God’s gospel is authoritatively revealed in the Scriptures.
2. We believe that God has spoken in the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, through the words of human authors. As the verbally inspired Word of God, the Bible is without error in the original writings, the complete revelation of His will for salvation, and the ultimate authority by which every realm of human knowledge and endeavour should be judged. Therefore, it is to be believed in all that it teaches, obeyed in all that it requires, and trusted in all that it promises.
I remember the first time I tried to read the bible through. I was about 12 years old and thought that it would be good for me to read the Bible. After all, hundreds of millions of people have claimed it to be the Word of God and have based their lives on its teachings, so I thought, I’d at least better read it and see what all the fuss is about. I wish I could say that when I read it, my eyes were immediately opened and I sensed the presence of God and fell down on my face and believed in Jesus. Sadly, that’s not the case. I got lost in the books of Leviticus and Numbers and gave up completely. People base their lives on this?
Thankfully, a few years later a friend patiently sat down and showed me what the Bible had to say about Jesus, about God, and about how I can know God. Today, as a Christian, I am fully convinced of the truth of God’s Word and of its relevance and authority over every area of my life. As I grow in my faith, I trust it more as God’s very Word to me.
In this series, we are identifying those essentials of the Christian faith that every Christian agrees over and connects us to our historic faith. We have unity over these issues. We may believe other things about God or the Bible, but even though we may disagree with other Christians about them, we can still be charitable towards them. “In essentials unity, in non-essentials charity, in all things Jesus Christ.” In considering the Bible, there are really two essential elements that we must understand: 1. God Has Spoken, 2. Through Human Authors.
How much of the Bible is God’s Word? All of the books of both the Old and New Testament are equally inspired and useful “for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” as stated in 2 Timothy 3:16. We call this library of inspired books the “cannon” (lit: standard). 66/39/27. Davinci Code view: some today hold a deficient understanding of the process of how the cannon was compiled, believing the process to be akin to the church going to a library shelf and selecting the few best books and deeming them to be inspired. On the contrary, the church, having received writings from those they knew to be prophets and apostles, revered them as scripture and used them in worship over many years, so that the canonization process was more a matter of simply recognizing what had been regarded as Scripture from the beginning. In other words, recognition of inspiration came prior to, not after, the formulation of the canon.
Through Human authors; We’ll start with the second. The second one is easy to defend outside of the church, for every skeptic agrees that the Bible was written by men, but sometimes it needs to be explained inside of the church. To recognize that the Bible was written through human authors is to understand that Bible didn’t just float down from heaven [This is called the dictation theory of inspiration]. This is what Muslims and Mormons believe about their holy books – either that an angel dictated the scriptures to them or that they simply found the writings buried in a hill. Peter puts it this way in 2 Peter 1:21, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. The word-picture is that of a boat being driven by the wind. The Holy Spirit carried them along and directed their sails, even as they wrote according to the Spirit’s movement.
1) The writers wrote like people write. A lot of skeptics’ charges against the bible are diffused by understanding that truth is conveyed through a variety of literary expressions. The scripture says that the sun rises and sets. This is not scientifically inaccurate, this is poetic, descriptive language. One portion may say, “Jesus said, ‘blessed are the poor’ where another part says, “blessed are the poor in spirit” this is not a contradiction, this is a clarifying paraphrase. One writer notes two angels at the tomb of Jesus, another only mentions the one who speaks. One author uses poor grammar in his writing, this doesn’t mean that God is stupid, only that He can speak his truth through simple people.
2) The Bible was written to address specific situations: Every book of the Bible was written to address a particular people who were facing unique situations in their lives and community, and who were immersed in a culture very different from our own. God used prophets and apostles to deliver his message to them in ways in which they could understand and respond. God could have just dropped a theology textbook from heaven telling us about Himself. Instead, He addressed the unique problems faced by each generation of His people and provided them with His Word. This is why when we study the Bible we first ask what God’s word was to them, before transferring the principles found within to ourselves. In this way, we can cut through some of the cultural shell of original author and readers, and get to God’s message to us. We are challenged to examine our own lives and our own culture in light of that message.
