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The Bible and the Gospel

The following is a portion of a recent letter by Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis, referencing the new book Begin:

“When I was a public school teacher in Australia, I remember a ministry group that cam and addressed a school assembly.  They handed every student a copy of the New Testament, plus the Psalms and Proverbs.

“In one sense, I was thrilled to see students receiving God’s Word—but in another sense, I sighed.

“You see, I had already experienced students challenging my Christian faith because of what they were taught about evolution and millions of years in their textbooks.  These teachings were an enormous stumbling block to students at the assembly from even listening to the gospel.  What they had been taught in school undermined biblical authority—to them, the Bible, and its gospel message, could no longer be trusted!

“I sighted when these students received the New Testament because they did not receive Genesis chapters 1-11 that are the foundational history to fully understanding the gospel.  In fact, this history is ultimately foundational to every biblical doctrine.

“Back then, I certainly understood why the New Testament was handed out: the gospel is clearly presented.  However, I also understood from my day-to-day experience that for students, God’s Word had been shown not to be true in the Old Testament (particularly Genesis)—so why should they even bother to read the New Testament?”

 

Question…How much emphasis do we place on the authority of the Bible in order to clearly testify of God’s grace in Christ?  In asking such a question, my intention is not at all, in any way, to cast doubt on God’s imprimatur on the Holy Bible.  The Bible is indeed God’s infallible Word, no question about it!  Yet, I cannot prove this to you or to anyone.

I can say that the Bible is authoritative, inspired, infallible, God’s Word, without error (inerrant), and nothing but the truth (so it is!, and I will), but I cannot prove this to you.  Nor can I convince you, or anyone for that matter, to believe it.  Only God can do that (John 3:5-6; 1 Corinthians 2:14).  Emphasizing the authority of the Bible as God’s Word will not at all ‘change’ anyone from a nonbeliever to a believer.  Only Christ’s Word does this.

Making efforts to show how the Old Testament and the New Testaments are true are indeed helpful, but the nonbeliever will never believe as a result of ‘evidence.’  St. Paul says that faith comes by hearing the Word of Christ (Romans 10:17).

Here is where Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis demonstrate a shortcoming.  Trying to proving the Bible to be true (though the Bible is true indeed) will not convince anyone of its truthfulness.  Nor will acknowledging the truth of Holy Scripture lead to salvation.

Apologetics indeed does have its place.  But believing biblical authority does not then mean forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.  These are only through faith in Jesus.  Ham and Answers in Genesis seem to be coming close to recasting the Gospel of Jesus Christ to believing Scriptural authority.

In other words, a real danger exists of changing the Gospel, the Good News, of sins forgiven through faith in Christ as the only means of salvation to believing in Biblical authority as the means of salvation.

Played out, then, it is not faith in Jesus alone that would save, but faith in the authority of the Bible.  Answers in Genesis, seems to be implying this.

I certainly agree that the teaching of “evolution and millions of years” is eroding the faith of Christians (young and old) everywhere.  And what many are taught in school undermines biblical authority.  Of these truths, I have no doubts.

But to say that a “getting back to Scriptural authority” will save the day, to this I cannot agree.  It will not “save the day.”  Nor will telling people that the Bible is true, though it is.

Rather than trying to convince people that the Bible is true according to experience or by showing evidence for the purpose of convincing them merely that the Bible is true, God’s way of “evangelism” is simply to proclaim His Word.  God’s way of turning hardened sinners from unbelief to belief is by speaking the “no holds barred” Law, convincing sinners of their sin, not by the manner of the preacher, but according to God’s Holy Word.  If this the hearer will not hear, then the Gospel they will not hear either.

In other words, instead of trying to convince unbelievers (or even weak Christians) that the Bible is true, how about just speaking according to the Lord’s Word and having that Word have its way with them.  If they hear, then they will seek mercy and kindness.  To them, then, we can immediately speak the word of forgiveness that they (and we) so desperately need to hear.  If they believe the Gospel, then salvation is theirs.  But believing in the authority of the Bible does not save anyone.  Only faith in Jesus does.

This demonstrates a main difference among Christians, a difference that cannot be ignored.  Though I certainly appreciate and rejoice in all the resources and work that Answers makes available and does, a cautionary word is in order.  It is the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ that brings about salvation.  God’s Holy Word does convince of this truth—not evidence, not reasonable arguments, and not “believing” that Genes 1-11 is the foundational history to understanding the Gospel.  According to the Bible, salvation does not depend on believing the latter to be true.  Salvation, however, does depend on what one believes concerning Jesus—who He is and what He did for you!

It is, I believe, a difference in starting point.  Answers seems to suggest that if one believes the authority of the Bible, one will believe in the Gospel.  However, should one believe the Gospel according to Scripture, then one cannot but believe the Bible, should such faith be consistent with that Scripture, for all who will truly acknowledge and believe in Christ will truly and acknowledge and believe His Word (Luke 16:29-31; John 5:24; 8:47).

Such faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it must be said, does not come from believing that the Bible is authoritative for faith and life.  Such faith in Jesus Christ comes from God working faith in the heart through the very Word of God that is proclaimed; God working by means of His Holy Law which speaks against sin and our disobedience, and God proclaiming the Good News of sins forgiven in Christ.

This does not all mean that all who hear the Gospel will believe, nor that all who hear the Law will repent.  We do not know who all will believe and all who will not.  That is not the question.  Rather, God gives His people, the church, the task of preaching against sin and preaching Christ.  Where she does this faithfully, God will bless.  Where she does not, there confusion will remain, and there, God’s people will seek other emphases than the Word alone for creating and sustaining the Christian faith.

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