Saturday, June 24, 2017

Inspiration Includes the Words, Not Simply the Thoughs

The prophets and the apostles,” some say, “were, no doubt, inspired when they wrote their sacred books, in so far as respected their thoughts; but we must believe, that, beyond this, they were left to themselves as respects their language; so that in this written revelation the ideas are God's, and the expressions those of a man...the Divine Spirit is considered to have presented the holy truths they announce to the view of the evangelists and the prophets, leaving them no more to do than simply to express them; and this mode of conceiving of what they did,” it is added, “at once accounts for the striking differences of style which their writings exhibit.”

We reply:—
  1. That this system is directly contrary to Scripture testimony. The Bible declares itself to be written, “not with the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth." It calls itself 'the word of God," "the words of God,' 'the voice of God,' 'the oracles of God,' 'the lively oracles of God," "the holy letters of God," "the scripture of God." A scripture, or writing, is made up of letters and words, and not of invisible thoughts only: but, we are told, "all SCRIPTURE is given by inspiration of God." What is WRITTEN, therefore, is inspired of God (θεόπνευστος); and that which is inspired of God is ALL SCRIPTURE - it is all that is written (πᾶσα γραφὴ ).
  2. While this system is contradictory to the Bible, it is also most irrational. The ideas of our fellow-men embody themselves in words; and it is there only that you can seize them. Souls are revealed to us only in the flesh. You do not learn their character; you know nothing of their desires or their experiences; you do not even suspect their existence; and betwixt you and them there are no ties, until they have become clothed with bodies, and have received organs, so that they can manifest themselves to you. My most intimate friend is known to me only by the language of his voice and his gestures. If he had no power of employing these, in vain might he remain for twenty years at my side: he would be to me as if he were not.
  3. This theory of a divine revelation, in which you would have the inspiration of the thoughts without the inspiration of the language, is so inevitably irrational that it cannot be sincere, and proves false even to those who propose it; for, without their suspecting it, it makes them come much further down in their arguments than their first position seems at a first glance to indicate. Listen to them. Though the words are those of man, say they, the thoughts are those of God. And how will they prove this to you? Alas! once more, by attributing to this Scripture from God, contradictions, mistakes, proofs of ignorance! Is it then the words alone that they attack? and are not these alleged errors much more in the ideas than in the words? So true it is that we cannot separate the one from the other, and that a revelation of God's thoughts ever demands a revelation of God's words also.
  4. This theory is not only anti-biblical, irrational, and mischievous; further, it is taken up arbitrarily, and amounts at best to a gratuitous hypothesis.
  5. Besides, it is very useless; for it resolves no difficulty. You find it difficult, say you, to conceive how the Holy Ghost could have given the words in Holy Scripture; but can you tell us any better how he gave the thoughts? Will it be more easy for you, for example, to explain how God suggested to Moses the knowledge of the different acts of the creation, or to St. John that of all the scenes of the last day, than to conceive how he made them write the narrative of these things in the language of the Hebrews, or in that of the Greeks?
  6. But we have much more to say than this. That which in this theory ought above all to strike every attentive mind, is its extreme inconsistency, seeing that those even who hold it most strenuously, are forced withal to admit that, in its greatest part, the Scripture behooved to be inspired to the men of God EVEN IN ITS WORDS.
  7. We have said, that the question relates to the BOOK, and not to the WRITERS. You believe that God gave them the thoughts always, and not always the words; but the Scripture tells us, on the contrary, that God has given them always the words, and not always the thoughts. As for their thoughts, while they were in the act of writing, God might inspire them with ideas more or less lively, more or less pure, more or less elevated: that interests my charity alone, but has no bearing on my faith. The SCRIPTURE—the Scripture which they have transmitted to me, perhaps without themselves seizing its meaning, at least without ever entirely comprehending it, this is what concerns me. Paul might have been mistaken in his thoughts, when, on appearing before the council of the priests, and not recognizing God's high-priest, he ventured to say to him, “God shall strike thee, thou whited wall!" This is of little consequence, however, provided I know that Peter might have been mistaken in his thoughts when, refusing to believe that God could send him among the heathen, he did not perceive and acknowledge that “in every nation, they who turn to God are accepted of him." He might have been still more grievously mistaken when, at Antioch, he compelled Paul to withstand him to the face, because he was to be blamed, and because he walked not uprightly according to the truth of the Gospel. But how does this concern me, after all, I repeat, at least as respects my faith? For the question is, not how I can know at what moments, or in what measure, Paul, John, Mark, James, or Peter, were inspired in their thoughts, or sanctified in their conduct: what, above all, interests me, is to know that all the sacred pages were divinely inspired; that their written words were the words of God; and that, in giving these to us, they spoke, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth, (οὐκ ἐν διδακτοῖς ἀνθρωπίνης σοφίας λόγοις); that then it is NOT THEY that speak, but the Holy Ghost;" in a word, that “God hath spoken BY THE mouth of his prophets since the world began.“ The sacred writers were sometimes inspired; but the Holy Scriptures were so ALWAYS. Accordingly, the times, the measures, the degrees, the alternations of the inspiration of the men of God, are not for us an object of faith; but that which is an object of faith, is that the Scripture is divinely inspired, and that that which is divinely inspired is the whole Scripture. “Not one jot or tittle of it shall pass away.” There is doubtless an inspiration of thoughts, as there is an inspiration of words; but the first makes the CHRISTIAN, while it is the second that makes the PROPHET.

