This a paper I had to write for class.
Dr. J. Wallace
3 May 2015
Revelation: The Nature and Authority of Scripture
How we view the nature and authority of the scriptures, the Bible, determines the course of our theology, which is the framework of our faith and thus impacts strongly how we live. To put into question these thing, the nature and authority of the Bible, is to question the very foundation upon which we stand. This paper will briefly outline my position on the nature, authority, infallibility, and inerrancy of the Bible, which will demonstrate that it is inspired and coauthored by God, and thus an authoritative foundation in which we can place our trust and build our lives upon.
The nature of the Bible begins with its source; is the Bible written by God or is it a book of human origins. It is assumed by the general population that God is perfect and man is not. While many want to paint man in a bright light, we all know that we are capable of great quantities of deceit and evil. Therefore, it is generally assumed that if the guidelines of the Bible are from God then we should abide by them. However, if the Bible is written by man then what place does one man have to impose himself above another? We all have this instinct to be our own bosses and decide what is right on our own. I myself have very strong inclinations to this. Because I know that even people with multiple degrees and other credentials are human and capable of being wrong. So based upon this principle, many people desire to undermine the divine authority and authorship of the Bible, which removes any say It has over how they live their lives. It is simple another source of human philosophy that seeks to impose itself upon others. In light of this we can better understand the motivation behind any questioning of the Bible.
There is more to this thought then simply disproving the Bible. For example let’s take the following example as reason to test if said book is from God. The Islamic faith is based upon the teaching of Muhamad, a prophet of Allah, whom many equate to God. How are we to determine if his book, the Koran, is from God? We now have two sources claiming the same the thing, the Bible and Koran, but with radically different presentations of what God is like. Is the Bible true just because it was first? How are we to decide? The New Dictionary of Theology asserts that both those who are trying to rationally prove or disprove the Bible are both “…making human reason the arbiter of divine realities” (338). In light of the situation I have presented I think this statement, while I initially agreed, is unfair. What matters in this situation is motivation. Have you set out on your quest of proving or disproving the Bible in hopes of giving license to your behavior or an honest search for truth? Jeremiah 29:13 says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (NIV). I have noticed that those who are objectively searching for the truth, even if it is to disprove the Bible, come to the conclusion that the Bible is what it says it is, like Josh McDowell. While we know the Bible to be true, for someone who has just been presented with that fact to accept it blindly without some evidence could be dangerous. One, if they were presented with The Book of Mormon we would not want this, and two, often an untested faith is weak. If is far better to wrestle with these truths and come out on the other side with your faith, than to have not been tested, which won’t happen. I think it is better to get these things out of the way early, rather than to be blindsided by them later, be it at a secular college, the loss of a loved one, or one of the other many things that drive people away from the faith.
God’s primary route for convincing an individual of the divine nature and authority of His word is the Holy Spirit. This is alluded to in many places; we find one example of the Holy Spirit confirming what is true in Acts 2:37, “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do”” (NIV)? Jesus said in John 10:27, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (NIV). Hebrews 2:3-4 says, “how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.” What these verses demonstrate is that Holy Spirit confirms His word as true both by speaking to the inner being of the individual and by miraculous signs. While there is great merit in putting to bed the questions and criticism of critical Bible scholars, which may mislead some from the faith. The real power of persuasion belongs to the Holy Spirit.
While, we should primarily be seeking for the Holy Spirit to move and open people eyes to the truth, the Bible shows that we should not abandon apologetics. Paul says in 2nd Corinthians 10:5, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (NIV). Paul Coulter list the following passages showing the Biblical case for the intellectual defense of the Gospel: Acts 17: 1-4, 22-34, Acts 26:24-29, Romans 2:15, Philippians 1:7,16, and 1st Peter 3:13-16. Unbelievers, and/or believers who are struggling with faith in God and His word, are doing so with the influence of Satan’s lies. John 10:10 states, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; …” (NIV). If he can convince people of anything but the whole truth, he has accomplished this in some degree. However Jesus says in John 8:32, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free”” (NIV). If we truly love our neighbors as our self, then we will be determined to refute any lie that Satan has fed them in hopes that they will come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Apologetics is a labor of Love.
