A Primer on Inerrancy (pt. 6)
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 sixth part of the series. Dr. Gerstner has looked at four unsound bases for sound doctrine and is now in the midst of a discussion of a sound basis for sound doctrine.
b. Miracles are God’s seal to mark men unmistakably as His messengers.
If the evidence is convincing that Christ did work miracles, what do these miracles prove? Miracles as such do not prove that Jesus was more than a man. For though men do not have this power as men, they could be enabled by God to perform them in His name. Miraculous power belongs only to the Author of nature, but apparently it is not incommunicable as God’s omniscience, omnipotence, or eternality must be. So the power to work miracles is not necessarily proof that the person who has that power is God Himself. But it does prove Him to be sent from God, for only God has this power and can delegate it. This is the very conclusion which Nicodemus drew when he said to Jesus, “We know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him” (John 3:2).
At this point, however, we face another problem or question. Is it not possible that there are other, non-human beings who, though not the Author of nature, are nevertheless able to influence nature in supernatural ways? Apart from revelation, we cannot know there are not such beings; we therefore consider the possibility that Christ’s miracles were wrought by a man who had received His power from some supernatural being other than God, whether good or evil. If there are such beings, and they are good, then they are in subjection to God and His servants. If, therefore, they communicated their powers to the man Jesus, they must have done so in obedience to the will of God. Thus their giving of power would be essentially the same thing as God’s giving it, for they would give it in accordance with His will.
If these beings are evil beings, what then? Then they are not subservient to God and do not deliberately do His will. In that case they would not necessarily have power over nature, for that would obviously be in the hands of the Author of nature and of those to whom He willingly permits it to pass. If, therefore, these evil spirits possess any such power as we are here supposing, it can only be by the permission of God. So the question is, is it conceivable that God would permit these evil spirits to possess such power? Maybe we cannot answer that question, but we do not have to. The question that really concerns us here is not whether such spirits could possess such powers, but whether, even if they could, they would be able to communicate them to a human being. But we do not even have to answer that question, for we are dealing with a specific human being, Jesus Christ. So the question precisely is: if there are such evil beings and these beings are permitted by God to have power over nature which could conceivably be communicated to some human being, could they conceivably communicate it to such a human being as Jesus Christ? We have already shown that they could do so only if they wished to destroy themselves. They would be empowering Him to make converts to a kingdom which was set up to destroy the kingdom of evil. They would be giving power to one who would use it only for good when, by definition, evil spirits would want it to be used only for evil. They would be providing an instrument for healing when they wished only to spread sickness and death; they would insure the success of the person best fitted to insure their own failure. If these evil spirits were intelligent spirits, they simply could not do such a thing even if God would permit it. And is it possible that God would communicate His great power to a man after His own heart by spirits utterly alien to Him? So, from the standpoint of the devils themselves or from the standpoint of God Himself, it would seem inconceivable that Christ’s supernatural power could have been derived from Satan, if there is such a being. And since there is no other conceivable source from which His power could have come, it must have come, as Nicodemus said, from God.
As observed above, what is shown of Christ in particular would apply in general to all true miracle workers from whom the Bible comes.
c. God’s Message Is Indubitably True.
There are only two ways by which any person can come to say something that is untrue: either by ignorance or lying. A person may either mean to speak the truth but not know it; or know the truth but not mean to speak it. Thus the error must come from a defect of mind (not knowing enough) or a defect of heart (not loving the truth). God suffers from neither limitation, and therefore cannot speak untruth. His message must be true indubitably.
First, God cannot err from ignorance. His knowledge is infinite. There is nothing which He does not know. All things which exist, exist of His power and will and cannot lie outside the range of His knowledge. If there were anything which God did not know it would lie outside His domain. If so, He would not be infallible, all-powerful, independent; in short, He would not be God.
Second, God cannot err by lying. If God lied as well as told truth, His creatures could never know which was which. Nor would it do any good to ask Him, for if He lied He would tell us that the truth was falsehood and falsehood was the truth. This would be cruel. It would leave the creature in hopeless confusion. It would also be unintelligent on the part of Creator, for His creature would be of no use as He wandered hopelessly in the dark. So, if God lied He could not be God for He would not be good or intelligent
Thus, God’s message is indubitably true. He could not lie if He would, nor would He lie if He could. He could not be wrong if He would, and He would not be wrong if He could.
d. God’s Message Includes the Inspiration of the Bible.
Jesus Christ, the “teacher sent from God,” taught that the Bible (Old Testament) was the inspired Word of God. “Scripture,” He said, “could not be broken” (John 10:35). Every “jot and tittle” was to be fulfilled (Matthew 5:18). He claimed to be divine (Matthew 11:27; John 10:30; 14:9), and also said that the Scriptures bore witness of Him (John 5:39) which implied their inspiration. He argued from details (John 10:34) and recognized Biblical authority by the formula: “it is written” (Mark 11:17; Luke 18:31). This is admitted by virtually all modern scholars. As one of them put it: Christ’s teaching concerning the Old Testament Bible was “fundamentalistic.”
Likewise, Christ authenticated the New Testament by promising to send the Spirit to lead the apostles into all truth (John 14:26). This leading the apostles, in turn, claimed (cf. for example, 2 Corinthians 12; 13) as they wrote or sanctioned the writing of the New Testament.
e. Therefore the Inspiration of the Bible Is Indubitably True.
One may and must question whether a message is from God, but one cannot question a message which is once shown to be from God. This is the basic point which those who rest the inspiration for the Bible on the Bible’s own testimony overlook. They rightly and righteously recognize that the Bible must be instantly accepted as what it says it is; namely, the Word of God. But they overlook the fact that the Bible is not instantly accepted because it says it is the Word of God. They are unconsciously persuaded of the Bible’s divinity on other grounds. Consequently each time they hear the Bible referring to its inspiration, they know and accept this as true. Nevertheless they forget, because they never consciously recognize, that the truth of this self-affirmation is established on other grounds and merely confirmed by the self-affirmation.
There can be no higher proof of anything than the ipse dixit of God. God speaking is Truth speaking. What God says is so is so. It could not be otherwise. If God could be supposed to have made an error, our world and all worlds are in ruins. Reason, meaning, life and all have perished instantly. We may ask these prior questions about God’s existence necessarily assuming the validity of our thinking processes as we do. These lead us to the knowledge of God. He, in turn, verifies the validity of our prior assumptions. But if He did not exist, or if He could err (which are one and the same thing), then the very thinking processes by which we arrive at the conclusion that God does not exist are so many gratuitous assumptions. Therefore if God could err, error would have no meaning, for truth would have no meaning. Nothing would have any meaning. Nothing would even be.
So God who is truth, who cannot err, has inspired the Bible, and the Bible is truth and cannot err.
To be continued…
Excerpted from Primitive Theology by John H. Gerstner.