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Confidence in the Bible

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
May 22, 2024 12:01 am

Confidence in the Bible

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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May 22, 2024 12:01 am

Throughout church history, many voices have challenged the authority and sufficiency of Scripture. Today, Stephen Nichols exhorts us to trust the unchanging Word of God that endures through the ages.

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Stephen Nichols is president of Reformation Bible College, chief academic officer for Ligonier Ministries, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is host of the podcasts 5 Minutes in Church History and Open Book. He has written more than twenty books, including Peace, A Time for Confidence, and R.C. Sproul: A Life and volumes in the Guided Tour series on Jonathan Edwards, Martin Luther, and J. Gresham Machen. He is coeditor of The Legacy of Luther and general editor of the Church History Study Bible.

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Nathan W. Bingham is vice president of ministry engagement for Ligonier Ministries, executive producer and host of Renewing Your Mind, host of the Ask Ligonier podcast, and a graduate of Presbyterian Theological College in Melbourne, Australia. Nathan joined Ligonier in 2012 and lives in Central Florida with his wife and four children.

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It's one thing to affirm inerrancy. It's another thing to believe that the Bible is sufficient for all of life and godliness, and it's another thing to practice that. And so here's my concern. We begin to entertain the questions.

Maybe it's not so sufficient anymore. As Christians, we must stand firm. As the Scriptures are attacked by scientists and academics, as sociologists and other ideologies seek to undermine the opening chapters of Genesis, we need to be reminded that Scripture is sufficient, even for the challenges of our day. You're listening to the Wednesday edition of Renewing Your Mind, and today we conclude three days in Stephen Nichols' six-part series, A Time for Confidence. As we seek to stand firm as objections, cancellations, and even persecutions threaten Christians, we all need to be reminded where to place our hope, our trust, our confidence. And that's why Dr. Nichols recorded this series and wrote the companion book, Consider Taking the Time to Work Through the Messages, and read this timely book when you give a gift of any amount at

Remember that this offer ends at midnight. So here's Dr. Nichols to remind us that we all should have confidence in the Bible. In this session, we're going to talk about putting our confidence in God's Word. If we go back to some of those things we were talking about in our first session together, those moments that are causing this time of change, the systemic rapid change that we're seeing around us, if we go back to this cultural confusion, we can see some interesting parallels between a debate that's happening right now and a debate that happened back in that period from the 1880s to the 1910s.

In fact, one of the things we probably should be saying is that in these times of cultural change, cultural confusion, there truly is nothing new under the sun. We saw it in Old Testament times and Jeremiah chapter 9. We see it in the first century as the churches being born and coming of age there in the Greco-Roman culture. We saw it in the 400s with Jerome and Augustine, and so we see it through the centuries. It was said one time, history does not repeat itself, it echoes.

But the interesting thing about echoes is that as an echo moves along, it does take on the contours of that new environment in which that echo is coming. So that is a very apt metaphor for understanding how we are sort of like these historical moments, but also there is a newness to the arguments that we're facing. And so, if we go back to the 1880s to the 1920s, we will find ourselves embroiled in what came to be called the fundamentalist modernist controversy. This fundamentalist modernist controversy really focused on scripture and it was an attack on the Bible, and that attack largely came through the sciences. Of course, it was in the 1860s that we have Darwin and a new theory of origins that reads very differently than the account of origins in the opening chapters of Genesis. It was a while before Darwinian ideas washed ashore in American culture, and it was a while before those ideas took root in American culture, but we see that coming to a head in 1925 at the so-called Scopes-Monkey Trial. This, of course, was the state of Tennessee versus Scopes, and Scopes was a junior high science teacher who used a textbook that was referencing evolution and speaking of evolution. And this was explicitly against state law, and so it went to court and it became the trial of the century. Actually, there were a lot of those in the 20th century. There were multiple trials of the century in the 20th century, and one of them was the Scopes-Monkey Trial of 1925.

