REFORMATION INTERNATIONAL THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY
BOOK SUMMARY: THY WORD IS TRUTH
SYS 501 Systematic Theology
January 5, 2017
Professor Edward J. Young’s Thy Word is Truth is a helpful book that defines and defends the doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture. He demonstrates that this doctrine is indispensable; without it one cannot rely upon the Bible as the inerrant word of God, and thus man must become the ultimate arbiter concerning which parts of the Bible are truly God’s word and which are not. In contrast, to establish the doctrine of inspiration grants complete confidence in the whole Bible as God’s word, solidifying the statements about man, sin, Christ, and salvation by evoking the eternal truth of God Himself as man’s guide for all of life. The whole of the Christian faith stands or falls on the doctrine of inspiration, and it is for this reason that a careful summary of each chapter of Young’s book on inspiration follows, beginning with the present crisis concerning the doctrine of inspiration in the church.
Chapter 1: The Issue Before the Church
Young states that the church is at a crossroads and must choose whether to stay true to the historic faith and word of God, or abandon it for man-made religion. To say that the Bible still has some value as a religious book but is not actually inspired in a fixed, absolute fashion is simply non-sense, for it makes the shifting opinion of man the determiner of truth and reality rather than the sovereign God. This renders the foundation of Christianity no longer God, but man.
Many in the church at the time of this book’s publishing (1957) were arguing against the modernism that rejected the Bible in every sense, and instead advocated for a truncated view of inspiration that discards infallibility but retains spiritual “truths” that can serve as moral guideposts. Young counters that the scientific study of the Bible in modern times has not demonstrated anything that would challenge the classic doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture as expressed in the 1st chapter of the Westminster Confession of Faith and which the Bible self-attests. The definition of inspiration must come from the Bible itself, which says that inspiration is the “God-breathed” words of Scripture; 2 Timothy 3:16 uses the Greek word theopneustos to indicate the God-breathed nature of all of Scripture (and that it is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness for the man of God).
Scripture is not given to man in a heavenly language, but through human language by the means of men who were moved by the Holy Spirit as they spoke and eventually wrote (2 Pet. 1:21). It is apparent that the words of Scripture are the words of men, but the self-attestation that these words originate from God Himself are indispensable to the doctrine of inspiration, for Scripture is not just the words of God but is intended to reveal God to man. It is revelation, and that it claims to be such is corroborated by the majesty of its scope, style, harmony of all the parts, weightiness of subject matter, etc., but all the beauty and majesty of Scripture would fall short of binding the conscience if it did not testify to carry the authority of God Himself.
The words of Scripture are more properly regarded as being “expired” or “breathed-out” by God than the term that inspiration indicates in modern usage, which calls to mind a “breathing into” something. It is not as if God merely blessed the words of the human authors as being in accordance with His own will (if this were the case it would mean Scripture was not revelatory but something man was capable of deducing on his own, but 1 Pet. 1:21 denies this, stating instead that the men were “carried along” by the Holy Spirit) and thereby their words bore the marks of the divine. Rather, it is God Himself who wrote the words of Scripture through human agency.
The machinations of man did not produce the Bible; God disclosed Himself in His own words, not by reducing man to mere automatons, but through their own persons and giftedness. Young summarizes on page 27, “According to the Bible, inspiration is a superintendence of God the Holy Spirit over the writers of the Scriptures, as a result of which these Scriptures possess Divine authority and trustworthiness and, possessing such Divine authority and trustworthiness, are free from error.” As Christ Himself said in John 10:35, “Scripture cannot be broken.” This high regard for inspiration is held because the Bible itself adheres to it. While God could have sent Christ to save sinners without an infallible word, He has not chosen to do so, but in His great kindness has instead given man His infallible word so that he may have firm confidence in Who it is that he believes.
This chapter explains that the issue facing the church is whether the Bible will be taken at its word (as God’s own word), or not. If not, then no doctrine in Scripture can be trusted as reliable. If so, then every doctrine of Scripture is reliable, for it is all the word of God, who cannot lie and does not change. At this point, one may object that if the Bible really claims to be the word of God and bears the qualities of the divine, why do so many fail to recognize it as such? The answer is simply that men are blinded by their sins. It is not that the testimony and majesty of Scripture itself is insufficient. Man does not need more light, but eyes that see. Hence it is ultimately the Holy Spirit that testifies to the believer that the Bible is the word of God, and He does this, not in a vacuum, but through the word of God itself, overcoming man’s blindness and suppression of the truth of inspiration that is plain to see.
