Peter, as we saw last week, is seeking to provide credibility to what he has been saying. Last week we saw that Peter appealed to his own,
I.) First-hand testimony to sustain the credibility of his message
We demonstrated last week how this kind of appeal is not unique to Peter. We find St. John doing so. We find St. Paul doing so.
“The narration of the facts is history; the narration of the facts with the meaning of the facts is doctrine. “Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried”–that is history. “He loved me and gave Himself for me”–that is doctrine. Such was the Christianity of the primitive Church.”
― J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism
Christianity cannot survive as Christianity if the empirical historical facts that are bound up with Christianity are found to be not true. If Peter was lying about the History of the Transfiguration then the Transfiguration cannot be mysticized and so rescued. If St. John was lying about the History of the Resurrection the Resurrection cannot be rescued as having any meaning by somehow transcendentalizing it so that it is religiously true but not historically true.
People, seeking to avoid the hard work of studying Christian Doctrine and Christian History might appeal to the idea that it is the Christian life that is what is really important but if these historical facts are not true then any idea of a “Christian life” is just so much wish-mongering, personal preference, and poppycock.
All of this is why Peter insisted that “We had not followed cleverly invented tales.”
II.) Appeal to Scripture to Sustain Credibility
“The Prophetic word confirmed.”
You see what Peter is saying here is that their experience confirmed that which they had owned as “prophetic.”
What we labored at last week in demonstrating on this point is that their understanding of the Prophetic Word was the lens through which they understood and interpreted their eyewitness experience.
Imagine if Peter had been on the Mount of Transfiguration and had not been conditioned by Scripture as to what could and could not be possible. Peter believed in a coming Messiah. Peter believed that this Messiah would be extraordinary in every capacity and so Peter’s Scripturally informed Worldview allowed Peter to see that Transfiguration as being what it was — the inbreaking of the age to come on this present evil age.
But people who do not interpret their experienced reality through the prism of Scripture can’t see reality for what it is even if they eyewitness it.
I appeal to Luke 16. You know this account,
27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham *said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ 31 But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’”
You see what is going on here? Abraham is saying that even if they were eyewitnesses of someone rising from the dead they would not be eyewitnesses of someone rising from the dead because they have not listened to Moses and the prophets. Their capacity to be eyewitnesses of the supernatural unto believing it was anchored in what they first believed about the verity of Scripture.
1.) Experience is pre-interpreted through a grid that informs what is and is not possible. A warning from the dead would not matter to those who disbelieve an even more credible witness (Moses and the prophets) to begin with.
2.) In order for experience to be valid as a source of credible information that experience must be reckoned through the prism of Scripture. It is not only the case that Scripture must interpret Scripture but it is also the case that Scripture must interpret experience. That the Brothers of Dives would not believe the testimony of the Moses and the Prophets means that they would even interpret wrongly the testimony of the Dead come back to life to warn.
3.) Scripture then is our epistemological foundation. Not experience. Not reason. Not tradition. Not mystic revelations. Only Scripture can give us the capacity to know the times and what should be done.
In his letter Peter anchors his credibility in his eyewitness account and then he anchors the credibility of his eyewitness account in the “prophetic word confirmed.”
The prophetic word confirmed. God has given us epistemological tools. History, reason, tradition, experience, but each of those tools is only as good as the foundation upon which they are anchored. The prophetic word confirmed is what inform all our other epistemological tools.
So, that was by way of review of last week. In the few minutes we have left we want to take up one more point here and that is how Peter,
III.) Appeals to God to Sustain Credibility of Scripture
19 So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. 20 But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, 21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.
So, Peter starts out with his eye-witness account. He then places that eye-witness account on the foundation of the “prophetic word confirmed.” Lastly, Peter places that “prophetic word confirmed” on the foundation of God’s sovereign working.
Peter spoke about the prophetic word confirmed and now he speaks to the origin of that prophet word.
Negatively — never made by an act of the human will
Positively — Men move by the Holy Spirit spoke from God
This is intended to provide a stark antithetical contrast that doesn’t demonstrate itself as well in the English.
Prophecy was not brought in by men;
but men were brought to utter it by the Spirit.
Remember, Peter is dealing with people who are being inundated with false teachers. He is trying to shepherd and protect them. He is providing an apologetic for his truthfulness… that he can be trusted. He has appealed to his own eye-witness experience. He has based that appeal on an appeal to the “prophetic word confirmed,” and now Peter is saying “and that prophetic word it trustworthy because it comes from God.”
