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God Has Spoken

God has spoken.  Of all the things that the Christian believes, he must believe this.  The controversy, however, swarms around the question of how has God spoken.  Historically, God's people have believed on the Scriptures as God's primary means of speaking to them.  We are talking over 2,000 years of hearing and reading the Bible (keeping in mind that the earliest believers only had portions of the canon of Scripture, which was completed in the late first century A.D.)

From the beginning, Satan was a liar and the father of lies.  That is the first thing we learn of him in the Bible as we find him selling his elixir to Eve. When it comes to the reliability of the Bible, many professing Christians today have swallowed the ancient venomous brew of Satan.   As a part of a major, conservative, Baptist denomination, I have been surprised at how many individuals I have had to counsel on this subject.  I'm not talking about general questions or confusion.  I'm talking about people who say things like, "Writers in the New Testament were only giving their opinions when they were writing."

I have literally spent hours attempting to answer such objections to the simple statement, "The Bible is God's word to man and not simply man's word about God."  It is to the point that many local churches do not even examine a ministerial candidate's basic theology or view of the Bible.  This results in churches placing people in ministry positions that have no solid foundation of truth because the source of authority of these candidates is themselves.  Unfortunately, I know of more than one person who has served or is serving in important ministry positions who do not believe in the inspiration, infallibility, and inerrancy of the Bible.

Some are tempted to say at this point that people like me are splitting hairs or making a mountain out of a mole hill.  But nothing could be further from the truth.  Let me be very clear at this point: Believing God's word to be God's word is a matter of life and death.  Because this is such a serious matter, I want to share a few reasons, along with biblical citations, why I believe the Bible is a trustworthy collection of writings and why disbelieving it puts a person in danger of eternity in hell.

1.  The Bible contains self-claimed authority:The Bible itself claims to be authoritative truth from God.  So either the biblical writers are looney liars, or they really were recording God's truth.  In essence, God's credibility is at stake (2 Tim. 3:16).

2.  The Bible contains eyewitness testimony: From Moses to John (that is Old Testament to New Testament), the Bible is full of eyewitness testimony.  For example, the Gospel of John is written by a man that claims to have seen, heared, and handled Jesus, not to mention experienced the ministry of Jesus firsthand.  Can you imagine witnessing the dead being raised to life, the deaf given hearing, and the blind given sight?  Can you imagine seeing some 20,000 people fed with only five loaves and two fish?  Again, either John and the other biblical writers were looney liars, or they are giving us a subjectively objective account.  By subjectively objective, I mean that God allowed them to use their own personality, style, and perspective in writing, yet everything that is recorded is exactly what God purposed for them to write (Jn. 21:24-25; Acts 1:16; Heb. 1:1-2; 2 Pt. 1:20-21; 3:2).

3.  The Bible brings spiritual life: There is no spiritual life apart from hearing the truth contained in the Bible.  A person in the darkest jungle may have an awareness of God and His moral law, but that person cannot be right with God through this limited awareness.  The gospel of Jesus must be read and/or heard for salvation to come to a person whose spirit is dead to God but alive to sin (Ps. 119:130; Acts 26:15-18; Rom. 10:12-15; Eph. 4:17-19; 2 Tim. 3:15).

4.  Reading the Bible requires faith: The words recorded in the Bible are ludicrous to the unbeliever.  God's word is not meant to be purely logical, and there are innumerable paradoxes and stories that defy logic.  Yet, that is the very nature of God's truth.  God's truth only "makes sense" to those who have been given life by the Holy Spirit through the gospel of Jesus Christ.  God's word is meant to reveal who God really is and who we really are in relation to Him.  Believing that God is holy and pours out wrath on unrepentant, unbelieving sinners requires faith that we don't have.  Believing that we are sinners incapable of producing a righteousness that pleases God also requires a faith that we don't have (Deut. 29:29; Rom. 12:3; 14:23b; Php. 1;29; Heb. 3:12).

