Does God’s Word Self-Authenticate Itself? (Epistemology, Part 5)

The second tenet of a biblical epistemology is that the Bible is the infallible, inerrant, sufficient and authoritative Word of God. 2 Timothy 3:16 declares: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God.” In other words, God “secured an infallible communication” by divinely superintending the writings of the human authors of the Old Testament Scriptures (cf. Luke 11:49-51) and New Testament Scriptures (cf. 1 Tim. 5:18; Luke 10:7; 2 Pet. 3:15-16).[1] In doing so, He sovereignly and supernaturally ensured that the authors’ writings would be both inerrant and infallible. In 2 Peter 1:19-21, the Apostle Peter describes the method of inspiration when he declares that the human authors spoke from God “as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”[2] The divine inspiration of the Scriptures directly resulted in the biblical text manifesting four chief characteristics.

First, the Word of God is wholly infallible. In John 10:35, the Lord Jesus proclaimed that “the scripture cannot be broken.” Elsewhere, He asserts that until “heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matt. 5:18). Put differently, Scripture never fails and never makes a mistake. Second, Scripture is wholly inerrant. In John 17:17, Christ affirms that God’s Word is absolute truth: “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” (cf. Ps. 119:43, 160). Furthermore, the biblical authors repeatedly speak of Scripture as “the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15; cf. Col. 1:15; Jas. 1:18). God’s Word is absolute truth because its originator, the Triune God, is the infinite embodiment of truth (John 14:6) and cannot lie (Titus 1:2).

Third, the Word of God is wholly sufficient for the knowledge of salvation, sound doctrine, and Christian practice. In 2 Timothy 3:15, the Apostle Paul writes to Timothy of “the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” Additionally, 2 Timothy 3:16-17 declares the following: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (cf. Ps. 119:11; Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:6). Fourth, since the origin of the Scriptures is God, the biblical text is absolutely authoritative. The Lord Jesus proclaims in Matthew 4:4: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (cf. Isaiah 66:2; Ps. 138:2). Moreover, Psalm 138:2 proclaims that Yahweh “magnified” His Word “above” His Name. Further still, Hebrews 4:12 states, “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” In short, God’s Word is the Christian’s sole and supreme authority for faith and practice.

Consequently, Scripture unquestionably self-authenticates itself as the wholly infallible, wholly inerrant, wholly sufficient and wholly authoritative Word of God. Moreover, this tenet forms the sine qua non[3] of the Protestant doctrine of sola Scriptura (Latin: “the Scriptures alone”). The Protestant doctrine of sola Scriptura can be defined in the following manner: “…the truth that Scripture (which is the inspired, infallible, & inerrant Word of God) is the sole authority of faith & practice for the believer.”[4] Thus, the Protestant doctrine of sola Scriptura, one of the foundational truths of biblical Protestantism, is established.[5]


Footnotes:

[1]S. Lewis Johnson, “Inspiration, or Truth Transmitted” (Sermon transcript for Basic Bible Doctrine series at Believer’s Chapel, Dallas, TX, 2008); accessed November 9, 2014; available from http://sljinstitute.net/; Page 4.

[2]Gordon Clark offers the following explanation of divine inspiration: “The Holy Spirit dwelt within these men and taught them what to write. God determined what the personality and style of each author was to be, and he determined what the personality and style of each author was to be, and he determined it for the purpose of expressing his message, his words. The words of Scripture, therefore, are the very words of God.” See Clark, Religion, Reason, and Revelation, 93.

[3]Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines sine qua non in the following manner: “something absolutely indispensable or essential.” Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed. (Springfield: Merriam Webster, 2012), 1163.

[4]PTSJ 1.1 (Nov 2014): 6. The Providence Theological Seminary Journal (PTSJ) is a quarterly digital publication of Providence Theological Seminary which is available on the Providence Theological Seminary website at http://www.ptsco.org/PTSJ%201.1.pdf.

[5]It is worth noting that Van Til’s apologetic method undermines the Protestant doctrine of sola Scriptura. Crampton states: “…Drs. [Greg] Bahnsen and Van Til undermine the Biblical and Reformed principle of sola Scriptura when they adopt the all too prevalent ‘two-source’ theory of truth. This view maintains that some source—science, history, philosophy, reason—furnishes men truth, in addition to the Word of God” [brackets mine]. In marked contrast, Gordon Clark insisted that “genuine knowledge” is “available only in the Bible.” Crampton, “Van Til’s Apologetic: Readings and Analysis, Reviewed by W. Gary Crampton,” 3.

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