Chapter 2: The Extent of Inspiration
Young argues that few Protestants know the teaching of the Bible in general because the church has largely ceased to preach doctrine and provide catechetical instruction. The result is that few even know what the biblical teaching on inspiration is. So, when progressives come in and redefine the doctrine of inspiration, this is met with acceptance because the counterfeit goes undetected. The remedy is to lay out the biblical doctrine of inspiration in order to distinguish it from the counterfeits.
Young returns to the Bible’s teaching on inspiration, emphasizing that the “word” of God is simply the vehicle God uses to disclose His holy will to man. Since the Bible is the word of God, then it is all true, for God cannot lie. Young distinguishes inspiration and revelation, stating that revelation communicates knowledge and information, whereas inspiration guarantees infallibility in what is being taught. The prophets, then, were recipients of revelation and were also inspired, for God put the words He wanted said in their hearts and on their lips. They were “inspired organs to whom Divine revelation had come” (42). The examples of Moses and Jeremiah indicate that the prophets did not develop the ideas God planted in them of their own willing, but God gave them the very words they were to say (see Ex. 4:15; 7:1-2; Jer. 1:9, 17). The Apostles likewise were not left to their own devices to deliver the truth of God to others, for Christ promised that the Holy Spirit would “…teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (Jn. 14:26). Paul in 2 Thess. 2:13 praises the Thessalonians for receiving the apostle’s word not as their own but as the word of God Himself.
It is clear that the prophets, Christ, and the apostles were inspired by God and spoke the very words, and only those words, which He intended to be spoken and written. The question remains: Is the Bible an inspired, infallible representation of what the prophets and apostles said? According to its own claim, the answer is yes (keeping in mind that this would be referring mostly to the Old Testament since the New Testament had not yet been given). Romans 9:17 and Galatians 3:8 are just two places where Paul indicates that the Old Testament Scripture was speaking the very words of God. He refers to the Scripture speaking, and when the Old Testament reference is looked up, it is actually God Himself speaking, in the first passage to Pharaoh, in the second to Abraham.
Christ in Matthew 22:43 refers to David speaking in Psalm 110 as speaking by the Spirit, and when tempted by Satan in the wilderness He refutes Him with what “is written” in Scripture passages from the Old Testament. He knew He would be betrayed by Judas because what was written in the Old Testament had to be fulfilled, for it was the very words and plan of God. In fact, the Gospels frequently speak of current events in Christ’s earthly ministry as fulfilling Old Testament prophecies, often in quite specific and minute detail. Peter in 2 Peter 3:15-18 regards Paul’s letters as Scripture and says that people twist the letters to their own destruction, for it teaches the people about God and salvation through Christ. There can be no doubt that the prophets, apostles, and other authors of Scripture all believed that Scripture was altogether God’s word and thus completely free from error and unable to err.
Truth and inspiration go together. Books can be true and not inspired, but the Bible, claiming to be God’s word, must be inspired and therefore true. One can report on the historical reality of Christ’s crucifixion, but the revelation of Scripture is necessary to have the right interpretation of the significance of the crucifixion, and only God can reveal and tell man what that significance is. The Bible, then, to have any real redemptive value at all, must be inspired because it must, without doubt, declare to man the meaning of the cross and the only way to be saved from the wrath to come on account of sin.
Young turns to the question of inspiration for the copied manuscripts of the Bible. Since the originals, the autographs, are lost, is the inspired word of God lost today? No, but not because the copyists were prevented from copying errors by the Holy Spirit; rather, the extant copies possess a faithful representation of the autographs due to the providence of God. The scribes and others who have copied the Scriptures over the years did so with utmost care, more care than any other writings, for they knew that these writings were the very words of God. There is no difficulty in understanding how man can possess the truth of other writings from copies despite the absence of the original. How much more then should it be accepted that copies of the sacred Scriptures are faithful to the original Author’s words. The errors found in the copies are resolvable and almost always inconsequential, and are often related to numbers and dates or slight misspellings of words.
Nevertheless, there are difficulties in the copied manuscripts that have not been resolved, such as 1 Kings 15:14 stating that the high places had not been removed, but the parallel passage in 2 Chronicles 14:5 saying that they had been. On these very rare exceptions, should the very claims of Scripture be overthrown? They should not, for many such difficulties have either been resolved in time or possible explanations have been produced. Archaeological discoveries have proven assertions of Scripture to be true when others thought they were impossible, such as Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. Prior to archaeological discovery, it was thought that writing was not invented until after Moses’ lifetime, but it is now known that writing predates Moses’ life by many years. While other textual difficulties remain in the copies of Scripture, the unity of the copies far outweigh them, and it can be expected that finite man will not be able to fully grasp all the complexities of the revelation of God or to be able to resolve the textual difficulties immediately. So while the autographs are lost, the word of God is not.
