Is the Bible the Inerrant Word of God

By R. A. Torrey

Chapter 3

 

DIFFICULTIES IN THE BIBLE — GENERAL STATEMENTS ABOUT THEM

"Our beloved Brother Paul also, according to the wisdom given to him, wrote unto you; as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; wherein are some things hard to be understood, which the ignorant and unsteadfast wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction."

Our subject this morning is: "Difficulties in the Bible." You will find the text in 2 Pet. 3 115, 16:"Our beloved brother Paul also, according to the wisdom given to him, wrote unto you; as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; wherein are some things hard to be understood, which the ignorant and unsteadfast wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction."

Two weeks ago this morning we considered the question: "Who says, the Bible is the Inerrant Word of God?" We saw that our Lord Jesus Christ said so, that the voice of history says so, that all the men and women who live nearest God and know God best, say so, and that the Holy Spirit, who lives today and speaks to men today, also says so. A week ago this morning we considered the subject, "Who says that the Bible is not the Inerrant Word of God?" and we saw that there were six classes of people who deny that the Bible is the Word of God, and that there was not one among them whose opinion on a subject like this was of any real weight at all, and that, in all honesty, we were, consequently, logically compelled to accept the testimony of those who say that the Bible is the Inerrant Word of God, and consequently compelled to . accept it as the Inerrant Word of God.

But, while that is so, it is also undoubtedly true, as our text declares, that there are in the Bible many things "hard to be understood." There are in the Bible many statements of historic fact and of doctrine, that it seems difficult to reconcile with the position that this Book has God for its author. There are sometimes in the Bible statements that seem to flatly contradict other statements in the Bible, and it seems at the first glance and sometimes at the second glance and the third glance, that if one statement is true, the other cannot possibly be true; and, therefore, it seems impossible to believe that both statements are from God. And there is, as our text declares, a great temptation for both "the ignorant and the unsteadfast" to "wrest," or more literally translated, "twist," these "things hard to be understood" to "their own destruction," and sometimes to the destruction of others as well as of themselves. I wish to consider those difficulties with you today. What shall we say about them? What shall we do with them? A very easy thing to do with them is to say, what so many superficial students and teachers of the Bible do say, "The whole Bible is not the Word of God: the Bible contains the Word of God. But it also contains much that is not the Word of God and these difficult passages belong to that part which is not the Word of God." Yes, that is an easy thing to say, but it is a lazy thing to say and a superficial thing to say, an unintelligent thing to say, and an irrational and illogical and unscientific thing to say: for we have already proven that not only does "the Bible contain the Word of God," but that the Bible is the Word of God, and that the whole Bible is the Word of God, that every one of the thirty-nine books of the Old Testament and every one of the twenty-seven book s of the New Testament is an integral part of the Word of God. So then, what appears at first sight to be an easy way to dispose of these difficulties is found upon more thorough investigation, to be a very hard way, indeed an impossible way for an honest, rational, energetic mind, a mind that thinks things through, and is not satisfied with the lazy way so common in Universities and Theological Seminaries today, the way of jumping at conclusions. There is a better way, an intelligent way, a rational way, a manly way, and a Christian way, of dealing with these difficulties.

I. General Statements about These Difficulties

In discovering this "better way" of solving these difficulties, and thus dissolving the mental perplexities that arise from them, let me, first, call your close and careful attention to some general statements that will go a long way towards solving them.

