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Sunday, January 1, 2012

Maintaining the Faith Involves Identifying the Enemy.

As the church slides deeper into declension one looks for and, at times, finds outposts which stand resistant to the slide. The Banner of Truth Trust has been one such outpost although I am not close enough to know how it stands today. At least up to June 1990 it stood firm. I suspect it still does with Iain Murray continuing as Editorial Director.

The following is an extract of an article in the June 1990 edition of the Banner of Truth Journal by Geoffrey Thomas concerning Stuart Olyott, Missionary to Switzerland:

"There are two services on the Lord's Day. First there is the Reformed Baptist church of 80 folk in their own building up on the third floor of an apartment and office block. From that French service Stuart and Doris drive off quickly to Lausanne's English congregation which meets in the building of an Open Plymouth Brethren Assembly after their morning service has ended (Doris says, 'His brain just switches from one language to another'). One of the officers takes the first part of the service and then Stuart preaches. He was continuing a series on 'What is a Christian?' on the Sunday we were there. In all his work. and with these many doors of service opening, like every real missionary, he is creating more and more opportunities and is crying out for help.

Stuart Olyott's present concern is with the direction of Reformed ministers on the Continent, seeing a trend which appears to be taking the Bible out of the hands of the ordinary believer and limiting understanding of its message to the technical scholar. Understanding the opening chapters of Genesis is the focus of this issue. 'What was the intention of the author?' men ask, for if he intended not to speak historically but theologically then what is found in Genesis 1-3, if read as theology, offers no problems. Ultimately, this method of interpretation is trying to distinguish between the concepts of the biblical writers and the concepts of God himself (contextualisation). Stuart Olyott accepts E. J. Young's conclusion, that 'Genesis [chapter] one is not poetry or saga or myth, but straightforward, trustworthy history, and, inasmuch as it is a divine revelation, accurately records those matters of which it speaks. That Genesis one is historical may be seen from these considerations: (1) It sustains an intimate relationship with the remainder of the book. The remainder of the book (i.e., The Generations) presupposes the Creation Account, and the Creation Account prepares for what follows. The two portions of Genesis are integral parts of the book and complement one another. (2) The characteristics of Hebrew poetry are lacking. There are poetic accounts of the creation and these form a striking contrast to Genesis one. (3) The New Testament regards certain events mentioned in Genesis one as actually having taken place. We may safely allow the New Testament to be our interpreter of this mighty first chapter of the Bible' (Studies in Genesis One, p. 105).

Men like E. J. Young and John Murray stood firmly on such principles as that there is one meaning of biblical texts, that that meaning is the divine thought, that that meaning is discernible to men, and that meaning is inseparably tied to the jot and tittle of biblical revelation. But today there are Reformed scholars and preachers who, in the name of hermeneutics, are studiously using almost every kind of unbelieving radical criticism, albeit in small doses. As a result, the meaning of Scripture is devalued and so is the seriousness with which the Reformed confessions are held. The purpose of Christian scholarship should be to clarify and explain divine revelation and not to confuse the church. Evidently considerable confusion is now issuing from certain distinguished seminary professors on the Continent.

The central question as Stuart Olyott sees it is, What is the meaning of the Holy Spirit in Genesis 1-3? The evident complexities offered by current teachers have several threatening dangers, chief among which is that it puts Scripture outside the reach of the child of God who has no formal training in rabbinic literature, middle-eastern culture or its literary genres. It would seem that really to understand the first chapters of the Bible one must be an expert in all kinds of esoteric subjects. And if one does not have the scholarship credentials that the learned national leaders possess, too bad for such a man! He cannot really know what the Bible teaches. Effectively the Scriptures are taken from God's people and are made the exclusive property of learned men.

That Mr Olyott has raised matters like this in France and Switzerland as a foreign missionary has not commended him to certain national pastors and teachers. But for him the issue is one of faithfulness to Jesus Christ. The Lord taught that God's infinite word is in its jot and tittle. The specific words of Genesis 1-3 are God's thoughts and word [Matt. 5:18]. This means the Scripture is clearly understandable to men and should be taught in its exact language and meaning to men. They should keep even the very least of its commandments and teach them to others. Jesus clearly teaches that Genesis 1-3 is not a mere sign pointing to the meaning in God's mind. It is exactly what God wants to say to us. All the finery of contemporary scholarship is not needed in order to understand the message of God. It is 'near' us and 'in our mouth'

Pity Moore Theological College doesn't take the stance advocated by the article.

Sam Drucker

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