An explanation of my beliefs about the Bible as it pertains to doctrinally crucial convictions. I believe the Bible is inerrant, divinely inspired, has been accurately preserved, and continues to be personally relevant to every human alive. This is not a thorough defense as to why I believe these things, but I will expound on what these facets mean and why the Bible is so important to me.
Thesis: I believe the Bible is inerrant, divinely inspired, has been accurately preserved, and continues to be personally relevant to every human alive. This four-faceted statement sums up the most doctrinally crucial aspects of my convictions about the Bible. I also see the Bible (the entire collection of stories and other writings) as one unified story that points to Jesus. I plan on adding a section to this article on that topic in the future.
Scope: This is not a thorough defense as to why I believe these things, but I will expound on what these facets mean and why the Bible is so important to me. I would also like to note that I believe the Bible has great literary significance, as well as substantial historical and scientific implications. However, a thorough examination of those topics is beyond the scope of this article.
Canon: For this discussion, any reference to the Bible refers to the combined 66 Old Testament (TaNaK) and New Testament books recognized by canon in the Protestant tradition.
Scriptural Basis: Nearly every statement that follows can be summarized by the following two scripture passages:
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. —2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV)
Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God. —2 Peter 1:20-21 (NLT)
I assert the divinity of the Bible in three aspects: it is inerrant, inspired, and authoritative. These concepts are closely correspondent and reinforce each other. What follows in support of this statement is based upon its self-affirming claims, so is relevant to someone with a basic acceptance of the Bible, as opposed to someone who rejects or distrusts it.
To say that the Bible is authoritative implies certain objective attributes. For example, authority grants the bearer (in case the Bible) a certain power or credibility that exists objectively in some respect. Submission and trust in its authority and credibility are not obligatory, but ignorance or rejection of the truth does not change the truth, nor does a faulty interpretation of the truth. Authority in this sense also refers to a source of authority which is external to humanity. It means that the Bible is not a mere mortal product of religion. Its authority did not come from the church, a council, convention, or even those who originally penned the words. The Bible’s authority is divine and establishes itself as a measure of truth. It proclaims its authority by describing its importance and origin (Matthew 5:17-20, John 10:34-35). As the word of God, it inherits His property of absolute truth. The authority of the Bible is derived directly from God Himself, through the process of inspiration.
Biblical inspiration refers to the concept of “God-breathed” textual communication. The word that has been translated as “inspired” literally means “breathed.” All of scripture was “breathed” out by God. 2 Timothy 3:16 states that “All Scripture is inspired by God…” declaring that God breathed the words of scripture into the writers for the benefit of humanity. Inspiration establishes the Bible as the culmination of specific concepts, words, and messages proceeding directly from God in the form of human language.
Because the words of scripture were “breathed” by God, they must be perfect. (Psalm 119:138, Psalm 119:142) God is perfect and defines truth, so what He says and does must be perfect and true. The Bible is a product of God, and as such it inherits His inerrant nature. There exists neither error nor blemish within its texts. Each word (as originally written) is perfect and verified by God. The Bible is crafted with calculated precision. The very presence or the tense of certain words can impact the meaning of a passage. The perfection of words extends to the perfection of their concept and message. It is completely and always true, and can be understood as such when interpreted properly in context. The whole collection is unified, without contradiction or conflict. It also fits within the guidelines set forth before Israel (Deuteronomy 13:1-5, 18:20-22) to determine the validity of human communicators of God’s word, as with the prophets.
In addition to the Bible’s self-affirmation, this view has survived the test of time. The church all throughout history has believed in the inerrancy of Scripture. This fact alone does not prove anything, but it strengthens the premise in that it has yet to be positively rejected or disproven. From an epistemological standpoint, one can argue that the Bible must be inerrant, or otherwise cannot be trusted at all. If some of the Bible might be false, how can we know what of it is true? Rejecting its inerrancy opens the door to a very slippery slope.
