Every careful student and every
thoughtful reader of the Bible finds that the words of the apostle
Peter concerning the Scriptures, that there are some things in them
hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable
wrest unto their own destruction (2nd Peter 3:16) , are abundantly
true. Who is there of us who has not found things in the Bible that
have puzzled us, yes, that in our early Christian experience have led
us to question whether the Bible was, after all, the Word of God? We
find some things which seem incompatible with the thought that the
whole Bible is of divine origin and absolutely inerrant.
It is not wise to attempt to
conceal the fact that these difficulties exist. It is the part of
wisdom, as well as of honesty, to frankly face them and consider them.
What shall we say concerning
these difficulties that every thoughtful student will sooner or later
1. The first
thing we have to say about these difficulties in the Bible is that
from the very nature of the case difficulties are to be expected.
Some people are surprised and staggered
because there are difficulties in the Bible. For my part, I would be
more surprised and staggered if there were not. What is the Bible? It
is a revelation of the mind and will and character and being of an
infinitely great, perfectly wise and absolutely holy God. God Himself
is the Author of this revelation. But to whom is the revelation made?
To men, to finite beings, to men who are imperfect in intellectual
development and consequently in knowledge, and who are also imperfect
in character and consequently in spiritual discernment. The wisest man
measured on the scale of eternity is only a babe, and the holiest man
compared with God is only an infant in moral development. There must,
then, from the very necessities of the case, be difficulties in such a
revelation from such a source made to such persons. When the finite
tries to understand the infinite, there is bound to be difficulty.
When the ignorant contemplate the utterances of one perfect in
knowledge, there must be many things hard to be understood, and some
things which to their immature and inaccurate minds appear absurd.
When beings whose moral judgments as to the hatefulness of sin and as
to the awfulness of the the penalty of that it demands of an
absolutely holy Being, they are bound to be staggered at some of His
demands, and when they consider His dealings. These dealings will
appear too severe, too stern, too harsh, too terrific.
It is plain that
THERE MUST BE
for us in such
a revelation as the Bible has proven to be. If someone should hand me
a book that was as simple to me as the multiplication table, and say:
"This is the Word of God; in it He has revealed His whole will and
wisdom," I should shake my head and say: 'I cannot believe it; that is
too easy to be a perfect revelation of infinite wisdom." There must be
in any complete revelation of God's mind and will and character and
being things hard for the beginner to understand, and the wisest and
best of us are but beginners.
The second thing to be said about these difficulties is that a
difficulty in a doctrine, or a grave objection to a doctrine, does not
in any way prove the doctrine to be untrue.
Many thoughtless people fancy that it does. If they come across some
difficulty in the way of believing in the divine origin and absolute
inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible, they at once conclude that
the doctrine is exploded. That is very illogical. Stop a moment and
think, and learn to be reasonable and fair. There is
SCARCELY A DOCTRINE IN
SCIENCE GENERALLY BELIEVED TODAY
not had some great difficulty in the way of its acceptance.
Copernican theory, now so universally accepted, was first proclaimed,
it encountered a very grave difficulty. If this theory were true, the
planet Venus should have phases as the moon has, but no phases could
be discovered by the best glass in existence. But the positive
argument for the theory was so strong that is was accepted in spite of
this apparently unanswerable objection. When a more powerful glass was
made, it was found that Venus had phases after all. The whole
difficulty arose, as most all of those in the Bible arise, from man's
ignorance of some of the facts in the case.
hypothesis is commonly accepted in the scientific world today. But
when this theory was first announced, and for a long time afterward,
the movements of the planet Uranus could not be reconciled with the
theory. Uranus seemed to move in just the opposite direction from that
in which it was thought it ought to move in accordance with the
demands of the theory. But the positive arguments for the theory were
so strong that it was accepted in spite of the inexplicable movements
If we apply to
Bible study the common sense logic recognized in every department of
science ( with the exception of Biblical criticism, if that be
science) , then we must demand that if the positive proof of a theory
is conclusive, it must be believed by rational men in spite of any
number of difficulties in minor details. He is a very shallow thinker
indeed who gives up a well-attested truth because there are some
apparent facts which he cannot reconcile with that truth. And he is a
very shallow Bible scholar who gives up his belief in the divine
origin and inerrancy of the Bible because there are some supposed
facts that he cannot reconcile with that doctrine. There are in the
theological world today many shallow thinkers of that kind.
The third thing to be said about the difficulties in the Bible is that
there are many more, and much greater, difficulties in the way of the
doctrine that holds the Bible to be of human origin, and hence
fallible, than there are in the way of the doctrine that holds the
Bible to be of divine origin, and hence infallible.
Oftentimes a man will bring you some difficulty and say: "How do you
explain that, if the Bible is the Word of God?" and perhaps you may
not be able to answer him satisfactorily. Then he thinks he has you
concerned, but not at all. Turn to him, and ask him: "How do
account for the fulfilled prophecies of the Bible if it is of human
origin? How do you account for the marvelous unity of the Book?
How do you account for its inexhaustible depth? How do you account for
its unique power in lifting men up to God? And so on." For every
insignificant objection he can bring to your view if the Bible, you
can bring very many more deeply significant objections to his view of
the Bible. And any really candid man, who desires to know and obey
this truth will have no difficulty in deciding between the two views.
