This post is based on one of the Basic Principles studies we do in our church – the Word of God. While the Scriptures are standard to the study, the reasoning and commentary (apart from a couple of the analogies) are mine.
I would say that most people – Christians and non-Christians – don’t believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of God. Fair enough. It was written so long ago, and by so many different people from different cultures and traditions than our own. It was written by man! (And I mean that in both senses of the word – as in “not woman” and, as in “not God.”)
But let’s take a look at what the Bible has to say about itself, what Jesus had to say about God’s word, and what the apostles had to say about the Holy Scriptures.
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:14-17)
Paul, the Jew and Pharisee who had been persecuting Christians and putting them to death for a few years before his own conversion, was writing to Timothy, the son of a Jewish mother and a Greek father. Timothy’s mother had instructed him in the Scriptures, and it’s clear that having respect for the Word was nothing new to him.
But Paul reminded him that the Word makes you wise for salvation. If you want to know how to be saved, you will find the answer in the Scriptures (not how we think it should be, and not through church or family tradition).
If God is not capable of giving us a clear and perfect path to be saved through his Word, he’s not a very powerful God, is he? And if only part of the Scripture is inspired, but not all, that would be like handing someone a plate of delicious cookies and telling them that only one is poisoned. (But hey, don’t worry – you can trust all the rest of the cookies. Hope you can figure out which is which).
If you can’t trust all the Scriptures, how can you believe in God’s message of love? How can you believe that Jesus’ death on the Cross bought our forgiveness for sins? Maybe that was one of the ones that was not inspired. And if you can’t be sure of that, well . . . may as well “eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we may die.”
The Scripture says that all Scripture is God-breathed. If I want to write a letter to a friend in Italy – in Italian – I’m going to ask my friend Danila to write it for me. She will take the words down, but I am still the author. If God is not capable of insuring that the men were writing exactly what he wanted them to write, and canonizing exactly the letters and books he wished to be included, then he’s not very impressive is he? So why believe at all?
The Bible is supposed to be useful. The computer is useful – I use it every day. If it were just sitting there on a shelf gathering dust, it would do me no good at all. And the Bible is the same way – it’s supposed to be used. And that teaching, correcting rebuking thing he talks about? It is possible to be verbally spanked by God if you read it enough – I can bear witness to that.
It’s also possible to be verbally hugged.
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:12-13)
No one is quite sure who the author of Hebrews is. But he says that the word of God is living and active. Sure, traditions have changed – there is no more legalized slavery, women (in theory) have equal rights to men, but the hearts? The heart of a person? The thoughts and attitudes? Those have not changed one bit. There is still jealousy, hatred, murder, lying, slander. There is also beauty, love, peace, hope, forgiveness. The Bible judges our heart to our heart so that we cannot hide anything. We cannot lie to ourselves. And better to face who we really are now (so that we can change) than to face it on judgement day.
We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:19-21)
Peter was an apostle in Jesus’ intimate circle. (He was the one who denied him three times before the cock crowed). And he wrote this book towards the end of his life.
If you’ve read my memoir, I talked about riding on a motorcycle to pick litchis in the mountains of Taiwan. When we were coming home in the late afternoon light, we had to enter a series of tunnels. The first one we went through was a rather long one, and as we entered it, Elva said, “Oh no! The light is broken!” We had no light to guide us through the tunnel to the other side. It was scary. We could only fix our eyes at the pinpoint of light at the end of the tunnel to get us through. If we deviated to the right or the left, we risked crashing into the walls because we couldn’t see to the end of our noses in the darkness that surrounded us.
Reading the Bible is like that. The world is (or can be) very dark. Fixing our eyes on the Word will help us to breathe and survive until we exit the tunnel. And as for its origin being of man? Man has little to benefit by following the Scriptures if it is just for this world. Maybe he will be a better worker, a better father . . . but to deny yourself and pick up your cross daily? Turn the other cheek and let him slap you there too? If someone asks for your cloak, give your tunic as well? If the Scriptures were man’s own inspiration, they would not allow themselves to look quite so foolish (Moses, Jonah, Peter, Paul, to name a few). And they would not be capable of inspiring us to such selflessness.
There’s too much fluidity in the Bible over the centuries and countries in which it was written – to much continuity in the diverse set of authors who wrote it – for it to be inspired by humans.
To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)
The book of John was written by another apostle who was in Jesus’ intimate circle, who saw him alive, crucified and resurrected.
In this instance, Jesus was talking to Jews who already believed him. He was, in essence, saying it’s not enough to believe that he came from God. You have to do it. You have to put his word into practice. And then you’ll know if it’s true. Only through living it will you know if it comes from God. And then you’ll be free.
Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Timothy 4:16)
It’s not just how you live that’s important, it’s the importance of your life and your doctrine – like two wings of a plane. If you lose one of the wings on your plane, the plane will crash. A lot of people say that you just have to be a good person to be saved. But that’s not what this says. Having a correct understanding of the Scriptures will save both you and those who listen to you.
“If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day. (John 12:47-48)
Jesus didn’t come to judge. We all know that, right? But the Word will judge. You may very well be the son or daughter of the Supreme Court Judge, but if you break the law, you get the punishment. The judge may very well grieve over your punishment and separation – he may continue to love you and feel anguish as you are carted off to jail, but the law is the law. And he would be denying his position if he made an exception for you – just because you are his precious and beloved child.
Better, in the end, to know what the law says and have Jesus negotiate on your behalf with the terms set by him, than to go on your own bravado, blindly hoping for the best.
* Additional reading: Mark 7:1-13
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I wrote an article about our book that was published for grieving mothers, “Sunshine After the Storm,” and it’s on Queen Latifah’s website. Just click the button to get to the link. (Website now defunct)