In the fall of 1970 I arrived as a student at Wheaton College. I took the introductory freshmen courses and one of them was Introduction to the Old Testament taught by Dr. Martin Heicksen. Heicksen was a good teacher, but what I remember best about him was the introduction to the devotional texts. He would intone with such sanctity the words: "My brothers and sisters, let us hear the words of the Holy Scriptures." Somehow Heicksen managed to transpose his students in the presence of God where God was speaking to us. Reading the Holy Scriptures was an assignment that Heicksen took with utmost seriousness.
For the first quarter of this year, I want to look at important Christian and religious issues, and the best place to start is with the Holy Scriptures. For as a theologian wrote: "The only Jesus that I know is the one whose life, words and deeds are recorded in the New Testament. This is the Jesus that I know and there is no other." Alas, we have nothing written by Jesus Christ. We do know that he knew how to write, for John told us that he wrote in the sand and whatever he wrote was blown away (John 8:6). Moreover, it seems that in the Old and New Testament there is no appreciation of originals. We can blame this on Moses who in a fit of anger threw the original Ten Commandments and smashed them on the mountain (Exodus 32:19). Moreover, we cannot make a claim that we have any original manuscripts of the gospels, the epistles or even the original apocalypse.
Timothy George, the Dean of Beeson Divinity School writes that what unites Moslems, Jews and Christians is this idea that the Holy God reveals Himself - He speaks to us in terms that we human beings can understand. Some first century Christians spoke that our God is not the God of the philosophers - rationalized into existence - but a God who chose to reveal Himself to us. The author of the book of Hebrews united the Old Testament and the New Testament by declaring that the God who spoke in the Old Testament by the prophets has spoken in the New Testament by His only begotten Son.
The importance of the word spoken by God is seen in verses like these: "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away," (Mark 13:31), or "I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled" (Jeremiah 1:12). Later on I met J.I. Packer who in his writings had the same holy respect for the Holy Scriptures when he wrote in his book Concise Theology:
"What Scripture says, God says; for, in a manner comparable only to the deeper mystery of the Incarnation, the Bible is both fully human and fully divine. So in all its manifold contents-histories, prophecies, poems, songs, wisdom writings, sermons, statistics, letters and whatever else-should be received as from God, and all that the Bible writers teach should be revered as God's authoritative instruction. Christians should be grateful to God for the gift of his written Word, and conscientious in basing their faith and life entirely and exclusively upon it. Otherwise, we cannot ever honor or please him as he calls us to do." J. I. Packer, Concise Theology, 5.
Next Thursday - "Hearing God Speak, Recording it and Compiling It"