Previous article in this series: June 2020, p. 400.
In this series of articles, we have covered two ways God speaks in Scripture that let us know this book can only be from Him. As He reveals Himself, God speaks about the future before it occurs, and He brings a diversity into unity that is so great no human or collection of humans could accomplish it. We have also examined two aspects of the content of the Bible, to see that what the Bible says also reveals its origin is from God. Here, we took note of the excellence and power of the content of the Bible, and of the fact that it has as its main purpose to make known God’s glory in all things.
What makes these such strong evidences of the divine origin of the Bible is that they correspond to the God the Bible is revealing. We might expect, knowing Scripture reveals an omniscient God who decrees the end from the beginning, that He would reveal Himself in such a way that the future would be as the past to Him. We might expect that a God who is three Persons in one Being, would reveal Himself in a book that is impossibly diverse yet unified. We might expect that a God who is said to be excellent and all powerful would reveal excellent things having great power. We might expect, if Scripture reveals God as all glorious even as we see Him to be in creation, that the scope of the whole would be to give Him glory. We might expect the divine Revealer to leave His fingerprints in His revelation, and He does.
Having completed our main task, in this article we examine briefly the value of this information.
Not strictly necessary
Many, if not most, true believers believe the Scriptures are the Word of God apart from ever knowing these evidences in any intellectual way. This is because in Scripture we meet God Himself, and doing so is not dependent on knowing these evidences. This book is different from any other book. I can read a novel about Abraham Lincoln, but by doing that I do not meet him. In reading God’s book, I not only learn about this God, I come face to face with Him. Calvin says, “…we affirm with utter certainty just as if we were gazing upon the majesty of God Himself, that [Scripture] has flowed to us from the very mouth of God by the ministry of men.”1 The Scriptures are a window through which we meet God Himself, making it utterly certain that this book is from Him. Just as a person believes a light bulb is on precisely because he sees the light shining from it, so God’s people believe the Bible is from God because they see the glorious God shining through it.
The internal testimony of the Holy Spirit, therefore, may never be thought of as merely the Spirit’s work to make us believe the evidences of Scripture’s divine origin. 2 The work of the Spirit can include that, as will be explained below. But chiefly, the internal testimony of the Spirit is His work to open our eyes and ears to hear God Himself speaking to us personally of the reality of our sin and the power of the cross (Acts 2:37). A reality we come to know by the exposition of Scripture itself.
Not strictly necessary, but helpful!
Nonetheless, could not these evidences be part of seeing God Himself in Scripture? Could they not be part of hearing God speak to us in Scripture? All these evidences are from Scripture itself. Thus, while it is not strictly necessary that someone know these evidences to believe, these evidences are not contrary to the way God grows faith in His people. The Spirit may use Scripture this way to strengthen faith. For those who come to learn them they may even be considered part of our gazing upon God Himself through this book.
Even for God’s elect, coming out of unbelief by the work of the Spirit, the use of these evidences may be part of the process by which they come face to face with God in His Word. Many people have only been told lies about Scripture. In His own in whom the Spirit is working to draw out of unbelief, God Himself may throw down preconceived notions as He goes about confronting them with sin and the cross in a saving way. After all, clearly these evidences “rule out rational doubt and demonstrate that it is not unreasonable to believe, while it is unreasonable to assume the contrary.”3
Yet, sometimes after speaking about how these evidences show how reasonable it is to believe, people (even doubting believers) will ask, “Well, if those things are true, why do not more people believe the Bible is the Word of God? Why is it still the case that so many otherwise intelligent people say the Bible is a ridiculous collection of fables? Why are there so many videos on the Internet saying one must be a fool to believe the Bible is the Word of God, if these things are true?”
But remember the Bible itself leads us to expect that the unregenerate will refuse to admit the truth of this, though these evidences are there for them to see and God Himself is revealed in Scripture. In fact, Scripture leads us to believe that unbelievers will do everything they can to dismiss the evidences and will be hardened by the presence of God in Scripture. Should I reject the Bible since so many explain away the excellence and power, the other-worldly unity in diversity, and the prophesy and fulfillment in God’s Word? Only if I thought those people had no bias against those things in the first place. But they do. I Corinthians 2:14 “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
Calvin’s illustration to put it all together
Our thoughts here should be like Calvin’s, “Let each of the prophets be looked into: none will be found who does not far exceed human measure. Consequently, those for whom prophetic doctrine is tasteless ought to be thought of as lacking taste buds.”4 The unregenerate have no taste for Scripture no matter how reasonable it is to believe it! Say you were going to have a chili cook-off and you needed judges in addition to yourself. Say also that one chili stands out while all the others are bland. But, then, you discover all the other judges have no sense of taste. When the other judges do not pick the chili that was clearly and obviously best, would you distrust your conclusion because of theirs?
Now add this element: say the other judges really do not like to admit they have no sense of taste and are extremely sensitive about it. They begin to look for reasons to dismiss your choice and to establish their own, though their own choice ultimately hangs on thin air. Though they are smart and can sound like they know what they are talking about, you would still have no reason to doubt your selection, knowing that they have no ability to make the judgment in the first place.
You would ultimately trust your own judgment because of the immediate experience of the taste—you knew which one was clearly better. However, after hearing them attack your choice, to buttress your confidence in your conclusion, you might reflect on their lack of taste buds, and you might meet some of their arguments by reflecting more intellectually on the attributes of the chili you picked. In the end, in both ways, the conviction arises out of the chili itself.
We know God’s Word is His Word by tasting and seeing and hearing Him in the exposition of Scripture itself. This life within us is His; it recognizes Him. Though it is not the main nor necessary part, part of that recognition can be tasting and seeing and hearing Him in the evidences of Scripture’s divine origin found in Scripture itself. Faith is not a leap in the dark. It is helpful for faith to be made more aware of that. And it is helpful to remember, those who constantly attack Scripture have no taste buds. In the end it is still the Spirit working through the Word itself that gives and strengthens faith. And in the end faith will resist all attack. “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” (I John 5:4).
1. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, I.7.5.
2. Bavinck says that after Calvin this became the tendency when speaking of the internal testimony of the Spirit. Already, he says, this can be seen in Turretin (Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 1, 584). This danger certainly must be avoided. But along with Calvin (and Bavinck) we do not attempt to avoid this danger by dismissing the evidences altogether.
3. Bavinck, 579 (with a reference to Aquinas).
4. Calvin, Institutes, I.8.2.