My seminary experience was rather interesting and sad. I went to the school seeking a master’s degree, but also to study to be a better pastor, preacher, and leader. I thought I would go to this school and spend most of my time studying the great truths found in the Bible. I was shocked to find that many of my professors had been greatly influenced by enlightenment thought, and had rejected a high view of the Bible. For most of them, their position was that the Bible was primarily a human book about God, with some truths possibly given by God. Many of them rejected the miracles in the Bible, and discounted much of what is recorded about the life of Jesus in the Gospels. I won’t go into great detail here, because it was a sad situation. But, for me, it began a time of deep searching to determine whether the faith I that was passed on to me by my parents could stand the test of such beliefs.
As I struggled to find a sense of equilibrium, I began to examine the nature of the Bible. I did not want to hold my view on the Scriptures in a simple way, because “my parents told me so.” I did quite a bit of reading and studying of the Bible at this time, and reading what others were saying about the authority and trustworthiness of the Bible. During this time a word kept creeping into the conversation, the word inerrancy. Basically, the concept of inerrancy is the belief that the Bible in its original manuscripts (the originals penned by the authors) is true and never false in what it affirms, and that the text is truth without any mixture of error (for a full explanation of this idea, see the Chicago Statement on Innerrancy which was formulated by some incredible Biblical scholars). I found it amazing that people who would talk of the inerrancy of the Scriptures had a very high view of God and a high view of the Bible. On the other hand, those who did not want to talk about the Bible being without error would also question the ability of God to accomplish what the Bible claimed. I began to realize that the discussion on the truthfulness of the Bible always led to a crisis of belief in another area, the ability of God.
In my journey, two things influenced me greatly. The first was the internal witness of the Bible itself. The more I studied the Bible, the more I became convinced that the Bible was not merely a human document. Rather, the claims of the Bible that it was inspired by God were supported by other evidence. The other witness was a philosophical one, I became increasingly convinced that God is able to reveal himself as he wanted. If, for a second, I believe the Bible has mistakes, or at some point misspeaks about the nature of God or about the world in which we live, the conclusion that I must come to is that God is not able to accomplish what we need him to do. If the Bible does not clearly and perfectly reveal to us who God is and how we can know him, the outcome must be that God cannot be known and cannot be trusted. If he is unable to give us a perfect Bible, how in the world can I trust that God will be able to sufficiently save me, and grant me his precious promises (1 Peter 1:3-4). I am convinced that God is able! How? First, a good look at the universe demonstrates the ability of the Almighty. God is able. Second, the resurrection of Jesus proves that God accomplished his plan in totality. If God raised Jesus from the dead, he is able to inspire Scripture and give us a true revelation of himself. I am also convinced that God is able, because he has saved me.
Famed evangelist Billy Graham walked through this struggle. A friend named Charles Templeton asked him some challenging questions about the Bible which Graham could not answer. His faith was shaken, but his response was to ask God to reveal himself. Graham took a Bible and went up a mountain and into the woods, praying as he went. In his words, Graham said:
“So I went back and I got my Bible, and I went out in the moonlight. And I got to a stump and put the Bible on the stump, and I knelt down, and I said, ‘Oh, God; I cannot prove certain things. I cannot answer some of the questions Chuck is raising and some of the other people are raising, but I accept this book by faith as the Word of God.’”
The result was a renewed commitment to the Scriptures and a passion for the Gospel that would shape the landscape of the United States for the last sixty years. God is able to reveal himself, to speak through the lives and pens of imperfect people in order to give us a perfect revelation of himself. He can be trusted and known. And we can be assured that the Bible is true, without any mixture of error.