All eyes of the country were on Dayton, Tennessee, in the Scopes-Monkey Trial. At issue was this question. Are we going to listen to a book? Are we going to listen to a book? Now, catch this. Are we going to listen to a book that's 2,000 to 5,000 years old, or are we going to pay attention to modern science? That was the issue.

It was really that simple. There was another front where we see this coming, and this is in the scientific field of textual criticism. Now, instead of going to England and Darwin and the Beagle and his discoveries on the Beagle, now we're going to go to Germany and the field of higher criticism. In the 1910s, Billy Sunday, the fiery evangelist who was a ball player and was a pro ball player, he had a record for the most stolen bases.

Now, I'm not sure how, as a Christian, you reconcile stealing bases, but anyway. This is Billy Sunday, and in the 1910s, while he's holding evangelistic crusades, and he was known for his acrobatic preaching. In fact, in some moments, Sunday could even leap from the platform to the top of the pulpit, and he would get right up on the edge of the platform, and he would put one leg up, and he had this as his telltale sign. But Sunday, thundering away, would say, turn hell upside down. And you know what's stamped on the bottom?

Made in Germany. Now, it was World War I, and the world was at war with Germany, but that's not what Sunday meant. What Sunday meant was higher criticism. These German scholars, who applied the tools of their trade as scientists of texts, applied methods to these historical texts to determine what is authentic history and what are later editions, and what are true factual historical accounts, and what are later editions by the faith community. And it began this path of the quest for the historical Jesus. There are two Jesus's in Scripture. The Jesus of faith, who is the embellished Jesus, the Jesus of these faith communities that comes much later after the historical Jesus, and then there is the kernel of truth, the historical Jesus. And that quest for the historical Jesus began back in the 1800s and ran all the way through the 20th century.

In fact, you could pull that thread all the way through our current time with the Jesus Seminar, with the books by Bart Ehrman, very popular writer, very well-known academic at Duke, who argues that there is a distinction between the historical Jesus and the Jesus of faith, and if you apply—do you hear this? This is how scientists do their work—if you apply the right methodology to the specimen, the text, you will arrive at the truth. And so, we put our trust in our scientific method. What's going on in the fundamentalist, modernist controversy is the question of modernism. And that question is this. Will we submit to an ancient text? Or does an ancient text submit to us? Because—now, hear the hubris in this—we now know better.

That's what you have to say. You have to say, we can set aside Genesis 1-3 as an historical account because we know better. We can set aside the four gospels as authentic history because we now know better. That was what was at stake in the fundamentalist, modernist controversy.

It was truly a battle for the Bible. Now, let's fast-forward to our moment. So, if we go to the zeros and the 2010s, the issue in our moment seems to be not so much the hard sciences, because in many ways that area is just assumed to be one, culturally. The area in our day where the attack seems to be coming is from the social sciences.

In the academy, sometimes they're referred to as the soft sciences, as opposed to the hard sciences. But it's in the social sciences that now the challenge is coming at us, and coming at Scripture. So, the issues are what? The issues are human identity, and what it means to be a human being created in the image of God. The issues are gender identity, and there is a discussion today of this term of gender confusion.

And so, we read in the opening chapters of Genesis that God created male and female. And then there is also a challenge in marriage and a redefinition of marriage. And so, we have in that, as mentioned back in that first session, the Supreme Court decision in the summer of 2015 of legalizing marriage. And so, we have in the summer of 2015 of legalizing same-sex marriage in the United States. And so, we read in the opening chapters of Genesis that marriage is between male and female. So what we have here is not simply an account of human origins that is challenged in terms of here's a scientific alternative to understand human origins. What we're finding here is here is an alternative to these opening foundational chapters of Genesis that tell us what human identity is, created in the image of God, that gender identity is not a social construct, but is in fact an inherent thing, because God made male and female, and that there is a definition of marriage, and it simply is not changed or legislated into existence. And that definition of marriage is as it is in the opening chapters. So we are at the exact, precise point that the fundamentalist, modernist controversy was at, but the argument has a little bit of a different tone to it. The echo has picked up the trappings of our age. And so now the question is a very acute one.