    From Theopneustia, by Louis Gaussen

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Evolutionism is not Operational Science

It never ceases to amaze me when evolutionists (whether atheists or the so-called “theistic” variety) accuse creationists of being unscientific by ignoring evidence. The following paragraphs will point out a number of instances where evolutionism ignores greater demonstrable evidence than what they accuse creationists of ignoring.

First of all, let us assert plainly and forcefully: Evolutionism is not operational science! The scientific method, the true basis for any and all scientific knowledge, requires observation. Hypotheses are developed based on the observations. These are in turn tested by various experiments. The hypotheses are tweaked to conform to the outcome of the various experiments, resulting in a “theory.” Evolutionism begins with a theory, then it subjects data to experiments born from the very presuppositions this theory already believes. It then creates hypotheses to explain the results of his experiments, and then brushes aside as irrelevant the obvious fact that no one has lived long enough to witness the touted evolutionary changes. What exactly about this backward procedure is scientific?

It is worth repeating that science is not objective. Indeed, objectivity is impossible in any scientific field. This means we have good reason to doubt the outcome of all experiments that are relied upon to “demonstrate” evolution. It's not that we assert that the results of the experiments are fudged, but that the very experiments to which the data are subjected are, by nature, skewed in favor of the result the scientist hopes to achieve. They are a form of question-begging, and therefore, logical fallacies. The very experiments chosen are chosen precisely because they suit the experimenters presuppositions. No one who believes that apples are red would ever subject apples to experiments designed to prove that they are gray. The very experiments conceived of by the scientist will be conditioned by his presuppositions. It's just that simple. How exactly is begging the question scientific?

But let's cut a little closer to the bone. Evolutionism stakes everything on what is calls the “law of natural selection.” To any impartial observer, this is another crass case of begging the question. The very term “selection” is pure sophism – utterly inconsistent logically with the underlying philosophy of evolutionism. Selection is an act of an intelligent free-agent – the very thing evolutionism denies exists as a cause of the universe. As if this weren't stupid enough, the term gets partnered with the word “natural.” The 'Nature”' of the evolutionist is unintelligent. She acts by haphazard. The most common “explanation” offered by evolutionists is “chance.” There is no torture to which the word “chance” can be subjected in order to make it mean “intelligent free-agency.” Furthermore, there is no such thing as chance! There is no such entity. It is a piece of meaningless drivel, and an affront to rational beings to ask them to grant full personhood to a nonentity that can then be substituted for God as the creator of the universe.

Darwin was aware of the problem with the term “natural selection,” so he opted for Spenser's term, “survival of the fittest.” This nothing but the same absurdity wearing the disguise of a metaphor. The very notion “fitness” implies design! Fitness is an adjustment. It is crazy enough to say that the physical interaction between an organism and its environment should regularly result in this adjustment, but the simple fact is, there are countless cases where the notion is impossible. There are multitudes of know examples of fitness existing between organisms and conditions and/or environments it almost never encounters.

The fossil “record” is perhaps the greatest example of the unscientific nature of evolutionism. One of the most notable features of all discovered fossils is that they all represent established genera. Missing links are still missing 15 decades after Darwin hatched his theory. But their nonexistence is a much bigger problem for evolutionists than most people realize. Let me illustrate. On evolutionary theory, organisms adapt to their environment over the course of millions of years. If this were indeed true, nearly every fossil discovered would be a missing link, because the transition phases would outnumber established genera by far. At the very least, we should expect to see both sides of the blind process of evoltion played out in the fossil record. Along with developed species, there should also be fossils of the maladapted forms. Where are the million of years worth of fossil birds with useless stubs instead of developed wings? Where are the myriad fossils that would undoubtedly be the result of millions of years of failure? How is it that evolutionists only seem to be aware of the successful mutations? The downside of evolutionary change should be thousands of times more plenteous.

A more devastating critique is this: In what conceivable way can the fact that nature more regularly fails be called an “evolution?” Nature's failures outnumber her successes a billion to one. How on earth is that an evolution? How exactly is that scientific? On evolutionary theory, one should be able to make the same arguments without appeal to the fossil record at all. If nature is indeed evolving, where are all the living transitions? Why is every single plant and animal part of a clearly defined, established genera?

Never mind dinosaurs and apes for the moment. Let's just consider humans as they live today. Humans as supposedly the high point of evolution – the most complicated result of this supposed process. Is it natural to assert that man has adapted over million of years to his environment when men live comfortably and naturally in every climate on earth? Based on the central tenets of evolutionism, this is diametrically opposite to the result touted with regard to every other species.

Evolutionists typically respond to the above criticism that blind chance, given enough time, amid the multitude of its experiments may sometimes happen upon results that bear the appearance of an orderly plan or design. The problem with this response is that it lies about the nature of the case. Nature does not get it right “sometimes” on the evolutionary scheme; it get is right every time. Always! What evolutionists have failed to account for is the observable fact that nature's results always have an orderly adaptation. How exactly is it that every single organ of every single life form living today or represented in the fossil record shows us orderly adaptation? Where, pray tell, are nature's failures? Where are the vast remains of nature's random, non-intelligent, haphazard failed efforts?

