The painter dipped his brush, and with a flourish, proceeded to add a stroke of light here and there. Mixing the colors carefully, he added here a touch, there a shade, in another place a shadow. Standing back and deep in thought, he carefully inspected the canvass, occasionally touching up, once wiping out, striving for just the right look. Though the work appeared to be complete, the artisan would not stop until satisfied that he had indeed created a masterpiece. And then, with a final stroke, he stepped back to admire his work and sighed with satisfaction. â€œPerfect!â€ he said.Of course it wasnâ€™t. Nothing is. There were flaws. He knew it. Some were intentional. He was painting real life, not for a Kinkaid gallery. He had made some accidental mistakes too. Some he had tried to cover, some he would discover a year later. But when he said, â€œPerfect,â€ he didnâ€™t mean â€œmistake-free.â€ He meant, â€œjust what I wanted it to be.â€
God created a perfect world. When God saw everything that he had made, behold, it was very good. But was it? Was it really? What about Adam? There was not found an help meet for him. God said that this was not good. So, what did God mean when He said that it was â€œvery good?â€
What about Adam and Eve? If it was very good, then why did God leave that chink in their armor that allowed them to sin? When God said it was very good, he must have meant something different than what we might think. Certainly, God created a perfect world. But by perfect we must not mean “flawless”. We must mean, â€œthe way he intended it to be.â€
Godâ€™s Word is inerrant. True believers affirm this. But the proof of inerrancy is not that a great preacher I know studied the Bible for his whole life and never once found an error. The Bible is not inerrant because we can prove it to be so. The Bible is inerrant because God says it is (Ps 12:6; 19:7, 8; 119:140; Pr 3:5).
Of course, this means that we assume that the Bible is inerrant. We presuppose the inerrancy of Scripture. And no amount of evidence to the contrary will shake us off of that conviction. Did God tell Abraham that the Egyptian captivity would last 400 years? Did it last 430 years? Couldnâ€™t God just as easily have said 430? But he didnâ€™t. God said 400. And Israel stayed for 430. And that is correct. That is what God intended. So, that is a part of perfection.
How many generations were there from Abraham to David? Matthew says there were fourteen. Count them for yourself, in the Old Testament. There are more than fourteen. We believe that the Bible is perfect. So, we are quite sure that there is an explanation. But no explanation is necessary for me. If there were no explanation at all, I would still believe in the inerrancy of Scripture. Matthew is right. So is the Old Testament.
And if you were to point out a “mistake” in the Bible â€“ say the number of soldiers in Davidâ€™s army (2 Samuel 24:9 says 800,000; I Chronicles 21:5 says 1,100,000), then I would simply reply (as I heard one preacher say) â€œmistakes must be a part of perfection.â€ We’ll not bore you with an explanation of this… we have a high view of God, so we strive to harmonize, not question. We walk by faith, not by sight.
How else can we explain some of the Bible’s ideas, ideas which true believers accept without hesitation, ideas which to the world appear contradictory? Take for instance the deity of Christ. God is not a man. Yet Jesus is a man. And Jesus is God. Therefore, God is a man. Isnâ€™t that contradiction? God is not a man, and God is a man? Can the two ideas be true, both at the same time? Absolutely. Because God is the Lord. What God says is true. Perfectly true. We accept it, submit ourselves to it, believe it and therefore speak it. We fear the Lord, and therefore we know. And most if not all of those involved in this debate will concur. We accept the inerrancy of Scripture on these terms, but our opponents refuse to accept the inerrancy of preservation on the same terms.
Now, God promised to preserve His Word (Ps 12:6, 7 for starters). And whatever God does, He does perfectly. God requires men to live by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. If God requires this, then God enables this. We have every word, perfectly preserved. Whatever God does is perfect â€“ variants and all. It strikes me as a red herring when some insist that God didnâ€™t promise to preserve these words â€œin one place.â€ First, we know that in at least one place, God’s words are â€œin one placeâ€ (Ps 119:89). But God’s words really are found in â€œone place.â€ They are in the one place God put them. They are in the family of texts and manuscripts which the churches have accepted through the centuries since Christ.
All this illustrates the double-standard. We have one standard for inerrancy when it comes to the inspired Word, and we have an entirely different set of rules when it comes to the preserved Word. As was demonstrated yesterday, we have a standard for canonicity (which the Bible does not teach), and then we deny that this standard could work for preservation (as the Bible does teach). The Bible was inerrant originally, but our opponents say that it has deteriorated ever since. It is not up to men to “save” the Bible. The Bible is inerrant, preservation is perfect, and it falls upon us to acknowledge that, and submit to God’s power(I Cor 2:5)
Should we look at evidence and history? Yes. But this is not any real justification for the approach which textual criticism takes. On this issue, it is not â€œwhetherâ€ we look at evidence, but rather â€œwhichâ€ evidence we look at. As was demonstrated yesterday, this is not a debate between scholasticism and fideism. This is a debate about which form of fideism we should use. Or rather, upon which rock do we place our faith. Faith in man, or faith in God.
On the one hand, the fideism of the critic rests on the ability of forensics to determine which words belong and which do not. Higher critics seek to determine what the content should be. Lower critics seek to determine what the words should be. They trust scholarship. They trust their own ability. They accept what the detectives tell them. They seek to establish.
Our form of fideism differs greatly. They want to establish, we simply accept. They seek to determine what are the words of God, we seek to recognize what are the words of God. They prove, we receive. They would have us all investigating for fingerprints and DNA, trying to decide what should be included and what should not, what the “best” words are. They strive to create an error-free preservation, rather than accept that preservation is without error. We simply accept what believers have accepted through the centuries.
And to refute our approach, they point out the errors. This is a typo. That is obscure. This shouldnâ€™t even be here. We canâ€™t be sure. God preserved content. Words could be better translated. On and on the critics march. They have rejected Modernismâ€™s unbelief, and have swallowed its major premise. They seek perfection â€“ God hasnâ€™t kept it perfect, so it is up to them to perfect Godâ€™s work. They seek perfection, a perfection of their own creation. A mistake-free perfection. And they believe that through the power of forensics, they can achieve this.
If I were to paint a picture, I would struggle to get the picture to transfer from my mind to the canvas. Artistic I am not. When I finally gave up, I would not be satisfied with my painting. However, if a master sets to painting, with brush and paint and easle, he will find a satisfaction with his finished product. He will pour all of his creative energies into the task, and will only stop when he can say, “That’s it. That’s what I wanted.” Nevertheless, his work will be flawed. He is human. Some mistakes he could not see, some he could not help.
But when God set to creating, the flaws that one could find were design features. This is what God intended. This is what God has done. This is perfect. We accept and receive what God has given, not what man has made. Our faith rests on God and on His work, not on man and his.
We affirm that perfection should be defined, not as â€œwithout mistakes,â€ but as â€œwhat God has given and preserved.â€ His way is perfect, His will is good.