Ardel Caneday

The Light Shines in the Darkness and Is Not Apprehended (Part Two)

By hiding, Jesus, who is the Light, publicly dramatizes the truths John succinctly captures in the prologue: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not apprehend it” and “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (John 1:5, 11). Herein is his prophetic pronouncement of impending judgment. John seizes the occasion to present a narrator’s soliloquy to explain Jesus’s symbolic hiding as the appropriate climax to his public signs and teaching that have provoked such widespread unbelief among his own people. Indeed, Jesus performed his many signs in plain sight of his fellow Jews. John explains that they saw his signs, yet they did not believe, as Isaiah prophesied.

In part one, we saw that John 1:5 harkens back to the Light’s penetration into the darkness on creation’s first day. In this verse, John succinctly condenses and anticipates a dominating theme in the Gospel’s plotline. Light versus darkness (e.g., John 8:12; 11:10; 12:34, 46) invokes a cluster of imageries: day–night (e.g., John 9:4) and sight–blindness (9:1–40), all present in Isaiah’s prophecies to which John’s prologue alludes (Isa. 9:2; 42;6–7; and 60:1–3). The Evangelist masterfully compresses profound theological claims concerning the commanded Light on the first day of creation. He foreshadows the arrival of the True Light—the Messiah—in the Last Days, the Light that shines and cannot be extinguished. Consider, then, how this one verse in the prologue condenses the storyline of John’s Gospel even more densely than 1:9–11.[1]
With luminary imagery harking back to Genesis 1:3, the Evangelist subtly but unmistakably speaks of the Word’s advent (John 1:5). He shrewdly prepares attentive hearers and readers for the much more explicit announcement of the Word’s incarnation in John 1:14, “The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us.”
Modern English Bibles translate 1:5, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome [katalambanō] it” (emphasis mine). As one reads and studies the Greek text of John’s Gospel, one sees that on occasions, John uses words with two meanings, intending both. The KJV’s “comprehended it not” hints at this, but the ASV’s “apprehended it not” effectively captures John’s intended dual sense of katalambanō. The darkness neither understood the light nor overpowered the light.[2] Thus, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not apprehend it.” A minor expansion on this assists in showing how the plotline of John’s Gospel is compressed in 1:5—“As day emerged from night when the Word spoke Light into darkness in the beginning, so the darkness did not apprehend the True Light, the Word incarnate.”
Twice, Jesus explicitly presents himself as “the Light of the world”: once publicly at the Festival of Tabernacles (John 8:12), and again privately to his disciples while still in Jerusalem following the festival (just before he gave light to the blind man when he gave him sight in John 9:5). During Israel’s festival commemorating the Lord’s covenant mercies in the wilderness with water from the rock and the protecting pillar of fire at night, Jesus presents himself as greater than the rock, the one who quenches true thirst and banishes darkness (John 7:37–38; 8:12; cf. 1 Cor. 10:4). Similarly, with the lighting ceremony, Jesus boldly announces that he displaces the ball of fire in the sky, “I am the Light of the world. The one who follows me will not walk in the darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). Belief acknowledges that Jesus is the one who gushed water and provided protection day and night. Later, Jesus privately repeats this bold claim while still in Jerusalem, when he and his disciples come upon a man living in darkness from birth, for he was born blind. About to perform an uncommon miracle, Jesus prepared the Twelve by announcing, “We must accomplish the works of him who sent me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work. When I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:4–5). Yes, the sun that lights the world is but a created imitation of the original— the True Light shining in darkness.
Clustered imagery in two prominent passages develops John’s light-darkness motif, echoing John 1:9, “the True Light was coming into the world,” and John 1:5, “the darkness did not apprehend it.” In both, Jesus ascribes to Light a titular function as in the Gospel’s prologue; Jesus is the Light. The initial passage, John 3:19–21, echoes the phrasing of John 1:9 as it announces,
Now, this is the judgment: the Light has come into the world, and humans loved the darkness instead of the light because their deeds were evil. For everyone who practices evil hates the Light and does not come to the Light, lest his deeds be exposed. But the one who does what is true comes to the light that it may be obvious that his deeds have been brought about by God. (emphasis added)
Jesus, “the Light of the world,” divides, prompting evildoers to retreat into darkness and doers of good to embrace him, the Light, testifying that what they do “has been done through God” (John 3:19–21).
In chapter 12, the culmination of the light-darkness theme (John 12:35–36, 46) coincides with the climaxing of three other core themes with their own supporting images:

“glory”–“glorified” (John 1:14; 2:11; 5:44; 7:18; 8:50, 54; 9:24; 11:40; 12:41, 43),
“my hour” (John 2:4; 4:21, 23; 5:25, 28; 7:30; 8:20; 12:23, 27), and
“lifted up” (John 3:14; 8:24; 12:32, 34).[3]

Chapter 12 is the structural and theological hinge on which the entire Fourth Gospel turns. Here, John reflectively summarizes the escalating conflict between Jesus and his religious opponents in Jerusalem, the zealous guardians of Israel’s traditions and Temple, throughout chapters 2–11, the “Book of Signs.” This conflict intensifies when Jesus’s giving sight to a blind man on a Sabbath day blinds those who claim to see.[4] The blind rulers threaten to banish all who believe in Jesus from the synagogue (John 9:22). Jesus, after he raised Lazarus from the dead, returns to Bethany, where he is anointed for his own burial (John 12:1–8). Drawing a large crowd, the tension intensifies such that the chief priests conspire to put Lazarus to death in addition to Jesus (John 12:10). With hostilities peaking against him, Jesus carries out his final public prophetic act, fulfilling Zechariah’s prophecy by riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, an act even his disciples did not comprehend (John 12:12–19) but which increases the Pharisees’ ire and jealousy over his popularity (John 12:19).
Likewise, in chapter 12, John’s account anticipates and foreshadows chapters 13–20. When Philip and Andrew tell their teacher about Greeks who want to see Jesus, he explicitly announces, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (John 12:23).
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The Sufficiency of Scripture in Doing Christian Theology by the Book

 The Scriptures reveal who God is, who humans are in relation to God, and how we should portray this relationship in worship of our Creator. The Scriptures are sufficient to ground our trust in God and to know what God requires of us. However, when we say that Scripture is sufficient, we do not mean that Scripture alone is necessary for our growth in the gospel. Scripture tells us that God calls the church to gather together to worship him (Heb. 10:25), and he has provided teachers and preachers to expound the Scriptures for our edification and spiritual growth as Christians (Eph. 4:11–12). Likewise, the Lord gives elders and deacons to govern the church wisely and to guard the doctrinal affirmations of the Christian faith (1 Tim. 3:1–13).