Robert Dabney mentions the famous illustration of the someone throwing a basket of printer's type letters, until, after an infinite number of throws, he happened to get precisely the arrangement of letters that composed the poems of Ennius. In response to the question: Why couldn't this happen, Dabney replies, “Suppose, I reply, that the condition of his experiments were this: that he should throw a different basket in each trial, and that a considerable part of all the types thrown in vain should remain heaped around him; then, he and his experiments would have been buried a thousand times over beneath the rubbish of his failures long before the lucky throw were reached. But this is the correct statement of the illustration. The simple making of this statement explodes the whole plausibility, leaving nothing but a bald absurdity. For, as has been already stated, Evolution must admit the teachings of Paleontology. But the later asserts that the organized beings of vast ages still exist, in the form of fossils. Now, will the Evolutionist pretend that the durable remains of the hurtful variations were less likely to continue in the strata than those of the naturally selected? Not one whit. Then, there should be, on his supposition, as large a portion of the printer's types from every unsuccessful 'throw' left for our inspection as from the sole successful one. Where are they?”

Let that sink in: If Nature has thrown out billions of baskets-full of letters hundreds of millions of times, we would never see the one good throw because we'd be buried in the leftover letters from all the unsuccessful throws! Planet earth should be a gigantic bone pile the size of the solar system.

But there is an even bigger problem: Evolutionism asserts that given enough time (which is the only reason their theory requires billions of years), the chance reshuffling of matter could produce the universe as we know it. But this is a grossly deceptive presentation of their case. It's not that after 100 billion attempts, Nature (whatever that means) could get it right. Before responding to this, let us note the personification of Nature (indicated by the capital N), which implies intelligence and design, the very things evolutionism is supposed to reject! Back to the subject: On the evolutionist's scheme, it's not that Nature might get it right after 101,000,000 times. Evolutionism actually proceeds as if Nature gets it right every time! It's not just that a zillion random reshufflings of quarks luckily turned into Oxygen; the same would be required for all 118 known elements. Then a zillion reshufflings (each!) of these elements are required to get all the various molecules that make up water, countless types of rock, breathable atmospheres, life forms that breathe said atmospheres, on and on the list goes. The number of lucky breaks required numbers more that the sum total of particles in the universe.

Science is established by experimentation, which means that predictable, repeatable results. No chemist would be confident in recommending his latest concoction as a cure for anything, without years' worth of predictable and repeatable lab results. Evolution, as far as it pretends to be science, affirms this too. But its entire superstructure is built on an actual denial of this scientific foundation. No repeatable proof, not predictable results, no “this is what happens every time.” Evolutionism actually requires accepting as legitimate exactly what every scientist in every discipline would reject!

One cannot escape the impression that evolutionists have built their empire of illusion by accounting for the movement of the train by explaining that that there are billions more railroad cars than previously believed. This logical fallacy neglects the basic fact that multiplying the train cars infinitely still doesn't account for the movement of the train. For that, you need an engine.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Inspiration of Scripture and its Relation to Translations

It is some times said to us, You assert that the inspiration of the Scriptures extended to the very words of the original text; but wherefore all this verbal exactness of the Holy Word, seeing that, after all, the greater number of Christians can make use of such versions only as are more or less inexact? Thus, then, the privilege of such an inspiration is lost to the Church of modern times; for you will not venture to say that any translation is inspired. This is a difficulty which, on account of its insignificance, we felt at first averse to noticing; but we cannot avoid doing so, being assured that it has obtained some currency among us, and some credit also. Our first remark on this objection must be, that it is not one at all. It does not bear against the fact of the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures; it only contests the advantages of that inspiration…

We proceed, then, to show how even this assertion, when reduced to these last terms, rests on no good foundation. The divine word which the Bible reveals to us, passes through four successive forms before reaching us in a translation. First, it was from all eternity in the mind of God. Next, it was passed by Him into the mind of man. In the third place, under the operation of the Holy Ghost, and by a mysterious process, it passed from the prophets' thoughts, into the types and symbols of an articulate language; it took shape in words. Finally, after having undergone this first translation, alike important and inexplicable, men have reproduced and counter-chalked it, by a new translation, in passing it from one human language into another human language. Of these four operations, the three first are divine; the fourth alone is human and fallible. Shall it be said, that because the last is human, the divinity of the three former should be a matter of indifference to us? Mark, however, that between the third and the fourth— I mean to say, between the first translation of the thought by the sensible signs of a human language, and the second translation of the words by other words—the difference is enormous. Between the doubts that may cleave to us respecting the exactness of the versions, and those with which we should be racked with respect to the correctness of the original text (if not inspired even in its language) the distance is infinite. It is said; of what consequence is it to me that the third operation is effected by the Spirit of God, if the last be accomplished only by the spirit of man? In other words, what avails it to me that the primitive language be inspired, if the translated version be not so? But people forget, in speaking thus, that we are infinitely more assured of the exactness of the translators, than we could be of that of the original text, in the case of all the expressions not being given by God.

