4 Ways Inerrantists Undermine The Bible

Like every lover of God’s Word, I rejoiced to read the reports of the thousands of people who attended last week’s Inerrancy Summit. I salute the stalwarts of the faith who spoke there and earnestly pray that the hoped-for effects of greater respect for and obedience to God’s Word will be wonderfully realized.

I may have missed this, but one note I didn’t hear was one of humble confession, the sound of inerrantists confessing that we too have undermined the Bible. Unlike deniers of inerrancy, we’ve done it unintentionally, but the end result has often been the same – less reverence for and faith in the Word of God.

How so? Let me highlight four areas in which we inerrantists have inadvertently undermined Gods Word.

The Clarity of Scripture

The doctrine of the perspicuity of Scripture is summed up in chapter 1 of the Westminster Confession of Faith:

“Those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed, for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.”

When people (especially those outside the church) see the intellectual gymnastics some evangelicals use to get away from the plain reading of Genesis 1 regarding six-day creation or the uniqueness of Adam as the first human being, it’s no surprise that they often conclude this is an impossible book for the learned to understand, never mind the unlearned.

Preachers, teachers, theologians, and all of us have a huge responsibility to ensure that we honor the clarity of Scripture by demonstrating how even the unlearned using ordinary means can come to a sufficient understanding of the Bible.

The Sufficiency of Scripture

When we let the findings and theories of secular science have priority or primacy in our interpretation of Scripture and in our application of it in caring for people, we undermine the Word of God.

But sometimes, in our zeal to uphold the sufficiency of God’s Word for faith and life, inerrantists have often carelessly overstated the sufficiency of Scripture. For example, in the area of counseling, a concern to keep out dangerous worldly theory and practice has sometimes led to the theoretical rejection of anything helpful outside of the Bible.

There are three problems with this. First, there’s the problem of inconsistency. Whatever counselors have said or written about rejecting anything and everything outside of the Bible, they deny it in practice. No biblical teacher or counselor uses only the Bible in shepherding people. Every single one of us integrates knowledge from outside the Bible into our teaching and discipling. The only questions are how we do it and to what degree.

Second, Although this “bible-only” view sincerely intends to defend the sufficiency of Scripture, it ends up undermining it because the Bible is not regarded as sufficient enough to screen and filter the world of knowledge outside of the Bible, and admit into the care of people only what is consistent with God’s Word. The Bible is not thought to be up to the task and therefore we must not even attempt such an endeavor.

Third, when the sufficiency of Scripture is overstated to rule out any place for science in our interpretation or application of Scripture, it looks ridiculous to many, preventing them from giving a fair hearing to the true claims of God’s Word.

The Authority of Scripture

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones believed that the most important battle in his day was not over the inerrancy of Scripture but over the authority of Scripture. I believe both were and are equally important issues. What’s the point in fighting to the death for the inerrancy of Scripture if we undermine it by rejecting its authority in our lives, especially in our ethics? We end up with a perfect book that has no impact on our lives.

Many different theological systems have been devised that, in effect, displace the role of the ten commandments as an authoritative guide for the Christian’s life. Whatever the scheme, they all end in the same place – freedom from God’s moral law. Especially, freedom from the fourth commandment.

Unsurprisingly, many who want to argue for gay marriage or the legitimacy of gay Christians point out the seeming hypocrisy of our picking and choosing which of God’s moral laws we want to be authoritative in our lives. “Why can’t we do the same?” they ask.

The Practice of Scripture

This flows out of the last point, but a vital part of any Inerrancy Summit should be an Inerrancy Valley, where we all humble ourselves in repentance and contrition and confess how we have all failed to practice the Bible, we have all failed to live up to what we profess to believe about the Bible. This is especially serious because for most people our lives and character are the only Bible they regularly read.

There’s no question that far more people would believe in the inerrancy of Scripture if they could see more practice of Scripture. Errant lives are poor commercials for an inerrant Bible.

A Modern “Act of Uniformity”

The way things are going, many Gospel ministers will soon be forced “out of business” together with various florists, bakers, and photographers, all for refusing to conform to the culture’s demand that we all uniformly celebrate so-called homosexual marriage.

Similar tyrannical abuses have happened in the past, but God has kept His church in the midst of a hostile culture. In his biography of Matthew Henry, J. B. Williams notes that the UK Parliament’s 1662 Act of Uniformity separated 2000 Gospel ministers from their flocks (including Henry’s father), banned them from preaching the Gospel, and “as far as human intent could go, consigned them to oblivion.” This Great Ejection occurred all because they would not conform to Government-defined and Government-mandated “uniformity.”

