The Scriptures

Posted: 13-05-2016 | by Stuart Crooks

‘The verbal inspiration and total inerrancy of the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as originally given by God; their sole sufficiency and final authority in all matters of faith and practice’.

The Bible is a unique book - God actively communicates himself through it. As Carl Henry memorably said, God has ‘forfeited his own personal privacy’ to reveal himself through Scripture. In that light, the Doctrinal Statement for our Association of Baptist Churches begins with a clear statement affirming a high view of the Bible.

The Bible is Inspired

Saying the Bible is inspired does not mean Scripture is inspiring in the same sense as good biographies are inspiring. Sure, the Bible may inspire some of its readers, but the concept of ‘inspired’ as used here is about the relationship between God and the Bible’s human authors. It finds its root in the teaching of the apostle Paul, who wrote, All Scripture is breathed out by God…’ (2 Tim. 3:16). That is, although Scripture came to us through prophets, apostles and associates of the apostles and although they wrote down what they chose to write, Scripture wasn’t their creation. God, rather, ‘carried along’ fallible men ‘by the Holy Spirit’ (2 Pet. 2:21) to write down what was entirely divine and infallible. God did this, not by erasing their personalities or taking over their minds, but by sovereignly working through their unique experiences, cultures, education, thinking and investigations so that, through their words, he gave his own Word.

The Bible is Inerrant

Inerrancy is a theological term that means the Bible is utterly trustworthy. The simplest argument for it is: If God cannot err (Num. 23:19; Heb. 6:18) and if the Bible is God-breathed, then the words of the Bible are without error. This means that the Bible always stands over us and we never stand over God’s Word as its arbiter. Some clarifications are necessary.

  • Inerrancy does not mean that the Bible is truthful only with reference to theology. Rather, because every word of it is God’s Word, the Bible is fully trustworthy about whatever it says about any subject.
  • Inerrancy does not mean that the Bible is always precise. It talks about the sun rising and setting, although technically it does neither. The Bible is merely using ordinary, human language. So we can still be consistent in our belief in inerrancy.
  • Inerrancy does not mean that copies of the original writings or translations of those copies are inerrant. It is only the Scriptures as ‘originally given by God’ that are inerrant. However, affirming inerrancy is not a pointless exercise. The verdict of textual criticism—a field of study which seeks to reconstruct an original text by careful analysis and evaluation of the manuscripts we presently possess, is that the original texts are so amazingly well preserved that we should not hesitate to say that the Bible in our modern translations is the Word of God.
  • Inerrancy does not mean that there are no remaining difficulties or apparent discrepancies in the Bible. This is not a recent discovery. Both Augustine (354-430) and John Calvin (1509-64) addressed these difficulties and suggested possible solutions, as many scholars do today. Their solutions won’t satisfy everyone. But, since Scripture is God’s Word, we can be confident that the difficulties are not due to God's perfect revelation, but to our imperfect understanding of it.

The Bible is Sufficient

The doctrine of sufficiency means the Bible is entirely sufficient for its purpose. It doesn’t mean the Bible’s truth is exhaustive or that God has revealed all that we need to know about everything. You’re not going to learn about computer software, the rules of Chinese grammar or how to improve your golf swing in the Bible. That’s not its purpose. Its purpose is to reveal God so that we may know and obey him. Sufficiency also means that, even though some Christians believe God still speaks outside Scripture in words of prophecy and special guidance, whether we agree with them or not, these revelations are never to be placed on the same level of authority as Scripture. Otherwise the Bible wouldn’t be sufficient.

The Bible is Authoritative

Proclaiming the Bible as God’s Word is to affirm its divine authority. There are other rightful authorities, such as governments, parents and church elders, but the Bible is our highest authority. Not merely in ‘matters of faith and practice’ but in every domain of knowledge it speaks. This means Scripture takes precedence over church tradition, human experience, scientific findings and ethical opinions. As counter-cultural and counter-intuitive as this may be, the last word always goes to the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.

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