Most Christians have heard pastors, Bible teachers, or friends return from Israel raving about how their recent tour of the Holy Land “unlocks the Bible” for them. With wonder, they recount how standing on Mount Carmel brings to life the prophet Elijah’s contest with the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18). They tell of how traversing the streets of Galilee, where Jesus walked, opens up the four Gospels as never before. They effusively recount walking in the footsteps of Jesus along the Via Dolorosa and entering the empty tomb. This naive posture tends to render Christians susceptible to the notion that some crucial aspects of understanding the Bible reside outside the biblical text.
Even Bible teachers fall prey to this notion. During my first tour of Israel, our group had the privilege of hearing a presentation by a renowned biblical scholar who frequently lectured throughout the Middle Eastern countries. Reputed to be a foremost interpreter of the Jewish culture during the life of Jesus, he presented a lecture on John 4, the account concerning Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. Many in the classroom sat spellbound as he expounded the account by drawing from his numerous observations of Middle Eastern culture as a resident.
This lecturer observed that the well would not have had a bucket tied to a rope for drawing water. He claimed that travelers would have carried a foldable leather bucket to collect water, but evidently, Jesus’s disciples had the bucket with them when they departed and went into town. Likewise, drawing on his cultural observations, this biblical scholar explained that the Samaritan woman’s journey to the well alone during the midday heat hints that she was an outcast among her fellow Samaritans. While Jesus approached the well, cultural mores called for him not to engage the woman in conversation, but to retreat several feet from her to show it was safe and appropriate for her to come closer. Jesus, however, did not withdraw from her but instead held his ground, and worse, he broke the social taboo by speaking to her.
While listening to the lecture, I was struck by two observations. First, I noticed how others sat spellbound as if hearing the account from John 4 for the first time. Second, I marveled that the lecturer enraptured his hearers with details that are almost all present within the biblical text itself, but he, perhaps without realizing it, framed those aspects as if he discovered them in resources outside the text of John’s Gospel.
Following the lecture, through conversations with others who heard the presentation, I realized that many naively came to think that (a) the apostle John’s account was insufficient by itself, and (b) background knowledge derived from other resources was essential for grasping the truths being conveyed. I realized that I was witnessing an exercise, doubtless intended for good by the lecturer, that nonetheless was misleading many to suppose that the Fourth Gospel’s account of Jesus and the woman at the well was not sufficient, calling for the acquisition of social-cultural knowledge outside the Bible to grasp the account’s significance.
The truth is that anyone who reads the account concerning Jesus’s encounter with the Samaritan woman can readily discern from the text of John’s Gospel, either explicitly or implicitly, that the woman was on society’s fringe. Jesus characterizes this woman as one who has had multiple husbands and was in an illicit relationship with a man who was not her husband (John 4:16–18). One can readily infer from the text that this is why the woman came to the well by herself during the middle of the day (“about the sixth hour”)—when other women would not be present because of the heat (John 4:6).[1] Also, the text expressly states, by way of the woman’s attentiveness, that Jesus had no means by which he could draw water from the deep well (John 4:11). Likewise, John the Evangelist plainly informs the reader that when Jesus’s disciples returned to him, “they marveled that he was talking with a woman” (John 4:27).
Because John’s Gospel sufficiently informs readers concerning each of these cultural aspects integral to the account, special knowledge of the culture derived from outside the biblical text is both extraneous and superfluous. Thus, whenever we read the Scriptures, especially narrative portions such as in the four Gospels, we should expect that the immediate textual setting sufficiently provides what is necessary for correctly understanding the passage.
The occasion portrayed above may seem innocent and harmless because the interpretive details derived from outside the biblical account are truly present in the biblical text. Yet a question is fitting: Do such incidents become the seductive gateway to a sinister subjection of Scripture to external authorities? The demeanor of both the Holy Land lecturer and his listeners exhibited an inclination to look to resources outside the Bible to authorize the correct interpretation of the biblical text.
Does this posture pose a challenge to Scripture’s authority? If so, does it threaten the proper grounding of our Christian faith? Hence, we must consider whether appeals to resources outside the Holy Scriptures subvert our longstanding Protestant doctrine called “The Sufficiency of Scripture.”
Scripture’s Sufficiency
What do we mean when we speak of Scripture’s sufficiency? Question and answer 3 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism succinctly expresses the range of Scripture’s sufficiency:
Q. What do the Scriptures principally teach?A. The Scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God and what duty God requires of man.[2]
This means that the Scriptures are sufficient for the specific task for which God gave them. The Scriptures reveal who God is, who humans are in relation to God, and how we should portray this relationship in worship of our Creator. The Scriptures are sufficient to ground our trust in God and to know what God requires of us. However, when we say that Scripture is sufficient, we do not mean that Scripture alone is necessary for our growth in the gospel. Scripture tells us that God calls the church to gather together to worship him (Heb. 10:25), and he has provided teachers and preachers to expound the Scriptures for our edification and spiritual growth as Christians (Eph. 4:11–12). Likewise, the Lord gives elders and deacons to govern the church wisely and to guard the doctrinal affirmations of the Christian faith (1 Tim. 3:1–13).
Likewise, we must not subject God or his Scriptures to mockery as if the Bible answers every question we could ever pose. It does not. Most of our daily routines—cooking meals, our vocational callings, home ownership and maintenance, car repair, problems with our computers, etc.—call for authoritative information outside the Bible. Nevertheless, we Protestant Christians believe that Scripture suffices as the ground of our knowing God and ourselves in relation to our Creator.
Thus, all our affirmations must be consistent with Scripture’s teachings. So, Scripture suffices as our governing guide for Christian faith and behavior. While Scripture does not specifically state how we Christians are to position ourselves in relation to our culture or to cast our voting ballots in any election, local or national, the Bible contains sufficient authoritative guidance concerning what our view of the world should be in whatever culture we find ourselves.
Scripture’s Sufficiency and Resources Outside the Bible
The Scriptures came to us by the direct agency of God’s Spirit working harmoniously with the divinely appointed human writers so that the result of this concursive process is that the human authors’ activities of thinking and writing were not coerced. Their activities were free and spontaneous, yet at the same time, divinely prompted and governed. Thus, Scripture, written for our good, is not merely a human production but God’s own authoritative word concerning the redemption of his created order. The Bible has human authors and one overarching divine Author.
God’s written word authorizes ministers of the gospel to train Christians concerning the good news that is in Jesus. It authorizes Christian parents to do the same for their children. When we affirm the sufficiency of Scripture, we do not put resources that supplement the Bible out of bounds for ministers and parents. Scripture’s sufficiency does not prohibit our use of a rich and vast library of resources to assist our study of God’s word.
Thus, Abraham Kuyper’s biblical reasoning is praiseworthy when, during his inaugural address at the dedication of The Free University of Amsterdam (1880), he asserted:
Man in his antithesis as fallen sinner or self-developing natural creature returns again as “the subject that thinks” or “the object that prompts thought” in every department, in every discipline, and with every investigator. Oh, no single piece of our mental world is to be hermetically sealed off from the rest, and there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: “Mine!”[3]
Kuyper offered this appraisal to counter anyone who might allow for Christian theology to have its own department in a university but who would dismiss the notion that theology is a constituent aspect of every academic discipline, whether the sciences, medicine, law, economics, history, psychology, or linguistics. He correctly envisioned the Christian university wherein all learners acknowledge that theology is the core discipline of learning and the one that permeates the entire curriculum so that every academic discipline submits to Christ’s Lordship as revealed in Scripture. Oh, how far short of this ideal our Christian institutions of learning fall!
As Protestants, we correctly affirm sola Scriptura because Scripture is the only infallible rule of faith and conduct, the final authority by which we are to judge (a) the Bible itself and (b) the Christian doctrine and practice that the Bible teaches. Yet, we must be wary lest we fall into either of the two ditches that line our pathway.
The first temptation, to shut ourselves up to Scripture alone as our only resource of learning for human life, is to find ourselves in the ditch of obscurantism, restricting knowledge concerning God’s world to what is revealed in the Bible. The Bible is not an encyclopedic life guide. In fact, Scripture itself teaches us that God reveals himself in his created order (Rom. 1:18–21).
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Israel the Oppressor vs. Hamas the Oppressed: The Inverted World of Western Cultural Marxists (Part 2)

