Whether we realize it or not, we all give someone or something the last word—our parents, our culture, our community, our feelings, the government, peer-reviewed journals, opinion polls, impressions, or a holy book. We all have someone or something that we turn to as the final arbiter of truth claims. For Christians, this authority is the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Of course, we can misunderstand and misapply the word of God. But when interpreted correctly—paying attention to the original context, considering the literary genre, thinking through authorial intent—the Bible is never wrong in what it affirms and must never be marginalized as anything less than the last word on everything it teaches.
The inspiration and
authority of the Bible
are the bedrock upon which our faith is built. Without it, we are doomed
to uncertainty, doubt, and a hopeless groping in the darkness of human speculation.
We at Bibles.net believe that the Bible is God’s Word, the very thoughts and will of God in written form given to us out of his love, to tell us the truth about ourselves, our world, and about him. But not everybody believes this. Let’s take a look at six ways people view the Bible.
A person with this view of the Bible prioritizes the natural world. Rationalists trust their reason and intellect to determine truth.
Because most rationalists deny the supernatural, they deny that the Bible is from God. Instead, they believe it to be a book like any other book written by men. Atheists are of course rationalists, but even some who believe God exists may still not believe that he reveals himself to mankind, or even cares to do so. Now, some rationalists would allow for the possibility of divine revelation, but human reason would still be the final judge of that revelation. Thus, they would conclude that people wrote the Bible, and since those people were prone to mistakes, the Bible contains errors and contradictions.
Someone who holds this view might say, “If there are things in the Bible that don’t make sense to my reason and thinking, I simply ignore them. The guys who wrote the Bible didn’t understand my culture and how we think these days.”
A person with this view of the Bible holds the Roman Catholic view that the Bible is the product of the Church and is therefore not the sole authority. What is truth? Tradition and Scripture determine that, they would say.
A person who holds this belief would say that the Tradition of the Catholic Church stands alongside the Bible and both are authoritative for the Church. They believe that the Bible is a source of truth, but it is interpreted by the Church. This approach to the Bible is also present in churches where they only interpret the Bible in agreement with their own doctrine and tradition.
Someone who holds this view might say, “I know what the Bible says about marriage, but my pastor or priest told me otherwise, so I will listen to what he says, because he’s my authority too.”
A person who holds this view of the Bible believes that their experience is authoritative alongside the Bible. In other words, the mystic believes that God can communicate to them directly outside of the Bible, even if this somehow contradicts the Bible in some way.
Therefore, experience is placed alongside the Bible as an equal source of truth. The mystic may claim that the Holy Spirit is dealing with them directly, which makes it okay for them to ignore the revelation found in the Bible at times.
Someone who holds this view might say, “Why would I look in the Bible at things someone else wrote 2000 years ago when God’s Spirit can speak to me in my heart?” Or, “God told me who I’m going to marry, so I don’t need to hear what the Bible says about marriage.”
A person who holds this view of the Bible believes that the true “Word of God” is Jesus Christ, and the written word of God in the Bible is an imperfect witness to this Word, Jesus.
A person with a neo-orthodox view believes that the basic kernel or essence of Christ is contained in the Bible, but there are errors and mistakes and other non-essential matters also in the Bible. Therefore, they believe they must look beyond the “useless” material in the Bible and dig deep to find the hidden message about the true Word, Jesus.
Someone who holds this view might say, “The Bible is partly from God and partly from imperfect humans. We need to sift through the Bible and discard the parts that we determine are in error.”
A person who holds this view of the Bible believes that the Bible is authoritative along with the writings of their particular group’s founder or leader. This view of the Bible is held by cults. For example, the Mormons believe that the writings of Joseph Smith are of equal authority with the Bible.
People who hold this view would say that the Bible alone is no longer authoritative for today. Instead, we need men and women to supplement the Bible’s truth with new truth.
Someone who holds this view might say, “The Bible is a word from God, but was just for a certain time period. Now our cult’s leader has new revelation, which supersedes the revelation of the Bible.”
