As the church continues to face cultural challenges from outside the church, we must strengthen our views of God’s Word within the church. Our culture is increasingly and brazenly running counter to the wisdom of the Word, and one of the church’s tasks is to help our people stand confidently and courageously in the face of such confrontations. Yes, make no mistake, we are in a war as the Apostle says in 2 Corinthians 10:3–5.
However, simple appeals to the authority of Scripture or mere assertions the Bible is God’s Word are inadequate for the church in this day and age. We must help our people, and especially our young people, understand WHY the Bible is authoritative. Thus, apologetic arguments for the reliability of the biblical text, the historicity of its claims, and its divine origins are vital. But some leaders in the church think such an approach is not the best way forward for the church. Instead they suggest we focus on the role of Scripture in our communities and ground its authority in its ability to accomplish Kingdom work.
However, these activities are neither necessary nor sufficient to ground Scripture’s authority. Do the positive actions of the church confer authority on Scripture? No more than the positive actions of Hindus confer authority on the Bhagavad Gita or positive actions of Muslims confer authority on the Qur’an. Furthermore, if the efforts of the Christian church were wholly impotent in the renewal of men and the world, would the authority of Scripture be diminished? Absolutely not. In fact, this is an important theme in the Old Testament narrative. Israel’s history is fraught with accounts of the nation turning its back on God’s Word, yet the Word of the Lord remains. And this is precisely the prophet’s claim: “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8).
Such attempts to ground the authority of Scripture in its functions fail to deal with the ontological status of Scripture itself. What something is is separate and distinct from what it does. Certainly God’s authority is displayed in His kingdom work through the church, but the functions of the church do not constitute that authority. Here is the central question we must ask: What is the status of Scripture as God’s Word? As Christians, we cannot ignore the rich reservoir of biblical passages that speak of the Bible itself. The self-testimony of Scripture and Jesus’ view of Scripture shed clear light on the source of the Bible’s authority. Our understanding of Scripture can certainly be aided by the narratival character of Scripture and discussions on how it forms the body of Christ, but we cannot avoid the discussion of the authority of Scripture grounded in the nature of Scripture.