I had not anticipated that this discussion would take quite so long. But the issues are worthwhile enough to discuss them thoroughly.
You will recall that my last letter interrupted our discussion of I Timothy 4 to concentrate on DeKoster’s criticism of Lindsell’s book, “The Battle For The Bible.” And we were particularly interested in what DeKoster’s position really was (and is).
We talked last time about the question of whether it is possible for a child of God to say that he holds the Word of God in his hand when he holds a translation of that Word, And we emphasized that it is very important that we understand that this is true.
We also began to discuss DeKoster’s emphasis on the importance of the subjective testimony of the Spirit in the believer’s heart. You will recall that we referred to DeKoster’s many references to Article V of the Confession of Faith which reads that we believe all the books of the Bible to be God’s Word “because the Holy Ghost witnesseth in our hearts, that they are from God.” And we noticed that DeKoster conveniently never’ refers to the very next clause which reads: “Whereof they carry the evidence in themselves.”
Now there are two points which have to be made in this connection. The first point is that the proof that scripture is the Word of God is to be found in the Scriptures themselves. The Scriptures give their own testimony that they are from God. Lindsell made this point very strongly in his book and in his speech. DeKoster never mentions it. May we conclude that he denies it?
The second point is that if we have only the subjective testimony of the Spirit in our hearts we fall into the error of subjectivism. This is what DeKoster in fact does. And this is what Lindsell meant when he criticized DeKoster for teaching that then the Spirit talks out of both sides of His mouth, for He tells Daane one thing and Calvin another.
This is an extremely important point, and we ought not to overlook it. In this day when Pentecostalism is flourishing we have altogether too much of this sort of subjectivism. It has always been characteristic of mystics (and it is characteristic of Pentecostalism) that they taught that the Spirit September m977 speaks directly to a man independent of the Word. It is hard to exaggerate the influence this kind of mysticism has had on the thinking of people. How often is it not true that an individual will defend a certain course of action by saying, “The Spirit led me to do this.” Or, “I was convicted by the Spirit to do this or that.” Or, “The Spirit guided me in this way.” This is a mysticism that has always been anathema to Reformed believers.
This is what DeKoster does. He separates the testimony of the Spirit from the objective testimony of the Word of God. He claims that the believer is persuaded that the Bible is the Word of God by the subjective testimony of the Spirit alone. But if this is true, then it is also true that when Dr. Boer does not believe that God’s Word teaches reprobation, and when Daane denies the truth of sovereign and double predestination and appeals to Scripture in defense of his position, then the Spirit says something to Daane and Boer which He did not say to Calvin. And when the Spirit tells me that the Scriptures are without any error, and at the same time tells Daane and Boer, and presumably DeKoster, that there are errors in the Bible, then the Spirit speaks out of both sides of His mouth indeed.
The whole point is that the Holy Spirit says nothing apart from the objective testimony of the Bible itself. There is absolutely no testimony of the Spirit about anything at all apart from the objective testimony of the Scriptures. Do not misunderstand this. The Spirit is the Author of it all. The Spirit is the Author of the Scriptures after all. And the Spirit speaks through those Scriptures by a subjective testimony in the hearts of those in whom He dwells.
The conclusion of the matter is then that the testimony of the Spirit is never apart from and is always in agreement with the objective testimony of the Spirit in Scripture.
Be sure that you make this clear to God’s people, Timothy. The quagmires of subjectivism are deep and it is difficult to escape when once one gets sucked into them. But these quagmires pull away from the firm and unshakeable rock of the Scriptures themselves.
The third point which DeKoster made was a point in connection with a distinction between infallibility and inerrancy. I must confess that when I read the discussion on this point in The Banner I was at a loss as to what DeKoster meant. Listening to DeKoster’s speeches during the debate, I think that I have discovered what he has in mind. It is possible that I still may be wrong, but if an articulate man such as DeKoster cannot write or speak in a way which makes his position clear, then he must not blame me or you for misinterpreting his words, but must look at himself.
