The Infallible Word of God
June 9th, 1985 @ 10:50 AM
2 Peter 1:20-21
THE INFALLIBLE WORD OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Peter 1:20-21
6-9-85 10:50 a.m.
This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, delivering the morning message entitled: The Infallible Word of God. In the passage that you just read from 2 Timothy, there’s a declarative avowal: “All Scripture;” all of it—not just some of it, all of it. These liberals say it is inspired in spots and they are inspired to pick out the spots. It says all of it, all of it: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God” [2 Timothy 3:16]; then follows an avowal, an imperative: “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom. Preach the Word” [2 Timothy 4:1-2]—my great assignment. But can I do that and be intellectually honest? Can I preach this Bible, all of it, from the first of Genesis to the last of Revelation? Can I preach this Bible and be intellectually true to myself and to those who might listen to me?
From the beginning of the human race, the attack of Satan has been against the Word of God. He is a subtle beast, the most subtle, the most subtle serpent of the field [Genesis 3:1]. And this is the burning point of his castigation. In the beginning, in the Garden of Eden, it was Satan who said to our first parents: “Yea, hath God said?” [Genesis 3:1], casting doubt upon the inspiration and truth of the Word of God [2 Timothy 3:16]. And from that beginning day until this, the phalanx of the marching castigation and criticism and destructive denunciation of the faith of God has always been against His Word.
In 200 AD, the Neoplatonist philosopher Plotinus became aware, and fearfully so of the growing numbers and power of the Christians in the Greco-Roman Empire. And seeing his Neoplatonic philosophy threatened by these growing numerically, intensive Christians, he asked his most brilliant student, Porphyry, to study and to write books against them. When Porphyry began to study the Christian preachers throughout that Roman Empire, he noticed that he held a codex in his hand. That is, he cut up the scrolls of the Old Testament Scriptures, and bound them in the back. A codex; you call it a book.
The first time the world ever saw a book, a codex, was when the Christian preachers cut up those scrolls and bound them in the back, so they could more felicitously, and easily, turn to the Word of God as they proclaimed the truth of the Almighty. So Porphyry, seeing that, began to study the Holy Scriptures on which the Christian based his faith and his message. And Porphyry, doubtless the most brilliant and scintillating antagonist the Christian faith ever had—Porphyry wrote fifteen books against the Word of God, against the Bible. If he could undermine and cut down the foundation upon which the Christian preacher stood, then he could deny the faith that the preacher proclaimed.
So devastating was the attack of Porphyry that he was answered by Eusebius, the father of church history in Caesarea, and by Methodius, the brilliant preacher and student in Lycia. Emperor Theodosius in 335 AD destroyed all the books of Porphyry and we know them only through Eusebius and Methodius. But the attack against the Christian faith in the 200s AD is but typical of the attack against the Word of God through all the preceding and succeeding centuries. It never varies: “Yea, hath God said?” [Genesis 3:2].
And these who confront us and assail us, these state their case blatantly. If you have tractors to move mountains, you don’t need faith. If you have penicillin, you don’t need prayer. If you have positive thinking, you don’t need salvation. If you have the state, you don’t need the church. If you have an Einstein or an Edison, you don’t need a Jesus the Christ. And if you have manuals of science, you don’t need the Bible.
And their avowal of disinterest and destructive approach to the Word of God is plainly stated on their part. They say you had just as well preach Jason and the Golden Fleece as Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden [Genesis 3:1-24]. You had as well preach Hercules and the twelve labors as to preach Moses and the twelve tribes [Deuteronomy 33:6-25]. You had as well preach Achilles and the Trojan War, as to preach Joshua and the conquest of Canaan [Joshua 1:1-12:24]. They say you had as well preach Aesop’s fables as to preach the Bible, because both are filled with mythological, legendary tales from which you can conclude morality.
They state, I say, their case openly and blatantly. I copied this from an eminent theologian. Apologizing for the Bible, this professor wrote, “Of course there are scientific and historical errors in the Bible. However, we can excuse such mistakes on the ground that the Bible is not a textbook of science or history, and therefore we do not expect it to be scientifically and historically accurate.” End quote.
