Before reading this article, I recommend listening to this electrifying sermon by Pastor Joel Beeke: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LjANwDtJkwc
Charles Spurgeon once said in a Sermon dealing with the defense of the Scriptures:
“I am a Christian minister, and you are Christians, or profess to be so; and there is never any necessity for Christian ministers to make a point of bringing forth infidel arguments in order to answer them. It is the greatest folly in the world. Infidels, poor creatures, do not know their own arguments till we tell them, and then they glean their blunted shafts to shoot them at the shield of truth again. It is folly to bring forth these firebrands of hell, even if we are well prepared to quench them. Let men of the world learn error of themselves; do not let us be propagators of their falsehoods. True, there are some preachers who are short of stock, and I want them to fill up! But God’s own chosen men need not do that; they are taught of God, and God supplies them with matter, with language, and with power” (New Park Street Pulpit, Volume 1, 110).
This has always been the Reformed defense of the Holy Scriptures. Greg Bahnsen, in his work, Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended, writes:
“Faith is humble submission to the self-attesting Word of God. Faith accounts God truthful, faithful, and powerful on the basis of His own Word, not requiring to see demonstrable proof or evidence outside of God’s Word that could confirm it as trustworthy” (64).
While many in the Reformed camp do not subscribe to a presuppositional method, this thought is pervasive throughout the Reformed Scholastics. See Francis Turretin on the topic:
“But the orthodox church has always believed far otherwise, maintaining the revelation of the word of God to man to be absolutely and simply necessary for salvation” (Institutes of Elenctic Theology, vol. 1, 55).
“The authority of the Scriptures depends on the origin. Just because they are from God, they must be authentic and divine” (62).
“The Bible proves itself divine, not only authoritatively and in the manner of an artless argument or testimony when it proclaims itself God-inspired (theopneuston)” (63).
Turretin then details the external and internal arguments for the authority of the Scriptures, which follows the same form as that of the Westminster Divines, and post-Reformation Divines:
“With regard to the duration; the wonderful preservation (even to this day) of the divine word by his providential care against powerful and hostile enemies who have endeavored by fire and sword to destroy it…the consent of all people who, although differing in customs (also in opinions about sacred things, worship, language and interest), have nevertheless received this word as a valuable treasury of divine truth and have regarded it as the foundation of religion and the worship of God. It is impossible to believe that God would have suffered so great a multitude of men, earnestly seeking him, to be so long deceived by lying books” (63).
Turretin goes on to detail the internal testimony to the authority of the Scriptures:
“The internal and most powerful marks are also numerous. (1) With regard to the matter: the wonderful sublimity of the mysteries such as the Trinity, incarnation, the satisfaction of Christ, the resurrection of the dead and the like; the holiness and purity of the precepts regulating even the thoughts of the internal affections of the heart adapted to render man perfect in every kind of virtue and worth of his maker; the certainty of the prophecies concerning things even the most remote and hidden. (2) With regard to the style: the divine majesty, shining forth no less from the simplicity than the weight of expression and that consummate boldness in the commanding all without distinction, both highest and lowest. (3) With regard to the form: the divine agreement and entire harmony of doctrine, not only between both testaments in the fulfillments of predictions and types, but also between particular books of each testament; so much the more to be wondered at, as their writers both were many in number and wrote at different times and places so that they could not have an understanding among themselves as to what things should be written. (4) With regard to the end: the direction of all things to the glory of God alone and the holiness and salvation of men. (5) With regard to the effects: the light and efficacy of the divine doctrine which is so great that, sharper than any two-edged sword, it pierces to the soul itself, generates faith and piety in the minds of its heareers, as well as invincible firmness in its professors, and always victorious triumphs over the kingdom of Satan and false religion.” (64).
A Return to the Power of God in the Gospel
So the opinion of the Reformed, both presuppositional and classical, is that the nature of the Scriptures is self-authenticating (αυτοπιστος). The Scriptures testify to themselves that they are the Word of God. Where will one turn to find a sufficient apologetic outside of this testimony? Certainly not Bahnsen. The Lord has prescribed a sword to do battle (Hebrews 4:12), and many, supposing their own prowess, charge into battle with a shield as though God will honor that vain effort.
