Article I. Bibliology, the Doctrine of the Bible
Article I—BIBLIOLOGY (The Study of the Word of God)
- 1 Revelation.
The Bible is the Word of God given unto man to reveal God and to show forth His eternal plan to mankind, including the meaning and purpose of our humanity, which is first and foremost to know, enjoy, worship, honor, and appreciate our Creator.
- 2 Inspiration and Authority.”
We believe that all Scripture was given by inspiration of God, or “God Breathed” — (2ndTimothy 3:16). By this statement, we do not deny the participation of man in greater or lesser degrees in the writing of most of the Scriptures. The Bible came to us through a great variety of lowly methods, very few having the outward appearance of any supernatural content.
In drafting his gospel, Luke interviewed people, read accounts, collected documents, and whatever else an historian would do in researching a work (Luke 1:2).
Paul analyzed the Old Testament according to his disciplined training as a Pharisee, crafting carefully reasoned theological arguments (Romans 4:3–4).
Archeologists have discovered that some of the Psalms and Proverbs appear to have originated in Ugaritic or other pagan cultures, with their theology modified to maintain doctrinal accuracy. (Psalm 29 is an example).
Paul advances one theological argument by quoting a pagan Greek poet (Acts 17:28).
Jude quotes from apocryphal Jewish writings (Jude 6).
Five separate times, St. Paul recites a “faithful saying” of the day, and affirms that it is worth of all acceptance. 1 Timothy 1:15, 3:1, 4:7-9; 2 Timothy 2:11-13 and Titus 3:7-9.
Quite simply, all truth is God’s truth. And if a man utters something worthy of being repeated in Scripture, it is worthy of being called the Word of God.
In each of the above cases, the compilation of these thoughts into Scripture is indelibly etched with the fingerprint of man, and without the outward appearance of divine origin. Yet regardless of the form of literature, or the outward method by which the author gathered the thoughts before writing them, Scripture affirms that, in every case, the authors of the Scriptures were “born along” or “superintended” by the Holy Spirit as they put pen to parchment (1st Peter 20:21). Accordingly we believe that, after gathering data or formulating theological arguments, the Holy Spirit was active in guiding the author in the actual writing of Scripture so that every word and every statement penned in Scripture, whether spiritual, historical, or scientific, was without error.
We believe that the humble origins of Scripture mirror the humble origins of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, though born in a lowly stable as a descendent of Adam’s fallen race, was nevertheless preserved from sin by the Holy Spirit, and came to man as the incarnate Word of God. So also is Scripture, from its humble origins, is without flaw or error, fully of God, and fully of man, mirroring the divine union of God and man in the incarnate Word of God.
We acknowledge the limitations of human language, but do not believe these limitations undermine the inerrancy of Scripture. If a display on a calculator only allows two decimal points, no claim is made about the tenth decimal point. But the limitation of the number of decimals of a display is not the same as mathematical error. And the same is true with human language Honest men may differ on exactly what “without error” means in an imperfect medium such as human language. But Jesus Christ plainly believed Scripture was without error. And Jesus’ view of Scripture has to be our starting place and foundational premise when it comes to Scripture.
- 3 Lower Criticism
We believe that the inerrancy of Scripture extends only to the original manuscripts or “autographa.” We believe, however, that the Holy Spirit has been active in world history to preserve his Word (Psalm 12:7), and that through godly men who have been yielded to his Spirit in their analysis of the existing manuscripts, God has made available for believers today, Scripture that, in its essence, partakes in the inerrancy of the autographa. We believe, however, it is the duty of each believer, to the extent possible, to prayerfully and intelligently investigate the textual and philosophical basis of the various translations of Scripture that are available, and to select for study that which is a faithful and accurate rendition of the Word of God.
- 4 Canonicity
The canon of Scripture is a closed collection of all writings and only those writings inspired by God. The 39 books of the Hebrew Old Testament and the 27 books of the Greek New Testament comprise the whole canon of Scripture (2ndTimothy 3:16; Jude 3; Revelation 22:18–22). Because Scripture is God’s only written revelation to men, it is our sole source of infallible guidance for faith and practice. We do not accept the apocryphal books as canonical (Matthew 5:17–18; cf. Revelation 22:18–19; Jude 3; Luke 11:50-51). We believe that the Cannon is established by logic, intrinsic evidence, and tradition.
- Logic and intrinsic Evidence: Jesus quoted from 24 of the 39 books of the Old Testament. In Luke 11:50-51, Jesus makes tacit reference to the Jewish cannon, “from the blood of Able to the blood of Zechariah.” (The blood of Able, the first martyr, was spilled in the first book of the Jewish cannon, Genesis. Although Zechariah may not the last martyr, chronologically speaking, his martyrdom is mentioned in the last book of the Old Testament in the Hebrew cannon (II Chron. 24:20-22). Hence, Jesus uses a “from the beginning to the end” figure of speech using the beginning and end of the Hebrew cannon for the background of his figure of speech, tacitly setting forth the Jewish cannon.
- Tradition: Josephus’ Against Apion lists the Jewish cannon, and includes every book except the Song of Solomon. These, and many other extra-biblical sources form the tradition by which we determine the cannon of the Old and New Testament.
The tension between tradition and Scripture: Roman Catholicism is quick to assert that the traditions of the church have equal authority with the Scriptures. We acknowledge that there remains a “circularity” in reasoning and a tension between Scripture and tradition. Even if one accepts Jesus’ reference “from the blood of Able to the blood of Zechariah” as an argument “from Scripture” for establishing the canon of the Old Testament, it was the “tradition of the church” that identified The Gospel of Luke as part of the New Testament canon! Accordingly, we do not naively pretend there is not a tension between the “traditions of the church” and the recognition of Scripture. Nevertheless, we do not believe that God intended for “the church” or “tradition” to maintain an equal position to Scripture throughout church history. Consider the following example:
In America, the citizens vote for the president. Then, the “electoral college” of each state votes for the president according to the way a majority of their particular state voted. Then, a federal judge “swears in” the president. However, neither the citizens, nor the electoral college, nor the federal judge who administers the oath, share presidential authority. Their only tasks, with respect to the executive office, were to “select” and “anoint” the chief executive. When completed, presidential authority is established. Neither the voting public, nor the electoral college, nor the federal judge have the right to set up an adjoining office next to the president!
In a similar way, the “Messiah” or the “Christ” means “the anointed one.” God chose Mary of Bethany as the one to “anoint” the Messiah (John 12:1-7, Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9) and John the Baptist was the voice calling out in the wilderness “Behold, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” John “pointed,” and Mary “anointed.” But neither John the Baptist nor Mary of Bethany forever hold equal authority to Jesus Christ any more than a federal judge holds equal authority with the president of the United States.
In a similar way, God used institutional Israel and the church (including regenerate and sometimes unregenerate men and women), to establish the cannon of the Jewish Scriptures, and the New Testament Scriptures. But this does not forever establish tradition equal to Scripture any more than the teachings of John the Baptist or Mary of Bethany are equal in authority to the teaching of Jesus. The one who “points,” and the one who “anoints,” are not a co-regent. They are a servant chosen for a purpose!