The “Historic Position” regarding the inspiration and preservation of the Holy Bible.
I often hear those who criticize the King James Bible and do not believe that any Bible or any text in any language is the inerrant, complete, pure, perfect and inspired words of God, appeal to their alleged “historic position” to support their views. They tell us that “only the originals” were inspired and that no existing texts or Bible translation is now the inerrant word of God.
However, as we shall see from the following Confessions of Faith regarding the inspired word of God, the historic position supports the King James Bible believer’s view, that is, that we presently possess an inspired and inerrant Bible. Nowhere in any formalized Confession of Faith regarding the Holy Bible will you ever see such common phrases as used by the Inerrant Bible Deniers of today like “only in the originals” or “only in the autographs”. These expressions, which in fact deny the existence of an inerrant Bible, do not begin to appear in the formalized Confessions until well into the 20th century, when the multitude of conflicting and contradictory bible versions began to gain ground in the seminaries which had abandoned faith in an inerrant Bible.
A student of the Confessions of Faith knows that various articles were placed in the Confessions when certain problems arose over doctrine. Some of the early Confessions of Faith said nothing about the inspiration of the Bible. Yet it would be unfair to say that they did not believe that the Bible was inspired of God. The historical Confessions of Faith have a definite bearing on the Bible version issue.
The Westminister Confessions of 1646 is probably the most famous Confession of Faith ever written. It says, “The Old Testament in Hebrew, and the New Testament in Greek, being immediately inspired by God, and, by His singular care and providence, kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical; so as, in all controversies of religion, the Church is finally to appeal unto them.” This is of course not a Baptist Confession, but it has had great influence among Baptists. This Confession says that the Scriptures were “inspired by God, and by His singular care and providence, kept pure in all ages…” How could anyone make such a statement, unless they believed that they had reliable copies of the originals and reliable translations?
The Helvetic Consensus Formula of 1675 says, “God saw to it that His word, which is with power unto salvation to everyone who believes, was entrusted to writing not only through Moses, the prophets and apostles, but also He has stood guard and watched over it with a fatherly concern to the present time that it not be destroyed by the cunning of Satan or by any other human deceit.” If these people had no reliable text and no reliable translation, how could they make such a statement? If their Greek and Hebrew texts were not pure, and they had no pure translation, why would they make such a foolish statement?
The Midland Confession, 1655, was adopted unanimously by the messengers of the churches meeting at Warwick, England. This group of Baptists said, “We profess and believe the Holy Scriptures, the Old and New Testament, to be the word and revealed mind of God, which are able to make men wise unto Salvation, through faith and love which is in Christ Jesus, and that they are given by inspiration of God, serving to furnish the man of God for every good work; and by them we are (in the strength of Christ) to try all things whatsoever are brought to us, under the presence of truth. II Tim. 3:15-17; Isaiah 8:20.” We hardly see how the critics of the KJV can find any comfort in that statement of faith. Those who adopted the Midland Confession of 1655, believed in the inspiration of the Scriptures, they believed they had those Scriptures, and they believed that by those Scriptures they could “try all things whatsoever are brought to us, under the presence of truth.” In 1655, you can well know what English version they used, and they had never heard of the Westcott & Hort text, and we can thank the Lord for that.
The Standard Confession of 1660 (Baptist), said, “That the holy Scriptures is the rule whereby Saints both in matters of Faith, and conversation are to be regulated, they being able to make men wise unto salvation, through Faith in Christ Jesus, profitable for Doctrine, for reproof, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” While they mention no version, and said nothing about the originals, yet they believed that they had the holy Scriptures. We are confident that they were using the KJV.
The Second London Confession of 1677 (Baptist) says, “The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain and infallible rule of all saving Knowledge, Faith, and Obedience. . .” We ask, how can the Holy Scriptures be a certain and infallible rule if we have no infallible Bible? To hear Dr. Rice and others tell it, all versions have errors in them, and if this be so, we are left in a tragic situation. The Second London Confession of 1677 says, “The Old Testament in Hebrew, (which was the Native language of the people of old) and the New Testament in Greek, (which at the time of the writing of it was most generally known to the Nations) being immediately inspired by God, and by his singular care and Providence kept pure in all Ages, are therefore authentical; so as in an controversies of Religion, the Church is finally to appeal unto them.” The Baptists of 1677 believed that the Scriptures were inspired of God, and that “By His care and Providence kept pure in all Ages.” They believed that the Church in all ages could appeal to the pure Scriptures. That is quite different than some of our modern fundamentalists who talk about inspiration, but who are constantly finding errors in the Bible.
Which Bible were the Baptists of 1677 using? It surely wasn’t the NASV, ASV, RSV or the Living Bible. Don’t you suppose that it was the King James Bible of 1611?
