In my turning-from-adolescence-to-adulthood rebellion years I resisted my father’s attempts to make me go to church. My mother convinced him to not press the issue. So for the next eight years when I stayed overnight on Christmas and Easter, he would ask me if I wanted to go to church with him and the family. I always declined.
One of the first changes that came over me after I made a commitment to Christ was a strong desire to know the Word of God. So that Christmas, I gave Bibles as Christmas presents to several members of my family. I remember trying to match each person with the “right” translation. I gave my father a NASB—New American Standard Bible. I didn’t realize at the time that since he was Roman Catholic, the New American Bible translation would have been a better choice.
So from the beginning of my faith walk, the Bible has been important to me. It has been THE holy book to me. Part of the reason I chose to attend Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia was its commitment “to Scripture and to the systematic exposition of biblical truth known as the Reformed faith.”
This last phrase, “known as the Reformed faith,” didn’t have the significance to me then that it does now. I was drawn to Westminster because of reading Cornelius Van Til. I knew he had taught there and I wanted to attend the seminary where he had taught. I also had a suspicion that I would try to opt out of studying the original biblical languages if the going got tough and I could and still complete my degree.
And I was right; I would have if I could have. Westminster didn’t give me that option, for which I continue to be grateful. In frustration I once crumpled up a Hebrew vocabulary quiz and threw it towards the front of the classroom. Doug Green, my professor, quietly picked it up, smoothed it out and returned it to me. I failed that quiz, but eventually passed all the language requirements.
Now, most of the in depth bible study I do is with my computer. The power of Logos Bible Software makes up for what my linguistic skills lack. Some of the same reference works I used in print I now use electronically. Is it wrong to admit that I find exegetical work less tedious now?
I believe the Scriptures to be the inerrant Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice. This has been a personal and spiritual confession that has grown with time. These days, there is an ongoing dispute among evangelicals over the appropriateness of attaching the words infallible and inerrant to a statement of faith regarding the inspiration of the Bible.
I don’t have the linguistic or exegetical skills to contribute constructively to this debate. But I believe the end result must be compatible with the belief of the Christians who went before us. They used the terms infallible and inerrant to communicate what the inspiration of Scripture meant in their time and culture. I want future generations of believers to experience the wonder I did as I began to understand the significance of 2 Timothy 3:16. I still remember the class where Dr. Gaffin taught how Paul was saying that all Scripture was theopneustos; inspired by God—that it was God breathing on us with His Word.
Peter Enns is one of those individuals who has the linguistic and exegetical skills to contribute constructively to the work of communicating what the inspiration of Scripture means in our time and culture. I don’t agree with everything he said in Inspiration and Incarnation. But I do think he’s right that we trust the Bible because of the gift of faith. “By faith, the church confesses that the Bible is God’s Word.” If our generation ultimately decides that words other than infallible and inerrant are needed to describe the Bible as the Word of God, let it be by the same Spirit that moved previous theologians and inspired the original autographs.
“It is up to Christians of each generation … to work out what that means and what words work best to describe it.” But it must still convey a sense of theopneustos, God breathing on us with His Word.
Do you believe the Bible is inspired in the sense of theopneustos, God breathing on us?