“The Bible contains truth,” we often hear. But what do such words really mean? Behind them is a flawed view of biblical authority, with deadly consequences.
Both statements sound good. After all, does not God speak to us by illuminating the biblical text when we are reading? Is not truth found in the Scriptures? Yes, of course.
But behind both statements lies a flawed view of the Bible, or at least a potential misconception about the authority of Scriptures.
If we habitually identify truth by some internal response from our emotions, mind, or heartstrings, we open ourselves to the bad idea that the Bible “becomes the Word of God” when God speaks to us.
Years ago, this belief was promoted by a philosophy known as existentialism. This philosophy made its way into the church through a view called neo-orthodoxy. Theologians in this camp taught that the Bible becomes God’s Word when He uses it to speak to us. (In this view anything can be God’s Word if He chooses to speak to us from it.)
The “existential” part is that we identify God’s Word through our own experience. In essence, we decide what is true by our likes, desires, or biases.
I once spoke to a high school sociology class and found that almost all of the students believed in heaven, but almost no one believed in hell. Strange, isn’t it? Both concepts are taught in the same Book, but these students were choosing not to believe what was distasteful to them. As a result, the authority of those texts on hell was discarded and ignored.
The statement “the Bible contains truth” does not go far enough. The Bible does not just contain truth; the Bible is truth!
“The Bible contains truth” is an insufficient view. To be sure, the Bible does contain truth, but this statement does not go far enough. The Bible is truth!
Jesus Christ said plainly, “Your word is truth” (John 17:17). His words echo Psalm 119:160: “The entirety of Your word is truth.” God—not us—determines what is truth. And God has declared what is truth—the Bible. Every word, every thought, is inspired by God. In theology we call this verbal, plenary inspiration. Every word is “inspired” (God-breathed), not just the thoughts behind them (“verbal” inspiration). And all of the words are inspired, not just the ones we like (“plenary” inspiration). As a result of inspiration, the Bible is inerrant (without error) and infallible (incapable of error). It is absolutely true in all that it teaches as true.
Think for a moment about the implications for the Christian, as he opens his Bible and approaches the text.
If the Bible “contains” truth and if the truth is identified by some “experiential” criteria, then he will have to search for the truth. He must pick and choose what is the truth. In the process, he must rely on his own ability to discern truth, even though the heart, mind, and emotions of man are corrupt and fallible.
On the other hand, if a person comes to the Bible and presupposes it is all true, he does not ponder “what is true?” He considers it all true and is on a solid footing to hear all the Lord has for him, as God’s Spirit leads him into all truth (John 16:13).
Do you see my point? If we do not come to the Bible with a correct view of verbal, plenary inspiration, then the authority of Scripture is undermined. We have to be the one who discerns, or decides, or chooses what is truth. The rest of the Word lies on the cutting-room floor and is discarded or ignored.
If we do not believe or accept that the entire Bible is God-given, then what is the basis of its authority? If we decide what is true, then God’s Word has no authority at all. We are the authority. A subtle error? Yes. But it is far from a minor problem in the church. I believe that it is widespread and pandemic.
Christians must believe in the authority of Scripture—all the Scriptures: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16, NASB).
This approach to understanding Scripture allowed our Lord and Savior to speak with “authority” (Matthew 7:29). We need to adopt this same approach, as we go about our lives sharing the gospel and helping others. Our words will have authority only as we affirm “God’s Word is truth!”
Next in this three-part series: “Jesus Plus—Dangers of the Postmodern Mindset.”