5.  Faith includes belief in God's providence: Providence is the teaching found in the Bible that describes God's will being worked out in every detail of the created order, from a flock of birds that fill the sky to a single bird feather that falls to rest on a blade of grass.  God works all things according to His good pleasure.  If God is so involved in the minutest detail, would He not ensure that the Bible is wholly inspired, infallible, and inerrant?  Yes!  He would and He has (Ps. 115:3; Matt. 10:29-31; Col. 1:17)!

There is no way in this article to answer all of the objections and mention all of the intricacies of the debate over the Bible.  But the things that have been noted are sufficient to make the point that the Bible is God's Word to man, and the only proper and saving response to His Word is belief.

For His Glory,
Jeremy Vanatta
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The Ephesians 4 Project: The Preamble and Article I.

The Preamble
From the very outset of the Baptist Faith & Message, 2000, we see that this is a document written for the express purpose of unifying Southern Baptists under core theological and methodological issues while leaving plenty of room for diversity.  In The Preamble of the BF & M, it is especially important to note the inclusion of the 1925 committee’s five-pronged disclaimer regarding “the historic Baptist conception of the nature and function of confessions of faith in religious and denominational life . . . . ,” which I will cite here:

(1)  That they constitute a consensus of opinion of some Baptist body, large or small, for the general instruction and guidance of our own people and others concerning those articles of the Christian faith which are most surely held among us. They are not intended to add anything to the simple conditions of salvation revealed in the New Testament, viz., repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord.

(2)  That we do not regard them as complete statements of our faith, having any quality of finality or infallibility. As in the past so in the future, Baptists should hold themselves free to revise their statements of faith as may seem to them wise and expedient at any time.

(3)  That any group of Baptists, large or small, have the inherent right to draw up for themselves and publish to the world a confession of their faith whenever they may think it advisable to do so.

(4)  That the sole authority for faith and practice among Baptists is the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Confessions are only guides in interpretation, having no authority over the conscience.

(5) That they are statements of religious convictions, drawn from the Scriptures, and are not to be used to hamper freedom of thought or investigation in other realms of life.

Unifying Principles from The Preamble
The primary unifying principle found in The Preamble is the fact that the BF & M stands as a “consensus of opinion” document for the purpose of unity rather than uniformity.  Since the purpose of the BF & M is to “constitute a consensus of opinion” that should not be regarded as containing “complete statements of our faith,” we can confidently affirm that every church that is conscientiously able to sign the BF & M easily fits underneath the SBC umbrella.

Further, since the BF & M permits “any group of Baptists . . . to draw up for themselves” their own confession of faith, we can confidently affirm again that every church that is conscientiously able to sign the BF & M easily fits within the SBC.

Finally, since the BF & M asserts “that the sole authority for faith and practice among Baptists is the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments” and that documents such as the BF & M should “not be used to hamper freedom of thought or investigation in other realms of life,” we can confidently affirm once again that every church that is conscientiously able to sign the BF & M easily fits within the fellowship of the SBC.

Article I: The Scriptures
The BF & M states the SBC’s affirmation of Scripture succinctly: The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God's revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation.

Unifying Principles from Article I
In today’s SBC, there does not appear to be any significant controversy over the nature of Scripture, quite unlike the situation in the convention from the 1960s-1990s.  It seems that we are completely unified around the belief that the Bible is completely inspired, inerrant, and infallible, and that it is our final authority as a denomination and as autonomous local churches.

No matter our varying theological stripes, the gospel message should be proclaimed the same among those that can conscientiously sign the BF & M and agree that the Word of God is the Word of God.

For His Glory,
Jeremy Vanatta
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Recent Comments
Guest — Ben Simpson
Doctor, it seems to me that you have struck a goldmine here with the preamble. To be honest, I've never read these disclaimers be... Read More
Thursday, 19 May 2011 16:58
Guest — jeremyvanatta
Ben, I agree with your comments. I believe the preamble is forgotten about far too often. I've noticed on some of the more aggre... Read More
Friday, 20 May 2011 00:27
Guest — Ben Simpson
As for the article on Scripture, how do we account for Southern Baptists agreeing on the source of our authority for our faith and... Read More
Thursday, 19 May 2011 17:02
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