Shipwreck“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

These are Paul’s words recorded in Romans 10:17.  By this we learn that, when it comes to faith, the word of God is all-important.  Yet God speaks in I Timothy 1:19 of the dangers that faith in His Word can face:

“having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck.”

Yes, the faith of some can be shipwrecked.  Indeed, we see many influences around us today seeking to shipwreck those who are weak in faith.  Many are the critics of God’s Word who would seek to extinguish our faith in the word of God.

Some reject the Bible outright.  “Science has taught us that we evolved,” they say, “and therefore we have no need for a god.  The Bible is just a book of stuffy old sayings.  It is long since outdated.  Why would anyone believe it?”  Or, as an atheist once said to me, “Why would you want to waste time reading the Bible?”  This is the camp of scoffers, and the faith of many is shipwrecked by their scoffing at the Word.

Yet there are a second sort of critics of God’s Word.  This sort looks down on those who dismiss the Bible outright, calling them “lower critics.”  They often view themselves as “higher critics” because of their self-styled view that they examine the Bible from a more intellectual viewpoint than do others.  They often appear to all outward appearances to be “Christians.”  They can be found in churches, seminaries, and Bible colleges.  They are pastors or priests, Bible professors, seminary instructors, or teachers of religious studies courses at Universities.

Higher critics do not dismiss the Bible as the lower critics do.  Rather, they claim that it is great literature, a valuable document worthy of study and examination.  And yet when it comes to setting forth the Word they do nothing but cast doubt upon it.  One book that often falls under their attack is the book of Daniel.  The book of Daniel was written by Jewish scholars several centuries after the Babylonian Empire fell, they claim.  And yet if one examines their arguments, one finds that they are based upon the fact that first of all they do not believe the miracles that Daniel claims occurred, and second of all that they cannot believe that the heathen king Nebuchadnezzar would ever have praised God as he is recorded to have done in Daniel.  And yet this is not any real argument against the book, but just lack of faith in the Word of God!

Another argument that they make is that there were two authors to Isaiah, and one wrote far later than the other and was only an Isaiah wannabe.  Their evidence for this consists of the fact that there are certain words in the earlier half of Isaiah that do not appear in the later half.  And yet if I write a book and use different words in the first half than I do in the second, that simply indicates that I was dealing with a different subject in the second half of my book, not that the second half was written by a different author!  Not only that, but their scholarship is often bad, as many of these words do appear in the later half of Isaiah, just not as frequently (maybe only once or twice) as in the first half.

The higher critics also attack the New Testament.  The gospels were written, they say, based not on the memories of those who saw the events, but rather on a long-lost “Q” manuscript that was the original source for these books.  This explains, they say, the similarities between the three books.  And yet, they are full of errors and differences with each other that show that they were not very good copies of their source document.  And yet no one has ever seen this “Q” manuscript, nor has any evidence for it ever having existed been found anywhere other than in the minds of the higher critics!  And yet it seems these men would place more faith in a document no one has ever seen or even heard of than in the hundreds of manuscripts of Matthew, Mark, and Luke that we do have.

As for Paul, they say, he was mistaken about a great many things, and even thought that the Lord Jesus was coming back in his lifetime.  Of course, these higher critics have no concept of the mystery or dispensational truth, so they have no real concept of the purpose and scope of Paul’s ministry.

Thus, by words such as these, the higher critics undermine faith in the word of God.  Yet when these arguments are really examined, it is found that the faith-shipwrecking words of these critics are not based on solid evidence, but rather speculation and trumped-up charges that do not stand when faced with the light of Truth.  Higher criticism has been debunked by any number of believing Bible scholars, and yet it continues to shipwreck the faith of many today.

As believers, we must be wary of all critics, high and low.  For this word of God that we believe in was not merely written by fallible men, but, as God tells us in II Peter 1:20-21,

“Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”

Thus these are not the words of men!  They are not the fraudulent writings of men claiming to be that which they were not, but rather the very words of God committed to us.  As God again admonished Timothy in closing the book of I Timothy,

“O Timothy!  Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and vain babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge—by professing it, some have strayed concerning the faith.”

Yes, we have no need for knowledge such as this!  As we turn to the Lord in worship this morning, let us do so as BELIEVERS, acknowledging the Scriptures we read as God’s Word, and taking them to heart as well.