According to the Fathers (continued)
We do not find too much on the doctrine of the divine inspiration of the Holy Scriptures in the writings of the early Church Fathers; at least, the undersigned could not find many writers who wrote on this subject. This is undoubtedly due to the fact that the truth of divine inspiration was generally accepted. We concluded our preceding article by quoting from Origen.
In this same quotation, Origen proceeds to show how the words spoken in the Scriptures have come to pass, concluding from this that God, having really become man in the Christ, delivered to men the doctrines of salvation. We quote: “And if we observe how powerful the word has become in a very few years, notwithstanding that against those who acknowledged Christianity conspiracies were formed, and some of them on its account put to death, and others of them lost their property, and that, notwithstanding the small number of its teachers, it was preached everywhere throughout the world, so that Greeks and Barbarians, wise and foolish, gave themselves up to the worship that is through Jesus, we have no difficulty in saying that the result is beyond any human power. Jesus having taught with all authority and persuasiveness that His Word should not be overcome; so that we may rightly regard as oracular responses those utterances of His, such as, ‘Ye shall be brought before governors and kings for My sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles;’ and, ‘Many shall say unto Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not eaten in Thy name, and drunk in Thy name, and in Thy name cast out devils? And I shall say unto them, Depart from Me, ye workers of iniquity, I never knew you.’ . . . . . But when that which was delivered with so much authority has come to pass, it shows that God, having really become man, delivered to men the doctrines of salvation.”
Then, having shown how several passages of the Scriptures have been fulfilled, Origen continues as follows: “It would be tedious now to enumerate the most ancient prophecies respecting each future event, in order that the doubter, being impressed by their divinity, may lay aside all hesitation and distraction, and devote himself with his whole soul to the words of God. But if in every part of the Scriptures the superhuman element of thought does not seem to present itself to the uninstructed, that is not at all wonderful; for, with respect to the works of that providence which embraces the whole world, some show with the utmost clearness that they are works of providence, while others are so concealed as to seem to furnish ground for unbelief with respect to that God who orders all things with unspeakable skill and power. For the artistic plan of a providential Ruler is not so evident in those matters belonging to the earth, as in the case of the sun, and moon, and stars; and not so clear in what relates to human occurrences, as it is in the souls and bodies of animals,—the object and reason of the impulses, and phantasies and natures of animals, and the structure of their bodies, being carefully ascertained by those who attend to these things. But as (the doctrine of) providence is not at all weakened (on account of those things which are not understood) in the eyes of those who have once honestly accepted it, so neither is the divinity of Scripture, which extends to the whole of it, (lost) on account of the inability of our weakness to discover in every expression the hidden splendor of the doctrines veiled in common and unattractive phraseology. For we have the treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power of God may shine forth, and that it may not be deemed to proceed from us (who are but) human beings. For if the hackneyed methods of demonstration (common) among men, contained in the books (of the Bible), had been successful in producing conviction, then our faith would rightly have been supposed to rest on the wisdom of men, and not on the power of God; but now it is manifest to every one who lifts up his eyes, that the word and preaching have not prevailed among the multitude “by persuasive words of wisdom, but by demonstration of the Spirit and of power. Wherefore, since a celestial or even a super-celestial power compels us to worship the only Creator, let us leave the doctrine of the beginning of Christ, i.e., the elements, and endeavor to go on to perfection, in order that the wisdom spoken to the perfect may be spoken to us also. For he who possesses it promises to speak wisdom among them that are perfect, but another wisdom than that of this world, and of the rulers of this world, which is brought to nought. And this wisdom will be distinctly stamped upon us, and will produce a revelation of the mystery that was kept silent in the eternal ages, but now has been manifested through the prophetic Scriptures, and the appearance of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Origen evidently views the Scriptures as God’s inspired revelation to His church.
Philip Schaff, in his “History of the Christian Church,” writing in Volume I of the First Period, A.D. 1-100, has a chapter on the Unity of Apostolic Teaching, Pages 511 ff., and we quote: “Christianity is primarily not merely doctrine, but life, a new moral creation, a saving fact, first personally embodied in Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word, the God-man, to spread from him and embrace gradually the whole body of the race, and bring it into saving fellowship with God. The same is true of Christianity as it exists subjectively in single individuals. It begins not with religious views and notions simply; though it includes these, at least in germ. It comes as a new life; as regeneration, conversion, and sanctification; as a creative fact in experience, taking up the whole man with all his faculties and capacities, releasing him from the guilt and the power of sin, and reconciling him with God,restoring harmony and peace to the soul, and at last glorifying the body itself. Thus, the life of Christ is mirrored in his people, rising gradually, through the use of the means of grace and the continued exercise of faith and love, to its maturity in the resurrection.