But 1662 was also the year that Matthew Henry was born, as were a number of other eminent future ministers of the Gospel. Williams comments:

“The constancy of God’s servants was thus rewarded: and provision was made in the ministry, for another generation, for whom, in providential mercy, fairer and more peaceful days were appointed.”

Yes, this modern Act of Uniformity will take its toll on many. Unless we see a miraculous reversal, Gospel ministers are going to experience a Supreme-Court-backed Great Ejection and be consigned to oblivion. We fear for the church and the Gospel; we fear most of all for the souls of our children and of future generations.

But let’s take courage in God’s providential mercy, and believe that even in our days, in labor wards all over the land, God is bringing future Matthew Henrys into the world to minister to the souls of His children, in what we hope will be fairer and more peaceful days.

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Divine Happiness Superior to Disney Happiness

While attending the Ligonier National Conference at Disney’s Coronado Springs resort recently, I couldn’t help asking, “What is happiness?”

Here I was at the world center of happiness and not many people looked that happy. Admittedly the weather was unseasonably cold, but even so, I didn’t see many smiles among the multitudes of mickey-mouse-eared children and their stressed-out parents.

In contrast, when I walked into and through the Ligonier conference venue, I saw a lot more happiness, I sensed a lot more joy, and I heard a lot more laughter. Who would have thought that there would be more happiness in God’s Kingdom than in Magic Kingdom?

Which brings me back to my question: What is happiness? Specifically, what is this superior Christian happiness I experienced last week?

In some ways, Christian happiness is so large, so multilayered, so multidimensional, that it’s virtually impossible to define in one sentence. But let me try:

Christian happiness is a God-centered, God-glorifying, and God-given sense of God’s love that flows from a right relationship to God in Christ and that flows out in loving service to God and others.

Where do I get that from?

Largely from Moses’ deathbed!

As he is dying, Moses rouses himself one last time to enthusiastically pronounce multiple blessings (happinesses) on Israel’s tribes (Deut. 33:1-28). He then takes a big view of the whole nation and joyfully exclaims, “Happy are you, O Israel!  Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord” (Deut. 33:29)

He happily calls them the happiest people in the world!

It was a God-centered happiness. It wasn’t a happiness based on things or achievements (neither Israel nor Moses had any of these). It was a happiness based on truth, truth about God.

Moses had spent the previous three verses declaring multiple facts about God and all He was and did for Israel before climaxing with “Happy are you, O Israel!”

It was also a God-glorifying happiness. Moses doesn’t just narrate facts about God like a dull and boring lecturer. No, he’s exulting in God and exalting God as he speaks. He begins this final chorus of praise by saying, “There is no one like . . . God.” God makes him happy, but worshiping God makes him even happier. God-centered happiness makes him glorify God happily.

Finally it was a God-given happiness. To the onlooker, Moses and Israel were in the saddest and most miserable circumstances. Moses had experienced many disappointments and frustrations over his life, especially during the last forty years in the wilderness, and particularly in being banned from finally entering the promised land because he lost his temper once.

Israel’s forty-year history up to that point was a trail of thousands of carcasses in the same wilderness, and they were still outside the promised land! Yet Moses pronounced God’s people not just happy but the happiest people in the world! Incomparably happy. Happier than the most powerful and prosperous nations.

What can possibly explain it?

It wasn’t something manufactured or manipulated; it was given by God. Given the circumstances, negativity and pessimism would have been much easier. But by grace, God enabled Moses to rise above every discouragement and sadness (without denying them) and to find his happiness in God. Like Paul, who faced similar harrowing circumstances, he was “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Cor. 6:10). Divine happiness is far superior to Disney happiness.

And if Moses and Israel had such happiness, how much more should the New Testament church and every New Testament Christian? If we claim to know much more about God (and we do) and claim to have experienced so much of His great salvation (and we have), how much happier we should be, and how much more happy should be our service of God and others.

10 Ways To Hate People

A few weeks ago I listed 10 Ways To Hate God. Today, 10 ways to hate people, which Paul says comes very naturally to us (Titus 3:3).

1. Grudge their success.

2. Blacken their name.

3. Desire their failure.

4. Ignore their graces and gifts.

5. Suspect their motives.

6. Rejoice when they fall or fail.

7. Refuse their confession.

8. Highlight only their defects.

9. Despise their callings and roles.

10. Take vengeance upon them.

But God’s love can turn the worst of haters into the best of lovers, as Paul immediately highlights:

“But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.” (Titus 3:4-5).

