|Vol. 15 No. 4 April 2013||
The following was printed in These Times, September, 1962. The name of the author was not given.
One day the world awoke to find that the Book of books had disappeared. All traces of its influence had vanished. Much of the music of the world was silenced. The mighty oratories were no longer to be heard. The hymns expressing the hopes and fears, the longings of human hearts, had died away. Christmas and all the rejuvenating carols were gone. Many of the masterpieces were no more; others had great parts of the music missing. Libraries looked as if millions of devouring moths had descended upon the printed pages. Books of Shakespeare, Milton, Bunyan, Tennyson, Longfellow, Tolstoy, Dostoevski, and hundreds of others were wellnigh unintelligible, due to many omissions. Law books no longer made sense, for fundamental principles had been eliminated.
The Magna Charta of Britain, the Constitution of the United States, the American Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and all the great statements of liberty and human rights everywhere in the world were wiped blank except for a few commonplace words now utterly lacking in significance.
But the loss of the Book cut even deeper. Values became blurred; human life grew cheap. Men became tools to be used. Life grew drab and meaningless, and man had only himself to worship. Restraints fell off the human conscience, and all the brutal instincts of the animal in man were unleashed.
With the Bible lost, a veritable Hades had broken loose upon the earth!
The scene described above reminds one of the writings of Amos, who said, “‘Behold, the days are coming,’ says the Lord God, ‘That I will send a famine on the land, Not a famine of bread, Nor a thirst for water, But of hearing the words of the Lord’” (8:11-12).
A Famine in Theological Teaching?
One wonders if the teachings of some theologians could be a part of a famine like the one described by Amos. For instance, Robert H. Knight, in his book The Age of Consent, writes:
In the midnineteenth century, German Protestant theologian Julius Wellhausen delivered a bomb to the doorstep of the church that is still going off. Wellhausen’s systematic critique of the Bible, which was later known as the “higher criticism,” consisted of searching for the rational “evolution” of scripture. Instead of divine revelation, Wellhausen inferred, men had constructed the Bible to meet their own needs and prejudices. As Wellhausen’s approach seeped into the seminaries and divinity schools, the whole idea of God’s authorship became moot: If man alone wrote the Bible, then man needed to reinterpret it according to man’s intellectual growth and changing conditions. ...By the late 1990s, many mainstream churches had ditched “The Old Rugged Cross” and struck up the siren songs of the Me Generation, in which God, it is said, dwells in all of us. Since we have godlike perception, we need selfmade rules that fit each of us best. Like infected tonsils, New Age priests and priestesses set out with enthusiasm to taint the rest of the Body of Christ and the larger culture with the disease of relativism (xxiixxiii).
One of the schools which might have been impacted by the thinking of Wellhausen was the Harvard Divinity School. Gordon D. Kaufman, a professor of theology at that school, wrote an article entitled, “What Shall We Do With the Bible?” for Interpretation in January, 1971. He said:
But all this is over with and gone. Though we may recognize and be grateful for its contributions to our culture, the Bible no longer has unique authority for Western man. It has become a great but archaic monument in our midst. It is a reminder of where we once were but no longer are. It contains glorious literature, important historical documents, exalted ethical teachings, but it is no longer the word of God (if there is a God) to man (as quoted by Shelly in What Shall We Do With the Bible?, 23).
Such thinking has had a dramatic effect on churches and religious people, particularly in the United States. Some are now very hesitant to describe any action as sin. Numbers of people, even within the church, often use the one word response “whatever” to deflect any discussion as to the rightness or wrongness of a particular action. The clear implication is that they recognize the other person’s opinion is different from their own, but do not see the pursuit of either as good or bad.
The Importance of Testing the Trustworthiness of the Bible
The Lord and His apostles, in contrast, clearly saw some actions as being good or right, while other actions were viewed as bad or wrong. Jesus said, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:1314). Paul urged the brethren at Thessalonica to, “Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22).
Thus we arrive at a series of critical questions. Is the Bible the Word of God? Did God have it written in a way intended to cause each of us to be able to see His expectations for our lives in the same way? Or, did the Almighty expect each of us, through our own experience and intellect, to respond to whatever it might mean to us individually? Ultimately, with so many saying the Bible means so many different things, one question must be answered. Can we trust the Bible?
God’s Ability to Accurately Foresee the Future Proves the Bible Is His Word
Only God could have known specific events years before they actually happened and involving, at times, nations that did not exist when the prophecy was written. For that reason, fulfilled prophecy can be considered one of the strongest proofs the Bible is from God and can be trusted.
The criteria of true prophecy has been listed as the following: The event must be beyond the power of man to foresee; it must not be a vision of hope nor a result of fear; it must not be a scientific or political forecast. The prediction must be written before the event occurs and must be applicable to it. The language of the prophecy must be clear and the fulfillment plain (George W. DeHoff, Why We Believe the Bible, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, 1966, 70).