Of this, however, we may become perfectly convinced, by attending to the five following considerations: 

1. The operation by which the sacred writers express with words the mind of the Holy Ghost, is, we have said, itself a rendering not of words by other words, but of divine thoughts by sensible symbols. Now this first translation is an infinitely nicer matter, more mysterious and more liable to error (if God puts not his hand to it) than the operation can be afterwards by which we should render a Greek word of that primitive text, by its equivalent in another tongue. In order to a man's expressing exactly the thought of God, it is necessary, if he be not guided in his language from above, that he have thoroughly comprehended it in its just measure, and in the whole extent and depth of its meaning. But this is by no means necessary in the case of a mere translation. The divine thought being already incarnated, as it were, in the language of the sacred text, what remains to be done in translation is no longer the giving of it a body, but only the changing of its dress, making it say in French what it had already said in Greek, and modestly substituting for each of its words an equivalent word. Such an operation is comparatively very inferior, very immaterial, without mystery, and infinitely less subject to error than the preceding. It even requires so little spirituality, that it may be performed to perfection by a trustworthy pagan who should possess in perfection a knowledge of both languages. The version of an accomplished rationalist; who desires to be no more than a translator, I could better trust than that of an orthodox person and a saint, who should paraphrase the text, and undertake to present it to me more complete or more clear in his French than he found it in the Greek or in the Hebrew of the original…

2. A second character by which we perceive how different these two operations must be, and by which the making of our versions will be seen to be infinitely less subject to the chances of error than the original text (assuming that to be uninspired), is, that while the work required by our translations is done by a great many men of every tongue and country, capable of devoting their whole time and care to it -- by men who have from age to age controlled and checked each other, and who have mutually instructed and perfected each other—the original text, on the contrary, behooved to be written at a given moment, and by a single man with that man there was none but his God to put him right if he made a mistake, and to supply him with better expressions if he had chosen imperfect ones. If God, therefore, did not do this, no one could have done it. And if that man gave a bad rendering of the mind of the Holy Ghost, he had not, like our translators, friends to warn, predecessors to guide, successors to correct, nor months, years, and ages in which to review and consummate his work. It was done by one man, and done once for all. This consideration, then, further shows how much more necessary the intervention of the Holy Ghost was to the sacred authors than to their translators.

3. A third consideration, which ought also to lead us to the same conclusion, is, that while all the translators of the Scriptures were literate and laborious persons, and versed in the study of language, the sacred authors, on the contrary, were, for the most part, ignorant men, without literary cultivation, without the habit of writing their own tongue, and liable, from that very circumstance, if they expressed fallibly the divine revelation, to give us an infallible thought in a faulty way.

4. A fourth very powerful consideration, which will make one feel still more sensibly the immense difference existing between the sacred writers and their translators, is, that whereas the thought from God passed like a flash of lightning before the soul of the prophet; whereas this thought could nowhere be found again upon earth, except in the rapid expression which was then given to it by the sacred writer; whereas, if he have expressed it ill, you know not where to go in search of its prototype in order to recover the thought meant to be conveyed by God in its purity; whereas, if he have made a mistake, his blunder is forever irreparable; it must last longer than heaven and earth, it has blemished the eternal book remedilessly, and nobody on earth can correct it;—it is quite otherwise with translators. These, on the contrary, have always the divine text at hand, so as to be corrected and re-corrected, according to the eternal type, until they have become an exact counter-part of it. The inspired word leaves us not; we need not to go in search of it to the third heaven; it is still upon the earth, just as God himself first dictated it to us. You may thus devote ages to its study, in order that the human process of our translation may be subjected to its immutable truth. You can now, after the lapse of a hundred and thirty years, correct Osterwald and Martin, by means of a closer comparison of them with their infallible standard; after the lapse of three hundred and seventeen years, you can correct the work of Luther; after that, of fourteen hundred and forty years, that of St Jerome. God's phraseology is still before us, with which to confront our modern versions, as dictated by God himself, in Hebrew or in Greek, on the day of its being revealed; and, with our dictionaries in your hand, you may, age after age, return to the examination of the infallible expression which it has been his good pleasure to give to the divine thought, until you become assured that the language of the modern ones has truly received the counter impression, and given you the most faithful facsimile of it for your own use. Say no more then, What avails it to me, that the one is divine since the other is human? If you would have a bust of Napoleon, would you say to the sculptor, What avails it to me that your model has been moulded at St Helena on the very face of Bonaparte, seeing that, after all, your copy cannot have been so?

5. In fine, what further distinguishes the first expression which the mind of God has received in the individual words of the sacred book, from its new expression in one of our translations, is that, if you assume the words of the one to be as little inspired as those of the other, nevertheless, the range of conjectures which you might make on their possible faults would be, as respects the original text, a space without bounds and ever enlarging itself; while that same range, as respects the translations, is a very limited space, which is constantly diminishing the longer you remain in it.