Chapter 3: The Human Writers of the Scriptures
Young makes clear that he is not advocating for a mechanical dictation theory of inspiration, which is what liberals often claim for those who articulate the biblical position on this doctrine. It is not as if God completely suppressed the human personality when the authors wrote. Peter could not have penned Paul’s letters because they are recorded in the rhetorical style of Paul, the very style that God gave to Paul when He made him. God intended in eternity past to deliver part of His holy word through the God-given personality of Paul.
The human authors, such as David and Isaiah, were holy men, and yet they were sinful men. They loved the Lord from the heart but like all other men were still wrestling against the lusts of the flesh. All their learning and training and abilities God utilized. Paul likely trained for three years in Arabia to prepare for the ministry God called him to, and Jesus prepared for His earthly ministry His whole life. Paul studied at the feet of Gamaliel, and Moses was reared and instructed as an Egyptian. God’s providential works of grooming the human author’s – their intellects, writing and speaking abilities, love for God, etc., work in tandem with His special work of inspiring them to write down His words.
The mode by which God employed human authors to bear His word without error or corruption is mysterious. The duty of the Christian is to trust God, even when he cannot fully comprehend how God accomplishes what He says He has done, or fully grasp what He is like (such as His Trinitarian nature). The Holy Spirit moved chosen men to speak and record exactly what God desired, and in such a way that these words were not only what God wanted, but also the sincere thought and conviction of the human authors. Exactly how God accomplished this is unknown, and quite possibly unknowable, belonging only to the awesome majesty of the eternal, infinite, and all-powerful God. It is a beautiful mystery to be received with wonder, adoration, and praise, quite the opposite from the doubt and consternation with which many skeptics respond to this marvelous reality. Nor was God limited in what He could communicate by the giftedness (or lack thereof) of the human author. God perfectly communicated all that He wished to reveal about Himself to His people through certain holy men. If God were to be limited by His creation and forced to record His will through the risk of human error, He would be no God at all, for His own creation would frustrate Him and His purposes.
To limit the errors of Scripture to numbers and geography and scientific information is an inconsistent and arbitrary distinction that falls under the weight of scrutiny; Scripture is either infallible in all its parts, or fallible in all its parts. If fallible in any one part, the ground for faith in the precious promises of God through Christ is destroyed.
Given this, it should be noted that it is incorrect to speak of the human authors as “co-authoring” the Scriptures with God. God did not contribute His bit, and the human authors added to it or complemented it with something of their own. God is the final and ultimate Author; He did not consult with man to decide what should be included or excluded from the Scriptures. While the thoughts came to the human authors and they put them into writing (or spoke them, to be written later), the thoughts themselves originated with God. This is the crux of the mystery – the thoughts were truly the human authors, and yet they were given to them from God Himself. Indeed, they were borne by the Spirit, but when they were not borne by the Spirit, the human authors were not infallible and did not record Scripture. An example is King David in 2 Samuel 11:15, where he pens the letter to his General Joab, telling him to put Uriah in the thickest part of the battle and withdraw from him so that he would die and not find out about the adultery of his wife with David. Certainly the Holy Spirit did not move David to write such an unholy thing! Though this letter is recorded in sacred Scripture, this does not imply that God approved of David’s actions. Many sinful acts are recorded in Scripture for the sake of information and instruction, warning and judgment. These accounts are true and accurate, but are not exalted as paragons of virtue.
Chapter 4: Some Reflections Upon Inspiration
Young now addresses objections to the biblical doctrine of inspiration that he has outlined. Some argue that the teaching is of no consequence, for the originals are no longer possessed, nor do most people read the Bible in the Greek and Hebrew, but in their own language. But again, if the originals err, then God errs, because it is the very breath of God. The importance of maintaining the classic understanding of inspiration is quite plain when stated this way. The very character of God, His wisdom, knowledge, truthfulness, etc., is on the line.
Others object by relegating the Bible to one of the great works of human history, all brought about by the gifts of God and His providence. It is true that works like Homer’s Iliad are impressive, but they are not the works of men who were carried along by the Holy Spirit. It is not the very word of God that was written down. This reduces the Bible to the plain of any other book, even if it is said to be the greatest among them. It ceases to be God’s breathed word. The Bible itself claims to be more than any other book, indeed it claims to be the very word of God.
