Course: Westminster Confession of Faith I
Professor: Rev. Dr. Luke Lu
Date: 2015 Fall Semester
God Has Spoken-God’s Inerrant Word. Authored and translated by Samuel Ling, Luke Lu, Ting Wu Lee, Anna Lee, James I. Packer. Edited by Samuel Ling. China Horizon Publishing.
The purpose of the publication of the book, as the title refers, is in consideration of Evangelical Church today that urgently needs to be recovered by a confessional theology. Since the Scripture is the criterion of our theology, spiritual formation, Church Ministries, battle with those who attack truth… almost in every aspect of Christian life, one cannot be a confessional Christian without a Bible-central mind and one cannot say he or she is biblical central without acknowledging the infallibility of the Bible. Our Lord Jesus says: “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God” (Matthew 22:29, ESV).
Summary and Review
This book consists of 6 chapters. In the first chapter, Rev. Samuel Lin and Rev. Luke Lu appeal the 21th century Chinese Church to return to the Scripture. a) Church herself firmly believes that the Scripture is breathed out by the Holy Spirit; b) Lord Jesus Christ governs the Church through the Scripture and the Spirit; c) God calls the Church to preach, teach, defend and obey his Word.
Chapter 2 is written by Rev. Luke Lu, in this chapter, he discusses some basic knowledge of Scripture, which needs to be clarified to whom newly receives Jesus Christ as his or her personal savior.
I. The revelation of salvation.
In this part, Rev. Luke Lu presents his ideas by discussing the Holy Scripture and the Holy Spirit. In my opinion, the Holy Scripture can be described as “hardware” for its visible quality, while the Holy Spirit can be compared with “software” for its invisible quality. Just imagine if there is an engineer sitting before a computer and you only give him a hardware or a software, he cannot work. The Holy Scripture documents God’s special revelation which can only be known or recognized by these regenerate person in whom dwells the Holy Spirit, whilst those unregenerate Gentiles, that is to say, those blind, ignorant, and idolatry, do not know the special revelation – the Word of God.
II. The inspiration of Scripture. & III. The authority of Scripture.
Nowadays, the inerrancy of Scripture is a hot topic and focus. Maybe many Chinese Christians have heard a book named “Is the Bible really without errors?” edited by Rev. Peter K. Chow. And in the end of the book Revelation we could see the famous curse to those denials of the authority of Scripture: “if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will taken away his share in the tree of life … [ Revelation 22:19, ESV.] ”
In these two parts, what Rev. Luke Lu draws attentions to can be used to urge a proud man to descend from a critic to a confessor. I am a Christian who educated in a such conservative evangelicalism culture that none of our Church members adopts “partly inspired” or “errant of Scripture” since my commitment to God , what an impossible job for me to define a so-called Christian as a Christian in the case of his denial of “the inspiration of Scripture can rightly be affirmed of the whole without the parts, or of some parts but not the whole” [ Article VI, Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.]
IV. Christ and Scripture.
In this part Rev. Luke Lu points out that Scripture is the main implement of Christ to govern his people by which reminds me an old Chinese idiom says “The country cannot live one day without the king/emperor” [ 国不可一日无君，《老子想尔注》。], a country cannot run well without a King, obviously a country cannot run well without a Constitution either. We all know that Lord Jesus Christ has three offices, Prophet, King, and Priest. We Christians are all citizens of the heavenly Kingdom. He is our King and Scripture is the Constitution of the Kingdom, in which our ultimately believing, living, behaving standards have written down. As a result of their mutually connected, we Christians need for obeying to both Christ and God’s reveal words [ Q&A 91, Westminster Larger Catechism]－the Scripture, who denies one means he denies both of them.
Second, if we turn our Bibles to Luke 24:27 we could find that Lord Jesus speaks for himself by referring the Scripture: “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”
Chapter 3 & Chapter 4
The following Chapter discusses a keyword “θεόπνευστος”, even though it only occurs 1 time in the New Testament. The English translation ‘inspiration ‘ of the word derives from Latin. According to KJV and RSV version, θεόπνευστος refers to a process that God breathes something into himself, or otherwise, some scholars look it upon God breath out of him [ God has spoken, page 23-24]. What can we do to deal with the distribution between these two opinions? In order to find out which one is accurate, I search for the meaning of the Greek word on the Internet, it is an adjective word which means “God-breathed, inspired by God, referring to a communication from deity” [ https://www.teknia.com/greek-dictionary/theopneustos
]. Apparently the latter one is accurate.
The inspiration of Scripture refers to a naturally written process rather than a mechanical control of these writers. Obviously Bible writers were have neither put into a jail or their own jails to write a book nor received an invitation letter which told them to leave for somewhere to complete their duties. Needless to say, they are all normal and average people, the Scripture is neither their somniloquy nor non-senses if they were absent-minded at that time [ Only a bold metaphor of the author of the Book Review. ]. However, the Spirit of God comes upon them, fills them as he fills the father of John the Baptist－Zechariah [ Luke 1:67, ESV] , after this fulfillment they begin to say God’s words to other people. What a great invisible hand God uses to reveal his words to his people from the beginning of the Fathers’ Age to the end of the Apostolic Age in such way.
