FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – Southwestern President Paige Patterson has spent much of his life defending the Bible against the darts of liberal theologians and mainstream scholars who would undermine the credibility and power of the Word by denying its validity, consistency, accuracy and inerrancy.
His efforts won him few friends and many enemies but brought an unprecedented return to theological conservatism among Southern Baptists. That return fleshed itself out in the restoring of seminaries and universities to the point of holding to the Scriptures as the wholly inspired, inerrant Word of God, thus slowly filling churches with leadership that would preach the Bible, only the Bible and all of the Bible.
Patterson addressed the very subject to which he will forever be fastened—the inerrancy of the Holy Scriptures—during a Southwestern Seminary chapel sermon, March 27.
Patterson began his message on the text from Isaiah 40:1-8 by recalling the forecast of judgment on God’s people because of Hezekiah’s boasting from chapter 39.
“Chapter 40 is a break from the sorrow and impending judgment of the first 39 chapters into a promise of the comfort of God,” Patterson explained. “You, as a creature of the Lord Jesus Christ, are responsible for both messages. You are responsible for the message of impending doom and judgment, but I would hate to be called of God to preach nothing other than impending doom and judgment. Thank God that much of our message must be ‘Comfort ye, comfort ye My people’ (Isa 40:1).”
Patterson pointed out that the beginning of chapter 40 ushers in an opportunity to highlight the sovereignty of God and His forethought to equip the book to refute claims that someone other than Isaiah wrote it. He explained that the expression ‘Qadosh Yisra’el, the Holy One of Israel’ is used 31 times in the book.
“It is almost as if God looked down through history and said, ‘Isaiah, here is what I want you to do: Autograph the book 31 times … so that they’ll know the same man wrote the whole book.’ [Isaiah] offers proof internally in the book, itself, by autographing it every few pages all the way through the book.” Paige Patterson
“It is almost as if God looked down through history and said, ‘Isaiah, here is what I want you to do: Autograph the book 31 times … so that they’ll know the same man wrote the whole book.’ [Isaiah] offers proof internally in the book, itself, by autographing it every few pages all the way through the book.”
Patterson said that in addition to the autographs, the finding of the Dead Sea Scrolls further substantiates the one-author view of Isaiah. Each copy found, of which there were many, he said, contained portions of the whole book.
“We didn’t find any of an initial 39 chapters and then a Deutero-Isaiah or a Trito-Isaiah,” Patterson said. “We found Isaiah.”
Moving on through the text, Patterson discussed Israel’s warfare ending and her iniquity being pardoned, pointing out the greater blessing in the latter.
“There is nothing about which we should rejoice any more than that we have been pardoned in our iniquities,” Patterson said. “We deserve nothing but the judgment of God. By the grace of God, we have been pardoned from our iniquities.”
In comforting those whose warfare has ended and whose iniquities have been pardoned, lays the preacher’s assignment in crying in the wilderness, “All flesh is like grass … and all of its loveliness is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flower fades,” Patterson continued.
“In a world where everything is changing, in a cosmos where everything is falling apart … there is absolutely only one thing in this cosmos that is absolutely certain, and that is that the Word of the Lord endures forever."Paige Patterson
“In a world where everything is changing, in a cosmos where everything is falling apart … there is absolutely only one thing in this cosmos that is absolutely certain, and that is that the Word of the Lord endures forever,” Patterson said.
“If it does [endure forever], it must be because the Word of God is a step above all human wisdom. It must be because there is a touch of the divine on those words. It must be because somehow God found a way to communicate His heart and His mind to human beings in order that they may know the purposes of God and in order that they may know Him.”
Patterson said the Bible is inerrant, with no mistakes of any kind; infallible, leading not its readers to any error; plenary, being equally inspired of God in its totality; and verbal, having inspiration in every single word and syllable, not just the ideas.
“Folks, if there is any of it that is not the Word of God, I am going to have to have somebody to help me to figure out what portion of it is the Word of God and what portion of it is not the Word of God,” Patterson said. “As long as the Bible is the infallible, inerrant Word of God, I don’t have the problem of dependence upon fallible human beings to know what is of God and what is not, and I do not have to wonder about what God thinks of any substantive issue because He has told us in the Word of the Lord: ‘The grass withers, the flower fades but the Word of our God stands forever’—stands unshakable against the sands of time. Stands unshakable in all of those great issues of life. No wonder Isaiah said, ‘Comfort my people; their warfare his ended, their sins are pardoned, and they have the Word of the Lord which endures forever. Praise His holy Name.”