The General Baptists of England published the “Orthodox Creed” In 1678. It says, “And by the holy Scriptures we understand the canonical books of the Old and New Testament, AS THEY ARE NOW TRANSLATED INTO OUR ENGLISH MOTHER TONGUE, of which there hath NEVER been any doubt of their verity, and authority, in the protestant churches of Christ to this day.” They then list the books of the Old and New Testament and then say, “All which are given by the inspiration of God, to be the Rule of faith and life.” What Bible do you suppose these people were using in 1678? It was English and there can be little doubt, but what they are talking about the Authorized Version of 1611.
The Philadelphia Confession of Faith was adopted in 1742 at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This Confession was printed for the Baptist by none other than the famous Benjamin Franklin. It states, “The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience. . . ” It further says, “Under the name of holy Scripture, or the word of God written, are now contained all the books of the Old and New Testament, which are these. . . ” They then list the 66 books of our English Bible, and end that paragraph by saying, “All which are given by the inspiration of God, to be the rule of faith and life.” It is clear that they were talking about an English Bible, and we do not have to guess as to which one they were talking about. Further on in this article they state that the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament were “inspired by God, and by his singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical; so as in as controversies of religion, the church is finally to appeal unto them.” It is clear that they are talking about something they had at that time, and could appeal unto.
They did not appeal to the “pure Word of God” preserved in heaven. No doubt God’s Word is pure in heaven. However, we cannot appeal to something that we cannot see. No doubt the “originals” were pure and uncorrupted, but we cannot appeal to the “originals”, because they are not available. We dare anyone to prove that any mortal man ever saw all of the originals on this earth. We know it cannot be done. If we do not have the pure Word of God today, it is extremely doubtful that anyone on this earth ever had all 66 books of the pure Word of God!! What kind of a God do we serve? Would He leave us in such a mess?
Other Baptist Confessions Of Faith
In 1888, the Baptist Union of Great Britain adopted a doctrinal statement which contained the following: “The following facts and doctrines are commonly believed by the churches of the Union, The Divine Inspiration and Authority of the Holy Scripture as the supreme and sufficient rule of our faith and practice; and the right and duty of individual judgment in the interpretation of it.” This is their entire statement so far as the inspiration of the Bible is concerned. They mention nothing about the “originals” or any particular version of the Bible. However, there can be no doubt as to what version ranked supreme with them at this time.
The New Hampshire Confession of Faith was adopted in 1833, and it states, “We believe the Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired, and is a perfect treasure of heavenly instruction; that it has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter, that it reveals the principles by which God will judge us; and therefore is, and shall remain to the end of the world, the true centre of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and opinions should be tried.” Please note that they mention no “originals” and no version. There was one version that ruled supreme in the English language of 1833 and it was the King James Bible.
It should be apparent that if the Baptists of 1833 had a “supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and opinions should be tried,” it could not have been the originals, since not one of them had seen even the original manuscript of even one book of the Bible! Their “supreme standard” had to be a Bible, to which they had ready access.
Notice this personal confession of faith by a man named Mr. Kinney (no known relation) and the date when he wrote it. LeBaron W. Kinney wrote in 1942, “When a Bible teacher refers to the original languages of the Bible, there is a danger of giving a wrong impression about the authority and true value of the standard King James Version. Too many are ready to say that they have a better rendering, and often in such a way as to give an impression that the King James Version is faulty, or that other versions are much better. We believe that God overruled His gift of the King James Version of 1611, so that we have in it the very Word of God. We believe that no other English Version will ever take its place. Every one of the various English versions claims to be nearer the original than the others. This could not be true of more than one of them.” (Hebrew Word Studies, Acres of Rubies” page 9, published by Loizeaux Brothers).
The Confessions of Faith give little or no comfort to the critics of the KJB. The KJB was the English Version that reigned supreme from the time of the London Confession of 1677, the New Hampshire Confession of 1833, the Baptist Bible Union of 1923, and all of the other Confessions in between and afterward.
It all boils down to how big of a God we serve. Did He have the power and desire to preserve the word in written form for us today, so that we are not left in the dark concerning what is the word of God? Is His power so weak or His Divine purpose so unsure, that we must now search out all the manuscripts, all the Hebrew and Greek texts, and all the versions, in order to say that we do have the word of God mixed in with all the errors. If we are reduced to this state, may the Lord help us, for we are in absolute confusion unmatched in human history. If we are still looking for the word of God, and do not have an infallible Bible, it should be obvious to all, that we never will have such a Bible. This means that God has not kept His promise, and where do we stand, if we have such a God?
