Seminar Session 1 — John MacArthur
Note: Throughout the week, as we liveblog the general sessions, we will be using a time-stamp method. This will give readers an approximate sense of key statements that were made throughout the session, as well as allowing them to trace the flow of the argument. (Also, if readers want to listen to any key moments by downloading the audio, these time-stamps will make it easier to track down certain statements in the audio file.) However, what follows is not intended to be a full or exact transcript of what was said.
Today begins the 2015 Summit on Biblical Inerrancy. It is a beautiful day in Southern California. The rain from yesterday has cleared and the sun is shining. But the glories of the weather are outmatched by the climate of enthusiasm and joy that is palpable on campus.
10:04 The morning began with the men of The Master’s Seminary singing, “Rise Up, O Men of God.” It was a powerful opening to the 2015 Summit on Biblical Inerrancy.
10:07 John MacArthur welcomes the conference attendees. Thirteen hundred men have never been to a Shepherds’ Conference before. Men are attending from all 50 states and from 70 countries (about 700 men from countries outside the U.S. are attending).
10:11 The men of The Master’s Seminary sing “Be Thou My Vision.”
10:15 The attendees sing “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name.” One of the unquestionable highlights of the Shepherds’ Conference is to hear several thousand pastors and church leaders join together in congregational singing. It is magnificent … and impossible to adequately describe on paper.
10:18 Jubilant Sykes sings “Jesus Christ, The Sweetest Name I Know.”
10:22 John MacArthur leads the men in prayer to dedicate the upcoming conference to the Lord.
10:25 — Sermon Begins (John MacArthur preaching) — This will be an opening address to answer the question as to why we are having a summit on biblical inerrancy.
10:26 The International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, led by Dr. Jim Boice, was a milestone in the history of the church and I was privileged to be part. Out of the incredible array of people who gathered there, came the ‘Chicago Statement on Inerrancy.’
10:28 We have a whole generation of men now who have not really fought the battle for inerrancy. Therefore, it is time for us to raise the standard again.
10:29 Four reasons for a summit on biblical inerrancy. 1) First, the Bible is attacked and we are called to defend it.
10:30 The New Testament repeatedly warns of the threat of false teachers. The greatest threat comes not from hostile forces outside but from hostile forces inside.
10:31 There is no greater offense (stumbling block) than to cause people to question the veracity, inerrancy, or authority of Scripture.
10:32 We expect offenses against the Scripture from the world.
10:33 There is in the heart of every sinner a natural hatred toward the Word of God.
10:34 It is serious to offend by causing people to doubt the veracity of Scripture. This is where Satan began his attack, back in the Garden of Eden, in Genesis 3. “Has God really said…?” Satan’s tactic was to tempt Adam and Eve to question God’s Word.
10:35 Satan is disguised as an angel of light. Because of all of these assaults on the truth, it is critical that we defend the Scripture. In 1 Timothy 6, Paul exhorts Timothy to “Guard what has been entrusted to you.” He reiterates this in 2 Timothy.
10:36 Jude tells his readers to “contend earnestly for the faith.” The idea is to carry on a heroic struggle, like a martyr fighting to the death in an arena. This is a long war against error for the truth.
10:37 Looking back in history, to see how this war on truth has played out, we can trace ways in which God’s Word has been attacked. Roman Catholicism exchanged the authority of Scripture for the authority of religious tradition.
10:38 Because they recognized that Christ alone is the Head of the church, the Protestant Reformers gladly submitted to His Word as the sole authority within the church. Consequently, they also confronted any false authority that might attempt to usurp Scripture’s rightful place; and in so doing, they exposed the corruption of the Roman Catholic system.
10:39 Higher Criticism exchanged the authority of Scripture for the authority of human reason and atheistic naturalism. Not long after the Reformation, a second major wave of error crashed upon the life of the church: rationalism. As European society emerged from the Dark Ages, the resulting Age of Enlightenment emphasized human reason and scientific empiricism, while simultaneously discounting the spiritual and supernatural.
