January 09, 2006

Biblical Authority -- The 'B' in Baptist

{I promised a series on 'Baptist Distinctives' some time ago, and this is the first in that series.}

I have a folder in my RSS reader marked "Potential Topics." As I read through articles in my RSS feeds, I copy items of interest and note to that folder, on the assumption I will one day write something about the topic of that post. Unfortunately, what usually happens is that I totally forget about what I've put there until I decide it's time to clean it out. By that time, I've forgotten whatever pearls of wisdom I had to contribute to the discussion.

This is a topic, though, that really has no "window of opportunity." The Bible as our ultimate authority in matters of faith and practice. The 1689 London Baptist Confession puts it this way, right at the very beginning: "The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience ..."

Biblical authority is important to practical Christianity. If this book we read called the Bible has no authority over our lives, if it isn't the rule we follow, then why read it? It's not a simple book to read and understand (some Bible translators' opinions to the contrary). There are plenty of self-help books out there that claim to work, and many people lead what seem to be pretty happy lives following the precepts of Tony Robbins and folks like him. The Bible makes demands on people, it gives us rules to follow, it cramps our style. If it's just another book, then why bother?

The answer is simple -- it's not just another book. It's exactly what the LBC says it is, the only sure, sufficient, infallible rule that we have. When preachers fail, when churches stray, when Christians disappoint, we still have the assurance that the Bible is the authority. We can turn to the same Book that sparked the Great Awakening and the Reformation. We can read the texts that prompted Augustine to leave his Platonism and follow Christ. And we know that it is authoritative because ... it says so.

That's the common defense of Biblical authority -- All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV) It's authority is grounded in itself.

But then, I read a question like Joe Carter asked way back in December.

But is it enough to believe simply because “the Bible tells me so?” Isn’t it circular reasoning to claim that Scripture is authoritative based on the Bible’s claims about itself? And is it rational to believe something on the grounds that Scripture affirms it?
And Joe has an answer to that one that I cannot help but echo -- yes, it is rational.
For us to accept that the premise is rational it must be true that (a) the means by which one arrives at a particular truth are quite likely to lead to truth and (b) one has no convincing reason for giving up that belief. If both of these conditions are met then it is reasonable for one to hold that belief, otherwise it is not.

Since I am still a Christian I obviously have not found a convincing reason for giving up the belief in this premise. Whether I should believe it is rational must therefore depend on how I arrived at this truth. The answer is that I was lead to believe it by the Holy Spirit. Not only does the Bible tell me so, but God himself has testified to the veracity of the claim. Assuming that the Spirit has in fact guided me to believe the premise, then I have a rational, reasonable, non-circular reason for believing that the Bible is true.

We can use logic to justify our belief in Scripture. We can point to it's preservation through centuries of time. We can point to ancient texts that verify its contents. But those things don't matter without the witness of the Holy Spirit in our lives, guiding us to all Truth, and drawing us to the Father.

I think that this, more than any other reason, is why Christians and nonChristians will never see eye to eye on matters concerning the Bible. Without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, nobody can see the truths of the Bible. Nobody can appreciate the truths it contains. We are naturally suspicious, and the idea of a book written by men who were divinely inspired to write down the words of God seems too good to be true for us. We are also fallen, and we revel in our fallen state. We see the Bible, with its rules for righteous living, as a threat to our freedom of choice. And we are stubborn -- we see in the Bible the message that God has done for us what we cannot do for ourselves, and we don't want to admit that there is anything we cannot do for ourselves.

So as fallen men, we deny the authority of Scripture. But as redeemed children of God, joint heirs with Jesus Christ, we can do no other but accept its authority over us as the Word of God. And what can trump the revealled Word of God in authority over us as believers? From the LBC once again

The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, dependeth not upon the testimony of any man or church, but wholly upon God (who is truth itself), the author thereof; therefore it is to be received because it is the Word of God.
( 2 Peter 1:19-21; 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 John 5:9 )

Posted by: Warren Kelly at 11:24 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
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1 Acts 28:27 FOR THE HEART OF THIS PEOPLE HAS BECOME DULL,AND WITH THEIR EARS THEY SCARCELY HEAR,AND THEY HAVE CLOSED THEIR EYES;OTHERWISE THEY MIGHT SEE WITH THEIR EYES,AND HEAR WITH THEIR EARS,AND UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEART AND RETURN,AND I WOULD HEAL THEM. God's word is God's word. It is truth. There can be no other! It is vital for Christian bloggers to immerse their posts as you have done in the Holy Word of God which never returns void and always accomplishes its purpose. It is a post such as this that reminds me why I take the time to read Christian blogs. This is excellent and a great exhortation and reminder. Thank you!

Posted by: Vicki Davis at January 10, 2006 05:15 PM (UuDq2)

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