Can the supernatural and the natural realms talk together? Is communication possible between God and people? This crucial question polarized our nation’s founding fathers. All of the founders believed in a supernatural realm—God was a given. But a few of the founders insisted that God created the universe to run on its own without Him (a view known as Deism). For all practical purposes, these men dismissed the very possibility of communication between the natural and supernatural realms.
Since the early influences of Deism, American culture has been shaped by the anti-supernaturalist philosophies of biological evolution and secular humanism. Secularism is not merely anti-religious, although it is that. Secularism is, more fundamentally, an utter denial of the sacred and thus a disaffirmation of the indispensability of a supernatural realm—a supposition rendered reasonable by the theory of biological evolution. Whereas Deism was stuck with a Creator (albeit a silent one), evolutionism eliminated the notion of a Creator and completely eradicated the necessity of a supernatural realm. Secularism stands in at this point to assert what evolutionism suggested: supernaturalism is a myth.
It would seem that most Americans today embrace some form of evolutionism (fueled by evolutionism’s monopoly of the public education system), but few Americans are pure secularists. Surveys indicate that most Americans pray, and praying evidences at least a wishful hope in the existence of a supernatural realm (which goes far to explain the angst secularist educators suffer when public school students talk to God). Despite the inroads of Deism and secularism, many Americans still believe in a supernatural realm with which communication is possible. read more
College freshmen are impressionable people. Once as a college freshman I heard a pastor who was pretty good with his Greek New Testament explain how Jesus encountered demons. The pastor interpreted the phenomenon literally. I was impressed, so I bounced my new-found knowledge off my dad.
Wrong forum! Dad was a doctor. He let me know in no uncertain terms, that whatever Jesus did, He did not heal diseases by eliminating evil spirits. That was thinking for the “quacks” and the “kooks.” As we talked, our distinct belief systems had a major collision. I backed off, but for the next several months, whenever the subject came up, my father took pains to instruct the family, so that we all stayed scientifically orthodox.
That conflict demonstrates the essential difference between conservative and liberal theology. True Liberal theology began with the German scholar, Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834; the term used in Germany is “Historical-critical Theology”). Schleiermacher had a great desire to defend the Christian faith and an intense interest in Bible study. He was also fascinated with European philosophy and drank deeply from the well of German idealism.
Stellar intellect that Schleiermacher was, he spent most of his student discussions talking about the Christian faith with his unbelieving intellectual friends. His first book was, On Religion: Speeches to its Cultured Despisers. Grenz and Olson say, “None strove so valiantly to reconstruct Christian belief to make it compatible with the spirit of his age.”1read more
Bible-believing evangelical Christians hold a high view of the Scriptures. Many evangelicals also see Dietrich Bonhoeffer as a Bible-believing Christian. Bonhoeffer, however, accepted the prevailing historical-critical views of the Bible in his day. Therefore, we should be wary of calling Bonhoeffer a “Bible-believer.” The following three examples from his writings support this position.
Creation and Fall
In Creation and Fall (1932), an exegesis of Genesis 1-3, we find clear examples of Bonhoeffer espousing the historical-critical view of the Bible. In this work he referred to the Biblical author as the “Yahwist.”1 The “Yahwist” is a reference to the historical-critical reading of the text in Bonhoeffer’s day. John de Gruchy, who edited an edition of Creation and Fall, included an explanatory footnote at Genesis 2:4 to alert the reader that Bonhoeffer held Wellhausen’s documentary hypothesis view.2 For Bonhoeffer, the Bible was subject to the prevailing views of historical criticism.
Commenting on Genesis 1:6-10, Bonhoeffer pointed out that the Scriptures contain errors in regard to the creation account.
Here we have before us the ancient world picture in all its scientific naïveté. While it would not be advisable to be too mocking and self-assured, in view of the rapid changes in our own knowledge of nature, undoubtedly in this passage the biblical author stands exposed with all the limitations caused by the age in which he lived. The heavens and the seas were not formed in the way he says: we would not escape a very bad conscience if we committed ourselves to any such statement.3
Notice that Bonhoeffer defined “scientific naïveté” as believing that God spoke the heavens into existence as Genesis 1 describes. Bonhoeffer then asserted, “The idea of verbal inspiration will not do. The writer of the first chapter of Genesis is behaving in a very human way.”4read more
CHAPTER II: THE MORAL GLORY OF JESUS CHRIST A PROOF OF INSPIRATION
BY REV. WM. G. MOOREHEAD, D. D., PRESIDENT OF XENIA THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY, XENIA, OHIO, U. S. A.
