Back to Basics: The Master’s Seminary Journal on Scripture

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In the fall of 2004, the Master’s Seminary Journal featured a series of articles by staff at the Master’s Seminary on the how the Bible views itself. Each article is written by someone obviously well acquainted with their subject matter and always with a pastoral application in view. Topics addressed were:

  • Why Scripture is needed
  • Why Scripture is enough
  • Why Scripture is impeccable
  • Why Scripture is “a plain book”
  • Why Scripture is “the Word of God” itself

Each topic is summarized below, and the reader is invited to follow the links to read the articles in their entirety.  We offer the curious a quote by J.I. Packer found in one of the articles:

Our point here is simply that the Church must receive all teaching that proves to be biblical, whether on matters of historical or theological fact, as truly part of God’s Word. This shows the importance of insisting, that the inspiration of Scripture is verbal. Words signify and safeguard meaning; the wrong word distorts the intended sense. Since God inspired the biblical text in order to communicate His Word, it was necessary for him to ensure that the words written were such as did in fact convey it.

We do not stress the verbal character of inspiration from a superstitious regard for the original Hebrew and Greek words…; we do so from a reverent concern for the sense of Scripture. If the words were not wholly God’s, then their teaching would not be wholly God’s.[i]

Biblical Missiology is grateful to the Master’s Seminary for making such valuable resources for a proper understanding of the Scriptures available on-line.

 

William Barrick, “The Necessity of Scripture,” TMSJ15/2 (Fall 2004) 151-164

Abstract, p. 151:

“Scripture is necessary because God willed to provide it and because mankind’s condition required it. The image of God in man requires communication between God and human beings. God’s incomprehensibility is another reason for the necessity of Scripture. Natural revelation’s insufficiency to teach the nature of God makes Scripture indispensable. The complexity of divine truth would have eventually required a written revelation even for Adam had he remained in his unfallen state. The fall of man made comprehension of divine truth in an oral form impossible, because corrupt mankind is always prone to distort what is oral. God’s special revelation had to be in written form. The work of God also makes written Scripture a necessity, since Scripture is the means that God has chosen to do His work in human lives. Without Scripture much would be left undone. There can be no question that Scripture is necessary.”

Conclusion: pp. 163-164.

“Although God was absolutely free from natural necessity to provide written revelation to mankind, His very nature supplied a moral necessity for inscripturating His Word. Written revelation is in accord with God’s plan to create mankind in His own image. By divine design communication is a prime element in the personhoods of both God and mankind.

Human inability to understand God fully is related to the finitude of human beings even in their perfection at creation. The incomprehensibility of God also necessitates inscripturated revelation. God is knowable in part by natural revelation, but such knowledge is incomplete and insufficient for salvation.

The necessity of Scripture is also related to the complexity of divine truth.

Inscripturated revelation is necessary because of the inability of sinners to preserve oral tradition without corruption. Malfunctions of memory, observation, or reasoning can impact the integrity of divine revelation given into the care of fallen mankind.

A written revelation is in accord with God’s determination to work through His Word to accomplish the program of redemption.

Practically speaking, the foremost factor involved in the necessity of Scripture is the fallen condition of the Adamic race. The fall increased human inability to comprehend God fully and amplified the complexity of divine truth. Fallen mankind is incapable of preserving oral tradition without corruption. Inscripturated revelation provides the ultimate witness by means of its durability, catholicity, fixedness, and purity.

Inscripturated revelation serves as a testimony against those who disobey the revealed will of God and as a testimony on behalf of those who obey His Word. More than this testimony, however, the presence of written revelation in its public reading and exposition provides the foundation for knowing and living the will of God. Inscripturated revelation equips the believer for every good work (2 Tim 3:17). It is God’s design that Scripture be the instrument to advance people in their spiritual journeys, because obedience to God’s Word is the core principle in spiritual maturity (1 Cor 14:37; Rev 1:3).

God acts through His Word. Therefore, His Word needs to be heard, read, and understood. Without Scripture, humans are left without the means by which God has chosen to work. Thus, Scripture is necessary. Inscripturated revelation bears self-witness to the truth and trustworthiness of Scripture. A dependable record of divine truth provides assurance that a person is converted by the Word of God. Therefore, because of the way the sovereign God has chosen to reveal Himself and work out His plan, the Scriptures are necessary.

 

John MacArthur, “The Sufficiency of Scripture,” TMSJ 15/2 (Fall 2004) 165-174

Abstract, p. 165:

“God’s Word is sufficient to meet every need of the human soul as David verifies frequently in his psalms. Psalm 19:7-14 is the most comprehensive statement regarding the sufficiency of Scripture. It is an inspired statement about Scripture as a qualified guide for every situation. Scripture is comprehensive, containing everything necessary for one’s spiritual life. Scripture is surer than a human experience that one may look to in proving God’s power and presence. Scripture contains divine principles that are the best guide for character and conduct. Scripture is lucid rather than mystifying so that it enlightens the eyes. Scripture is void of any flaws and therefore lasts forever. Scripture is true regarding all things that matter, making it capable of producing comprehensive righteousness. Because it meets every need in life, Scripture is infinitely more precious than anything this world has to offer.”

