Photo: Chris DeRham
Francis Schaffer, The Great Evangelical Divide:
Not far from where we live in Switzerland is a high ridge of rock with a valley on both sides. One time I was there when there was snow on the ground along that ridge. The snow was lying there unbroken, a seeming unity. However, that unity was an illusion, for it lay along a great divide; it lay along a watershed. One portion of the snow when it melted would flow into one valley. The snow which lay close beside would flow into another valley when it melted.
Now it just so happens on that particular ridge that the melting snow which flows down one side of that ridge goes down into a valley, into a small river, and then down into the Rhine River. The Rhine then flows on through Germany and the water ends up in the cold waters of the North Sea. The water from the snow that started out so close along that watershed on the other side of the ridge, when this snow melts, drops off sharply down the ridge into the Rhone Valley. This water flows into Lac Leman—or as it is known in the English-speaking world, Lake Geneva—and then goes down below that into the Rhone River which flows through France and into the warm waters of the Mediterranean.
The snow lies along that watershed, unbroken, as a seeming unity. But when it melts, where it ends in its destinations is literally a thousand miles apart. That is a watershed. That is what a watershed is. A watershed divides. A clear line can be drawn between what seems at first to be the same or at least very close, but in reality ends in very different situations. In a watershed there is a line.
A House Divided
What does this illustration have to do with the evangelical world today? I would suggest that it is a very accurate description of what is happening. Evangelicals today are facing a watershed concerning the nature of biblical inspiration and authority. It is a watershed issue in very much the same sense as described in the illustration. Within evangelicalism there are a growing number who are modifying their views on the inerrancy of the Bible so that the full authority of Scripture is completely undercut. But it is happening in very subtle ways. Like the snow lying side-by-side on the ridge, the new views on biblical authority often seem at first glance not to be so very far from what evangelicals, until just recently, have always believed. But also, like the snow lying side-by-side on the ridge, the new views when followed consistently end up a thousand miles apart.
What may seem like a minor difference at first, in the end makes all the difference in the world. It makes all the difference, as we might expect, in things pertaining to theology, doctrine and spiritual matters, but it also makes all the difference in things pertaining to the daily Christian life and how we as Christians are to relate to the world around us. In other words, compromising the full authority of Scripture eventually affects what it means to be a Christian theologically and how we live in the full spectrum of human life.
Francis A. Schaeffer, The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer: A Christian Worldview, vol. 4 , “The Great Evangelical Divide) (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1982), 327–328.
Harold Lindsell, An Historian Looks at Inerrancy:
Lindsell begins his essay looking the history of attacks upon the Scripture from outside the Church. However, the saddest attacks are taking place within the church:
And the leaven is to be found in Christian colleges and theological seminaries, in books and articles, in Bible institute and conservative churches. The new leaven, as yet, has nothing to do was such a vital questions is the virgin birth, the deity of Christ, the vicarious atonement, the physical resurrection from the dead, or the second advent. It involves what it has always involved in the first stages of its development–the nature and inspiration of authority…..
Today there are those who have been numbered among the new evangelicals, some of whom possessed the keenest minds and required the apparati of scholarship, who have broken, or are in the process of breaking, with the doctrine of an inerrant Scripture. They have done so or are doing so because they think this view to be indefensible and because they do not regard it as a great divide. In order for them to be intellectually honest with themselves, they must do it. Logically, however, the same attitude, orientation, bent of mind, and approach to scholarship that makes the retention of an inerrant Scripture impossible also alternately makes impossible the retention of the vicarious atonement, and putative guilt, the virgin birth, the physical resurrection, and miraculous supernaturalism.
Harold Lindsell, “An Historian Looks at Inerrancy,” in The Scripture Cannot Be Broken, ed. John MacArthur (Wheaton: Crossway, 2015), 25-26.
Thomas Brooks, Precious Remedies for Satan’s Devices:
By all this we see, that the yielding to lesser sins, draws the soul to the committing of greater. Ah! how many in these days have fallen, first to have low thoughts of Scripture and ordinances, and then to slight Scripture and ordinances, and then to make a nose of wax of Scripture and ordinances, and then to cast off Scripture and ordinances, and then at last to advance and lift up themselves, and their Christ-dishonouring and soul-damning opinions, above Scripture and ordinances. Sin gains upon man’s soul by insensible degrees: Eccles. 10:13, ‘The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness, and the end of his talking is mischievous madness.’ Corruption in the heart, when it breaks forth, is like a breach in the sea, which begins in a narrow passage, till it eat through, and cast down all before it. The debates of the soul are quick, and soon ended, and that may be done in a moment that may undo a man for ever. When a man hath begun to sin, he knows not where, or when, or how he shall make a stop of sin. Usually the soul goes on from evil to evil, from folly to folly, till it be ripe for eternal misery. Men usually grow from being naught to be very naught, and from very naught to be stark naught, and then God sets them at nought for ever.
Thomas Brooks, The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart, vol. 1 (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; G. Herbert, 1866), 20.