This will be the last quotation of J C Ryle for this series. I find his words hit the nail on the head on this issue cutting through the waste of rhetoric that permeates the discussion.
#1. Some object that there are occasional statements in the Bible which contradict the facts of history. Are these all verbally inspired? My answer is that it is far more easy to assert this than to prove it. There is nothing of which we have so few trustworthy remains as very ancient history, and if ancient uninspired history and Bible history seem to disagree, it is generally safer and wiser to believe that Bible is history is right and the other history is wrong. ( pgs. 37-8)
#2. Some object that there are occasional statements in the Bible which contradict the facts of natural science… The Bible was not written to teach a system of geology, botany, or astronomy, or a history of birds, insects and animals and on matters touching those subjects it wisely uses popular language, such as common people can understand. No one thinks of saying that the Astronomer Royal contradicts science because he speaks of the sun rising and setting. (pg. 38)
#3. Some object that there are occasional statements in the Bible which are monstrous, absurd and incredible…My answer is that Christ’s apostles speak of these things as historical facts, and were more likely to know the truth about them than we are. (pg. 39)
#4. Some object that there are things mentioned occasionally in the Bible which are so trifling that they are unworthy to be called inspired…I answer that the least things affecting any of God’s children are not too small for the notice of him who numbers the hairs of our heads. (pg. 40)
#5. Some object that there are grave discrepancies in some of the Bible histories, especially in the four Gospels, which cannot be made to harmonize and agree…I answer that the number of these discrepancies is grossly exaggerated, and that in many cases they are only apparent and disappear under the touch of common sense. (pg. 41)
#6. Some object to Job’s friends, in their long speeches, said weak and foolish things. Were all their words inspired?…But we are nowhere told that either Job or Eliphaz and his companions spoke all that they spoke by the Holy Ghost. The writer of the book of Job was thoroughly inspired to record all they said. But whether they spoke rightly or wrongly is to be decided by the general teaching of Scripture. (pg. 42)
#7. Some object that St. Paul, in 1 Corinthians, Chapter 7, when giving certain advice to the Corinthian church, says at one time, Not I but the Lord, and at another, I not the Lord…I answer, not at all. A careful study of the chapter will show that when the Apostle says, Not i but the Lord, he lays down some principles on which the lord had spoken already; and when he says I not the Lord, he gives advice on some point about which there had been no revelation hitherto. But there is not the slightest proof that he is not writing all the way through under direct inspiration of God. (pg. 43)
#8. Some object that there are many various readings of the words of Scripture, and that we cannot, therefore, feel sure that we have the original inspired Word of God…I answer that the various readings, when fairly examined , will prove to be absurdly exaggerated in number and importance…Considering how many hands the Bible passed through before printing was invented, and who the transcribers were, it is marvellous that the various readings are so few. (pg. 43-44)
#9. Finally, some object that occasional parts of the Bible are taken out, copied and extracted from the writings of uninspired men, such as historical chronicles, and pedigrees, and lists of names. Are these to be regarded as inspired?…I reply that there seems no reason why the Holy Ghost should not have directed the Bible writers to use materials made ready for their hands, as well as facts which they had seen themselves, and, by so directing them, have invested such words as they are used with divine authority. (pg. 44)
A closer look at #3 is warranted as JC Ryle brings out a very good point. The disciples spent 3 years with Jesus and it is no stretch of the imagination to think that they would have questioned Jesus about creation, the flood and other key OT accounts. If Jesus had told them that those stories were not exactly true and the details needed to be altered, it is highly unlikely that the NT writers would have kept that information to themselves.
In fact, we have no extra-biblical extant book from the 1st century , or even the 2nd or 3rd, that says that the disciples of Jesus told a different story than what is found in the OT accounts. There is no record of any of the eye-witnesses to Jesus telling us that they provide alternative ideas than what is recorded in the OT or that they heard it from Jesus.
All ancient extra-biblical records support the biblical accounts and utter no word on there being any conspiracy by priests or other national leaders to hoodwink the people. Josephus, Pliny the elder & younger, Philo and a host of others make no mention of this activity thus we can be confident that the OT is very true and the words recorded in its pages are indeed accurate and without error.
This concludes the series on quoting JC Ryle and I hope that the words in the 4 parts have strengthened your faith and drove any doubts away. Inspiration is hard to prove to the unbeliever and it is a matter for the realm of faith only but unbelievers keep making unrealistic and ridiculous demands for evidence. The only evidence we can point to, not only are contained in JC Ryle’s book, but also in the impact the Bible has had on civilizations throughout history.
If you get into discussions on inspiration with unbelievers point them to Mr. Ryle’s words that inspiration was a miracle for that is the best way to describe it.The Christian should not worry about presenting scientific evidence for that is a secular demand not a criteria of God for sharing what one believes about Jesus or the Bible.
You see, God does not work the scientific way. he can but we would not always recognize his handiwork if he did so 100% of the time. God works supernaturally and there will be no scientific evidence but there will be faith evidence for God does not contradict what he says pleases him. A scientific explanation is not needed for anything biblical or concerning God.
There is no biblical instruction telling us that we are to use science to judge or place a stamp of approval on God’s work or intervention in history or personal lives. Science is not the authenticator of biblical or spiritual activities; in fact, it i snot the authenticator of history or people’s behavior or thoughts. It is merely a tool to understand what God created and how they work or work together.
Only the secular world places an unhealthy status upon science and we need to be careful not to do the same thing. Science is not God’s representative on Earth. The believer needs to realize this and act accordingly.