If some friend, returning from the East Indies, where your father has, at a great distance from you, breathed his last, were to bring you from him a last letter, written with his own hand, or dictated by him, word for word, in Bengalee, would that letter’s being entirely from him be a matter of indifference to you, because you are not acquainted with the Bengalee language, and can read it only in a translation? Don't you know that you can cause translations of it to be multiplied, until they leave you no more doubt of the original meaning than if you had been a Hindoo? Will you not allow, that after each of these new translations your uncertainties will be always growing less and less, until they cease to be appreciable, as is the case in arithmetic with those fractionary and convergent progressions, the last terms of which are equivalent to zero; while, on the contrary, if the letter were not from your father himself, but from some stranger, who says he has only reproduced his thoughts, then you would find no limits to possible suppositions; and your uncertainties, transported into spheres new and boundless, would go on increasing the more you allowed your mind to dwell upon them; as is the case in arithmetic with those ascending progressions, the last terms of which represent infinitude. It is the same with the Bible. If I believe that God has dictated the whole of it, my uncertainties with respect to its translations are confined within a very narrow range; and even in this range, in proportion as it is re-translated, the limits of doubt are constantly drawn in more closely. But if left to think, on the contrary, that God has not entirely dictated it, and that human infirmity may have had its share in it, where shall I stop in assuming that there may be errors? I know not. The apostles were ignorant—shall I say, they were illiterate—they were Jews; they had popular prejudices; they judaized; they platonized; etc., I know not where to stop. I will begin like Locke, and end like Strauss. I will first deny the personality of Satan, as a rabbinical prejudice; I will end with denying that of Jesus Christ, as another prejudice. Between these two terms, in consequence, moreover, of the ignorance, on many points, to which the apostles were subject, I will proceed, as so many others have done, to admit, in spite of the letter of the Bible, and with the Bible in my hand, that there is no corruption in men, no personality in the Holy Ghost, no divinity in Jesus Christ, no expiation in his blood, no resurrection of the body in the grave, no eternity in future punishments, no anger in God, no devil, no miracle, no damned souls, no hell. St Paul was orthodox, shall I say? as others have done; but be misunderstood his Master. Whereas, on the contrary, if all have been dictated by God in the original, and even to the smallest expression, ‘to the least iota and tittle,’ who is the translator that could seduce me, by his labours, into any one of these negations, and make even the least of these truths disappear from my Bible?

Accordingly, who now can fail to perceive the enormous distance interposed by all these considerations between those two texts (that of the Bible and that of the translations), as respects the importance of verbal inspiration? Between the passing of the thoughts of God into human words, and the simple turning of these words into other words, the distance is as wide as from heaven to earth. God was required for the one; man sufficed for the other. Let it no longer be said, then, What would it avail to us that we have verbal inspiration in the one case, if we have not that inspiration in the other case? For between these two terms, which some would put on an equality, the difference is almost infinite.

Louis Gaussen, Theopneustia, Chapter 4

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Early Church's Doctrine of Inspiration

  1. The ancient Church, with one unanimous voice, teaches that all the canonical writings of the Old and New Testaments ARE GIVEN BY THE HOLY SPIRIT of God; and it is on this sole foundation (and independently of the fragmentary information that human imperfection may acquire from them) that the Church founded her faith on the perfection of the Scriptures.
  2. The ancient Church, following out this first principle, no less firmly maintains the INFALLIBILITY of the Scriptures as their sufficiency and their plenitude. She attributes to their sacred authors not only axiopistia, to wit, a fully deserved credibility, but also autopistia, to wit, a right to be believed, independently of their circumstances or of their personal qualities, and on account of the infallible and celestial authority which caused them to speak.
  3. The ancient Church, viewing the whole Scripture as an utterance, on the part of God, addressed to man, and dictated by the Holy Ghost, has ever maintained that there is NOTHING ERRONEOUS, nothing useless, no thing superfluous there; and that in this divine work, as in that of creation, one may always recognise, amid the richest plenty, the greatest and the wisest economy. Every word there will be found to have its object, its point of view, its sphere of efficacy. It is in vigorously establishing and defending both these characters of the Scriptures, that the ancient Church has shown the elevated and profound idea she entertained of their divine inspiration.
  4. The ancient Church has always maintained that the doctrine of holy Scripture is the SAME THROUGHOUT, and that the Spirit of the Lord gives utterance in every part of it to one and the same testimony. She vigorously opposed that science, falsely so called (1 Tim. vi. 20), which even in the first ages of her history, had taken a regular shape in the doctrines of the Gnostics, and which, daring to impute imperfection to the Old Testament, made it appear that there were contradictions between one apostle and another apostle, where there were really none.
  5. The ancient Church thought that inspiration ought chiefly to be viewed, it is true, as a passive state, but as a state in which the human faculties, FAR FROM BEING EXTINGUISHED or set aside by the action of the Holy Ghost, were exalted by his virtue, and filled with his light. She has often compared the soul of the prophets and of the apostles to 'a stringed instrument, which the Holy Ghost put in motion, in order to draw out of it the divine harmonies of life.' -—(Athenagoras) 'What they had to do, was simply to submit themselves to the powerful action of the Holy Ghost, so that, touched by his celestial influence, the harp, though human, might reveal to us the knowledge of the mysteries of heaven.'— (Justin Martyr) But, in their view, this harp, entirely passive as it was as respects the action of God, was the heart of a man, the soul of a man, the under standing of a man, renewed by the Holy Ghost, and filled with divine life.
  6. The ancient Church, while it maintained that there was this continued action on the part of the Holy Ghost in the composition of the Scriptures, strenuously repelled the false notions which certain doctors, particularly among the Montanists, sought to propagate respecting the activity of the Spirit of God, and the passiveness of the spirit of man in divine inspiration; as if the prophet, ceasing to have the mastery of his senses, had been in the state which the pagans attributed to their sibyls. While the Cataphrygians held that an inspired man, under the powerful influence of the divine virtue, loses his senses, the ancient Church maintained, on the contrary, that the prophet DOES NOT SPEAK IN A STATE OF ECSTASY and that one may distinguish by this trait false prophets from the true. This was the doctrine held by Origen against Celsus (lib. vii. c. 4); as also of Miltiades, of Tertullian, of Epiphanius, of Chrysostom, of Basil, and of Jerome, against the Montanists.
  7. The ancient Church in her endeavours, by means of OTHER DEFINITIONS, which we shall not indicate here, to give greater clearness to the idea of divine inspiration, and to disentangle it from the difficulties with which it was sometimes obscured, still further showed how much she cherished this doctrine.
  8. The ancient Church thought that if the name of action on the part of God is to be applied to inspiration, it must be understood to extend to WORDS as well as to things.
  9. The ancient Church. by her constant MODE on QUOTING the Scriptures, in order to the establishment and defence of her doctrines; by her manner, too, of EXPOUNDING and COMMENTING on them; and, in fine, by the use which she recommends all Christians, with out exception, to make of them as a privilege and a duty; the ancient Church, by these three habitual practices, shows, still more strongly, if it be possible, than she could have done by direct declarations, how profoundly attached she was to the doctrine of a verbal inspiration.