The Worst Ever Honeymoon

On Friday night, as part of a fundraising dinner for our youth group’s mission trip, Shona and I won the “Most Interesting Honeymoon” award. “Interesting” is quite the euphemism; “worst” would be more fitting. Because there can’t be many honeymoons as disastrous as ours was. But having given everybody a bit of a laugh, I thought, it’s time to share this fiasco with the world and hopefully put a few smiles on some faces. Settle down, this may take a while.

The year is 1991, and my first mistake was to book a trip to Kenya. That was a mistake for a few reasons. First of all, Shona was finishing up her junior doctor year during which she had been working 80-90 hours a week for a full year. Probably not the best lead-in to a 5000 mile trip to Mombassa. She subsequently made me rip up photos I took of her in the plane because she looked like she was terminally ill.

Second, while I’d travelled abroad many times, though never to Africa, Shona had never been outside Scotland. Yes, that’s right, I thought it would be a good idea to take my bride 5000 miles away from home when she’d never left her homeland before.

By this time you’re asking, “Why Kenya?” Good question. No good answer, apart from that I had a friend who had worked there for many years in the financial sector and he’d always been telling me what a great place it would be for our honeymoon. So Kenya it was. Brochure pictures looked amazing (no Internet then) and we also booked a three-day Safari for the second week.

A Mercedes On A Raft
After a 15-hour, three-flight trip, we eventually landed in the coastal resort of Mombassa in the middle of the night. The travel rep hustled us into a Mercedes taxi and off we went into the darkness. At one point we were on a massive raft built out of wood and barrels crossing a fast-flowing river. There were hundreds of people crammed on it with us and they were all very interested in the contents of the Mercedes. Eventually I got Shona to duck down and I covered her with a jacket as I smiled meekly at hundreds of very jealous-looking faces pressed up against our windows. Anxiety levels were beginning to climb.

Anyway, we eventually got to the beachside hotel, although “compound” might be a better description. It was surrounded by 10-12 ft fences with two layers of gate security manned by multiple men with scary looking guns. There were innumerable people around the entrance trying to get our money off us – either by begging or by selling. Shona back on the floor. Anxiety now moderate to high.

The hotel was really nice and the room was fantastic, but every time we looked out of the window, there were patrolling guards walking nearby, armed to the teeth again. Any attempt to get on to the beach was just about impossible because as soon as our feet left the compound and touched golden sand, hordes of beggars and sellers assaulted us (literally). Anxiety still climbing.

Five Star Torture Chamber
The room that looked so nice during the day then became a torture chamber as the live music nearby kept us awake until midnight and then the lawnmower awoke us up every morning before 6 am. After a couple of days we were pretty close to the edge of insanity. This wan’t helped when sitting in the hotel lobby one night we saw on TV news that a schoolgirls’ hostel 50 miles or so away had been attacked by a bunch of men with indescribable consequences. Anxiety in the red zone.

Then the hallucinations started. Yes, we were on anti-malarial drugs which began to loosen our grip on reality. We were both dreaming the most disturbing dreams, but I topped it off by waking Shona up one night screaming that someone had their hands around my neck. I was fully awake but in a life-or-death wrestling match with an unseen assailant. Shona was beginning to question who she’d just committed the rest of her life to.

Then the runs to the bathroom started. By this time we were both so paranoid and so sick that we didn’t want to be in the bathroom with the door closed. So there we are, two newly-weds, taking it in turns to run to the toilet with the other standing guard at the open bathroom door. Yes, if your marriage can survive that, it can survive anything.

Superman To The Rescue
We made one last try to salvage the vacation by getting our act together and deciding that we should learn how to scuba dive. I mean, why not? So we book a course in the hotel pool that would eventually lead to a reef expedition. The first lesson involved putting on all the tanks, mask, weight-belt, etc., and swimming to the deep end and back. I managed OK, then it was Shona’s turn.

When she reached the deep end, she panicked and pulled off her oxygen mask. However, the weight belt prevented her from getting to the surface. Then she really panicked. I saw her flailing underwater and shouted to the instructors who were smoking and drinking poolside, but they were totally disinterested and waved me away. At this point Superman Murray springs into action, running the length of the pool, before jumping in, grabbing Shona by the hair, and pulling a bedraggled gurgling wife to the side. Still nil movement from the instructors.

The last thing we tried was windsurfing (you can’t fault us for trying can you?) but we were both so weak by that point that we couldn’t turn the sails and we both started heading out towards Australia. We figured it better to drop the sails and try to swim back with the boards, expending our last reserves of mental and physical energy.