If a man claims that he believes in God, I will ask him: “which God do you believe in? Could you describe the nature of your God for me? ” Similarly, if he identifies himself as a Scripture inspiration/inerrant holder, then, which Scripture is inspired by God? And Which Scripture is inerrant?
Roman Catholic Bible comprises 73 books, Ethiopian Orthodox Bible has 81 books [ Maybe Ethiopian Orthodox Bible is the longest Bible. ], whilst we Protestant Churches recognize 66 books because the Trinity God only inspires the 66 books . Moreover, it refers to the original text when we say Scripture is inerrant, inevitably a few errors would occur during the communication and translation process, you can compare it to: A tells B a sentence, then B conveys it to C then C to D… great possibility is that not until J the message might be added or omitted some elements by these messengers. Whoever adds or omits, the original text is admittedly inerrant. Nevertheless, due to the providence of God, “… copies and translations of Scripture are the Word of God to the extent that they faithfully represent the original.” [ Article X, Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy]
There are some major distortions of Scripture [ God has spoken, page 50-59. ], one of them is that a number of Chinese Church leaders who familiar with Confucian and Tao philosophy and early Chinese liberals take an opposite position to the systematization of Scripture [ Ibid, 50.], as we know, even Anglo-Saxon and Italic culture, which are two Western cultural systems that much closer to the Bible context than most Eastern cultural systems such as Indian, Japanese, Korean …, yet it is not appropriate for us to use their ways of thought to interpret the Scripture entirely, how can we think that our Chinese culture can replace Jewish or Greece culture?
When I read that several Hong Kong theologians who are deeply influenced by
English Theology and overseas Chinese Christian scholars argue that it is not appropriate for Chinese to accept the forensic language and commercial language [ Ibid, 53.]. I remember the popular preaching of John the Baptist: “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”(Matt 3:2 ) and Paul writes in Galatians “… for whatever one sows, that will he also reap …” (Gal 6:8). In short, I long to their repentance.
At the beginning of Chapter 5, Rev. Lin helps identify the worth of clarifying a crucial problem, that is, theological academic and Christian Faith [ Ibid, 63]. Maybe these questioners do not know the meaning of theology – Θεός λογία, it is a good suggestion for them to read Rev.Lu’s “Essential Theology”.
On one hand, we see all kinds of chaos today — New Evangelicalism [ Or, non-Evangelicalism. ], New orthodoxy, liberalism, secular “theology”. Besides, so much as the Roman Catholic Church tends to liberal. A few years ago, a Catholic net friend of mine, who was studying in a Catholic High School in U.S. at that time, told me that her Bible teacher questions the authorship of some texts of Isaiah. On the other hand, we can also see a number of conservative seminaries such as Westminster (East and West), Reformed, Covenant, Concordia[ a Lutheran seminary located in Missouri. ], Trinity, Gordon-Conwell, as well as publishing houses — Crossway, Zondervan … Chinese Publishers such as our related agencies — CRTS bookstore … , and my currently part-time working institution — A Kernel Wheat of Christian Ministries.
This Chapter stresses on an exegetical concept “the Bible interprets itself”, it refers to an approach which uses Bible texts to do exegetic works. Once upon a time I heard from a classmate who firmly claims that “the Bible interprets itself” is false, since we must find A verse to interpret B then uses C to interpret A, i.e., due to an infinite loop. However, he might have never read this: “… when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly. [ Westminster Confession of Faith, IX. ] ”
Rev. Lin lists two biases which have significant influences on our exegesis. The first is “sola inductia” [ The “Latin” style is created by me deliberately.], second is “sola authoria of expertia” [ Ibid.]. His arguments remind me the mistranslation of a piece of verse, John 4:24 “ἐν πνεύματι καὶ ἀληθείᾳ”, Chinese Union Version translates it as “soul and integrity”, while ESV and KJV are “spirit and truth”. According to Koine Greek Grammar, two nouns connected by a preposition reflect a strong link between them. In John, the holy Spirit is very close to the truth, whereas the soul of man never relates to the integrity of man in the book. Through it we can perceive the importance of the role of the holy Spirit when we read the Bible.
When I was a college student, I was in favor of reading some “only for experts ” books and sharing my reading moments on the internet. A teacher of my Church saw it and then told me: “No need for laymen to read such professional books”. Whether is it a kind of “sola authoria of expertia”?
In the closing paragraph, I recommend anyone who intends to investigate and research certain central arguments, that is, the inspiration of Scripture, the inerrancy of Scripture and so forth, but without prior study of Bible, to read some books on Biblical Criticism or even take Old Testament or/and New Testament Introduction course(s) at least in Bachelor level, master level preferred.