The divinity and perfection of the Bible make it a unique book, but it is made even more fascinating by the fact that God did not physically craft the writings Himself. Instead, He used human skill, language, and culture. John 1 refers to Jesus, the human manifestation of God, as “The Word.” Scripture is also a human manifestation of God, in that it is his written Word provided in a human framework. In this sense, the Bible mirrors the doctrine of Christ’s hypostatic union. Both can be described as simultaneously completely divine and completely human. Each book takes on the personality and context of the author without causing any contradictions or detracting from its perfection. A variety of literary styles reflect the various needs and methods humans have of searching to discern truth and obey God. The humanity of the Bible is what makes it fit for human consumption. That is, God has specially prepared the revelation of His word in a format (human language) that we can consume.
Because the authors lived in a vastly different context than us, it can be helpful to understand their context as much as possible. To give just one example, looking at the method and style of Biblical narrative can enhance our understanding of the Bible. Ancient Jewish storytelling was concerned primarily with crafting an effective narrative that perfectly communicated its purpose and relevance, rather than recording a list of accurate details. An abundance of detail could be unimportant at best and distracting or misleading at worst. Such an intentional approach to detail lends a much heavier weight to each detail given. It also means that the meaning of details is much more important than the details themselves. That is, the details of certain stories may not be precise (as a video recording of an event would be), but they more accurately reflect the true story (as in telling someone about an event in a way that quickly and effectively communicates what happened). Such a storytelling style creates an invitation to participate in the story and learn about God through the journeys of the human characters, rather than memorize a list of statements about God.
Through the efforts of faithful scribes, each original writing was preserved by meticulous copying and distribution over thousands of years. Thanks to modern archeology, we have an abundance of ancient copies that are very close in their time of writing to the originals. Comparing thousands of copies shows very little variation, and any differences are minor with no impact on the meaning of the text. I have full confidence that the text has been preserved well enough that its inerrancy has not diminished.
I also believe its divine attributes can be preserved through translated versions of the original languages. Of course, due to the importance of context, knowledge of the original languages can certainly provide a greater depth of understanding in scripture. Without being able to read the original languages, it is important to be aware of the shortcomings and challenges of translation processes, choosing and reading any version accordingly. However, the message and truth of God transcends language and can be understood sufficiently for salvation in any faithful translation. The word of God is immutable and everlasting (Psalm 119:89). It is worth mentioning that even when the overall message is preserved, there are some translations that are more beneficial than others, and often a combination of translations is most helpful. There are others still which stray so far from the original as to contain harmful or inaccurate content and implications.
The Bible is God’s way of revealing Himself and communicating with us. He has revealed Himself to an extent through His creation; we can see the evidence of His design all around us in nature. (Psalm 19:1, John 1:3, Job 12:7-10, Romans 1:20). However, He has chosen to reveal Himself more fully and personally through the Bible, making it relevant to every human on Earth.
The Bible’s authority was given to humans for our benefit (Consider Exodus 19:5, Joshua 1:8). It presents God as our creator, and shows us that listening to what our creator says is in our best interest. Through the Bible, anyone can learn who God is, what He has done, and how to glorify Him. It is also “living and active” (Hebrews 4:12), playing an active role in the spiritual life of believers. It serves as a conduit and catalyst for personal communication with God. That it has transformative power is evident whenever someone truly lets the Word of God govern their every thought, feeling and action. (Colossians 3:16)
The Bible also defines the concept of sin against God, as well as the penalty of such. Because we are sinners and fall short of His glory (Romans 3:23), we desperately need His salvation and grace. There is no other way to be a part of His kingdom. The process by which God sacrificed Himself in His Son for the sake of the world is narrated in the New Testament and explained by the Old Testament.
Understanding the Bible redefines my understanding of myself. The Bible reveals that I have been redeemed, justified and sanctified by Jesus, and it teaches me how to live accordingly (Ephesians 4:1). I accept Him as my Lord and cede my life on earth to His glory. The life of Christ and the life of the church that followed serve as clarification and models for my life on earth.
The words of the Bible have been breathed into existence by God, providing perfect authority and truth. This truth has been preserved to this day, remaining relevant as a pathway to redemption, a gateway to restoration. My goal is not to take this tremendous gift for granted, but rather place Scripture at the utmost priority in my life, and encourage others to do likewise.