Session 3 — R.C. Sproul
The subject at hand is the inerrancy of Scripture. We are fighting a war on two fronts. On the one hand, we are called to defend the trustworthiness of the Bible before an unbelieving world. To defend the Bible in that arena involves a certain set of challenges.
The other arena is within the church itself.
That should not be the case, but since the advent of higher criticism, there has been an avalanche of attacks against the trustworthiness of the Bible (both from without and from within).
This session will primarily deal with defending the doctrine of the Bible to the church.
There have been many methods of defense with respect to the Scriptures.
The confessional method takes statements about the Scripture simply on faith.
A second approach is known as presuppositionalism. This approach defends Scripture on the basis that the Bible is its own authority. There is no higher proof for the Bible being the Word of God than what is found in its own self-claims.
Presuppositionalism employs the following syllogism: First premise: The Bible is the Word of God. Second premise: The Bible claims to be the Word of God. Conclusion: The Bible is the Word of God.
That this is a circular argument does not bother advocates of presuppositionalism, because (as they point out) all arguments are circular in a certain sense. Since there can be no higher authority than God Himself, the things that He says must necessarily be true.
Presuppositionalists want to be careful to make sure that we are not valuing human reason above the authority of God Himself.
A third method is known as the classical method. The Bible itself contains evidences that demonstrate its truthfulness.
When you are defending with the Bible, you must deal with the reality that unbelievers are fallen and therefore will resist any claim to God’s authority over their lives.
Evidence alone is not sufficient to bring unbelievers to saving faith. The evidence must be accompanied by the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit does not bring new evidence or bring new information. Rather, He causes the sinner to submit to the evidence that He would otherwise resist.
Skeptics who have tried to disprove the Bible have discovered its truth through the use of archaeology and historiography.
Sproul read an extended passage from William F. Albright, a renowned 20th-century archaeologist, testifying to the trustworthiness of Scripture.]
Now, to defend the Bible to those inside the church, I want to do so in a way that avoids both fideism and circular reasoning. I want to use a line of reasoning that is linear.
The Bible is generally reliable as a historical source. The reason I want to start here is this, because if professing Christians won’t accept this premise then they are left admitting that everything they know about Jesus comes from a generally unreliable source. (At which point, it would be foolish for them to still profess to be Christians.)
On the basis of these generally reliable documents, we can at least conclude that Jesus Christ was a prophet. If they deny He was at least a prophet, professing Christians are again faced with a dilemma as to why they follow Him.
We know the difference between true prophets and false prophets. If Jesus is a true prophet, then we can examine what He said about the OT Scriptures.
Higher critics are willing to admit that Jesus embraced and taught the prevailing view of the Scriptures as was held by the Pharisees of the first century. In other words, higher critics acknowledge Jesus had a high view of Scripture, but they believe He was wrong.
For example, Karl Barth taught that Scripture contains the “Word of God” but not the “words of God.” Thus, he denied inerrancy, on the grounds that the Bible is a human book — and to err is human.
Karl Barth and other scholars said that Jesus was wrong in His view of the Bible, but it was OK that He was wrong because He was human. According to these scholars, in His incarnation Jesus did not possess omniscience.
In church history, the church debated this issue (regarding the deity and humanity of Christ) in the fifth century at the Council of Chalcedon. That council maintained that each nature retained its own attributes.
When these Protestant critics of inerrancy suggest that Jesus was incorrect in His affirmation of the inerrancy of Scripture, they suggest that His errors were a manifestation of His humanity.
According to these men, when Jesus teaches about the Bible, He is not communicating divine knowledge but is making statements of human judgment. Consequently, He was wrong with respect to what He taught about the Bible, but it is OK because the error came from His human nature.
But this is not OK. What is at stake here is not the omniscience of the humanness of Christ, but the sinlessness of Christ. His sinlessness is absolutely essential to the gospel and to our salvation.
How does the sinlessness of Christ factor into this issue?
To act as if you know something, when you don’t know it, is sin.
Jesus claimed to speak on the authority of God and to be the very incarnation of truth. If someone claims to be speaking truth, but in actuality speaks falsehood, he has sinned.
Thus, if Jesus spoke incorrectly about Scripture, He was a sinner.
But that reality has massive implications.
The slightest blemish would disqualify Jesus from being the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. If He was speaking falsely about Scripture, He would be morally disqualified from being the Savior of sinners.
The church, therefore, must not have a lower view of Scripture than Christ. The Lord Jesus had a high view of the Bible, and so should we. If He is our sinless Savior, then His testimony regarding the Scriptures must be true.
Consequently, we can have confidence that the Bible is not just generally reliable, it is inerrant.
If the church is going to follow Jesus, and if Jesus is going to be the Lord of the church, then we have to embrace His teaching and His authority about all of sacred Scripture.