When was the last time you started your car and consciously thought about the internal combustion engine involved? Or how often do you eat and enjoy a meal without knowing the way it was prepared or the origin of all its ingredients? Or more technically, do you ever think about the processes involved to make Wifi work? Probably not until the router goes down. While each of these examples could be studied in great detail and are, it is not necessary to fully understand their intricate operations, to enjoy the experience of driving, eating, or surfing the web. While ASE certified technicians, sous chefs, and computer hackers benefit from the advanced studies in these areas, knowledge is secondary to the faithful enjoyment of these things.
Similarly, Herman Bavinck remarks concerning the relationship between biblical studies and Christian belief, that faith precedes understanding (cf. 2 Pet. 1:6-8). In a lengthy section defending the historic belief that the Triune God inspired the very words of the Bible, the faithful Dutch Reformer writes with wry wisdom,
Those who do not want to embark on scientific investigation until they see the road by which we arrive at knowledge fully cleared will never start. Those who do not want to eat before they understand the entire process by which food arrives at the table will starve to death. And those who do not want to believe the Word of God before they see all problems will die of spiritual starvation (Reformed Dogmatics: Prolegomena, vol. 1 [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003], 442).
Bavinck’s words, written in an age when science, historical-criticism, and the Enlightenment Spirit were fueling modernism and eroding faith (ca. 1900), remind us that to profit from the Scriptures we must believe they are God’s words (2 Tim. 3:16-17), given from God through his prophet and apostles (2 Pet. 1:19-21), to his church for the purpose of salvific wisdom, life, godliness, and grace that leads to repentance in Jesus Christ. Arrogantly waiting for all the “cruxes” and inconsitencies to be resolved in the Scriptures will only lead to an impoverished understanding of the Bible and a wrath-inviting position before God.
Bavinck’s words and his whole treatment of the subject of the Scripture’s inspiration insist that to fully understand the Bible we must begin with faith (cf. Rom. 10:17). Only then can can we labor over the texts as a spiritual service of worship that enables us to test and approve the good, perfect, and pleasing will of God (Rom. 12:2). In coming to study the Bible we must do so as needy sinners standing under the judgment of God, and not intellectual zealots bringing finite and foolish judgments against the infinitely wise and eternal God. For in truth, biblical understanding is a gift from God (cf. Prov. 2:1-7) and an ability not naturally possessed (1 Cor. 1-2).
Such a position does not laud men and their schemas, but God and his grace. Thus we must come receptive in order to believe, and this receptivity only occurs because God in his mercy sends his Spirit to prepare our hearts to receive his word. From first to last, the revelation of God is supernatural and gracious, and must be considered as one of God’s greatest acts of kind condescension. The human heart writhes under the pressure of this self-effacing position, but it preserves the pearls of God from being trampled by unbelieving swine.
May those who have ears to hear, hear the Word of God and believe.
Soli Deo Gloria, dss