A DEFINITION OF AUTHORITY OF SCRIPTURE

The next few post will continue to exam the doctrines that are tied to Scripture, such as authority, canonicity and sufficiency. This post provides an introduction to the subject as well as a look at the authority of Scripture.

A DEFINITION OF AUTHORITY, CANONICITY & SUFFICIENCY

The central and pivotal doctrine of Scripture is the doctrine of inspiration, that states that all Scripture is God-breathed and has God as its source. Furthermore, inspiration is “the supernatural influence of the Holy Spirit upon the Scripture writers which rendered their writings an accurate record of the revelation, or which resulted in what they wrote actually being the Word of God.”[1] As a result, the doctrine of inspiration is made up of four separate doctrines: inerrancy, authority, canonicity and sufficiency. Each of these doctrines are all by-products or derivatives of the doctrine of inspiration.

Recall that the doctrine of inerrancy can be defined simply as Scripture being true and without error. Since it is “wholly and verbally God-given, Scripture is without error or fault in all of its teachings, no less than what it states about God’s acts in Creation, about the events of world history, about its own literary origins under God, and its witness to God’s saving grace in individual lives.”[2] In an attempt to bring clarity and a greater understanding on the doctrine of inspiration, the purpose of this writing is to expand the awesome work of inspiration by defining the doctrines of authority, canonicity and sufficiency of the Scriptures. The Bible is authoritative because it has God as its source and since it is his Word, it is to be obeyed. Scripture is worthy of preservation and collection because they were recognized as being God’s inspired Word. Inside this authoritative collection of God’s inspired sacred writings, is everything the servant of God needs to follow, worship and live a godly life. Having defined inerrancy previously, these three doctrines will now be further examined

Doctrine of Authority

The doctrine of authority can be defined as that which is to be obeyed. As authoritative, Scripture reveals God and His commands and promises. Since Scripture has God as its source, we can attribute it to being God’s Word and having all the authority of God, thus Scripture is to be obeyed. Scriptures “authority rests on its divinity and its divinity expresses itself in its trustworthiness.”[3] The Bible presents itself first and foremost, as the Word of the Lord, given to man through chosen recipients and transmitters of divine redemptive revelation.[4] Since the Bible is a result of the divine work of the Holy Spirit working through the biblical writers, “the product of their activities transcends human powers and becomes divinely authoritative.”[5] Scripture is to be obeyed because with God as the Divine Author, He breathes out instructions for His people and all mankind.

Yet many deny the authority of Scripture. They deny that Scripture was inspired by God and that it is authoritative. Critics will speak of degrees of authority, but in doing so they misunderstand what authority is. As mentioned previously, Scripture as a whole is authoritative. Every part of it comes from God and shares His very attributes, including His authority and trustworthiness. It is evident from Jesus’ own teachings and testimony that He viewed every word of Scripture as a word of God and thus authoritative ascribing God as its author.[6] Jesus appeals to the indefectible authority belonging to every part of Scripture, as both He and the New Testament writers make their appeal indifferently to every part of Scripture, to every element in Scripture, to its most incidental clauses as well as to its most fundamental principles, and to the very form of its expression (cf. Matt. 5:18). [7] This is not to say that every part of Scripture applies to every situation. One must recognize that some passages don’t apply in certain contexts. Some passages are more timeless and important than others, but all of Scripture comes with the authority of God. Henry warns us that “Whoever would speak of God as authoritative over human life, yet clouds the authority of the Bible, in effect obscures an authoritative God.”[8] “Without an authoritative Scripture, the church is powerless to overcome not only human unregeneracy but also satanic deception.”[9] In denying the authority that God gave to the Bible, the Bible has been reduced by one’s critical reasoning and has elevated that reasoning in direct opposition to Scriptural teaching.[10]

The doctrine of authority can be described as a function of God’s inspiration of Scripture that carries His sovereignty as the source of Scripture bearing His characteristics to reveal instructions to be obeyed. Scripture’s authority is profitable for the servant of God to do His will and “make you wise unto salvation” (2 Tim. 3:15, NIV).

[1] Millard J. Erikson, Christian Theology, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1983), 199.

[2] “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy,” in Inerrancy, ed. Norman Geisler (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980), 493.

[3] Benjamin B. Warfield, “Inspiration 8-18,” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Internet, available from http://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Def.show/RTD/isbe/ID/4618/Inspiration-8-18.htm, accessed 13 April 2014.

[4] Carl F. Henry, “The Authority and Inspiration of Scripture,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank Gaebelein, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979), 4.

[5] Benjamin B. Warfield, “Inspiration 1-7,” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Internet, available from http://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Def.show/RTD/isbe/ID/4618/Inspiration-1-7.htm, accessed 13 April 2014.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Henry, 11.

[9] Ibid, 13.

[10] “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy,” in Inerrancy, ed. Norman Geisler (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980), 502.

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