Regarding the practical outworking of the doctrine of the preservation of God’s words, the modern version proponents either believe the true words of God are “out there somewhere” in all the variant manuscripts but we are not sure which ones they are; or they reduce “preservation” to the idea that the general, overall message is in all “reliable translations”, though the particular words and numbers, many whole verses and the meaning of much of Scripture remains uncertain or even lost. Neither view really means that “every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” has actually been divinely preserved through history to the present day.
Instead of “heaven and earth shall pass away, but MY WORDS shall not pass away” (Matthew 24:36), the modern versionist really thinks along the lines of “heaven and earth shall pass away, but most of the general sense of what I said won’t pass away.”
In contrast to the historic Confessions of Faith regarding the Holy Bible, let’s now look at some quotes and polls from the Evangelical community of today.
The following quotes come from men prepared the way for and later adopted the textual theories of Westcott and Hort, whose Greek text forms the basis of most modern New Testament versions, as the NIV, NASB, RSV, ESV, and Holman Standard.
As early is 1771 Griesbach wrote, “The New Testament abounds in more losses, additions, and interpolations, purposely introduced then any other book.”
In 1908 Rendel Harris declared that the New Testament text had not at all been settled but was “MORE THAN EVER, AND PERHAPS FINALLY, UNSETTLED.”
In 1910 Conybeare gave it as his opinion that “the ultimate (New Testament) text, IF THERE EVER WAS ONE THAT DESERVES TO BE SO CALLED, is FOR EVER IRRECOVERABLE.”
In 1941 Kirsopp Lake, after a life time spent in the study of the New Testament text, delivered the following judgment: “In spite of the claims of Westcott and Hort and of von Soden, WE DO NOT KNOW the original form of the Gospels, AND IT IS QUITE LIKELY THAT WE NEVER SHALL.”
In 1960 H. Greeven also has acknowledged the uncertainty of the neutral method of New Testament textual criticism – “In general, the whole thing is limited to probability judgments; THE ORIGINAL TEXT, according to its nature, must be and REMAINS A HYPOTHESIS.”
In 1963 R. M. Grant adopts a still more despairing attitude – “The primary goal of New Testament textual study remains the recovery of what the New Testament writers wrote. We have already suggested that to achieve this goal is well-nigh impossible.”
The following testimonies about the character of Evangelicalism today were not made by Fundamentalists; they were made by key Evangelical leaders.
“A GROWING VANGUARD OF YOUNG GRADUATES OF EVANGELICAL COLLEGES WHO HOLD DOCTORATES FROM NON-EVANGELICAL DIVINITY CENTERS NOW QUESTION OR DISOWN INERRANCY and the doctrine is held less consistently by evangelical faculties. … Some retain the term and reassure supportive constituencies but nonetheless stretch the term’s meaning” (Carl F.H. Henry, first editor of Christianity Today, chairman for the 1966 World Congress on Evangelism, “Conflict Over Biblical Inerrancy,” Christianity Today, May 7, 1976)
“MORE AND MORE ORGANIZATIONS AND INDIVIDUALS HISTORICALLY COMMITTED TO AN INFALLIBLE SCRIPTURE HAVE BEEN EMBRACING AND PROPAGATING THE VIEW THAT THE BIBLE HAS ERRORS IN IT. This movement away from the historic standpoint has been most noticeable among those often labeled neo-evangelicals. This change of position with respect to the infallibility of the Bible is widespread and has occurred in evangelical denominations, Christian colleges, theological seminaries, publishing houses, and learned societies” (Harold Lindsell, former vice-president and professor Fuller Theological Seminary and Editor Emeritus of Christianity Today, The Battle for the Bible, 1976, p. 20).
“WITHIN EVANGELICALISM THERE ARE A GROWING NUMBER WHO ARE MODIFYING THEIR VIEWS ON THE INERRANCY OF THE BIBLE SO THAT THE FULL AUTHORITY OF SCRIPTURE IS COMPLETELY UNDERCUT. But is happening in very subtle ways… What may seem like a minor difference at first, in the end makes all the difference in the world … compromising the full authority of Scripture eventually affects what it means to be a Christian theologically and how we live in the full spectrum of human life” (Francis Schaeffer, The Great Evangelical Disaster, 1983, p. 44).
A Recent Poll
Amazing Statistics – I was listening to my radio today, and happened to catch Pastor Michael Youseff’s Message on His “Leading The Way” program. The title of todays message was “The Bible, The World’s Most Relevant Book.
In his message he gave statistics of a poll that was conducted. Here is what the poll revealed:
85% of students at America’s largest Evangelical Seminary don’t believe in the inerrancy of Scripture.
74% of the Clergy in America no longer believe in the inerrancy of Scripture.