A more nuanced objection states that God could have chosen to dispense His inerrant word through human agency by working with human error rather than preventing error from appearing in the transmission of His revelation. This, it is said, no more impugns God’s character than Christ’s being tempted, suffering, and dying on the cross tarnished His sinlessness or perfection. This argument falls because it fails to understand that Christ was tempted, suffered, and died not for his own sin but for the sin of the elect. There was no error or corruption in Him. The comparison to Christ, then, actually demands that God’s word be free from all error. God cannot communicate by speaking lies about Himself mixed with some truth any more than Christ could save sinners by first committing some sins and then atoning for both His own sin and others.
Still, others have claimed that the doctrine of inspiration is relatively new, something which Calvin did not teach or any of the early church fathers. While it is true that the doctrine of inspiration has been further developed since earlier periods in church history, the whole argument is that the Bible itself claims to be the word of God. If Luther did not stand up to the abuses of the Church of Rome, which claimed that one must be justified by works along with faith, and that saving grace was dispensed through the sacraments administered by priests, the gospel would have remained in eclipse. Claiming that the doctrine of an infallible, inerrant Bible is a new development is false, even if it is recognized that the formulation of stating the doctrine in such a clearly defined fashion is relatively recent. In the early church, men like Justin Martyr and even Origen regarded the Scriptures as the very words of God Himself, and as such had absolute, binding authority and determined all disputes over faith and practice. Regarding one’s understanding of inspiration, neo-orthodoxy and modernism are a clean break from the attestation of Scripture as well as the general belief and practice of the church down through the ages.
Another objection follows quickly, that only that which pertains to faith and practice in Scripture is inerrant, but things like geography and historical detail need not be entirely true since it is of no real consequence to the doctrines of Christianity. This view forgets that the Christian faith is an historic faith, and Jesus Christ died in space and time, in a certain place, and was in the grave a certain number of days before He rose from the grave. Yahweh covenanted with the Israelites and told them to take a particular piece of land as their own “Promised Land.” History, geography, science, all of it is relevant to faith, and all of it impacts one’s practice. Does one pursue science divorced from the guidance of God’s word, so that he is stabbing in the dark with only the light of his dimmed mind? Or does one have faith that what the Scriptures say about the universe God created is in fact true because it is God, the Creator, who is revealing to His creatures the things He has made? One must affirm the latter if he is to truly believe that the Bible is infallible in all of faith and life. Further, it is not as if Moses, when writing about creation in Genesis 1, was appealing to his own thoughts or knowledge; instead, he was recording what God had revealed to him. The human authors of Scripture did not have a more advanced knowledge of geography, science, and history than modern day scientists and others who study in these fields. The advantage they had was not a superior intellect, but the revelation of God given to them, which they recorded while under inspiration by the Holy Spirit.
Some have absurdly claimed that Protestantism has simply replaced an infallible church with an infallible book, and the Bible itself does not claim infallibility. The only true infallibility is that of Christ, so Protestantism has wickedly placed the Bible on the same plain as God. As has already been shown, the Bible itself claims to be the only infallible authority, and to even make the claim that the church has any authority one must appeal to the Bible. The Bible is God’s word, so to think that placing the Bible on par with Christ is a grave confusion is to tacitly claim that the Bible actually has little to do with Christ and His Father. The Reformation simply restored the biblical teaching on inspiration and ascribed to it the authority due God’s word. Protestants do not love the Bible for its binding and the paper and ink, but for the message of truth and salvation contained in it. When Luther translated the New Testament into German he gave the common people access to Christ Himself, and the people were grateful to receive Christ as Savior through the Bible. Perhaps unwittingly, the modernists and neo-orthodox are the ones guilty of supplanting the infallible Scriptures -- with the “infallible” mind of man, which must decipher what is inspired in Scripture and what is not.
Young concludes the chapter by laying out the real reason that many take umbrage with an inspired, infallible Bible. It is not over tertiary teachings, but over the heart of Christianity itself. It is over the gospel and the atoning work of Christ on the cross. Few there are who accept the atonement of Christ as presented in Scripture and also maintain that the Bible is not entirely free from error. The problem at the most fundamental level is not an intellectual one but a moral one. Man wants his mind, his will, and his desires to rule over God’s, and so he has begun to attack God’s very own self-disclosure, His revelation to man, ripping away the parts he doesn’t like and twisting the torn remains to fit his own sinful fancy. What is needed in the church today is a mighty work of the Spirit that overcomes man’s resistance to His word and causes him to submit to it, and in so doing find forgiveness, cleansing, and life.
Chapter 5: What is Inerrancy (I)
Young gives a full definition of inerrancy and infallibility. Infallibility of Scripture refers to its “indefectible authority” (113). Scripture is perfect truth and cannot be refuted or relegated to the realm of unimportance. Closely related, inerrancy defines Scripture as not having any errors in it. The Scripture is irrefutable, perfect truth that cannot and does not err. One must not engage in circular reasoning or a priori when determining the inerrancy of Scripture; he must instead go to the Bible directly and determine from it what the doctrine of inerrancy ought to be.
