Is the Bible Inspired by God?: Silencing the Devil with R.C. Sproul and John Gerstner

Is the Bible Inspired by God?: Silencing the Devil with R.C. Sproul and John Gerstner

SPROUL: As we continue now with our series
of mock debates between myself and Dr. Gerstner, we will turn our attention now to the hotly
disputed issue of the nature and authority of the Bible. Now, Dr. Gerstner, I’ve had the frequent
experience of talking to Christians like yourselves who are citing passages from the Bible to
me as if all they have to do to settle an argument is to quote a text from the Bible,
because they’re convinced, of course, that what they’re quoting from is some kind of
supreme and final authority, because they think that what they’re handling is nothing
less than the word of Almighty God. And I’m curious about something with these
folks. I think, are they not aware of two hundred
years, yes, of vigorous, academic, scholarly analysis and criticism, what the scholars
call ‘higher criticism’ of the Bible? Aren’t they aware of the challenges that
have come not only from the secular world but from within the theological seminaries
of the church itself, that we can no longer tacitly assume that that book is divinely
inspired, that it is a book of revelation, that it is the Word of God, and that sort
of thing? And what I hear so many Christians say to
me is, well, they still believe that it’s the Word of God, and I say why do you believe
it? And they say, well, they take it on faith. Now, it seems to me, Dr. Gerstner, that that
is what we discussed a couple of sessions ago, a gratuitous leap, because from where
I’m standing I see other religious books that are not teaching the same message that
that book teaches who claim to be divinely inspired, books like the Qur’an, or the
Book of Mormon, and so on. And just because a book claims to be inspired
doesn’t prove to me that it’s inspired. Why should I take that book any more seriously
than any other book from the ancient times? That’s my question to you. GERSTNER: Well, I would certainly agree with
you that if there were no argument for this book being absolutely unique and the Word
of God, you shouldn’t believe it’s the Word of God. I couldn’t agree with you more. And when you say that some Christians – and,
I’m afraid a great many of them do in a fact, take it as you say on faith, not only
without any evidence but, as you mention, in spite of evidence to the contrary. So, I’m agreeing with you at that point,
and you can sense that I don’t consider that the proper Christian position even though
a great many people who call themselves Christians do take it, and if you were going to determine
a matter like this by a vote, that would be the Christian view, I’m afraid I have to
admit. So, I agree with you that that’s gratuitous
argument or a lack of argument, and that I don’t think anybody in the world ought to
believe this book is the Word of God just because the Bible says it is, or because my
mother says it is. SPROUL: I’m delighted to hear that, that
means we could go on to another subject now, Dr. Gerstner, now that we know I don’t have
to take the Bible by faith. GERSTNER: I didn’t say that. I did say that if you has no reason for doing
so you could free yourself from that responsibility but the historic Christian argument is that
there is every reason in the world that you should believe it. SPROUL: Are you saying, then, that you think
there is some kind of rational basis for believing that the Bible is the Word of God? GERSTNER: Compelling rational evidence, as
a matter of fact. SPROUL: Compelling, you mean in the sense
of giving absolute proof, Dr. Gerstner? GERSTNER: Absolute, irrefutable proof. SPROUL: Well, I can’t wait to hear it. GERSTNER: Well, there are different ways I
could go about it, but the way I prefer most of all because it’s more easily acceptable
by most people, is I would begin with Jesus Christ. SPROUL: Excuse me. I don’t want to get – I want to give you
an opportunity here, as I said, but how in the world do you know about Him? GERSTNER: Well, these four gospels, you’ve
heard of them? Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John –
SPROUL: Yes. GERSTNER: – were written in His generation
or shortly after. SPROUL: I thought you – you’re beginning