Significant as the combat is between Hamas and Israel, more crucial is the battle for the mind and heart of billions. This is why I have devoted such close and extensive attention to understanding and explaining the true war that is being waged between two antithetical worldviews, the biblical-Christian view and the anti-Christ view which is nonetheless religious in nature. The anti-Christ view is religious because “virtue signaling,” conspicuously exhibiting attentiveness to “politically correct” issues, especially so-called “social and racial justice,” without effecting any real change for the alleged oppressed is at its core. This anti-Christ view steals daily news headlines with reports concerning crowds of devoted protestors who subject all of human life to their ideologically reductionistic oppressor versus oppressed paradigm, identifying but never lifting the alleged victims, who advance their cause, and excoriating and demonizing the alleged victimizers whom they passionately despise.

Making Sense of Widespread Western Favoring of Hamas Against Israel
What accounts for the coalition of diverse Leftist groups rallying together for Hamas and against Israel? What binds BLM, Jewish Voices for Peace, Gays 4 Gaza, Queers 4 Palestine, Lesbians 4 Liberation, Antifa, The Squad, Abortion Activists, Green Climate Police, Democratic Socialists of America, university professors and students, and Jewish intellectuals in solidarity with Hamas to oppose Israel? Matt Walsh rightly explains, “So, this desire to promote a murderous ideology—one that, if unleashed worldwide, would kill a lot of Leftists—is not unique to the current war in the Middle East. It tells us something fundamental about how Leftists think. Specifically, it exposes how heavily they rely on abstraction, rather than practical thinking informed by real-life consequences.” For example, Megan Rapinoe, who is an outspoken advocate against Israel and a fund-raiser for children in Gaza who also claims to be married to Sue Bird, a Jewish woman with Israeli citizenship, effectively illustrates his point. How long would Rapinoe and her female sexual partner survive in the Gaza Strip?
Walsh summarizes well the reasoning that coalesces the disparate Leftist groups. They view Israelis and their allies as the current great oppressor who must be toppled.
They see Hamas fighters, like BLM rioters, as a physical manifestation of the many anti-American concepts they’ve been taught in school. These barbarians are the “de-colonizers” and the “anti-oppressors.” They are the answer to “whiteness” in all its forms. The Left will humanize its allies, like George Floyd. But they will abstract their enemies as “oppressors” and “agents of white supremacy,” and then celebrate their destruction and murder.
Has the coalition of Leftists with disparate, even conflicting, interests overreached, transgressing their own religious dogma of tolerance versus intolerance by defending the cause of Hamas terrorists as the oppressed and identifying Israelis as colonizing oppressors? One might be tempted to think they have, given (1) the inescapable appearance of anti-Semitism on the face of their cause, and (2) how many Democratic Party politicians, their surrogates, and media talking heads have not joined them even if they stand mute lest they alienate their voting base. Does endorsement of undisputed anti-Semitic Hamas as oppressed by Israeli oppressors finally expose their Marxist agenda for all the world to see? If not, why not? Their applauding Hamas, hoping to rally world opinion against Israel’s sovereign right as a nation to defend its citizens from Hamas’s terroristic attacks, exposes the moral bankruptcy of their Marxist view of and for the world.
Will the world finally wake up to the destructive ideology of “Wokeness”? One would hope, but do not count on it. Why? Because the ideology entails a religious belief system antithetical to Christianity and the Western culture it shaped. Marxism’s “long march through the institutions,” conceived by Antonio Gramsci, and later Rudi Dutschke, is deep and thorough, as Gramsci schemed: “Socialism is precisely the religion that must overwhelm Christianity. . . . In the new order, Socialism will triumph by first capturing the culture via infiltration of schools, universities, churches, and the media by transforming the consciousness of society.”[1]
Socialism’s ideology has been saturating Western culture for more than fifty years, deluding multiple generations of Westerners who have become its “useful idiots.”[2] From Kindergarten to University, Cultural Marxism has overwhelmed our education system with its morality and culture-destroying ideology. Known by its various innocuous sounding Orwellian iterations: “Multiculturalism,” “Diversity,” “Critical Race Theory,” “Diversity-Equity-Inclusion,” “Anti-Racism,” or simply “Wokeness,” Big Ed(ucation) has become a hotbed for Marxist ideology. Thus, since October 7, the world has been observing “Anti-Racism” in action, the divisive core principle Ibram X. Kendi candidly asserts with moral sanctimony:
If discrimination is creating equity, then it is antiracist. If discrimination is creating inequity, then it is racist. . . . The only remedy to racist discrimination is antiracist discrimination. The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.[3]
Given Kendi’s forthright acknowledgment that “anti-racism” is reverse-racism, it is evident that since October 7 Western Cultural Marxists believe they have taken up the righteous cause of Hamas, racist anti-Semites, whose aggressive actions seek “liberation” from their alleged racist Jewish oppressors.
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The Creator’s Authorized Realistic Account of Creation: Interpretation of Genesis 1–3 Is Neither Literal nor Figurative

Evangelicals who receive Genesis 1–11 as factually portraying God’s creative work should be commended. Yet, defending “literal interpretation” to counter “figurative interpretation” prolongs the misguided debate and tends to induce many Christians to suppress Scripture’s realistic portrayals of God’s creative actions and historical accounts throughout Genesis 1–11. Even so, far more egregious is the subjugation of God’s authorized realistic accounts in Genesis 1–3 to evolutionary interpretations of valid fields of study—geology, archaeology, cosmology, and biology. Thus, by demonstrating that the debate is properly located within the author’s domain and not the reader’s realm, this essay necessarily corrects both errors while concentrating on the flagrant one.

