Introduction: Welcome to Calvary Albuquerque. We pursue the God who is passionately pursuing a lost world; we do this with one another, through worship, by the Word, to the world.
Dr. John Warwick Montgomery: Why is the issue of biblical inerrancy of biblical revelation of a reliable word from God so important? We will show you this, first of all, in cartoon form. This is one of the classic Far Side cartoons. Why, why did the cartoonist retire? He was vital to modern civilization. In the first panel you see God phoning: "Hello? Hello? This is God! Who's this?" "Uh, this is Ernie Miller, sir." "Ernie who?" "Is this 555-1728?" "No, sir. This is 555-1782." "Sorry." Wrong number, right, wrong number? "And for the rest of his life Ernie told his friends that he had talked with God," [laughter] which, of course, he had. The problem is that he received absolutely no information through this contact, none whatever.
It is not enough simply to believe in God. This Scripture tells us that "the devils also believe, and tremble." The Greek philosopher Aristotle said God is the apex of all human thought. He is superior to everything and, therefore, he is not even aware of the creation. If he were aware of it, it would depress him, because it isn't on his level. So God is there in eternity and all he's doing is thinking about himself, because that is the highest good. Now, that's very interesting. And there are people in the Intelligent Design movement who think that all you've got to do is to maintain that there is a God, a source, an intelligent source for the universe, and the basis of the organized nature of our word world and the stuff in it.
Trouble with all of this is that unless we receive some message from God---some word from God that indicates to us what life really means, what's expected of us, if we were out of relationship with God, how we get back into it---unless we have something like this, merely believing in God is really of little consequence. It's not enough to receive a phone call and it's the wrong number. What we need is to have a God who loves us enough that he has provided us with, as it were, a constitution for our lives and a message of what he expects of us. That's why it is so important to know if there is such a revelation, and if there are claims to such revelations, whether those claims can be sustained. Let me say something about the decline of biblical authority in Western life.
If you go back to the time of the Reformation, for example, or back into the Middle Ages, you find that all Christian believers held that the Bible is the very Word of God, it is correct from stem to stern, from front to back, everything in it is God's own message to us. Indeed, Augustine the great fifth-century church father said this explicitly. And at the time of the Reformation, Luther and Calvin said this explicitly. The idea was that if there were revelation at all, it would need to be a reliable revelation and a clear word so that we could base our lives and the plan of salvation upon it. By the time of the Italian Renaissance a critical approach to literature entered into the picture. A gentleman by the name of Lorenzo Valla criticized various alleged papal documents.
One of these, the so-called Donation of Constantine was supposed to have been done by the pope in relation to the Emperor Constantine. And the Emperor Constantine gave over the temporal authority in Christendom to the papacy. This document Lorenzo Valla proved to be a forgery, and it was a forgery which was created in the papal chancery itself, which was rather an unhappy conclusion for those who were very strongly allied to the Roman church. Lorenzo Valla did not apply those kinds of critical operations to the Bible, but later on attempts were made to unsettle the idea that the Bible was entirely reliable. And here we moved to the eighteenth century.
People like Thomas Paine in his book The Age of Reason, the second half of The Age Of Reason consists simply of examples of biblical errors and contradictions according to Thomas Paine. And in France there were the Encyclopedists and in England the Deists. In the nineteenth century the situation became even less attractive because the Darwinian theory, evolutionary theory moved into place toward the middle of the century and it attempted to argue that you don't need a God at all, much less a Scripture. The eighteenth-century Deists had said, "We're going to substitute the book of nature for the book of Scripture." But by the nineteenth century, as people looked at nature, it didn't seem to point to God any longer; it seemed to simply to be a natural operation, natural selection, and the like.
And so a type of criticism of the Bible appeared. This is called "higher criticism" or "documentary criticism." And what it did was to say that the Bible may look like it is the work of the authors whose names are associated with it, but really the Bible is the product of strands of material that had been brought together, and rather clumsily, by later editors. And what you have there a not a book that can be relied upon for its historical data or for the facts that it sets forth, it is instead a kind of poetic religious affair. Yes, and that approach to the Old Testament in the nineteenth century moved to the New Testament in the twentieth century.
