[unpublished paper of David Scott Clark]
The Intellectual Defense of Christianity
What Kind of a Being Am I?
Psychology and Religion.
In presenting the subject today I start with this most fundamental of all questions, viz. The reality of the soul. For if there be no soul what is Christ or Christianity or anything else to me or to you or to any other man? This is the first step in the defense of Christianity. The psychological question comes first, the question what am I?
If there is no soul, then there is no Savior, no salvation, no immortality, no eternal life. Then we are just so much matter that perishes when the breathing goes out of our bodies.
If I were writing a philosophy, I would begin with myself. For I hold that the most certain fact of all knowledge is the actuality of the self. No man can doubt his own existence; for if he did not exist he could not even entertain a doubt. If a man doubts his existence the very ability to doubt proves that he exists.
When Descartes said: “Cogito ergo sum”, I think therefore I am, he was beginning the right end of the argument. He was starting with that which was absolutely certain, and about which there could be no doubt, the reality of himself. He did not express his whole syllogism in full. Had he done so it would have read that:
Every thinking being must exist.
I am a thinking being.
Therefore, I exist.
This is the first fact in all psychology, and in all philosophy.
It may be remarked here that all philosophy begins with psychology. Every philosophy and every theologian must know something about psychology, epistemology, theories of knowledge etc. as the groundwork for his subsequent discussion and conclusions. And as our religious faith is a philosophy, and the best of all philosophies, some psychological fact lie at the basis of it. Therefore I begin with the topic:
What Kind of a Being Am I?
Psychology and Religion
>>>I might as well say that I shall not exhaust this subject in the present discussion.and further that I hold no chair of Psychology in any university; but approach this task as an amateur theologian and apologist for the Christian faith.<<< [crossed out in the original manuscript]
What kind of a being am I? How shall we find out? Now there is but one way of inquiry into the nature of self; and that is to set out from observable facts concerning the mental. The old Scottish Philosophy, toward which I confess some bias, sought to base itself on observation and induction. A true method must hold firmly to facts. Facts must precede theory. Empirical knowledge is necessary to a true science, and a true science is necessary to a true philosophy.
We get our knowledge of the external world through our senses. If we do not accept the testimony of our sense, we will never know much about the external world. It was part of the philosophy of Kant that the mind gave form to the external world, or as was said; “mind makes nature.” But if the physical be not real, but only phenomena made by our minds, then the whole external world is wiped out. If any man wants to leap over that precipice, he is welcome, but I shall not follow him.
Whatever was good in the philosophy of Kant, and there were good things in it, it did cast doubt on the reality of the material world; and quickly led in his successors to Absolute Idealism, or the total denial of the external world. The mind does not impose its forms on the world, but the world impresses on the mind the forms it already possesses. The reason that I believe that yonder brick is eight inches long, four inches broad, two inches thick, and weighs five pounds and is reddish in color, is not because my mind imposes those conceptions on the brick, but because the brick impresses these conceptions on my mind. It is true that the mind exercises some necessary activities in the acquisition of its qualities. So much for the external world.
Now just as we get our knowledge of the external world from the data of sense, so we get our knowledge of the internal world from the data of the mind. And the starting point is consciousness. The primary datum is the fact that there are selves aware of their own existence and mentality. Whatever the self may hereafter be found to be, the fact is that here we are, and there can be no doubt about it. Cogito ergo sum expresses the ground of belief in a self, and doubting it only proves it true. Thinking, even when doubting about ones thinking, is an actual occurrence involving a thinking being, or somebody who is doing the thinking. There are great discussions as to what this thinking being is, but it can not be non-existent. To be conscious is to be. Awareness of consciousness, called self-consciousness, is a foundation fact. You are conscious of your own existence, and no one can argue you out of that conviction. It is absolutely indisputable knowledge.
Now we take a step farther. Consciousness exists, that experience involves an experient. A state which is not a state of some being, an act which is not the act of an agent are not actualities. No one has ever yet dispensed with the subject either of consciousness or experience. A subjectless experience is an absurdity and a contradiction. Men have done almost everything to cast doubt on the reality of the soul, and have moved heaven and earth to confuse our minds as to its nature. But wherever there is thought, and feeling and volition there must be a subject who thinks and feels and wills.
This brings us to the discussion of that subject which has experience; this thing that has consciousness, and is aware of its states and acts; this thing that calls itself ego, and says I, and me; this thing that must exist if there is any such thing as consciousness and awareness.
I think; and I am aware that I think; I know that it is I who does the thinking. But then, what am I? One of the positions of unbelief today is to deny that man has a soul; and that is the question with which I am dealing. Has man a soul? That is the first fundamental point in the defense of Christianity.
What does this thinking? What is it that feels and wills? Behaviorism says that it is the body that thinks; that all mental phenomena are just activities of the cerebral substance; that they may be powers of the material brain, or responses to stimuli applied to the physical system.
We are so little impressed with this view, that we doubt if it merits a refutation. It is too baldyl materialistic. We are convinced that consciousness, volition, intelligence, design, and purpose far transcend the powers of matter. We know that our minds act on our bodies, control our bodies, direct our bodies, are superior to our bodies; and all this leads us to think that mind and body are not one and the same.
The Intellectual Defense of Christianity.
What Kind of a Being is God?
