Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Difference Between the Bible and the Qur'an (part 3)

This is the third in a series of posts responding to Dr. Gary Miller's paper, "The Difference Between the Bible and the Qur'an." Dr. Miller attempts to draw distinguishing marks between the Bible and the Qur'an based on some misunderstandings and oversights of the former "minister" now turned Muslim.
One primary misunderstanding Dr. Miller introduces into his argument that the Bible is less the Word of God in that (in his opinion) men are speaking for God instead of God speaking for himself. In the last post we considered one feature of the Bible books that the Qur'an cannot claim, namely those passages that God Himself actually wrote with His own hand--if God wrote it, it must be true. What does one do when God affirms He will be in the mouth of the one who speaks, such as He did through Moses to Pharoah (and the subsequent aftermath that brought the downfall of one nation and the establishment of another, as in Ex 4:12)?
Dr. Miller represents the position discounting writings on the basis of voice; namely, those statements such as, "The Word of the Lord came to . . . saying. . ." To determine the veracity of a text based on voice (1 st person, 2nd person or 3rd person) demands both an established divine criteria (does the Qur'an demand 1st person or nothing at all?) and consistency. Directions Muhammad received from Allah in so many passages of the Qur'an to "say," or "tell" should receive the same response as do the biblical texts—he should be unheard because he is not heard with God's voice, unless God sounds exactly like Muhammad.
The basic confusion lies in how one understands "revelation" and "inspiration." A much smarter man than I already wrote extensively on this subject, so I quote a section of his book here to explain inspiration and revelation for our consideration of the difference between the Bible against the Qur'an:
"Revelation and inspiration are not the same. Revelation is the message, and inspiration was the primary method of delivering that message to mankind. Inspiration is the act of the Holy Spirit in revealing to human writers the message that God intended to comprise the Old and New Testaments.
In order to make this definition clear, let us look at what inspiration is not. First, inspiration is not a high level of human achievement. Think of Homer's Odyssey, Mohammed's Koran, Dante's Divine Comedy, or Shakespeare's tragedies. Some people say that the Bible is inspired in the same way that those great works of literature were inspired. In other words, the Bible is just the product of genius. The Bible is the result of natural inspiration; therefore, it has errors in it. It has fallible material which we can't believe. These people acknowledge that the Bible has high ethics and morals and great insights into humanity; but it is, after all, only a human achievement on the same level as other great writings.
The problem with that view is it is saying that God didn't write the Bible—smart men did. Would smart men write a book that condemns men to @#!*% ? Would smart men write a book that provides no human means of salvation apart from the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ? No! Man writes books that exalt himself. He doesn't write books to @#!*% himself. The Bible cannot be understood as simply a product of human achievement.
Second, inspiration is not only in the thoughts of the writers. Some say that instead of giving the writers specific words, God supplied the writers only general ideas, while the choice of vocabulary was theirs. This view pictures God zapping Paul with a thought about how nice love is; and then in response, the apostle sat down and wrote 1 Corinthians 13. According to this view, the writers of Scripture were free to say what they wanted. That is why, though the overall truths of Scripture are divinely inspired, mistakes do appear in the Bible.
That view doesn't square with what the Bible teaches. Paul wrote, "We also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches" (1 Cor. 2:13). The "words" are the words of the Spirit, Paul declared. Inspiration was not only in concepts and in thoughts, but in words as well.
Jesus said, "I have given to them the words which You have given Me" (John 17:8). Some 3,808 times in the Old Testament, expressions such as "Thus says the Lord," "The Word of the Lord," and "The Word of God" appear. These hardly express wordless concepts. God does communicate in words.
Take the case of Moses. When Moses tried to excuse himself from God's call on the basis of a speech problem, God didn't say, "I will inspire your thoughts." Rather, He promised, "I will be with your mouth and with his mouth, and I will teach you what you shall do" (Ex. 4:15). God didn't inspire thoughts; He inspired words.
That is why forty years later Moses was so insistent on giving verbatim instructions to the people of Israel: "You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you" (Deut. 4:2). "Don't add to the word and don't take away from the word," Moses was saying. Why? "Because God gave me these specific words for you," Moses would answer.
One of the greatest arguments against "thought inspiration" is found in 1 Peter where we read this about the work of the Old Testament prophets:
Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. ( 1 Pet. 1:10, 11)
The Spirit gave prophecies to the writers who wrote them down, read them, and tried to figure out what they meant. You might ask what is so amazing about that.
The amazing part about it is the prophets received words without understanding them. They recorded what they were told, but they didn't fully understand what they were writing. God didn't give them thoughts that they then expressed in their own words. God gave them the words. This is why pronouns, prepositions, and conjunctions, those parts of speech that seem insignificant, are important in the Bible. Jesus said, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away" (Matt. 24:35).
The exchange between Peter and Christ supports the word-inspiration idea. When Peter said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God," Jesus answered, "Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 16:16, 17). Peter was speaking right off the top of his head what God was revealing in his mind. God gave him specific words, not just thoughts.
One writer has said, "Thoughts are wedded to words as soul to body." As far as thoughts being inspired apart from the words which give them expression, we might as well talk about a tune without notes or a sum without figures. We cannot have geology without rocks or anthropology without men. We cannot have a melody without music or a divine record of God without words. Thoughts are carried by words, and God revealed His thoughts in words. We call that verbal inspiration.
There is a third thing that inspiration is not. Inspiration is not the act of God on the reader. There are some who teach what we could call existential inspiration, which means that the only part of the Bible that is inspired is the part that zaps you. You read along and you get "goose bumps," meaning that a particular word or passage is inspired for you. It becomes God's Word when it hits you. If you get ecstatic and emotional, convicted or confronted, then it is God's Word to you. But if you sit there unresponsive, it is not the Word of God. It is not authoritative.
There are those who say there are myths in Scripture and try to "demythologize" the Bible. They want to eliminate what they think is untrue. With this reasoning or approach, they may edit out Christ's preexistence, virgin birth, deity, miracles, substitutionary death, resurrection, and ascension. They may maintain that all of that is historically false. To reject the historical character of Scripture and maintain that it can still say something spiritually meaningful and can come from God doesn't make sense. If the Bible lies from beginning to end about history, why should we believe its spiritual message? If the Bible is lying when its recorded events are verifiable in history, why should we believe it in its spiritual content when we can't easily verify it? It seems to me that if God wants us to trust the spiritual character of the Bible, He would make sure that the historical character of the Bible is trustworthy.
Jesus said, "Your word is truth" (John 17:17). Inspiration is not the inspiration of the reader.
To conclude what inspiration is not: Inspiration is not mechanical dictation. The Bible writers were not robots, writing in a semicomatose state, cranking it out without using their minds.
It is true that God could have used dictation to give us the truth—He didn't have to use men. God could have spoken His Word into existence and dropped it on us like revelatory rain. But we know that He didn't do it that way because when we open the Bible, we find personality. Every book has a different character. Each author has a unique style. There are variations in language and vocabulary. And when we read the various books of the Bible, we can feel the emotions the writers were experiencing at the time." 1
1MacArthur, John, F. How to Get the Most from God's Word. Electronic ed. Dallas, TX: Word Pub., 1997, c1997.

James Wilson,
Head-dibber, since 2004.    
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"I cannot agree with those who say that they have 'new truth' to teach.  The two words seem to me to contradict each other; that which is new is not true. It is the old that is true, for truth is as old as God himself" -- Charles Spurgeon

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