The Doctrine of Holy Scripture
"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).
Sound The Alarm!
THE 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 well-nigh universal lack 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 to bring 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 (King James) 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.
Integrity of Scripture
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 after the 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?
Importance of the Subject
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: of course 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 Scrip-ture, 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 Confession of Faith, chapter 1 paragraph 1)
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).