(In the article of last month, we talked about how Dr. Ralph Janssen denied the doctrine of infallible inspiration. By denying this doctrine, he made room for the theory of evolution as an explanation of how the world came into being. In this article we are going to look at some other ways in which Janssen denied inspiration.)
When Dr. Janssen denied that the Bible was wholly and in all its parts the infallible Word of God, he taught not only that parts of the Bible came from the thoughts and ideas of men, but that parts even came from pagan and heathen sources.
Janssen taught that parts of Psalms and the law showed Babylonian influences; that the creation narrative in Scripture may very well have come from Babylonian myths, though through inspiration it was purged of these mythological elements. He thought that especially the prophets Amos and Joel drew from their own experiences in their visions and from mythological conceptions originating in the Orient. The Law of Moses may have come from the Code of Hammurabi, an ancient Babylonian ruler and lawgiver. Even the name “Jehovah” could very well have come from Babylon. The Pentateuch may have been written in Babylon before Moses.
So Scripture contained material from other literary and oral sources and included writings from authors who were from other religions and cultures and were not even worshippers of God.
But all of this had other effects upon Scripture as well.
Janssen believed that the book of Ecclesiastes was not authored by the Holy Spirit as God’s Word, but was the work of a skeptical philosopher plagued by moments of doubt which he expressed in his writings.
He believed that a kind of semi-monotheism (Monotheism means: Belief in one God) prevailed in Israel until the time of the prophets, and that what monotheism they did possess was taught them by Jethro while on their way to Canaan.
He believed that Abraham’s call to leave Ur was not a divine call, but that his departure from the land of his birth was to be explained in terms of religious conditions which affected his life.
He taught that the disagreement between David and Nathan over building the temple was to be explained in terms of David’s more progressive views and Nathan’s conservatism which manifested itself in a contentment with the status quo.
All this was possible because, as Janssen maintained, God revealed Himself in creation and in history as well as in special ways. In support of his position, therefore, Janssen made a great deal of the distinction between general and special revelation. Special revelation would include God’s revelations to His people in the types and shadows of the law in the Old Testament, but in Christ Jesus in the New Testament. General revelation is then, God’s speech concerning Himself to the pagan world through trees and flowers, sunshine and rain, stars and rivers. It is God’s speech to man through history and the events of history.
By this general revelation, man can and does come to know things about God and about God’s truth. Though this truth about God is often mixed with various pagan elements and is sometimes colored with pagan notions, ideas, and superstitions, there is always that truth there, hidden like a kernel of wheat in the husks of the straw. So when Scripture was written, the authors of Scripture took a great deal from pagan cultures and practices, from pagan thinking and beliefs, and included these things in God’ Word.
It is important to remember this, for here is one of the places in which Janssen connected his views of Scripture with common grace. While we shall come back to that later, it is interesting to note now already that general revelation was, in Janssen’s thinking, a gift of God’s common grace. And so, common grace, operating in the pagan world, produced through general revelation a great deal of truth. This could, because it was the fruit of God’s grace, be rightly included in Scripture.
But what interests us now is the fact that Janssen took a wrong view of inspiration, and the result was a denial of many of the basic truths of Scripture. He emphasized what is sometimes called “the human element” in Scripture; and he taught that Scripture was a sort of combined work of various human authors and of the Holy Spirit. But he was far more interested in the human element than he was in what the Holy Spirit did. And so, he spent a great deal of time trying to explain this human element in Scripture. In explaining that human element, he introduced into Scripture all the rather silly and obviously wrong ideas which we mentioned above.
In fact, some of the conclusions to which he came flatly contradicted the Biblical narrative. You need only compare his ideas as we described them to realize how easily he could contradict what Scripture taught.
Just to give one example. Janssen said that Abraham left Ur of the Chaldees for various social and religious reasons. The Bible says: “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went” (Hebrews 11:8).
This is the heresy to which a denial of Scripture’s inspiration leads one.