So the bible was written by men, yet the main point that Peter is making in 2 Peter 1:21 is found in the first part of the verse: For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. In the Bible God has spoken. Our statement of faith makes three claims without error, complete, and authoritative.
Without error: To be without error means that the Bible is true in all it teaches in doctrine and in details. All truth discovered in disciplines outside of scripture must adhere to the truth revealed within scripture. However, we must be careful to not impose our modern scientific definition of error onto an ancient text. Also, as we saw above, we must allow for the human process of communication.
Completeness: While the Bible contains all the truth needed for life and godliness and is clear regarding essential matters of salvation, it does not contain all known truth (for what book could!) Yet the truth is contains is sufficient for even the simplest of us to know God. This also does not mean that every part of the Bible attains to the same level of clarity in all it teaches, for example Peter speaks of some parts of Paul’s writings as being “hard to understand, which the ignorant and the arrogant twist to their own destruction” in 2 Peter 3:16. This is sometimes referred to as the doctrine of perspicuity – that Scripture is clear enough for the least educated to understand the basic, essential message of redemption, but deep enough for the most learned to search out all his days.
Authority: How can I be sure that the Bible is God’s Word? I could tell you things about the
• historical accuracy of the Bible – how it has in every case withstood the intense scrutiny of skeptical historians. • internal consistency of the Bible – how the one storyline of the scriptures attests to the one mind behind it, a fact made all the more impressive when one considers that it was penned by over forty men, over the course of hundreds of years, from differing backgrounds, languages and cultures. • prophetic accuracy of the Bible – that it contains hundreds of prophecies within its pages that we know have been fulfilled hundreds of years after they were written to the minutest detail. • manuscript evidence of the scriptures that is unlike any other ancient work – we literally have tens of thousands of early manuscripts and translations assuring us that the words we hold in our hand have not been added to, abbreviated, or altered. • I could tell you of the influence of the Bible – how it has sculpted the course of history more than any other book, changing the lives of billions of individuals while underpinning entire civilizations.
Yet the only real argument that matters is that the Bible claims to be God’s true word. Wait, you say. Isn’t this a circular argument? Yes. It is. [Grudem, 37] It should be admitted that this is a kind of circular argument. However, that does not make its use invalid, for all arguments for an absolute authority must ultimately appeal to that authority for proof; otherwise the authority would not be an absolute or highest authority. For example:
• My reason is my ultimate authority for truth because it seems reasonable to me that it is so.
• Logical consistency is my ultimate authority because it is logical to make it so.
• The findings of human sensory experiences are the ultimate authority for discovering what is real or not because our human senses have not discovered anything else.
• Everyone knows that (and if everyone believes it then it must be so)
So why should we believe in the Bible beyond any of these other circular arguments? Because when read alongside of other religious texts and held up against other philosophies of life, God’s word will prove itself true to us – not in some mystical sense in which we’ll just know that its God’s word, but in the very really sense in which it makes sense of every aspect of our life. As I come to the Bible, I see that it is to be “believed in all that it teaches, obeyed in all that it requires, and trusted in all that it promises” and that it has never let me down. When I look around at culture
I see a world grasping for answers. They all have books that go to for authoritative answers. Diet books. Marriage courses. How to succeed in business. Lifehacker.com. It funny that we’ll often go through our lives assuming these things are authoritative – yet question God’s word. [English Congregation example: youth who questioned the existence of Jesus because of a video on youtube]
How different from Peter. He saw the risen Lord with his own eyes and heard God’s voice from heaven proclaiming Jesus to be the son of God with his own ears, yet still, beyond even his own senses and religious experiences directs us to something even more sure – the Scripture itself: For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. We put our trust in a God who has communicated his salvation plan to us plainly in the words of scripture, so that as we read it, it is as if the darkness of our lives is driven away before the light of Christ until faith arises in our hearts. Prophetic word made sure. God may speak in other ways – but this is the only authoritative Word of God.
If you’re not a Christian today, take and read. Start in the Gospels. See Jesus. Hear God. If you’re a Christian, continue to read and trust God’s word. Let it shape your life.
God’s gospel is authoritatively revealed in the Scriptures.]