with Christ. GERSTNER: Right. As told in those four gospels. SPROUL: Oh, I see. OK. The only way we know anything about Him is
through that one. GERSTNER: That’s right. I’m not assuming it’s an inspired book. The fact that it tells about a person like
Hezekiah and Paul and Jesus Christ does not make it an inspired book. SPROUL: OK. GERSTNER: But it is an historical book –
SPROUL: And I grant that that book talks about Jesus –
GERSTNER: That’s very good. Most scholars will do that, but there have
been some historic debates on that subject. So we can start with a proposition of the
historicity of Jesus Christ. There was a being called Jesus of Nazareth
as a matter of historical fact. SPROUL: Well, Dr. Gerstner, you are certainly
aware that there are reputable and notable scholars who are more than skeptical to say
the least about whether there really was a historical Jesus. GERSTNER: That was the end of the nineteenth
century. There was a great debate on that, and there
were some outstanding, especially European, especially Dutch scholars of the first order
who seriously questioned the historicity of Jesus Christ. I would say at the end of the twentieth century
they are very few and far between who lay any question about the historicity of Jesus
Christ. SPROUL: You mean by that that –
GERSTNER: That Jesus really lived. SPROUL: That there really was a such person
by that name. That doesn’t mean that they all would agree
that this particular record of Jesus is historically accurate in all the –
GERSTNER: Historically reliable at least. They would not – they might renege on accuracy,
and of course they’re going to fight inspiration. That’s understood. But this is historical literature unlike the
literature about Gautama Buddha, for example, which came centuries afterwards, more like
the knowledge of Mohammed, which is produced in his own generation, too. It’s historical material, in the case of
the Quran. SPROUL: Alright, it’s the material of a
historical sort, it makes historical assertions and all of that. Maybe Bultmann is dead and buried and so on,
Dr. Gerstner – GERSTNER: He admitted Jesus lived. SPROUL: He admitted Jesus lived, but his emphasis,
was it not, that what we have – that one thing we can be sure of is that in history
people wrote about Jesus – GERSTNER: More than that. That they’re writing about it was a credible
indication that this person actually – SPROUL: That’s what I want to know, what
makes you think it’s credible? GERSTNER: Huh? SPROUL: Why do you suppose that it’s credible? GERSTNER: Well, there’s every evidence that,
see, these manuscripts have been around for a long time. The evidence of Mark especially as it was
written around the middle of the century, within the generation in which this Jesus
is reported to have lived. And it’s the sort of context in which He
would have lived if that is the time when He did live, and so – but as I say, it’s
perfectly alright for you to quiz me on this, but fundamentally it’s a passé argument. Most scholars today – I’m not trying to
throw any scholastic weight around – but just as a simple – this would have been
a much more vital argument a hundred years ago than it is now. Most scholars, unbelieving scholars – they
don’t have any credibility of the inspiration of this book at all, would nevertheless grant
you that we have no reason for doubting that a person named Jesus of Nazareth did live. But if you want to raise a question further
go ahead. SPROUL: No, I believe that there was a person
by that name. GERSTNER: OK. If we can take off from that particular point. The report about Him among many other things,
He was a teacher, and He was a miracle-worker. Now, it’s His miracle-working that I would
want to look at particularly, but that is, as you can see, that’s a very vital point
because most liberal scholars don’t believe miracles do occur. And consequently they’re highly dubious
about any reports, just as I am about miracles today and so on. They would be even more dubious about miracles
performed by somebody nearly two thousand years ago, but unless this Devil’s advocate
is going to say that proves this to be specious history, because miracles don’t happen if
you’re willing to entertain the possibility, and I don’t have to prove to you the possibility
of miracles, I’ll go on from there. SPROUL: Well, that’s a tremendous concession,