Philosophy and Religion
What is philosophy? The word means ‘love of wisdom’, but that would hardly pass for a definition. My own definition is this: Philosophy is the synthesis of all sciences, and all knowledge, in order to form a system that will account for the universe. Sometimes I put it in a more colloquial fashion: Philosophy is the how and why of things. Its aim is to explain all things on the ground of some basic principle or principles. It is, therefore, a world-view or Weltanschauung. Accordingly I have said that the Bible is the best of all philosophies because it gives the most rational and satisfying explanation of the existence and purpose of all things. The Bible says: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” “All things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that was made.” That is rational. The world from an intelligent cause is sense; the world from a blind force is nonsense.
But we are faced today with a point blank denial of the theistic conception of the world, and that is why we have this subject;
What Kind of a Being is God?
You may have noticed some magazine articles that have lately appeared in some of the leading journals, and which were written to undermine belief in a personal God or at least to destroy faith in orthodox Christianity, if not in all revealed religion whatsoever. Such magazines as The Atlantic Monthly, Current History, The North American Review, The American Hebrew and others have given room to these skeptical and infidel articles.
A considerable number of scientific writers are asking for a whole new theological system, including a new conception of God, and a new religions creed, which would set aside historical Christianity altogether. Prof. George Johnson, of Lincoln University, in the January number of the Princeton Theological Review, has given us a good summary of such radical demands.
Then, we have a number of books written e.g. Science as Revelation, and the Religion of Science, in all of which Christianity is to be displaced by a new cult, or so modified that she will not even recognize herself.
Perhaps that most bitter and virulent of these writers is Prof. Harry Elmer Harnes of Smith College, which is a woman’s College in Massachusetts. He is a bold and aggressive defamer of Christianity and a prolific writer who pushes his propaganda into every open door. Sad to say some of our magazines have opened their columns to his poisonous articles. As he represents those who are calling on us to discard the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of the Old Testament and the New Testament, the God of evangelical Christianity, and asking us to accept a new God, probably better spelled with a little “g”, we will accord him and his ideas some consideration.
In the American Hebrew of April 19, 1929, he has written what I think is about the worst article I have ever read.
He says: “Our great task today is to free religion of existing vestiges of archaic supernaturalism, and primitive animism, and to found the new developments upon assumptions which accord with modern knowledge, and can make a powerful appeal to contemporaneously-minded individuals. We shall here,” he says, “summarize only a few of the outstanding evils which we may assign to the influence of orthodox religion. The scientist looks upon the great body of fears and superstition which obviously have not the slightest scientific validity, but nevertheless continue to terrorize countless millions.” One is disposed to laugh when he reads that. Every sane man knows that our religion gives us joy and comfort and courage and peace. Did not Paul write: “Rejoice and again I say rejoice?” Prof. Barnes continues: “He,” the scientist, “considers the unhealthy and unhappy mental states which afflict millions in America today because of false theories of life inculcated in earlier ages when man was solely concerned with salvation. And when he had no command of the scientific knowledge essential to the understanding of what constitutes a healthy and happy life here on earth.” He condemns Prohibition, seems to favor free divorce, and denounces our laws on abortion, evidently he favors the practice of abortion. Well when a man surrenders his religions beliefs he surrenders his morals too.
Listen again: “unscrupulous employers exploit supernatural religion as a social anesthetic, thus enabling them to escape their decent obligation of adequate wages and satisfactory working hours. By aiding the priesthood in their effort to perpetuate superstition and other worldliness, they are reasonably successful in inducing the laborers to accept their harsh and miserable life here on earth in the hope of better things in heaven. The scientist must also deplore the ugliness, brutality and wastes which are an inevitable by-product of the superstitions, prejudices, and solemnity of orthodox religion.”
In this connection we remember that Paul said: “The workman is worthy of his hire.” And the law of Moses said: “Muzzle not the ox that treadeth out the corn.” And Jesus said: “Do unto others as ye would that others should do unto you.” If that is the ugliness and brutality in religion of which he speaks we could wish that the world might have some more of it.
We quote further: “It is held that in the great creative week between October 23rd and October 28th, 4004 B.C. Jehovah created the universe and all therein. Our earth, conceived of as a small bit of land around the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea, was by all odds the largest and most important element in the universe. God placed over this minute earth a solid blue bowl known as the firmament, the inside of which was studded with the heavenly luminaries placed there for the edification and use of men. The heavens were at best but a few miles from the earth, and God and his kindred spirits were perfectly free to pass to and fro between earth and the dome of the heavens. Man was looked upon as the most important entity in the material universe. Sinful conduct was not judged by the effect of behavior upon human existence and happiness, but “rather with respect to its relation to the supposed commands of God.”
Of course you will recognize this as some caricature of the Christian belief. Now we will see how he assumes to demolish God and the supernatural world. We quote again: “It scarcely needs to be pointed out that even those rudimentary aspects of modern sciences which lie beyond the reach of criticism completely explode this whole theory of the universe, God, man, and the good life.” Observe that he claims to have exploded God now. He goes on: Modern Science entirely rejects any such theory as that of a supernatural world divorced from the material universe, constituting the source of energy and providing the direction of the material universe. There is no evidence whatever to support the theory of supernatural causation.”
We just pause long enough to remark,
That life must have come from life.
That a product manifesting intelligent construction must have an intelligent cause.
