Saturday, January 29, 2011

Touching Base! Part 112

Biblical Authority

(This article can also we found on our website
at under the tab called "Blog")

This Touching Base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.

Our presenter today was James A. Beverley, Professor of Christian Thought and Ethics, Tyndale Seminary, Toronto and Associate Director, Institute for the Study of American Religion, Santa Barbara.

I. Reasons to Trust the Bible and make it our Authority
  • The Bible points to Jesus.
  • The Bible is rooted and anchored in history.
  • The Bible has been copied carefully.
  • The Bible contains amazing prophecies that have come true.
  • The Bible has a wonderful message of salvation and eternal life.
  • The Bible is the witness to God’s mighty acts.
  • The Bible is accurate about humanity.
  • The Bible contains great guidance for moral and spiritual living.
  • The Bible commands a self-critical stance.
Jesus had a high view of the Jewish Scripture and used its teaching to resist Satan and to guide his disciples. If the Scriptures were good enough for Jesus, why not follow his lead?

Question for Discussion:
  • Are there other reasons to trust the Bible?
II. Options on Biblical Authority

1. Fundamentalist/conservative Christian view

The Bible is the inerrant and infallible Word of God. There are no mistakes or errors on any matter, scientific, moral, spiritual, historical, etc. The Bible should never be doubted and there is no reason to question any of its historical reports, miracles, or teaching.

(Many fundamentalists would add that the King James Version is the only trustworthy translation of the Bible.)

2. Moderate Conservative view

The Bible is God’s Word and is infallible on matters of faith and practice. However, there are some very difficult teachings in Scripture, particularly in the Old Testament. Further, there are minor errors on scientific and historical issues. These mistakes come from human error and not from God’s revelation.

3. Liberal Christian view

The Bible contains great spiritual teaching but informed Christians need not believe its miracle-stories or many of the Old Testament myths. The Bible contains false teaching on major subjects related to creation, the role of women, slavery, etc. As well, God speaks through other scriptures like the Gita, the Qur’an, the Sikh Adi Granth, and the Buddhist sutras.

4. Atheist view

The Bible is a false, misleading, dangerous book that has crippled humanity. There is no God and so there is no divine map for humans.

Questions for Discussion
  • What is your view of the Bible’s authority?
  • If you accept the Bible as God’s Word, how do you handle tough teachings?
  • What is your favourite Bible translation?
III. Principles on Inerrancy
  1. Inerrancy is the ideal theory about the Bible - a book without mistakes is better than a book with mistakes.
  2. The doctrine of inerrancy is often defended on the basis of logic - a) God inspired the Bible, b) God makes no mistakes, and c) Therefore, the Bible makes no mistakes.
  3. Inerrancy illustrates the power of a world view. If one is radically committed to the importance of inerrancy, then it would be very difficult to admit to an error in Scripture even if there was one or several or many. Evangelicals who believe in inerrancy need to work hard to be honest about problems in Scripture.
  4. The inerrancy doctrine preserves something absolutely crucial about the Christian doctrine of God: God makes no mistakes, He is perfect, therefore, whatever He inspires has to be inerrant. If there was a mistake in the original autographs that would have to come from human error in reception of God's Word.
  5. Inerrancy is not absolutely essential for the survival of the gospel. While an error on certain crucial items would spell the end of the Gospel (e.g. if Jesus has not risen from the dead), the Gospel does not hinge on an error on a minor item.
  6. Evangelicals need to be loving in the defence of Biblical authority. The battle over inerrancy and the authority of the Bible has often illustrated abuse of power and a lack of love.
  7. Be wary of the slippery slide in relation to Biblical authority. History has shown that once humans become the judge of Scripture on minor things, the trend continues on to question the very essential doctrines of the faith.
  8. Don't decide an issue by whether a view is liberal or conservative. Decide on the basis of what the Bible really teaches. The Bible teaches both liberal and conservative ideas. Jesus was both liberal and conservative, depending on the issue and the setting.
  9. Distinguish between the major and minor issues in biblical authority.
  10. Don't be superstitious about the Bible. It is to be respected as God's word but not to be treated as a book with magic powers.
  11. Be careful of the line that says “It doesn't matter” in relation to alleged mistakes in the Bible. Of course it matters if there are mistakes in the Bible.
  12. I would recommend that evangelicals admit to problems in Scripture but resist calling them errors - this gives the Bible the benefit of the doubt.
  13. Don't focus on inerrancy and solving problems in Scripture to the neglect of seeing the wonderful truths of the Bible. The supremacy of God's Word should not be lost in the debates about alleged contradictions and problem passages.
  14. Distinguish between whether the person believes the Bible is their authority from whether or not they have a false interpretation of specific Bible items. Is it an issue of authority or hermeneutics (or maybe both)?
  15. Be careful of the emphasis on the King James Version only in some conservative circles. The inerrancy issue is separate from the issue of the best translation. (The KJV is a beautiful translation but modern translations like the NIV are understood more easily).
Questions for Discussion
  • Do you agree with all of Professor Beverley’s points?
  • Are there any mistakes in the Bible?
IV. Resources on Scripture

Gordon Fee & Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth (Zondervan, 2003)
I. Howard Marshall, Biblical Inspiration (Hodder & Stoughton, 1982)
Leon Morris, I Believe in Revelation (Eerdmans, 1976)
Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ (Zondervan, 1998)

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