Maintaining The Witness To Inerrancy -- By: Stephen W. Paine
BETS 9:1 (Winter 1966) p. 23
Maintaining The Witness To Inerrancy
Standing in the shadow of the impending cross, Jesus spoke to the disciples rather freely about the historical developments which the Church would face. One element of the picture which he sketched for them was the certainty of defection from the Gospel by many. “When the Son of Man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” he inquired.
Some have seen in this word, using the definite article as it does in the Greek, a reference to the faith, the historic faith of the Church, elsewhere alluded to by St. Paul and Peter. Others have seen in the word only a reference to faith, to personal faith in Christ. Such qualities of course call for the use of the definite article in the Greek.
Perhaps Jesus was purposely cryptic here. For personal faith in the evangelical sense could not long outlast the evangel itself. But however we deal with this matter of shading, here was a somber foreshadowing of the great apostasy of Christendom as the time for Christ’s return should draw near. This falling away the apostles likewise predicted.
Because the Christian faith centers in a person, Christ, resting upon the basis of certain historical understandings about that person, and because these historical understandings depend upon the Holy Scriptures, it is only natural that apostasy should have reference to these understandings, and it is just as inevitable that it should affect negatively this faith. Such an attack involves first the realm of the intellect and then, very certainly, the realm of the will.
Thus the educational institutions, founded in the first instance by the Church for its purposes of faith based upon truth, have been the prime locus for this attack. The nineteenth century saw the European universities serving as the intellectual arsenal for the destructive higher criticism. This defection was soon mirrored in the outlook of the American colleges, until it can almost be said that none of our early colleges, founded for the propagation of the faith as they were, now retains this sacred depositum.
We who today are active in colleges and seminaries of newer provenance holding this same faith may well ask what assurance we can have that the very institutions for which we labor will not be sucked into the same drift. To be sure many of us—yes, all of us, I trust—are determined that this shall not happen. But our tenure is short and the question is long.
The best we can do is to serve our own generation by the will of God. But our labors will be swept away unless prayerfully, humbly, and in the fear of God we at least recognize what is happening in the realm of
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