.
42 Deut. 6:17; cf. 4:1-8, 5:29-33, 6:24f, 7:9-11, 8:11, 10:12f, 11:1, 13, 18ff, 27f, 12:1, 28, 13:4. In Deuteronomy, almost every page contains exhortations to obey God’s commandments and statutes and ordinances! But not only in Deuteronomy! Cf. Josh. 1:8, 8:25-28, Psm. 1:1-3, 12:6f, 19:7-11, 33:4. 11, 119:1-176, Isa. 8:16-20, Dan. 9:3ff, II Kings 18:6. Read over these and the many similar passages and let the message sink into your heart! The conclusion concerning the authority of the written word is simply inescapable.
43 II Kings 23:2f, 21, 25, Neh. 8. The whole Old Testament history is a history of obedience and disobedience: obedience and disobedience to what? To God’s commands; and after Ex. 20, to God’s written word! The self-witness of the Old Testament is therefore present on every page. “Pervasive,” as we said.
44 Josh. 24:26.
45 Deut. 18:15-19, Isa. 59:21, Jer. 1:6-19, Ezek. 13:2f, 17. The mark of the prophet was the phrase “Thus saith the Lord,” which is found over and over again in the prophetic literature. Many theologians hostile to the orthodox view of biblical authority recognize that the prophets claimed an identity between their words and God’s. See, e.g., E. Brunner, Dogmatics, Vol. I: The Christian Doctrine of God, trans. O. Wyon (Philadelphia: Westmister Press, 1950), pp. 18, 27, 31f.
46 Isa. 8:1, 30:3ff, 34:16ff, Jer. 25:13, 30:2, 36:1-32, 51:60ff, Dan. 9:1f.
47 Matt. 4:14, 5:17, 8:17, 12:17, 13:35, 21:4, 26:54-56, Luke 21:22, 24:44, John 19:28.
48 Luke 24:26: “Behooved not…” Scripture imposes a necessity upon Christ!
49 Matt. 4; 22:29-33; etc.
50 See Warfield, op.cit. (in note 2 above), especially pp. 229-241, 361-407.
51 Ibid., pp. 229-348.
52 Matt. 5:17-19. For detailed exegesis, see John Murray, Principles of Contact (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1957), pp. 149-157. Cf. also his essay, “The Attestation of Scripture,” in The Infallible Word, (op.cit. in note 2 above), pp. 15-17, 20-24.
53 John 5:45-47.
54 John 10:33-36; cf. Warfield, op.cit., pp. 138-41.
55 Rom. 15:4.
56 II Pet. 1:19-21; cf. Warfield, op.cit., pp. 135-38.
57 II Pet. 1:12-15.
58 II Pet. 2.
59 II Pet. 1:16-18; in the current theological scene it is worth noting that Peter denies any mythological character to the message. It is not mythos.
60 Is the word “more sure” in the sense of being confirmed by eyewitness testimony? Or is it, as Warfield suggests (above reference) “more sure” than eyewitness testimony? In either case, the passage places a strong emphasis upon the certainty of the word.
61 II Tim. 3:16f. For detailed exegesis, see Warfield, op.cit., pp. 133-35, and also pp. 245-96 (a comprehensive treatment ofthe meaning of “God-breathed”).
62 II Tim. 3:14.
63 II Tim. 3:15.
64 Matt. 7:21ff, 24, 28f, Mark 8:38, Luke 8:21, 9:26, John 8:47, 10:27, 12:47, 14:15, 21, 23f, 15:7, 10, 14, 17:6, 8, 17, 18:37, cf. I John 2:3-5, 3:22, 5:2f, II John 6, I Tim. 6:3, Rev. 12:17, 14:12. Again: look these up, and allow yourself to be impressed by the pervasiveness of this emphasis.
65 John 16:13, cf. Acts 1:8.
66 Acts 2.
67 Acts 2:4, 4:8, 31, 6:10 (cf. 3 and 5), 7:55, 9:17-20, 13:9f, 52ff.
68 II Thess. 2:2. Gal. 1:1, 11f, 16, 2:2, I Cor. 2:10-13, 4:1. 7:40, II Cor. 4:1-6, 12:1, 7, Eph. 3:3, Rom. 16:25.
69 Rom. 2:16, I Thess. 4:2, Jude 17f.; and cf. the passages, listed in the preceding and following notes.
70 Col. 4:16, I Thess. 5:27, II Thess. 3:14, I Cor. 14:37.
71 II Pet. 3:16. Cf. I Tim. 5:18, which appears to couple a quotation from Luke with a quotation from the law of Moses under the heading “Scripture.”
72 The question of what books are to be regarded as New Testament Scripture is beyond the scope of this paper, since no actual list can be found as part of the New Testament’s self-witness. We may certainly assume, however, on the basis of what has been said, that if revealed words are a necessary ingredient of biblical salvation, and if specifically the words of the incarnate Christ and his apostles have such necessity, our sovereign God will “somehow” find a way to enable us to find those words! And surely he has! Although there have been disputes among different churches concerning the Old Testament canon, there have never been any church-dividing disputes over the New Testament canon! Through history, of course, some New Testament books have been questioned. But once all the facts have gotten before the Christian public, it seems, the questions have always melted away. This is rather amazing, for the Christian church has always been, to its shame, a very contentious body! And yet no serious contentions have ever arisen over the matter of canonicity, a matter which many have found baffling! Try an experiment: read Paul’s letter to the Corinthians (canonical), and then read Clement’s (non-canonical). Think about it; pray about it. Is there not an obvious difference? Christ’s sheep hear his voice!
73 Cf. Warfield, op.cit., pp. 115, 175ff, 423f. More recently, F.C. Grant admits that the New Testament writers assume Scripture to be “trustworthy, infallible, and inerrant”: Introduction to New Testament Thought (Nashville: Abdingdon Press, 1950), p. 75
74 Warfield, op.cit., pp. 119f.
75 Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, Vol. I: The Doctrine of the Word of God, ed. G.W. Bromiley and T.F. Torrance; trans. G.T. Thomson and Harold Knight (New York: Scribner, 1956), Pt. 2. p. 499.
76 Emil Brunner, op.cit., p. 15.
77 Barth, op.cit., p. 504.
78 Ibid., p. 505; in my view and Warfield’s, Barth offers here a most inadequate exegesis of the “God-breathed” of II Tim. 3:16.
79 Barth, op.cit., p. 507.
80 Mark 8:38.
81 John 8:31, and those passages cited above in our note 64.