That there is no intelligence without personality.
That there is evidence of intelligent operation in the universe before vegetable or animal life came into existence.
Prof. Barnes goes on to say that the rejection of the orthodox view involves the complete reconstruction of the place of Jesus in modern religion. That means that the Deity of Jesus Christ goes into the scrap heap along with all other Christian beliefs.
But not we ask what sort of a God would Prof. Barnes give us? Well he is not able to give us much of a god even spelled with a little “g”. He does not like the terms “First Cause”, for he says that “the conception ‘first’ and the conception “cause” are purely human inventions which may have no validity whatever in relation to the God question.” He says: “Our modern physicists have already rendered a heavy blow to the older theories of causation.” We do not take any stock in that. David Hume tried to dispute belief in cause, but he is dead, and so is his peculiar disbelief in cause.
But the god of Prof. Barnes is what he calls a “cosmic god,” and he can’t tell us much about his god. He says: “It would appear that the most which we may hope to achieve in the search for a new cosmic God is a sense of vague, if impressive, cosmic reverence and terrestrial humility.” I concede it is vague enough, and if there is anything you can get out of it you are quite welcome to it.
Now this cosmic god is nothing more than just natural law or the power that is in the universe. He confesses that he can’t just quite reconstruct a new God but declares that “the orthodox conception of Jehovah is perhaps the greatest myth that history records.”
Then as to the explanation of the universe without a God, he says “that is likely to remain a question unsolved by mankind. It involves issues and implications that quite surpass the capabilities of the human mind. Indeed, the very assumption that there is any such thing as purpose or explanation is obviously a purely human conception, and a mundane invention.” But all his denial and dogmatism, is according to his own showing, but human conception, so that he has nothing to offer us but his own rabid, biased, spiteful, human, foolish opinions.
But now, we want to pass to a deeper phase of this subject. We have met with sheer assertion and not one word of proof. We have been told that there is no supernatural world, that there is no immortality, that there is no such God as we have always believed in, worshipped, trusted, and obeyed, that there is no revelation, no expressed will of God, and no sin. We have been told that the world has no plan or purpose or design that we can conceive and that it is practically hopeless to look for any. But what is the basis of such denials. Can we get at that? To answer this question we refer to another magazine article. In the March 1929 number of Current History there was a debate by Prof. Barnes and Bishop Francis J. McConnell on the questionL “Our Conception of God: Should It Be Revised?” Prof. Barnes took the affirmative and Bishop McConnell the negative. Bishop McConnell, who is a scholarly man, made a good answer as far as it went, but I prefer to treat that question in my own way, and deal with the arguments of Prof. Barnes.
In his argument he assumes the truth of certain postulates in science and philosophy and asserts that orthodox belief in God is incompatible with these postulates. But he does not prove his postulates. He merely assumes that they are true. Some of them are manifestly false, and where there is some truth in them he draws a conclusion that is a sheer non-sequitur.
Now what are the arguments he adduces!
1. Well, he refers to Einstein’s Relativity. Not very fully to be sure; but says that Einstein has suggested that energy is the ultimate fact of the physical universe, and that time and space are convenient human illusions which are in reality manifestations of energy. Observe that he says energy is the ultimate fact of the physical universe. To him there is nothing else. To discuss Relativity would be a large task. And I cannot say that I fully understand Einstein. His discussion largely involves mathematical physics; and the algebraic equations and mathematical formularies are puzzling in the extreme. I think I have read somewhere that Einstein himself, has said that his theory did not affect any fundamental position. But other writers following Einstein are pushing the principle of Relativity into all possible spheres of knowledge. For example:
If I look at Philadelphia from the top of City Hall I get one impression. If I look at it from a touring car I get another impression. In both cases my observation is partial, and so it is said my knowledge is relative to the whole sum of possible impressions. And while that is true the impressions are not false, only they are not complete. When this is applied to all knowledge it simply means that we are not omniscient.
Partial knowledge is still knowledge and we are justified in believing it. It is not correct to assume that because we do not know everything, that what we do know is false. Then it seems to me, that there are whole realms of knowledge where relativity does not apply. I don’t believe it applies to the multiplication table, nor to mathematical demonstration. If Relativity is wrought out by mathematical formulae, and they are only relatively true then who can be certain about the truth of Relativity?
I do not believe that Relativity applies to our intuitions. A part must be less than the whole and we can’t admit any uncertainly about it. God has not revealed all that it is possible for him to reveal. In this sense the revelation is partial, but that does not make it untrue.
Relativity has been pushed into all departments of knowledge, into science, philosophy, knowledge, truth; and the question has been raised whether personality is relative, also personal identity. Then it is said that time and space are human illusions. If space is not real then nothing in space is real and the whole physical universe, the only entity in which Prof. Barnes does believe, is wiped out at one stroke. And if there is nothing physical and nothing spiritual, then nothing remains but nothing. Cardinal O Connell warned Catholic students that behind the denial of space and time great dangers lurked.