And it is not only by her exposition of the Word that the ancient Church shows us to what point she held the entire inspiration of the Scriptures, as an in controvertible axiom; she will show you this still more strongly, if you will follow her while she is engaged IN RECONCILING THE apparent CONTRADICTIONS sometimes presented by the Gospel narratives. After having made an essay of some explanation, she does not insist upon it; but hastens to conclude, that whatever be its validity, there necessarily exists some method of reconciling those passages, and that the difficulty is only apparent, because the cause of that difficulty lies in our ignorance, and not in Scripture. “Whether it be so, or otherwise (she says with Julius Africanus), it matters not, the Gospel remains entirely true! This is her invariable conclusion as to the perfect solubility of all the difficulties that one can present to her in the Word of God.

  1. The ancient Church was so strongly attached to the doctrine of the personality of the Holy Spirit, and of his sovereign action in the composition of the whole Scriptures, that she made no difficulty in admitting at one and the same time the greatest VARIETY and the GREATEST LIBERTY in the phenomena, in the occasions, in the persons, in the characters, and in all the external circumstances, under the concurrence of which that work of God was accomplished. At the same time that she owned with St Paul, that in all the operations of this Spirit, it is one and the self-same Spirit that divideth to every man severally as he will (1 Cor. xii. 11), she equally admitted that in the work of divine inspiration, the divine causation was exercised amid a large amount of liberty, as respects human manifestations. And be it carefully remarked, that you will nowhere find, in the ancient Church, a certain class of doctors adopting one of these points of view (that of the divine causation and sovereignty), and another class of doctors attaching themselves exclusively to an other (that of human personality, and of the diversity of the writer's occasions, afl'ections, intelligence, style. and other circumstances). “If this were so," says Rudelbach, “one might justly accuse us of having ourselves forced the solution of the problem, instead of faithfully exhibiting the views of the ancient Church." But no; on the contrary, you will often see one and the same author exhibit, at once and without scruple, both of these points of view: the action of God and the personality of man. This is what we see, for example, abundantly in Jerome, who, even when speaking of the specialties of the sacred writers, never abandons the idea of a word introduced by God into their minds. This we farther remark in Irenæus, who, while he insists more than any one else on the action of God in the inspiration of the Scriptures, is the first of the fathers of the Church that relates in detail the personal circumstances of the Evangelists. This is what you will find again in St Augustine; this is what you will see even in the father of Ecclesiastical History, Eusebius of Caesarea, who gives so many details on the four authors of the Gospels, and who, nevertheless, professes the most rigorous principles on the plenary inspiration of the Canonical Scriptures.
  2. The ancient Church shows us more completely still, by two other traits, the idea she had formed of divine inspiration, by the care she took, on the one hand, TO FIX THE RELATIONS which the doctrine of divine inspiration bore to the doctrine of the gifts of grace; and, on the other, To EXHIBIT THE PROOFS of inspiration.
In fine, although the ancient Church presents this spontaneous and universal agreement in the doctrine of inspiration, we must not imagine that this great phenomenon is attached, as some have been fain to say, to some particular system of theology, or may he explained by that system. No more must we regard this wonderful agreement as the germ of a theory that was to establish it, at a later period in the Church. No. The very assertions of an opposite opinion which, from time to time, made themselves heard on the part of the heretics of the first centuries, and the NATURE OF THE REPLIES that were put forth by the ancient Church, clearly demonstrate, on the contrary, that this doctrine was deeply rooted in the Church’s conscience. Every time that the fathers, in defending any truth by passages from Scripture, succeeded so far as to drive their adversaries into the impossibility of defending themselves, otherwise than by denying the full inspiration of the divine testimonies, the Church thought the question was decided. The adversary was tried; he had no more to say for himself; he denied the Scripture to be the Word of God! What more remained to be done, but to compel him to look his own ill-favoured argument in the face, and to say to him, See what you have come to ! as one would bid a man who has disfigured himself, look at himself in a glass? And this the fathers did.

