Uniting hearts, minds with the truth of God’s Word
Curtis McClain, Ph.D
November 4, 2003
As a young, Southern Baptist Seminarian in the late seventies, I encountered many challenges that threatened to side track my life and service from the Lord. One of the most fundamental, insidious, and deceptive was the idea of partial inspiration of Scripture.
That is, rather than the Bible being an inerrant word of God, which is wholly inspired by Him, and thus true in all its claims (as the Church has always claimed), it is inspired and thus true in matters of faith while being suspect with regards to factual claims. Modern man rejects the notion that God communicates truth statements to man that reveal absolute truth for all peoples and all times. Since this is what the Bible claims for itself, and since modern man rejects this notion, some voices in the Church proposed the compromise of partial inspiration.
Even from the early days of this proposal, Christian stalwarts warned against its dangers. In the Downgrade Controversy, Charles Haddon Spurgeon alerted the Baptist Union in England that partial revelation was an intrusion that threatened the very nature of Christianity. His alarm was threefold.
First, partial inspiration elevates human reason over divine revelation as the final arbiter of truth. Eventually the Church will lose the ability to hold to a doctrine just because Scripture teaches that doctrine.
Second, in spite of the claim that partial inspiration comes from an open, free inquiry of the facts, it actually comes from the hostility of unregenerate thinking. It has been demonstrated that the arguments against — and the answers for — the inerrancy of Scripture have been a part of Christian apologetics of every era of Church history as they gave pagans answers to their questions. However, in our day this apologetic has had to answer people who claim to be Christian and even Evangelical.
Third, people who love Jesus Christ love His Word. John Dagg shows in his theology that saving faith causes us to believe and to love the claims of Scripture. In 2 Thess. 2, Paul claims that those who are perishing perish because they do not love the truth. I appreciated one seminary professor who affirmed inerrancy because in the final analysis he believed that Jesus held that view and that, as a Christian, he must too.
The wake of the partial inspiration disease in the American Church has created two opposing accommodations to the modern culture. The accommodation to the left has surrendered the high ground of truth to modern philosophy with the results of riding the waves of every modern trend of thought. In order to be counted among the intellectual elite, they have lost any credibility of Christian witness as they proclaim a “different” gospel (as Galatians would reckon it).
The accommodation to the right has affirmed the reliability of Scripture while being only superficially aware of its mandates and requirements. They have surrendered the low ground of methodology to professionalism with only a passing attempt at Biblical verity. While they hold orthodox views in general, Biblical truths are not held deeply nor do they affect the right practice of the Church. They have popularized and excused self-righteous ignorance.
Well, does James claim that a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways? Is it not true for groups, societies and Churches as well? Whether it is theology or practice or laziness which causes us to use only part of the Scripture rather than rely on a deepening understanding of more and more of it, we can no longer avoid the charge that we have deserted “our first love” and indeed posses a divided heart.
There is no place in God’s Kingdom for arrogant elitism or for ignorant self-righteousness to remain because both are anti-intellectual. The biblically governed mind studying and appreciating God’s creation is the true intellectual. Christians need to take the lead in biblically submissive, intellectual development. We need to submit to four truths about the inerrant Word of God.
The Bible’s words are God’s words. To believe or disbelieve the Bible is to believe or disbelieve God. No lesser view can claim to hold to biblical authority.
Sin and unbelief cause men to reject God’s word, not its questionable relevance to modern man. The message of the Bible remains the saving solution to modern, cultural evils whether we like it or not.
While we can learn of the power and wisdom of God from observing the world around us, we could not know Him as we should and particularly His saving plan without his self-revelation found in the Bible. The Bible is necessary for men to find God.
The Bible is also sufficient for life and godliness. We can rely on it to form Christians into the image of Christ. The Spirit of God uses the word of God to change the people of God into the image of the Son of God according to the plan of God the Father.
It is these truths that must unite our hearts and minds as we witness in this post-Christian world. As David wrote in Psalm 86:11,
Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.
(Dr. Curtis McClain is professor of Bible and chairman, division of humanities at Missouri Baptist College in St. Louis.)