The Scriptures are not to be put on trial, and the faithful of God are to go forth with the power which is the Gospel (Rom. 1:16). The heathen and infidel are not to be entertained with debate, as though a careful examination of corruption found within the manuscripts will convince them that God’s Word is inspired and preserved. Evidence of such attempts are well documented by the opinion of Muslims, Atheists, and Momons, who readily use the failed efforts of apologists who have put the Word of God on trial. The effort of the Christian is not to convince, it is to proclaim. This is in fact the testimony of the Apostle when he went forth to the pagan city of Corinth.
“And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:1-5).
Christians, do not lose sight of the covenantal purpose of the Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:15), or the covenantal purpose of God, which is to make all things new (Gen. 3:15; Rev. 21:5). Our approach to the Muslim, and to the Atheist, and to the Mormon is not to demonstrate that Christians have a defense, it is to bring forth the power of God in the preaching of the Gospel. Remember, that when the Apostle arrived in Athens, the “spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city was wholly given to idolatry” (Acts 17:16). He then calls them to note their great idolatry and then “preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection” (Acts 17:18). He did not tarry on about the opinions of various gnostics who were already want to corrupt the orthodox profession of the faith. He proclaimed Christ.
The faithful in Christ should remember the words of Bahnsen:
“Finally, it remains for us to see that according to the Bible a man cannot come to an understanding of God’s Word or a knowledge of God without regeneration and faith. Hence the apologist cannot give the unbeliever convincing understanding, rational demonstration, probable verification, or knowledgeable proof and expect these to bring him to faith in God’s Word. All the argumentation in the world, all the scholarly explanation that we can set forth cannot effect saving knowledge in the unbeliever, for as dead in his vanity of mind he needs regeneration by the Holy Spirit. Thus the apologist presupposes the Scripture and focuses on the unbeliever’s intellectual rebellion or sinfulness, witnesses to the Word of Christ, and argues upon its self-attesting authority, looking to God rather than secular “wisdom” to give success to his words of proclamation and defense. The apologist does not expect the unbeliever to be able properly to understand and thereby be convinced of the truth of the gospel as long as he remains unrepentant for his guilty rebellion against God and does not begin by faith in his approach to God’s Word” (64-65).
The Reformed method of prolegomena is to first detail Natural Theology, then to describe the weakness of Natural Theology as it pertains to salvation, and finally to detail the particular beauty, power, and infallibility of the Special Revelation of God in His Holy Writ. The post-Reformation Divines emphatically declared the foundational, Trinitarian nature of God and salvation, the self-authenticating nature of the Scriptures, the inability of man to reconciled of His own accord, the great distance between God and man and the necessity for God’s voluntary condescension, and the importance of practical, experiential religion.
If the purpose of our apologetic is not to win souls to Christ, than our apologetic has failed. And if the Gospel is only a footnote or even lacking in our presentation to the unbeliever, than we have not used the tools prescribed by Christ. And if we put the authority of Scriptures in the hands of men, we are no better than the Papists which the Reformers fought so vigorously against. There is a war waging which dates back to the time of Adam and Eve, and the weapons of choice chosen by the enemy are “Yea hath God said” (Gen. 3:1) and then “God hath said” (Gen. 3:3). The methodology of the enemy is simple and twofold:
- Question the authority of God’s Word
- Assert himself as the authority over God’s Word
The Christian should not be so foolish as to fall to the same error as Adam and Eve. The seed of all errors is to believe that we owe a response to the method proposed by the enemy. Even when Christians proclaim, “I want to know what Paul wrote!” they suppose the thoughts of the enemies of faith which says we are still attempting to find out what Paul wrote, as though God has not delivered His Word and kept it pure. Thus, when one declares that they “want to know what Paul wrote!” as though they don’t know, they really are saying, “Yea hath God said?” When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness he attempted the same method that he tried with Adam and Eve. Jesus responded with Scripture. When Satan and his minions attempt to attack the authenticity of Scripture, our only response is to turn heavenward and declare, “Thy word is truth” (John 17:17).
“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (1 Cor. 1:18-21).