“But the new life necessarily contains the element of doctrine, or knowledge of the truth. Christ calls himself “the way, the truth, and the life.” He is himself the personal revelation of saving truth, and of the normal relation of man to God. Yet this element of doctrine itself appears in the New Testament, not in the form of an abstract theory, the product of speculation, a scientific system of ideas subject to logical and mathematical demonstration, but as the fresh, immediate utterance of the supernatural, divine life, a life-giving power, equally practical and theoretical, coming with divine authority to the heart, the will, and the conscience, as well as to the mind, and irresistibly drawing them to itself. The knowledge of God in Christ, as it meets us here, is at the same time eternal life. We must not confound truth with dogma. Truth is the divine substance, doctrine or dogma is the human apprehension and statement of it; truth is a living and life-giving power, dogma a logical formula; truth is infinite, unchanging, and eternal; dogma is finite, changeable, and perfectible.
“The Bible, therefore, is not only, nor principally, a book for the learned, but a book of life for every one, an epistle written by the Holy Spirit to mankind. In the words of Christ and his apostles there breathes the highest and holiest spiritual power, the vivifying breath of God, piercing bone and marrow, thrilling through the heart and conscience, and quickening the dead. The life, the eternal life, which was from the beginning with the Father, and is manifested to us, there comes upon us, as it were, sensibly, now as the mighty tornado, now as the gentle zephyr; now overwhelming and casting us down in the dust of humility and penitence, now reviving and raising us to the joy of faith and peace; but always bringing forth a new creature, like the word of power, which said at the first creation, ‘Let there be light!’ Here verily is holy ground. Here is the door of eternity, the true ladder to heaven, on which the angels of God are ascending and descending in unbroken line. No number of systems of Christian faith and morals, therefore, indispensable as they are to the scientific purposes of the church and of theology, can ever fill the place of the Bible, whose words are spirit and life.
“When we say the New Testament is no logically arranged system of doctrines and precepts, we are far from meaning that it has no internal order and consistency. On the contrary, it exhibits the most beautiful harmony, like the external creation, and like a true work of art. It is the very task of the historian, and especially of the theologian, to bring this hidden living order to view, and present it in logical and scientific forms. For this work Paul, the only one of the apostles who received a learned education, himself furnishes the first fruitful suggestions, especially in his epistle to the Romans. This epistle follows a logical arrangement even in form, and approaches as nearly to a scientific treatise as it could consistently with the fervent, direct, practical, popular spirit and style essential to the Holy Scriptures and inseparable from their great mission for all Christendom.
“The apostles all drew their doctrine in common from personal contact with the divine-human history of the crucified and risen Saviour, and from the inward illumination of the Holy Spirit, revealing the person and the work of Christ in them, and opening to them the understanding of his words and acts. This divine enlightenment is inspiration, governing not only the composition of the sacred writings, but also the oral instructions of their authors; not merely an act, but a permanent state. The apostles lived and moved continually in the element of truth. They spoke, wrote, and acted from the spirit of truth; and this, not as passive instruments, but as conscious and free organs. For the Holy Spirit does not supersede the gifts and peculiarities of nature, which are ordained by God; it sanctifies them to the service of his kingdom. Inspiration, however, is concerned only with moral and religious truths, and the communication of what is necessary to salvation. Incidental matters of geography, history, archaeology, and of mere personal interest, can be regarded as directed by inspiration only so far as they really affect religious truth.
“The revelation of the body of Christian truth essential to salvation coincides in extent with the received canon of the New Testament . . . . We may speak of asecondary inspiration of extraordinary men whom God raises from time to time, but their writings must be measured by the only infallible standard, the teaching of Christ and his apostles. Every true advance in Christian knowledge and life is conditioned by a deeper descent into the mind and spirit of Christ, who declared the whole counsel of God and the way of salvation, first in person, and then through his apostles.
“The New Testament is thus but one book, the teaching of one mind, the mind of Christ. He gave to his disciples the words of life which the Father gave him, and inspired them with the spirit of truth to reveal his glory to them.”
Indeed, for the early Christian Church in the New Dispensation, the Bible was the inspired Word of God given by Christ through His apostles to His Church.