Defending God: Prolegomena
In recent times, I have seen and read teachings which are “subtle” attacks and denigration of the Bible and these actions are done MOST LIKELY, with a NOBLE intent to defend God’s nature as “ALL-LOVING and one in whom there is NO EVIL!” In NO way do I disagree with this assertion and I am NOT here to prove otherwise. However, there seems to be some disastrous misrepresentations of God flying around in a bid to MAKE God all-loving and one who does no evil. The purpose of this series is to respond to some of the outrageous claims made recently by Christians in defence of the God of the Bible.
To start with, there are frequent claims in the Bible that all the words of Scripture are God’s words (as well as words that were written down by men). Of course, this does not mean to say that every word in Scripture was audibly spoken by God himself, since the Bible records the words of hundreds of different people, such as King David and Peter and even Satan himself. Rather, it means that even the quotations of other people are God’s reports of what they said, and, rightly interpreted in their contexts, come to us with God’s authority.
Thus, there are three basic attributes of the Bible which are to be respected and maintained in our interpretation of the Bible texts. These attributes are:
(1) The Inspiration of the Bible;
(2) The Inerrancy of the Bible; and
(3) The Authority of the Bible.
Inspiration of the Bible
The Inspiration of the Bible means that the ENTIRE Bible, in its PARTS and as a WHOLE, as well as ALL ITS words, is a product of God’s breathing out His word whereby God is the ORIGIN and not man. The word “inspired” in 2 Timothy 3:16 which Paul used to refer to the Old Testament, is θεόπνευστος (theopneustos) which refers “God’s spirit/breath”. This is further echoed by Peter who said that NO Old Testament prophets spoke as they willed or as they desired or as they WANTED or EVEN as they UNDERSTOOD or VIEWED God. This means that ALL the “prophecies” seen in the Old Testament which were ascribed to God as His words were not from the THEOLOGY or WORLDVIEW or even INFLUENCED by the BACKGROUND of these prophets. Rather, these men SPOKE ἀπὸ θεου (apo theou; 2 Pet. 1:21). ἀπὸ θεου indicates the source and origin of these men’s speech. Peter asserted that the Old Testament prophets spoke as they were CARRIED ALONG by the Holy Spirit. The verb “carried along” is φερόμενοι which is in the passive mood and it implies that the Holy Spirit is the one who did the carrying or moving along while the prophets were the recipients of the action. In others words, the prophets did NOT take the initiative of “being in the Spirit” (a stark contrast of the cliché “let’s be in Spirit” common among Charismatics/Pentecostals).
Inerrancy of the Bible
The Inerrancy of the Bible simply means that the Bible tells the truth and it is totally FREE from error. Charles C. Ryrie in his article “Some Important Aspects of Biblical Innerancy”, published in Bibliotheca Sacra (January-March 1979), provided a syllogism for logically concluding the inerrancy of the Bible on page 17 by stating that: “God is true (Rom. 3:4); the Scriptures were breathed out by God (2 Tim. 3:16); therefore, the Scriptures are true (since they came from the breath of God who is true).” The inerrancy of Scripture thus means that Scripture in the original manuscripts does NOT affirm anything that is contrary to fact (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Bible Doctrine [Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1994]). The MAIN reason for my arguing the Inerrancy of the Bible is that IF THE BIBLE SAYS GOD SAYS or IF ANY TRUE PROPHET of Yahweh SAYS “Thus says the Lord” or any of its equivalent, THEN IT IS GOD who says it. A TRUE PROPHET of Yahweh does NOT lie AGAINST Yahweh or in Yahweh’s name!
Authority of the Bible
This leads us to the final attribute of the Bible which is its authority. The Authority of the Bible means that the Bible has the FINAL say on matters of doctrine and it is NOT subject to any other source of information for its validity! The Bible’s Final Authority is because it is a product of the very BREATHING-OUT of God and that is why we must approach the Old Testament which Paul describes as God’s BREATHING-OUT with caution.
God Has Spoken
God is often said to speak “through” the prophet (1 Kings 14:18; 16:12, 34; 2 Kings 9:36; 14:25; Jer. 37:2; Zech. 7:7, 12). Thus, what the prophet says in God’s name, God says (1 Kings 13:26 with v. 21; 1 Kings 21:19 with 2 Kings 9:25–26; Hag. 1:12; cf. 1 Sam. 15:3, 18). In these and other instances in the Old Testament, words that the prophets spoke can equally be referred to as words that God himself spoke. Thus, to disbelieve or disobey anything a prophet says is to disbelieve or disobey God himself (Deut. 18:19; 1 Sam. 10:8; 13:13–14; 15:3, 19, 23; 1 Kings 20:35, 36).
These verses of course do not claim that all the words in the Old Testament are God’s words, for these verses themselves are referring only to specific sections of spoken or written words in the Old Testament. But the cumulative force of these passages, including the hundreds of passages that begin “Thus says the Lord,” is to demonstrate that within the Old Testament we have written records of words that are said to be God’s own words. These words when written down constitute large sections of the Old Testament.
Many other New Testament passages speak in similar ways about sections of the Old Testament. In Matthew 1:22, Isaiah’s words in Isaiah 7:14 are cited as “what the Lord had spoken by the prophet.” In Matthew 4:4 Jesus says to the devil, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” In the context of Jesus’ repeated citations from Deuteronomy to answer every temptation, the words that proceed “from the mouth of God” are the written Scriptures of the Old Testament.
In Matthew 19:5, the words of the author in Genesis 2:24, not attributed to God in the Genesis narrative, are quoted by Jesus as words that God “said.” In Mark 7:9–13, the same Old Testament passage can be called interchangeably “the commandment of God,” or what “Moses said,” or “the word of God.” In Acts 1:16, the words of Psalms 69 and 109 are said to be words which “the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David.” Words of Scripture are thus said to be spoken by the Holy Spirit. In Acts 2:16–17, in quoting “what was spoken by the prophet Joel” in Joel 2:28–32, Peter inserts “God declares,” thus attributing to God words written by Joel, and claiming that God is presently saying them.
Many other passages could be cited (see Luke 1:70; 24:25; John 5:45–47; Acts 3:18, 21; 4:25; 13:47; 28:25; Rom. 1:2; 3:2; 9:17; 1 Cor. 9:8–10; Heb. 1:1–2, 6–7), but the pattern of attributing to God the words of Old Testament Scripture should be very clear. Moreover, in several places it is all of the words of the prophets or the words of the Old Testament Scriptures that are said to compel belief or to be from God (see Luke 24:25, 27, 44; Acts 3:18; 24:14; Rom. 15:4).
In the next post, I hope to speak on what it means when a TRUE prophet speaks in God’s name and why EVERYTHING he says after such prefaces as “Thus says the Lord” or “God says” and its many equivalents should NEVER be discarded by ANYONE for ANY REASON!
- Written by Anthony Opeyemi Ibn Fawole, who is a theologian and missionary.