A Sufficient, Clear, Authoritative and Necessary Bible
Well-known Bible teacher D A Carson recently wrote an article in Christian journal Themelios about a seminary student he had who came to the conclusion that because scholars had debates about how to interpret Scripture, there could be no trustworthy, conclusive position on human sexuality and gender as God intended for it to be. The student reasoned that since the Bible, he claimed using his seminary training, had multiple interpretations, it was the right and humble thing to say, “I don’t know”. Quoting the student, Carson’s article reads: “You don’t know for sure that your reading of the Bible is right. Or if your hermeneutics are correct. You do not know for sure how interwoven or weighted the divine and human authorship(s?) of the Bible is. You do not know that."
The story Carson captures is a great illustration for why Christians must be clear and confident about what we believe the Bible to be, God’s inerrant word and His revelation of Himself to man. Without that clarity that Scripture can be read and understood, or that it expects us to read and understand it, it should never be a surprise to us that we waver and bend when the winds of culture and contemporary affairs blow at us.
In the years to come, as the world becomes more replete with alternate truth claims about sexuality, humanity, and even the nature of God, the gospel and the church, what we will we stand on if not the Bible? This is why this issue is so fundamental and worthy of our time to address early on.
We discussed this issue in depth at our most recent Equip session in January under the title “What is the Bible?” and examined: why this topic (the Bible) is important, what is the Bible, what GBC’s statement of faith says, and how do we know?
We learnt in our session together that the Bible has a lot to say about itself — about its nature as written by dual authors, human beings, and under the inspiration of its divine author, the Holy Spirit. Thus it is superior to human testimony or even eyewitness testimony, which human beings typically take as the standard of truth. Its content, the witness of God revealing Himself through His Son, Jesus Christ our Saviour, in the power of the Spirit of God, is the one message of the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation — the Old Testament concealed it, and the New Testament explains it. This is what the Bible communicates, that we might know God, understand His holy Law and what it requires, and how God supplies in our Saviour a means of being reconciled to and having relationship with Him.
To this end, our Bible is sufficient, not incomplete — no other means is needed, neither dreams, visions, additional prophecy, or inner promptings are required to supplement Scripture in communicating its message. Our Bible is also clear, not inaccessible — it can be read by anyone and can be understood by everyone — which does not mean that it is equally clear in all its parts, but that anyone who looks into it can indeed discern the message of Christ our Saviour and therefore, are without excuse. Our Bible is authoritative, not merely informative — because of God’s own character as trustworthy, inerrant and God, Scripture carries those attributes too — without flaw or error, and deserving of full attention. Finally, our Bible is necessary, not optional — we cannot do without this special revelation from God. General revelation from nature, our conscience, or even our awareness of a Creator is simply not enough to know God as Saviour.
If Scripture is sufficient, clear, authoritative and necessary, then Carson’s student’s claims are overstated. While we may not know all the truth in Scripture, we should never say that we do not know that Scripture is true. There may be interpretations in the finer points that arise, but to say that therefore the entirety of Scripture is in doubt is to wilfully choose to be irresponsible with what we know. While we may not fully understand, as children, the entirety of how our parents love us and what they say, we should not deny their love in what we know they say. What more God, who is more able to communicate, and has made His Word clear for us to comprehend?
But how can we know this is true? We can rest on this high view of Scripture because of three simple reasons:
- Jesus Christ believed and taught it
- The Old Testament prophets believed and taught it
- His earliest disciples believed and taught it.
For more information about each of these points, do refer to the youtube video above on the session itself (from 1:10:05 onwards). To believe otherwise about the origins, content, nature and implications of Scripture is to disagree with how they saw it. This is not to say that we are not free to question, scrutinise or even interrogate their high view of Scripture, but it demands that we examine Scripture on Christian grounds, and also think hard about what kinds of proof we are looking for that show the Bible is God’s word, or for that matter, what we expect of truth at all. Professor Carson has more to say about this subject below:
I’d love to hear more about your thoughts or questions on this subject, or interact with anyone about this aspect of Christian teaching, so do feel free to write me at email@example.com.
We hope also to see more GBC members, with questions and thoughts at the next Equip session about the storyline of the Bible in February. See you there!