Such are facts of the case; such is the voice of the Church.

Louis Gaussen, Theopneustia, Chapter 3

Friday, June 9, 2017

Witherspoon on Substitutionary Atonement

We come now to speak of the Covenant of Grace. This, taking it in a large sense, may be said to comprehend the whole plan of salvation through Jesus Christ. I am not to mention everything that belongs to this subject; but before entering directly into the constitution of the covenant of grace, it will be proper to speak a little of the doctrine of satisfaction for the guilt of a creature.

As to the first of these. Was satisfaction or some atonement necessary? would it have been inconsistent with divine justice to have pardoned sinners without it? might not the sovereignty and mercy of God have dispensed with the punishment of sin, both in the sinner and in the surety? The agitation of this question, and the zeal that is shewn by some upon it, I cannot help saying, seems to arise from an inward aversion to the truth itself of the satisfaction, and the consequences that follow from it. What does it signify, though anyone should admit that God by his sovereignty might have dispensed with demanding satisfaction, if notwithstanding it appears in fact that he has demanded and exacted it? “that without shedding of blood there is no remission,” and “that there is no other name,” &c. Whether it has been so ordained because to have done otherwise would have been inconsistent with the divine perfections, or because so it seemed good unto God, seems at least an unnecessary if not an indecent question. We have an infinite concern in what God has done, but none at all in what he might have done. On what is really difficult upon this subject, we may however make the few following remarks.

I. From its actually taking place as the will of God, we have good reason to say it was the wisest and best; the rather that we find many of the highest encomiums on the Divine perfections, as shewing in this great dispensation his power, wisdom, mercy and justice. His wisdom in a particular manner is often celebrated, Eph. 3. 10. Rom. 11. 33. At the same time it is proper to observe the harmony of the divine attributes, that the justice of God appears more awful in the sufferings of Christ than if the whole human race had been devoted to perdition; and his mercy more astonishing and more amiable in the gift of his Son, than it could have been in the total remission of all sin without any satisfaction, had it been possible.

There is a particular proof of the necessity of satisfaction that arises from the death of Christ, considered as intimately united with the Divine nature, which it has been already proved that he possessed. Can we suppose that such a measure would have been taken, if it had not been necessary? Can we suppose that the eternal Son of God would have humbled himself thus, and been exposed to such a degree of temptation, and such amazing sufferings, if it had not been necessary?

3. All the accounts given us in scripture of the nature of God, his perfections and government confirm this supposition. The infinite justice and holiness of his nature are often mentioned in scripture; that he hates sin, and cannot look upon it but with abhorrence, and particularly that he will by no means spare the guilty. It is sometimes objected here, that justice differs from other attributes; and that its claims may be remitted, being due only to the person offended. But this which applies in part to man, cannot at all be applied to God. I say it applies in part to man, because a matter of private right, independent of the public good, he may easily pass by. But it is not so with magistrates or public persons, nor even with private persons, when they take in the consideration of the whole. Besides, when we consider the controversy about the justice of God and what it implies, we shall see the greatest reason to suppose what is called his vindictive justice, viz. a disposition to punish sin, because it truly merits it, even independently of any consequence of the punishment, either for the reformation of the person, or as an example to others. The idea of justice and guilt carries this in it, and if it did not there would be an apparent iniquity in punishing any person for a purpose different from his own good.

II. The second question upon the satisfaction is, whether it was just and proper to admit the substitution of an innocent person in the room of the guilty. This is what the Socinians combat with all their might. They say it is contrary to justice to punish an innocent person; that God must always treat things as they really are, and therefore can never reckon it any proper atonement for sin to punish one that never committed any sin. Before I state the reasoning in support of this fundamental doctrine of the gospel, I will first briefly point out the qualifications necessary in such a substitution. (1) The security under taking must be willing; it would certainly be contrary to justice to lay a punishment upon an innocent person without his consent. (2) He must be free and independent having a right over his own life, so that he is not account able to any other for the disposal of it. (3) The person having the demand must be satisfied and contented with the substitution, instead of personal punishment. (4) That the surety be truly able to make satisfaction in full. (5) That it be in all respects as useful, and that the sufferer be not lost to the public. (6) Some add that he be related and of the same nature with the guilty. This is generally added from the constitution of Christ's person, and in that instance surely has a great degree of suitableness, but does not seem to me to be so necessary as the other particulars for establishing the general principle.

Now supposing all these circumstances, vicarious satisfaction for sin seems to me easily and perfectly justifiable. To make this appear, attend to the three following observations:

(1) There is nothing in it at all contrary to justice. If any innocent person were punished against his will, or laid under a necessity of suffering for the cause of another, it would evidently be repugnant to the idea of justice. But when it is done, as by the supposition, willingly and freely, injustice is wholly excluded. If we could indeed suppose ignorance and rashness in the undertaking, so that he consented to what he did not understand, there would be injustice, but this also is wholly excluded in the case before us.

