Monday, September 27, 2010

Ancient Words, Changing Worlds--Overview of Chapter 1

A few months ago, I posted a book review of a book published by Crossway titled Ancient Words, Changing Worlds by Stephen J. Nichols and Eric T. Brandt.  I wanted to share with you some observations I've made after having read the book again.

Chapter one of this book outlines the development of the arguments for biblical inspiration that began in the mid-19th century with theologians from Princeton Seminary. The author indicates that the need for discussion about this crucial doctrine came about as a result of scientific and cultural developments in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. The theory was that scripture was written for ancient men and that men and women of the modern age had moved beyond such a superstitious document. However, Charles Hodge, his son A.A. Hodge, and B. B. Warfield contented that scripture was not a time bound document that spoke only to ancient people but rather was God-breathed, propositional truth that still applied today. A.A Hodge and B.B. Warfield co-authored a series of 8 articles in The Presbyterian Review discussing, among other things, the doctrine of the inspiration of scripture. They demonstrated that the bible was an inspired text and that inspiration was verbal (the words of the text) and plenary (all of the text). Of course, they were met by challenges to these key doctrines. For instance, Joseph Henry Thayer called these concepts a “yoke which they—unlike their fathers—are unable to bear”. Also, Henry Fosdick described belief in these two doctrines as trading “the shekinah for the Shrine”—the true beauty of the truth of scripture was not in the words of human authors but in the timeless, spiritual truth that they contained. This sort of mystical “what does it mean to you” approach to scripture is seen within the church, even today.

As I read this chapter, I was amused by what I perceived as arrogance of those who question the authority of scripture on the basis of so-called scholarship. I was reminded of something I read a few weeks ago in The Fundamentals “A third objection remains…all the scholarship is on one side. The old-fashioned conservative views are no longer maintained by men with pretension to scholarship. The only people who oppose the Higher Critical views are the ignorant.” The prevalent idea, even among some Christians, is that scripture just can’t have a supernatural origin and be true in the face of overwhelming evidence. Therefore, you have liberal Christians preaching a false gospel that cannot save because they reject the source of divine truth—God’s word.

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