We received the following letter from the Rev. Rolf Veenstra under the date of August 4:
Grand Rapids, Mich.
As one of your subscribers I have not noticed a regular feature of “reader responses.” However, a letter to the editor,” especially one of appreciation, is always in order for any magazine. Forgive my failure to have done so before.
I have been particularly appreciative of your Bible studies presently considering Old Testament history. Too long our “treatment” of this material has been of a Sunday school, moralistic sort. I laud your writer for having the honesty of untraditional approaches to pre-Christian events and characters, notably Joseph, usually represented as a flawless sort of Horatio Alger Boy Scout who climaxed his climb by marrying the boss’s daughter. (Sad result, course, was that two entire tribes, especially troublesome Ephraim, were half-Egyptian, and golden-calf conditioned.)
An uncolored explanation of Holy Writ is especially essential, as I see it, to those of us who believe absolutely in the absolute authority and infallibility and historicity of Scripture. Interpret God’s Word in an unreal or really dishonest way and you will soon be shut up to making it myth, parabolic, time-conditioned, and only relatively relevant for every generation. And all of must remember that while the Bible accurately and honestly reports everything that Joseph, Job, et al, said and did, the Holy Spirit does not ipso facto give His imprimatur to everything that they did or said.
Yours for the Truth,
(signed) Rolf Veenstra
First of all, welcome to our letters-to-the-editor department, and thanks for the words of appreciation for our writer on Old Testament history, Rev. Heys.
Secondly, I suspect that the last paragraph of this letter is possibly an oblique reference to my critical comments in our August issue concerning your recent meditation in The Banner. If so, then I beg to respond as follows:
1) I find a different note sounded in this paragraph than in that meditation. I refer to your explanation of inspiration and to the statement which I characterized as pure subjectivism.
2) I am happy to note that you count yourself among those who believe “absolutely in the absolute authority and infallibility and historicity of Scripture.”
3) I certainly agree that the fact that the Bible accurately and honestly reports what men said and did does not imply that the Holy Spirit approves what they did or said. We may certainly distinguish between what is formally inspired and what is materially inspired, or between an inspired and infallible record of someone’s words and/or deeds and words (such as the Psalms, for example) which are themselves inspired in content. My criticism was not concerning this.
4) My point was that your interpretation of Hezekiah’s prayer (as “peevish”) and your interpretation of Job’s confession (as incorrect, in so far that you claim that Job does not teach that the Lord taketh away, but the devil takes away)—this interpretation was totally arbitrary and a violation of the principle that Scripture is and must be its own interpreter. If you believe in the absolute authority of Scripture, you must needs allow Scripture to interpret itself. Now if you do that with respect to Job’s confession, you will never say that Job was mistaken in that confession. For in the verse following that confession you read: “In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.” In other words, the Holy Spirit did indeed “give His imprimatur” to what Job said. The same is true of Hezekiah. In the first place, there is no shred of evidence that his prayer was “peevish.” In the second place, the historical record shows that Hezekiah had no son as yet, which meant that if he died, the line of the promise would be broken. In the third place, the Lord Himself heard and answered Hezekiah’s prayer and confirmed His answer by a marvelous sign. Again, therefore, the Holy Spirit did indeed “give His imprimatur” to Hezekiah’s pious prayer.
5) Finally, I certainly agree with your statement: “Interpret God’s Word in an unreal or really dishonest way and you will soon be shut up to making it myth, parabolic, time-conditioned, and only relatively relevant for every generation.” History substantiates this.