“He is there, and He is not silent.” — Francis Schaeffer
This should sound familiar to some of you….
Sometimes, skeptics of Christianity or of “revealed truth” more generally will throw out various claims about the Bible or about what (they think) God would/should/could do, in an attempt to undermine Christians’ faith in what we believe to be the inspired Word of God. One way they do this is to make it sound as if using a book — really, a collection of manuscripts of different types — as the primary means of communicating His desires and intentions to mankind is not very smart or effective.
Why use fallible people in the writing, copying, and translating? After all, such a book can easily be corrupted and misunderstood. (That’s another favorite attack vector of skeptics, btw.) Also, why give this revelation in pieces, in a very limited area of the planet, starting well after humanity first showed up? Wouldn’t it make much better sense to speak audibly and unmistakably to all people everywhere, repeatedly throughout human history, so that there was no mistake about who God was and what He wanted us to do? Couldn’t He avoid a lot of confusion, suffering, death, and damnation of souls that way? (To be fair, Christian believers can legitimately be curious about some of this stuff, too.) On the other hand, how can we be sure that the real God, if there even is one, would speak to us propositionally at all?
Of course, much of why God did what He did and how He did it can be gleaned from careful study of those very scriptures being maligned. To answer all of those questions in an intellectually satisfying way, however, would take a lot of time, so I don’t intend to try that here. But, at least a couple aspects of the issue can be addressed. The following excerpt from James White’s book, Scripture Alone, is the first of “Three Arguments Related to Scriptural Sufficiency” (aka Chapter 1). It actually precedes the section I quoted from in last week’s post about the sola scriptura principle, but I thought it was worth backtracking a bit for this helpful explanation.
“While most of God’s complex earthly creatures communicate with one another in basic ways, much of this communication is merely instinctual and not definitive of the species. Man, on the other hand, is marked not only by his ability to communicate but also by the near necessity of communication…. While people communicate in many ways, they interact primarily though language, whether spoken or written; the complexity and capacity of human language testifies to humankind’s inherent desire to communicate and relate with others.
It is eminently logical to believe that the God who formed man’s body, with all of its intricate biological facilities, who created the wonder of man’s mind, with all of its amazing intellectual capacities, and who instilled man’s very ability and desire to communicate, would Himself be capable of communication with His creatures. The very thought of a mute God is on its face absurd: The only basis upon which one might suppose God to be silent would be God purposefully choosing to remain so. But even this makes no sense, as if God would create man to be desirous of communication and then absent Himself from the scene so as to leave us wandering alone in the midst of the vast, silent creation. Such a God would hardly be worthy of praise or emulation.
No, God must be able to communicate, and that on a level at least equal to that of His human creatures. Otherwise, from whence would our abilities come? God is able to make Himself known, to communicate His will, His thoughts, and His desires to His creation. This is simply necessary if, in fact, God is the Creator of all that is.
And so we should ask ourselves not if God has revealed Himself to man, but how and when? Again we are struck immediately by the fact that if God is to reveal Himself with clarity, His revelation must be capable of carrying the same kind of ‘truth content’ as our own speech. That is, through the use of context (including grammar, syntax, connotation, et al.) we expect to be able to communicate to another person certain facts. Our society functions on the basis of this truth…. Therefore, God must be able to communicate truth to us.
If we combine this line of reasoning with the assumption that God has a purpose in His creation and is pursuing His own ends therein, we can see that God would have a motive to reveal His truths in such a fashion so as to produce the ends He desires. If those ends were to include the clear communication of truths to the whole of humanity or to any specific portion thereof, how might God communicate so as to allow this revelation to serve generations of human beings? Obviously, a written document, or set of documents, transmitted over time would allow for a revelation of transcendent truths. The consistency of the revelation would provide a means of maintaining its integrity over time.*
[*Footnote: I refer here to the consistency of the revelation itself providing the means (through exegesis) of correcting misinterpretation, not specifically to the transmission of the text. The protection of the text over time falls under God’s purpose in giving the revelation in the first place; that is, if God has a purpose in giving the revelation, He will then see to its protection over time.]
The preceding series of arguments, taken as a whole, is consistent within itself — there are no logical contradictions. Obviously, if God wished to reveal Himself to His creation, He could do so in a written body of revelation. In fact, such a revelation is consistent with the facts of creation as we have experienced them.”
There is a *lot* more that could be explored regarding God’s purposes, His means of communication (even besides the written Scripture), the role(s) of humans (corporately and individually) at different times, etc. But, I thought White did a great job in communicating this particular argument. What about you?