Prove All Things
Statement of Faith
What's New

According to the Scriptures: A Biblical View of the Authority of the Bible

The following series of articles is a study in Bibliology – the doctrine of the Bible. The purpose of this series of articles is to display something of what the Bible teaches about the Bible, but more particularly to display what the Bible teaches about the authority of the Bible. Below is a brief outline for this series of articles.

1.0 ­ A General Introduction to the Subject
2.0 ­ What is “The Bible?”
3.0 ­ Abstract of the Argument for the Authority of the Bible
4.0 ­ Examining the Evidence for the Argument
5.0 ­ Establishing the Assumptions of the Argument
6.0 ­ Exploring the Implications of Biblical Authority
7.0 ­ Answering the Objections to Biblical Authority
8.0 ­ Annotated Bibliography

1.0 ­ A General Introduction to the Subject

1.1 ­ The Fundamental Question
We can catalogue and classify a multitude of personal opinions about the Bible. Some persons believe the Bible is the Word of God. Others believe it contains the Word of God along with many other words of men. Others classify the Bible among inspiring classic human literature. There are many who believe the Bible is full of mistakes, or lies, or dangerous and hateful ideas. Before we examine some of the many opinions about the Bible, we should begin with the more fundamental question, What does the Bible say about itself?

1.2 ­ A Fair and Honest Approach to the Question
Of course, there are some skeptics who would throw this out as an ignorant question – the Bible, they would say, is merely a human collection of various religious writings over a long period of time and so it could not possibly talk about itself. But it would be most unfair to form such an opinion before actually investigating whether there is some warrant for the view that the Bible does talk about itself. What if the Bible is more than merely a human collection of various religious writings? What if it is a collection of the very Word of God in written form? If so, then we may expect that God is working out His own purpose and plan both in each individual writing and in the collection of writings as a whole. We may even expect this purpose and plan to be described in these very writings themselves, for if these writings did not describe this purpose and plan, then – according to the point of view that the Bible is the very Word of God – we would have no way of knowing what this purpose and plan is, because only the Bible would have the authority to tell us. So instead of approaching the question from the point of view of a skeptic who presumes that the Bible could not possibly talk about itself, a fair and honest approach to the question would dictate that we must first investigate whether such skepticism is warranted – that is, whether the Bible does indeed say anything about itself, and if so, then whether what it says is consistent with itself.

It happens to be the opinion of many who call themselves Christians that the Bible teaches that the Bible alone and the Bible entirely is the very Word of God written. Either they developed this view in their own imaginations, and through their interpretations they have improperly imposed their view back onto the many writings which comprise what they call the Bible, or else these writings actually are what these Christians say they are. On what authority could we decide such a question? Well, from the point of view of these Christians, we could only decide this question on the basis of what the Bible says about itself.

So in the final analysis, we cannot settle this question until we have first determined what, if anything, the Bible says about itself. Therefore our starting point is, oddly enough, from the point of view of these Christians. We are forced to look at the question through their eyes of belief in order to see whether there is any merit to their point of view.

1.3 ­ The Two Circles
If someone objects that this is rather circular in its method, it must be pointed out that to approach this question (or any other question, for that matter) from the skeptic’s point of view would be no less circular. At least if we approach the question from the point of view of faith, then the proposition is asserted to be true, and therefore it is falsifiable. If an honest, clear, and unarguable contradiction can be found to the proposition that the Bible talks about itself, then the Bible is shown to be untrue, the proposition that the Bible is the Word of God is falsified, and the circle of faith is broken once and for all.

Of course any skeptic can easily find a contradiction in the Bible, but the contradictions he finds are manufactured by imposing his own skepticism on the Bible. What we need to find is a genuine contradiction within the proposed system of faith taught in the Bible, not a contradiction imposed by another system of faith from outside of and in opposition to the Bible – namely, the system of faith called skepticism. If we approach the question from the point of view of skepticism, then the proposition that the Bible is the Word of God is necessarily unprovable because no believing premises or explanations would be admissible, which keeps the circle of skepticism forever revolving – the question could never be settled, which in effect forever settles the question in favor of skepticism. In other words, skepticism always (unjustly) justifies itself. Scoffers will scoff at and dismiss anything and everything – except their own scoffing.

