Higher Criticism

by

About ten years ago I had the opportunity to study under the late Dr. Harold O. J. Brown (1933–2007) at the Evangelical Preacher’s Seminary in Wittenberg, Germany. Dr. Brown was known by his students for his oral examinations, wherein he generously and humorously interrogated us on a variety of doctrinal questions that we were expected to answer on the spot. During one of his oral examinations I recall one of my fellow students speaking somewhat flippantly about the Bible. Without hesitation, looking intently at the student, Dr. Brown said, “The Bible is not just some book. It is the Word of God. You would do well to regard it as such.”

To this day Dr. Brown’s words are ingrained in my mind. The Bible is not a cleverly contrived collection of fanciful tales of mythical gods and prophets, sorcerers and goblins, hobbits and elves. It is not a Judeo-Christian anthology of sixty-six ancient books that were deemed politically and ecclesiastically correct by influential Christians of the early church who coveted worldly acceptance and prestige. On the contrary, the Bible is the book of the Lord God Almighty. It is the authoritative, inerrant, and infallible Word of God, and, as Jesus taught us in His prayer to the Father: His “Word is truth.” It doesn’t merely contain truth or speak about truth; it is truth — it defines truth (John 17:17). We must, therefore, regard it as such.

Nevertheless, contrary to the popular saying, “God said it, I believe it, that settles it,” it is inconsequential whether or not we believe it. Our believing the Bible to be true, our regarding it as the Word of God, has no bearing on its veracity. It stands alone as the veritable Word of God, never returning void, always going forth to accomplish precisely what the Lord intends. The Word of God is never to be the object of our scrutiny. Rather, the Word of God is that by which the Holy Spirit scrutinizes us. By His Word, the Lord employs His own version of higher criticism as He inspects our lives, interrogates our proud hearts, and reveals our sins. His Word alone is inspired (2 Tim. 3:16), literally “exhaled” by God Almighty so that we might inhale it, allowing it to dwell within our hearts richly. In this way, we will know it, love it, proclaim it, and breathe it as we speak His Word back to Him in prayer and as we bow before Him coram Deo, before His face and for His glory.

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