Some time ago a
young man, who was of a bright mind and unusually well read in
skeptical and critical and agnostic literature, told me he had given
the matter a great deal of candid and careful thought, and as a result
he could not believe the Bible was of divine origin.
I asked him:
He pointed to a
certain teaching of the Bible that he could not and would not believe
to be true.
"Suppose for a moment that I could not answer that specific
difficulty. That would not prove that the Bible is not of divine
origin. I can bring you many things far more difficult to account for
on the hypothesis that the Bible is not of divine origin than this is
on the hypothesis that the Bible is of divine origin. You cannot
deny the fact of fulfilled prophecy. How do you account for it if the
Bible is not God's Word? You cannot shut your eyes to the
marvelous unity of the sixty-six books in the Bible, written under
such divergent circumstances and at periods of time so remote from one
another. How do you account for it, if God is not the real Author of
the Book of the forty or more human authors? You cannot deny that the
Bible has a power to save men from sin, to bring men peace and hope
and joy, to lift men up to God in a sense that no other book is the
Word of God?"
did not answer. The difficulties that confront one who denies that the
Bible is of divine origin and authority are far more numerous
and vastly more weighty than those which confront the one who believes
it to be of divine origin and authority.
fourth thing to be said about the difficulties in the Bible is:
the fact that you cannot solve a difficulty does not prove it cannot
be solved, and the fact that you cannot answer and objection does not
prove at all that it cannot be answered.
It is remarkable how often we overlook this very evident fact.
There are many, who, when they meet a difficulty in the Bible and give
it a little thought and can see no possible solution, at once they
jump at the conclusion that a solution is impossible by anyone, and so
they throw up their faith in the inerrancy of the Bible and its divine
origin. It would seem as if any man would have a sufficient
amount of that modesty that is becoming in beings so limited in
knowledge as we all undeniably are to say:
"Though I see
no possible solution to this difficulty, someone a little wiser than I
might easily find one."
"If we would
only bear in mind that we do not know everything, and there are a
great many things that we cannot solve now that we could easily solve
if we only have a little more, it would save us from all this folly.
Above all, we ought never to forget that there may be a very easy
solution to infinite wisdom even to that which to one finite wisdom
--or ignorance-- appears absolutely impossible. What we we think
of a beginner in algebra, who having tried in vain for half and hour
to solve a difficult problem, declared that there was no possible
solution to the problem because he could not find one?
A man of
unusual experience and ability one day left his work and came a long
distance to see me in great perturbation of spirit because he had
discovered what seemed to him a flat contradiction in the Bible.
He had lain awake all night thinking about it. It had defied all his
attempts at reconciliation but when he had fully stated the case to
me, in a very few moments I showed him a very simple and satisfactory
solution and difficulty. He went away with a happy heart. But why had
it not occurred to him at the outset that though it appeared
absolutely impossible to him to find a solution after all a solution
might be easily discovered by someone else? he supposed that the
difficulty was an entirely new one, but it was one that had been faced
and answered long before either he or I was born.
fifth thing to be said about the difficulties in the Bible is that the
seeming defects of the Bible are exceedingly insignificant when put in
comparison with its many and marvelous excellencies.
It certainly reveals great perversity of both mind and heart that men
spend so much time expatiating on such insignificant points that they
consider defects in the Bible and pass absolutely unnoticed the
incomparable beauties and wonders that adorn and glorify almost every
page. Even in some prominent institutions of learning, where men are
supposed to be taught to appreciate and understand the Bible and where
they are sent to be trained to preach its truth to others, much more
time is spent on minute and insignificant points that seem to point
toward and entirely human origin of the Bible than is spent upon
studying and understanding and admiring the unparalleled glories that
make this bookstand apart from all other books in the world. What
would we think of any man who in studying some great masterpiece of
art concentrated his whole attention upon what looked like a fly-speck
in the corner? A large proportion of the much vaunted "critical
study of the Bible" is a laborious and scholarly investigation of
supposed fly-specks. The man who is not willing to squander the
major portion of his time in this erudite investigation of fly-specks
but prefers to devote it to the study of the unrivalled beauties and
majestic splendors of the Book is counted in some quarters as not
being "scholarly and up to date."
The sixth thing to be said about the difficulties in the Bible is that
they have far more weight with superficial readers than with profound
Take a man like
the late Colonel Ingersoll, who was totally ignorant of the real
contents and meaning of the Bible, or that class of modern preachers
who read the Bible for the most part for the sole purpose of finding
texts to serve as pegs to hang their own ideas upon. To such
superficial readers of the Bible these difficulties seem of immense
importance, but to the one who has learned to meditate upon the Word
of God day and night they have scarcely any weight at all. That
rare man of God, George Muller, who had carefully studied the
Bible from beginning to end more than a hundred times, was not
disturbed by any difficulties he encountered, but to the man who is
reading it through for the first or second time there are many things
that perplex and stagger.
The seventh thing to be said about the difficulties in the Bible is
that they rapidly disappear upon careful and prayerful study.
How many things
there are in the Bible that once puzzled and staggered us, but
which have since been perfectly cleared up and no longer present any
difficulty whatever! Every year of study finds these
difficulties disappear more and more rapidly. At first they go
by ones, and then by twos, and then by dozens, and
then by scores. Is it not reasonable then to suppose that the
difficulties that still remain will all disappear upon further study?