1. First of all, then, let me say that, From the very nature of the case, difficulties are not to be wondered at, nor to be staggered by, but are to be expected. Some people are surprised that there are difficulties in the Bible. Some are fairly staggered by the fact that there are difficulties in the Bible. For my part, I would be far more surprised, and far worse staggered, if there were no difficulties in the Bible. What is the Bible? We have seen in the last two addresses that it is the Word of God, that is to say, it is a complete revelation of the mind and will and character and purposes and methods and nature and being of an infinitely great, perfectly wise, and absolutely holy God. And to whom is this revelation made? To you and me. And what are you and I? We are men and women and children; we are all finite beings, persons (all of us) who are very imperfect in intellectual development and, consequently, in knowledge and mental grasp and capacity, and we are also (all of us) imperfect in character and consequently in moral and spiritual discernment. The wisest man on earth, measured on the scale of Eternity and God, is a very young babe; and the holiest man or woman among us, compared with God , is less than an infant in moral and spiritual development, even if we were all God's children, which many of us are not. There must, therefore, from the very necessities of the case, be difficulties in a revelation from such a source made to such persons. When finite creatures try to understand the infinite Creator, there are bound to be difficulties. When the very ignorant and limited in knowledge contemplate the utterances of One perfect in knowledge, there must be many "things hard to be understood," and some things which, to their immature and inaccurate minds, appear to be absurd. Why, even some of our exceedingly learned and amazingly wise University Professors confess that they find it extremely hard to understand even Einstein, and he is far from infinite. One man has said that "there are only three men in the world today who understand Einstein, and they don't." You take a bright boy of eight out on a clear day and point to the sun and say, "My boy, that sun is more than ninety-two million miles away," and he is quite likely to think you are kidding. And take him out at night and point to a certain one of the fixed stars and tell him that the light which he now sees from that star, traveling at the incredible velocity at which light travels, left that star six thousand years ago, and he will think you ought to be sent to the insane asylum. But the trouble is not with your statements, but with the immaturity of the boy's mind.

Furthermore, when beings whose moral judgment as to the infinite hatefulness of sin, even in its slightest manifestations, and as to the awfulness of the penalty it deserves and demands, are blunted by their own sinfulness (as the moral judgments of the best of us are), listen to the demands of an infinitely and absolutely holy Being, they are bound to be staggered by some of His demands, and when they consider His actual dealings with sinners, they are bound to be staggered at some of His dealings. These dealings will inevitably appear too stern, too severe, too harsh, too terrific, too appalling (as, for example, the destruction of the world by the Flood, the blotting out of the Canaanite nations, root and branch, men, women and little children, and the endless torment hereafter of those who persistently reject Christ in the life that now is). But the difficulty is not with the infinitely holy God's dealings with persistent sinners, nor is it with the Bible statement of those dealings, but the whole difficulty is with our moral blindness, which makes it difficult, if not impossible, for us to appreciate the infinite hatefulness of sin, and the infinite glory of Jesus Christ, and the, consequently, infinite damnableness of the sin of rejecting such a Savior as the Lord Jesus is. Probably, the greatest difficulties which the Bible presents are its statements regarding God's judgments upon the Canaanite nations and upon apostate Israel, and especially its statements regarding the future eternal conscious punishment for all who who persistently reject Jesus Christ in the life that now is; and here we see the very simple solution of these most staggering of all Bible difficulties.

It is, therefore, as plain as day that, There must he difficulties in such a revelation, as we have proven the Bible to be, made to such beings as you and I are. To me, and to any really thoughtful man, it would be far harder to believe that the Bible is the Word of God if there were nothing in it difficult for me to understand and grasp, than it is to believe the Bible to be the Word of God with all the difficulties anyone has ever been able to conjure up. If you should present to me a book that was as easy for me to understand as the multiplication table, in which I have reveled since I was a little boy, and say to me, "This book is the Word of God; in it God has fully revealed His whole will and wisdom and His own infinite Self," I should be bound to say, "Go away, you're fooling. I cannot believe it. That book is too easy to be a perfect revelation of infinite wisdom and of infinite Being and of an infinite Person." There must be in any complete revelation of the mind and will and character and Being of the Infinite, things very hard for the beginner to understand; yes, for the wisest and best of us to understand. Kent's "Shorter Bible," the Bible with its great and infinite truths expurgated or despiritualized and demoralized and deinfinitized down to the level of a class of mental or moral derelicts, such as fill some of our Universities and Theological Seminaries and Y. W. C. A. Secretarial Schools, is no Bible at all, no full message from God at all, and we should not call it, "The Messages of the Books" of God, but "the miscarriage of modern University thought" that is unable, for lack of moral and spiritual vigor, and sometimes intellectual vigor, to carry Divine thought to a normal birth, and whose thinkings, therefore, on all profoundly moral and spiritual themes, are necessarily all stillborn.

2. The second thing I wish to say about these difficulties in the Bible is that A difficulty in a doctrine, or a grave objection to a doctrine, does not in any wise prove the doctrine to be untrue. Many thoughtless people fancy that it does. If they come across some difficulty in the way of believing in the Divine origin and absolute inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible, they at once conclude that the doctrine is exploded. That is the method of reasoning employed in the Chicago University and Union Seminary in New York, and many other places where our sons and daughters are being educated, or often, to speak more accurately, desiccated, but that is very illogical. Stop a moment and do some clear thinking, and learn to be reasonable and fair. There is scarcely a doctrine in science that is generally believed today that has not had some great difficulty in the way of its acceptance.