As men began to place themselves above God and their own reason over Scripture, it was not long until rationalism gained access into the church. The legacy of that rationalism, in the form of theological liberalism and continual attacks on biblical inerrancy, is yet alive and well. As such, it represents a continued threat to the truth.
10:41 What happened in the period of the Enlightenment has been devastating.
10:42 The Cults exchanged the authority of Scripture for the authority of self-appointed leaders like Joseph Smith, Ellen G. White, and Joseph Rutherford.
10:43 They claimed to represent pure forms of Christianity. In reality, they merely regurgitated ancient errors like Gnosticism, Ebionism, and Arianism.
The Charismatic Movement exchanged the authority of Scripture for the authority of personal revelations and ecstatic experiences.
10:44 In the 1960s and ‘70s, experientialism began to infiltrate the mainline denominations. This movement tempted the church to define truth on the basis of emotional experience. Biblical interpretation was no longer based on the clear teaching of the text; but rather upon feelings and subjective, unverifiable experiences, such as supposed revelations, visions, prophecies, and intuition.
The Third Wave movement of the 1980s continued the growth of mysticism within the church, convincing people to look for signs and wonders and to listen for paranormal words from God rather than seeking out truth in the written Word of God.
The New Apostolic Reformation is the latest in these kinds of movements.
10:45 Christian Psychology exchanged the authority of Scripture for the authority of Freudian theories and clinical therapies.
In the 1980s, the influence of clinical psychology brought subjectivism into the church. The result was a man-centered Christianity in which the sanctification process was redefined for each individual, and sin was relabeled a sickness. The Bible was no longer deemed sufficient for life and godliness; instead, it was replaced with an emphasis on psychological tools and techniques.
10:46 Consumer-Driven Churches exchanged the authority of Scripture for the authority of felt needs and marketing schemes.
At the end of the twentieth century, the church was also greatly damaged by the Trojan horse of pragmatism. Though it looked good on the outside (because it focused on numbers), the seeker-driven movements of the 1990s quickly killed off any true appetite for sound doctrine. Ear-tickling became the norm—as “seekers” were treated like potential customers. The church adopted a marketing mentality, focusing on “what works,” even at the expense of a biblical ecclesiology.
10:47 Pragmatism inevitably gave way to syncretism, because popularity was viewed as the standard of success. In order to gain acceptance in a post-modern society, the church became soft on sin and error. Capitulation was masked as tolerance; compromise redefined as love; and doubt extolled as humility.
Out of that, interfaith dialogues and manifestos—and even interfaith seminaries—began to sprout up on the evangelical landscape. So-called evangelicals started to champion the message that “we all worship one God.’ And those who were willing to stand for truth were dismissed as divisive and uncouth.
10:48 As such examples illustrate, whenever the church has abandoned its commitment to the inerrancy and authority of Scripture, the results have always been catastrophic. In response, Believers are called to defend the truth against all who would seek to undermine the authority of Scripture.
We “contend earnestly for the faith” (Jude 3). In referring to “the faith,” Jude was not pointing to an indefinable body of religious doctrines; rather, he was speaking of the objective truths of Scripture that comprise the Christian faith.
10:49 With eternity at stake, it is no wonder that Scripture reserves its harshest words of condemnation for those who would put lies in the mouth of God.
10:50 In Old Testament Israel, false prophecy was a capital offense, a point vividly illustrated by Elijah’s slaughter of the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. But the Israelites often failed to expel false prophets; and by welcoming error into their midst, they also invited God’s judgment.
10:51 2) Second, Scripture is authoritative and we are called to declare it.
This basic doctrine is spelled out in 2 Timothy 3:16: “All Scripture is inspired by God.” The Greek word translated “inspired” is theopneustos, a compound word literally meaning “God-breathed.” It refers to the entire content of the Bible—that which comes out of His mouth—His Word.
10:52 Inasmuch as God breathed the universe into existence (cf. Psalm 33:6), it makes sense that He also breathed the Bible into existence.
