Churches and Abuse: What Does the Authority of Scripture Mean? –
2 Timothy 3:14-17 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it (15) and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. (16) All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, (17) that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
I believe in the inerrancy, authority, and infallibility of Scripture. That is to say, I believe that the original manuscripts (often called “autographs”) of Scripture were so directed in their composition by the Holy Spirit working through the human authors that what was written was the perfect Word of God without error in word and in entirety. Of course we do not have those manuscripts now, which is no doubt just as well or human nature being what it is, we would have 66 or more shrines set up for worshiping them! Scripture, being the Word of God, is necessarily infallible. You can trust it and it will never fail you. And it is authoritative because it is God’s Word. And if you are at all familiar with the science of textual criticism, the discipline that deals with taking all of the existing ancient copies of Scripture and re-constructing the original, then you know that we can have full confidence that our Bibles are the Word of God.
But what else does Biblical inerrancy, infallibility, and authority mean? Recently we were having a discussion in our main Sunday School class about the early creation-account chapters of Genesis. For myself, I believe that they teach a literal 24-hour day, 7-day creation week. I do not believe that the universe is a bajillion years old. But we were discussing whether or not the literal 24-hour day creation should be put in the fundamental doctrinal statement of local churches and new members then required to adhere to it in order to be members. Quite a number of conservative, perhaps we might say fundamental, churches have done this and encourage others to do it. In my opinion, this should not be done. But that is another story.
My point here is that these are the kinds of issues that we think of when we think about the inerrancy and infallibility and authority of the Bible. Was Adam a real individual? Is Paul’s take on a certain issue just his own opinion or is it God’s Word? Those kinds of things. And they are important issues. But let me suggest that while we can be all caught up in energetic debates over these things, we can easily slide into the trap that the Pharisees did:
Matthew 23:23-26 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. (24) You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! (25) “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. (26) You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.
I know of churches and Christians and pastors and denominations that have done intense battle over attacks upon the Word of God, particularly in these areas of inerrancy and authority and so on. And we need to stand firm for these things. But I also know of churches and Christians and pastors and denominations who, all the while they are fighting the fight for Scripture, deny Scripture themselves by neglecting the weightier matters: justice and mercy and faithfulness. And in probably no greater frequency, we see this failure in respect to how the powerful wield that power and how they deal with the weak. How they treat the widow, the orphan, and the stranger in the land. Many, many people who have fought all out warfare for the integrity of Scripture end up disregarding Scripture!!
Because, in the end, when I say that I believe that the Bible is the inerrant, infallible, authoritative Word of God, I am saying that I bow my knee to the One who speaks in it and ask Him, “Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.” And then I go out and DO that Word. If not, then I am no more than the son who is all talk but no action:
Matthew 21:28-31 “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ (29) And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. (30) And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. (31) Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.