Examining Scripture reveals that it is written in a variety of styles. Poetry, prose, narrative, apocalyptic, all of this is found in God’s word. In this variety there is an intricacy that breaks up what would be a dry monotony, but there is also abnormal usages of grammar that some have regarded as “errors”. Does this destroy biblical inerrancy? It does not, since the usage of grammar by God is always inspired and intentional. It behooves the reader to carefully examine the text of Scripture when the Greek or Hebrew is used in a way that is grammatically unconventional. It is not due to accident or ignorance, but for clarity or to accent a theological point. Further, the human authors of Scripture wrote in the customs and idioms of their day. Isaiah 2:1-4 likely reports what is contained in Micah 4:1-3, but it does so with slight variations. Inerrancy does not require verbatim reproduction in parallel passages, nor was this the custom in Bible times (evidenced by the annals of the Assyrian King Sennacherib, containing small differences in various copies). These differences do not rise to the level of contradiction, however.
Some have argued that the first two chapters of Genesis are parallel and yet contradictory accounts of creation. Supposedly they were compiled and placed next to each other from two different sources. Chapter two is said to present a different chronology than chapter one, but chapter two is structured along various emphases, and is not intended to depict events chronologically. The writing styles of the first two chapters are admittedly different, but this does not mean they are two separate creation accounts. There are also similarities between the two chapters (e.g., God is presented anthropomorphically, the only way creatures can comprehend the Creator). Further, the toledoth structure of Genesis 2:4a, with the phrase “these are the generations of the heavens and the earth,” is repeated throughout the book of Genesis (see, e.g., “these are the generations of Noah” in Gen. 6:9), indicating the book’s God-given structure. The focus is on what is generated from the heavens and the earth, namely, man. So the focus of Genesis 2 is not to give a repeat but contradictory creation account in comparison to Genesis 1, but is rather focused on the creation of man, the crown of creation. Chapter two explains the creation of the Garden of Eden in order to prepare the reader for the temptation in the Garden in chapter three.
Young encourages Christians to seek to harmonize Scripture when they can, for its divine origin guarantees that it will harmonize, and yet it is not the obligation of the Christian to resolve every textual difficulty in order to have confidence in inerrancy. In pursuing harmonization one must be intellectually honest, for it is better to admit the difficulty than to resolve it with absurdity. The difficulty of 1 Kings 15:14 and 2 Chronicles 14:5 may resolve quite simply by arguing that some of the high places in certain regions were indeed taken down, but in others they were not. One passage refers to those taken down, while the other passage reveals that though some were taken down, others were left standing. 2 Chronicles 15:17 could be said to contradict what it just claimed a chapter earlier, but it is doubtful that such a glaring error would go undetected in such close proximity in the same book! The obvious answer is that students of Scripture do not have all the pertinent data to make a final determination on the apparent discrepancy, but that the original author did and his contemporary readers would have understood what was meant without real difficulty. Similarly, in the account of the rich young ruler coming to Christ and asking about eternal life, it is possible that none of the authors of the Gospels gave the complete question and answer, which would account for the differences. The rich young ruler and Christ would have been speaking in Aramaic, and the different authors of the Gospels reported selectively to fit their own theological emphases. To do so is not dishonest, in fact it is a strong defense for why God has given His people four different Gospels – each one is painting a different yet harmonious portrait of the God-Man, Jesus Christ. Young emphasizes that inerrancy does not preclude the possibility of the human authors emphasizing different themes or not revealing all the information (in fact it would be quite impossible to reveal every single fact or relevant piece of information without having an unwieldy Bible). John 21:25 makes clear that much more could have been said about Christ.
Some careless advocates of inerrancy and infallibility claim that Scripture must always be interpreted literally. Young counters that Scripture must always be interpreted in the way in which the author of Scripture intended it to be interpreted. This is known as grammatico-historical exegesis, and simply means that when the Bible records prose, it should be interpreted prosaically, when poetry, poetically; prophecy and apocalyptic writings like the book of Revelation must also be interpreted according to the genre that the Author (both human and divine) intended. For the word of God to be inerrant, the human authors simply had to write down what the Spirit intended them to say; any further restrictions puts a straight-jacket on God’s freedom of expression (and the human author’s particular style and skill) and is unwarranted. Yet despite the variety of styles of the human authors who lived spread over some 1500 years, their message of redemption through Christ is the same because the Spirit that moved them to write was the same and only God.