Are we going to listen to the findings of social science, and are we going to be current and aware and paying attention to what, hear me out here, what we now know to be true? This is what's being said. This is now what we know to be true. And so this no longer applies.

Now, here's where this gets interesting. This is that cultural pressure that some feel very acutely, and so then what do we begin to see? We see Christian leader after Christian leader.

In fact, we even see whole denominations that say, we now think differently about marriage, and we now think differently about gender. And in order to say that, you have to say, this no longer applies. That's where we find ourselves. So we need to speak to that.

We need to say, this is what Genesis 1 to 3 says about the foundational order of things. This is natural law as sometimes it has come down to us. And we need to speak for that in the public square. We need to say, civil society is predicated on these foundational truths of human identity, and we have something at stake in speaking to that. And I think we need to speak at it well. I think we need to speak at it persuasively. I think we need to speak at it not meanly or from a posture of self-righteousness, but nevertheless we need to draw a line in the sand and say, we hold these truths.

How easy is it to be subtly impacted by these cultural shifts? How easy is it for us to begin to ask, is the Bible really relevant to life in the twenty-first century? You know, when we think about the doctrines of Scripture, sometimes theologians will talk in terms of the attributes of Scripture. The doctrines of Scripture are the attributes of Scripture. Just like we have attributes of God, they're the attributes of Scripture. And of course the first and foremost attribute is the authority of Scripture. Scripture is authoritative. The Reformation figure, Peter Martyr Vermigli, said it all comes down to two Latin words, dominus dixit, which gets translated in English as, thus says the Lord. If Scripture is the Word of God, it's authoritative. Full stop. Period.

No longer do we need to discuss this. As we develop the doctrine of the authority of Scripture, we see that we are talking about inerrancy and infallibility. And of course they stem from the doctrine of inspiration.

It's a very simple formula. Scripture is the Word of God. That's the doctrine of inspiration. It is verbally plenary inspiration. Verbal means the very words of Scripture are inspired.

Plenary means all of it, not just matters of faith, but also matters of history, also matters of Genesis 1-3. It is the Word of God. If it is the Word of God, verbal, plenary, inspiration, therefore it is true.

Inerrancy and infallibility. So that's the doctrine of authority. Because it's authoritative, we'll speak of Scripture as necessary. So we have the necessity of Scripture, the authority of Scripture, the necessity of Scripture. We also have the attribute of the clarity of Scripture. It is clear. In its fundamental message, it is clear.

It's understandable. You don't need a decoder ring or some secret tablets to figure this out. Anyone with a modicum of intelligence can read the Bible and understand what it says. But there's another one, and this attribute is the sufficiency of Scripture, the sufficiency of Scripture.

In fact, this is where the rubber meets the road. It's one thing to affirm inerrancy. It's another thing to believe that the Bible is sufficient for all of life and godliness, and it's another thing to practice that. And so here's my concern. My concern is not just simply that the church sort of shore itself up, right? Get its confidence in God's Word so that we can speak to these challenges in the public square. We need to do that, and there are people who are doing that, and they're doing it very well, and we ourselves need to do that in our families and in our neighborhoods and in the societies in which we live and work. But here's my concern, that as Scripture is eroded, that subtly causes us to look away from it. We begin to entertain the questions. Maybe it's not so sufficient anymore. My life is so complex. The problems we are dealing with in the 21st century are so complex that we need to look elsewhere. Well, let's speak to that.

Let's speak to that. I want you to look at 1 Thessalonians chapter 2 verse 13. I find this to be really one of the most succinct statements on the doctrine of Scripture by the Apostle Paul. Paul loved the Thessalonian church. He had some issues with some of those churches that he planted. Of course, the church at Corinth comes to mind, but when you read his epistles to the Thessalonians, you get such a sense of the genuine love and the mutual love that Paul had for the church at Thessalonica and that church had for Paul. He speaks of them as a father with his children, just ahead of verse 13. He gave his very life to the believers there and the establishment of the church. When he remembers his time there, it's just fond memories. And then he says this at 1 Thessalonians 2, 13, we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the Word of God, which you heard from us.