Would a reasonable Christian read John Bunyan’s allegory The Pilgrim’s Progress allegorically or figuratively? The answer is: Neither, because the adverbs “allegorically” and “figuratively” describe not how to read his similitude but how Bunyan wrote it. Thus, he requires us to read it for what it actually is, an allegory. Authors of literature, not readers, have authority over their texts to assign symbolic or figurative properties to settings, events, persons, and things they embed within their texts. Readers are obligated to comprehend how an author represents the world being portrayed textually, whether the realm portrayed is fictional or real. Thus, we are not at liberty to read The Pilgrim’s Progress according to our whims. We are not free to assign our own arbitrary meanings to the author’s text. Bunyan wrote it as an allegory. He assigned figurative representational significances to the settings, events, persons, and things. Readers do not have that role.
However, many Christians who honor the inviolability of what Bunyan wrote do not honor the creation-fall accounts of Genesis 1–3 with the same sanctity. Some seize authority over the biblical text by engaging in “figurative interpretation,” while others do essentially the same thing under the banner of “literal interpretation.” Both approaches are mistaken and misguided because interpretation is neither literal nor figurative. We do not have the authority to determine how we are to read the text; this authority is embedded into the text by the author. Thus, whether we are to interpret the passage “literally” or “figuratively” is a confusing, misleading, and mistaken debate. Interpretation of Genesis 1–3 is neither literal nor figurative. In this article, I will show that it is an error for us to dispute whether we should interpret Genesis 1–3 literally or figuratively. I will show that interpretation is neither literal nor figurative. Evangelicals who contend that the text of Genesis obligates us to read it literally misspeak. What they mean is that the biblical text portrays God’s creative acts literally, which is to say, factually. Creation really took place as Genesis portrays it. So, as you read this article, you will recognize that I more fully direct the needed corrective toward those who contend that Genesis 1-3 calls for a figurative interpretation.
But first, let’s consider some context.
Philo’s Platonic Influence on Ancient Christians
The debate is ancient, and Christians have been posing and debating this since the second century. Exegetes of the Alexandrian school were under varying degrees of pagan Platonic influence through Philo, who viewed the Creator too lofty to be fully accountable for the creation of Adam. Philo believed God distanced himself from the creation of Adam more so than the creation of all other things. Philo infers that when God said, “Let us make man,” the plural “us” includes “other beings to himself as assistants,” such that they bear the blame for Adam’s disobedient acts.[1] Second-century Gnostics expanded on Philo’s inference by positing the presence and influence of demiurges, heavenly beings who shaped and control the material universe.
Some Ancient Christians—Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Augustine—accepted Philo’s teaching that God created everything in one simultaneous action.[2] They explain the six days of Genesis 1 not as a chronological timespan but as a symbolic framework, featuring creation’s increasing worth, with humans ranked highest.[3] Reflecting Philo’s Platonic influence, Origen regards the biblical account as not factually accurate. Mockingly, he inquires, “Now who is there, pray, possessed of understanding, that will regard the statement as appropriate, that the first day, and the second, and the third, in which also both evening and morning are mentioned, existed without sun, and moon, and stars—the first day even without a sky?”[4] Again, with derision, he asks who could be “so ignorant as to suppose that” God planted trees in a garden with fruit sustaining life or bringing death, or that God walked in the garden and found Adam hiding under a tree? Origen is confident that this portrayal is too fantastic for anyone to fail to recognize that these are “related figuratively in Scripture, that some mystical meaning may be indicated by it.”[5] For Origen, God’s authorized portrayal of his creative acts requires an allegorical interpretive grid to determine its proper meaning.
Candid Acknowledgements that the Writer of Genesis Portrays Reality
Geologists, archaeologists, cosmologists, and biologists pose a worldview that rivals the Bible’s account of creation. This prompts efforts by many Christians to harmonize scientists’ claims concerning the beginnings of all things and Scripture’s account of creation. Two conflicting approaches dominate and polarize debates over the origins of the universe and of life. Many evangelicals improperly insist on a “literal interpretation” of the creation accounts, while many others counter with a “figurative interpretation” concerning the biblical text. Both are missteps.
Even though he accepted the theory of evolution, Marcus Dods admits that every effort to harmonize Scripture’s account of creation with the modern theory of evolution is “futile and mischievous” because all such efforts fail to convince but “prolong the strife between Scripture and science.”[6] He warns, “And above all, they are to be condemned because they do violence to Scripture, foster a style of interpretation by which the text is forced to say whatever the interpreter desires, and prevent us from recognising the real nature of these sacred writings.”[7] He calls interpreters who adjust the Genesis account of creation to fit the modern scientists’ beliefs concerning origins are Scripture’s “worst friends who distort its words.” For example, if the word “day” in Genesis 1–2 does not refer to an earth-day, a period of twenty-four hours, “the interpretation of Scripture is hopeless.”[8]
Likewise, much more recently, on April 23, 1984, James Barr, who rejects the historicity of the accounts in Genesis 1–11, wrote a letter to David C. C. Watson (Wheaton, IL) in which Barr affirms that, as a Hebrew scholar, his judgment is that the author of the ancient text meant for his portrayal to be believed as historical. He wrote,
[S]o far as I know, there is no professor of Hebrew or Old Testament at any world-class university who does not believe that the writer(s) of Gen. 1–11 intended to convey to their readers the ideas that (a) creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience (b) the figures contained in the Genesis genealogies provided by simple addition a chronology from the beginning of the world up to later stages in the biblical story (c) Noah’s flood was understood to be worldwide and extinguish all human and animal life except for those in the ark.[9]
Barr affirms the same in published books.[10] For example, he contends,
From the genealogies of Genesis the reader could reckon the time down to the flood; from the flood he could reckon on to the exodus, and from there to the building of Solomon’s temple. The figures were meant to be exact and to be taken literally. They do not mean anything at all unless they mean actual numbers of years. Thus to say that Abraham was 75 years old when he migrated from Haran into Canaan (Gen. 12.4) means exactly that, namely that he was 75 years old at that point, and to say that Israel’s stay in Egypt lasted 430 years (Exodus 12.40) means exactly that, that there were 430 years from the time they went in until the time when they came out again. But we have to be aware of the difference between intention and historical truth.[11]
Despite these honest concessions that Genesis 1–11 was written as history, with the expectation that readers should accept the accounts as truthful, many evangelicals have not hesitated to follow the beliefs of Dods and Barr rather than the beliefs of Scripture’s writer, Moses.
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Signs Foreshadowing the Cross in John’s Gospel

When the disciples come to understand Jesus’s words and actions after his resurrection, it is because they understand that Scripture prophesied Jesus’s death and resurrection as the climax of redemptive history. John expressly tells us this: “When, therefore, he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken” (John 2:22). His point is that this retrospective illumination comes through the Spirit, whom the Father sends to instruct and remind them concerning all Jesus’s deeds and words (John 14:26).[8]

Scripture as Mystery
We all enjoy well-written novels entailing a mystery.[1] Novelists imitate their Creator, who permeates his created order with mystery: “It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out” (Prov. 25:2). Likewise, mystery saturates the biblical storyline. With the resurrection of Jesus Christ, this reality dawned upon individuals he called as his witnesses. Hence, the word “mystery” frequently occurs in the New Testament, mainly in Paul’s letters, and once in each of the Synoptic Gospels. Though the word is never used in John’s Gospel, the concept is present, as is often the case. But before we turn there, how exactly is the word “mystery” used in the Bible?
The closing of Paul’s Letter to the Romans captures the essential meaning: in times past, the gospel of Christ Jesus was simultaneously hidden and disclosed through the Law and the Prophets; now that Christ Jesus has come, by God’s command, the gospel has been made known to people everywhere through those same concealing-revealing prophetic Scriptures (Rom. 16:25–27).
The Bible’s storyline is a mystery; it’s the true story of the whole world, from creation to restoration.[2] This story’s unfolding and transcription within history establishes the paradigm that every human story resembles, with renowned authors testifying to and replicating the Bible’s story in their masterpieces.[3] Their human stories underscore the reality that the Creator situated every one of us within the biblical storyline. Scripture’s storyline is fully written, so we read how the story’s climax in the advent of the Lord Christ already anticipates the not-yet final resolution. Consequently, we who enter as participants in the biblical storyline in the Last Days await the story’s prophesied consummation.