Chapter 6: What is Inerrancy (II)
Young continues the theme of inerrancy, now focusing on the New Testament authors’ quotation of Old Testament passages. Some claim their loose and imaginative interpretations disprove inerrancy, but Young notes that the Old Testament is not always being quoted verbatim but may be paraphrased or applied to a different context, no different than how one may refer to an older text today. Other differences (verbal but not doctrinal) can be accounted for by remembering that the authors were translating from Hebrew or the Greek Septuagint. It must also be remembered that only the autographs are regarded as inspired, though many translations and manuscripts extant today so approximate the original that they are in fact inerrant and infallible, truly the word of God. Thus when Matthew uses the Septuagint, this does not mean the Septuagint is inspired. What they wrote down was inspired because they were moved to write it down by the Holy Ghost, under His inspiration.
Some have found the New Testament phrase “It is written” to require strict, verbatim agreement with the Old Testament passage being quoted. This is not the case, and often times this phrase signifies a summary of the teaching of a particular Old Testament passage. All that must be maintained is that the New Testament’s use of the Old does not contradict what was originally stated and in fact accurately represents what was said. New Testament authors may also bring out certain implications (as they are led by the Holy Spirit and the context of the Old Testament passage) from the Old Testament and include that in their reference. This is to bring out more clearly the meaning of the text, much as a preacher does from the pulpit. One example is John 12:40 where John attributes to God the hardening of the hearts, which Isaiah 6:9-10 does not directly do, though the context and the overall teaching of Scripture indicates that it is God who hardens the heart of the reprobate so that they do not repent and believe in Christ in order to be saved from their sins. The parallel passages in Matthew 13, Mark 4, Luke 8, and Acts 28 follow more closely the precise language of Isaiah 6, but this is not to say that they reject God as the one causing the hardening. In these other passages, it simply does not say one way or the other who has done the hardening, but simply states that hardening has occurred. John is simply drawing out the implication that it is in fact God who has brought about this hardening. This is an example of the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit, shedding a fuller, inspired light onto the Old Testament teaching through the New Testament authors’ use of the Old.
Chapter 7: Are There Errors in the Bible?
A closer look is taken at purported errors in Scripture, starting with the Genesis account of Creation. Young stresses that the author understands Adam to be a real and historical figure, and that the account of creation was a real and true account of what took place, not a figure or symbol. The Apostle Paul likewise saw Adam and the creation account as historical; if he did not then Christ could not be regarded as an historical person either! Young finds belief in evolution absurd and says this is an untenable position for Christians because (among other things) Genesis states that all things reproduce after its own kind. Genesis 1 is geocentric, but only because things are presented from the perspective of one living upon earth. This shows the theological significance of the centrality of the earth, for it is there that God places man in the garden and unfolds the cosmic work of redemption after the fall.
Young believes on exegetical grounds alone that the creation days were longer than 24-hours, but heartily affirms that God could have created in that span of time if He so chose. Time and space were brought into existence by God, so scientists who say that the creation account asks one to believe in infinite time and space do not understand the nature and power of the eternal God. They fail to maintain the Creator/creature distinction and thus say that Genesis 1-3 is bad science and therefore contains error. The Scriptures plainly state that God, by divine fiat, brought the world and all things into being from nothing. This is the accurate scientific account of the beginning of all created things.
The rest of the chapter deals with specific “cases” of supposed error in Scripture. In Matthew 27:9, is Jeremiah quoted as saying something that Zechariah in fact said? Perhaps the solution is that the material originally came from Jeremiah, the senior prophet, and Zechariah was borrowing from him. In the speech of Stephen he seems to get the timing of when Abram left Haran (after the death of Terah) wrong. Some argue that Stephen was not inspired by the Holy Spirit when he spoke, and so he simply made a mistake, and Luke merely records his speech. This is unlikely as nobody questioned Stephen’s account of events in the Old Testament and Stephen was said to be “full of grace and power” (Acts 6:8). The solution may not be known at this time, but there is no reason to assume that Stephen made a mistake. What of the discrepancies between the lengths of time of the bondage of Israel? Do Paul and Stephen contradict one another? They do not, as Paul is using an approximate number and his concern and focus is different from Stephen, namely, to look at the contrast between the promised seed and the law, rather than give the exact length of time between the two (see Gal. 3). Other textual difficulties might be due to insufficient historical information given the two thousand years that separate today’s reader of Scripture from the actual recorded events.
Chapter 8: Does it Matter How We Approach the Bible?
