Back in the 1970s, when "the battle for the Bible" was still being waged full force, James Packer gave what was for me a memorable address on biblical authority at a Wheaton College conference. He surprised no one by affirming his own strong support for the idea of biblical inerrancy. But then he went on to remind us that holding to an inerrant Bible by itself does not guarantee orthodoxy. We must, Packer said, be clear about the fact that the Bible points us to God's supreme revelation in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
What has stuck in my mind is the way Packer illustrated his point. He quoted from the hymn, "Break Thou the Bread of Life": "Beyond the sacred page, I seek Thee, Lord." In our devotion to the authoritative written Word, Packer said, we must always allow it to point us to the worship and service of the living Word.
A few years ago I was meeting with one of my doctoral students at Fuller, discussing a draft of one of his dissertation chapters. Something he said in our conversation reminded me of Packer's point, and I quoted the hymn-line to my student. "That's great!" he said. Then, being of a generation for whom lines from old hymns do not come to mind automatically, he asked me for the reference.
I reached to a shelf in my office where I keep several hymnals, choosing in this case The Trinity Hymnal — the edition originally compiled and published by the Orthodox Presbyterians. To my surprise, they had a different version of that line: they had us seeking Jesus not "beyond" the Bible but "throughout" it.
This is not the first time I have discovered a word change in The Trinity Hymnal. In "To God Be the Glory," for example, the editors have the Lord opening the life-gates so "that we may come in," rather ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Find hope and historical insight. For a limited time, explore 60+ years of CT archives for free!
- Daily devotions from Timothy Dalrymple during this pandemic.
- Hundreds of theology and spiritual formation classics from Philip Yancey, Elisabeth Elliot, John Stott, and more.
- Home delivery of new issues in print with access to all past issues online.
- View the complete archive.
- Join now and get print issues access to archive PDFs.