The concept of mystery aptly describes how the Old Testament prophetically presages the One who is to come and how Jesus reveals he is the Coming One, fulfilling Scripture’s prophecies concerning Israel’s Messiah. In the Four Gospels, we see Jesus revealing his identity through deeds and words that reenact events and reiterate prophecies from the Old Testament. Indeed, this is how the mystery is revealed.

Decades after the events took place, the four Evangelists masterfully replicate in literary form the unfolding drama of Jesus’s self-disclosure. He incrementally reveals himself before the eyes of the Twelve and other first witnesses whose sin-induced impaired vision and hearing encountered Jesus’s revelatory concealments with misunderstanding.[4] With awakened senses, they patiently retrace the unfolding mystery of Jesus’s veiled identity by recounting episodes selected from thousands of experiences (cf. John 21:25; 20:30–31). By judiciously refusing to superimpose their mature, post-resurrection faith and understanding onto their narratives, they achieve historically realistic and climactic developing self-disclosure concerning how Jesus fulfills the Old Testament prophecies of the promised Messiah.
For our consideration, John faithfully reproduces in a literary form a sequence of Jesus’s signs, teachings, and prophetic actions, all designed to prompt belief that the Christ, the Son of God, is Jesus of Nazareth (John 20:30–31).[5] Jesus’s acts and words foreshadow his sacrificial death and bodily resurrection. This article focuses on Jesus’s first sign as instructive for how we must read all of Jesus’s signs and discourse throughout John’s gospel.[6]

John’s Gospel as Mystery as Seen in Jesus’s First Sign

“On the third day,” Jesus performs his first sign at a wedding in Cana (John 2:1–11) at the end of his first week of ministry (see the day markers in John 1:19, 29, 35, 40, 43; 2:1). A brief conversation with seeming cross-purposes unfolds between Jesus and his mother, who at this point in John’s gospel is unnamed. She tells him, “They do not have wine.” He responds, “What does this have to do with you and me, woman? My hour has not yet come.” Undaunted, his mother gives an expectant directive to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:3–5).
Jesus directs the servants to fill with water six large stone jars, which were now empty after having cleansed guests’ hands and serving utensils in keeping with the Mosaic Law. The servants fill each jar with water “to the brim,” a significant detail John reports to eliminate any notion of sleight-of-hand trickery. “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast” (John 2:8), Jesus instructs the servants. The master of the feast tastes what is in his cup, and only by his astonished reaction do we learn that the six jars are full not of water but of wine—the best wine: “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now” (John 2:10). He confirms the miracle, though he has no knowledge of what took place. He speaks better than he understands. His praise for the speechless bridegroom unwittingly credits Jesus, who unobtrusively fulfills the role at which the silent bridegroom fails.
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The True Nature of Love, God’s and Ours: Love is from God and Imitates Him

In all discussions of love, we must begin with God, not man. And more, we must come to understand the manifold nature of his love, so that as Paul says, we would “be imitators of God, as beloved children” (Eph. 5:1)…we must keep our eyes on the Lord and his Word, and we must imitate God’s love in the way he has revealed. 

God’s Love Is the Measure of Human Love
Because the Creator fashioned us after his likeness, God gives us his qualities, including his moral attributes, but all with creaturely limitations, now corrupted by sin. All these qualities and attributes God gives us are analogical to his, not identical. The Creator’s character and ours do not differ in mere quantity. Rather, there is a qualitative difference in God’s character and our own. God is holy. God is good. God is love. God is righteous. God is just. We would be wrong to say that God is simply more holy, good, loving, than we are in each of these attributes. God is qualitatively different from us. These qualities belonging to God are what Christian theologians describe as “communicable attributes,” transmittable to us, his image-bearers, to reflect the attributes of our Creator (cf. Col. 3:8–10; Gen. 1:26–31). Every quality and every moral attribute that constitutes us creatures “after God’s likeness” is, by definition, analogical, not identical to his moral attributes.
God’s redeeming work is restoring the full array of God’s likeness in us. This God-likeness is what we properly call godliness. So, when we consider love, whether a human or divine attribute, we must always do so in correlation with God’s full character, especially his holiness and goodness, never isolated from these attributes. Also, we must first ponder God’s love as integral to his moral perfections and then consider the exercise of his love in deeds and actions.
In his classic, Knowing God, J. I. Packer correctly argues that while Scripture twice affirms, “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16), this affirmation is regularly misunderstood and distorted.[1] Distortions occur primarily because people isolate God’s love from his other attributes, especially his holiness, justice, and self-sufficiency. Sin-corrupted reasoning also has a proclivity to project onto God creaturely qualities, limitations, and emotions. Thus, many conceive of God only as a more perfect human.
Thus, Christians must rigorously avoid distortions when we speak of God’s love and our love, which must imitate his. To help us in that endeavor, we turn to D. A. Carson’s little book, The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God.[2] Published in 2000, Carson’s slim volume punches above its weight class as it guides believers to represent accurately God’s love and, thus ours. As Carson shows, the Scriptures portray God’s love in diverse yet complementary ways. True, God is love, but to grasp the breadth and depth of this statement, Scripture portrays God’s love with varying forms concerning how he relates to his creation. This should not be a difficult concept to apprehend because our creaturely love consists of different facets also.[3]
Varied Forms of God’s Love
Carson proposes that God’s Word depicts God’s love as having five discernible forms. I offer a short summary here, followed by a further development below.