Now, let's just pause right there. This is what Paul did. He proclaimed the Word of God. This was his job, and I'm going to make a case it's the job for all of us to proclaim the Word of God. It's not just the apostles. It's not just the pastors.

All of us have the same job. We have vocations, and we have things we do, but our main job is to proclaim the Word of God. So Paul says, when you heard the Word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it, not as the word of men. In the first century, there were a lot of words of men. The Greco-Roman world was rife with philosophers peddling their philosophies, and they would blow into town, and they had oratorical skill, and they would set up on the porch in the public square, and they would just wow the crowd with a new idea or some new application of some idea. There were lots of words of men in the first century, and there are lots of words of men in the 21st century, and that's not what this is.

Do you remember what Peter says? We did not follow cleverly devised myths. The Greek classics are fun to read. The Greek mythological texts are well constructed.

They are cleverly devised, and they're myths, and they're human constructs, and they're human origin. Peter says this word came from above. When you heard the Word, you accepted it for what it is, Paul says, not the words of men, but as what it really is. So now we're going to get to find what the Word is that he preached. It is the Word of God.

Peter Martyr Vermeagley was right. Thus says the Lord is where we start with our doctrine of Scripture. This is the Word of God. But then notice this, which is at work in you believers. And that's the phrase I want you to latch onto, that this is God's Word, and so we can put our confidence in it because it is God's Word to us.

This is not a human construct up. This is not some philosophy that's going to pass. This abides through the ages. But here's why we can put our confidence in God's Word. It accomplishes. It accomplishes.

It accomplishes what it sets out to do, and it's at work. These Thessalonians, what were they? Some of them were followers of Judaism, and they hadn't come to grips with the notion that the Messiah had come, and the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises was there, and the Savior, who was born in the city of David. Thessalonica was full of adherents of the Greek religions.

It was full of followers of Greek philosophy, and none of that was powerful enough to change their lives. It was one thing that had the power that was at work in them, and it was the Word of God. And not only did it have the power to convert, but it remains at work. When I think of this at work in you, I think of the idea of formation. In an early discussion of education, one of the key words was formation. You know, it's not just knowledge dump, right?

It's not just sciencia. Education is not just about knowledge. It was about knowledge that led to skillful living, wisdom. And in the process of that, the pupil was formed, was shaped. Think of a carpenter who has that piece of wood and shapes it and takes out the tools and the planer and the sander and works that piece of wood, forms it to be the desired object.

Think of a river that carves its way through and forms in the rock bed its course. This is what the Word of God is, and sometimes it hurts being formed. You know, you take that planer, oh, and it doesn't really feel all that comfortable. Luther says the Word of God assaults us, but he also said it comforts us. But here's the thing.

It works. It's at work in us, and so we can be confident. There's a lot of voices out there. There's a lot of voices that challenge us. There's a lot of voices that tell us, you're going to be better off if you go in this direction. This is where our confidence must be because it's God's Word, and it is at work in us. You're listening to Renewing Your Mind, and that was Stephen Nichols from his series, A Time for Confidence.

That's a message we need to hear today. If you'd like to never miss an episode of Renewing Your Mind, simply enter your email address at slash email, and we'll send you a reminder every morning. We are called to trust God, even as we live the Christian life in a post-Christian society, and this series and the book, also titled A Time for Confidence, can encourage each of us on our pilgrimage. For the final day, you can request the DVD and book, along with digital access to the messages and study guide, when you give a gift of any amount by calling 800 435 4343, visiting, or clicking the link in the podcast show notes. Your generosity fuels the spread of trusted teaching through the global outreach of Ligonier Ministries, and is serving millions of Christians every month. So give your gift at, and we'll send you this resource bundle as our way of saying thank you. We were reminded today to have confidence in God's Word, but what do we do when we come to a hard saying, hard to understand, or maybe hard to accept? That'll be tomorrow with RC Sproul here on Renewing Your Mind. .
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-05-22 03:13:39 / 2024-05-22 03:22:20 / 9

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