However that may be, it seems to me that DeKoster makes an important distinction between infallibility and inerrancy. He makes this distinction when he says that the word “infallibility” refers to the testimony of the Spirit in the hearts of believers; while the term “inerrancy” refers to the Scriptures. Now why does he make that distinction? He makes that distinction because he insists that the testimony of the Spirit concerning the Bible is “infallible.” But the word “infallible” cannot be applied to the Bible itself. Only the word “inerrant” can be applied to the Bible. But it isnot, says DeKoster, true that the Bible is inerrant. He will, I think, go even a step further and say that the Bible is “infallible.” But when he says that the Bible is infallible he does not mean that the Bible is, without any error. He only means, I think, that the Bible contains the Word of God so that when I hold the Bible in my hands, I hold the Word of God in my hands.
Now this is another piece of semantic legerdemain which is used to cover up the truth that the Bible has no errors in it. Let’s see if we can carry his argument a bit further. Supposing I would insist to him that the Bible is absolutely without error. His response to that would most likely be that this is not true. Everyone recognizes the fact that the King James Version of the Bible is not completely accurate in its translation—as no translation can be, and everyone knows that the Bible was copied in such a way that errors crept in. Now my response, quite naturally, would be that I am talking about the Autographa. I believe that the Autographa were given by God without error. His response to that, I think, would be: But we do not have the Autographa any longer, and therefore have nothing to do with it. If I would press him for an answer and say: Tell me whether or not you believe that the Autographa were given without error, he would answer. . . . Well, I’m not sure what he would answer; but I suspect that if you could get an answer, it would be: No, the Autographa also had errors in them.
There are a couple of points which have to be made in this connection. In the first place, the distinction DeKoster makes between infallibility and inerrancy is a false distinction. Both terms have historically meant the same thing. And any good dictionary will tell you that the meaning is so close that the two words are synonyms. DeKoster acts like a liberal when he takes traditional terms, pours out their old meaning, and gives to them meanings other than the usus loquendi. This is not only confusing; it is dishonest. Both terms mean: without error, when the terms are applied to the Scriptures.
In the second place, of course, the testimony of the Spirit is, infallible. But it is infallible only in connection with the objective testimony of the Word. The Spirit cannot he. But as we said above, the Spirit never speaks apart from the Word.
In the third place, it is extremely important to maintain that the Autographa were infallible—or inerrant—whatever one wishes to call them. It is true that we do not have the Autographa any more. But this does not alter the case one whit. An inerrant Autographa is important because we cannot have the Word of God today if the Autographa were not inerrant. Let’s be clear on that point. The Autographa are the Word of God only if they are inerrant. They are then the Word of God in their entirety and in every part. And then, and only then, can we have the Word of God today. To use a figure which I used in my last letter to you: if First Church never was First Church when it was originally built, it cannot be First Church now either. Only if it was First Church then, can it also be First Church now even though it may have a few burned out light bulbs and some plaster coming loose somewhere.
But there is more. The whole question is, after all, not merely a question concerning inerrancy. This is important; but it is not the heart of the issue. The real question is one of authority. There are those who do not want the authority of Scripture. They do not want the authority of Scripture on the truth of creation and the fall. They do not want the authority of Scripture on the truth of sovereign and double predestination. They do not want the authority of Scripture on the question of women holding office in the church. And in order to undermine Scripture’s authority, they tamper with the doctrine of Scripture’s infallibility—or inerrancy.
Let there be no doubt about it at all. Scripture is authoritative in all matters of faith and life only be cause it is infallible—or inerrant—in its Autographa. The question of the Autographa is an important one—whether we have them or not. And it is important because these very Autographa testify in themselves that they are of God. They testify in themselves and of themselves that there are no errors in them. And this testimony is the rock upon which the authority of Scripture rests. Take infallibility—or inerrancy—away, and Scripture’s authority is gone. The authority of the Autographa is gone. The authority of the Bible I hold in my hand is gone.
But when by faith I receive the testimony of the Scriptures themselves that the Scriptures in their Autographa are infallibly inspired, then I know that the Bible I hold in my hands is the very Word of God!
I know this because the Spirit Who gave the Scriptures as an infallible book is the same Spirit who testifies in my heart in connection with and through the Scriptures that these Scriptures are the Word of God.
DeKoster is wrong—dreadfully wrong. No matter how pious what he says may sound, he is wrong. His view takes God’s Word away from God’s people.
Hold fast to the truth, Timothy. It is clear and easily understood. No tampering with words is necessary to make it clear. No vague statements are needed to make it clear. The truth is so clear that God’s people can understand it even when they are the lambs of the flock.