ARE YOU PERPLEXED about some of the "truths" in the Bible? I hope you are, for that is a sure sign that you are thinking about God and His Word. I was once sorely perplexed about such things as election and free will, the trinity, eternal torment, and many others. But now my perplexities are gone. They have been replaced by adoring apprehension, and a vision of God which is clear and glorious as the noonday sun. It has not been the work of a moment. It has not come without effort. It has come only through a personal investigation of the Bible in the original. My work for several decades has been to arrange the words and the grammar of the original in order so that they could be studied, to make concordances and grammars, and to translate into English and other languages. With the help of card indexes I found that much present-day scholarship was contrary to the facts. And once these things were straightened out and everything outside the inspired text was excluded, I found that my perplexities had vanished as the mist before the rising sun.
I long to tell others about these things, and for twenty-five years I have conducted a magazine for this purpose. There the matters here dealt with are more fully expounded. But truth needs a background. An electric light shines brightest in the depths of night. Such a background came to me not long since. While sojourning on the Continent a friend visited me and gave me a leaflet entitled "Truths that Perplex." Here was the darkness I needed. Here the perplexity which most probably is in your heart and mind, is quite clearly and concisely expressed. God grant that this darkness may be a means of leading many into the light!
Usually such matters are discussed in a strained, formal, forbidding spirit. I have tried to ease the strain and make the discussion welcome by making it an informal chat. As you were not present in person, to keep up your end of the conversation, I have taken the liberty of putting a few words into your mouth now and then. I do not wish to do all the talking! Consider yourself Dr. Watson, and let me play the part of Sherlock Holmes, as I focus the microscope on the evidence presented.
Do not be disturbed if the light does not all come at once. It might blind you! Be patient and forbearing if I hurt you at any time. I do not intend to do so. But I will not apologize if my words should excite you. They are not intended as a narcotic, as the leaflet I reply to seems to be. Narcotics are against the law.
Don't keep it to yourself. Show it to your friends. Don't expect everyone to see these things. You see, God is not opening everybody's eyes at this time. Most people are afraid, even to read a pamphlet like this. Don't be a coward on that account. Perhaps you are one of the favored few to whom God will reveal the transcendent riches of His grace and the superexcess of glory which is the portion of all who believe Him.
"TRUTHS THAT PERPLEX"
TRUTHS do not perplex. Untruths, half truths, and near truths are often the cause of much mental uncertainty and confusion. But whole truths -- never! The little leaflet with the above title deals with the question of God's sovereignty, man's free will, the traditional trinity, and everlasting punishment. I have known thousands of people who were perplexed about these things because they did not know the truth. Yet (thank God!) I have known hundreds who glorify God as God (Rom. 1:21), and were clear as to the relationship between God and Christ and His holy spirit, and believe the Scriptures as to eonian chastening, and they were radiant with thankfulness that these truths do not perplex, but have removed all doubt and uncertainty, and give peace and satisfaction and superabounding joy.
As is almost invariably the case, the key to the difficulties in this leaflet lies hidden near the door. The title itself tells where the trouble is. Truths do not perplex. The "truths" in the leaflet perplex only in the proportion in which they are pervaded with error. The true title should read, "Errors that Perplex." It is true that even the truth seems inexplicable at times, but this comes when we have only a part of it, and the perplexity arises from the lack of truth, not from its presence. I know from personal experience with these very "truths" how perplexing they once seemed. But now the perplexity is gone. I would like to tell how it was removed in this little story, so that others may enjoy the blessed clearness and light and love that come when perplexity is replaced by happy perception. The leaflet commences:
There are certain matters of doctrine which may possibly be a source of difficulty to some of the members of the Crusaders' Union, and it has therefore been decided by the Committee of the Union to issue this pamphlet in the hope that assistance may be afforded to those whose work lies in the teaching of younger Christians, and who may be glad of some simple scriptural facts to place before them.
The following three matters are dealt with:
- (1) The Sovereignty of God and Human Free-Will.
- (2) The Deity and Personality of the Holy Spirit.
- (3) The Destiny of the Unrepentant Sinner.
While the evidence set down is drawn from Scripture, It is not in any sense intended to be exhaustive, and it is hoped that the importance of the matters dealt with and the obligations of Christian leadership will stimulate Crusaders everywhere to a more earnest study of the Scriptures under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Who alone has the key of interpretation.