wouldn’t it be on my part. GERSTNER: I don’t want any concessions,
you want me to prove it? SPROUL: Yes. I mean, because, as a matter of fact, if this
book were simply telling me about Plato or Aristotle or some other extraordinary human
being, it wouldn’t strain my credibility. GERSTNER: OK. SPROUL: But when you talk about somebody who
walks around and walks on the water and raises people from the dead, and feeds five thousand
people, then that strains my credibility. GERSTNER: OK. It strains it. SPROUL: Yes. GERSTNER: But does it destroy it? SPROUL: Well, it certainly raises –
GERSTNER: Are you going to prove it couldn’t possibly be? It’s therefore non-historical because it’s
telling about events which could never have occurred in this world? SPROUL: Again, you’re certainly aware of
David Hume’s argument here, Dr. Gerstner. GERSTNER: Yes, I’m aware –
SPROUL: On the given evidence of this case, the probability quotient of its being true
is always less than the probability quotient that it is mythology. GERSTNER: Yes. SPROUL: I mean, I grant you at the outside,
you know, yes, remote possibility that if there is a God in heaven as you’ve demonstrated
– GERSTNER: That’s all I need from you or
David Hume, and I got it from both of you. SPROUL: Alright. GERSTNER: Hume would admit – he was never
adventurous enough to say it couldn’t happen. The dubiety of it he developed with classic
form, and it’s been a very appealing thing because most people don’t want to be confronted
with this Jesus Christ I’m trying to confront you with right now. SPROUL: Well, I’m curious here, where you’re
going with this. GERSTNER: OK. SPROUL: Let’s go. GERSTNER: OK. You and David Hume will admit that however
unlikely it could happen and so on. Well, if it could happen (this is historical
data), there is no way by which you can separate Jesus from His miracles. He is a miracle-worker. He did, as you say, walk on water according
to the record. He stilled the water. He also designated a fish that had exactly
the coinage necessary to pay the temple tax and all that type of thing. That’s a part and parcel of the story of
Jesus of Nazareth. Alright. Now, there are people – I had a professor
once who when he was asked by a student in the class, “Dr. Phifer, when you encounter
a miracle in the Old Testament, what do you do with it?” He says, “I skip over it to the historical
sections.” See? There was no discussion. As far as he was concerned, miracles don’t
happen. They’re not historical. I’m glad this Devil’s advocate is much
cleverer than Dr. Phifer was about that matter, and is not just going to assume the non-historicity
of it. OK. If it’s historically possible, if this is
a basically reliable document, if this Jesus of Nazareth did die – did live, then He
was a miracle-worker as well according to the record, and why not accept the records
as it’s given by eyewitnesses, and there is no theoretical objection about it, and
it happens to fit in with the general characteristic of this Jesus of Nazareth. His life was sublime. Everybody, whether they’re a believer a
deity or not had a great admiration and devotion to Jesus Christ, and it would almost seem
strange if He didn’t do miracles, but any rate, are you willing to accept that proposition? SPROUL: Well, with one caveat here, Dr. Gerstner. You – you’re a Protestant theologian,
aren’t you? GERSTNER: Protestant you say? SPROUL: You’re Protestant in your theology? GERSTNER: I am. Yes, sir. SPROUL: Do you believe in the miracles of
Lourdes? GERSTNER: Of where, please? SPROUL: Lourdes? GERSTNER: No. SPROUL: You don’t? GERSTNER: No. SPROUL: But they’re part of the historical
record. People are eyewitnesses. GERSTNER: The historical record of people
who say that Mary did speak and so on. SPROUL: Yes. GERSTNER: OK. SPROUL: What’s the difference between that
and the record of the New Testament? GERSTNER: You want to get into that? Now, if I once proved to you that this was
a miracle-worker and follow the argument, you’re jumping ahead of me now to contemporary
miracles, or recent miracles or something like that, but to answer you I have first
of all to establish that, so now I have to assume it, because you are jumping ahead to
the nineteenth and twentieth century and I would say that this Jesus, who you have not
yet let me prove is what He says He is and so on, indicates that these miracles would