We went to eat that night but couldn’t even look at the food. Only eight more days of torture to go!

Homeward Bound
I looked at Shona, “Do you want to go home?” She burst into tears of relief. She’d been thinking that for days already. We phoned the travel company who said there was no way of getting home without paying thousands of dollars. But then they suggested that they send a doctor round to see if we could get home on the travel insurance. I hoped so, but felt hopeless.

The doctor arrived about an hour later, took one look at us, filled out two forms, gave us a few pills, asked for $50 and left. “That’ll get you home,” he said. We looked at the little slips of paper expecting to see something like “Insane” but the only word we could make out in the scrawl was “hyper-anxiety.” At that point, I couldn’t have cared if he had diagnosed me with multiple-personality disorder. I just wanted home and now we had our way out.

But not so fast. When we faxed the travel company, they said the only flight was leaving in a couple of hours and we were at least an hour away from the airport in good traffic. But, of course, it was the rush hour. Anyway, we threw our cases together, managed to get a taxi, told the driver we needed to be at the airport in an hour or so, and off we sped. At various points we got totally stuck in traffic; so he jumped the median a number of times, driving against the flow of cars and trucks, before jumping back over again. We were sure he was on our side.

Until, driving through a dark village, he took a sudden turn to the left, down behind some buildings, into what looked like an ancient, and empty, industrial estate. He skidded to a stop, jumped out of the car, and ran away into the night.

The End Is Nigh
We looked at each other. Our faces said the same thing. “It’s over.” Seven days of marriage and it’s all over. We’re about to get robbed, murdered, and our remains deposited in the jungle. We awaited our doom with amazing calm. We’d probably used up all our anxiety chemicals by that point and resigned ourselves to meeting in heaven again.

When, suddenly, out of the dark, our driver came running back to the car, pulling up his zipper! “Sorry, had to go,” he explained. We put off heaven for the moment and resigned ourselves to what remained of our nightmare.

We got to the airport with just 15 minutes before the flight took off. We sprinted into the terminal with our cases, skipped the angry line, and asked for our tickets. Surprise, surprise, no tickets. Phoned travel company who assured us the tickets were there. By that time the airline agents were totally ignoring the crazy European couple.

A Kenyan Angel
At that point, a Kenyan man in shirt and tie (who I think may have been an angel) came up to us and asked if he could help. We briefly explained and he assured us he’d get us on the plane. He grabbed one of our cases, said “Follow me” and started sprinting. He ran us straight through security then passport control without stopping or showing any documents. No one said anything or shot anything. Eventually we were stopped at the last security point where a mean looking guard demanded my wallet. He looked inside and saw all my Kenyan currency. He looked at me and I nodded vigorously. He took it all and handed me back my empty wallet.

On we ran. On to the tarmac and up to the waiting plane. The man who was helping us us told us to leave our cases at the foot of the steps and get on the plane. I thought, “We’ll never see these cases again,” but by that point I was past caring. We saw an open aircraft door, bounded up the steps, and entered to have the door closed immediately behind us.

“Tickets please.”

“Eh, we don’t have any.”

“No, sir, you cannot get on a plane without tickets.”

I babbled incoherently about what had happened over the last few hours, by which time the plane was taxiing. Thankfully it was 1991 not post 9/11, or else I might be in Guantanamo to this day; she eventually laughed and waved us away to find seats at the back of the plane.

We were at peace. We prayed and prayed and prayed, thanking God for deliverance, not knowing that one further obstacle remained.

One Last Obstacle
When we got to Nairobi, the British Airways desk for the London flight asked for our tickets. We explained how we had travelled from Mombassa without tickets. She was highly skeptical, saying “No one could get on that plane without a ticket.” I was going to tell her about the besuited angel, but instead persuaded her to phone the travel company who authorized the Kenya-London tickets again, and within an hour we were on the way to London.

Shona then remembered the pills that the Kenyan doctor had given to us. We weren’t entirely sure what they were but we remembered him saying something about “helping you to sleep.” So we popped a couple and the next thing I remember was waking up nine hours later over London, looking down at Big Ben and the River Thames. Never has a Scotsman been so glad to see England.

We phoned Shona’s parents who lived in the furthest away point of a distant Scottish island, and they persuaded us to spend the rest of our honeymoon with them. That’s right, I honeymooned for a week at my in-laws. Anyway, I figured things could only get better, and they did; much better. One thing’s for sure though, unlike most couples, our marriage has been far better than our honeymoon.

PS. Before the Kenyan Tourist Board sues me, I have heard of many people who enjoyed the best vacations ever in Kenya.