Next, Young addresses how the Christian should approach Scripture. It must be submitted to and received by its own testimony, regardless of how the modern man may find this incredibly naïve. The one who does not embrace the Christian God and the Bible as His word does not have the proper presuppositions to receive the word of God as the word of God. He can never say, “not my will be done, but yours, Lord.” Rather, he will always want to check God’s word with his own thoughts and opinions. One who begins with himself will end with himself, never embracing the Scriptures as infallible authority over their lives.
To submit to God’s word does not stifle historical and scholarly investigation of Scripture any more than it stifles scientific inquiry. What it does do is cause the Christian to pursue these studies in submission to God’s will. The Christian will not use unbiblical methods to critique the Scriptures, nor operate from a godless base when investigating the cosmos. By submitting to the parameters of Scripture, the Christian knows he will find truth in the world that God has made, whether that is historical or scientific truth. If it is alleged that accepting the Bible as God’s word because it claims to be the word of God is a vicious circular reasoning, Young counters that, as creatures, the only way one can argue is circular, and the ultimate source of truth must be God Himself. If He has spoken and revealed Himself in His word through the inner work of the Holy Spirit, the Christian must submit to that revelation of God.
Others argue that there needs to be an umpire to appeal to when man disagrees with or wishes for a different interpretation of Scripture. Some have tried to make Christ this umpire, others the Pope, still others their own private interpretations and the conscience of man. All are efforts to submit Scripture to the subjective mind of man, rendering its meaning dependent, not upon God’s word, but man’s carnal desires. Man’s shifting thoughts will turn the Scriptures into a wax nose that can be bent by wicked men. Such is seen by those who posit a theistic evolution or who tried to splice Wellhausen’s ahistorical, carved up Pentateuch with the first chapter of the Westminster Confession of Faith. In the 1920’s, archaeological discoveries in Nuzi and Mari fully discredited Wellhausen’s theories and showed that the life-setting and customs of Patriarchal times were real and historical. This brings comfort for the Christian, and also a reminder that the Christian must trust God’s word, independent of what archeology uncovers; by God’s word alone man must trust that, in time, evidence will likely come out that supports the biblical record, but in the meantime, let God be true and every man a liar (Rom. 3:4). The Christian must take God at His word, trusting that He rewards those that diligently seek Him (Heb. 11:6).
Chapter 9: Some Modern Views of the Bible (I)
Modern views of the Bible reflect the modern views on God and man. Rather than taking God at His word in Scripture, man has placed his own word and stamped it upon the Bible. It follows Kantian skepticism and seeks to go beyond 19th century critical scholars, who simply deconstructed Scripture without actually offering a message that the Bible proclaims. Attempts are made to find a moral from Scripture that can be regarded as special revelation. Young expresses his doubt that this revelation is truly from God in the biblical sense, given that these scholars are the ones who turned the Old Testament into a piecemeal conglomeration of data and authors that runs contrary to what the Old Testament claims for itself. Sterile critical analysis was inadequate to cope with the world wars, and so a supposed “rediscovery” of the Bible was in order to address the modern man’s soul. Of course, this rediscovery is along the lines of man’s reconstruction, and not a submission to the Bible as the infallible word of God.
Some modern erroneous views of Scripture are that one should not use it as a source of proof texts (despite Christ doing this very thing), nor should one think that the Bible is the final, full, and complete revelation of God. Rather, revelation is still trickling in, and can even correct what one might deduce from a proof text in Scripture. Further, Scripture itself is not static truth of unbendable doctrine; it is a living thing that God still breathes through and speaks in fresh and different ways to the modern man. It is also contended that the Bible presents no systematized doctrine but speaks through history and the experiences of real people. Young’s response is that what is left to the Christian is only the written word, not the expression on Pharaoh’s face, and that the experiences of man throughout history cannot have any eternal significance without God explaining to man what the events of history mean. History must be interpreted and explained by God for its significance to be truly grasped, and that is just what the Bible gives to us – in such a way that the doctrine can be systematized to boot.
Young bemoans the wedge that liberal scholars have created and by which they have mislead genuine Christians, particularly by teaching that the Bible can record God’s dealings with mankind in history, and yet that account does not need to be regarded as dogma. Men such as Karl Barth and Emil Brunner have argued that the Bible itself is not the word of God but contains the word of God. The Bible is constructed with words which serve as a framework through which the Spirit speaks the word of God to the reader. Thus the Bible is said to contain the false words of man, words which the Spirit uses to somehow convey the true message of God. But what determines which parts of the Bible are truly inspired or at least used by the Spirit to convey the truth of God to man is now ultimately left to each individual person to decide. Subjectivism reigns once more, and Young calls for the church to proclaim the biblical doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture (which Calvin, Luther, and the Reformers embraced), proclaiming that the Bible itself is the very word of God.
