More Foundation articles from past issues of the Presbyterian Standard are available online here.
"I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name....All the kings of the earth shall praise thee, O Lord, when they shall hear the words of thy mouth." (PSA. 138:2,4).
HE psalmist, a great king himself, confessed that God had glorified His
Word more than any thing else whereby He makes Himself known to men.
All of God's attributes, titles and works are perfect and most
glorious, but one means of His revealing Himself may be more admired by
men than others. It is through God's Word supremely that we learn of
all His attributes and actions, and how we should regard them. David
foresaw the day when even the great men among the Gentiles would adore
God for His Gospel.
What we see in our day however is something different: there is a wellnigh universallack
of respect for the authority of Scripture among the princes of this
world; whatever their religious profession, it does not seem to involve
submission to the Truth.
In the church a new sort of piety has emerged during this century:
whereas amongst evangelical believers who differed doctrinally there
was once something of a consensus morally, we now find the old "givens"
cast aside and Christians helping themselves to the whole range of
worldly pleasures in large handfuls. None of us is as holy as he should
be, but today's climate forces us to consider such fundamental
questions as, What is holiness? And, Is holiness necessary
Among modern Christians the matter of which Bible translation one uses
seems to fall into the category of "adiaphora" or "things indifferent."
A version may be selected from the by now bewildering array in order to
suit personal taste: if that taste is for Arminianism or
charismaticism, for political correctness, even for the flippant and
irreverent, then fine, there is a version designed to cater for it.
Is this state of affairs satisfactory? Might not the proliferation of modern versions in fact have helped tobring about
the downgrade? Today's church does not lack for programmes or activity,
but where is the blessing of God on this bustle? The Most High has
placed the following on record; "to this man will I look, even to him
that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth
at my word" (ISA. 66:2).
God's Word is composed of God's words. The battle for the Bible today
concerns, as it always has, the words of inspiration (GEN. 3:1). It is
not first and foremost a battle over interpretation or meaning: that is
a secondary skirmish. It is not even primarily a conflict about
translation (although that is involved today, with the adoption of
"dynamic equivalence"). It is a war regarding the TEXT. Satan aims his
most subtle and potent darts at the very foundation of our Faith, the
words of God's mouth. When Christians pick up the translation of their
choice they need to ask, and be able to answer the question positively
with whole-hearted conviction, Do I have God's words in my hand?
Every believer, consciously or unconsciously, makes his decision on
which text is correct when he chooses which version he will use.
The New Testament of the Authorised Version is based on a different
Greek Text of sacred Scripture from modern versions - what is called
the Textus Receptus. This
is what makes these new versions
so different from our Authorised. It is not so much the rush towards
the "vernacular" (that undefined and elusive variable) that has altered
modern bibles, rather it is the undeniable fact that modern
translations are based on an ever-evolving Greek Text.
It is often asserted by advocates of the modern texts descending from
the work of scholars Westcott and Hort last century, that 97% of the
Text of the New Testament is sure, and only 3% is in dispute or doubt
(this figure is almost certainly too low). However, is this really the
reassuring statement it sounds? Remember, we are dealing with
overwhelmingly the most important document in existence, the one upon
which our eternal welfare depends. What would we think of an insurance
agent who assured us that 97% of his life policy was trustworthy? Would
we not be made very anxious and suspicious by such talk, and deem him
unworthy of our custom, especially if he did not make very clear which
sections were untrustworthy?
Perhaps it is said further, that no doctrine of the faith is affected
by textual alterations. Even if this were so, we would have to say at
least that the much-neglected (and vital) doctrine of the preservation
of Scripture was seriously affected.
Not the least of the problem is the unsettling effect these
developments have on the faith of the Lord's people. A new Text, based
upon newly-discovered manuscripts and a new approach to Scripture, is
presented to the world for acceptance as the definitive Word of God eighteen centuries
completion of the Canon! Two questions must be asked: firstly, are we
really to believe that the New Testament Church, for a lengthy portion
of her history (what may prove to be the greater), has been deceived,
using a corrupted Text? Secondly, if the discovery of new evidence at a
distance so remote from Apostolic times necessitates the revision of
the Text, what guarantee have we that further such discoveries will not
oblige yet more revisions? When can we ever be sure that the Church is
in possession of the authentic Word of God?
Many say that this is the sort of subject that arouses strong feelings,
and so ought to be avoided. In reply it should be stressed that this
subject, above all others, should
engender strong feelings in the the Lord's people. It is often said of abortion, that the discussion of it is emotive: ofcourse
it is! If our minds tell us that the deliberate destruction of infant
human life is a gross evil, then we would be strange creatures indeed
if we remained unmoved by the phenomenon. How much more then should a
Christian be stirred in his soul by attempts to destroy (or at least to
severely mutilate) the body of truth called Holy Scripture, God's
revelation which He employs to promote that life which is spiritual and
eternal! It is the Bible after all which teaches us that abortion is a
great sin - and much else besides. It is in fact the foundation for all
our belief and practice, and all our hopes for eternity. For this
reason the controversy needs to be aired among Christians.
Satan's enmity, which once raged at the Word made flesh, is now
directed at the Word written. Our Lord is ascended into glory, safe
from his clutches, so the Devil assails Scripture, which is forever
settled in heaven (PSA. 119:89), to unsettle it upon earth.
Inscripturation was God's method of combating these assaults:
"...it pleased the Lord, at sundry times and in divers manners, to reveal himself, and to declare that his will unto his Church; and afterwards, for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the Church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing; which maketh the holy scripture to be most necessary; those former ways of God's revealing his will unto his people being now ceased" (Westminster Conf. of Faith I.i.).
It is the church's task to recognise the true text of Scripture, and her privilege to defend it unto death: thereby she shows herself to be "the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 TIM. 3:15).