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The Divine Unity of Scripture: The Bible in History and in Science

August 16, 2012 Leave a comment

I’m still reading The Divine Unity of Scripture, about three-fourths of the way through, and here are some important points to share.  Saphir points out the weaknesses of the Reformation, and the consequences of that which later developed, and still with us, to attack the Bible as a whole:

 In the second place, they did not understand clearly the important position of the Jews in the economy of God, nor did they see clearly the second advent of our Lord. … still they did not see clearly the second advent of our Lord, or the difference between the Church dispensation and the position of Israel, both in the past and in the future kingdom. The error which was made subsequently by those who preached the saving truths of the Gospel was this— that they thought that it was sufficient to preach personal salvation, man’s sinfulness, the atonement, the renewal by the Spirit, the fruits of the Spirit— everything that referred to the individual.

 That is the centre, but all the circumference they left out,— the whole counsel of God as it is revealed in Scripture, the plan of God, the kingdom of God, the creation of the world, the creation of man, the unity of the human race, the judgment of the Tower of Babel, the elective dispensation under Israel, in its contrast to what came afterwards. The consequence was that — while it was all very good for those who spiritually and experimentally knew about sin and salvation — the world in its philosophy and in its science was constantly undermining the circumference, so that on all the other points, on which the Bible touches, false and anti-Biblical ideas became current, and each of these points afforded a position from which to attack and to assail the whole Scripture.

Later chapters develop this in more detail, as Saphir addresses the skepticism of his day with the power of the Word of God, especially in regard to the Bible as history and the Bible and its miraculous nature.  In the chapter, “Our Faith based on Facts – and the Bible a Book of Facts,” Saphir emphasizes two important points:  that Scripture history supplies us with the facts and principles, upon which all true philosophical and universal history is based, and that the history recorded in the Bible contains actual and real history.

 Ideas without facts make up a philosophy. Facts without ideas may make up a history. But that which we need is something which appeals not merely to our intellect, but also to our conscience and to our heart; and that which so appeals must be the revelation of God.  … It must record the initiative, creative, and redemptive acts of the Most High ; and, in recording these acts, it must contain a revelation of His character, and of His purpose, of His commandments concerning us, and of the promises, by which He sustains us. And only in Scripture have we such a combination. All Scripture facts are full of ideas. So to speak they are full of eyes, and light shines to us in them. And all Scripture ideas, the things which we believe and the things which we hope for, are based upon actual facts—manifestations of the Most High. If a Christian is asked, “What is your belief? what is your faith?” he does not answer by enumerating dogmas, in the sense of abstract philosophical truths ; but he answers by saying that he believes in God who created, in God who became incarnate, and died, and rose again, and in God who sent the Holy Ghost to renew his heart. So what is our creed but facts, but such facts as are full of light,—and in which God manifests Himself to us?

The next chapter, “Objections to Miracle have no Basis in Reason,” follows up with the topic of the Bible and science, and the miraculous.  How refreshing it is especially to read this from a man of God who lived in the late 19th century, at a time when so many preachers compromised with so-called science, not understanding what science is and is not.

… there is no collision whatever between science — if science keeps to its own limits — and that revelation of God and a supernatural kingdom which is given to us in the Scripture. They who do not believe in a personal God, but are atheists or pantheists, cannot logically accept the possibility of miracles; but all who believe that there is a living God, full of wisdom and of power and of love, can find no difficulty in accepting a testimony which shows us that God reveals Himself, and that God acts, here upon earth, and within the history of mankind. Therefore all that the Scripture tells us of God and of the unseen world, instead of interfering with the discoveries of science, only lays the basis and firm foundation for the activity of science. To quote a man who speaks of this subject with authority, Professor Dawson, “Any rational or successful pursuit of science implies the feeling of a community between the Author and Contriver and Ruler of nature, and the mind which can understand it. To science nature must be a cosmos, not a fortuitous chaos, and everything in the history and arrangements of the universe must be a manifestation not only of order but of design. The true man of science must believe in a divine creative will, in a God who manifests Himself and is therefore not the hypothetical God of the agnostic; in a God who must be distinct from and above material things, and therefore not the shadowy God of the pantheist who is everywhere and yet nowhere; in a God who causes the unity and uniformity of nature, and therefore not one of the many gods of polytheism; in a God who acts on His rational creatures daily in a thousand ways by His fatherly regard for their welfare, and who reveals Himself to them; a God, in short, who made the world and all things therein, and who made man in His own image and likeness.”

