Chapter 3: The Ground Rules
Anyone who has ever played a game, been involved in any kind of competition, or conducted any type of scientific investigation knows that "ground rules" must be established at the beginning. It is far better to know the rules before beginning the investigation rather than to try to establish them as you go.
If we are going to make a study of the preservation of the Word of God, the rules we shall follow must be established now. The rules we establish now will have a direct effect on the conclusion reached at the end of our investigation. We must be cautious as we seek to found these rules. We must free ourselves from prejudice. We must establish rules which, firstly, will not contradict each other and, secondly, rules that can and will be applied fairly to all evidence examined.
As in any issue with two sides, the conclusion can not please all. Those to whom the conclusion is favorable will commend the investigation for its fairness, while those to whom the conclusion is unfavorable will obviously seek to discredit the method used in arriving at such a conclusion. With this in mind, the most important portion of our investigation will not be what evidence we examine, but the rules by which we interpret that evidence.
Much of the material to be examined is not new but holds huge amounts of truth which have been locked up and unusable due to the previously unfair method by which its testimony was evaluated. To insure that this testimony will be thoroughly heard in an unprejudiced court room, this writer seeks to establish plain, unprejudiced, and spiritually sound rules by which to judge the witnesses. The voices of some learned men will no doubt be heard to protest, while the voices of others, equally as learned, will be heard to agree. The writer will not appeal to either of these voices for approval but will seek to establish rules which even those who disagree with the conclusion must admit are fair. These rules will judge all the evidence fairly and completely so as to wring every bit of worthwhile testimony from them. We must deal in facts and deal with the facts fairly. As one scholar so aptly put it, "My leading principle is to build solely upon facts -- upon real, not fanciful facts -- not upon a few favorite facts, but upon all that are connected with the question under consideration."
First and above all in importance, it must be remembered that the Bible is a spiritual book. If we divorce this fact from our minds, it will be impossible to arrive at a valid conclusion. Let me explain.
First, God had His hand in its inception. The passage that so quickly comes to the mind of all fundamentalists is II Peter 1:19-21:
Note that Peter is stating that the written Word is more sure than God speaking from heaven, a voice which Peter himself heard (vs. 17, 18).
There are many "side-show evangelists" that would have us believe that God "spoke to me last night." Peter says that God's verbal commands and precepts are not as sure as His written words. Verbal statements are not binding. They cannot be proven. But written words are not so fluid. When God chose to put His words down in writing, He made an irreversible decision. We can now hold Him to His words. Once those words have been written, they are irrevocable. A God who would bind Himself to us so inescapably must love us and truly desire for us to have His words and to be sure of them.
Peter also states that the writers of Scripture did not write under their own power, but "holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost."
Why Inspire a Book?
God wants us to see that He had His hand in it from the beginning. The words of those original autographs were not the thoughts of God, but His very words, which brings to mind a question. Why did God inspire His word perfectly? Obviously the answer comes back, "So that man could have every word of God, pure, complete, trustworthy, and without error." Amen! That statement touches the heart of any fundamental, Bible-believing Christian. And yet, what if God gave those precious words only to those early writers, then lost them in history, diluted them with heretical teachings, and then locked them up in prison where few could visit them and none could trust them? What if these words and manuscripts, which have long passed off the scene, were the only perfect words God ever gave us? What if it was impossible for us ever to obtain those words for ourselves, in this present generation? Why did God inspire them? Why write a perfect Book and then lose it? Why provide those closest to Christ with a perfect Book but us, 2,000 years later, with a book that is only a shadow of truth at best? A book filled with mistakes, spurious passages, and doubtful readings! This is inconsistent with God's nature.
The question is: Could God, who overcame time (about 1,700 years transpired from the writing of the oldest Old Testament book to the closing of the New Testament in 90 A.D.1) and man's human nature to write the Bible perfectly in the first place, do the same thing to preserve it?
Let us look to see what the authority says about such a thing happening.
Psalm 12:6, 7 "The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever."
Note verse seven! "THOU shalt keep them O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever."
The Bible, God's Word, says that God will preserve His words. Verse six mentions the "words of the LORD" and the "them" of verse seven is referring to those "words." No, apparently the all-powerful God of creation will not preserve His "thoughts" or "ideas," but He will preserve His very words!
Is He capable of that?
Jeremiah 32:17, 27 "Ah Lord GOD, behold thou has made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee:... Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?"
Is a miracle too hard for the God of miracles? Was the creation too hard for God? Was the flood too hard for God? Was the parting of the Red Sea too hard for God? Was the 40 years of manna too hard for God? Was the virgin birth of Christ too hard for God? Was the collection of the 66 books of the Bible written over a period of 1,700 years too hard for God? Was overcoming the human nature of the sinful writers too hard for God? Is preserving the words of those writers too hard for God?
I think that inspiration would be far harder to believe than preservation.
Why is it that men of faith sound out their convictions so loudly on the above mentioned doctrines (and others) in which their faith cannot be pressed to the limit, but they suddenly shrink from the thought that God, who could write His Book perfectly, could preserve it? Why is it so easy to believe that God's great miracles are all in the past, but He cannot work one now? Where are those "words" that Peter spoke in II Peter 1:19-21? Where are those "words" which David spoke of in Psalm 12:6, 7? Where are those "words" which Jesus Christ Himself spoke of in Matthew 24:35 when He said, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away."
Have those precious and perfect words from the pens of Moses, David, Isaiah, Daniel, Matthew, Peter, Paul, Luke, John and others been cast into oblivion? Have they fallen to the ground to be trampled under foot of men, only to be replaced by something not as pure, not as perfect, not as reliable, which we 'Bible-believers' are forced to pretend is the Word and the words of God when we are in the pulpit, but in the quietness of our studies or in our private conversations we let our infidelity and fear show as we check off "mistake" after "mistake?"
