Entry Level Theological Truth [22]


“Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” Genesis 3:1

In the mouth of a clever interlocutor questions can undermine and even destroy faith. Therefore, it is not accidental that the first Satanic attack on mankind focused on questioning God’s Word. The serpent was merely a pawn exploited by the devil for an insidiously evil incursion into Eden’s idyllic scene. By assailing God’s Word, the father of lies sought to erode confidence in the Almighty’s authority. Since it first succeeded, Satan has repeatedly employed this tactic to delude men and women and lead them to spiritual destruction.


The Long War Against The Bible


The second century heretic Marcion fell for this lie in rejecting the Old Testament and parts of the New Testament as being divinely inspired. Likewise, the Greek philosopher Celsus rejected the biblical record concerning Jesus of Nazareth’s deity and virgin birth. Centuries later, the Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza criticized the Bible in his book A Theologico-Political Treatise. Likewise, the Scottish man of letters David Hume attacked the Scriptures from his anti-supernaturalistic assumptions.

These piecemeal attempts to impugn the integrity of the Scriptures were eclipsed by the systematic reinterpretation of the Bible by the late eighteenth and nineteenth century German theologians. They began to apply historical and literary interpretive techniques to the books of the Bible, assuming that they were human works containing the word of God. As naturalism increasingly dominated nineteenth century thought, theology became increasingly biased against the miraculous. They tended to view many Bible stories as myths or highly idealized theological constructs, bearing little resemblance to reality. In other words, the Scriptures were more about literature and religious dogmatism than actual history.


Misidentifying Jesus


David Strauss attacked the Gospel accounts of Christ’s life, setting up the false dichotomy between the Jesus of history and the Jesus of faith. This in turn touched off the first quest for the so-called “Historical Jesus.” Modern groups like the Jesus Seminar of the 1980s-90s have carried on the work of deconstructing the New Testament writings, looking for a Jesus who is more palatable to modern sensibilities. In the field of Old Testament studies, Julius Wellhausen formulated the famous Documentary Hypothesis, believing that the first five books of the Bible were constructed by four different authors based on the different titles of God that they used and the different theological agendas that they advanced (abbreviated by J-E-D-P, for Jahwist, Elohimist, Deuteronomist, & Priestly sources.)

From the Universities of Tubingen and others, this new approach to biblical studies filtered out to continental Europe, the United Kingdom, and eventually to the United States. When this author was studying archaeology in Israel in the early 1990’s, he found that these concepts are still alive and well in academic circles. In the late 1990s through the present time, Bart Ehrman of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill has arisen as an energetic opponent of the evangelical faith in the authority of the Scriptures. His attacks are particularly dangerous given that he is a former evangelical and was educated in part at Moody Bible Institute and Wheaton College – each bastions of the historic faith in the inerrancy of the Bible. Many scholars reject these humanistic approaches to Scripture and have credibly answered them.1 Even non-Christians like Umberto Cassuto have criticized the unhistorical presuppositions of the Documentary Hypothesis and related theories.


A Rock Against Which The Hammers Of Skepticism Are Shattered


Despite the ongoing onslaught against it, the Bible stands unshaken. Given His perfect knowledge and wisdom, the Lord reveals Himself through His Word; accordingly, the Bible is its own best defender against the critics. Time and time again, the critics have had to revise their theories, yet the Scriptures remain authoritative and inerrant. No honest inquirer will go away from God’s Word unsatisfied. If they seek the truth it will be shown to them in the Word (John 8:31-32.) As the Lord Jesus said: “…My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me. If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority” (John 7:16-17.) For those who question merely to undermine the Bible’s credibility, however, they will be judged by the same source that they reject: the eternal Word of God (John 12:48.)


1See for example: F.F. Bruce, Are The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?; Gary Habermas, The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence For The Life Of Christ; K.A. Kitchen, On The Reliability Of The Old Testament; William Lane Craig & John Dominic Crossan, Will The Real Jesus Please Stand Up?; J.P. Moreland & Michael J. Wilkins, Jesus Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents The Historical Jesus. Also see my article here: http://goodwordsandworks.com/?p=72 ; Norman L. Geisler, “Bible Criticism” in Baker Handbook of Christian Apologetics.


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