In some passages, the term Scripture is even synonymous with the name God (Gal. 3:8, 22; Exod. 9:16; Rom. 9:17).
10:53 Jesus implied that all of Scripture is inspired as a unified body of truth when He declared, “The Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35).
Not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law until all is accomplished” (Matt. 5:18).
The Author of Scripture calls Himself the essence of truth (Isa. 65:16), and the prophet Jeremiah ascribes the same quality to Him: “The LORD is the true God” (Jer. 10:10).
10:54 The writers of the New Testament also equated God with truth and both Testaments emphasize that God does not lie.
The Bible has to be inerrant because it is God’s Word, and God is a God of truth. Proverbs 30:5 well summarizes the extent and practical implications of inerrancy: “Every word of God is tested [true]; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.”
10:55 The men who wrote Scripture recognized that they were writing God’s words under His direction. They testify to that fact more than 3,800 times in the Old Testament alone.
The New Testament writers wrote with an unshakable conviction that the Old Testament was God’s Word (they quoted it more than 300 times).
10:56 The writings of Paul and Peter also correctly recognize that portions of the New Testament other than their own were from God. In one command to Timothy (1 Tim. 5:18), Paul implicitly ascribes divine authority to both the Old Testament and the words of Jesus. Peter similarly offers a clear testimony to the inspiration of Paul’s letters (2 Peter 3:15–16).
3) Third, Scripture is accurate and we are called to demonstrate it.
10:57 English philosopher Herbert Spencer, who died in 1903, was famous for applying scientific discoveries to philosophy. He listed five knowable categories in the natural sciences: time, force, motion, space, and matter. However, Genesis 1:1, the first verse in the Bible, says, “In the beginning [time] God [force] created [motion] the heavens [space] and the earth [matter].” God laid it all out in the very first verse of Scripture.
10:58 The Bible is accurate when it intersects with modern scientific concepts. Isaiah 40:26 says it is God who creates the universe. He holds the stars together by His power and not one of them is ever missing. In this way the Bible suggests the first law of thermodynamics—that ultimately nothing is ever destroyed.
The second law of thermodynamics states that although mass and energy are always conserved, they nevertheless are breaking down and going from order to disorder, from cosmos to chaos, from system to non-system. The Bible, contrary to the theory of evolution, affirms that. As matter breaks down and energy dissipates, ultimately the world and universe as we know it will head toward distruction. Romans 8 says that all creation groans because of its curse.
11:00 In the seventeenth century, men like Kepler and Galileo gave birth to modern astronomy. Prior to that, the universe was generally thought to contain only about one thousand stars, which was the number that had been counted. However, in Genesis 22 the number of the stars of heaven is equated with the number of grains of sand on the seashore.
11:01 The oldest book in the Bible, the Book of Job, pre-dates Christ by about 2,000 years. Yet Job 26:7 says, “He hangs the earth on nothing.” In the sacred books of other religions, the earth is placed on the backs of elephants that produce earthquakes when they shake.
11:02 Fulfilled prophecy also testifies to the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture. There is no way to explain the Bible’s ability to predict the future unless we see God as its Author.
4) Fourth, Scripture is active through the power of Spirit, and we are called to deploy it.
The Bible claims to be alive and powerful. That is a tremendous statement. When God’s Word is preached and defended, it goes forth with the Spirit’s power.
11:04 There are many books that can change your thinking, but there is only one that can change your nature. The Holy Spirit uses the preaching of His Word to pierce the heart and convict the sinner.
11:06 The Holy Spirit is the omnipotent force behind the Lord’s promise in Isaiah 55:11—“So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”
11:08 You cannot be a powerful expositor of Scripture if you have a weak view of the Bible. But, because we know that the Word of God is inerrant, we have a divine mandate to proclaim its truth.
Every word inspired. Every word preached.
11:08 Closing prayer
11:09 The conference attendees sing “Be Thou My Vision”