And so we had especially German scholars who said the four gospels really don't give us anything that we can rely upon concerning Jesus Christ, what you have there are simply the results of belief that existed in the early church. Different churches had different thoughts about Jesus and these were pasted together one way or another to result in the Gospels as we have them today. There was an attempt, for example, to produce a Bible that would have different colored words in it to represent the different strands of material that allegedly were able to be pasted together. And this Bible was never, never produced. Why? Because the liberal scholars who did this kind of thing couldn't agree among themselves where one of these strands began and another left off, so the thing was never actually published.
And the current Jesus Seminar, this group of liberal scholars who still continue this kind of thing have realized that there's going to be disagreements, so what they do is to use colored balls and they vote. They vote at their meetings as to what stuff in the New Testament is definitely Jesus---not very much---what stuff is probably from Jesus, what stuff is likely not to be from Jesus, and stuff that certainly isn't. So the idea here is to get a subscription, because you're going to need to know on a monthly basis, you know, what material in the New Testament is reliable and what material isn't. This has allowed the view of Scripture to descend very largely to a matter of subjective opinion. What's happened here?
In one of my books, The Law Above The Law, I argue that it isn't accidental that we have arrived at the point we have in our Western ideology. I use these three phrases: the Bible died in the eighteenth century in the sense that nature, the book of nature was substituted for the book of Scripture. So instead of people going to the Bible to find out what God wanted, they thought that they could find this by looking at nature in general. All right? Then in the nineteenth century, for goodness' sake, nature no longer pointed to God, because of evolutionary theory. So in the nineteenth century God died, and indeed at the end of the nineteenth century Friedrich Nietzsche coined that phrase "God is dead." There were some humorists at that time who opposed two letters.
The first letter, this is a letter that reads: "God is dead," signed, "Nietzsche." But then twenty years later there's a second letter: "Nietzsche is dead," signed, "God." [laughter] Yes, yes, yeah. But in terms of ideas, in the nineteenth century God went the same way as the Bible went in the eighteenth century. And in the twentieth century, what was the result? Twentieth century is the century where human beings have slaughtered more of their fellow human beings than the sum total of centuries preceding. The twentieth century with its two world wars with the hideous atrocities that took place is probably the bloodiest in human annuls and the century with the most human rights violations. Why is that? Well, it's perfectly simple: if there's no longer a God, you no longer have any absolute principles.
There isn't any morality left at all. You can then do whatever you can get away with. Might makes right. So, if the best evidence of God comes from Holy Scripture, because he entered history in Jesus Christ, if that's the case, it's inevitable that if you lose your confidence in Scripture, that's going to reduce your belief in God and the basis for your belief in God, and that in turn is going to destroy human value. It's not accidental at all. Maintaining confidence in Holy Scripture is vital because without that you're going to have a regression of this kind almost inevitably. A sociologist by the name of Jeffrey Hadden did a survey some years ago of the belief of Protestant clergy in the reliability of the Bible. And he did this across denominations. And the result of this survey is very interesting.
There were only two denominations that maintained officially and consistently the inerrancy of Scripture in the United States, only two. They were the Lutheran Church---Missouri Synod, and the Southern Baptist Church. Okay? But the survey dealt with clergy of virtually all major American denominations. And the survey showed that in the denominations, across the board, the younger the clergymen, the less likely he would believe in the inerrancy of Scripture; the older the clergyman, the more likely he would hold to the full authority of Scripture. Now, why were those the results? Well, the reason, of course, is that the theological seminaries of the various churches have gone down the drain, and it's there that the younger clergy are trained.
The lesson that comes out of this is that it is absolutely essential to have solid theological training for clergy. If you don't have that, your clergy are going to end up in the condition that the Hadden survey indicates. All right, I realize that that is dull and historical, but I thought it couldn't hurt you if I presented it. [laughter] We're going to begin our case for the authority of Scripture with a statistical argument. Now this doesn't show the inerrancy of Scripture, but what it does do is to get your attention. If the Bible satisfies the criteria that we're going to see it does, then it is a unique book, there's no other book like it, and it therefore behooves us to examine even more closely how accurate and reliable it is in all respects. This is a statistical argument, and there it is.
