In my last post, I asked the question “Can we trust the Bible’s Divine Author and human writers?” I made the case there that sources we trust every day have errors and inaccuracies, yet atheists continue to trust them. If they can trust sources such as newspaper articles, news websites, books, etc., that contain errors and inaccuracies, why not trust the Bible? Their view that the Bible contains errors and inaccuracies is wrong (that’s my conviction), but even so, it doesn’t explain the atheist distrust of Scripture.
Why do atheists distrust Scripture so much? It’s not the “errors” and “inaccuracies,” though that’s what they say. So, what else could it be? The difference between books, newspaper articles, and local news websites and the Bible is that books, websites, and articles don’t claim they’re divine. Those sources are human, named by humans, run by humans, and corrected by humans (perhaps computers do some of the work). But the Bible, in contrast, claims to be divine. It is “God-breathed,” the words of God from the very mouth of God Himself, the Holy Spirit. And it is this claim of supernatural origin that the atheist finds so problematic. The atheist wouldn’t care if the Bible were human and never claimed divine source or inspiration. But it is the divine claim, the Bible’s statement that God “breathed out” the words of Scripture, that human writers were “moved” by God to write it, that the atheist finds controversial.
But is it? That’s the question this post will tackle: Can we trust the Bible’s divine origin and human form?”
Divine origin, human form: not at odds
Jon Steingard, a former Hawk Nelson Christian Rock Band member and recent Christian to publicly announce that he doesn’t believe in God anymore, goes into some small description of questions about God and the Bible that have moved him to his current stance. One thing that bothers Steingard about the Bible is the claim that it is divinely inspired, that the men who wrote Scripture were divinely inspired. The divine origin of the Scriptures is used to claim that the Bible can be trusted. It isn’t the words of men, but of God. That has been the trust claim many a Christian holds on to.
But what got Steingard to stop believing in God is that he got to a place where he started to believe that the Bible was written by human beings that are as flawed as we are. Now, that claim, on the surface, seems normal. Sure, Christians are willing to admit Paul, Peter, John, Luke, Matthew, Mark, etc., were flawed men, imperfect, just as every human is today. But the rub for Steingard is that the Bible can be divine though it is written by human men. How could anything humans write be divine? That’s the question for Steingard that makes the Bible contradictory in its claim. That which is written by humans is human, he’d say.
Well, that’s not exactly true. As I said in my previous post, there are things I’ve written in sermons to teach and preach that are God-given. God revealed them to me because, prior to Him showing me those things, I didn’t recognize them or speak them. The same goes for commentary writers, theologians, and so on. So, humans can write things that are divine in origin (that is, they come from God). Think about the way we teach and preach Scripture today. There are things that have been written within church history by humans that have changed the way Christians read and understand Scripture.
Take the Doctrine of the Trinity: that is, God in three persons. The language of “Trinity” isn’t found in Scripture, but the concept is there: three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, have distinct roles. God the Father and God the Son (Jesus) speak. The Holy Spirit does miracles and even takes the breath out of two church members who lied about their offering to the Lord (Ananias and Sapphira, see Acts 5). Jesus speaks about the Holy Spirit as “He,” saying “when He is come,” He will teach, convict, and rebuke. So, the Trinity enhances our view of God as being more than “one person.” While He remains “one God,” we have a more multi-dimensional view of God, which enhances our understanding of who God is and how God works.
While human writing can be divinely inspired, it is also true that the divine and human are not at odds with one another. For Steingard, a text can be “either” human or divine, but it can’t be both. And yet, that isn’t true about Jesus, is it?
Jesus, the Word of God: divine origin and the Incarnation
Think about Jesus. Christians call Jesus “the Word of God,” as this is one of His names of deity in Scripture. John tells us in his Johannine Prologue in John 1 that “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). John goes on to say that the same (Jesus) was in the beginning with God, that Jesus created all things and that nothing was created without Him. In other words, “the Word” is God, and “the Word” is Jesus. Jesus is God, and He is in the beginning with God the Father when creation comes into being. “The Word” has existed eternally with His Father, God the Father. Jesus’ origin is divine, from Heaven. Jesus says throughout the Gospels that He came down “from above” (John 8:23), a reminder that Heaven is His home and that His origin is divine, not human.
