Today I heard a clergyman explain that the word of God is contained within the words of man found in what we know as the Bible. What we need to do is distinguish between the two – which is the word of God and which is the word of man.
Quite a daunting task, especially since our eternal relationship to God depends upon getting it right.
Another distinguished clergyman said the Bible is merely a collection of stories written by people to help us learn something about God through the events of history.
In contrast to this skepticism, millions of evangelicals and rapidly approaching one billion charismatic/Pentecostal Christians in many denominations are convinced the Bible in its original manuscripts is the infallible word of God. And many among them are brilliant Biblical scholars, intellectual giants in their own right, with academic credentials from some of the finest universities in the United States and abroad.
It would be na Øve to suggest what appears on the surface as textual contradictions and historical errors, as well as suspected moral dilemmas, do not exist in the Bible. But, it is as intellectually dishonest to conclude that the Bible is not the word of God as it would be to suggest electricity does not exist because we cannot explain it.
In museums around the world, there are more fragments of ancient Biblical manuscripts than there are for any other document of ancient times. These are cross-referenced thousands of times for authenticity by early church fathers such as Cement of Rome, Ignatius, Polycarp and Irenaeus; that virtually every alleged error of historical fact in the Bible has been discounted by solid research; that archeology has vindicated the historical accuracy of the Bible about alleged nonexistent peoples and places mentioned in the Bible and provided evidence of the flood, Noah’s Ark and other “unbelievable” things. There is a whole science known as “Biblical Hermeneutics” designed to guard against erroneous interpretations of the Bible, if readers of the Bible will use it. Bridging the gap between what we know and what we cannot understand is a use of faith that is as legitimate here as it is in other areas of life that we must acknowledge even if we can’t understand them.
The self-declaration of the Bible is that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16). It was inspired, or literally “God-breathed.” For the God who fulfilled Isaiah’s 600-year-old prophecy by arranging the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem at precisely the right time, it was a “piece of cake” for him to inspire 40 peoples on three continents over a span of 1,600 years to write the 66 books of the Bible in three languages on thousands of subjects. This is why Peter could write, “Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). The Bible is the word of God even though some things are not yet clear to us.
Beyond that, we cannot avoid the incredible fulfillment of prophecies like Ezekiel’s prediction that ancient Tyre, a commercial city in its time as large as New York City in ours, would be destroyed and never rebuilt. He predicted that even the dust from its streets would be scrapped and pushed into the sea, leaving the site of the original city a bare rock for the “spreading of nets.” That amazing prophecy is recorded in Ezekiel 26 and the Encyclopedia Britannica records its fulfillment.
Luke tells us that in a post-Resurrection appearance to two of his disciples “beginning at Moses and all the prophets,” Jesus “expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:25-27). In so doing, Jesus validated the Scriptures (“beginning at Moses” i.e. the Book of Genesis) as the word of God.
The Rev. Guy BonGiovanni is director of Life Enrichment Ministries Inc. in Canfield.