But we need have no fears that anyone will ever convince the world that there are no such things as space and time. Men have too much common sense. The man who has been brought up on the soil and ploughed the fields, and estimate the acres by counting the rods in the zigzag fence, and counted the hours from sunrise to sunset will never be fooled by such spurious philosophy. His experience is against it, and experience is more certain than speculation. Professor F. R. Moulton has pointed out that “Relativity has been verified in only a few classes of phenomena, in all of which large percentages of uncertainty remains. Also theories have been built up from what is known of Einstein’s discoveries far beyond what there is any justification for”. Professor Barnes says very little about Relativity but evidently means to imply that our knowledge is uncertain and therefore at best we must be agnostic. We are quite ready to admit that our knowledge is incomplete, but on the other hand we are certain that we do know some things and know them so certainly that there is no possibility of doubt.
2. Professor Barnes’ second argument is on the ground of Astro-Physics. We are told what a big universe this is, that the spectroscopes, giant telescope, and celestial photography have revealed to us a cosmic universe of universes which staggers us, indeed wholly transcends the capacity of the human mind. Then he tells us what they expect to discover when they get a 200 inch telescope, that they may discover stars whose light will take a billion years to reach earth.
Then he says: “The inadequacy of conventional religious assumptions and categories is at once made apparent when we remember that such concepts were evolved in an age which conceived of the cosmos as a small part of the present earth, covered with an inverted blue bowl a few miles distant”. Well we wish that Professor Barnes would read the first chapter of Genesis and the book of Job. We would like to inform him that the orthodox concept of God is that he is infinite and eternal. We really think we will hold on to our present conceptions of God while the new telescope discovers a universe several times bigger than infinity. The greater the universe, the greater is our God; for Genesis 1:1 tells us: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”.
Dr. Fosdick is telling us, till it becomes wearisome, about the little God of the Bible, who lived in the mountain, or was carried in a box. But we remember that Solomon said: “The heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain these”.
3. Professor Barnes’ third argument is Physical Analysis or Ultimate Energy. The Physicist takes an atom of Hydrogen and succeeds apparently, in reducing it to electricity. Then the material world seems to vanish into force or energy. The atom is reduced to electrons and the electrons with their controlling nuclei seem to be but charges of electricity. So that from this world of visible and tangible things we seem to drop through the bottom into underlying immateriality. Thus the physicist seems to reach the ultimate bound of existence in electricity, or force or energy. Now some have raised the question: Is not electricity God? and I believe some have asserted that electricity is God. In an article, written by Garrett P. Serviss, I read, “Through the atom we seem to pass from matter to spirit. The sensual world and the world of spirituality blend into one another by virtue of the electrical constitution of the universe.”
To this I reply not a bit of it. You can’t arrive at spirit by an analysis of matter. The physicist may reduce his atom to electricity, or force or energy or whatever he wants to call it, but there is still an impassible gulf between the last residuum of the physicist and what we call spirit.
Garrett P. Serviss at the end of his article takes back what he said before, and concludes thus: “Properly viewed scientific discoveries have no relation to anything beyond the world of the senses. Scientific immateriality is not comparable with spirit in the religious meaning of the word. The conception of a soul is not identifiable with an electric discharge.” Now that is sense. When physical analysis has proceeded to the utmost it results in nothing but the physical. Electricity is not spirit. Michael Pupin in his recent book, The New Reformation, declares for “the physical existence of electricity” and its “granular structure.” This puts electricity where it ought to be, in the physical realm, and not in the spiritual.
Prof. Barnes makes very little out of this subject, but declares for evolution as the genesis of organic life on our planet. But John M. Watson, taking up this theory of physical analysis, endeavors to reconstruct the universe from the primordial energy into which the atom has been dissipated.
So by mechanical force and chemical affinity, as the working powers, he transforms the energy into electron, and the electrons into atom, and the atoms into molecules, and the molecules into colloids, and colloids into a cells, which cell possesses life, and, remember, all by mechanical energy and chemical affinity.
Then the cell grows into a plant, and the plant into an amoeba, and the amoeba into a crustacean, and the crustacean into a fish, and the fish into a serpent, and the serpent into a fowl, and the fowl into a mammal, and the simian form of the animal into a man. And so here we are, without any God at all, evolved from the electrical energy that lies behind the atomic analysis.
But the theory fails at the point where it assumes to get life out of that which has no life. You can’t get out of a thing what isn’t in it. There can’t be evolution without involution. Ex nihilo nihil fit. If electricity is not spirit but a merely physical entity, then no life can arise from it.
The difficulty from the Christian standpoint is to understand creation – how a material universe could result from a spiritual being. But that is creation and not evolution, and not emanation.
4. Prof. Barnes’ fourth argument is physiological psychology. He asserts that Behaviorism, or a physico-chemical relationship between mind and body, has discredited the older spiritualistic interpretations, by which he means belief in a soul. To him mind just means the brain and its actions. But as I have dealt with this in the first lecture I do not need to repeat.
Remember that these arguments of Prof. Barnes are to show the need of a new conception of God, His conception is that God is just natural law, or world force, a sort of benevolently inclined cosmic tendency. To him there is no personal God, no divine Saviour, no sin, no soul, and no immortality.
Well, after all that Prof. Barnes, and John Holmes have to say we still believe in God defined as a “Spirit infinite, eternal, and unchangable in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.”
We still believe in the conventional arguments for the existence of God. We believe in the Ontological argument, that if something now exists, something must have always existed; in the Cosmological argument, that every effect must have an adequate cause; in the Teleological argument, that design shows an intelligent designer; in the Personal argument, that because we are persons our maker must be personal; in the Moral argument, that because we are moral beings our Creator must be possessed of moral attribute. There is some tendency these days to discredit these proofs/ I want to say that their validity has not been overthrown nor even shaken.