The unique love the Father has for the Son and the love the Son has for the Father (John 3:35; 5:20; 14:31).
God exercises a providential love for his whole creation. This love is often called God’s common grace. God, who is pleased with what he created (Genesis 1:31), bestows kind provisions and care over all creation (e.g., animals [Job 39; Matt 10:29]) and humans (Matt. 10:30–31; Acts 14:14–18; 17:24–29).
God manifests his love in his redeeming posture toward his fallen world corrupted by sin and now dwelling under his curse (Ezek. 33:11; John 3:16).[4]
God’s love obligates reciprocation. Thus, his redeeming love for us is conditioned on obedience.[5]
When Scripture affirms, “God first loved us,” it means that God set his love upon not every human without exception but only upon those whom he calls his “elect ones” (e.g., Israel, church, individuals (Deut. 7:7–8; 10:14–15; Mal. 1:2-3; Eph. 1:4–6; 5:25; 1 John 4:8–10). That God “first loved us” obligates a response in kind—just as Scripture affirms, “We love because God first loved us” (1 John 4:19). God’s unconditional, electing love establishes his covenantal relationship with us, which stipulates conditions concerning how his people are to come to him. God requires our belief, our obedience, and our steadfast faithfulness.

Carson rightly insists that Scripture refuses to allow us to treat any of these aspects as absolute. Instead, Scripture presents them as complementary, holding them together in proper proportion. This obligates us to apply these truths thoughtfully and carefully to ourselves and our relationships. For example, God’s perfect intra-trinitarian love is distinctive; it differs from how the Trinity relates lovingly toward the whole of creation, including toward humans.[6] Our focus in what follows will be on the latter four forms of God’s love that Carson identifies.
God’s Loving Care for Creation
When we consider God’s loving care toward his creation, called divine providence, we must account for the universal presence of God’s curse. God’s providence does not nullify God’s imposed frustration upon his created order, nor does his curse invalidate his loving care for his creation. “Frustration” and the “bondage of decay” characterize God’s created order in this “present evil age.” Their presence accounts for God’s new creative activity through Jesus Christ progressing inexorably toward creation’s liberation from its bondage and decay which is tied inextricably to the glorious redemption of God’s children, descendants of Adam who rebelled (Rom. 8:18–21).
Thus, temporary though they are, alive today but devoured by animals or flames tomorrow, God adorns the lilies and grasses of the fields with glorious vestments. Likewise, God feeds the animals that roam the forests and meadows and he cares even for the raven’s hatchlings (Ps. 147:9; Job 38:41; Matt. 6:26; Luke 12:24). Lions roar as they stalk their prey, devouring the flesh of other creatures that the Lord God gives to them (Ps. 104:21). All this comes from God’s loving providence so that even when animals, including a sparrow, fall to the ground to become food for other creatures and insects, they do so only by God ordaining it (Matt. 10:29–31).
God’s Loving Care for Humans: Three Forms
If God’s providential love for his animals tends to the minutest of details, how much grander is his providential care for humans he made after his own likeness? Yet, when we ponder Scripture’s portrayal of God’s love toward us who bear his image, we must acknowledge that God’s love toward humans entails three different but wholly integrated forms, forms of affection reflected in our love for God and for others.
First—God holds a loving posture toward fallen humanity.
John 3:16 succinctly expresses this: “God so loved the world that he gave his Son.” Here, “the world” entails the entirety of morally corrupted humanity. Regularly, many who quote the verse, including Bible translators, mistakenly presume that “God so loved” portrays the magnitude of God’s love. It’s true that other portions of Scripture do portray the vastness of God’s love, but the adverb “so” (houtōs) in John 3:16 does not speak of magnitude (“so much”) but of manner (“how”).[7] Thus, the verse does not say, “God loved the people of this world so much that he gave his only Son” (CEV). Instead, the verse announces, “God loved the world in this way, [namely,] that he gave his only Son.” What is the way God shows his love toward the world of sinful humans? The verse explains—“he gave his only Son.”
God’s love displayed in the crucifixion of his Son beckons and stipulates a reciprocal response of love expressed this way—“that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” God’s love for sinful humans does not reduce to a love that is formless and permissive. Indeed, the thrice-holy God stands in judgment over sinful humanity, but he also stands ready to remit the sins of everyone who repents. God sent his Son into a world hostile against him so that wicked humans would indict his righteous Son, condemn him to death, and execute him. They did not realize that they were carrying out God’s purpose and design by which he would redeem everyone who heeds his gospel’s command to acknowledge his risen Son as the only savior of the world (John 4:42). To the rebellious world, God’s message is clear: “As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?” (Ezek. 33:11).
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The True Nature of Love, God’s and Ours: Love without God Becomes Wicked

Misconstruing God’s love begins by misapprehending human love and then projecting that defective notion onto God. To ascribe our character qualities to God, as if we were the model after which God is patterned, is idolatry. Such reasoning inverts reality by fashioning a god after our human likeness. Thus, John Calvin rightly observes, “Man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols.”[8] 

Proponents of the sexual revolution of the 1960s glommed onto Freudian psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich’s designation “free love.” Reich reasoned that sexual liberation would destroy the morality inherent to capitalism. Others, especially Herbert Marcuse, embraced the notion and capitalized on it in Eros and Civilization: A Philosophical Inquiry into Freud. As the sexual revolution’s new intellectual, he coined the slogan: “Make love, not war.”[1] “Free love” practitioners engaged in casual sex without commitments, reflecting the contemporary expression, “friends with benefits.” Love, lacking self-governance, a moral compass, and boundaries, became eroticized. This only led to bondage, enslaving and ruining individuals, families, churches, governments, and whole societies. Witness the tragic and predictable collapse of the American society that has reached every level of our culture.
“Free love,” a euphemism for “morally unrestrained conduct,” takes root and flourishes wherever belief in the fullness of God’s character revealed in Scripture is compromised. Where theological mischief occurs, there you will find behavioral mischief. When God’s love is preached and believed apart from his holiness and justice, the erasure of moral boundaries invariably follows. When people imagine that God bestows his love without moral commands, sin-corrupted reasoning justifies their immoral conduct. Distorted notions concerning God always lead to distorted human behavior.
“Free love” does not acknowledge any external morality as it ignores boundaries of right and wrong and is covetous, self-absorbed, impulsive, heedless, and amorphous. Unlike “free love,” true love patterns itself after God’s love. It embraces what his character establishes as right versus wrong and is self-giving, others-oriented, unchanging, kind, and structured.
It is fitting for this essay to feature two parts: (1) a short accounting of our society’s spurning of God and its abandonment of the true nature of love for others; and (2) a consideration of God’s love and our Christian role in calling our society to repentance concerning love for others.
Government-Sponsored Erotic Love
Since the 1960s, “free love’s” calculated evisceration of public and private morality has taken its long march through the institutions, ensconcing itself in the Clinton White House and attaining critical mass with presidential candidate Barack Obama who declared, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”[2] Five days before the election of 2008, he announced his mission, “We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.” At first, he and Vice President Joe Biden feigned opposition to same-sex so-called “marriage.”[3] Yet, transformation of America began in earnest near the end of President Obama’s first term.[4]

On May 6, 2012, VP Biden goes rogue, strongly endorsing “gay marriage” on NBC’s Meet the Press.
On May 9, 2012, Obama, in an interview on ABC News says, “I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.” That evening, rainbow colors bedecked the White House.

