Basic Doctrine of Scripture
Certain ideas are crucial basics here, meaning no conversation can truly go forth without some fundamentals. We might call them, as Francis Schaeffer did, “true truths.” They are thoughts so necessary that any concept of reality falls apart without them. We hold first that there is a God. Further, we must assert that the Bible is the self-revelation of God. Since there is a rational God, it would be logically valid to hold that this God would choose to communicate with His people. Also, as pertaining to the original manuscripts, we hold that Bible was written with no error. These are the essential presuppositions which undergird all of our writings. In a blog post from May 22, 2012, John Frame states, “Believers know God’s mysteries by revelation of his Spirit, in words inspired by the Spirit, giving them ‘the mind of Christ’ (1 Cor. 2:9-16, compare 2 Tim. 3:16).” These presuppositions drive a number of other terms important to our study. Words such as inspired, infallible, inerrant, and sufficient form the nucleus of the doctrine of Scripture. In turn, that doctrine forms the basis for every other belief we hold to be true. We could state that the belief in God and His Scripture is the foundation upon which we build the entirety of our theological house.
What do we mean when we say that the Scriptures are inspired? Well, we certainly do not mean the same thing as when we say a movie, a musical, or a speech was inspirational. The word “inspired” has taken on a nuance of meaning that is construed as emotionally moving. True, there are times when the Word of God is quite moving, but that is not what we intend here. The Greek word for inspired is theopneustos. In its most basic and literal sense, it denotes being God-breathed or carried along by the Spirit. The Word of God is the message that has been breathed out by the very breath of God. A seminary professor told our class, “The Word of God is God-breathed and God don’t have no bad breath.” The Word of God is true and right because it represents God Himself; it proceeds from the mind of God. The Bible is inspired.
The Bible is also infallible, quite different than any man-made document. One theologian defined it like this: “incapable of failing to accomplish a predetermined purpose.” The Bible will not fail at the purposes of God. It carries a sense of the divine will. It will reveal God to us, it will show us our sinfulness, and it will show us the remedy for sin that has been propitiated in Christ. “Infallibility” extends to Scripture alone. No human being or human agency has ever been infallible. Only the Word of God is infallible.
Some in the world today take the scope of infallibility and use it to try and limit the Word of God. Some would say, the Word of God is infallible in its purpose, but what about its content? Could the Bible possibly be right in the direction it takes but wrong in some of the details? The Bible is not a science or history textbook. It is the salvation history of the people of God. So maybe it would be ok if it were wrong on a number or historical or scientific fact. Such is the theological development against which the Southern Baptist Convention fought and prevailed. The word infallible guards the Bible’s divine purpose, but that isn’t enough. We need more.
We turn to the word inerrant. “Inerrant” means free from error and guarantees that Scripture was given without mistake or other human failing. God used the personalities of the human authors to communicate His message, but he preserved that process free from error. This perfection extends to the original autographs. We will shortly discuss how modern translations impact this understanding, but for now, know that you have a Bible you can trust. We have a book written by different authors, in different cultures, at different times, in different genres or styles, and yet protected from error. There is not another book in the existence of the world that can share such a claim. Being free from error also means being free from changes or additions. There are no edits on the Bible. That is not what translations are. In speaking about the Scriptures, we often use the term “the canon.”.A canon is a measuring rod signifying that the Bible is complete. With the penning of the Book of Revelation, the canon of Scripture was closed. There are no future revelations. No additional teaching is authoritative like the Bible. We have good tools to study the Bible, but none of them holds the importance of Scripture itself. The Bible consists of the sixty-six books from Genesis through Revelation. This excludes all of the Apocrypha as well as any deuterocanonical literature. Those works may make interesting reading, but they lack authenticity and authority. The Bible alone stands as inerrant.
Lastly, we want to mention that the Bible is sufficient for us. God’s Word gives us everything that we need in terms of belief or action. There is no area of life to which Scripture does not speak. It guides our every decision, action, and thought. When you wish that you could hear God speak to you, remind yourself that He already has. He has spoken through the Bible. The Word of God is divine self-disclosure whereby God has given us what we need. We tend to look to other sources for help with our problems – talk shows, psychology, self-help books, experts, and more. Instead, we should appeal to the Reformation principle of Sola Scriptura. All we need is found in the Bible, God’s sufficient Word.
These are the guiding presuppositions by which The Theology Nerd operates. God, who is self-existent and all-powerful, has given us the Scriptures. By divinely-given nature, Scripture is inspired, infallible, inerrant, and sufficient. God’s Word provides the foundation that we so desperately need in our age of non-absolutes. There is no better platform for for our communication. The Bible has all the answers.
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