A discussion concerning the Christian Scripture must begin with a consideration of presuppositional reasoning. In today's intellectual climate, a priori reasoning is judged as foolish and unsophisticated. However, everyone has a beginning place from which they argue a conviction whether they care to admit it or not. It is impossible to do otherwise. As G. K. Chesterton said; "Only a man who knows nothing of reason talks of reasoning without strong, undisputed first principles."1 In regards to the Bible, one either begins with a belief in the Bible as the word of God or one begins with a belief in the Bible as myth and fairytale. There is no middle ground. To suggest that it is possible to remain neutral concerning the validity of the Christian Scripture reveals a lack of understanding about the claims of the Bible.
© June 2006 By D. Eric Williams
The Bible's statements are absolute; it is the God-breathed word of God and it cannot be broken. To put it another way, the Bible is the expression of God's character and being and it is without error. If Jones is to say that he wishes to remain neutral on the subject of the Bible, then he is saying that, until proven otherwise (to his satisfaction), he will believe that the Bible is myth and not believe that the Bible is God-breathed revelation. Clearly this is negation not neutrality. Jones must either believe that the Bible is God's inerrant word or he must reject it as such.
Critics insist that a priori reasoning is not sensible and thus proof of the Christian's irrational acceptance of the Bible as God's word. Yet, Jones cannot logically claim that Smith's acceptance of the Bible is less reasonable than his rejection. What irrefutable proof can Jones muster to support his position? There is none. Jones is simply arguing from His underlying assumptions.
Unfortunately many Christians have been conditioned by the world's wisdom and are embarrassed by the a priori method. They have been led to believe that a legitimate discussion concerning the Bible must begin at a neutral starting point. Opponents of the Bible and the Christian faith will claim that they have either set aside their presuppositions or that they do not have any in the first place. Thus our opponents will claim that skepticism is a healthy launching point for a discussion. We cannot be fooled by this attempt to rig the argument. Instead we must work to discover the presuppositions of those who oppose the Bible and force them to first defend their already determined beliefs.
The Bible itself claims to be inerrant in so far as it is the word of a perfect God who is not capable of error or falsehood. All throughout the Old Testament, for instance, we see a record of what is called the word of God. As such it reflects the perfect character of its Author.
(We will see in a moment that the Christian's acceptance of the Bible as God-breathed and without error is ultimately a matter of faith. However, that does not mean that there is a lack of other evidence to support the Bible's own claims of fidelity.)
By the time of Christ, the Old Testament canon was well established2 and Jesus considered the (Old Testament), Scripture to be reliable as is shown in His frequent use of the Bible to bolster His own claims (Matt. 19:4f, 22:29, Luke 18:31, 22:37, 24:27, 44 and many more). The Apostle Paul described the (Old Testament), Scriptures as the "oracles3 of God" and as "God breathed" (Rom. 3:2, 2 Tim 3:16). He also recognized the words of Jesus as Scripture (1 Tim. 5:18). Moreover, Paul's understood his own ministry as an appointment from God, impelled by direct revelation (Rom. 1:1, 1 Cor. 1:1, Gal. 1:1, 12). He comprehended that, along with the inspired prophets of the Old Covenant era, the Apostles of Jesus Christ were controlled by the Holy Spirit and their work was of equal importance (Eph. 2:20, 3:5).
The early Church recognized the inspiration of the apostolic writings also. The synoptic Gospels and the letters of Paul were immediately accepted as inspired Scripture (cf.2 Peter 3:16, 1Ttim. 5:18), and circulated as a "New Testament" of sorts as early as AD 85.4 Over the next few centuries a New Testament canon corresponding to our own was established with a list provided by Athanasius in AD 367 and confirmed in AD 397 at the Council of Carthage5
Confidence in the reliability of the Bible is supported by substantial extra-biblical evidence as well. For in stance, the science of archaeology has shown that we can trust the scriptural record
Before his death, Moses charged the Israelites to build an altar on mount Ebal, west of the Jordan. He told them to build it of whitewashed stones, upon which they were to inscribe the law. They were to offer sacrifices and then pronounce blessings and cursing, with half the people on mount Ebal and the other half on mount Gerizim. Upon entering the land, after the fall of Jericho and Ai, Joshua carried out the command. (Deut. 27:1-13, Josh. 8:30-35). It seems clear that the remnants of that very alter were found in the early 1980's6 helping to provide a firm underpinning for our trust in the accuracy of the Bible.
Another well known archeological proof is the discovery of the water tunnel built at the command of Hezekiah, king of Judah in the seventh or eighth century BC (2 Kings 20:20). A tunnel corresponding to the shaft described in scripture was discovered in the late nineteenth century when an inscription relating to the building of the tunnel was found in the pool of Siloam.7
There are also ample extra-biblical historical accounts that uphold the veracity of the Bible. For instance, the Jewish historian Josephus Flavius had this to say in regard to Jesus Christ:
Now there was about this time Jesus a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works - a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him many of the Jews and many of the gentiles. He was [the] Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principle men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.8
It is granted that this section of Josephus is controversial; his treatment of Jesus appears to be overly favorable for a Jew who is trying to curry favor with his Roman masters. Nevertheless, even if we concede that there are interpolations in the account, it is clear that Josephus recognized Jesus Christ as an historical figure who did "unusual" things and was crucified by Pontius Pilate at the instigation of the Jewish leadership.