The primary target of those who wish to discredit the Christian faith is the Bible. It is the foundation of everything that we believe and teach. Therefore is important that we spend a good portion and our time and energy in its defense. The first thing we need to focus our attention on is who is the author(s) of the Bible? Is it a book, as it asserts, written by God as it states in 2 Timothy 3:16, “ All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (NIV), or is it the work of man designed to accomplish his own will in the name of God. I argue along with many others that the authorship of the Bible belongs to God, who used men as the physical writers to convey His message(s), in order to accomplish His will. Which, when boiled down is to reconcile mankind to Himself, establishing and intimate relationship (not sexual) with each individual. God inspired through many means the human writer(s) to write His words. “Inspiration can be defined as the process by which God directed individuals, incorporating their abilities and styles, to produce His message to humankind” (Hays 443). This message given throughout time through many smaller messages can only be understood with this in mind, which dictates that we dive into the context of each of these smaller messages to understand it completely and draw what it means for us today.
One of the factors that is at stake in this process is the creditability and correctness of the Bible. The particular aspects we are interested is the infallibility and inerrancy of the Bible. “Infallibility signifies the full trustworthiness of a guide that is not deceived and does not deceive” (Ferguson 337). While, “Inerrancy signifies the total truthfulness of a source of information that contains no mistakes…” (Ferguson 337). There are many who doubt that the Bible is infallible and inerrant, for many reasons. One would be is the Bible as we know it actually the word of God or has it been fouled in some way through the years? I say yes it is the Word God, but my focus today will be on its inerrancy. One thing that always comes into play is the use of seemingly imprecise information. These claims are easily put to rest when we understand what is meant by inspired. We as humans use language in order to organize our thoughts and communicate them and our wishes with others. This language operates in the framework of the context and culture that we live. Each section of the Bible is written in the framework of the human author and his literary style. When I say to my son that he is taken ten years to clean his room, we both know that is an expression meaning he is taking way too long to clean his room and not that it has actually been ten years since he started. An example this in the Bible is that Jesus rose three days later, this does not mean 36 hours, but it spanned across three days. Many assert that this “imprecision” is equivalent to error. The only error in this case is the reader forcing his/her own contextual cultural framework onto the text. The use of rounding and approximations, loose quotations, or even poor grammar and literary style does not mean that the Bible contains factual errors. But that in comparison to the readers framework of how things should be said it is considered an error. However, when desiring to understand the meaning of the text intended by the author it is important that we understand the context, culture, and literary styles of the author (Hays 146). When we approach these seemingly imprecise parts of the Bible in this manner, many of the objections of critical Bible scholars are put to rest.
The authority of the Bible is dependent upon the fact that it is written by God and both infallible and inerrant. Once we have accepted these facts, we must come to the conclusion that there is a God who has made the universe, all that is in it, and even us. Then it would only be logical that He has authority over us, and thus His word has authority. The rub is when we either reject His authority based upon the fact we don’t acknowledge the above facts, or think that we know better. I am seeing some of this with my son. He is very intelligent and thinks he knows best. This creates a lot of friction, and it is and will be a long process in teaching him to trust me. Much like it is when we set out to learn to trust God. Even those who are attempting to do this set themselves over the text and accept the things that seem right and dispute the things that don’t some of this is the result of not understanding the framework in which the particular text of the Bible in question was written. Other times is the result of conflicting values with the culture we were raised in. Hays states that because of this, “… we miss one of the main points of the Bible, namely, that the biblical message is from God and is above culture. The challenge is to critique our culture with the Bible and not vice versa” (Hays 143). When we do this we are truly honoring the authority of the Bible.
In conclusion, I restate the truth that The Bible is the infallible, inerrant, inspired Word of God, which was written through human individuals, and is the ultimate authority for all of our lives. And despite this human element in the authorship the Bible, “says exactly what God wants it to say and has not been corrupted by human mistakes” (Hays 446).
Ferguson, Sinclair B., David F. Wright, J. I. Packer. The New Dictionary of Theology. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity, 1988. Print.
Hays, J. Daniel, J. Scott Duvall. Grasping God’s Word: A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012. Print.
Holy Bible, New International Version. Biblica. 2012. Biblegateway.com. Web March 27, 2015.
McDowell, Josh, Sean McDowell.. More Than a Carpenter. Carol Stream, IL:. Tyndale House, 2009. ebook.