How the Bible Authenticates Itself

Author Amy K. Hall Published on 04/16/2016

John Piper has a new book titled A Peculiar Glory: How the Christian Scriptures Reveal Their Complete Truthfulness, in which he makes the case that the Bible is self-authenticating—that we can directly apprehend the truth of it when we see the glory of God revealed there.

In an interview with Michael Reeves, Piper explains that when he says the Bible is self-attesting, he’s not referring to the Bible’s claims to be true, nor does he mean the Holy Spirit will give an extra revelation from God testifying about its truthfulness to those who read it. Rather, it’s about the content of the Word itself:

MICHAEL REEVES: You talk about Scripture as a window through which we see the glory of God. It’s not that the glory of God comes alongside Scripture in a different way; it’s mediated through Scripture.

JOHN PIPER: No, no. That’s an absolutely crucial distinction. The “alongside” idea of self-attestation is misleading. In other words, when I say that the Holy Spirit testifies…I don’t mean that there’s added information—so I’m reading my Bible, and I’m praying, “Oh God, is this your word? Is this your word?” And a voice comes into your head and says, “THIS IS THE WORD OF GOD.” That’s a dangerous voice! That is not the way it happens. What the Holy Spirit does—another picture besides window is a cloudy day. The sun is shining [above the clouds]. The sun is the Word and the glory of God in the Word. What does the Holy Spirit do? He doesn’t whisper to people down here, “There’s a sun up there. He’s shining. Trust me.” That’s not what He does. He blows the clouds [away], and what convicts us is not the voice of the Holy Spirit, but it is the sight of God in and through the Word.

MICHAEL REEVES: That’s so helpful for a doubting believer because the doubting believer could feel: I’m longing for this secret extra voice to authenticate God’s Word to me, and I’m not hearing it, so I’m going through the Bible, and I’m praying for some extra thing. But you’re not saying there is some extra thing.

Saying the Bible is self-attesting in this way—that when we apprehend the glory of God revealed within its pages, we recognize it to be divine—is quite different from the Mormon method of authentication, which is described in Doctrine and Covenants 9:8:

But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.

The feelings of Mormons and Christians cannot be compared to each other in order to discover which is true, but texts can be studied to see what they reveal, and argued for and against on that basis. Piper explains more about this in the clip below:

What if you don’t see the glory of God in the Bible? And worse, what if some parts appear to be inglorious? Is this all just subjective? How does this fit in with apologetics? It’s well worth watching the entire interview to hear more, particularly since, sometimes, as apologists, we get caught up defending a system and forget that the whole purpose of everything we do is to point to our God, who is true, and beautiful, and good, and personal. The interview is a good reminder.