Having been considered at length in Volume I of this work, this, the first major division of Systematic Theology, need be given no more than a brief restatement here. Nothing could be more fundamental in the sphere of human knowledge than that God has caused His own Word to be written in a form which man can comprehend and has preserved that Word through the ages of human history for the benefit of all men. The extent of the field of knowledge thus added to man's own restricted observation is beyond human computation. Since this vast unfolding of added truth has come to men and has been their possession for more than three millenniums and has all been incorporated into that which man now understands, it becomes no more than a speculation to talk of what man could have known had he been left to himself or to ponder what, in its far-reaching effect, has been revealed to him through the ages. Man began under the direct tutelage of God in the Garden of Eden and has ever been indebted to God for many and varied revelations. Shutting God out of all consideration and thus ignoring the source of practically all that they know, unbelieving men are filled with vainglory over what is assumed to be the attainments of man. Some facts are discovered about the stars and their systematic arrangement, yet with little or no disposition to recognize the One who created the stars and who upholds all things. Thus in astronomy, as in other branches of science, the inability of fallen man to see beyond the reach of his own limited powers is evident. No sense of appreciation seems to exist that he has been given an eye to see or an arm to achieve. All of this is exceedingly unnatural, as likewise is the rejection of God's revelation, and speaks of a fallen humanity under the domination of the great enemy of God. On the other hand, to the mind that by saving grace has been rescued from the insanity of sin and is enlightened by the Spirit of God, the Bible becomes what it actually is, the very Word of God to man which imparts treasures of knowledge as marvelous as the realms of light from whence they proceed. No declaration is more revealing nor could there be a more accurate analysis of the mass of unregenerate humanity in its attitude toward the Scriptures than that which affirms: "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of
God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor. 2:14). And how the sphere of human limitations is unveiled by Christ when He said: "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3)! So, also, it is declared, "Through faith we understand" (Heb. 11:3).
As science creates nothing but rather seeks to discover the character of the realities which God has caused to exist, so the theologian strives to comprehend, analyze, and systematize that which God has revealed. The theologian creates nothing; his sphere of endeavor, strictly speaking, is not even that of demonstrating that the materials he handles are real or trustworthy. If by him the Word of God is held in doubt, he is by so much disqualified even to enter the theologian's field of investigation. Accepting all that the Bible claims for itself, however, the theologian is concerned with the Bible's message.
Evidence that the Bible is God's Word written appears in a form both external and internal. That which is external lies in the field of the Bible's unique history, its essential character, and its effects. That which is internal relates to its own claims for itself, which claims are fully sustained.
Various major divisions of the structure of the Bible and consideration of its doctrinal message have already been presented and enlarged upon throughout this work. The more vital facts respecting the character of the Bible are:
1. A Revelation from God. By this declaration it is asserted that the Bible presents material and facts which could not otherwise be known by man. To become aware of these truths and to list them may well occupy the student for a lifetime. Though there are many subjects presented in the Bible about which men would naturally have some information apart from revelation, it is clear that in the greater spheres of truth he is wholly restricted to that which God has disclosed, and the true value of what he might know naturally is completely qualified when seen in its relation to that which is revealed.
2. Inspired by God, which means that all Scripture proceeds from God as if His very breath (cf. 2 Tim. 3:16). Portions of the truth revealed may have some recognition by men apart from revelation. Its declaration in the Sacred Text of God's utterance, nevertheless, is said by God in God's own way, and therefore is correct to infinity. Such a statement refers only to the original writings and not to translations of Scripture, though doubtless God has exercised competent direction and protection over translations; certainly there is no direct statement from God that translations would be made without error. Concerning the original text, it is said that holy men "spake as they were moved" (or borne along) by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:21).
3. Understood Only by Divine Illumination. Even things of Scripture otherwise commonplace are known in their true value only by the illuminating of the Spirit. Three human attitudes toward the Bible are declared in 1 Corinthians 2:14-3:1. The unsaved or "natural man" cannot "receive" revealed truth, the spiritual man "discerneth all things," and the carnal Christian can receive only the milk and not the meat of the Word of God. Christ promised that the Holy Spirit would guide into all truth (John 16:13-15), and the Apostle states that the Spirit is given to the believer that he may know the things of God (1 Cor. 2:12).
4. Must Be Rightly Interpreted. The whole field of hermeneutics, which is a theological discipline in itself, is introduced here. Doubtless the key to the understanding of the Bible is the recognition of the specific purpose of God in each of the succeeding ages of human history. Dispensational distinctions have always engendered true expository preaching, while Covenant Theology has tended toward a closing and slighting of the Word of God.
5. A Life-Imparting Message. The Word of God is active and dynamic. Isaiah declares that it will "accomplish" that which God purposes for it to do (Isa. 55:11), Jeremiah likens the Word of God to fire and to a hammer that breaketh in pieces the rock (Jer. 23:29), and in Hebrews 4:12 it is said to be "quick and powerful"—that is, living and active. Happy is he who through knowledge of the Scriptures is able to wield this living power.
6. Its Canonicity Determined by God, that is, the choice from all existing literature of the books that were to form the two Testaments was under the care of God. Having caused certain documents to be written with a view to their place in the Sacred Volume, it is certain that He would cause them to take the place which He had assigned them. It is true that men acted in the forming of the canon, including in it such books as had the evident imprint of God upon them; but still God was guiding them in the selection, just as He guided the men who wrote the text itself.
7. Speaks with the Authority of God. The primary character of the Bible is such as to lend it authority. It speaks as the voice of Him who created all things and to whom all things belong. To those who believe the Bible and heed its precepts it becomes an unerring lamp unto the feet and a light unto the path (Ps. 119:105). The Word of God fails not.
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