Other historians of antiquity have made reference to Christ as well, thereby upholding the authenticity and accuracy of the New Testament biblical record.9
Nonetheless, it is neither archeological evidence nor extra-biblical history that convinces one that the Bible is indeed God breathed and inerrant. In the final analysis it remains a matter of faith. Paul says that the "natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor. 2:14). We who are born again accept what the Bible tells us on faith. Certainly our faith is based upon the trustworthy character of our Father in heaven and our Savior Jesus Christ. But it is true that outside of faith it is impossible to accept the Bible on its own terms (Eph. 2:8-10, Heb. 11:1f).
The Spirit of God inspired the writers of the Bible to write the very words of God (2 peter 1:19-21, 1 Cor. 2:13, Matt. 5:18, John 17:17), yet they were not merely stenographers. Rather, the men whom God used to pen the Scriptures were chosen from before the foundation of the world to write. They were created with specific personalities and abilities and wrote according to their God given character. Just as an artist chooses certain brushes to create a desired affect, God created and shaped certain individuals to cast the Scripture according to His desire. Each writer provided the texture and style appropriate to their task. As Gordon Clark has said:
When God wished to make a revelation, at then time of the exodus or of the captivity, he did not suddenly look around, as if caught unprepared, and wonder what man he could use for the purpose. We cannot suppose that he advertised for help, and when Moses and Jeremiah applied, God constrained them to speak his words. And yet this derogatory view underlies the objection to verbal inspiration. The relation between God and the prophet is totally unlike that between a boss ands a stenographer.10
The focus of the Bible is Jesus Christ. In the pages of Scripture we discover who He is and are lead to Him as the Holy Spirit illuminates our minds, allowing us to see and understand the truth (Luke 24:27, 44, John 5:39, Acts 17:2-3).
It follows that for the Christian, all that is necessary for God's "own glory, man's salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture" (John 5:39, Rom. 15:4, 1 Cor. 10:11, 2 Tim. 3:15-17).11 Hence a thorough knowledge of the Bible is necessary to the Christian who desires to "walk even as (Jesus) walked" (1 John 2:6). If we hope to do the will of the Father (as did Jesus), then we must know His will and that requires diligent study of the Bible. A godly walk is not limited to "mere morality" but to a complete world and life view. In other words, the Bible is not concerned with personal piety alone, but with the way we live all of life. The Bible must guide the Christian in his home life, his employment, his politics, his entertainment, his evangelism and on and on. To amplify the Westminster Confession a bit, the Bible teaches us what we are to believe and how to apply that belief to every corner of our lives.
There are those who propose that Christians do not really need to worry about the Bible since we are led by the Spirit. They say that we are not under law but grace. However, Believers who insist that the Bible has been superseded by the direct leading of the Spirit misunderstand; ironically they cite the authority of the Bible (incorrectly), as justification for ignoring the Bible.
When Paul says that we are not under law but under grace (Rom. 6:14), he is simply telling us that because we are born again we are no longer in the condition of the natural man. All of mankind, apart from Christ, is under the law. Their actions are measured by the law of God and found wanting; hence they are judged and condemned by the law. However, the Believer is under grace. His actions are also judged by the law and found wanting, but he is not condemned because God, in His grace, has accepted the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ on his behalf. Paul's point is that the Christian is not under the power of sin even though he may not perfectly obey the law. Unlike the unregenerate man, the Christian lives in the grace of God and his transgressions - past, present and future - are paid for in Christ.
Meanwhile, Believers are expected to live a life in keeping with God's revealed will as an expression of our love and gratitude to Him. The Scripture plainly says that he "who says ‘I know Him' and does not keep His commandments is a liar and the truth is not in him" and that this "is the love of God that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome" (1 John 2:4, 5:3). Thus, love is defined as keeping the commandments of God. Jerry Bridges, drawing from the work of Meredith Kline has this to say:
In ancient Middle Eastern cultures, the word love is used in treaties, or covenants, to denote the faithful adherence to the directives of the overlord. Meredith Kline, who has studied extensively the ancient Near East covenants writes, "When swearing allegiance to the suzerain, the vassals at times declared: ‘Our lord we will love.' And a vassal wishing to clear himself of suspicion of infidelity protests that he is the king's great servant and friend (literally, one who loves the suzerain)." Then Kline points out that "to love the suzerain meant precisely to serve him by obeying the particular demands stipulated in his treaty."12
The ancient suzerain treaties were in imitation of God's covenant with His people.13 And, just as He has since the beginning of time, God expects his people to obey Him. Really this is not difficult. Jesus said that His yoke is easy ant that His burden is light in comparison to the rules devised by man. Yet, unless we know the Bible, we cannot know what it is He expects of us.
In short, the Bible teaches us what we are to believe concerning God, Jesus Christ, the Holy spirit, Mankind, sin, salvation, the Church, eschatology, the civil realm - and how that belief will impact our life in relation to each area.