cease with Him and therefore they didn’t happen. SPROUL: Oh fine, I see. Well then, prove to me that this Jesus is
who He says He is. GERSTNER: Well, He did the miracles that you’ve
granted. Now, the question –
SPROUL: No, I haven’t granted that He did the miracles. GERSTNER: Oh, you don’t? SPROUL: No, I’ve granted that the record
says He did the miracles. GERSTNER: And you also have admitted that
that is possible. SPROUL: It’s possible. GERSTNER: Right. And it is a reliable historical record. SPROUL: Just because it’s possible, is not
irrefutable evidence that it actually happened. GERSTNER: No, but nevertheless the ball would
be in your court now, wouldn’t it? We have historical record of things happening
at this time reported by people who lived with Him, admitted even by His enemies, and
no hypothetical theoretical argument which says they couldn’t happen, I would say the
burden of proof would be on you as to why you’re not going along with this Jesus and
listening to what He has to say, and realizing if this is true, you must believe what He
said. Now, I covered a good many points there. Where do you want to get off that train? SPROUL: Well, I want to get off the train
here that to believe that Jesus did miracles –
GERSTNER: Yes. SPROUL: Remember these are –
GERSTNER: You have no objection to it? SPROUL: There’s no theoretical objection
to the possibility of it. GERSTNER: Good, good, and you’ve got historical
evidence for it. SPROUL: But a miracle by definition is something
extraordinary. GERSTNER: Exactly. But that’s a very extraordinary person,
too, and it is possible, and it is a part of the record. SPROUL: It’s a part of the record. OK, I grant it’s a part of the record, and
that the record is generally reliable. GERSTNER: Good, that’s all that’s necessary. SPROUL: Alright, well then let’s see where
you’re going with it. GERSTNER: I just say it would be your – the
burden of proof at this point would be yours for not believing it. This is where I go from that. This man, if He does miracles that are events
in the external world – which could only be empowered by the Creator of that world
that we were talking about in earlier debate and so on – if there be a God, He is the
Creator of this world, and the controller of this world. And it would be infinitely easy for Him to
stop a storm on the lake or to have somebody walk on the water or rise from the dead, but
no one could do that, no creature could do that, unless God enabled Him to do so. Would you go with me that far? SPROUL: Well, without opening a brand new
problem and can of worms that would be offensive to my boss –
GERSTNER: Yes, that’s true. That’s true. He’s not going to like this. SPROUL: He’s not going to like that because
I like folks to think that my boss can do these things too. GERSTNER: OK. OK. SPROUL: You’re insisting –
GERSTNER: Your boss is a creature, is he not? SPROUL: Yes, he is. GERSTNER: OK. And he was ultimately created by the Creator. Even he would admit that, I might remind you. SPROUL: Yes, if he is a creature then obviously
he’s created. GERSTNER: And he can’t overcome the Almighty. SPROUL: That’s correct. GERSTNER: Alright. And he tried time and again, and he was told
on earth. He keeps on trying, but he has never overpowered
the Almighty or out-thought the All-wise. SPROUL: No, he’s not that powerful. GERSTNER: OK. SPROUL: But he can do miracles. GERSTNER: He what? SPROUL: He can do miracles. GERSTNER: Now, if he can do miracles, you
ask him sometime when you have a spare moment and so on; look, Satan, somebody just raised
a question about whether you can really do miracles. Tell me, can you? Ever ask him that question? He would admit, ‘Of course not. What’s the matter with you? You’re as stupid as those sinners up there
that are trying to believe those things. I’m a creature, don’t you know that? I fight against the Almighty. He cast me to hell.” SPROUL: Wait a minute. Did Elijah do miracles? GERSTNER: Yes. SPROUL: Did Moses do miracles? GERSTNER: Yes. SPROUL: Were they creatures? GERSTNER: Are you going to change the subject
now, about your Satan and so on? SPROUL: No, no, no, no. I’m just saying –
GERSTNER: I got to watch you, you go from one topic to another. SPROUL: Just because Satan is a creature,