 

Robert L. Thomas, “The Rationality, Meaningfulness, and precision of Scripture,” TMSJ 15/2 (Fall 2004) 175-207

Abstract, p. 175

“The purity of Scripture includes, among other things, a freedom from irrationality. Biblical logic is rational and is distinguishable from secular logic. Examples of evangelical abuses of biblical rationality include charismatic irrationality and apocalyptic irrationality. Secular reasoning would call biblical logic irrational because it allows no room for God’s plan and omnipotence. Scripture is connected with sin only when sinful man imposes his own opinions on the text instead of allowing the Bible to express its own meaning. Common practice among contemporary evangelicals imposes an interpreter’s pre-understanding on a text at the beginning of the interpretive process, thus depriving the text of its own meaning. Each text is meaningful in its own right and deserves to be heard through an objective hermeneutical approach. Scripture is reliable because of its precision, evidenced frequently throughout Scripture itself. Its precision requires an appropriately precise response from those who submit themselves to it (see 2 Tim 2:14-26). Unfortunately, recent evangelical scholarship has not acknowledged the Bible’s precision, which extends to the very words that Jesus spoke. Earlier evangelicals, however, did specifically support the verbal inspiration of Scripture.”

Conclusion, p. 207

The inerrancy of the Scriptures places heavy responsibilities on the shoulders of those who interpret them.

– They must interpret them rationally, making allowance for the difference between biblical logic and secular logic. To do otherwise would be to attribute irrationality to the Scripture.

– By aiming for a goal of eliminating all subjective input by the interpreter, they must interpret them objectively in recognition of die Scripture’s own meaningfulness. To do otherwise would be to view the Scripture as meaning-less.

– They must interpret them precisely, recognizing the overruling activity of the Holy Spirit in guarding them against even the slightest error. To do otherwise would be to attribute imprecision to the Scripture.

 

Larry D. Pettegrew, “The Perspicuity of Scripture,” TMSJ 15/2 (Fall 2004) 209-225

Abstract, p. 209.

“The perspicuity or clarity of Scripture in its relation to almost all areas of systematic theology is affected by postmodern hermeneutics that fail to respect the authority of Scripture. The doctrine raises a number of questions difficult to answer in a brief span, but two very basic issues are the meaning of the doctrine of perspicuity and the long-range historical context in which the doctrine has arisen. The basic doctrine means that the Bible can be understood by people through the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit and that people need to search the Scripture and judge for themselves what it means. Scripture itself attests its own perspicuity, but not to the point that it cannot be misunderstood or is in every point equally simple and clear. The doctrine does not rule out the need for interpretation, explanation, and exposition of the Bible by qualified leaders. The doctrine does mean that Scripture is clear enough for the simplest person, deep enough for highly qualified readers, clear in its essential matters, obscure in some places to people because of their sinfulness, understandable through ordinary means, understandable by an unsaved person on an external level, understandable in its significance by a saved person through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, and available to every believer whose faith must rest on the Scriptures. Historically, debates about perspicuity have related to Marcion ‘s attack on the OT, the fathers ‘ denial of OT perspicuity, covenant theology’s subordination of the OT to the NT, and the medieval church’s attack on biblical perspicuity. The Reformers, the Protestant scholastics, and the German Pietists supported the doctrine which is of primary importance for the practice of contemporary Christians.”

Conclusion, p. 225.

“The practical lessons from the doctrine of the perspicuity of Scripture are many. The first is surely thankfulness to the God of grace who clearly reveals in a book how to have one’s sins forgiven, how to have eternal life, and how to live a life pleasing to Him. This doctrine is also one of the important teachings of Scripture for which Jude instructed Christians to “earnestly contend for the faith” (Jude 3). Clarity of Scripture is denied by every false theology, usually putting a priesthood, a cult’s founder, an inner light, a critical methodology, or a postmodern hermeneutic, between the Scriptures and the Christian. Finally, pastors may need to be reminded never to give the impression to their people that they cannot understand the Bible without their sermons. On the contrary, pastors must help their people to learn to love to read and study God’s Word. The Bible is a precious book, able to make people wise unto salvation, profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness–and it is clear.”

 

Richard L. Mayhue, “The Authority of Scripture,” TMSJ 15/2 (Fall 2004) 227-236

Abstract, p. 227

“After a brief look at the general concept of “authority,” this essay continues with an introductory discussion concerning the authority of God. It is developed in terms of (I) the declarations of Scripture; (2) the displays in God’s names, nature, and prerogatives; and (3) Satan ‘s denial, then, God’s authority is discussed as it is invested in Scripture in the sense that the Bible is the voice of God and therefore speaks with His full authority. God’s authority in Scripture can thus be described as original, unalterable, exclusive, permanent, ultimate, obligatory, and consequential. Scripture is to be authoritatively preached and submissively obeyed since the Author of and the authority within will reward righteous obedience and condemn those who disregard and disobey His authority in Scripture.”

The Authority of Scripture in Practice, p. 234

“The outworking of God’s authority in Scripture can be summarized in a series of negative (what it is not) and positive (what it is) statements.

1. It is not a derived authority bestowed by humans; rather it is the original authority of God.

2. It does not change with the times, the culture, the nation, or the ethnic background; rather it is the unalterable authority of God.

3. It is not one authority among many possible spiritual authorities; rather it is the exclusive spiritual authority of God.

4. It is not an authority that can be successfully challenged or rightfully overthrown; rather, it is the permanent authority of God.

5. It is not a relativistic or subordinate authority; rather it is the ultimate authority of God.

6. It is not merely a suggestive authority; rather it is the obligatory authority of God.

7. It is not a benign authority in its outcomes; rather it is the consequential authority of God.”

 


[i] J. I. Packer, ‘Fundamentalism ‘ and the Word of God: Some Evangelical Principles (Grand

Rapids: Eerdmans, 1958) 89-90.

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