The Bible is the best philosophy in the world for it gives us the most intelligible, rational, and satisfying account of the origin and purpose of the universe. The Bible gives us the best conception of what God is. Dr. Fosdick tells us ad infinitum, ad nauseum, ad disgustam that the God of the Old Testament is a savage, brutal, and immoral God. Let us see:
Gen. 18:25, Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?
Ex. 15:11, Who is like unto thee O Lord, Glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?
Ex. 19:6, And ye be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.
Ex. 34:6, And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.
Lev. 11:44, And ye shall be holy for I am holy.
Lev. 20:7, Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy, for I am the Lord your God.
Deut. 6:5, Thou Shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
Ex. 22:21, Ye shall neither vex a stranger nor oppress him, for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.
Ex. 22:22, Ye shall not afflict any widow or fatherless child.
Deut. 10:19, Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.
Not such a bad kind of a God, was he? But was not God severe on sin and sinners? Yes, and he ought to be; and so he is represented in the later prophets, and in the New Testament as well, – longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth and who will by no means clear the guilty. That is the kind of a God he ought to be. That is the kind of a God we find in the beginning of the Bible, and that is the kind of a God we have in the end; Pentateuch and New Testament alike.
To try to force the Bible into the molds of evolution, in its composition, its doctrines, and its ethics, is a failure; whether attempted by Wellhausen or Dr. Fosdick. The scheme will not fit the facts.
There have been many philosophies in the ages past. But the present-day philosophy is the evolutionary philosophy. First we were taught the evolution of the body, then the evolution of the soul, then the evolution of the Scriptures, then the evolution of religion and the evolution of religious ideas, and now we are taught that Christ is an evolution, and in some quarters that evolution of God.
The effort is made to force everything in the universe into the molds of evolution.
The failure of nearly every philosophy has been that it drove one idea to death. And today evolution is carried to extremes. It will fail, as other philosophies have done, to prove itself the all-comprehending principle. There is just one all-comprehending principle, and that is God. He is the alpha and the omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the ending, a free, living, loving, personal God. Him we worship; Him we adore; and to Him we commit our souls.
What Kind of a Book is the Bible?
Religion and Revelation.
To begin, I assume that I was born in America in the latter part of the 19th century, and as I come to maturity I find in my hands a book called the Bible. I read it with unbiased mind, and make my observations. I observe that it was written by earnest men who meant what they said. They were no liars, as Reimarus the rationalist affirmed; they were not frauds; there is no evidence that they tried to deceive. On the other hand they utter the direct maledictions on all liars, and say that, “all liars shall have their part in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone.” It is not reasonable to suppose that men who uttered such maledictions were liars themselves.
I observe that they suffered persecution and martyrdom for their faith. No man would give his life for what he knew to be false. These men were earnest, sincere, and conscientious men. I observe further that the Bible makes claims that it was given by God. This claim of such men supported by the fact that in it are numerous predictions of events hundreds of years before they happened, which came to pass as predicted, even to small details. The claims of such men supported by such evidence, and by many other lines of evidence, seem to me to be worthy of belief. So after a life time’s study of the book called the Bible I have come to certain convictions about it.
I. I believe that this book is a revelation from God.
1. The antecedent presumption is to me overwhelming that if there is a good God there must be revelation. I cannot conceived that a good God would not reveal himself to his intelligent children, made in his own image, any more than I can conceive of a father who would keep his children forever in ignorance of himself.
If God has revealed his being and power in nature, then surely he would reveal his will regarding man in a way which he can understand. This presumption makes it 99% probable that God has given us a revelation.
2. If there is any such revelation, the Bible is it.
Because there is no other book comparable to the Bible, that can claim to be a revelation. The Bible stands not only in comparison with, but in contrast to all other sacred books in the world. If there is a revelation at all, there is no doubt as to where it is found.
3. The Bible is historically credible, or in other words, it is trustworthy. It is at least as credible as ordinary history. The earnestness and honesty of its writers, and the high moral character of its message entitles it to be believed.
The Bible gives us innumerable historical facts which we know are indubitably true. Wherever it can be tested it is found to be true. It would be accepted as a reliable witness in every civil court in the world. Every witness is assumed to be truthful till the opposite is indubitably proved. A defendant’s case in court cannot be overthrown by some one swearing the opposite. One man’s oath is as good as another’s, and the defendant’s case stands as long as the witnesses are balanced. So the Bible cannot be overthrown by some one denying it. The infidel says: “I deny your Bible, now prove that it is true.” We answer: The burden of proof rests on you to show that it is false. The Bible’s testimony stands until the opposite is indubitably proved.
The infidel has no right to claim an advantage that isn’t his.
If the Bible can be believed at all then we can believe what it says about itself; and hundreds of times it says: “Thus saith the Lord.” Nothing is more needed today than that men believe what the Bible says. Not what men imagine, or what men graft on the Bible, but what it says taken at its face value.
4. The Bible has been attested by miracles.
Some people think this is its weakness. I am well aware that some people make their chief objection to the Bible because of its miracles. But miracles are most probable in a supernatural revelation. Messengers from a monarch must carry credentials to authenticate their mission and refute contradiction. The writers of Scripture claimed to have a message from God. But any person could make that claim, as many have done. But the Scripture writers wrought miracles to show that their claim was true. These were their credentials furnished by God. If a man claimed to be from God and he raised the dead to prove it, there couldn’t be any more doubt about it.