When the Copernican theory , now so universally accepted, was first proclaimed, it encountered a very grave difficulty. If this theory were true, the planet Venus should have phases as the moon has, but no phases could be discovered by the most powerful glass then in existence. But the positive argument for the theory was so strong that it was accepted in spite of this apparently unanswerable objection. When a more powerful glass was made, it was found that Venus actually had phases and that the whole difficulty arose, as most all of those in the Bible arise, from man's ignorance of some of the facts in the case.

If we apply to Bible study the common-sense logic recognized in every department of Science (with the exception of Biblical Criticism, if that be a science), then we must demand that if the positive proof of a theory is sufficient and conclusive, it must be believed by rational men, in spite of any number of difficulties in minor details. He is a very shallow thinker indeed who gives up a well-attested truth because there are some apparent facts which he cannot reconcile with that truth. And he is a very shallow Bible scholar who gives up his belief in the Divine origin and inerrancy of the Bible because there are some supposed facts that he cannot reconcile with that doctrine. Alas! there are, in the theological world today, many shallow thinkers of just that sort.

3. The third thing to be said about the Difficulties in the Bible is that, There are many more, and much greater, difficulties in the way of the doctrine that holds the Bible to be of human origin, and hence fallible, than there are in the way of the doctrine that holds the Bible to be of Divine origin, and hence infallible. Oftentimes a man will bring you some difficulty and say, "How do you explain that, if the Bible is the Word of God?" and perhaps you may not be able to answer him satisfactorily. Then he thinks he has you cornered, but not at all. Turn on him, and ask him, "How do you account for the fulfilled prophecies of the Bible if it is of human origin? How do you account for the marvelous unity of the Bible if it is of human origin? How do you account for the inexhaustible depth of the Bible if it is of human origin? How do you account for its unique power in lifting man up to God if it is of human origin? Above all, How do you account for the clear, ringing, oft repeated testimony of Jesus Christ that every part of the Old Testament, the Law of Moses, the Prophets and Psalms, that 'cannot be broken,' and 'must be fulfilled' to the letter, and that 'heaven and earth (must) pass away' before 'one jot or tittle' passes from the Law revealed in the Pentateuch?" For every insignificant objection that any scholar of the "Modern Critical School," or anyone else, can bring to your view of the Bible, you can bring very many and far more deeply significant objections to his view of the Bible; and any really candid man, who desires to know and obey the truth, will have no difficulty in deciding between the two views.

A young man once came to me to talk about this matter. He had a bright mind and was unusually well read in skeptical and critical and agnostic literature. He told me he had given the matter a great deal of candid and careful thought, and, as a result, he could not believe the Bible was of Divine origin. I asked him, "Why not?" He pointed to a certain teaching of the Bible that he could not and would not believe to be true. I replied, "Suppose, for a moment, that I could not answer that specific difficulty, that would not prove that the Bible is not of Divine origin. I can bring you many things far more difficult to account for on the hypothesis that the Bible is not of Divine origin than this is on the hypothesis that the Bible is of Divine origin. You cannot deny the fact of fulfilled prophecy. How do you account for it if the Bible is not God's Word? You cannot shut your eyes to the marvelous unity of the sixty-six books of the Bible, written by so many different people, under such divergent circumstances, and at periods of time "so remote from one another. How do you account for it, if God is not the real author of the Book back of the forty or more human authors? You cannot deny that the Bible has a power to save men from sin, to bring men peace and joy and hope, to lift men up to God, that all other books taken together do not possess. How do you account for it, if the Bible is not the Word of God, in a sense that no other book is the Word of God?" The objector did not answer. He could not answer. The difficulties that confront one who denies that the Bible is of Divine origin and authority are far more numerous, and vastly more weighty, than those which confront the one who believes it to be of Divine origin and authority.

