A Primer on Inerrancy (pt. 4)
In this excerpt from John Gerstner’s Primitive Theology, Dr. Gerstner looks at the issue of inerrancy and seeks briefly and non-technically to present a case for Bible Inerrancy that a serious-minded layman can follow and evaluate. Though by no means an exhaustive treatment, it is one that is sound and faithful to the Scriptures. This is the fourth part of the series. Dr. Gerstner has looked at four unsound bases for sound doctrine and now he will turn to a discussion of a sound basis for sound doctrine.
5. The Testimony of Divinely Commissioned Messengers as the Basis for Bible Inerrancy
(A) The Argument from Commissioned Messengers to Inspired Bible.
Let us outline the steps of this argument before proceeding to explain it:
- There is a God.
- Men were made in his image, rational creatures.
- As such, they are designed to make their choices on the basis of evidence.
- The evidence for the Inspiration of the Bible is as follows:
- Men have appeared in history with powers which only God could have given them (miracles).
- Miracles are God’s seal to mark men unmistakably as His messengers.
- God’s message is indubitably true.
- God’s message includes the Inspiration of the Bible.
- Therefore, the inspiration of the Bible is indubitably true.
1. There is a God. This must be assumed here. This is a small, popular Primer on Bible Inerrancy. Time, space, and the nature of the undertaking make certain assumptions inevitable. What is here an assumption (the existence of God) has been proven elsewhere in many, many volumes. If the reader of the Primer does not believe in God’s existence its argument may interest him, but it cannot possibly convince him. We must believe there is a God before we can consistently believe that there is a special revelation of God in the Bible or anywhere else.
But here we will detour a little, for there are many today who say that we can only know the existence of God from special revelation (such as the Bible). Exactly opposite to what we said in the preceding paragraph, they contend that God is utterly unknown until He supernaturally discloses Himself. We say that God cannot supernaturally reveal Himself until He has naturally made His existence known. They say, “No, His existence cannot be naturally known until He supernaturally reveals Himself.”
Let us examine their view. According to it:
First, there is a book, the Bible, claiming the existence and revelation of God.
Second, we are to believe in this God.
Third, apart from this revelation we could not know that there is such a God.
The paucity of this approach is plain to see. First, we would have no possible tests to ascertain whether the deity revealed in the Bible is what He says He is. We do not know, on this view, that there is such a being, nor whether this Biblical being is such. If this is God we can only accept it on His own word. We would not trust a dollar to a human being whose honesty we know only because he claims it. Here we trust our lives to a being whose “Godness” and whose very existence we know only from Himself. Custom inspectors look at a visitor to see whether he resembles the picture in the passport before they admit him to their nation. But here comes a God without passport, a God who wants to rule our lives merely because He says He has a right to do so. If this were not bad enough, we have, second, the further objection that there are many claimants to this role of God. Many books present their candidates. If we worshiped any one of them without credentials we would be out of our mind; if we worshiped all of them we would be multiple-schizophrenic.
No, there must be evidence of the existence of God from the creation, of which we ourselves are the most exalted part, if we are to recognize a further revelation of this glorious being, if and when it comes. So here we assume what most people do quite rightly assume, that God exists. This we can safely assume here only because it is proven elsewhere. Otherwise, the assumption would be gratuitous.
1. Men were made in God’s image as rational creatures. This point also we must largely assume because of the limitation of this little book. But this is a very safe assumption, is it not? If we were not rational beings, you would not be reading this (or any other) book in your search for knowledge, nor would we be writing books. Aristotle was quite right that man is a rational animal. If we were not rational beings, no one could prove (for this involves reasoning) that we were not rational beings. We could not even think that we were not. So our rationality must be assumed, for even to deny it is to assume it.
2. As rational beings, men are designed to make their choices on the basis of evidence.
Being rational beings they are not the mere product of natural forces. They choose according to reason (or what appears reason). That is virtually the definition of a rational being. If he were merely the product of external forces, how could his own reason and will be operative; and, if not, how could he be a rational being?
Being rational beings they are not the mere product of supernatural forces. That is, not only does nature not force rational beings, but even supernature, that is God Himself, does not force them. We would go so far as to say that God cannot force men. By definition, they have been made (by God Himself) rational beings. If they were forced, even by God, they would cease to be the kind of beings He had made them, that is, rational beings. So if God forced men they would cease to be men. Or, to put it another way, so long as men remain men they are not forced even by God (in fact,, least of all by God, who made them rational in the first place).
Being rational beings they cannot be forced by sin. Granted that man is not what he ought to be. Granted that there is something perverse within him. Granted that he does not always (if ever) think what is true and do what is right. Still, this evil bent of his nature does not actually force him to will against his will. The absurdity of the notion is seen in the last statement: “Still this evil bent of his nature does not actually force him to will against his will.” How could he meaningfully be said to will against his will? If he wills against his will, that would be his will, namely, to will against his “will.” So his willing against his “will” would not truly be against his will; or, if it were against his will, it could not be his will.
Therefore, man is a rational being. It is his very nature to choose according to the judgments of his mind. Nothing could possibly take that character away from man without taking his humanity away from him.
Consequently, if God is graciously disposed to reveal Himself to His creature, man, God must necessarily reveal Himself according to the rational nature of His human creature. The necessity is self-imposed and, therefore, consistent with the sovereignty of God.
God cannot go over or under the “head” of man. He cannot treat him as a God or an animal, but as the creature which He, God, made: a rational being.
To be continued…
Excerpted from Primitive Theology by John H. Gerstner.