5. Again as I read this Bible I see that it reveals what only God could know.
This shows me that it is a revelation. Who could write the first chapter of Genesis without a revelation? What man could write the history of the world before man was on the earth? The harmonies of that first chapter with modern science are seen in almost every verse. Who could tell the story of creation but God?
Predictive prophecy is a demonstrable fact, though some men are busy denying it. Dr. Scroggie said he didn’t know how any man in his senses could deny so obvious a fact. When the wise men came to Jerusalem and asked where the Messiah was to be born, the chief priests and scribes had it on the end of their tongues, and quoted the prophecy that foretold it.
Jesus Christ foretold his crucifixion and resurrection. And the Bible gives us the yet unseen chapters of the world’s fate, and the destiny of the human race. Who knows the future but God?
6. The Bible gives us the loftiest moral system in the world.
The ten commandments, the sermon on the mount, the golden rule, the teachings of Jesus, and the Bible as a whole are the loftiest precepts ever given to man.
Jesus Christ said: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy hearts, and soul, and strength, and mind, and thy neighbor as thyself.”
Again he said: “Be ye perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” And Moses represents God as saying: “Be ye holy, for I am holy.” From first to last the Bible gives us the highest standards and the loftiest ideals there are in the world.
7, The Bible is vindicated by its power in the world.
No other book has such power. Charles Darwin wanted to study nature in Terra del Fuego. It was about the most savage place in the world. If he got on shore, I don’t know if he did, at least he couldn’t stay there. Such sights as he saw could not be told. He was glad to sail away. But Thomas Bridges went there; and landed, and lived, and toiled, and taught, and translated the Bible. Any one can go there today in perfect safety. So it has been wherever the Bible has gone. Civilization is just about coterminous with the knowledge of the Bible. Can the world be regenerated by a falsehood? Never. Or by a mistake? No. It is only truth, and the truth of God, that will save men.
“Sanctify them through thy truth, thy word is truth.”
8. The Bible tells what man most needs to know.
It meets his needs mental and spiritual. It tells him whence he came, what he is here for, and whither he is going. It accurately portrays the human heart, and offers the only remedy for sin which the world knows. It puts purpose into his life, and makes him live to some worthy end. It comforts him in sorrow, gives him hope and courage in face of death, provides a way of salvation, and holds out the incentive of a beatific destiny. That is worth more than all the world can give.
One of the most profound thinkers of the age, holding a Bible in his hand said: “I am a man; I am going somewhere; I am twenty four hours nearer that somewhere today than I was yesterday. I have read all that infidelity and unbelief have to say. They have not shed one solitary ray of light on the darkness; and they shall not take away the only guide I have and leave me stone blind.” Does not the Bible tell us what we need to know when we face eternal destiny? And is it not a revelation of God to that end?
9. The harmony of the Bible shows its divine origin.
It is one story; it has one plan; it has one aim. Written through 1500 years, by men having no collusion, or in many cases no connection, it carries out a unified design.
Genesis and Revelation are the head and the nut that bolt the Bible together.
Genesis shows sin in the beginning; Revelation shows salvation in the end.
Genesis shows man driven out; Revelation shows him brought back.
Genesis shows a closed gate; Revelation shows a city open on all sides.
Genesis shows exclusion from the tree of life; Revelation shows admission to the tree of life.
Genesis gives us the promise; Revelation shows the promise fulfilled.
Genesis shows the curse on sin; Revelation the victory over it.
Genesis shows paradise lost; Revelation shows paradise regained.
Genesis shows the beginning of the human race; Revelation shows its destiny.
Genesis shows the first step; Revelation the last step in the process of redemption.
The Bible is one story.
10. The accuracy of the Bible witnesses its divine origin.
I know that here I am on disputed ground. Dr. Snowden, the editor of the Presbyterian Banner, has written a book in which he tries to show the inaccuracy and untrustworthiness of the Biblical record.
There are a few things in the record which we cannot explain; but that is of no account. We have no facilities for explaining them. There are some things in Dr. Snowden’s writing that are to me flat contradictions but if I denounce him or them too harshly, he would certainly not be pleased. Nearly every alleged discrepancy in the Bible has first been made by the critic and then exploited as if it were true.
The Bible lays itself open to hundreds and thousands of palpable tests of its accuracy. It mentions literally thousands of names and places, events in history, geography, kings, rulers, wars, laws, customs, natural and national events, domestic and social relations, and nearly every thing conceivable. No other sacred book does that. The Bible can be tested in thousands of particulars; topographically, geographically, historically, sociologically, and in every other way. And it is safe to say that wherever any evidence can be found it is shown to be true.
Compared with all other ancient writing the Bible is a miracle in itself. Read the ancient cosmogonies. They would make you laugh, – this earth hatched out of an egg, with a given number of years for incubation; – resting on a tortoise, – the land surrounded by seven seas, of salt water, fresh water, juice of sugar cane, spiritous liquors, clarified butter, sour milk &c. Why did not the writer in Genesis commit the same absurdities? Why is the account in Genesis in harmony with the science of the present day? Will any modern man with a fling at Genesis undertake to write the scientific formularies of an age 8000 years hence?