And every one of you will enjoy reading that, I know. [laughter] Yes, particularly those of you who have a good ophthalmologist. Yes, yes, yes. This argument, this argument is based upon the use of the product rule. The product rule is a standard statistical rule. The product rule tells us what the likelihood is that a number of events, independent events, will occur in exactly the same manner as a single event. What you do here is to establish arbitrarily the probability of one single event coming out. And once you've done this, you can then on the basis of this formula determine the probabilities if a considerable number of similar events, but independent events, also come out that way. The formula is as you see from this: one over x and x represents---the one over x represents the probability of one event.
So, let's say the chances of a given event is 50-50. That's one over two. Or suppose the probability of an event occurring is 1/4, is 25 percent. That's 1/4. Now, you raise the denominator to the number of similar but independent events in order to determine what the likelihood of those events coming about. Why do I go into all of this? Because the Scripture contains innumerable prophecies of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament, and many of these prophecies are fulfilled specially in the New Testament. So, let's take the probability of any one of these prophecies coming about by mere chance. Let's arbitrarily make that 50-50, one over two, right? But then if we take 25 prophecies in the Old Testament, and that's a conservative number, we would raise the denominator, the 2 (one over two), we raise the denominator 25 times.
We multiply 2 by itself 25 times and what do we get? The chances against 25 prophecies coming true, if only one of them is at 50-50, the chances against this happening would be---ha-ha---one in 33 million, one in 33 million. But, of course, the chances of any one prophecy coming out is---in the life of Christ, would hardly be 50-50, h'm. How about this one? "Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son." Now you can check at the hospitals locally, [laughter] the probability of this occurring is considerably below 50-50. All right? So let's take the probability of any one of these events as 25 percent, that's one over four, then you're raising the four 25 times, 4 multiplied by itself 25 times. Now at this point you can either use an adding machine or you can find a small Chinese with an abacus and you can work this out.
And you need to trust me---under those circumstances the probabilities would be one in a thousand trillion against this coming out by chance, one in a thousand trillion. The mathematician who first worked this out in relation to the prophecies said this concerning the whole business: "Since there are many more than 25 prophecies of events surrounding the birth and life of Christ, and a compromised chance of success is undoubtedly less than 1 to 4, then the chance of success, if these prophecies were all mere guesses, would be so infinitesimal that no one could maintain that these prophecies were mere guesses! The alternative must be true---these prophecies were all foreseen events, in which 'holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.' The prophecies were given by revelation---divinely inspired."
Now, if this is a sound argument, and it surely is, because the prophecies are independent. The prophecies come from all the books, a vast number of books of the Old Testament. They aren't related to each other by any kind of logical connection. If they're independent, then this argument is sound. The only way you could get around it would be by saying that the prophecies were actually written after the fulfillments, which, of course, is impossible, because we know that the Old Testament existed before the New Testament. Yes, we know that. The only other way of getting out of this would be to say, "Well, Jesus or the apostles conformed his life to fit the prophecies, to make it appear that these were fulfillments, but this was actually arranged."
Why doesn't that work? It doesn't work, as we pointed out last night, because of the hostile witnesses to the life of Christ who were alive when these gospel materials were circulated. Those Jewish religious leaders would never have allowed the writers of the New Testament to get away with false statements about fulfilled prophecy. They knew the Old Testament. That was their field. And they had the means, the motive, and the opportunity, to use the lawyer's expression, the blow the whistle on this stuff if it were not accurate. So, the only ways that you could get around this will fail, and that leaves you with a very interesting book. It's a book which the Old Testament part of it throughout points to a single figure, Jesus Christ, who literally fulfills those prophecies.
Now this doesn't demonstrate the inerrancy of every word of the Old Testament, but it certainly suggests that we're dealing with a very, very special kind of book. All right, now let's get to the case for inerrancy. Here's the crux argument---and those of you who were here Monday night and Tuesday night will see that everything but the last point here we've already dealt with. We already covered that. And for those poor souls who were not here on either Monday or Tuesday, you shouldn't have any difficulty in seeing how the argument works. We're not going to go into the details of the first points, but you can easily fill on your own by reading or you might even listen to a recording, I suppose, of what occurred on Monday and Tuesday night.