1.4 ­ The Circle of Faith
The Bible even contains verses about how it is necessary not to approach God and His Word skeptically.

[See Translation Conventions for an explanation of the markings in the following translations.]

Hebrews 11:6 But apart from faith {one is} not able to please {God}. For it is necessary {by the nature of the case} for he who approaches God to believe that {God} is, and {that} He becomes a rewarder for those {alone} who are {continually} seeking Him out.

Hebrews 4:2 For we also have had the good news proclaimed, even just as they themselves; notwithstanding, the word of the report – not having become united with faith in those who heard {it} – did not benefit them.

1 Thessalonians 2:13 having received from us {the} Word of report, ‡you welcomed {it as} from God – not {as the} word of men, but according as it truly is, {the} Word of God, which also {continually} works effectively in ‡you who believe.

John 3:19 Moreover, this is the very {criteria of} judgment: that the light has come into the world, and men devotedly loved the darkness rather than the light, for their works were morally worthless.

[Study also Acts 17:11; 17:32; 2 Thessalonians 2:11-13.]

These passages seem to say that an individual cannot seek the truth from a strictly skeptical approach, but only from a believing approach.

1.5 ­ The Circle of Doubt
Skepticism denies absolute knowledge, certainty, or truth, and since proof is in the very nature of truth, therefore skepticism is necessarily incapable of either proving or disproving anything with certainty. One must necessarily believe something – he must accept some axiomatic premise – before he can ever prove anything. Skepticism is necessarily self-contradictory because it cannot allow a skeptical view of itself without first requiring the skeptic to believe in the axiomatic truth of skepticism – but of course skepticism cannot allow such belief – so skepticism cannot allow itself. This can all be reduced to such formally absurd statements as: We must believe that we must not believe anything. There are absolutely no absolutes. Truth is relative.

1.6 ­ The Ultimate Implications of Faith
Ultimately, the system of thought of these Christians – those who believe that the Bible is the written Word of God – implies that without the input of the truth of the Word of God, all of our thoughts can ultimately be broken down into absurdities. We must borrow some truth from God in order just to be able to think coherently, and because thoughts derived from other sources are always corrupting our thinking, we must continue to borrow the truth in order to continue to think coherently. In other words, our thoughts must be washed and sanctified by the Word of God or else they will become increasingly corrupt, self-contradictory, absurd, and even ridiculous, and eventually downright dangerous to ourselves as well as to others. Philosophically speaking, in order to be able to think, we have no choice except to believe something, whether it is true or not. But there are distinct advantages to believing the truth over believing a lie. In the short run, the truth may be costly to maintain in a world full of lies, but over the long run, the lies are more costly as they cause those who hold on to them to continually crash into the confining walls of reality and eventually to destroy themselves.

1.7 ­ An Objection to the Implications of Faith
An objection immediately arises to such assertions. What about peoples and cultures which do not have the Word of God? Well, are we really so sure that these people do not have the Word of God? After all, if they all descended from Adam and Noah, as the Bible says, then it is likely that their cultures would still preserve some remnants of revealed reality. Also, if the law of God is in some form written on the minds of all persons, as the Bible says, and we are able to read this to some degree through the acts of our consciences, as the Bible says, then we would expect to find this reading of God’s law reflected, however imperfectly, in the laws and cultural norms of all peoples and cultures. Nevertheless, as the Bible says, exposure to the written record of God’s Word is a tremendous advantage over any cultural or mental remnants of God’s revelation. From the believing point of view, the historical evidence is all around us that the more pervasive the exposure to the Bible’s teaching, the more civilized and coherent the culture, yet those cultures which were once exposed but then perverted the Bible’s teaching can become worse than if they had never been exposed to it at all. Of course, this is only the beginning of the objections, and such objections will be addressed later in this series of articles.

1.8 ­ If This is True, Then it is Important
If these Christians which we have been talking about happen to be correct about the Bible being the written Word of God, then we simply cannot underestimate the importance of the Bible for our knowledge of truth, for our understanding of reality, and for practical wisdom in how we should live and behave. Since, as we have shown, this whole system of thought depends upon what the Bible says about the Bible, then in order to test this system, we must begin to examine the Bible for what it may say about itself.

We will begin in the next article by defining what we mean by the Bible.


Comments are closed.