INERRANCY OF SCRIPTURE, PART FOUR: AN APPEAL
by Jack Cottrell (Notes) on Tuesday, May 10, 2011 at 4:05pm
THE INERRANCY OF SCRIPTURE: DOES IT STILL MATTER?
JACK COTTRELL – CINCINNATI CHRISTIAN UNIVERSITY – APRIL 2011
PART IV. AN APPEAL.
I have always been a part of the fellowship called “the Restoration Movement,” and I am still committed to its basic principles. For 43 years I have taught theology at Cincinnati Christian University (which began as The Cincinnati Bible Seminary). Today it is my earnest desire that every one of our students, and this school as such, and the Movement of which it is a part, will stand firm on the traditional belief in the Bible as the inerrant Word of God. It is also my earnest desire that we will see that, as creatures made in God’s image, we have the God-given ability to understand the God-intended meaning of the Bible’s contents.
Unless we can do this, the relativists are right: there is no absolute truth in the world! If the Bible is not the inerrant Word of God, or if we cannot truly understand it, then we have no place to stand, no firm foundation on which we can take a stand on any belief. Archimedes said: “Give me a place to stand, and I can move the world.” But in this post-modern world of relativism, where the Bible is seen as flawed or at least impossible to understand, there IS no place to stand! As Francis Beckwith has said in the title of one of his books, with relativism we have our “Feet Firmly Planted in Midair.” No wonder so many Christians are reluctant to take a stand on “the BIBLICAL view” of this or that doctrine, or this or that issue. The ultimate result of denying the inerrancy of the Bible is the idea that DOCTRINE DOES NOT MATTER!
But with an inerrant Bible (which we CAN understand), we DO have a place to stand; we have firm ground under out feet; we have no reason to doubt or apologize for our convictions. Standing firm on the Bible as the Word of God, we can boldly affirm and proclaim “the faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).
A classic defense of conservative Christian theology is Christianity and Liberalism, written by J. Gresham Machen originally in 1923 and published in a new edition by Eerdmans in 2009. On page 42 Machen discusses the serious conflict between two branches of the Reformation: Martin Luther and his Lutheran cohorts (on the one hand) and Huldreich Zwingli and his followers (on the other hand). Their disagreement led to serious controversy and a great division between the Lutheran and Reformed branches of the Reformation. Machen remarks, “It is often said that the divided condition of Christendom is an evil, and so it is.” And as Machen saw it, “the calamity was due to the fact that Luther (as we believe) was wrong about the Lord’s Supper.” BUT – “it would have been a far greater calamity if being wrong about the Supper he had represented the whole question as a trifling affair. Luther was wrong about the Supper, but not nearly so wrong as he would have been if, being wrong, he had said to his opponents: ‘Brethren, this matter is a trifle; and it makes really very little difference what a man thinks about the table of the Lord.’ Such indifferentism would have been far more deadly than all the divisions between the branches of the Church. A Luther who would have compromised with regard to the Lord’s Supper never would have said at the Diet of Worms, ‘Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise, God help me, Amen.’ Indifferentism about doctrine makes no heroes of the faith.”
Machen’s point is that it is better to be wrong about something, and better even to suffer division for it, than to refuse to take a stand and say, “It doesn’t really matter what view you take.” But this is ultimately where the denial of inerrancy leads. In fact, it leads to an even worse end: when we deny inerrancy, there is no longer any such thing as “a wrong view” about anything.
Does this make us old-fashioned, antiquated, out of touch with the modern world? Maybe. But perhaps there is nothing wrong with this! Jeremiah 6:16 says, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls.” Jeremiah 18:15 adds: “Because My people have forgotten Me, they have burned incense to worthless idols. And they have caused themselves to stumble in their ways, from the ancient paths, to walk in pathways and not on a highway” (NKJV).
My appeal is that we stay on the “old paths” when the winds of change want to sweep us along with the crowd, down the side trails that lead nowhere. This is the mature approach: “As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects unto Him who is the head, even Christ” (Eph. 4:14, NASB).