Quest. 10: What is meant by the “authority” of Scripture?
Ans: The “authority” of Scripture is the rule or government the Bible is to have over our total lives as the very Word of God.
Matt. 4:4. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
2 Tim. 3:16–17. 16All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
See also: 2 Cor. 10:4–5; Heb. 1:1–2; 1 Pet. 3:15; 2 Pet. 1:20–21.
The term “authority” derives from the Latin auctor, “originator” or “author.” The authority of Scripture derives from the self–disclosing or self–revealing triune God of Scripture. The Bible is the authoritative Word of God because it is just that—the very Word of God inscripturated. Man as the image–bearer of God is Divinely and instinctively preconditioned to receive authoritative Divine revelation both in creation [natural revelation] and in God’s Word [special revelation] (Psa. 19:1–6; Jn. 14:6; Rom. 1:18–20; Col. 2:3; 1 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 3:16–17; 2 Pet. 1:20–21). Both are sufficient to hold him inexcusable (Rom. 1:18–20; 2:11–16; 2 Pet. 3:3–5). The Scriptures are self–authenticating or self–attesting, i.e., they witness to themselves by virtue of their coherency [non–contradictory nature], the testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ, the witness and power of the Holy Spirit and their power to transform lives. See Questions 14 and 136.
The authority of Scripture is necessary. Man needs special revelation [a direct and authoritative word from God] to lead him to truly and rightly know God, be reconciled to him and live in the context of his revealed will. The authority of Scripture is comprehensive. It encompasses the whole of life and reality. The authority of Scripture is executive. The Word of God comes to us as mandate or command—his “Law–Word”—not merely suggestion or information—we must read, study, submit and conform to it as such. The authority of Scripture is legislative. It is to be our rule of both faith and practice. The authority of Scripture is judicial. It is the ultimate and absolute standard of what is right or wrong, revealing the moral self–consistency of God. The authority of Scripture is perpetual. It is never “old fashioned” to believe and obey the Bible. “It is written” means “It stands written with full and undiminishing authority.” See Question 1. The authority of Scripture is ultimate. Because the Scriptures derive from God himself, there is no other criterion or authority to which they can be subjected or by which they may be judged. Thus, using the facts of history, science or various arguments to credential Scripture is inherently to give such evidence more authority than the Scripture itself. See Question 136.
There is an essential and primary matter which ought to be addressed concerning biblical authority. In a meaningful exchange [an intelligent conversation at the presuppositional level, i.e., a conversation in which one speaks from his basic assumptions, expressing his faith and world–and–life view. See Questions 120 and 136] when the believer is asked by an unbeliever why he believes and holds the Bible to be the very Word of God, he answers, “Because the Bible declares itself to be the Word of God, and this assertion is evidenced by the witness of Scripture to itself.” To this, his respondent may retort, “That is ‘circular reasoning,’ and thus, it is invalid! Circular reasoning is a logical fallacy. It is begging the question!” [petitio principii. This occurs when one assumes in his premises what he is attempting to prove in his conclusion]. But when speaking or arguing in the context of ultimate issues, all human reasoning is broadly circular or presuppositional, and is necessarily faith–based.
In other words, all facts are interpreted by one’s presuppositions. This holds true for the Christian who acknowledges his faith–based presuppositions, and also for the non–believer who may deny this, and claims to rest in the alleged “neutrality of scientific facts.” All facts are created facts. There are no “brute” or “neutral” facts, and the unbeliever himself necessarily, though unadmittedly or unknowingly, assumes Christian Theistic principles and laws or he cannot argue “scientifically”! Indeed, unless one assumes an ordered universe established by given laws, no coherence is possible on which to ground any science. The laws presupposed by science are God’s laws. The question is, are one’s arguments consistent with his professed system. In this respect, the believer is consistent [non–contradictory or coherent] and the non–believer proves inconsistent. See Question 136. Is God’s Word authoritative in your life?
By Dr. W.R. Downing