Is this God's method? I trow not. For if God wrote the Bible perfectly in the "originals," but we cannot have those same words in a volume of that Book today, then it would seem that He wasted His time inspiring it perfectly in the first place. We who are so far removed from the New Testament times need His every perfect word far more than Matthew, Luke, John, or Peter or the others who saw Jesus Christ in the flesh! They had their memories. They had His touch still on their brow. They had His words still ringing in their ears. All we have is the Book. All we have is the words bound between those black covers. It is essential that they be His every word, for they are all we have!
Yes, if God has not preserved His words as He said that He would (Psalm 12:6, 7), then He has done something which He has never done before. He has wasted His time! The inspiration of the original manuscripts was in vain if we do not have those very same words in English today.
So then we see that it is important to any seeker of truth to always keep in mind that the Bible is different from all other books, in that God had His hand in it. It is a spiritual book. Anyone undertaking a study of the evidence of the New Testament, or any other portion of Scripture, who does not take this into consideration cannot possibly arrive at the correct conclusion.
Ground rule number one is: It is always to be remembered that the Bible is a spiritual book which God exerted supernatural force to conceive, and it is reasonable to assume that He could exert that same supernatural force to preserve.
The Great Counterfeiter
This brings us to our next logical step. If God was active in the conception and preservation of the Bible, then the supreme negative force in nature must be active against it.
This Book has an adversary. Satan is against it!
The Bible is a tangible item. Like most books, it is printed on paper with ink. As mentioned above, however, it must be remembered that it is a spiritual book in which God has had a positive and an active part. It must also be remembered that there exists in the world a supreme negative power, Satan.
One general truth that we all know concerning Satan is that he at one time had a position in Heaven. Iniquity was found in him, and he was cast out. What was his offense? He wanted to be worshipped as God! Remember that. The Bible records in Isaiah 14:13, 14, "For thou hath said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High."
He wanted to be worshipped as God! Satan has not changed his goals. He still desires to be worshipped as God. To be worshipped as God, he must imitate God. Satan is the great counterfeiter. From beginning to end, the Bible records Satan's constant efforts to imitate and replace God. In Genesis chapter three, we find Satan implying that he knows more than God, and from this point, he influences mankind into obeying him. When Moses displays the miracles of God through the plagues of Egypt, Satan's magicians counterfeit as many plagues as they possibly can.
Monasteries, mosques and huge cathedrals cover the globe as a testimony to his religious fervor and as clear evidence of his ability to extract worship from his followers. Call him Lucifer, Baal, Ashteroth, Mary or any other name, but allow him the liberty, and he will take a portion of truth and twist it in such a deceitfully convincing way that if possible he could "deceive the very elect" (Matthew 24:24).
In Matthew chapter four, we find Satan's last desperate plea to Jesus Christ was that He "fall down and worship me."
Satan is the great counterfeiter. For every genuine manifestation of God, Satan produces hundreds of carbon copies. Look at the record:
One God - many "gods"
Whenever God manifests His power through some positive action resulting in a miracle, Satan manifests his power in a counterfeit, but deceiving, way in an attempt to "steal" God's deserved reverence.
Note in Revelation chapter 13 how many times the word "worship" occurs in reference to Satan in the form of the Anti-Christ. Notice also that this worship comes as a direct result of Satanic, counterfeit miracles which are all imitations of similar true miracles performed by God, by His prophets, or by Jesus Christ, which resulted in God being worshipped.
God knew of Satan's "standard operating procedure" and tried to warn Israel of his ability to counterfeit God's miracles.
Notice that God is aware of the false miracles and is awaiting the outcome. To resist Satan's false miracles is to turn your heart toward God. This is what happened with Job. This is what would have happened with Eve if she had rejected his counsel.
Satan wants to be worshipped. This is Satan's motive. Let us look briefly at a scriptural record of the method he used in dealing with his arch-enemy, Jesus Christ.
1. Satan makes a direct approach to
achieve his goal. Matthew 4.
Now remember, Satan desires to be worshipped as God. Remember he is "the great counterfeiter."
God's Three Gifts
Now look at the three most important things God has given to the world:
1. Jesus Christ - through Jesus
Christ, God's plan of salvation has been wrought, and God
has displayed to the world the coming King. Jesus Christ
is now in heaven.
If heaven were real, and it is; if Jesus Christ died for our sins, and He did; if salvation were free, and it is; if Jesus Christ is coming back to get His church, and He is; if He will someday rule on a throne in Jerusalem, and He will; but if we have no Bible to tell us these things, we would not know them! Truth does no good if we do not know about that truth! The Bible is God's medium through which He tells us all that we know about Him.
If Satan can eliminate the Bible, he can break our lifeline to Heaven. If he can only get us to doubt its accuracy, he can successfully foil God's every attempt to teach us. The Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth, but every truth He leads us to will be in the Bible. If Satan is going to be consistent with his nature, he must attack the Bible, the Word of God.
Our second rule to keep in mind, then, is: Satan desires to be worshipped. He has the ability to counterfeit God's actions and definitely will be involved actively in attempting to destroy God's Word and/or our confidence in that Word, while seeking to replace it with his own "version."
The Rules Reviewed
The two rules which we must keep in mind at all times are:
1. It is always to be remembered that the Bible is a spiritual book which God exerted supernatural force to conceive; and it is reasonable to assume that He could exert that same supernatural force to preserve.
2. Satan desires to be worshipped. He has the ability to counterfeit God's actions, and definitely will be involved actively in attempting to destroy God's Word and/or our confidence in that Word, while seeking to replace it with his own "version."