The Prodigality of Scripture - Glenn Conjurske

The Prodigality of Scripture

by Glenn Conjurske

In the fall of 1981 I was picking rose hips in North Dakota with my friend Frank Detrick. As we stood surveying a vast field of prairie rose bushes, all heavy laden with rose hips, Frank exclaimed, “The prodigality of nature!” But for those who know the term “prodigal” only through “the prodigal son,” and who therefore suppose that “prodigal” means something evil, this may require some explanation. “Prodigal” means “characterized by unrestrained abundance.” Nature gives us more than enough—-more than we know what to do with—-such an abundance that we cannot contain it.

Nature, however, is not always prodigal. I recall the first year that we lived where we now do, nature was so prodigal of blackberries that we could not contain them. We ate all we pleased, made pies, sold some, froze some, and canned upwards of fifty quarts. But there have been other years when we could scarcely find berries enough to make a pie.

Scripture, on the other hand, is always prodigal. If we know the truth, we are at no loss to prove it from the Bible. We need not scrape the bottom of the barrel for evidence. No doctrine of the Bible stands upon one or two isolated texts. One text, if clear and indisputable, might be sufficient for the foundation of some doctrine, but God has not shut us up to this. This is so far from his way that we may say with confidence that any doctrine which stands upon a single text of Scripture is not the truth. Any doctrine which is true stands upon many texts, scattered up and down the Bible, from one end to the other. Not only so, but every doctrine which is true stands upon texts of numerous different sorts. Here a type, there a parable, yonder a prayer, here again a plain doctrinal statement, there an incidental allusion, here an example, there a proverb, here a promise, there a prophecy, all conspiring together to establish the truth of whatever is true. Those who know the Bible, and who have spiritual eyes, need not complain of its paucity, but are rather overwhelmed with its abundance. I had a teacher at Bible school who used to say, “If you know the Bible, you never need go outside of it for an illustration.” This is doubtless true, though I cannot recommend any hyperspiritual refusal to use an illustration from outside the Bible, for if we know our Bibles, our hearers may not.

But if all this is true, what a poor and petty thing it is to quibble over the faultiness of the translations, the uncertainty of the text, the obscurity of the language, or any other fancied deficiency, as the unbelieving are accustomed to do. Take away half the rose hips from the state of North Dakota, and there will yet remain a great plenty for all who want them. Take away half the proof texts for any important doctrine, and enough will remain to establish it ten times over. Nay, take away half the canon of Scripture, and still we may understand the truth of God. Give me but Genesis and Luke, and I shall be at no loss to preach the ways of the Lord. Give me but Ecclesiastes and Revelation, and still I shall be at no loss. I once read of a man being converted by a scrap of a page of the Bible, which he found blowing in the wind. It contained only part of a verse, but it was enough to convert his soul, and there are hundreds of such verses, from Genesis to Revelation. I once heard from his own lips of the conversion of a former atheist. He delighted to speak against the Bible, but a Christian challenged him, saying, “Have you ever read the Bible?” He was obliged to admit that he had not, but he determined to do so, that he might blaspheme intelligently. He was converted in the eleventh chapter of Genesis. He might have been converted as well if he had begun with Matthew, or Daniel, or Judges, for the Bible brings the soul to God, and God to the soul. The whole Bible does this, and all of its parts. The Bible is not only sufficient to teach the whole truth, but to teach it to the whole race. Different sorts of things will tell with different sorts of men (to say nothing of women), and the Bible appeals to every sort—-meets every man where it finds him—-suits the state of every honest mind, and satisfies the need of every honest heart. Several men may hold one and the same truth, yet each hold it on a different basis, support it by different proofs, and illustrate it by different examples, such as suit their own feelings and their own mode of thinking. The Bible supplies all this—-all that is wanted for every truth and for every man. In my Father’s Book is bread enough, and to spare.

Glenn Conjurske