Theology for All #3
If Scripture is authoritative (see last week), then we need to know if we can trust it. How do I know that the authority that I am submitting my life to is a Divine authority, and not just some corrupted religious text? I am going to leave out a discussion on the canon in this series, as any canonical discussion will go into technical detail that probably surpasses the scope of this study. Instead, I’d encourage you to check out sections on canonicity in Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem or Biblical Doctrine by John MacArthur. In this article, I would like to argue that Scripture’s view of itself is that of an inspired and infallible book, which therefore can be trusted for faith and practice.
The Bible claims to be God’s Word. If the Bible is of human origin, then it’s just another nice history book with some moral teachings. Actually, it’s less than that. If the Bible is of human origin, then it is a lie. It is a lie because it claims a divine origin and a divine authority. In 2 Timothy 3:16, Paul writes that “All Scripture is breathed out by God…” He is ultimately referring to both the Old and New Testaments. The word translated “breathed out” means exactly that. It means that the words of Scripture are divine. So what do we do with the human authors? That’s one of the coolest aspects of this whole thing! God, in His sovereignty, power, and goodness, takes men and oversees the process of recording Scripture so that each man writes in his own personality, with his own words, and his own purpose, and yet every single word is covered by the Holy Spirit to ensure that it was exactly what the divine author intended.
The implication of inspiration is inerrancy. If Scripture is from God, then it must be completely true. Hebrews 6:18 tells us that it is impossible for God to lie. And Proverbs 30:5 states that “Every word of God proves true…” This is one of the most reassuring aspects of Scripture. We serve a God who cannot lie, and who has communicated His divine word to us. There are no errors or contradictions in his Word. It is fully reliable and trustworthy.
The result of inspiration and inerrancy is sufficiency. If there is an aspect of Scripture most under attack today, it is it’s sufficiency. What is the sufficiency of Scripture? In the most simple terms, it means that Scripture contains everything a Christian needs to trust and obey God perfectly. That definition is important because some who deny this concept make an easily destroyed strawman by implying that this teaching implies that Christians need NOTHING outside of Scripture (for example, medical treatment). This is ridiculous. A broken leg or cancer is not a matter of trust or obedience (in fact, many biblical principles would condemn someone who refuses medical treatment in such cases). But it is easy to attack such an indefensible position. It is harder when the position is on an issue of biblical obedience, such as fear (or worry, or anxiety). These are issues that Scripture does address, and are sinful patterns of behavior that we all too easily fall into. I would much prefer to label my fear a “disorder,” and go to a “professional” than to delve too much into what Scripture has to say about it.
Why is that?
I believe it comes down to personal responsibility. If my fear problem is a sin problem, that makes it a fellowship issue between me and God. It is not something to glorify, but a sinful pattern to be exposed, repented of, and turned from. But that requires me to change. And I don’t like being told I’m not perfect just the way I am. If I can label it as a “disorder” it removes all personal responsibility. This isn’t my fault. I didn’t choose this. This is something I live with, not something I need victory over. And boom, I can become very comfortable living with a pattern of life that Scripture tells me should not mark a believer, all by re-labelling something.
Now, I want to be extremely clear about something. I am not opposed (and I don’t believe Scripture is either) to psychiatric help for those who suffer with real mental and medical issues that are beyond their control. They exist and are real, and the church needs to do a better job of ministering to those who suffer in that way. What I as a biblical counselor am opposed to is the reclassification of issues that Scripture addresses because it makes us feel better about ourselves. That is not always an easy line to draw, but it is an area that needs careful thought and much prayer. The secular therapists of our day are not starting from biblical anthropology. They are starting from a point of moral neutrality at best, but most often from a position that man at his core is good. Because people are basically good, anything that afflicts them or any destructive patterns of behavior must come from outside of them…they must be “other.” This false starting point can lead to false conclusions, false diagnoses, and false treatments.
Scripture makes it clear where most of our problems begin. “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire” (James 1:14). My problems do not all start with me, but looking at my own flesh and my own desires is always a good place to start. There is so much more that could be said, but that would probably take a book-level treatment.
In sum, the Bible is the inspired and inerrant Word of God. It can be trusted. It is therefore sufficient. It addresses everything you need to know to trust and walk with the God of the universe. That alone should drive us to read it more carefully and more frequently as we seek to better know the Creator and Sustainer of all things!