All I have to say about that is this: if this Bible, which is supposed to be written by God, who knows all of history and who knows all the facts of His creation – if this Bible, which is supposed to be written by the Lord God, the Holy Spirit of God [2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21], is full of historical and scientific errors, it is a work of men. It is not a work of God, period. It’s that plain. But as I open this Holy Word, I find it is verified, and verifiable, by all that men know and learn, both in archaeology and in science. Let’s look at that historically for just a moment.
Men have been archaeologically digging up the Holy Land for centuries and centuries. And to this present day there has never been one spade of archaeological dirt turned but that confirms the veracity of this Holy Book. For example, for years and years and years the critics said, “When you, we, read in the Bible ‘Moses wrote these words,’ that is an historical anachronism because writing was not known until centuries after Moses.” That’s what they said. Then we discovered the tablets in Tell-Amarna in Egypt, and then the Ugaritic cuneiform literature in Ebla, in Ras-Shamra, in northern Syria, and in other places. And we learned that writing was a gift of mankind thousands of years before Moses.
They said, “The Bible speaks about Hittites. All through the Old Testament, you’ll find references to Hittites. There never was a Hittite,” the destructive critics said. “That’s a conjuration of the imagination of the writer of the Bible.” Then they began to learn and to dig in those archaeological heaps in Asia Minor and in the Holy Land, and learned that there was a great empire lost to memory and to history: the Hittite empire.
They said—and, this was a surefire castigation—“There never lived anyone by the name of Belshazzar,” who was supposed to have been the last king of Babylon, when Cyrus destroyed it. “There never lived a Belshazzar.” They had a closed and certain case. The cylinder of Cyrus lists all of the kings of Babylon, but there’s no Belshazzar. When Herodotus visited Babylon seventy years after Cyrus the Persian took it, he never heard of Belshazzar. The critics said, “This is a sure mistake, historical error in the Word of God.” Then they began to dig in the ruins of the heaps of Babylon, and reading those cuneiform tablets, my brother, I could write a biography today about Belshazzar.
They said, “It is impossible for the Fourth Gospel, the Gospel of John, to have been written by the apostle in the first century AD, because its theological development would take 250 years to present.” While they were mouthing that criticism, they dug up from the sands of Egypt a papyrus, a quotation from the Fourth Gospel, the Gospel of John, showing that the Gospel must have been written between 90 and 100 AD, in the lifetime of the great apostle. There are no historical errors in the Bible. All that we know confirms the truth of the Word of God.
What about these scientific errors? Let’s be sure that we are correct in our understanding of scriptural facts. And let us be sure of our understanding of scientific facts.
There was an unusually gifted and popular lecturer who went around America until, oh, twenty years ago. And when he’d go to a place, he’d put a big ad in the newspaper and say, “I’ll give anyone a thousand dollars if they can point out to me a scientific fact, a scientific mistake, in the Bible.” So a woman came up to him and claimed the one thousand dollars, “For,” she said, “I have found a scientific mistake in the Bible. It says in the Bible the Euphrates River ran through the Garden of Eden. It says in the Bible that Adam and Eve ate an apple, and that’s the reason they fell in their disobedience. And it has been scientifically demonstrated that no apples can grow in the hot desert of the Mesopotamian Valley. So I want the thousand dollars.”
Let us be sure of our Scriptural facts. It never hints that it was an apple that Adam and Eve ate when they transgressed the law of God. Let’s also be very sure of our scientific facts. Science is like a chicken. It is always molting. It is always changing. What is science today, is ludicrous yesterday, and will be tomorrow. In the great library of the Louvre, there are three and one half miles of obsolete scientific books. They’ve always been wanting to upgrade the Bible according to the latest scientific persuasions.
Had we done that at 1000 BC, had we done it in 500 AD, had we done it in 1500 AD, had we done it last year, the Bible would be filled with useless absurdities. Science changes. There is no ultimate foundation in what we observe. Looking beyond what we see, we can pierce into the very heart and mind of God. But we have to look beyond what we see.
The Bible has been written by something like forty men over 1,500 [years], and for 2,000 years has remained unchanged. Yet you will not find in the Bible any of those weird, far-out, unimaginable backgrounds against which the Holy Word was written.
