File Name: scripture and the authority of god .zip
How can the Bible be authoritative? This way of putting it carries two different though related meanings, and I shall look at them in turn. First, how can there be such a thing as an authoritative book?
- The Authority of Scripture as the Word of God
- N.T. Wright on Scripture and the Authority of God
- A Study of Authority - Downloadable Congregational Use PDF
That Book is going to have authority as the speech of God, authority in a way that no other book ever could. The world is filled with authorities, each voice telling us how to live. Carl Trueman, David Garner, and others attempt to set the record straight, outlining just what it means to stand under the awesome authority of God's Word. Interview with Carl Trueman 2. Created with Sketch.
The Authority of Scripture as the Word of God
Download this paper as a PDF. One conviction that the Church has held in common throughout her history and development is the central role that Scripture performs in the life of each Christian and in the community of God. The statement of faith for most Christian churches contains, with subtle variations in wording, the bold declaration that the Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit and authoritative for the Church in matters of life and doctrine.
The Bible does not explicitly claim to be an officially authoritative book, but instead simply demands to be obeyed as the Word of God. We must be careful about what we mean when we speak of the authority of Scripture for its authority is actually representative.
Scripture clearly declares that all authority belongs to God. He is subject to none, including any book written by men. He alone carries all authority, and as such, is Himself the final authority in all matters pertaining to life and doctrine. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. God does this by proclamation and the demonstration of His Spirit.
God continues to speak and act authoritatively, but such actions are only discernible to us through the litmus test of Scripture. Words, therefore, are central to the expression of His government. Rejection of His words is tantamount to rejection of Him and rebellion against His authority. It is in this sense that Scripture functions as authoritative in the life of the Church.
The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak.
By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. Furthermore, these words do not just inform, but also create the reality of which they speak. God is not just revealing truth to us through Scripture; He is powerfully bringing His Kingdom into this earth.
Likewise, the Bible is not just filled with words that God has spoken in the past. The Bible is the central content of what God is still saying.
Until His words fulfill their purpose, they are still being sent. Our reading of the Bible should be done in a proper fear of the Lord and faith in His power to accomplish all that He declares. Thus, the authority of Scripture is given to it by God; or rather, God is the final authority who operates by and through the Scriptures. In regard to the Bible, one could repeat the words of Paul when speaking about political authorities:.
For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. We should not leave the subject of the authority of Scripture without briefly mentioning the roles of reason, tradition and experience.
These three issues, at various times and in some branches of the Church, have been and still are offered as authorities alongside Scripture. They have not necessarily been declared as rival authorities to the Bible, but instead, as authoritative additions to and interpretations of the Scripture.
While each of these factors are helpful, if not essential, to our understanding of the Bible, we must avoid speaking of them as authoritative in a similar sense to Scripture itself. Reason is best regarded as a guide in understanding the Scripture as authoritative. While the Enlightenment envisioned reason as a rival authority, the Christian maintains that no such rivalry exists.
Reason is not an autonomous authority equal to the Bible, but the means by which we are saved from making the Bible say whatever we want. It keeps us from fanciful and private interpretations. It aids our reading of the Bible by harmonizing the Scripture, noting context and cultural considerations, taking into account the discoveries of other sciences, etc.
Wright offers us a helpful analogy:. Tradition is properly appreciated as the understanding of the Bible that the leaders of the Church have held throughout her long history. Similar to reason, it is not an authority equal to Scripture, nor does it control its interpretation. It avails us to their substantial gifts and insights. We would be wise to give it a proper hearing and appropriate weight in our attempts to interpret and submit to the authority of Scripture.
However, a traditional interpretation of the Bible is not necessarily the authoritative meaning of a passage. Experience, due in large measure to the rise of existentialism, has gained a large following as an authority in determining what is true. Experience is often appealed to as a means of proving veracity. The problem here lies in the order.
Experience should be and is a fruit of truth, but it is not its root. In other words, Biblical truth will prove itself in the experience of a Christian.
However, an authentic experience does not thereby prove that it represents truth. My child may truly experience fear in the dark, but that does not mean that there is, in reality, anything to fear. Probably, we will find no more sobering warning of the danger of trusting in experience than in the words of Jesus Himself:.
The Bible is authoritative only because it is inspired by God. It is the fact that Scripture is Godbreathed that gives it a decisive ruling voice in the Church. Within the words of Scripture, we are encountering the very Word of God. As His Word, the words of Scripture authoritatively communicate His will. While there has been much debate about the exact nature of inspiration, most churches have understood the inspiration of Scripture to extend to every part and as originally given.
Likewise, the majority of churches believe the manuscripts behind our current translations to be reliable copies of the original documents. In addition, the inspiration of Scripture is generally considered to bear the marks of culture without its message thereby being corrupted.