does not mean he can’t do miracles. GERSTNER: A creature can’t control creation,
can he, by definition? SPROUL: No, he cannot. GERSTNER: Alright. Your boss is a creature. SPROUL: But so was Moses, and Moses did miracles. GERSTNER: Yeah, but God could give a person
the power, but it wouldn’t be native to the person. SPROUL: I see, it’s not native. GERSTNER: It’s not native to the Devil. It’s not native to Moses. It’s not native to the man Jesus. SPROUL: Alright. GERSTNER: OK? But if – so, if he does exercise that power,
which He could if God enabled Him, and the reason you know as well as I, He would never
enable your Devil to do it, because it would be the author of all kinds of confusion. Remember how Nicodemus came. You remember reading that record in 3 John
there, Nicodemus came and he said to Jesus, “We know you’re a teacher sent from God,
because no one does these things you do except God be with him,” and if your Devil were
able to do it, you know what he would have to say: “You came from God or the Devil.” You wouldn’t be able to do those things. Now, how silly do you think God would get? SPROUL: Now Nicodemus – is Nicodemus your
authority, just because Nicodemus argues that only somebody sent from God can do miracles? GERSTNER: No, no. I don’t rest on Nicodemus any more than
you rest on Emanuel Kant. But it is a very intelligent remark that Nicodemus
made because when he noticed that Jesus did these miracles and realized that they could
only be done natively by God, He must have gotten that power from God, so he says, “We
know you’re a teacher sent from God.” SPROUL: Alright. I understand that, and I’m still curious
to see where you’re going to go with that. GERSTNER: OK. So we have an authoritative messenger, right? In Jesus Christ. He’s got divine credentials. The one thing we want to know is the inspiration
of this book. You asked me to prove it, and I’m proving
it to you. We’ve got a messenger, and I don’t know
anybody on the face of the earth no matter how anti-Christian and unbelieving he is who
would deny that Jesus Christ – Jesus taught that the Bible – the Old Testament canon
completed and the New Testament canon He was going to bring about by His inspired apostles
– Jesus taught that the Bible is the Word of God. Q.E.D., if that is the truth, this is the
book of God, and if it’s the book of God, Satan’s advocate, you should be following
it as much as I. SPROUL: OK. Your mind works very rapidly, Dr. Gerstner,
you have to be a little bit patient with my muddle-headedness. GERSTNER: Very glad to be as patient as necessary. SPROUL: But let me just ask here to see if
I understand what you’re saying. That, you’re saying that because Jesus taught
that the Bible is the Word of God, and that Jesus was an authoritative messenger, then
part of His authorized message is that His message is the Word of God. GERSTNER: His message and anything else that
He says is the Word of God. SPROUL: Alright. Dr. Gerstner, is it possible that Jesus in
His human nature – you talked about, you said that even in His human nature He needed
the power of God to do these miracles. He didn’t do them out of His own human nature. Right? GERSTNER: Right. SPROUL: OK. Now, isn’t it possible that in Jesus’
human nature that Jesus didn’t know everything? GERSTNER: That’s true. SPROUL: You would agree –
GERSTNER: Oh, he says that Himself. SPROUL: – that Jesus did not know everything? GERSTNER: As a man He didn’t know. SPROUL: Alright, as a man He didn’t know
everything? GERSTNER: Right. As a man He couldn’t do miracles, natively. SPROUL: Alright. As a man He doesn’t know everything. Well, if a man doesn’t know everything,
why should I believe everything that He teaches? Just because He taught that the Bible’s
the Word of God, after all, that was the customary view of the Jews in Jesus’ day. That’s what Jesus learned as a human being. He learned it in the synagogue. He learned it in the carpenter shop at Nazareth. This is something that was endemic to His
culture. Everybody believed that the Bible was the
Word of God in Judaism at that time. He didn’t have the advantage of higher critical
scholarship to correct Him on that error. How could you expect Jesus to have known – if
He doesn’t know everything, I don’t see –
GERSTNER: All I need is an honest man at that point. SPROUL: He can make an honest mistake, Dr.
