woensdag 2 oktober 2013

The authority of Scripture 6

The historical reliability of the biblical witness
One of the essential features of biblical revelation is that God acts in history. God governs history. The biblical record is a his­torical record. Our salvation is based on God's mighty and saving acts. Is it essential that these mighty acts really happened? Are we to accept the reliability of the biblical historical records?
Let me first say the Bible is written in several genres. We find prose and poetry, psalms and prophecy. Awareness of the literary categories is essential for proper exegesis. We must however an appeal to literal genres to undermine the historical trustworthiness of the biblical record of events. What the Bible reports regarding history must be accepted as such.
The salvation of sinners depends on the work of Christ. Sometimes the position is defended that the acts reported in the Bible can be still true although they in reality never happened. We find this view already in the early church. Origenes said that several histories reported in the Bible were in reality allegories containing a lesson for us. With his allegorising method he tried to take away the offen­sive nature of the biblical message for the educated men of his own time. Heathen philosophers noted that fact.
In trying to explain the biblical message, Origenes offered it up to an essen­tial philosophical nderstanding inimical to the essence of the biblical message. When the great facts of the life of Christ never hap­pened, it cannot be said that Christ saves us. Not tak­ing se­riously the his­tori­cal reality of Christ's redem­ptive work, of his virgin birth, his death and resurrec­tion is a sin of a Pelagian view on sin and an esse­ntial moralistic view on the nature of salvation.
The saving acts of God in history are integrally related with the bib­lical record of the history of God's covenant people under the Old Testament dispensation and the biblical record of the life of our Sav­iour on earth. When we really obey the Scripture we accept all it says. In article five of the Belgic Confes­sion we read "believing without any doubt all things contained in them (namely the book of Holy Scripture)."
The fact that the Bible has a scope namely the revelation of Christ and his redemptive work does not mean that the other things revealed in the Bible are not essential. When we doubt what the Bible says about the context in which it places Christ and his work, we lose the very message of salvation. In this context I will discuss the issue how we must understand the first three chapters of Genesis. Are they myth or history?
In the account given in Genesis there is no hint that the first three or eleven chapters are only symbolical. They simply recount something which the writer believed took place. In the New Testament the fall of man is accepted as a historical fact. In Romans 5 Paul compares the action of Adam with the action of Christ.
The redemptive work of Christ is the answer on the fall of Adam. The historicity of Christ is cru­cial for Paul's argument. Man was created in the image of God. On a certain point in history Adam transgressed God's command. Death and mis­ery was the result. Death and miseries are not a part of God's ori­ginal creation.
If Adam's work is mythical, how do we know that Christ's work is not mythical? When we deny the historicity and significance of the first Adam, we cannot get a real insight into the work of the second and last Adam Jesus Christ. Accepting the histori­cal factuality of the fall of Adam is essential for a faithful presen­ta­tion of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The famous scientist Pascal said that true Christian religion consists in the knowledge of two persons, namely Adam and the damna­tion and misery of all mankind as a consequence of his fall and Jesus Christ and the felicity of all who believe in him.
Accepting the historical trustworthiness of the first part of Gen­esis is heavily criticized in the name of modern science. We all know the name of Darwin and his theory of evolution. We must never forget that so-called scientific data are in many cases not so sure as its defenders suggests.
Much of which is accepted as the only possible inter­pretation of the facts or data in one age, is seen by the next as the consequence of the prejudice with which the former age approached the­ data. All too often it is forgotten that science functions within the framework of pre-scientific presuppositions that are of an ideologi­cal or religious nature. Neutral science does not exist. That is especially true when questions concerning the origin of creation and human being are answered.
Evolution is not based on real fact but on the gaps between the facts. There is not one sure example of a being that can be seen as a transi­tion between tow kinds. Evolution is not the result of research of data but a postulate that can never be proved wrong for them who accept it. There­in it shows itself to be more than a scientific the­ory.
Real scientific theories can in principle be falsified. I do not say that accepting the historical trustworthiness of the first part of Genesis we can answer all ques­tions concerning the relation between faith and science. But that is not necess­ary for trusting the Bible as the infallible Word of God. Everybody no matter what his con­victions are lives implicit or explicit with open questions.
It is also important to realise that already in the Early Church the relation between the account of the origin of the world and the science of their day was problematic. According to the Greek philos­ophy matter was eternal. The Greeks did not belief in God as the Cre­ator of mat­ter.
We know that Augustine as a young man wrestled with the relation between faith and science. It was one of the reasons that he left the Christian church. But after many years he came back con­fessing that his heart was full of unrest until in found rest in God. Augustine learned more and more to bring into captiv­ity every thought to the obedience of Christ (compare 2 Corinthians 10:5).