It seems self-evident that Scripture was not dictated in such a way that the human author was merely a keyboard on which God typed His message. Rather, what is written is both the free composition of the author and the very words of God. Any attempt to allow the Bible to function as an authority in the Church must take this method of inspiration into account in its interpretation.
With this common foundational understanding, one would assume that the Church would be able to achieve a great degree of unity in its understanding of the Faith and in its functioning together as a body. For many years, this seemed to be the case. However, that is not the situation we find ourselves in today. One of the peculiar characteristics of the Church in the last years or so has been the rate of her division into differing groups.
While these types of statistics are hard to track with precision, we can say with some confidence that there were less than Christian denominations operating in the world at the turn of the 20th century, and many of those denominations were national churches stemming from the same theological family.
In all, there were approximately 10 major branches of the Church. While the Church took around years to divide into groups, it has divided into at least 39, parts in just over the last years! The radical disintegration of the unity of the Church is unquestionably one of the biggest blights on the message of Christ during our time. What is staggering about this fact is that the vast majority of these denominations claim the Bible not only to be inspired by God, but to be their authority in faith and practice.
This reality may explain why the Church held to some degree of unity for the first years, but is inexplicable in light of the rapid division within the Church in recent years. Compounding the perplexity is the fact that most, though certainly not all, of these groups came into existence through a claim that they were honoring Scripture as their authority usually in reference to a particular interpretation or practice over against another group who were, ironically, making the same claim.
How is such a discouraging situation possible in spite of widespread agreement about the authority of Scripture? Who is to blame? The unsuspecting scapegoat is what is commonly known as exegesis. While most churches claim the Bible as authoritative, they are quick to add, in practice if not in an official statement, that it is only authoritative as properly interpreted.
It is only by rightly applying the principles of exegesis that we come to the correct interpretation of Scripture; and it is such correct interpretation that effectively functions as authoritative in the Church. Is it possible that blame lies more with our tendency to manipulate the exegetical process in the direction of our preferred interpretation than we have cared to admit?
In reality, our division over Scripture has far less to do with our view of it as authoritative than with our work in understanding and applying it through our chosen hermeneutical lens.
Therefore, any hope for substantial gain in the unity of the Church would seem to lie more in the nitty gritty area of building agreement as to how to interpret the Bible than in philosophical discussions about the inspiration and authority of Scripture. Any attempt to receive the Bible as authoritative and to build agreement in interpreting Scripture is made complicated by many factors, seven of which we outline below:.
There are many issues that are not even brought up in the pages of Scripture. It seems that the Bible gives us the questions as well as the answers. In other words, it highlights for us the questions we should be asking; those that are most important for faith and salvation. Then, it proceeds to answer those questions. In this way, it provides us with specific truths necessary for salvation and guiding principles that direct us through all the parts of our lives.
Second , Scripture does not deliver its message in the didactic manner to which we are accustomed in our normal experience of learning. It is not in the style of a classroom lecture. It lacks the simple question and answer form of a catechism.
It is very different from the precise and detailed instruction of a law book. It does not gather its subject material together in any organized way like a systematic theology. It is, in certain moments, relatively plain instruction; but mostly, it is historical narrative, poetry, prophecy, apocalyptic literature, parable and story. Our approach to understanding the Bible must take into account the way that it has been delivered to us.
Third , we read the words of Scripture from a distance. We are thousands of years away from its original writing. We are not able to ask the authors what they meant, or even rely on the assumption that we would instinctually understand them because we share a similar background. The Bible was written in languages that are foreign to us and are no longer commonly used.
It was composed in the context of a culture that is equally unfamiliar to us, and no longer completely accessible. It contains geographical references different than our own, and was written from a worldview that we do not share with the authors. In all these ways and more, the Bible is truly a foreign book. Our understanding of how this distance affects Scripture will determine our approach in interpreting the Bible and how we receive it as authoritative:.
N.T. Wright on Scripture and the Authority of God
The Bible is the written Word of God, his utterly unique revelation. The word of God expresses who he is, what he has done, and what he is doing down through world history in both judgment and salvation. God has given this Word to his people as the only authoritative standard for their faith and life. Throughout history God has been acting in mighty deeds on behalf of his people. As this redemptive history has developed, God has spoken through human authors in human language to communicate exactly what he wants his people to know about themselves and about him as their Creator, Judge, and Savior. For these writings are from God himself.
A Study of Authority - Downloadable Congregational Use PDF
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A lack of respect for God and a disregard of His authority are the underlying causes of every departure from truth and every division in the body of Christ. Even though the Old Testament has many examples of those who God punished because they acted without divine authority and the New Testament warns repeatedly of this danger and the subsequent penalty, still, in each generation, there are many who profess to believe Christ who act without divine authority. Because it makes a difference what one believes. Although this message is not a new one, it is as important now as it ever has been. Disciples were first called Christians at Antioch Acts
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