Chapter 10: Some Modern Views of the Bible (II)
Neo-orthodoxy, explained above, goes quite far when it claims that the Bible offers only personal truth, and only when it speaks to an individual and that individual is moved to obedience. Only then does the Bible become the word of God. This means that man must make a favorable response before God can be said to have spoken through the Bible. Thus the authority of Scripture is not inherent, does not reside in itself alone, but must be activated or triggered by man’s response (not unlike an Arminian understanding of the atonement). Young reminds the reader that the Bible itself claims, and the historic position of Christianity heartily affirms, that Scripture alone is the word of God; therefore, its authority exists in itself, regardless of whether the reader receives it as revelation.
In contrast, the neo-orthodox man can accept modern critical scholarship and all the alleged errors it finds in Scripture by simply saying that it is attributed to the human authorship of the Bible but not the divine. When the Bible speaks to the reader and compels him to higher virtue, then that part of Scripture is said to be inspired by God. The neo-orthodox applies Kant’s distinction between the noumenal and phenomenal realms to maintain this position. Only the phenomenal realm, which pertains to the senses, can be known with certainty. That which goes beyond one’s experiences is unknowable and incomprehensible. The transcendental reality or pure essence of the things sensed cannot be known because they go beyond the phenomenal into the noumenal realm. The result is catastrophic, for the neo-orthodox applies this teaching to Scripture, relegating all the miraculous – for the miraculous comes from the noumenal realm by definition – to an ahistorical reality. Real history is only that which can be sensed, and miracles are not witnessed, so certainly God becoming man is not possible. The atonement and subsequent resurrection of Christ, then, is not real history, though it is a source of “real” inspiration for the neo-orthodox advocate.
Young states the obvious – that if Christ did not really pay for man’s sin in history, then man is still dead in his sin, no matter how the ahistorical story of the cross makes him feel, and is without hope of salvation in this life. What Kant and the neo-orthodox fail to grasp (or do and simply reject) is the truth that God, from the noumenal realm, can create a phenomenological world that corresponds to Him, whereby He can truly communicate Himself to His creation, especially His people made in His image. The preeminent example of this is the eternal word being made flesh, dwelling among His people, in His own created world, perfectly revealing His transcendent glory to it by entering it (Jn. 1:14). The Bible itself is revelatory, from above in the noumenal realm, yet it is precisely this truth that the neo-orthodox reject to their own destruction. Indeed, all of Scripture is real history, and the atonement took place in real space and time on planet earth. It is necessary that a real atonement has been made for sinners, because man really fell from grace into sin at a point in time in history. The power of the cross isn’t that it tells a great story or is a clever myth, but that it is true history and real satisfaction to the Father for the sins of His chosen people. Young concludes, contra the neo-orthodox, that Scripture is not merely a pointer to revelation, but is true revelation of God itself, and as such is real history of God’s creation and dealing with man in space and time.
Chapter 11: The Bible and Salvation
In this brief concluding chapter Young refers to John 17:17 where Christ is praying to the Father and petitions Him, “Sanctify them by thy truth; thy word is truth.” Young explains that this truth is not Christ, who refers to Himself as the truth in John 14:6, but rather Christ is referring to the truth of the Old Testament Scriptures by alluding to passages such as Psalm 119:142. As truth, the Scripture is reliable and dependable, the very word of God. It does not contain truth or point to the truth, but is truth, and as such Christ prays that the truth of the Scriptures would sanctify His people.
Because of this, the Christian cannot deny the inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility of Scripture. To speak of a Bible that contains only trifling errors that does no harm is to fail to grasp the nature of Scripture itself. Scripture is either God’s word through and through, or it is not. And even if there is only one error in the Bible, the credibility of it is completely lost because it is not the words even of a very wise sage, but of God Himself. If God can err at just one point, His promises and words cannot be completely trusted at any point. The gospel cannot be proclaimed with confidence, or trusted in with confidence.
The book concludes by stressing the importance of taking God’s word seriously, and trusting in it totally. The only explanation of reality, the sinful and desperate state of man, and the saving remedy for that state is presented in Scripture. How to grow in holiness by glorifying God and enjoying Him forever is revealed nowhere else but in the Bible. The Bible is the word of God, and as such it must guide the life of the Christian from first to last, in every detail. The great need of the day is for the church to faithfully proclaim the word of God as the authoritative word of God (and not as some nebulous pointer to the word of God), binding all men and guiding all men for all of life. God’s people must revere it as such, study it, and be sanctified by it as the Spirit wills.