There is much in this foreword to be commended. We can only say Amen! to the hope that it will promote more earnest study of the Scriptures. This article is written in order to help all students to do this to such purpose that the darkness will vanish and the "truths" no longer perplex. Come to think of it, is it not quite incredible that such subjects as these should not be as clear as daylight! I find that I can express myself clearly, so that others who take my own words in my own context seldom have any difficulty in grasping the thought I wish to convey. But if they change my words they always misinterpret my mind. Then they get perplexed and write to me to explain, or, worse yet, they write horrid things against me. Perhaps this experience of mine may suggest a way out of these perplexing "truths." God's "sovereignty," His holy spirit's "personality," man's "free-will" and "destiny" are words God has never used to reveal Himself.
Now some of my readers will see that, not only is the heading perplexing, but this is true of the three subjects to be discussed. If I cannot bear to have people change my words and thus confuse my thoughts, how do you suppose God feels about this matter? He is the most wonderful Author there ever was or ever will be! He not only chooses the precise terms to express His thoughts, but He actually refines His words by His use of them, so that, in a very real sense, the language of the Scriptures (in the original, of course) is a sort of private language for God's use in revealing Himself, very much as the tabernacle and the temples were dedicated to Him and were different from common dwellings. No one dared alter a single stone. Such holy awe should be ours when we enter the Sacred Scriptures. Let us keep our hands off! Let us not alter a single word!
During the last few years much of my time has been devoted to the translation of the poetical books of the Bible -- the Psalms, Job, Proverbs, and the Prophets. The Prophets are mostly written in poetry, you know. I am taking extreme care to use a pure, precise vocabulary. But, more than this, I have come to see that even the order of the words, which gives us the emphasis, is exquisite, and well worth imitating, when it is possible to do so in English. I actually feel a little guilty if I fail to keep the principal English terms in the same order as the text. And when it is printed, I am going to relieve myself of the responsibility by indicating the proper order, in some way, on the English page. I shall do this with the new edition of the Greek Scriptures also. I don't want anyone to miss the most minute excellence in the Sacred Scrolls.
|God's Work is |
Let me tell you why I feel this way. Perhaps a parallel will help. The same God Who made the Bible made the material universe. How is it that we know so much more about nature today than formerly? Is it not because we have actually examined it with our microscopes and our telescopes and we have jealously guarded and gathered the facts? No one can tell me now that the moon is made of green cheese, because I have spent hours studying its surface. Now don't think this is funny. In studying the Bible much more ludicrous things than that are taken for granted. And if you should wish to use a telescope to find out for yourself, some well meaning man will be sure to warn you of the dangers of using such instruments! He will say that it does not show becoming modesty to peer into things like that! Yet, as a matter of fact, these helps to vision are a confession of our own infirmities. So it is with helps to Bible study. All that reveal the minute perfections of the original are most valuable. Use them!
Have you ever used a microscope? Be sure to grasp the first opportunity to get a glimpse of God's marvels in His minute creation. The astonishing thing is that no matter how tiny His handiwork may be, it is as perfect as the most tremendous. I was going to say that each of His snowflakes is as perfect as a cathedral, but I do not know of any perfect cathedral and I have seen many of them, including the Vatican and St. Paul's. Let us leave man's miserable handiwork alone when we have a microscope. Even a nice clean page of printing looks crude under a good glass. But notice: God's work is perfect to the most minute detail. Not only in nature, but more especially in revelation. Is this clear? And this is especially true in regard to the Scriptures. We must not change the words. We must value every letter. If we do, we will not continue to be perplexed.
I have spent a large part of my life in microscopic work with the Scriptures, so I know a little from experience how wonderful God's Word is. Sometimes a single letter has solved a difficulty which I never supposed would be cleared up until I got to heaven. It is like a wonderful jig saw puzzle. If you start right and get half of it in place, the rest is easy. But you must not cut any piece, or use a part that nearly fits. It must all fit perfectly. Most of our puzzles in the Bible come because we are not careful. There is no danger in using great accuracy. But lack of it will soon land us in perplexities. Now that I have given the key that solves the perplexities of this leaflet, let us make use of it!