For example, it says in the Word of God that Moses was learned in all the science and wisdom of the Egyptians [Acts 7:22]. Through these archaeological discoveries, we can read the very scientific text that Moses studied. And the latest science in Moses’ day went like this: They had a cosmogony explaining the beginning, the birth of the world. And they said it came out of an egg that went around and around and around and around. And when the day of hatching came, out was the world. That’s where the world came from in the latest science in the days of Moses.
So I pick up the Bible, and I expect to read something about that flying ovoid. But instead of reading about that winged ovoid, I read ten of the greatest, most meaningful words ever penned by human hand: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” [Genesis 1:1].
So much of the Bible was written against the background of the Babylonians. They also had a scientific explanation in anthropology and in cosmogony. This was the latest science in the days of the Babylonian Empire. There was a chaos monster named Tiamat, and there was a good god of light named Marduk. And they fought to the death, and Marduk slew Tiamat. And when the good god Marduk slew Tiamat, he flattened him out, and that was the earth. Then the latest science of Babylon said, “Marduk spit, and where he spat, men sprang up.” Then the scientists said, “And where the men spat, women came up.” Then it says, “The women spat, and where they spat, animals came up.” And that was the anthropological explanation of what they saw in the human race in the earth.
When I read that, I thought of a big sign in a warehouse. And it read, “Don’t Smoke. Remember the Chicago Fire.” And a wag wrote underneath, “Don’t Spit. Remember the Johnstown Flood.” But instead of these weird, far-out, scientific explanations of the centuries past, we find in the Word of God the most amazing revelations of the truths that we are just now beginning to understand and to see.
For example, it will say in the twenty-sixth chapter in the Book of Job that: “God hangeth the world upon nothing” [Job 26:7]. When that was written, men everywhere—and for thousands of years—men everywhere believed that the earth stood upon some kind of a solid foundation. The Egyptians taught that the earth was held by four pillars at four corners, with a fifth pillar underneath, in the middle. Now I can understand how we might crawl to the corners of the earth and see those four pillars. But I tell you, that fifth one underneath is sheer speculation.
There’s not a boy that goes to school, but that knows that the Greeks were taught that the world is held on the back of a giant named Atlas. And the Hindus said – in their cosmogony the Hindus said that the earth is balanced on the back of a giant elephant who stands on the back of a great turtle that swims in a cosmic sea. That is the explanation of the earth, according to all the scientific knowledge of mankind for thousands and thousands of years. And yet, the Bible said that: “God hangeth the world upon nothing” [Job 26:7]. It is held in the hands of the Almighty as it swings in its giant orbit around the earth. God did that—by inspiration said that to us [2 Timothy 3:16].
Look again. It was thousands of years that the earth had no idea that the wind had weight. But, in 1643, in 1643, Torricelli, who was the assistant to Galileo invented, discovered the barometer and learned that atmosphere, wind, has weight and can be measured by a barometer—1643. But thousands of years before that, in the twentieth chapter of the Book of Job, he refers to the weight of the wind [Job 28:25]. God did that. God said that. God knew that.
Take again: for thousands of years, men believed that the earth was flat and that it was square and that it had corners. But in the fortieth chapter of the Book of Isaiah, the great prophet describes the Almighty God who “sits above the circle of the earth,” the round of the earth [Isaiah 40:22]. Thousands of years before men knew that the earth was round, God said that it was a circle, that it had roundness in it. That’s the inspiration of the Lord God [2 Timothy 3:16]. He knew it all, and He wrote it in His Book [Isaiah 40:22].
The moon; the Bible presents the moon as a reflection to cast light upon the earth in the day, in the nighttime, in the dark time [Genesis 1:14-19]. And the United States said we are going to send a man to the moon to find out what’s on the moon. And when our astronauts began walking around on the moon, to look what was there on the moon, they saw that the sand was like beads. The sand was like beads. We learned, in chemical analyses, that the most prolific of all of the chemicals there is titanium. And there’s no atmosphere. And it’s rough and corrugated. When you look at that, those sands reflect light. The titanium reflects light. There’s no atmosphere to keep from the reflection of the light. And it’s corrugated like the glass on the front of your lamp on your automobile. In other words, the moon is just one great, giant reflector. Now had the United States government asked me, I could have saved them six billion dollars had they just asked me about it. I could have done it from the Bible.
