A Common Reason for Questioning the Bible

New Atheists

Herman Bavinck’s nineteenth-century Reformed Dogmatics is solidly biblical and confessional. He faces the difficult questions and seeks answers in line with the teaching of Scripture and the godly tradition of the church. In this discussion of biblical authority, he takes a step back and reflects on why it is that men critique and question the Bible. It is salutary to note that the cause is not primarily academic or scholarly—it is moral. At the heart of every objection to the gospel is the sinful will, a fact that should be remembered by those who are engaged in counseling and apologetics.

Many and very serious objections are raised against this view of the inspiration of Scripture. They derive from the historical criticism that questions the authenticity and credibility of many biblical books. The challenge comes from the mutual contradictions that occur time after time in Scripture; from the manner in which OT texts are cited and interpreted in the NT; and it comes from the secular history with which the narratives of Scripture can often not be harmonized. . ..1 It is vain to ignore these objections and to act as if they don’t exist. Still, we must first of all call attention to the ethical battle, which at all times has been carried on against Scripture. If Scripture is the word of God, that battle is not accidental but necessary and completely understandable. If Scripture is the account of the revelation of God in Christ, it is bound to arouse the same opposition as Christ himself who came into the world for judgment (κρισις) and is “set for the falling and rising of many” [Luke 2:34]. He brings separation between light and darkness and reveals the thoughts of many hearts. . . By itself, therefore, it need not surprise us in the least that Scripture has at all times encountered contradiction and opposition. Christ bore a cross, and the servant [Scripture] is not greater than its master. Scripture is the handmaiden of Christ. It shares in his defamation and arouses the hostility of sinful humanity. . .

The battle against the Bible is, in the first place, a revelation of the hostility of the human heart.2


1 Bavinck is not arguing that there are errors; rather, he is arguing that there are many apparent difficulties. For further explanation, see Herman Bavinck, Prolegomena, in Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 1, ed. John Bolt, trans. John Vriend (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003), 447-448.

2Ibid., 439-440.

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