4. The fourth thing to be said about the difficulties in the Bible is, The fact that you cannot solve a difficulty does not prove that it cannot be solved, and the fact that you cannot answer an objection does not prove at all that it cannot be answered. It is remarkable how often we overlook this very evident fact. There are many, who, when they meet a difficulty in the Bible and give it a few moments' thought and can see no possible solution, at once jump at the conclusion that a solution is impossible by anyone, and so they throw up their faith in the Inerrancy of the Bible and its Divine origin. It would seem as if any really normal man would have a sufficient amount of that modesty that is becoming in beings so limited in knowledge as we all undeniably are, to say, "Though / see no possible solution to this difficulty, someone a little wiser than I might easily find one."

If we would only bear in mind that we do not know everything as yet, and that there are a great many things that we cannot solve now, that we could very easily solve if we only knew a little more, it would save us from all this wretched and paralyzing folly. Above all, we ought never to forget that there may be a very easy solution in an infinitely wise mind, even to that which to our very best finite wisdom (or ignorance) appears absolutely insoluble. What would we think of a beginner in Algebra, who, having tried in vain for half an hour to solve a difficult problem, declared that there was no possible solution to the problem, because he could find none?

A man of unusual experience and ability one day left his work and came a long distance to see me in great perturbation of spirit, because he had discovered what seemed to him a flat contradition in the Bible. He had remained awake all night thinking about it. It had defied all his attempts at reconciliation, but when he had fully stated the case to me, in a very few moments I showed him a very simple and entirely satisfactory solution of the difficulty. He went away with a happy heart. But why had it not occurred to him at the outset that though it appeared absolutely impossible to him to find a solution that, after all, a solution might be easily discovered by someone else, who knew just a little more than he did? He imagined that the difficulty was an entirely new one, that it had never been discovered by anyone before, but in point of fact it was one that had been faced and answered long before either he or I were born.

5. The fifth thing to be said about the difficulties in the Bible is that, The seeming defects of the Book are exceedingly insignificant when put in comparison with its many and marvelous excellencies. Does it not reveal great perversity, not only of mind but of will and of moral character that men spend so much time expatiating on and magnifying such insignificant points that they consider defects in the Bible, and stubbornly ignore and pass over absolutely unnoticed, the incomparable beauties that adorn and glorify almost every page? Even in some prominent institutions of learning where men are supposed to be taught to appreciate and understand the Bible, and where they are sent to be taught to preach its truths to others, far more time is spent on minute and insignificant points that seem to point toward an entirely or partially human origin of the Bible, than is spent upon studying and understanding and admiring and pondering the unparalleled glories that make this Book stand apart from all other books in the world. What would we think of any man who in studying some great masterpiece of art concentrated his whole attention upon what looked to him like a fly-speck in the corner of the canvas? A large share of the much vaunted "critical study of the Bible" is a laborious and scholarly investigation of supposed fly-specks. The man who is not willing to squander the major portion of his time in this erudite investigation of fly-specks, but prefers to devote it to the study of the unrivaled beauties and majestic splendors and infinite glories of the Book, is counted, in some quarters, as not being "scholarly" and "up to date."

6. The sixth thing to be said about the difficulties in the Bible is, They have far more weight with superficial readers of the Bible than with profound students of the Bible. Take a man like the late Colonel Ingersoll, who was densely ignorant of the real contents and meaning of the Bible, or that class of modern preachers who read the Bible for the most part for the sole purpose of finding texts to serve as pegs upon which to hang their own profound ideas and musings, to such superficial readers of the Bible, these difficulties seem of immense importance, indeed to them they are the only things in the Bible that are of any real importance. But with the "blessed man," the man who has learned to "meditate" upon the Word of God "day and night" (Ps. 1:1-3) they have scarcely any weight at all. That rare man of God, George Mller, who had carefully studied the whole Bible and every verse in it from the first verse of Genesis to the last verse of the Revelation of Jesus Christ" more than one hundred times, was not at all disturbed by any difficulties he encountered. But to the man who is reading it through for the first or second time there are many things that perplex and, it may be, stagger him.

7. The seventh and last thing to be said about the Difficulties in the Bible is, They rapidly disappear upon careful and prayerful study. How many things there are in the Bible that once puzzled and staggered you and me, but which have long since been perfectly cleared up and no longer present any difficulty whatever? Every year of our study has found these difficulties disappearing more and more rapidly. At first they went by ones, and then by twos, and then by dozens, and then by scores. Is it not reasonable to suppose that the difficulties that even yet remain will all disappear on still further study?