Gerstner. GERSTNER: He can’t make an honest mistake
in the sense of say, something like the books of the Old Testament are the Word of God,
when there wasn’t evidence for it. If He said there was evidence, he said he
saw cogent evidence there, and as an honest man who would know His limitations, as a man,
He would say, “I can’t demonstrate that Moses wrote the Pentateuch, and so on. It’s a tradition of the Jews, and I’m
inclined to go with it, but there is not compelling evidence that that’s the case. I’m not absolutely sure there weren’t
three Isaiahs. I think there was only one. But the evidence is not all in.” That’s what an honest man would say. But when He teaches that Moses was the author
of the Pentateuch, and he refers to Isaiah as one person and so on, you know full well
He could know that, and if He didn’t know it as an honest man, He wouldn’t claim to
do it. And that’s only referring to His humanity. SPROUL: Wait a minute. GERSTNER: And that’s not all there is to Him. SPROUL: I understand. But this is a closed point here, and I want
to make sure I’m getting it, here. GERSTNER: Go ahead. SPROUL: It’s not that you’re saying that
Jesus being an honest man was incapable of an honest mistake, but what you’re saying
is that an honest man, did I hear you say, knows his limitations. GERSTNER: Yeah, that’s right. SPROUL: He wouldn’t pontificate on a point
– GERSTNER: That’s right. You don’t have the right, I don’t have
the right. SPROUL: In other words, if –
GERSTNER: We’re dishonest if we exercise it. SPROUL: — if this enters into the limit of
His knowledge – GERSTNER: Yeah, He’s a limited — as far
as His human nature’s concerned. SPROUL: And if He were an honest man –
GERSTNER: Right. He would not go beyond it. SPROUL: – He would not claim it. GERSTNER: That’s right. SPROUL: But, what if He honestly believed
it? GERSTNER: Well, then He’s not an honest
man if He’s accepting something which doesn’t have evidence and claiming that it does by
believing it. SPROUL: We started with Jesus and we ended
with Jesus. We started with the Jesus who we know through
the Bible. GERSTNER: Right. SPROUL: And we ended up appealing to Jesus’
view of the Bible as proving the Bible and the only place we know of Jesus’ view of
the Bible is the Bible. Now, that certainly sounds to me, Dr. Gerstner,
like a circular argument, and you know that a circular argument is the –
GERSTNER: I agree with you. If it’s circle –
SPROUL: – principia fallacy here. You’re begging to the question, and it would
destroy the cogency of your argument. GERSTNER: That’s right. I started with a reliable Bible. I come with an authoritative Jesus Christ
from this reliable Bible, to the indication by this authoritative Jesus that more than
reliable, generally reliable, actually inspired and infallible. SPROUL: I see. You’re starting with the category of basic
reliability and moving to supreme reliability. GERSTNER: Is there anything circular about
that? SPROUL: Well, that’s progressive, I see
that. GERSTNER: But, this same Jesus said, “He
who has seen Me has seen the Father.” That’s another day and another subject,
but incidentally he’s a divine being and manifestly He couldn’t be. SPROUL: Let me just see if I understand, in
closing, Dr. Gerstner, your fundamental point is that, the authority of the Bible rests
upon the authority of Jesus. Is that correct? GERSTNER: That’s enough. There’s more to it than that. SPROUL: I understand that. But that’s basically what you’re trying
to show me here. GERSTNER: Yeah, because I’m in a hurry. I only got a half an hour. SPROUL: Yes, I understand that, and I have
to say I can see that, and I can see the cogency of it, but I still have a problem surrendering
to it. GERSTNER: Yeah? So, what’s your judgment about that? Here’s the truth of God, and I don’t like
it. SPROUL: And if the Bible is contradictory
in one place, it would seem to me it suffers from intellectual hemophilia. If there’s one contradiction in there, it’s
not – it bleeds to death – it’s not the Word of God. GERSTNER: You can tell your master that I
agree with every one of those propositions as an ‘if’ proposition. SPROUL: Alright. We’ll consult those ‘ifs’ in our next
session. Thank you, Dr. Gerstner.

9 thoughts on “Is the Bible Inspired by God?: Silencing the Devil with R.C. Sproul and John Gerstner”

  1. People could take this the wrong way. I dont think this was a good idea. Christians like you? The Bible not being the Word of God!??
    This is crazy .
    The Bible is a proven historical book and Jesus is a proven historical figure.
    Watch the true movie:
    The Case for Christ

  2. This was one of the most entertaining debates I've seen thus far! This had me smiling with joy through and through. Giggled and chuckled a few times because RC was working up poor Dr. Gerstner nerves, like a little brother poking fun at his big brother. This is such a treasure! You can see their friendship shine through this mock debate!

  3. Who else got all tense while watching this? Had I been RC, I would've been afraid I might give Dr. Gerstner a heart attack … but that's just me 😉 That said, I absolutely LOVED this "debate".

  4. I like rc Mohawk ,if he shaved the sides of his head he would have a Mohawk, look how far his hair sticks out on the front of his head lol,I think rc would laugh if he heard me say this lol

  5. 7:03 Recent developments surrounding the Koran are very interesting. In fact it appears that it was NOT written within the lifetime of Mohammad at all or even when it was attributed to have been written. But is in fact much later.

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