You’ll not find in literature – no matter what scientific writing you read—you’ll not find in literature a more astute and conclusive description of the atomic molecular structure of the world than in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews, in the third verse [Hebrews 11:3]. We could go on and on and on. From beginning to end, God who knew all history and all time; and God who made this universe from the microcosm to the macrocosm; God who wrote that Book, wrote it all down according to the truth of the omniscient, infallible mind of the Almighty Lord. And when I read it, every syllable of it is truth. It is God’s Word and there are no errors and no mistakes in it. Whether it’s history, or whether it’s science; whether it’s psychology, whether it’s sociology; whatever the student may give his heart and mind and life to, he will find the truth of God in these sacred and holy pages.
But I would be the first to recognize, and you would too, that the Bible is not written, as such, a book of history or, as such, a textbook on science. The Bible was written from the hand of God in the heart, compassionate and loving, of the Lord, that we might be saved, that we might go to heaven when we die, that we might live in a beautiful and Christian fellowship here, like God’s family, in this present world, both here and in the world to come, to have God with us: the revealed Word of the Lord [Hebrews 4:12].
You had Pat Zondervan recognized just a moment ago. For thirty-five consecutive years, he has come to this pulpit to make appeal for the Gideons. One year, in the days of the Vietnam tragedy, one year he stood here and, as he was making appeal for our people to support the distribution of the Word of God in the earth, he held up a little New Testament. And when he held it up, from where I was seated, I could see the marks of those bullets that had gone through that little Bible.
Pat said that it was taken from the body of an American soldier boy from Georgia. And those bullets that had grazed through that little New Testament had gone through his heart. The boy had died in Vietnam, and a chaplain had taken the little Bible from his body, and in the course of time, had given it to Mr. Zondervan.
Mr. Zondervan, of course, held it up and said, “I wish it had been my 35 cents that had bought that Bible for that boy.” Well, when he sat down, I said, “Mr. Zondervan, would you put that little Book in my hand?” And he placed it in my hand right there, and I looked through it. And when I came to the back page, that Georgia boy had written on the back page, “This day”—and, he dated it—“I”—and, he called his name—“Wilson Thomas, take Jesus Christ for my personal Savior.” That is the purpose of the Word of God, that we might know the Lord and that we might be saved.
When Sir Walter Scott, the incomparable Scottish bard, lay dying, he said to his son-in-law, Lockhart, “Son, bring me the Book.” And Lockhart said to his father-in-law, “Father, out of these thousands of books in your library, what book?” And Sir Walter Scott said, “My son, there is just one Book. Bring me the Book.” And Lockhart brought to Sir Walter Scott the Bible. And the Scottish bard died with that Book in his hand. “There is just one Book,” cried the dying sage.
Read me the old, old story
And the winged words
That can never fail,
Wafted his soul to glory.
There’s just one Book! And to preach it, and to believe it, and to accept it, and to follow it, and to love it, and to proclaim it is the grandest, greatest privilege God hath given us in human life. This is the Book that tells us about our Lord. This is the Book that speaks of His resurrection from the dead [Matthew 27:32-50, 28:1-7]. This is the Book that tells us of His session in heaven [Hebrews 1:13]. This is the Book that promises us that He is coming again [Acts 1:9-11]. This is the Book that gives us hope for whatever the providences, exigencies of life may unfold before us. This is the Book upon which we can stand as a preacher, as a church, as a missionary, as a soul, as one dying, as one looking forward to meeting our blessed Lord in some upper and better world [Hebrews 11:40].
And that is our invitation to you. If you’re in one of these chapels, there’s time and to spare to come. If you’re down beneath this auditorium, if you’re in Coleman Hall, if you’re out on Kadane Plaza, anywhere, there is time and to spare. In a moment, I’m going to pray. And while I pray, the orchestra will find a place to either side. And we’re all going to ask God to bless the appeal together. Then we’ll stand and sing a hymn of invitation.
And while we sing that song of appeal, to give your life to the Lord Jesus [Romans 10:8-13], “I accept Him as my personal Savior, to come into the fellowship of this dear family of God,” our church. To answer some call in your heart, “God hath spoken to me today, and I’m answering with my life.” In a moment, when we stand and sing this appeal, may angels attend you as you come.