Tag Archives: Bible

Christ Defines a “Christian View” of Scripture

What does it mean to have a “Christian” viewpoint about something?  Various people and groups who would take the name “Christian” have a variety of views about matters such as baptism and church government, who can serve as pastors, Christian liberty, and what science does or doesn’t prove.  Various folks who call themselves “Christians” even differ on the exact identity of Christ!

Many of us who do agree on the person of Christ — that He is eternally God, who became a man, lived a perfect life, died on the cross for sinners, rose from the dead, ascended to heaven, and is physically returning one day — are willing to acknowledge others as believers even if we disagree on some secondary (but not unimportant) issues.  One of the reasons we can agree to disagree is because we share the same authority – the Bible (Old and New Testaments).  We just disagree on how to interpret it and apply it when we come to certain key passages and issues.  But as those who trust Christ as Savior and Lord, we cannot give any approval to a view that calls itself “Christian” while standing in stark opposition to what Christ Himself actually said and did, anymore than we could pretend that play money was a legitimate form of currency.

The good news of the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is central to the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  Each of these Gospels focuses on the Person and work of our Lord.  One fascinating and helpful thing we can learn about Jesus is how He viewed Scripture, demonstrated in his quotation, application, and teaching about God’s written Word.  Looking at Jesus’ use of Scripture answers several questions for us and helps us test whether our view of the Bible is truly a “Christ”-ian view.

DID JESUS BELIEVE THE SCRIPTURES WERE HISTORICALLY ACCURATE?

Some who claim a “Christian” view of the Bible have alleged that it is reliable in regard to spiritual matters, but when it comes to history, it has mistakes.  What did the Son of God think?

In his article, “Embracing Christ’s View of Scripture,” Terry Mortenson observes:  “Jesus acknowledged that Adam and Eve were the first married couple (Matthew 19:3–6; Mark 10:3–9) and Abel was the first prophet and was martyred (Luke 11:50–51). He believed the accounts of Noah and the Flood (Matthew 24:37–39), Lot and his wife (Luke 17:28–32), Sodom and Gomorrah (Matthew 10:15), Moses and the serpent in the wilderness (John 3:14), the manna from heaven (John 6:32– 33, 6:49), the miracles of Elijah (Luke 4:25–27), Jonah and the big fish (Matthew 12:40–41)—the list goes on.

“Jesus did not allegorize these accounts but took them as real events that actually happened just as the Old Testament describes. He used these past events to reassure His disciples that the future events of His own death, Resurrection, and Second Coming would likewise certainly happen in time-space reality.”

A truly Christian view of the Bible trusts its complete reliability – even to the point of historical persons and details.

DID JESUS BELIEVE THAT THE SCRIPTURES WERE WITHOUT ERROR?

Some claim a “Christian” view of the Bible, yet they freely confess their belief that this Book that claims to come from God has errors.  What did Jesus believe?

Jesus said:  “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.  For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matthew 5:17-18).  He also said, “The Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35).

In “The Christian’s View of Scripture,” Kevin DeYoung explains, “The word for ‘broken’ (luo) in verse 35 means to loose, release, dismiss, or dissolve. It carries here the sense of breaking, nullifying, or invalidating. It’s Jesus way of affirming that no word of Scripture can be falsified. No promise or threat can fall short of fulfillment. No statement can be found guilty of error. For Jesus—just as for his Jewish audience—he believed Scripture was the word of God, and as such, it would be gross impiety to think that any word spoken by God, or committed to writing by God, might be an errant word, a wrong word, or a broken word.”

When the Sadducees tried to trick Jesus with a question about the resurrection (a teaching they did not believe), Jesus reprimanded them by saying, “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God” (Matthew 22:29).  Jesus proceeded to prove the resurrection from a simple, but key, verb tense: God said I am (not was) the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  From this minute detail Jesus proved the resurrection and stated that God is not the God of the dead but of the living.  If Jesus thought there were errors in the Scripture, how could he know the Scriptures to be one of the things that could have kept the Sadducees from erring?

A truly Christian view of the Bible agrees with Christ, that God gave the Scriptures with no errors.

DID JESUS BELIEVE THAT THE SCRIPTURES WERE AUTHORITATIVE?

Christ’s view of the Scripture not only included belief in its historical reliability and inerrancy, but also its authority.

Jesus openly rebuked religious leaders who elevated human traditions above the commandment of God, recorded in Scripture (Matthew 15:1-9).

When Jesus faced temptation from Satan to turn stones into bread if He was really the Son of God (after being declared the Son of God publicly at His baptism and after fasting in the wilderness forty days), He responded, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”  As the Son of God, Jesus subjected Himself to the authority of Scripture, called it necessary for life, and identified it as something that calls for our obedience.