Aristotle lived 1000 years after Moses, and is still reckoned as one of the great scholars of all ages. But Aristotle taught that the earth was the center of creation and that the sun and planets revolve around it. If Moses had made that statement he would now be the subject of serision the world over.
It is impossible to do justice to such a subject as this. I can simply skim over it and scarcely touch it. But some of you know that Sir Wm.Ramsay and our own Dr.Wm.T.Ellis have made investigations that have verified the Bible in many historical and topographical details. And the whole testimony of Archaeology has been unvarying in its support of the Bible’s accuracy. The recent investigations of Profs. Sellin, Kyle, and DuBose are matters of but yesterday, and all to the same effect.
For these reasons I believe the Bible to be a revelation.
It should probably be remarked here that we use the word revelation in its comprehensive sense. That is, that a revelation is not always a de novo disclosure of truth. But God often used history, narrative, personal experience of men, &c. and directed them to be written, and appointed them to be the expression of his teaching and will.
II. Second Main Division. Modernism.
Perhaps it will not be out of place here to mention Modernism and the caveat it files against the Bible. Modernism is chiefly negative. A recent writer said that ministers have preached their negations “till their congregations are now pretty well informed as to what we no longer believe.”
Well these are the negations of Modernism. It denies:
1. Specific creation.
2. The fall.
3. Supernatural revelation.
4. Predictive prophecy.
5. Christ’s pre-existence.
6. The virgin birth.
7. Some of the miracles
8. Vicarious atonement.
9. Christ’s resurrection.
10. His ascension.
11. His return.
12. The resurrection of the body.
13. The inspiration of the Scriptures.
I have not mentioned in this list the Deity of Christ, because that is involved in his pre-existence. I have no time to discuss these points. They belong rather to Theology than to bibliology, though they all concern the truthfulness of the Bible.
But just a few words: –
For specific creation the modernist gives us evolution. In my estimation evolution is bankrupt. There is some noise made about it yet, and some people don’t know that it is dead; but there is only one argument left for evolution and that is the morphological, or the anatomical resemblance between man and some beasts; and that may be explained by plan and not by descent. All the other arguments have gone up in smoke.
All the evidence shows that species came into existence suddenly and not by gradual ascent, and by infinitesimal increments. If there is any evolution it is polyphiletic and not monophyletic; that is that each species had its own primordial germ, and not all from one germ. But I can’t take time for this.
As to the Deity of Christ, modernism denies his pre-existence and his metaphysical oneness with God, and makes him just an evolution from the human stock and the human stock an evolution from the brute. His divinity is just a pantheistic divinity, or a lofty human life which is called divine; and his pre-existence is explained by saying that love, and truth, and right are eternal principles. But that is no personal pre-existence at all.
The modernist declares that he believes in vicarious atonement; but he explains the word vicarious, so that there is no atonement at all by the death of Christ.
He is an adept at explaining away the accepted usage of words.
Modernism is in point blank disagreement with the Bible on all these 13 points mentioned; but of course there are all grades and degrees of modernists, and some of them would say that they are not quite so bad as that.
III. Third Main Head. Inspiration.
I come now to the Inspiration of the Scriptures.
In my theology I am a Scriptural theologian. My book on theology will show that. I go right to the Scriptures for my doctrinal positions. That is where every Christian theologian ought to go. So for the doctrine of Inspiration let us see what the Scriptures say.
Deut. 4/5, I have taught as the Lord commanded me.
Deut. 6/1-2, These are the commandments which the Lord God commanded to teach.
II Sam. 23/2, The Spirit of God spake by me, and his word was in my tongue.
Jer. 1/9, Behold I have put my words into thy mouth.
Ezek. 3/4, Son of man go get thee to the house of Israel, and speak with my words unto them.
Hos. 1/1, The word of the Lord that came unto Hosea.
So all the other prophets declare their words to be the words of the Lord.
Lk. 1/70, As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets.
Acts 4/25, Who by the mouth of thy servant David has said.
1 Cor. 2/13, Which things we speak, not in the words that man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Spirit teacheth.
I Cor. 14/37, The things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.
I Thess. 2/13, When ye received the word of God, which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God.
II Tim. 3/16, All scripture is given by inspiration of God.
Heb. 1/1, God who at sundry times and in divers manners spake unto the father by the prophets.
II Pet. 1/21, For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of men; but holy men spake from God being moved by the Holy Spirit.
John 14/26, The Holy Spirit shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance whatsoever I have said unto you.
From these teaching we see that the Bible was inspired by God, or given by God, – that inspiration may be defined as an influence exercised by the Holy Ghost on the writers of the Scriptures, to preserve them from error in their teaching.
This influence extended to their words; and therefore I am a verbal inspirationist. This does not mean dictation, for God can use all the faculties and powers of men, and control their output, and use even their style and linguistic peculiarities. But while inspiration is not necessarily dictation, some things were dictated; e.g. the ten commandments, the Lord’s prayer, &c.
I am a verbal inspirationist because:
1. If we admit that the words of Scripture were effected or even affected by the Holy Spirit we have verbal inspiration.
2. The Scriptures attribute the words to God. “All Scripture”, – the word scripture means writing, and writing is composed of words.
“Holy men spake.” To speak is to use words.
