Evaluation of Kuitert’s View of Scripture (continued)
Before continuing with this part of the evaluation of Dr. Kuitert’s erring views, I must insert a note. It concerns the fact that the Dutch professor has succeeded well in setting the journalistic kettle a boiling. All the journals are having their say about the Kuitert matter. Since the last issue of the Standard Bearer went to press, theBanner has carried a significant article by Dr. Kuitert himself, as well as editorial comments by the Rev. Vander Ploeg; and the Reformed Journal (July-August issue, which, however, appeared tardily toward the end of September) has joined the fray on Kuitert’s side, as might be expected, with an article from the pen of Lewis Smedes. Earlier such papers as Torch and Trumpet, Church and Nation, the Reflector, andCalvinist Contact, as well as De Wachter, carried articles about these matters. Much of what is being written I am covering in the course of the present series of articles; but there are several items which, in my opinion, demand special attention. To the latter I hope to return after I have finished the current evaluation. The reader will have to be a bit patient, therefore; for there is simply too much of significance about this important issue either to pass it by or to treat immediately. Meanwhile, I will try to complete my current evaluation first.
My second point of criticism with respect to Dr. Kuitert’s view of Scripture concerns his heavy emphasis upon the merits of his view with respect to the so-called human factor, or human element, in Scripture.
In this connection, let us bear in mind what the professor said. He claimed, in the first place, that his interpretation of Genesis takes the human element in Scripture into account. Secondly, he accused what he called the “traditional view” of not doing justice to this “human factor” in Scripture. And thirdly, he claimed that orthodoxy, not knowing what to do with this human factor, and being somewhat afraid of its implications, always wanted to keep it as small as possible.
What must be said of these ideas?
In the first place, I believe that this is one of the most important elements not only in Kuitert’s position, but also in all the discussion and debate that is currently raging about the doctrine of Holy Scripture. It probably is the determining factor with respect to the questions concerning the inspiration and authority and infallibility of Scripture. For here the whole subject of what is called “organic inspiration” is involved.
In the second place, I believe that exactly at this point Prof. Kuitert,—I would judge: quite knowingly,—hit upon the weak spot in the armor of many of his opponents. Mark you well, I do not say the weak spot in the orthodox view, but the weak spot in the armor of many of his opponents. By this I am implying that many of his opponents do not hold strictly, and possibly do not fully understand, this doctrine of organic inspiration. Dr. Kuitert recognizes that they, as well as he, speak of a “human element” and a “human factor” in Holy Scripture. He recognizes,—correctly, in my opinion,—that in many instances traditional Reformed theology does not quite know what to do with this human element. They are not a little afraid of it. They feel that here is a point at which one can get bogged down inextricably in the mire of criticism, a criticism which inevitably will strike at the very authority and infallibility of the inspired Scriptures. And fearing this consequence,—and let it be said: quite properly fearing it,—they sought a solution. Here is another point on which Kuitert is correct in his judgment of much traditional theology. The solution which they chose was to keep this so-called human factor as small as possible. Mark you well, they conceded a human factor; but they minimized it, tried to keep it as small as possible.
Now what is the result of this situation?
In the first place, it becomes evident that the difference between Kuitert and many of his opponents is, in a sense, only one of degree. It becomes a difference ofemphasis. Traditional theology in many instances concedes that there is this “human factor” in Scripture. Rightly or wrongly, with good intentions or evil intentions or without at all giving account to themselves of their terminology, they speak of a human element, of a human factor of some kind, thus conceding what to Kuitert is a key point. They strive to keep this human factor very small. They probably insist,—Kuitert will say: quite inconsistently,—that this in no wise means that the Bible is not the infallibly inspired Word of God and that it is not in its totality the Word of God and not a mixture. They devise such terminology as “Primary Author” and “secondary authors” in order to express somehow their recognition of this human element, and in order at the same time to minimize it and keep it as small as possible. But meanwhile Kuitert has them “over a barrel.” He has found a stick with which to hit a dog, so to speak. That stick is this human element which they concede is present in Scripture. And seemingly Kuitert quite justifiably strikes them with it when he says, “Ah, but you do not do justice to that human element! You concede that it is present; but you are afraid of it and are not prepared to accept the consequences of its presence. I also recognize this human factor. But I want to do full justice to it. I am not afraid of it, and I do not think we ought to be afraid of it. In fact, it has been a weak point in our Reformed presentation that we have not done justice to this human factor in the past. And now I, with my version of the Genesis account, make bold to say that I am doing justice to this human element.” Thus the whole debate becomes one about emphasis, one of percentages. Both hold to the same basic equation: the divine factorplus the human factor equals the Bible. The difference concerns the size of the two elements. Is that divine factor 99% and the human factor 1%? Or is the human factor possibly as great as 50% contributing an equal part to the total, Scripture? Put thus, however, it is evident that Dr. Kuitert seems to have a point. And can one not discern in some of the opposition to Kuitert a note of anguish on the part of those who are being whipped by this stick? Let them make this human element as small as they will, let them reduce it to one-tenth of one per cent, Dr. Kuitert can still say, “Ah, but you concede to me that there is this human factor in Scripture, do you not?” And he can argue, “Come, now, give this human factor its due place. Be honorable!”
Yet, in the second place, given these alternatives, even in this situation I would have to cast my lot with the traditional theologians. On the one hand, every grain of reason within me tells me that, granted the above situation, Kuitert is right: the logic is compelling. Yet, on the other hand, every intuition of faith impels a child of God to maintain that Scripture is solely the Word of God written, that it is infallible, that its authority is absolute. And when those who concede a so-called human element, be it ever so small, nevertheless oppose Kuitert and, be it with apparent inconsistency, maintain that the Scriptures are not a mixture, but solely and in their entirety the inerrant Word of God, the believer by every impulse of his spiritual life wants to hold and does hold with those who hold to the infallible Scriptures as being the Word of God without any admixture of a word of man. The child of God does so not because he is afraid of making a concession. He does so not, as has been suggested, out of the mere motivation of a desire for certainty. It is not this alleged certainty-structure which forms the basis of our faith concerning Scripture. That would indeed be rationalistic, although, let me add immediately, every child of God can see immediately that the foundations are destroyed when the certainty afforded by the infallible Scriptures is taken away. No, the child of God is confronted by the claim of Scripture itself: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God. All Scripture is God-breathed.” To him that means this: God breathed, and the result was the Word of God written. Those Scriptures are God’s product, not man’s. However much you want to talk about so-called secondary authors and about a human element, the faith of the child of God, based upon Scripture itself, always comes back spontaneously to that one, all-important fact: the Bible is the Word of God written.
Nevertheless, in the third place, I do not believe that this is the full answer to Kuitert and others. I do not believe that this is the full answer, or that it is an effective answer, to his argumentation concerning the so-called human factor. After all, there is something compelling about Kuitert’s logic, or, at least, the implied logic of Kuitert’s position, namely, that if you concede a human element, the only quarrel can be about the size of that human element, not about the question whether Kuitert denies Scripture. I believe that the answer lies in the direction of a proper understanding of what is called organic inspiration. To this I shall devote my next editorial on this subject, D.V.