If the New Testament documents are reliable, and they are, reliable as ordinary history documents, and if Jesus claims to be God Almighty in these documents, which he surely does, and if the testimonies presented about all of this are sound, if these testimonies are sound, if the witnesses are sound, and, finally, Jesus rises again from the dead to demonstrate that he is exactly the person he claims to be, what you have then is the presence of God Almighty here on earth. That's what you have, and it follows then that anything he were to say on any subject would need to be accepted. Why? Well, if he's God Almighty, he's forgotten more about anything than you'll ever know, all right? [laughter] So you are not in a position to question what he has to say. He will be the final authority on anything where he pronounces.
Now, he did not pronounce on a lot of things, for example, refrigerator repair. [laughter] I don't know if you've notice this, but there doesn't seem to be anything in the teaching of our Lord concerning refrigerator repair. And this, by the way, is the reason why we have so much trouble with our refrigerators. But he did have a great deal to say about the authority of the Bible. He had a great deal to say about the Old Testament, and as we'll see, proleptically he had equivalent things to say about the New Testament. If Jesus, God Almighty tells us that the Bible is completely reliable, that settles the question right there. It means that if problems arise, difficulties, alleged contradictions, errors, or anything like that, there has got to be a way of resolving them.
They can never be absolute apodictic errors, there's got to be some way to resolve them, because God Almighty knows more about this subject than you do or I do. Let's see what he had to say about the Old Testament first, and then let us see what he had to say about the New Testament, which wasn't yet in existence. I hope you appreciate the artistry of this. [laughter] Yes, yes. All right, as to the Old Testament, there are innumerable specific passages where Jesus treats the Old Testament as God's Word without qualification. And I've listed a number of them there. These will be very familiar to you and there's no reason for me to go into them in any detail. The passages where Jesus says, "The Scripture cannot be broken," etcetera, can be found with no difficulty whatsoever.
There are these specific passages. But it's also very interesting to see how he treated theological and other issues in terms of the Old Testament. He never criticizes the Old Testament. He goes beyond the Old Testament, but he never criticizes it. He says, "It's been said of old time, 'You shall not commit adultery.' If a person lusts after a woman in his heart, it is the equivalent of committing adultery." It's been said of old time in the Old Testament, 'You shall not kill,' but if you hate your brother, this is the equivalent of it." Now, what's Jesus doing there? He is not contradicting the Old Testament. He is certainly not saying, "You really shouldn't hate, but go out and kill somebody, it's no problem at all," or, "Don't lust, but adultery is okay," you know.
He's not saying anything like that. He is saying, "Not only is the Old Testament correct, but also we have the interiorizing of it"; that is to say, our thoughts and our ideas should be conformed to all of that. The fascinating thing is that if today you were to go out into the street here in Albuquerque, and you were to ask the average person What passages of the Old Testament are the least believable today? they would almost certainly say the Adam and Eve story, Noah and the flood, and Jonah and the whale. Surprise! Jesus believed in the historicity of each of those events, and those are the toughest. In the case of Adam and Eve they said to him, "Didn't Moses give a bill of divorcement?" Jesus said, "Yes, but from the beginning it was not so." And then he talks about the Genesis story.
Genesis 3, "For this cause shall a man leave father and mother and cleave unto his wife, and the two shall be of one flesh." Jesus is saying that the Adam and Eve story is earlier and is the ultimate authority in relation to the question of divorce. How about Noah and the flood? Jesus parallels this with his own second coming. He says, "As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be when the Son of Man comes again: They were eating and drinking and the flood took them. And it'll be like that at the end of time." Jesus is certainly not going to parallel a nonhistorical event with his second coming, which is a historical reality in the future. And Jesus says, "There's only one sign given to this wicked generation. It's the sign of Jonah. As he was in the beast, so I will be in the earth, and I shall rise again."
