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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

The Bible: Words of Men or Words of God?

By James K. Bridges
Aug. 22, 2010

Historically, the Assemblies of God has tenaciously held to the belief that the Bible is the Word of God. In its formation meeting in 1914 in Hot Springs, Ark., the brethren unanimously adopted a “Preamble and Resolution of Constitution” to guide the fledgling movement for the first two years of its existence. The first “whereas” of the document declared our allegiance to God, our Heavenly Father, and His only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, sent to be our Savior. The second “whereas” declared our allegiance to the “Holy Inspired Scriptures” given by God as our all-sufficient rule for faith and practice.

A “Statement of Fundamental Truths” was adopted at the 1916 General Council to strengthen and clarify the doctrinal position of the Fellowship. With few modifications, this statement continues to serve as the official position of the church to this day.

Our founding fathers placed first on the list “The Scriptures Inspired,” which presently reads: “The Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments, are verbally inspired of God and are the revelation of God to man, the infallible, authoritative rule of faith and conduct

(2 Timothy 3:15-17; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Peter 1:21).”

Prior to the turn of the 20th century, most of the Protestant denominations in the United States held to the divine inspiration and authority of Scripture. However, the influx of higher criticism, so-called, from Germany infecting the pulpits of the churches and the classrooms of the seminaries robbed the historic denominations of this truth.

Liberalism and modernism, as such criticism is termed, have so captured the churches that have emerged out of the Reformation that only a few — such as the Southern Baptists and the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod — remain faithful to the doctrine of inspiration.

But the Assemblies of God stands in good company with those who have held to the Scripture as the Word of God. Our Lord Jesus Christ and His apostles, the authors of the Old and New Testaments, along with the Early Church, are unanimous in their attitude toward the Scriptures: They not only accepted it as the very Word of God, but they submitted to its authority without reservation. For the first eight centuries of the Christian era, the doctrine of inspiration was unquestioned.

Among the church fathers who spoke strongly of the Scriptures as the Word of God are Clement of Alexandria, Gregory of Nazianzus, Augustine, John Chrysostom, Athanasius, Origen, Jerome and Irenaeus. According to Louis Gaussen, except for Theodore of Mopsuestia (condemned by the Fifth Council at Constantinople in 553), “not one authority could be cited throughout all the first eight centuries of Christianity who failed to acknowledge the full inspiration of the Scriptures except for the heretical enemies of the Christian faith.”

Gregory wrote: “Even the smallest lines in Scripture are due to the minute care of the Holy Spirit so that we must pay careful attention to every slightest shade of meaning.”

Athanasius wrote: “They [the Scriptures] were spoken and written by God, through men who spoke of God … these are the fountains of salvation, that they who thirst may be satisfied with the living words they contain. Let no man add to these, neither let him take aught from these.”

Origen wrote: “The sacred Scriptures come from the fullness of the Spirit, so that there is nothing in the prophets, or the law, or the gospel, or the apostles which descends not from the fullness of the Divine Majesty.”

The great reformers Luther, Zwingli and Calvin; and the great confessions of Protestantism such as The French Confession of Faith, 1559; the Belgic Confessions, 1561; the Second Helvetic Confession, 1566; The Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England, 1571; and The Westminster Confession of Faith, 1647 — all attest to the Bible as the Word of God.

Luther said, “The preacher must preach only the Word of Holy Scripture, for the Bible is the very Scripture of the Spirit. … It cannot be otherwise, for the Scriptures are divine; in them God speaks, and they are His Word. To hear or to read the Scriptures is nothing else than to hear God.”

Added to the reformers are the Huguenots, Puritans, Covenanters and evangelicals. Names such as Baxter, Owen, Wesley, Whitefield and Edwards have loudly proclaimed the truth of divine inspiration.

John Wesley wrote: “I beg leave to propose a short, clear and strong argument to prove the divine inspiration of the Holy Scriptures. The Bible must be the invention either of good men or angels, bad men or devils, or of God.

“It could not be the invention of good men or angels … for they neither would nor could make a book, and tell lies all the time they were writing it, saying, ‘Thus saith the Lord,’ when it was their own invention.

“It could not be the invention of bad men or devils; for they would not make a book which commands all duty, forbids all sin, and condemns their souls to hell for all eternity.

“Therefore, I draw this conclusion, that the Bible must be given by divine inspiration.”

Other great men, such as Hudson Taylor, William Carey, Charles Finney, D.L. Moody, George Muller, Charles Spurgeon, J.C. Ryle and currently Billy Graham, have held firmly to the inspiration and authority of the Bible.

Spurgeon said: “We contend for every word of the Bible and believe in the verbal, literal inspiration of Holy Scripture. Indeed, we believe there can be no other kind of inspiration. If the words are taken from us, the exact meaning is of itself lost.”

Bishop Ryle pointed out the danger of assuming anything less than full inspiration: “We corrupt the Word of God most dangerously when we throw any doubt on the plenary inspiration of any part of the Holy Scriptures. This is not merely corrupting the cup, but the whole fountain. This is not merely corrupting the bucket of living water, but poisoning the whole well.”

In his early ministry Billy Graham confessed to his doubts about the inspiration and authority of the Bible. He spent time in the high Sierra Nevada Mountains in prayer where he came to a firm conviction that the Bible was indeed that authoritative, inspired Word of the living God. After that experience he testified that the Bible became a sword in his hand.

Attending an extremely liberal seminary in the late 1950s, I endured the liberal theology of Paul Tillich, Karl Barth, Emil Brunner and Rudolf Bultmann whose teaching had “liberated” the church from the Bible. Using the scholastic equivalent of King Jehoiakim’s penknife, they stripped, gutted, and “demythologized” the Bible until there was very little that could be trusted as true and accurate. I am so glad I have lived to see the Bible survive these massive assaults.

The teachings of these theologians — representing the most thorough attacks on Scripture by the skeptical, unbelieving mind — are encased in dusty old textbooks. But they have given rise to a new generation of humanistic theologians who, like their predecessors, have rejected the authority of Scripture and are at the mercy of ever-changing theories of human philosophy.

But the Bible, as the Word of God, continues to traverse the world, crossing religious, geographical, language and political barriers, bringing life and hope to Adam’s fallen race.

Some have likened the Bible to the Lord Jesus Christ. As He was both human and divine, so the Bible has both a divine and human side. Some theologians use this analogy to imply that it is the human side of Scripture wherein error can reside. But, the Bible, in its original autographs, is without error.

As has been pointed out, “Just as the Word of God incarnate was without sin, even so, the Word of God ‘inscripturated’ is without error. The humanity of Jesus is like our own in all things except sin. The humanity of the Bible is like that of every human book except for error.” The incarnate Word was without sin in His humanity, and the written Word is, like the humanity of our Lord Jesus, without error.

Let us recommit ourselves to the inspiration and authority of the Bible so that we, like the Thessalonian believers, may receive it, “not as the word of men, but, as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe” (1 Thessalonians 2:13).

JAMES K. BRIDGES served as general treasurer of the Assemblies of God from 1993-2008. From The Bible, the Word of God (Springfield, Mo: Gospel Publishing House, 2003). Reprinted with permission.

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