“Which things we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Spirit teacheth.” Observe the reference to the words.
“When ye received the word of God, which ye heard of us, ye received it, not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God.”
“I have out my words into thy mouth.”
“The Spirit of God spake by me, and his word was in my tongue.”
The Scripture writers always declare their words to be the words of God.
The doctrine of the Scripture is that of verbal inspiration. That must satisfy any man who accepts the Scriptures as authoritative.
3. Men who deny the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures, and some who deny any inspiration at all, admit that the writers of the New Testament believed that their words were the very words of God. Such men were F.W. Farrar, Pfleiderer, Stapfer, and others. We conclude that the writers of the New Testament were better judges of the matter than some modern men.
4. If the Bible is a law to mankind, it is verbally inspired.
All law is verbally contained. The authority of the law is expressed in the words of the act. The authority of a law cannot be divorced from its words. A law consists of words, and the scriptures, as God’s law to man consist of words. Take away the words and you destroy law. We cannot separate the meaning of a law from the words that express it.
George H. Horne writes: “An inspired Bible, apart from the inspired words, is an absurd proposition. There is only one kind of Biblical inspiration, and that is verbal inspiration. The Bible is a book of words. Take away the words and you have only paper left. If we admit that God can speak through the Holy Spirit, then it is impossible to know what he says except as we have his words.”
Another question that arises is: Does inspiration guarantee inerrancy?
We need to clarify some misconceptions:
1. Inerrancy does not mean that the writers were faultless in life.
2. Inerrancy does not mean that a wrong interpretation could not be put on the text, or that it could not be misunderstood.
3. Inerrancy does not deny the flexibility of language, or possible variation of meaning in words.
4. Inerrancy means that the truth is conveyed in words which, understood as they were meant to be understood, express no error.
Now what do the Scriptures say as to their own inerrancy?
“Thy word is very pure.”
“Thy law is the truth.”
“Thy word is true from the beginning.”
“The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.”
“One jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law.”
Christ said: “The Scriptures cannot be broken.” This was said as to a single word.
Christ in his intercessory prayer says: “Thy word is truth.”
Such writers as Dr. Snowden try to make much of what they assume to be Christ’s correction of the Old Testament, as if it were in error.
For example: “Ye have heard that was said by them of old time: ‘Thou shalt not kill’: but I say unto you that whosoever is angry &c.” That does not contradict nor correct the Old Testament. It only points out that the law of God applies to the inward life as well as to the outwards life.
“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time: ‘thou shalt not commit adultery’, but I say unto you &c.” No contradiction or correction of the Old Testament whatsoever.
“Ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, ‘Thou shalt not foreswear thyself,’ but I say: Swear not at all?” Does that contradict the Old Testament?
“Ye hath heard that it hath been said “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ but I say: Resist not evil”.
People are prone to point to that old law as if it were an urge to vengeance. Why, it was one of the best laws ever written. It is just the principle that rules in all our civil court today. If you kill my cow you must pay me her value. If you steal my horse, you must at least restore the price of him. It is just simple justice. And it prevented a man from exacting more than was right. It forbade taking a life for a tooth, or a life for an eye as was all too likely in a rude age. The laws of Moses had more common sense than the modern age is willing to give them credit for. And how they have been slandered!
“Ye have heard that it hath been said: ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy.’” That may have been said by the Pharisees or some ancient sociologist; but it isn’t in the Old Testament. In fact the Old Testament says to love the stranger and thy neighbor as thyself.
The question of divorce is often cited as an example of Christ’s abrogating the laws of Moses. But the passage shows the Moses only permitted some things as a temporary expedient which were to be superseded, as was true of the ceremonial law.
Christ nowhere contradicts the Old Testament but calls it the word and commandment of God. But if the ministry and mission of Christ fulfilled and superseded some ceremonial and temporary things, that does not give Dr. Snowden nor any other man the right to repudiate whatever he pleases.
IV. Foruth General Head. Authority
From what has been said it follows that the Bible is of supreme authority, because it is the word of God. Christ said: “Whoever shall break one of these least commandments and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven; But whoever shall do and teach them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
And John writes: “And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things that are written in this book. And if any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in the book.”
But men today do not like authority. Parental authority has suffered a noticeable decline. Students do not want to submit to the authority of the institutions that educate them, bu clamor for student government. Civil government is driven to desperation in trying to cope with lawlessness. It is all the same disease.
Men are not stopping to think whether a thing is right or wrong, legal or illegal. Their only concern is: Can I get away with it? They scout the very right of any government to say what they shall do or not do.
The same disregard is shown toward any divine authority. Accumulated volumes are written to persuade men that there is no external authority in religion; neither church, nor Bible, nor God. This is an age of subjectivism. Man wants to be a law unto himself and to do just as he pleases. Oh how busy men are trying to prove that the Bible has no authority over you.
Christ sent out his disciples to preach and said: “And whatsoever shall not receive you nor hear your words, verily I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city.”
If the Scriptures are the word of God, they are of absolute authority.
The Scripture writers declare that are the word of God. Christ declares it. And all experience and observation show that where they are believed and obeyed they regenerate and sanctify man, and reform and elevate society. By their fruits ye shall know them.
“Sanctify them through thy truth, thy word is truth.” If Christ called the Scriptures “truth”, I am satisfied to rest in the finality of his word.