Peter Jones of TruthXChange aptly wondered, “May 9, 2012: The Official End of Christendom?”
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Evangelicalism in the 1970s and 80s—Scripture’s Inerrancy and Errant Evangelicals (Part 2)

The thesis that God accommodates erroneous and false beliefs of the Bible’s human authors is attractive to academics…It is most visible among many academics who dispute the accuracy of the Bible’s creation narrative and especially its account concerning the formation of Adam. They regularly contend that Genesis 1-11 has more in common with the creation-flood myths of the Ancient Near East than with Genesis 12–50. Though they retain the designation, evangelical, their belief concerning Scripture is not the ancient Christian belief in the infallible witness of the Scriptures.

Before Harold Lindsell published The Battle for the Bible in 1976, the second major world conference on evangelism was held, the 1974 International Congress on World Evangelization. Out of this conference that same year the influential Lausanne Covenant was produced, a document that is both statement of faith and ministry philosophy. This Covenant affirmed the “Scriptures in their entirety as the only written word of God, without error in all that it affirms,” but this sentence left loopholes. Some prominent evangelicals claimed that scripture was without error in faith and practice, but not necessarily in history and science—a position coined as “limited inerrancy.” This and other currents led to the International Conference on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI, 1978) and the drafting of the seminal Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. Following the publication of the Chicago Statement, a flurry of books challenged the traditional evangelical position on the authority and inerrancy of Scripture. A year following the ICBI, Jack Rogers of Fuller Seminary and his former student, Donald McKim, launched a major retaliatory assault upon belief in the inerrant Scriptures with The Authority and Interpretation of the Bible: An Historical Approach. Written for academics, it was a book few lay people would read. They drafted Ford Lewis Battles of Calvin Seminary, an evangelical institution, to write the foreword where he effectively exhibits the book’s arsenal:
How did the defensive, intransigent position of inerrancy that marks the handling of Scripture among certain twentieth-century children of the Protestant Reformation come into existence? Our authors have read the early church fathers, the medieval exegetes, and especially the magistral [sic] Reformers, and have found no such teaching about Scripture and its inspiration in those authors.[1]
Accordingly, Rogers and McKim claim that Calvin’s sixteenth-century successors launched a scholastic, philosophizing endeavor that found a haven at Princeton Seminary where Francis Turretin’s theology thrived with new life invigorated by infusions of Thomas Reid’s Scottish common-sense realism. According to Rogers and McKim, full inerrancy was a relatively recent invention, and church history was on the side of “limited inerrancy.”
The Rogers/McKim proposal quickly gained adherents despite initial piecemeal rebuttals published by the ICBI. Then, John D. Woodbridge, a church historian, reviewed The Authority and Interpretation of the Bible for the Trinity Journal (1 NS, 2 [1980]). His review swelled to 70 pages. Then it expanded into a book, Biblical Authority: A Critique of the Rogers/McKim Proposal (Zondervan, 1982). Woodbridge exposes numerous methodological problems manifest in Rogers and McKim’s presentation, documentation, and historiography. He rightly features their pivotal error, one that evangelicals who affirm an errant Bible regularly commit to this day. They unwittingly adopted Faustus Socinus’s teaching on divine accommodation.[2] Rogers and McKim erroneously attribute this errant notion concerning God’s revelation to Christians ranging from Augustine to Calvin in their effort to find reputable historical support for their belief that Scripture includes unintentional errors, otherwise known as “limited inerrancy.”
D. A. Carson and John D. Woodbridge jointly edited two additional volumes that provided decisive responses to the Rogers/McKim thesis, with contributions from about twenty brilliant scholars, most of whom had no direct affiliation with the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI). The first book, in 1983, was Scripture and Truth, a collection of twelve penetrating and evergreen essays. Woodbridge and Randall Balmer dismantle Ernest Sandeen’s proposal on which Rogers and McKim so heavily depended. Carson and Woodbridge followed this with Hermeneutics, Authority, and Canon in 1986, a collection of nine essays that effectively demonstrate that belief in Scripture’s infallibility has always been central to the church’s affirmations. Carson’s, “Recent Developments in the Doctrine of Scripture,” and Woodbridge’s, “Some Misconceptions of the Impact of the ‘Enlightenment’ on the Doctrine of Scripture” administer devastating blows to the Rogers/McKim thesis. These knockout punches destroyed the thesis that ‘prior to the nineteenth century Christians never affirmed Holy Scripture’s inerrant authority in all matters the Bible affirms and on which it touches.’ Nevertheless, as will be shown, this discredited belief stubbornly persists contrary to the evidence.
At the core of the Rogers/McKim thesis is their grave misunderstanding of the Christian doctrine of God’s condescension or accommodation to reveal himself and his purposes to us his creatures. In their version of “limited inerrancy,” they contend that the Bible contains no intentional errors, that is, no biblical authors intended to deceive. However, Rogers/McKim claim that there are errors arising from human misunderstandings and false beliefs that have no bearing on Scripture’s saving function. For example, they would relegate much of Genesis 1–11 to mistaken understandings of human origins. Thus, they affirm Scripture’s “functional inerrancy.” They unwittingly and mistakenly attribute to ancient Christians (e.g., Chrysostom and Augustine) and medieval Reformers (e.g., Calvin and Luther) the doctrine of God’s accommodation that properly belongs to Faustus Socinus of the sixteenth century. Like Socinus, Rogers and McKim contend that the Holy Spirit accommodated the Scriptures to the mistaken viewpoints and beliefs of the biblical writers which included unintentional, erroneous, and false beliefs concerning the world, geography, history, mathematics, science, etc.

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Evangelicalism in the 1970s and 80s—Scripture’s Inerrancy and Errant Evangelicals (Part 1)

More than a decade before Newsweek declared 1976 the “Year of the Evangelicals,” the coalition of conservative Protestants had already begun to break apart…Evangelicals were engaged in a Battle for the Bible.