As the Word of God, the Scriptures come from God and carry the divine authority by implication.  A truly Christian view of the Bible agrees with Jesus, who taught their divine authority.

DID JESUS BELIEVE THAT THE SCRIPTURES POINTED TO HIMSELF?

Another distinguishing mark of a Christian view of Scripture that follows Christ, is seeing Christ as the fulfillment of numerous Old Testament prophecies.

After His baptism and temptation, Jesus read from the scroll of Isaiah in the synagogue (a prophecy of the Messiah/Christ from Isaiah 61).  After reading it, He said, “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears” (Luke 4:16-32).

Jesus pointed out the irony of those who thought the Scriptures gave them life, telling them that they should search them, because they “testify of Me,” yet they would not come to Him, that they might have life (John 5:39-40).  He said Moses himself would indict them for their unbelief, “For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me.  But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?” (John 5:46-47)

On the road to Emmaus, Jesus met two confused disciples and “beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27).  He also said, “These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me” and showed them how the written Word of God had told of the sufferings and resurrection of Him, the One in whose name they were to go forth and preach repentance and forgiveness of sins (Luke 24:44-47).

A truly Christian view of the Bible sees it as a book that is historically accurate, inerrant, authoritative, and prophetic.

DOES JESUS APPROVE OF YOUR “CHRISTIAN” VIEW?

Jesus once said to Nicodemus, “If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe if I tell you of heavenly things?”  In a similar manner, if we cannot trust the Bible to give us an accurate account of the origin of the universe, the history of mankind, the record of the nation Israel, details about Jesus and the apostles, etc… how can we possibly trust it when it comes to matters of unseen, eternal things?  If we don’t believe Genesis, how can we believe the Gospel of John?  If we claim to be Christians, how can we justify identifying as Christian a view that opposes what Christ Himself taught?

The last word on the written Word has been spoken by Him Who is the incarnate Word.  Let us honor and trust Him by letting Him define what is truly a “Christ”-ian view and taking His word for it.

BookCoverKeepingtheFaithinaChristianCollegeKINDLEThis article originally appeared in the Common Ground Herald.  An adapted version of it appears in my book, Keeping the Faith in a Christian College.

Book Review: Taking God at His Word

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Kevin DeYoung, Taking God at His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014) 144 pp.

Kindle version  Hardcover

Taking God at His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me is a book that is clear convincing, and enjoyable.  It is a book about the Book.  Why a book about the Book?  I think the answer to that question is also the answer to another question.

What makes a Christian book a good Christian book?  I have pondered this question lately and concluded that good Christian books are distinguished from the others by their cultivation of an increased hunger for God’s Word, a deeper love for Christ, and a more obedient life.  The main thrust of this book is to point us away from itself and make us want to dig into the Bible, and it is an excellent Christian book.

Taking God at His Word starts off showing the exuberant and ecstatic nature of Psalm 119 as a love poem to the written Word of God, as DeYoung aims not only to help us think correctly about the Bible, but to have an appropriate affection and appreciation for it.  He proceeds to show how God’s Word is more reliable than our personal experiences, and that it is sufficient, clear, the final authority, and necessary.  Chapter 7, “Christ’s Unbreakable Bible,” is my favorite section.  There He shows beyond a shadow of a doubt, as He surveys the context and content of Jesus’ teaching about the written Word, that

it is impossible to revere the Scriptures more deeply or affirm than more completely than Jesus did.  Jesus submitted his will to the Scriptures, committed his brain to studying the Scriptures, and humbled his heart to obey the Scriptures.  The Lord Jesus, God’s Son and our Savior, believed his Bible was the word of God down to the sentences, to the phrases, to the words, to the smallest letter, to the tiniest specks – and that nothing in all those specks and in all those books in his Holy Bible could ever be broken.

The book closes with a challenge to be faithful to the Scriptures, and points us to resources for more in-depth study about the doctrine of Scripture.

For me, reading this book accomplished the following things:

1. It renewed my love for God’s Word.  Taking God at His Word is near the top of my favorite books list because it makes me want to read the Bible more.  I have approached my reading and thinking on the Word of God with a new vigor and excitement since reading DeYoung’s book.

