WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–The battle waged in the Southern Baptist Convention over the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture wasn’t about defending the claims of the Bible, Paige Patterson recounted, but about securing its trustworthiness for a world in desperate need of the message of God’s redeeming grace.
“Friend, it is as logical as it can be, if we do not have a more sure word of prophecy from the Word of God, if we do not have the Word of the Lord, infallible and inerrant and absolutely trustworthy, then nobody, nobody, nobody who’s ever lived, nobody who lives now, nobody who will ever live, has an answer that will tell us how to get to God for sure,” Patterson said Aug. 26 at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, N.C.
“My concern is not defending the Bible for its own sake,” Patterson said in a chapel message. “It needs no defense. My concern is to defend the Bible on behalf of the millions of lost people out there who will be deceived if we don’t tell them the truth and make a case for the accuracy and reliability of God’s Word.”
Preempting attacks from critics, Patterson, president of the Southern Baptist Convention and Southeastern Seminary, asked rhetorically, “How could fallible men have written infallible truth? How could errant men have written inerrant truth?”
The answer, he replied, is found in 2 Peter 1:21: “For prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”
“Now ladies and gentlemen, make no mistake about it, the Word of God which you hold in your hand is the infallible and inerrant Word of God,” Patterson said. “If it is not so, if it is not true, then the postmoderns are all exactly right, and you can’t know anything for sure, and your perception of things is as good as anybody else’s, and your community’s as good as anybody else’s.
“But dear friend, we do have a more certain word of prophecy,” Patterson said, “and may it ever be known in Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary that this is a training school for those who are unalterably convinced that God has spoken in eternity past and borne his holy prophets along so that we may know all that God intends for us to know about who he is and what he’s up to in our world.”
While acknowledging that the “heart of Christianity is the incarnation and atonement and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ,” Patterson said that defending the truthfulness and authority of Scripture is necessary because of God’s warning in 2 Peter 3:16 that “some things [in the Bible] are hard to understand which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction.”
“The Bible is a difficult book,” Patterson said. “It is simple in the way that it lights the way to God, but it is profound in that it is attempting to explain, in human language, that which is not capable of being put into human language or thought.
“You will never put your arms around much of Scripture, you will never succeed, I don’t care who you are, in bridging the gap between the electing providences of God on the one hand, and the responsibility of man on the other,” Patterson said. “There are mysteries like that of the Trinity, though we struggle with it, do everything we can to understand it, and so forth and so on, that we do not comprehend.”
Patterson said that although the Bible, as the revelation of God, is equally inspired by the Holy Spirit from beginning to end, not all of its books are equal in importance in revealing God’s message of salvation.
For example, Patterson suggested that the New Testament Book of Romans is more important than Song of Songs in the Old Testament and likewise the Gospel of John more important than the Book of Ecclesiastes when it comes to revealing God’s gift of salvation.
“But the inspiration is plenary; that is, all of them are equally inspired of God,” Patterson said. “And not only that the inspiration of Scripture is verbal, it is not merely a matter of some ideas that are inspired, but the very language itself of Scripture, the very choice of those words is inspired of God.”
Therefore, Patterson said, the overarching purpose of Scripture “is forever to glorify God and to lead to the conversion of those who are his handiwork.”
To that end, Patterson challenged Southeastern students to make the most of their educational opportunity.
“May God help us to study more diligently than those who would twist [God’s Word], and may God help us to tell the story of God’s revelation and his redeeming grace as long as the tongue can move,” Patterson concluded.