When God’s prophets challenged the false gods of the people around them, they used these very criteria. Isaiah, for example, wrote, “Show the things that are to come hereafter, That we may know that you are gods…” (Isaiah 41:23a). In contrast, the true God could say, “Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure’” (Isaiah 46:9-10). God’s ability to look into the future, thus proving He is God and the Bible is His word, can be seen in numerous prophecies.
Isaiah’s Prophecy Concerning Babylon Is One Example
Isaiah’s (Chapter 13) prophecy concerning Babylon is one clear proof that the Bible can be trusted. At the time Isaiah wrote, Babylon was still ruled by a viceroy appointed by the Assyrians. Such may account for Hezekiah’s boastful approach to the embassy sent to him from Babylon in 704 B.C. (2 Kings 20:12-19; Isaiah 39). Israel suffered the painful reward of Hezekiah’s pride when Nebuchadnezzar II conquered Jerusalem. During that time, it was said Babylon had a wall around it wide enough to race 3 chariots abreast! The hanging gardens of Babylon were considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Yet, Isaiah’s prophecy clearly looks well into the future to the time when a powerful Babylon would be thoroughly defeated by the Medes. He foretold the city would be destroyed like Sodom and Gomorrah and left uninhabited! Isaiah wrote around 700 B.C.; Jerusalem was conquered in 587, and the Medes attacked Babylon in 539. “So desolate did Babylon become that, when Alexander the Great later decided to restore it, he gave up the task as a hopeless one” (Shelly 23). Only God could know the details presented by His spokesman!
God Called Cyrus by Name
Though Judah’s captivity was not accomplished until well after the time of Isaiah, he foretold the day when the people of Judah would be restored to the land of promise. Among other things, he wrote, “Who says of Cyrus, ‘He is My shepherd, And he shall perform all My pleasure,’ Even saying to Jerusalem, ‘You shall be built,’ And to the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid’” (Isaiah 44:28—45:7). This prophecy is particularly telling since Cyrus was called by name some 100 years before his birth and 150 years before he would release God’s people!
Nahum’s Prophecy about Nineveh
The book of Nahum has an extensive prediction of the destruction of Nineveh. “Obadiah is a prophecy directed at the Edomites in which it is declared that (a) the heathen would conquer them, and (b) the Jews would conquer them” (Bernard Ramm, Protestant Christian Evidences, Chicago: Moody Press, 1953, 103). Both of these came to pass. Amos’ prophecy was made around 755 B.C. God caused him to speak of the defeat of Damascus at the hands of Tiglath-Pileser, which occurred in 732 B.C. He also prophesied the destruction of Gaza, Ashdod and Ashkelon, which were accomplished by three separate kings: Hezekiah, Sennacherib and Alexander the Great. Micah, who wrote about 730 B.C., predicting the destruction of Samaria (712 B.C.) and Jerusalem (587 B.C.). Concerning Samaria, God said, “Therefore I will make Samaria a heap of ruins in the field, Places for planting a vineyard; I will pour down her stones into the valley, And I will uncover her foundation” (Micah 1:6). In 722 B.C., Sargon captured Samaria. “Samaria was on a hill and the stones may be found today literally poured down the side of the mountain, and the foundations of the city will be found to be discovered, i.e., laid bare” (Ramm 105).
Prophecies against Tyre
Ezekiel was one of the captives led away with King Jehoiachin in 599 B.C. (Ezekiel 1:1-3; 2 Kings 24:8-16). He received his call to be a prophet in the fifth year of exile (595 B.C.) and continued to prophesy for at least 22 years (29:17). In chapter 26, he prophesied against Tyre. Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Tyre for some 13 years and left the mainland city in ruins. The people fled to an island, about a half mile off shore and lived there in some safety because her enemies did not have ships to use in an attack. In 322 B.C.:
Alexander the Great came against Tyre and, in a most ingenious manner, overcame the problem which had stalled Nebuchadnezzar. He tore down the ruins of the old mainland city and used its stones, timbers and topsoil to construct a land bridge over to the island! Even this, however, was in fulfillment of prophecy. Ezekiel had said of Tyre’s enemies: “They shall lay thy stones and thy timber and thy dust in the midst of the waters” (Ezekiel 26:12). And today the site of the old mainland city is nothing more than barren rock where fishermen can be seen to spread their nets! The city has never been rebuilt (Shelly 24)!
A Prophecy About the Salvation of the Gentiles
For the Jews, no prophecy may be more distasteful or unlikely than the one made in Malachi 1:11. “‘For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down, My name shall be great among the Gentiles; In every place incense shall be offered to My name, And a pure offering; For My name shall be great among the nations,’ Says the Lord of hosts.” The clear fulfillment of these words took place in the church after Jesus had broken down the middle wall of partition, and Gentiles over the whole world were offered acceptable worship to God.