Let us examine to-day the traditional view of the Bible.
It is not easy to define the popular theory of the Bible. Like its kindred theory of Papal Infallibility, it is a true chameleon, changing constantly in different minds, always denying the absurdity of which it is made the synonym, ever qualifying itself safely, yet never ceasing to take on a vaguely miraculous character. Various theories are given in the books in which theological students are mis-educated, all of which unite in claiming that which they cannot agree in defining. The Westminster Confession of Faith may be taken as the dogmatic petrifaction of the notion which lies, more or less undeveloped and still living, in the other Protestant Confessions.
This Confession opens with a chapter “Of the Holy Scriptures,” which affirms in this wise:
“The light of nature and the works of creation and Providence .... are not sufficient to give that knowledge of God and of His will, which is necessary to salvation.... The authority of the Holy Scripture.... dependeth.... wholly upon God, the Author thereof; and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God....
“....and the entire perfection thereof are arguments whereby it doth abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God, and establish our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof.
“The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture, unto which nothing at any time is to be added by new revelations of the Spirit.
“Being immediately inspired
by God, and by His singular care and
providence kept pure in all ages.... in all controversies of religion
the Church is finally to appeal unto them.”
The notion which the learned divines set forth so elaborately at Westminster, art has expressed in forms much better “understanded of the people.” Mediaeval illuminations picture the evangelists copying their gospels from heavenly books which angels hold open above them.
A book let down out of the skies, immaculate, infallible, oracular—this is the traditional view of the Bible.
Let me lay before you some of the many reasons why this theory of the Bible is not to be received by us.
This theory has no sufficient sanction by the Church.