And yet, John doesn’t stop there. He tells us that “the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). The divine Word, that is, Jesus, who is God, divine, took on human flesh and came down from Heaven to reside among men on earth. The divine took on human flesh and came from the supernatural place (Heaven) down to the natural (earth). What we see is that, in the Incarnation, the Divine Son of God took on human flesh. This is what “incarnation” means: to become flesh. Have you ever heard someone say that “So-and-so is the devil incarnate?” The phrase “devil incarnate” acknowledges that the Devil is not human but spirit, and that the individual in question is the human form of the Devil himself.
If the Divine Word of God, Jesus, could become incarnate, how about the Divine Word of God, the Holy Scriptures?
Holy Scriptures: The Divine Word of God, in human form
The Holy Scriptures are also called “the Word of God,” as can be seen in Mark 7:13, Luke 5:1, 8:11, 21, 11:28, John 10:35, Acts 4:31, 6:2, 7, 8:14, 11:1, 12:24, 13:5, 7, 44, 46, and so on. Since Jesus, also called “the Word of God,” was divine but took on human flesh and came into the natural world, could the Holy Scriptures have an incarnation of their own?
Yes. It’s possible that the Word of God could be divine in origin, God-breathed by the Holy Spirit, yet come to believers in human form, in the form of a book with letters and words that humans can read and understand. I refer to the divine Word of God in book form with words, sentences, chapters, books, and testaments as the “incarnation of the Word.” There’s the Incarnation of the Word (Jesus taking on flesh), and the Incarnation of the Word (the divine words of God take on human form). Both have scriptural support.
Jesus is divine, yet He came to earth and took on human flesh. Humanity didn’t conflict with His divinity, and His divinity didn’t conflict with His humanity. Both of His natures, humanity and divinity, work in perfect harmony together. The same is true for the divine and human natures of the Word of God. The divine element is that God spoke the words; and yet, the human element is that God allows human men to write the words down and preserve them throughout time.
Working Together Without Conflict: Conclusion
The atheist sees conflict between the divine and human elements of the compilation of Scripture (that is, how Scripture is put together). If, as Christians state, the Bible was God-breathed, yet human men wrote the words, isn’t it possible that humans (with free will intact, of course) said and did things that were contrary to the plan of God? Well, think of the creation of Scripture like this: can man’s plans thwart God’s? When has man ever done something that has sabotaged the will of God? When has man ever made a move that had God throwing His hands up in the air and saying, “That’s it; he or she has done something that I can’t use for My purposes”? The answer to these questions is “No, man has never been able to sabotage the will of God, man has never made a move that has God puzzled, confused, or feeling helpless about.” The reason? Because God is the Almighty Sovereign whose arm, as Isaiah says, is not so shortened that He cannot save (Isaiah 59:1), or whose power is so in short supply that He cannot accomplish His purposes.
The beauty in understanding how God works is not that man has to become predictable so that God can get His way (contra Calvinism), but rather, that, even with man’s full freedom intact, God can use whatever choice man makes for His glory — despite how sinister it may be. Remember what Joseph says to his brothers? “you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring about as it is this day, to save many people alive” (Genesis 50:20, NKJV). When Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, they did it as a way to get rid of him. It was an evil act, to be sure. But God used that evil act to bring about good, both in the life of Joseph as well as that of Egypt. And, just as God gave Joseph the dream of the sheaves bowing down to his sheaf, so it happened: his brothers came to Egypt because of the famine, and they had to bow down before Pharaoh’s right hand man — who just so happened to be the brother they sold into slavery all those many years before.
And do you mean to tell me that this same God, who used the evil of Joseph’s brothers for His glorious purpose, couldn’t use flawed, human men to write His perfect, Holy Word in such a way that they would say exactly what He wanted them to say? If you believe that this Almighty God’s hand was so “shortened” in writing Scripture that He had to bow down to imperfection when involving human writers and allow His Word to be imperfect, flawed, and contradictory, you have been drinking from the fountain of bad logic for far too long.
It’s time to drink from the fresh spring water, whose name is Jesus, that will never run dry, a spring that gives eternal life to all who believe. Now’s as good a time as any to let God show you how Almighty and Sovereign He really is.