He parallels his resurrection from the dead to what happens in the case of Jonah. Incidentally, we don't know if it was a whale. We don't know. In the Hebrew it is a beast, behemoth, it's beast. And since it was doing the backstroke, [laughter] the Authorized Version translators thought of the biggest sea beast they could imagine and that was the whale. But it could have been---it could have been a special beast provided for the occasion, a beast that preferred cuisine au Jonás. [laughter] And it's highly significant the way Jesus deals with the devil in the wilderness. And this is a passage in all three of these Synoptic Gospels. What does the devil do? He quotes Scripture. He says, "Turn these stones into bread." And what does Jesus reply? "Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God."
Jesus is saying, "The trouble with you, Devil, is that you take this stuff out of context. You have got to take the entire totality of the Old Testament revelation in order to understand what it's really saying." All right, if you look at all of this, there is no question but what Jesus held to the inerrancy of the Old Testament. The Jews of his time did. There was a Harvard dean some years ago who said, "Yes, yes they all thought that, but, of course, we know better today. We know better today because of a higher criticism." If I had had contact with that Harvard dean, and I certainly didn't, I'm a Cornellian. Why would I even speak to the dean of a Harvard Divinity School? Well, but if I had had contact with such a person, I would have said this: "Jesus' view was different from yours, and he rose again from the dead.
"Have you risen again from the dead? [laughter] And if you haven't, do you mind that I prefer his approach to the Old Testament to your approach to the Old Testament, h'mmm?" [laughter] Now, what about the New Testament? You say, "How could Jesus possibly have said anything about the New Testament when it wasn't in existence?" This has to do with a specific promise that he gave to his apostles. This is a unique promise. Now in some church circles they try to apply this to every last Christian believer, but this was a specific promise to the apostles, and you will find this in John 14 and 16. Jesus says, "It's expedient that I go away, because the Holy Spirit will come, and he will bring to your remembrance all things, whatsoever I have told you."
Okay? Oscar Cullmann the great Strasbourg and Basel theologian said, "This was the gift of total recall," total recall. This is why the early church collected the books of apostles or close associates of apostles and those went into the New Testament, okay? Because if a book had been written by a close associate of an apostle, then the apostles would have checked on the accuracy of it. Apostolic authority then was the key, because of this special gift of the Holy Spirit, which preserved the doctrinal understanding of the apostles to what Jesus had actually told them. You say, "Well, that's very interesting, but---but what about St. Paul? Most of the books of the New Testament are written by St. Paul." All right, after Paul's conversion on the Damascus road, he went to the original apostolic company.
He knocks on the door---"Hi there," he says, "You think it's Saul. It's no longer Saul. It's now Paul the apostle, and I have been appointed out of due time as the apostle to the Gentiles." At that point the original apostolic company could have done one of two things. They could have done either of two things: they could either have bounced him out into the street because they rejected this as nonsense, or they could have accepted him. And they accepted him. They had been given the gift of total recall in order to make it possible for them to determine what was genuinely Jesus' teaching and what wasn't. In contact with Paul they agree that Paul was presenting the original teaching, and therefore he was accepted into the apostolic company.
You can find evidence of this in New Testament itself if you take a look at Second Peter 3:15 and 16, a passage that is passed over almost always. If you look at this carefully, it says there, Peter says, "People are twisting Paul's writings, as they do the other Scriptures." And the expression for "other scripture" there is ta graphé. That's the Old Testament. So Peter is classifying Paul's writings as Scripture right there within the New Testament itself. So the whole of the Bible, Old Testament and New Testament, turn out to be reliable in terms of Jesus' own assertions. I'm now just going say a word or two, because we're getting to the end of our time, a word or two about the problems that exist in evangelical circles---not here, of course, not in Albuquerque, but in evangelical circles in general. There is a brand of evangelicalism that is known as liberal evangelicalism.
We won't mention any institutions, such as the Fuller Theological Seminary in California, [laughter] but in these contexts it is said that the Bible is reliable theologically and maybe even ethically, but you don't have to consider it reliable in secular areas like---what?---geography, history, science, and the like. What's the trouble with this? Well, there are two fundamental problems with it. First is a epistemological problem, a problem dealing with the nature of truth. All areas of knowledge are interlocked. You could check the universe very carefully and you will find no lines cleanly drawn between physics and chemistry, between chemistry and biology, between biology and physiology, history, religion, morals---all of these are aspects of the human condition and they all interlock.