2. It reinforced my confidence in God’s Word.  I continue to hear the historical reliability and relevancy of the Word of God attacked in the culture at large as well as from individuals I know, but this book reinforced what I already believed by helping me confirm my confidence in the Bible, especially by comparing my view to Jesus’ view.  If the eternal, perfect, omniscient Son of God taught that the Scriptures were historically reliable, we ought to believe Him rather than the naysayers, no matter who they may be.  For instance, take DeYoung’s commentary on Jesus’ handling of the historicity of the Old Testament book of Jonah:

It’s hard to justify Jesus’ language about the men of Nineveh rising up to judge Capernaum on the last day if most or all of the Jonah story is not to be taken literally.  It would be like making that literary allusion to the men of Gondor and then issuing a very serious warning to your audience that the orcs of Mordor will rise up to judge and condemn them.  It doesn’t make a lot of sense.  As T. T. Perowne put it, commenting on the very real danger Jesus considered his hearers to be in, ‘And yet we are to suppose him to say that imaginary persons who at the imaginary preaching of an imaginary prophet repented in imagination, shall rise up in that day and condemn the actual impenitence of those his actual hearers?’  Quite the contrary.  In the Gospels we see Jesus reference Abel, Noah, Abraham, Sodom and Gomorrah, Isaac and Jacob, manna in the wilderness, the serpent in the wilderness, Moses as the lawgiver, David and Solomon, the Queen of Sheba, Elijah and Elisha, the widow of Zarephath, Naaman, Zechariah, and even Jonah, never questioning a single event, a single miracle, or a single historical claim.  Jesus clearly believed in the historicity of biblical history.

3. It reaffirmed my desire to stand on God’s Word.  Though Taking God at His Word is a relatively short read, it has sufficient depth to effectively stir appropriate emotions, to convince the mind, and to motivate both the reading of the Bible and the faithful proclamation of it, even in the face of opposition.  The clarity of DeYoung’s presentation reaffirmed for me that there is no reason to be ashamed when critics attack the written Word of God.  Jesus’ church has believed it, stood on it, and propagated it for generations, with good reason.  It is what it claims to be and it is what He said it is.  The world is to be challenged to accept it, and Christians are to be challenged to stick with it.  There is no reason to abandon our faith in God and His Word, nor to back down from it’s bold claims, since they are true.

In reading DeYoung’s book, I noticed one area where I would like more clarification, particularly concerning what is and isn’t clear in the Bible on some issues where it and many mainstream scientists disagree.  In his chapter on the final authority of God’s Word, he writes,

If all the facts could be known perfectly, we would find that the Bible and science do not contradict each other.  Christians have nothing to fear from rigorous scientific investigation. And yet, if the Bible is our final authority – as it surely was for the Bereans – then we must be hesitant to scrub the Bible when it seems to contradict the ‘assured results of science.’  I sympathize with Christians who struggle to reconcile what they hear from scientists and what they see in the Bible about a particular issue.  We should not be quick to dismiss these questions.  It is possible to read the Bible wrongly.  It is possible for the church to miss the mark for a long time.  But every Christian should agree that if the Bible teaches one thing and scientific consensus teaches something else, we will not ditch the Bible. I am not for a moment arguing for obscurantism when it comes to the hard questions concerning faith and science.  Pastors who haven’t had a science class since the tenth grade are often too cavalier with the tough issues raised by geology, biology, and genetics.  But surely it is the mark of a Christian to believe everything the Bible teaches no matter who says it can’t be so.  Academic journals are not infallible, let alone high school textbooks or fifteen-second sound bites.  As Christians we must always be willing to change our minds when we see that we have misread the Scriptures, but that is a far cry from setting aside the Scriptures because for the last five years – or fifty year or a hundred and fifty years – some scientist have informed us that we can’t believe in the historicity of Adam or that the universe was created out of nothing by the word of God.

DeYoung seems to squarely argue that the Bible is absolutely reliable and to be trusted even when accepted “science” contradicts it, but he is not altogether clear on exactly what we can trust the Bible to be altogether clear on in this arena where there is much conflict.  Is theistic evolution, which is accepted by popular evangelical leaders like Tim Keller (who, together with DeYoung is on the council of the Gospel Coalition) a legitimate interpretation of the Bible?  (For the record, DeYoung has blogged against theistic evolution here.)  Is the Bible clear or unclear about the age of the earth?  Was there or was there not death before sin entered the world (cf. Rom. 5:12)?  While these questions have brought forth books dedicated to such topics by other authors, it would have been helpful to discuss some of the intersections where people have to make a decision, and give some criteria for assessing some of these specific controversies.

Even with this little caveat, DeYoung’s writing refreshed, instructed, and encouraged me greatly, and I highly recommend it.  Our view of the Bible is directly related to how much we trust the omniscient, omnipotent, faithful God who revealed His Word to man.  If we trust Him, we take His Word for everything, and not just for “spiritual” matters.  As DeYoung writes, “Our teachers, our friends, our science, our studies, even our eyes can deceive us.  But the word of God is entirely true and always true.”

Special thanks to Crossway for providing a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Click here to view or listen to Pastor DeYoung’s 2014 Together for the Gospel Message, “Never Spoke a Man Like This Before: Inerrancy, Evangelism and Christ’s Unbreakable Bible”