People who hold to an evangelical view of the Bible believe that the Bible alone is our authority. Evangelicals believe that every word of the Bible was inspired by God, and that his Word determines truth (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
This belief is the position that the Bible itself teaches. Because the Bible is God’s Word, it reflects God’s character: because God cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18), the Bible is completely reliable and trustworthy (Psalm 119:42); because God is perfect (Psalm 18:30), his words are flawless (Proverbs 30:5); because God is immortal (1 Timothy 6:15-16), his words endure forever (1 Peter 1:25).
Someone who holds this view might say, “I filter what my pastor says through God’s Word to see if it aligns with what God says. I consider how God’s Word would interpret my experiences, and at the end of the day, I obey to the best of my ability what I can understand from God’s Word, because he has the final say on everything in my life.”
We mentioned six ways to view the Bible. Each of these six views is one of three attitudes towards the Bible: We either stand under God’s Word, over God’s Word, or beside God’s Word.
We believe that the Bible is God’s Word and it is our sole authority for knowing God and knowing how to live in a way that pleases him (Hebrews 4:12). Therefore, the only safe way to live is under the Word of God, taking it as truth and letting God be our judge. When we stand over the Word, judging it for ourselves, we are refusing to submit to God’s authority. And when we stand beside it, thinking we can pick and choose what we like from it, we are also undermining God’s authority and the clarity of his Word.
Isaiah 66:2 describes the type of attitude God wants us to have towards his Word: “But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word” (ESV). So what is truth? God is truth (John 14:6), and what he says should have the final say in our lives. God alone is worthy of our trust and hope. So where do you stand? Over, beside, or under God’s Word?
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
“Evangelicals derive their doctrine of the Bible from the Bible. Isn’t that circular reasoning?” Well, yes, but that doesn’t necessarily invalidate the reasoning. Our doctrine of the Bible is no more circular than scientific theories. Everyone uses circular reasoning to defend the ultimate authority for beliefs. While the ultimate standard of truth for evangelicals is God and his Word, for most others it is something else—usually themselves. The heated debates about whether the Bible is God-breathed and without error hinge on one issue: whether you accept what the Bible claims about itself. Many useful arguments show that the Bible’s claims about itself are reasonable (e.g., its historical reliability and fulfilled prophecies), but ultimately God’s Spirit must convince us that its claims are true because sin has distorted how we perceive reality. We can’t prove that the Bible is God’s Word by appealing to any authority besides the Bible itself because such an authority must be superior to God—and there isn’t one.
One might object that this is a circular argument: we know that the Bible is God’s Word because it is God’s Word. We answer this objection by noting that all arguments for an ultimate authority must be circular because one can appeal to nothing higher. Furthermore, it is irrational to recognize supreme authority in anything other or less than God and what God has said. For those whose eyes are opened, the Bible’s authority is no blind leap of faith, but as plain a fact to them as knowing that the sun shines. Calvin said, “Scripture exhibits fully as clear evidence of its own truth as white and black things do of their color, or sweet and bitter things do of their taste.” For this reason, philosophical and evidential arguments are not necessary for faith (though they can be helpful in answering enemies of the faith), for the least educated person illuminated by the Spirit can see the glory and authority of God’s Word.
The Bible claims for itself a singular and final authority concerning all matters it addresses. No other instructions, written or verbal, represent a higher or even equal authority. This authority was not granted to God at one of the historical councils of the church; God does not need men to agree with him or determine the extent of his authority. The Scriptures carry ultimate authority for one reason: They are the words of the sovereign Ruler of the universe.
Thus says the Lord:
“Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool;
what is the house that you would build for me,
and what is the place of my rest?
All these things my hand has made,
and so all these things came to be,
declares the Lord.
But this is the one to whom I will look:
he who is humble and contrite in spirit
and trembles at my word.”
Sin began when
was reduced to a question
At that moment the most deadly spiritual force was covertly smuggled into the world: the assumption that God’s Word
is subject to human judgment.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”
Scripture will be the lens
through which you view the world
or the world
(science, politics, worldview, etc)
will be the lens
through which you view Scripture.
Ultimately one or the other will be your authority.
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
The Bible has the final say on everything that the Bible means to say something about.
So Jesus told them, “My message is not my own; it comes from God who sent me. Anyone who wants to do the will of God will know whether my teaching is from God or is merely my own.”