The words and idea of men being moved by the Holy Spirit is a picture of the wind carrying a sailboat along. The men speak but the Spirit impelled.
Of course, this is one passage we look to for our doctrine of Inspiration. It teaches that the Scriptures, like the Incarnation, have a human and divine nature. Indeed, we might say that the Scriptures are 100% Divine and 100% human. While we do not hold that God used men as human dictation machines we would say that God so ordained the ordering of these men’s lives, their personality, their character, their experiences, their socio-linguistic background that they were the perfect instruments to bring what they were to what God had to say.
You must understand that when people inveigh against the mechanical dictation theory of inspiration (MDTI) the problem is not that they are suggesting that God had to much control of the human author. No, the problem with the accusation of “the mechanical dictation theory of inspiration” is that it doesn’t credit God with enough sovereignty.
Those who rail against the MDTI act as if God, in inspiration, suddenly descended upon the author, who heretofore had been completely unaffected by the sovereign working of God. And yet, any Christian theory of inspiration insists on something more then MDTI. The Christian theory of inspiration says that God controlled all the events, all the learning, all the experiences, of the inspired author’s life to bring him to the point that he would say just exactly what God intended Him to say as ordained from eternity past.
No … the MDTI will never do because it doesn’t emphasize enough God’s sovereignty in the whole Inspiration process.
Now we would say here that as it is clear from the passage that God is ultimately responsible for Scripture, therefore we do no believe that it is possible for Scripture to be errant or fallible. I hope we can see the contradiction between believing in a God that cannot fail while holding that the Scripture which was “God-breathed,” is fallible. If it is the case that God breathed out the Scripture (II Tim. 3:16) then it would be an impugning of God’s character to suggest that there are errors in God’s Word.
Now let’s take a brief moment to talk about this idea of infallibility. Many are the men both within and without the Church who mock Biblical Christians for believing that God’s word is infallible and in doing so they suggest that they themselves are more enlightened inasmuch as they don’t believe in infallibility.
But allow me to suggest that when men give up on the infallibility of Scripture they always relocate that same infallibility someplace else. They may deny infallibility as belonging to Scripture but they affirm, knowingly or not, infallibility in some other knowledge source. In short, infallibility is a concept that cannot be escaped.
Many Evolutionists act as if their evolutionary theories are infallible. And of course, if God is ruled out, a-priori, then where are we to find truth except in infallible evolution? The infallibility of God’s Word traded in for blind time plus chance plus circumstance infallibility.
In the political realm, we have the phrase, “vox populi, vox dei.” The voice of the people is the voice of God.” Telling phrase that. In Democracy the people taken as God now speak infallibly in their majority voice. The voice of the people as the voice of God gives us an infallible truth and if we don’t like a new infallible truth we can soon enough replace it with a different one.
In the philosophy of existentialism it is the meaningful experience the individual has wherein infallibility is discovered.
For the Nihlist it is the sovereign ubermensch self who is infallible.
The Roman Catholic Church posits infallibility in the Pope as he speaks from the chair.
Infallibility is an inescapable concept because people have to have someplace certain and authoritative to stand upon. If they will not stand on the Scripture as certain and authoritative — infallible — then they will find something else that is infallible to try and stand upon.
It might be Rousseau’s theory of the “General Will”
It might be his idea of “the Noble Savage.”
— That the man who is uncorrupted by the trappings of civilization is the one who is to be most listened to and who will have the most inherent wisdom.
For Hegel it was the State which was the incarnation of the Universal Spirit and so infallible
“Every creed, every philosophy has either openly or implicitly a doctrine of infallibility. Because man has to live by an authority of certainty. He has to have something as his ultimate standing ground. A man cannot stand on nothingness, on thin air. I am standing on a platform here…it is this platform that supports me as I speak to you. And intellectually the platform that supports me and gives me the foundation for my speaking is the infallible word. Now every man has a platform on which he stands. And he must believe, he cannot escape believing, it is an inescapable requirement of human thought, that he affirm that platform without qualification, whatever it may be. That he hold to its infallibility, its certainty, its authority. And so there are a variety of infallibility concepts current among us.”
And so back to Peter. Peter says but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.
And we believe therefore that Peter’s testimony and all of Scripture is infallible.