(2) There is nothing in it contrary to utility, because it has precisely the same effect in demonstrating the evil of sin in the one case as in the other. In any human government it certainly serves as much to ratify the law, and in many cases the exacting the debt with rigor of a surety is a more awful sanction to the law, than even the satisfaction of the offending party. We have not in all history I think, an instance of this kind so striking as the lawgiver of the Lorrians who had made a law, that adultery should be punished with the loss of both the eyes. His own son was shortly after convicted of the crime; and to fulfill the law, he suffered one of his own eyes to be put out, and one of his son's. Everybody must perceive that such an example was a greater terror to others than if the law had been literally inflicted on the offender. After having mentioned these two particulars, I observe that the thing is in a most precise and exact manner laid down in scripture. It is impossible to invent expressions, that are either more strong or more definite than are there to be found. It is an observation of some of the Socinian writers that the word satisfaction is not to be found in scripture, and in this they often triumph: but nothing can be more ridiculous, for satisfaction is a modern term of art, and unknown in that sense to antiquity. But can there be anything more plain than that it is intended to express the very meaning so fully, and so variously expressed both in the scriptures and the heathen writers. The word in the Old Testament most frequently used is, atoning, making atonement for sin or for the soul. What could be more plain than not only the great day of atonement, but the daily sacrifice, in which certain men were appointed to represent the people of Israel and lay their hands on the head of the devoted beast; and confess the sins of the people, which had not any other intelligible meaning than the transferring the guilt from the sinner to the victim. The sprinkling the blood in the Old Testament upon the horns of the altar, whence by allusion the blood of Christ is called the blood of sprinkling, carries this truth in it, in the plainest manner — and the prophecies of Isaiah, chap. 53. 5. "he was" wounded for our transgression," &c. "When he shall give his soul an offering for sin." But were there the least obscurity in the type, the truth as stated in the New Testament, would put the matter out of all doubt. The expressions are so many that we cannot, and we need not enumerate them all — "redeemed — bought with a price — redeemed not with corruptible things, as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ— This is my blood shed for many, for the remission of sins — he gave himself a ransom for all — unto him that loved us, and warned us from our sins in his own blood."

I would just add here, that as by the constitution of our nature, and our being made to descend in a certain succession by natural generation, there is a communication of guilt and impurity from Adam; so we have in human society, and indeed inseparable from it, the idea of communication by natural relation of honor and shame, happiness and misery, as well as the clearest notion of voluntary substitution. We see that the worth and eminent qualities of any person, give lustre and dignity to his posterity; and wickedness or baseness does just the contrary. We see that men may easily, and do necessarily, receive much pleasure from the happiness of their relations, and misery in sympathy with their suffering. And as to voluntary substitution, it is as familiar to us, as any transaction in social life. It is true there are not many instances of men's being bound in their life for one another; for which several good reasons may be assigned. There are not many men of such exalted generosity as to be willing to forfeit life for life; it is rarely that this would be a proper or adequate satisfaction to the law; and it would not be the interest of human society, commonly to receive it. Yet the thing is far from being inhuman or unpractised. There are some instances in ancient times, in which men have procured liberty for their friends, by being confined in their room. And both in ancient and modern times, hostages delivered by nations, or public societies, are obliged to abide the punishment due to their constituents.

(3) The third question on the subject of satisfaction is, Whether it was necessary that the redeemer or mediator should be a divine person? It may be asked, whether an angel of the highest order, who was perfectly innocent, might not have made satisfaction for the sins of men? Perhaps this is one of the many questions in theology, that are unnecessary or improper. It is sufficient to say that it appears either to have been necessary or best, that one truly divine should make satisfaction for sin, since it has been ordained of God, who does nothing unnecessary.

But besides this, it seems to be consonant to other parts of revealed religion, particularly the infinite evil of sin as committed against God, for which no finite being seems sufficient to atone. To which we may add, that all finite, dependent, created beings are under such obligations themselves, that it is not easy to see what they can do in obedience to the will of God, which can have any merit in it, or which they would not be obliged to do for the purpose of his glory at any time; neither does any created being seem so much his own master, as to enter into any such undertaking.

There is an objection made to this doctrine, sometimes to the following purpose. How could the second person of the ever blessed Trinity be said to make satisfaction? Was he not equally offended with the other? Could he make satisfaction to himself? But this objection is easily solved, for not to mention that we cannot transfer with safety everything human to God, the thing in question is by no means unknown in human affairs. Though for the payment of a debt on which the creditor insists, it would be ridiculous to say he might pay himself; yet in the character of a magistrate sitting to judge a criminal where he represents the public, it is no way unsuitable for him to put off the public person, and satisfy the demands of justice, and preserve the honor of the law.

Here I would conclude by just observing, that there is no necessity of a surety's doing just the same thing in kind that the guilty person was bound to do. The character and dignity of the surety may operate so far as to produce the legal effect, and make the satisfaction proper for giving its due honor to the law. Thus in the sufferings of Christ, the infinite value of the sufferer's person, makes the sufferings to be considered as a just equivalent to the eternal sufferings of a finite creature.

John Witherspoon, Lectures on Divinity, Lecture XVI, Works: Volume 4

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