Therefore, if you say that the Bible can have errors in so-called secular matters, there will be no way to separate this from the theological errors that you don't want to believe exist there. Take, for example, the death of Christ on the cross; was that a historical issue or was it a theological issue? That's like the question if you stopped beating your wife. Any answer to that is going to get you into terrific difficulty. The death of Christ on the cross was a historical event in ordinary history and it is the greatest and most important theological event of all time. If it doesn't occur historically, it's of no value theologically. In Christianity God comes to earth, he enters the human condition, he enters the secular.
And so all the way through the Bible you're going to have prophets engaged in ordinary activities, you're going to have apostles preaching in ordinary cities, you're going to have our Lord giving his ministry to people in the real world. And so there is no way in the world that you can't separate the so-called secular from the theological. And when you try to do this, the problem is, of course, that the errors that you find or think you find in the secular realm impinge upon the theological realm, so eventually you are questioning the theology. And out of Fuller Seminary there was a professor some years ago who finally said, "Well, you know, Paul was mistaken when it came to the place of the woman in the church, women's rights and so forth. Paul didn't understand that."
Once you've gotten to that point, then you are criticizing the morals, the ethics, the theology of the whole business. So, how do you handle alleged contradictions and errors? I give you a technique. Think of this as a balance scale. You can all see me. Here we are. Into this pan of the balance you put the problem passage, the alleged error, the so-called contradiction, the difficulty. Into this pan you put the non-Christian's allegation against Scripture or you can put a whole pile of them in there if you want. Into this pan of the balance you put Jesus' view of the Bible. Since Jesus' view of the Bible is God's view of the Bible, the balance scale is always going to weigh like this no matter how much is over here. Now, this is no excuse for being cavalier about problems.
And you ought to get into your library some good books that deal with alleged biblical errors and contradictions. But even if you find some awfully difficult passages and difficulties, they are never going to outweigh our Lord's view of Scripture, and that's why we can maintain the inerrancy of Scripture even though there may still be unsolved problems. I mentioned just one illustration so to give you confidence in this regard: in the Synoptic Gospels it appears that Jesus was crucified on one day of the Jewish month of Nisan, and in the gospel of John it appears that he was crucified on another day of the Jewish month of Nisan. There's a fourteenth and fifteenth Nisan conflict, apparently. When Calvin tried to resolve this, he said, "I have no way of knowing how to resolve it, but this is God's Word, there's got to be an answer."
Well, in the Dead Sea Scroll discoveries thirty years ago, the French Dead Sea Scroll specialist Jaubert, Madame Jaubert found a calendar that was used alongside the ordinary civil calendar. And this calendar is now called the Jubilees-Qumran calendar, and that exactly explains one of these dates, and the ordinary civil lunar calendar exactly explains the other. There was no way of knowing this until this calendar turned up. But think of all of the snotty liberals who were shot down as a result of a discovery like that. And what this says is that you are always better off sticking with Jesus and his approach to the Bible than you are taking a critical attitude toward it. Now, finally, because I'm at the end of my time, and I think there's a trapdoor that will drop me into the basement. [laughter]
This whole operation is so sophisticated there's bound to be a trapdoor somewhere. All right, from a personal standpoint why is this so important? Because as it says in Romans 10:17, "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." There is only one way to increase faith; and that is, by way of God's message to us. The Bible is the way in which you can increase faith. The Reformers talked about it as a means of grace, a means of grace. God uses this to build us up as Christians. And, therefore, if you question Holy Writ, you're not going to be shutting up and listening to it. You're only going to grow spiritually if you will keep your big mouth shut and simply listen to what God is saying in Scripture. And you will not be doing this unless you have the full confidence that the Bible is worth your trusting in it.
So, in terms of personal spiritual life, in terms of rationality, in terms of being able to witness effectively to non-Christians, the inerrancy of Scripture is critical. Thank you. [applause]
Closing: What binds us together is devotion to worshiping our heavenly Father, dedication to studying his Word, and determination to proclaim our eternal hope in Jesus Christ.
For more resources from Calvary Albuquerque and Skip Heitzig visit calvaryabq.org.