Few periods of the last century were more destructive, realigning, reshaping, and redefining of Evangelicalism than the decade and a half beginning in the mid-1970s. The evangelical coalition was taut and threadbare, in danger of tearing asunder by scholars who disputed a fundamental of the Christian faith, Scripture’s inerrancy. Ironically, the ripping occurred the same year that Evangelicalism unexpectedly received national acclaim linked to a presidential election.
Arising from this period were two closely correlated questions: (1) Who are the Evangelicals? (2) What do Evangelicals believe concerning the authority and truthfulness of Holy Scripture? Both questions were thrust upon Evangelicalism in 1976, the year that Newsweek deemed the “Year of the Evangelical.” In what follows, I will show that 1976, while seemingly a high water mark for Evangelicalism, actually exposed serious fractures which proved beyond repair, despite valiant efforts by leading evangelical scholars. Many who abandoned the foundational evangelical belief in the inerrancy of Scripture took the evangelical label with them and expanded it to allow for their belief in “limited inerrancy.” They published numerous essays and books challenging the long-held belief that the Bible is without error in the original manuscripts. The battle was on; would Evangelicalism survive?
1976: A Pivotal Year for God’s Word
In America’s bicentennial, Jimmy Carter ran for United States president as self-professed “born again” Southern Baptist Sunday School teacher, The incumbent, Gerald Ford, a reserved Episcopalian, professed the same. At that time, Episcopalian and Southern Baptist leaders identified their denominations as distinct if not separate from America’s evangelicals. With the presidential election only a week away, these distinctions were too intricate for Newsweek’s editors to acknowledge or comprehend when they designated 1976 the “Year of the Evangelical” (October 25, 1976). For example, Carter’s praise for Paul Tillich, a Neo-Orthodox theologian from whom evangelical scholars stood aloof, did not temper Newsweek’s equating Carter, the Southern Baptist, with Evangelicals.
Harold Lindsell, also a Southern Baptist, took a vastly different posture toward the SBC leadership than Carter, who identified with them. Lindsell published The Battle for the Bible in 1976 and by June it was already in its third printing. Formerly Lindsell was a faculty member at Northern Baptist and Fuller Seminaries and Wheaton College before he succeeded Carl F. H. Henry as editor of Christianity Today (1968–78). So, when Lindsell wrote his book he did so as the editor of a major Christian magazine, not as an academic. Thus, he appealed not to scholars but to “evangelical lay people in the pews who may not be aware of the central issue that faces them, their denominations, and their institutions.”[1] What distressed him was stated at the outset, as he regards
…biblical inerrancy to be the most important theological topic of this age. A great battle rages about it among people called evangelicals. I did not start the battle and wish it were not essential to discuss it. The only way to avoid it would be to remain silent. And silence on this matter would be a grave sin.[2]
Of his own denomination, he notes, “Probably 90 percent of the people in the pews believe in biblical infallibility.”[3] His concern is with the academic institutions: “Among faculty members of Southern Baptist colleges and seminaries where do you find articulate spokesmen who come out in favor of inerrancy? The silence is deafening!”[4] He laments that as academics “retreat from inerrancy,” denominations abandon vital ministries and displace them with “socio-political-economic concerns.”[5]
Lindsell’s principal distress was over Fuller Seminary’s revising of the doctrine of inerrancy by endorsing their own coinage, “limited inerrancy.” He also called attention to an ethical issue; Fuller Seminary administrators publicly portrayed the seminary as holding to its founding doctrinal affirmation, which included Scripture’s infallibility, even after some of its faculty “ceased to believe in an infallible Bible.”[6] They contended that Scripture’s inerrancy is restricted to matters of Christian faith and practice with allowance for errors in matters concerning the observable world, geography, history, and science.[7]
It is significant, then, that Harold J. Ockenga, first President of Fuller Seminary (1947–54) and still serving on the seminary’s board, launched the initial volley from Lindsell’s arsenal by writing the foreword. Ockenga drew attention to Fuller Seminary, sharing Lindsell’s concern that Scripture’s “inerrancy is the watershed of modern theological controversy” because “those who give up an authoritative, dependable, authentic, trustworthy, and infallible Scripture must ultimately yield the right to use of the name ‘evangelical.’”
This is Lindsell’s burden when he makes his final appeal:
It is my conviction that a host of those evangelicals who no longer hold to inerrancy are still relatively evangelical. I do not for one moment concede, however, that in a technical sense anyone can claim the evangelical badge once he has abandoned inerrancy…It is true that a man can be a Christian without believing in inerrancy. But it is also true that down the road lie serious pitfalls into which such a denial leads. And even if this generation can forego inerrancy and remain more or less evangelical, history tells us that those who come after this generation will not do so…I do not look for or expect a time in history as we know it when the whole professing church will believe either in inerrancy or the major doctrines of the Christian faith. There will always be wheat and tares growing together until the angels begin their task of reaping the harvest at the end of the age.[8]
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The Limits of Civil Obedience

Christians, who understand what God requires, obey or disobey on principles, not whims or wishes. Schaeffer observes that wherever the Reformation flourished, two essential and inseparable aspects from the Christian worldview governed citizens: (1) because God ordains governments, he establishes proper order, including officials to whom honor is due (Romans 13:7); and (2) the obligation to honor God’s ordained civil authorities does not eliminate “civil disobedience” when magistrates command what God forbids or forbid what God requires (99).

A foundational premise of Francis Schaeffer’s message in A Christian Manifesto is that Christians became fragmented in their thinking concerning the American culture, society, and government. He argues that evangelical leaders failed to equip Christians adequately to recognize and address the radical shift taking place before their watching eyes. Thus, ministers unwittingly induced Christians in the pews to separate life into sacred and secular realms. This misguided compartmentalization prompted Christians to withdraw from the world around them and cede the public square to the burgeoning shift from the worldview governed by nature’s God to a worldview ruled by “material-energy, chance orientation generation” (89). Tragically this withdrawal from society intensified the worldly sacred-secular division.
So, as the general society increasingly adopted a totalizing world and life view contrary to Christianity, all the while raiding aspects from it, evangelicals also shifted away from upholding and representing Christianity as the comprehensive view for all of life. Generally, following the lead of their ministers and teachers, Christians came to think and speak in terms of “bits and pieces” instead of holistically. They’ve lamented abortion, family breakdown, or the erosion of public school education, but they have failed to see that all of these symptoms are in fact part of one larger problem: an anti-Christian worldview rooted in humanism.
At the founding of the American nation, the Christian worldview was integral to the drafting of the Constitution and the shaping of the stated principles and actions even of individuals who were not Christians, such as Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. The gradual erosion of this worldview brought incremental changes throughout the nineteenth century. Schaeffer argues that during the first eighty years of the twentieth century a more rapid departure from that worldview subjected every institution to substantial alteration—whether family, school, church, or government.
Pietism’s “platonic spirituality” regards the “material” world as separate from and less important than the “spiritual” realm. Thus, Pietism’s “bits and pieces” view of the world could not withstand the ascendancy of Naturalism’s comprehensive worldview. Scientism, one of Naturalism’s spawns, sought to supplant the infinite Creator (whose providence is the basis of all reality) with a finite and supposedly self-sustaining creation. Naturalism is a view of the whole creation consisting of only material or energy that has always existed and has self-assembled into its present complex form by the random, unintelligent, and impersonal movement of evolution through billions of years.
Published just a few years after the nation’s bicentennial in 1976, A Christian Manifesto (1981) made the case that our nation’s prevailing worldview “violently opposed . . . what the Founding Fathers of this country and those in the thirteen individual states had in mind when they came together and formed the union” (89). He rightly argues that when the nation’s Founders declared independence from Britain and drafted the Constitution, they were guided by a basically Christian and biblical understanding of the relationship between the individual and the state. While many hastily assume America’s founding was birthed in rebellion, a more diligent inquiry reveals a conservative impulse that upheld the rule of law.[1]
Importantly, the worldview that gave birth to this nation, among both Theists and Deists, upheld the belief that creation’s God endowed humans with rights to be protected by the civil government as a “delegated authority” to which citizens are obligated to submit out of reverence for God (Romans 13:1–7). 
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