How I Almost Lost the Bible | Christianity Today

Christianity TodayHad it not been for the first editor of CT, I likely would have gone the way of liberal scholar Bart Ehrman.
Gregory Alan Thornbury/ January 14, 2015

I was born at the Evangelical Community Hospital in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania—a fact that once prompted a friend of mine to say, “You’re evangelical born, evangelical bred, and when you die, you’ll be evangelical dead.” My father, John Forrest Thornbury, was the model of a country parson, serving as the pastor of Winfield Baptist Church, a historic congregation in the American Baptist tradition, for 44 years.

My childhood environs prefigured what has become my life’s passion: the relationship of Christian faith to higher education. Lewisburg is home to Bucknell University, an elite private college whose alumni include two evangelical luminaries: Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, and Makoto Fujimura, acclaimed contemporary painter. Several years ago, Tim told me that he had occasionally attended my father’s church while at Bucknell. Continue reading →

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One comment

  1. dr. james willingham

    It was my pleasure and privilege, along with our son, to meet Greg at a seminar at the First Baptist Church of Durham, North Carolina several years ago. I had met his father several decades earlier, and my wife and I were members of the same church where his paternal grandparents members. My wife along with Greg’s grandparents were charter members of that church. What is interesting to me is that I had gone through a rejection of the Bible during my early teen years, due to my atheistic skepticism. My basic presupposition was: How could there be a God and let little children suffer what I had suffered as a child (the loss of both parents due to a divorce), followed by 11 years of hard labor on a sharecropper’s farm in Arkansas with all the attendant difficulties of such employment as a child. There was more. Evolution, questioning supernaturalism, and an escapist mentality plus a move from the country to a large city and a lack of conversion, all contributed to my becoming a committed atheist. After my conversion which involved a rather literal fulfillment of Rev.3:20 and Acts 16:14, I was called to preach. In my second year of college I was introduced to the skeptical approach of scholars with reference to the Bible. Somewhere along the way after that introduction, I came across L. Gaussen’s Theopneustia which introduced me to the very words of Jesus in places like Matt. 22:31ff and 41-48. When I saw that our Lord built his doctrines upon the very meaning of words, I came to the conclusion that the Bible was verbally inspired. In fact, inspiration was really expiration, that is God breathed, and it followed that as God was pure so his word was pure. It also followed that since God was without any shadow of error or turning, His word must take on the same nature.

    From that basis I followed upon the meaning and use of words. I once wrote Dr. Samuel J. Mikolaski, a professor at New Orleans Seminary for works that would answer the documentary hypothesis. He recommended, among other works, Dr. Oswald T. Allis’ The Five Books of Moses. I remember feeling the desire just to lay down and roll on the floor with howls of laughter, when I read how Dr. Allis reduced that viewpoint to absurdity with his use of it to prove that there were four authors of a History of Scotland (where the author was known). I also began research on Creation and Evolution. In any case, the idea came to me as after I had done six years of research in church history and was studying for a Master’s in Intellectual History that, if the Bible was inspired by Omniscience, it followed that the resulting wisdom must be commensurate with such a source. One of our problems today is the clarity of Scripture or, as a Puritan once put it, its perspicuity. Because the Bible is written in simple language and is so clear, we think we understand it. However, the difficulty that confronts us is the fact that we have a hard time grasping ideas and how they are used. Consider this statement by the founding pastor of the Pilgrims, John Robinson, “Who knows what new light is getting ready to break forth from God’s word.”

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