One of the best things my father ever taught me—and there were many to choose from—was the idea that the Christian should resolve in his heart never to have any problem passages in Scripture. It was permissible to have a problem with how best to understand a passage, but it was not permissible to have any problems with it once you understood it. Once the exegesis was done, the thing was settled. And you also wanted to make sure there was no funny business in the course of the exegesis either . . . appealing to Greek word studies to get yourself off the hook, for example.
This is not, as many would represent it, a mindless fundamentalism. It is not a means of sticking to your guns after some haphazard attempt at exegesis. But while it is not a ramshackle dogmatism, it is right at the foundation of a true biblical absolutism. It is not a chaotic and shambolic bluster, but rather a sane decision to look to the light in a very dark world.
God Is a Rock, and His Word Is a Rock
Unregenerate man wants to believe that he is stable, and his basis for thinking this is that there are periodic times of tranquility and calm, and he thinks he has a root in himself simply because of inertia. The first part of Newton’s first law tells us that an object at rest tends to stay at rest. Autonomous man is a billiard ball that believes himself to be immovable simply because a cue ball hasn’t hit him yet.
In contrast, the believer trusts in his God, who is a Rock. And when believers trust in Christ, and do what He says, they are building their house on a rock (Matt. 7:25), one that is fully capable of withstanding any storm.
“He is the Rock, his work is perfect: For all his ways are judgment: A God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.”
Deuteronomy 32:4 (KJV)
“He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.”
Psalm 40:2 (KJV)
“From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”
Psalm 61:2 (KJV)
So what could be the problem then? Who would build on sand when rock is available? On paper, this is a reasonable question. But given the fact that world is fallen and wicked, it should not be surprising that the choice before us has gotten all murked up. Or we at least like to pretend that it has been.
No, This is the Rock
We live in a world of claims and counterclaims. The serpent’s opening gambit was found in just this. “Did God really say?”
Micaiah spoke the word of the Lord truthfully, but Zedekiah didn’t think so.
“But Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah went near, and smote Micaiah on the cheek, and said, Which way went the Spirit of the Lord from me to speak unto thee?”
1 Kings 22:24 (KJV)
Jeremiah spoke the word of the Lord truthfully, but Pashur didn’t think so.
“Then Pashur smote Jeremiah the prophet, and put him in the stocks that were in the high gate of Benjamin, which was by the house of the Lord.”
Jeremiah 20:2 (KJV)
Because of Satan’s fall, and because our first parents listened to him in the Garden, and because God broke our fall with a promise, an antithesis has been established in the world. This antithesis is between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent (Gen. 3:15), and the conflict between these two is the thread that ties all of human history together. How the seed of the woman overcame the seed of the serpent is the central story of all time. It should inform everything we do. It is the ultimate plot point.
And this antithesis accounts for all the claims and the counter claims. “This is the way.” “No, this is the way.” For those who want to evaluate these competing claims on the surface, the task seems hopeless. One says that this is right, and the other says that the other is right. The temptation to shrug and say, “Who’s to say?” is strong. But it really is a superficial temptation. The only thing that even makes it a temptation is found in the fact that our hearts want to wander, and this relativistic question floating on the surface gives us the cover we need. We think.
We have elsewhere defined proof as the creation of a moral obligation to believe. And considering how God advances His kingdom, that moral obligation can be legitimately created after just five minutes of listening to a street preacher. It is not an academic or scholarly pursuit, but rather a description of the personal relationship between the God who pursues and the man who is running away. At some point the man becomes aware of the fact that he is running away, which means that he doesn’t want to know the truth, which means in turn that he is confronted with his moral obligation to stop, turn, and let the truth know him.
“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 7:17 (NKJV)
Notice. Christ says here in John that if anyone wants to do the will of God . . . he will know. If he doesn’t know, then it means he didn’t want to know. A precondition to any sensible epistemology is a willingness to obey God.
Safely Traveled Grooves
But the kind of trust I am talking about means placing your entire weight on the Scriptures. I do not mean holding the entirety of the Bible in your hand, but rather placing the entirety of your life on the Word. We need to walk out on it like it was a frozen lake. No, that is too weak. We need to load up all our gear and drive our Jeep out onto the lake. We need to act like we are going ice fishing.
If we hold the Bible in our hand, and say that we are staunch inerrantists, it is possible to get applause from the devout, and it is the simplest thing in the world to preach and to teach in all the well-worn grooves. And it is in fact the case that you are an inerrantist with regard to every passage you are willing to talk about.
But that is not what saving faith should look like. The Scriptures should not be stage managed by us. The Scriptures need to be accepted by us, simply, and without apology. Here is how the Westminster describes saving faith.
” . . . a Christian believeth to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God Himself speaking . . .”WCF 14.2
Now suppose you do that.
So now, here you are, up to your neck in controversies. Historic Adam and Eve, eh? Global flood, eh? The moon stood still in the valley of Ajalon, eh? The tabernacle in the wilderness was maintained by slaves, eh? The death penalty for a son who cursed father or mother, eh? The apostle Peter walked on water, eh? Wives are to submit to their own husbands, eh? A crucified man conquered death, eh?
Yes to all, and deal with it.
If you are not willing to bear the brunt of the world’s scorn on multiple fronts and in multiple areas, you are not yet ready to follow Jesus Christ.
“For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels.”
Luke 9:26 (KJV)
The Scriptures are like a vast wilderness area, with millions of square miles in it, and many evangelical ministries are like Ranger Bob’s Nature Walk right along the edge of it, with five or six scenic lookout points. Safe, tame, orderly, predictable, and nothing to upset the donors.
We are not to take refuge from the darkness of the world’s lies by running home, going down into the basement to light the candle of truth. Rather, we are walking in the pre-dawn gloaming, banging on doors, telling our neighbors that they need to prepare for the sunrise.
We do not stare at the Scriptures as though they were the entirety of our world. We turn and face the world, with the rising sun behind us, ready to see what the risen Word of God is going to reveal. So the Scriptures are not the light at which we stare. The Scriptures are the light in which we see. And what do we see? We see everything in that light.
“For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain. Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours.”
1 Corinthians 3:19–21 (KJV)
“For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.”
1 Corinthians 2:16 (KJV)
This kind of knowledge, this kind of faith, does not belong to those who treat the Word as a true subset in a world of lies. That is often called biblical inerrancy, but that should be far too weak for us. Let us call it something else, something like biblical absolutism. After that, we should turn and face the east.