The Whole Counsel of God: The Abrahamic Covenant

July 6, 2010 Leave a comment

What great treasures in God’s word are missed by the casual Bible teacher or student, by those who limit their study of God’s word to only certain parts and do not teach the whole counsel of God — justifying their neglect of the Bible by the notion that the only important thing is Christ’s First Coming, remembering the cross and how much God did for us at the cross.  Such a one, who concludes from 2 John that “there’s only one doctrine, the doctrine of Christ” also dismisses some biblical teachings as less important, saying:  (others would say) “oh let’s talk about Israel in prophecy, that’s more fun,”  — but that’s not important and that distracts from what’s really important, what Christ did at the cross.  Such an attitude appears to show great spiritual superiority, yet completely misses the important things that God has chosen to reveal to us– including the significance that Israel does have in prophecy (a large section of the Old Testament plus many New Testament references), as an important part in exalting and glorifying Christ, praising Him for the wonders He will yet do in the Divine Purpose of the Ages.  As I mentioned in this blog, the New Testament writers placed great emphasis on Christ’s return, often mentioning the prophetic word; they did not just look back, but eagerly awaited and desired His return.

Now to an important part of the whole counsel of God:  understanding the Abrahamic covenant, and the relevant passages in Genesis chapters 12, 15 and 17.  I have come across this topic a few times during previous studies from S. Lewis Johnson, such as his Eschatology series, and now in the “Divine Purpose” series he again briefly touches on the subject (while noting that he had previously covered this topic in many other series and suggested that people reference the tapes from those previous studies).  To those who would say that the basic promises in the Bible have to do with the cross of Jesus Christ, S. Lewis Johnson points out the connection, why studying the Abrahamic covenant is important:

what Christ did on the cross is the outgrowth of the Abrahamic promises and the outgrowth of the Davidic promises as well.  So we are contending that the basic broad promise of redemption is the Abrahamic covenantal promises.  The story of the Bible, we have said, is the record of the path along which Israel moves toward the fulfillment of these great promises. …  it’s in harmony with this that at the last of the whole of the Bible, that is, in Revelation chapter 22 in verse 16, the Lord Jesus’ connection with the Davidic covenant is again set forth and it’s the next to the last word that Jesus says.  He says, “I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches.  I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star,” and his final word is, “and surely I come quickly.”

One new (to me) interesting thing concerning the account in Genesis 15:  verse 12 describes the deep sleep that fell on Abram — and “dreadful and great darkness.”  This was a nightmare, and the fact that it is associated with the ratification of this covenant indicates the future judgment, the horror and terror that would be required for the actual fulfilling of the covenant, the death of Christ on the cross.  Again from S. Lewis Johnson:

the fact that the terror and the horror of great darkness is associated with the ratification of this covenant suggests the judgment that is bound up in the ratification of it in reality in the future when the Lord Jesus Christ represented by this covenantal ratification dies upon Calvary’s cross.  So the terror and the horror of darkness is designed to suggest that the ratification of the covenant in reality not in type or not in illustration is a matter that involves the most serious and most painful of the divine judgmental discipline.

It is also biblically accurate to say that if we are to get any blessings from God, we have to get them through Abraham.  God chose Abraham, that the promised seed would come through him.  All the blessings involved in Jesus Christ come from Abraham, for Christ comes as the seed of Abraham.

A final note from S. Lewis Johnson about the importance of the Abrahamic covenant:

In fact, one of my teachers once said a long time ago that the way one looks at Abraham’s covenant more or less settles the entire argument in eschatology.  So it’s important to have a concept of what is taught in the Abrahamic covenant, its unconditional character and also the Scriptures that have to do with its future fulfillment.