The glories of the Lord Jesus Christ are threefold: Essential, official and moral. His essential glory is that which pertains to Him as the Son of God, the equal of the Father. His official glory is that which belongs to Him as the Mediator. It is the reward conferred on Him, the august promotion He received when He had brought His great work to a final and triumphant conclusion. His moral glory consists of the perfections which marked His earthly life and ministry; perfections which attached to every relation He sustained, and to every circumstance in which He was found. His essential and official glories were commonly veiled during His earthly sojourn. His moral glory could not be hid; He could not be less than perfect in everything; it belonged to Him; it was Himself. This moral glory now illumines every page of the four Gospels, as once it did every path He trod.
The thesis which we undertake to illustrate and establish is this: That the moral glory of Jesus Christ as set forth in the four Gospels cannot be the product of the unaided human intellect, that only the Spirit of God is competent to execute this matchless portrait of the Son of Man. The discussion of the theme falls into two parts: I. A brief survey of Christ’s moral glory as exhibited in the Gospels. II. The application of the argument.
I. CHRIST’S MORAL GLORY THE HUMANITY OF JESUS
1. The moral glory of Jesus appears in His development as Son of Man. The nature which He assumed was our na-
CHAPTER I. THE INSPIRATION OF THE BIBLE— DEFINITION, EXTENT AND PROOF
BY REV. JAMES M. GRAY, D. D., DEAN OF MOODY BIBLE INSTITUTE, CHICAGO, ILL.
In this paper the authenticity and credibility of the Bible are assumed, by which is meant (1), that its books were written by the authors to whom they are ascribed, and that their contents are in all material points as when they came from their hands; and (2), that those contents are worthy of entire acceptance as to their statements of fact. Were there need to prove these assumptions, the evidence is abundant, and abler pens have dealt with it.
Let it not be supposed, however, that because these things are assumed their relative importance is undervalued. On the contrary, they underlie inspiration, and, as President Patton says, come in on the ground floor. They have to do with the historicity of the Bible, which for us just now is the basis of its authority. Nothing can be settled until this is settled, but admitting its settlement which, all things considered, we now may be permitted to do, what can be of deeper interest than the question as to how far that authority extends?
This is the inspiration question, and while so many have taken in hand to discuss the others, may not one be at liberty to discuss this? It is an old question, so old, indeed, as again in the usual recurrence of thought to have become new. Our
8 The Fundamentals
fathers discussed it, it was the great question once upon a time, it was sifted to the bottom, and a great storehouse of fact, and argument, and illustration has been left for us to draw upon in a day of need. read more
With all of this as a backdrop (see part 1 in this series), the question is reduced to this: Is God giving authoritative revelation on par with that which He has given in the past, much of which has been inscripturated, or is He not? If He is, then the church of Christ needs to take note and come into compliance with the modern prophecy movement, following its revelations as it would Scripture. But if the Lord is not revealing His inspired word today, then we need to reject the claims of the modern prophets and expose these supposed revelations for what they are. This means the position taken by most on prophecy—cautious but open—is untenable. The cautious but open crowd is skeptical of the claims coming from the prophetic movement and they are suspicious of the many “words from God” that so many evangelicals are claiming. Still they hesitate to embrace cessationism. They are concerned about limiting God or, as it was mentioned above, “putting God in a box.” To this let me make two replies:
It is okay to put God in a box if God, in fact, is the One who put Himself in that box. In other words, God can do anything He wants to do, but we expect God to do what He says He will do. If God has put Himself in the cessationist box we can embrace and proclaim it.
Taking the open but cautious view really does not hold up. Either God is speaking today apart from His Word or He is not. If He is speaking, how do we determine which of the multitude of messages people claim are from Him and which are bogus? If, with Grudem, we have eliminated the tests of Deuteronomy 13 and 18, how are we to evaluate all these revelations? How do we know to whom we should listen and whom we should ignore?
We might better ask the question, “Does the Holy Spirit have a role in interpretation?” If the Holy Spirit does have a role, what is that role?
The purpose of this article is to propose first that the role of the Holy Spirit in interpretation is not to enable the reader to grasp the meaning of a text. We will look briefly at certain verses which supposedly teach this to see whether they actually do teach this.
This article then proposes that a role of the Holy Spirit in interpretation is actually post-interpretation. The role of the Holy Spirit is to enable the reader to make a correct evaluation of the meaning of a text so that he can welcome or accept that meaning. The Holy Spirit also assures the reader of the truth of Scripture. A role of the Holy Spirit also may be to enable the reader to relate the meaning which comes from interpretation to his life. The article looks briefly at texts which seem to support these proposals and this suggestion.
The Holy Spirit does not enable the reader to discover the (author’s intended) meaning of a passage. He does not teach the reader the meaning of a text. The Holy Spirit does not help the reader to comprehend Scripture. read more