Sunday, October 21, 2007

Authority foundations

Part II: Assumptions & Foundations.

The Authority of the Word of God. Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3v16: “...All Scripture is God-breathed...”

Against all these we gather to establish the Authority of Scripture – Scripture over us rather than under anything. Paul asserts this as one of his final words to his protege Timothy. It stands as one of the last affirmations that the apostle makes as he heads to his death. One of the final foundations for the church as it rests upon the apostolic teaching. It is asserted into Timothy's context where the gospel was being denied, false teaching was spreading like gangrene, persecution was rising and people were increasingly following whatever teachings they liked. One generation hands on to the next and the future of the church was at stake, our salvation was at stake...

Basic Assumptions

We cannot cover everything here so as we proceed we need to make some basic assumptions. I'll comment briefly on each. If you're not convinced of these then some of the rest of what we say will not stand as firmly for you – however there is no substitute for further study and reading and I'd encourage you to pursue that.

1.Scripture = 66 books we call the Bible.

It is evident that Paul in 2 Timothy 3v16 is only referring explictly to the Old Testament – it is the only scripture at that point. However Peter later recognises Paul's writings as scripture which shows some growing awareness of the New Testament as Scripture. And if Scripture, then God-breathed. We can't explore this further today.
See Wayne Grudem's chapter on Canon.

2.Scripture is God speaking. God never lies.

Wayne Grudem observes that all the words in scripture are God's words in such a way that to disbelieve any word of scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God. They are so closely related. We see this in the case of Ahab. Jehoshaphat is judged for forming an alliance with the man who hates God's word. But the charge against Ahab is not that he hated God's word, but that he hated God (2 Chronicles 19v2). We can't claim to love God if we don't love his word. We cannot draw lines between God and his word – that's not to say we worship the word. Since God doesn't lie we conclude that scripture is inerrant.
See Grudem on Inerrancy for further study.

3.Scripture is the basis for our doctrine about scripture's authority.

We must also assume Scripture itself to be self-authenticating. It is the highest authority we appeal to in our study. If our convictions about scripture rest upon external evidences like archeology or manuscript quantities then it is those rather than scripture that become our authority. Calvin is very helpful here:

“God alone is a fit witness of himself in his word.
The testimony of the Spirit is more excellent than all reason. The Spirit must penetrate into our hearts to persuade us that [the scriptures] faithfully proclaim
what has been divinely commanded...
(p79, I.VII.4)

Scriptures obtain full authority among believers
only when men regard them as having sprung from heaven.
(p74, I.VII. 1)

That's why I'm a Calvinist !
let the Spirit penetrate
into our hearts to persuade us!!

And subsequently, we argue from scripture to our understanding about doctrines. And the authority of scripture is a doctrine, it is an article of faith, something to be believed.

The credibility of doctrine is not established
until we are persuaded beyond
doubt that God is its author...
(p78, I.VII.4)
No one can get even the slightest taste
of right doctrine unless he be pupil of scripture...
(p72, I.VI.2)
The majesty of God subdues
our bold rejection and compels us to obey.”
John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion
We only believe a doctrine because it's from God. Only scripture ever gets us to true doctrine. Human logic or evidences cannot get close. For it is in scripture that we find the majesty of God revealed which subdues our sinful rejection of God's authority. We can't really explore this further now though I'd love to.

For further study see David Gibson 'For the Bible tells me so' at

What we will do is put Calvin's claim into practice. Setting ourselves as pupils of scripture to be persuaded by God and subdued by his majesty. As John Piper puts it:

“God's aim is to ravish our affections with an irresistible display of his glory”.
(The Supremacy of God in Preaching)

And let us stand with Martin Luther's logic as he confronted Rome and led the Reformation for us - “My conscience is captive to the word of God” - Martin Luther. If there-in we find reason to change those assumptions then let us do so, but if in Scripture we find what Piper, Calvin, Luther and others tell us we will find then let us expect our affections ravished by our God, our hearts captivated.

2 Timothy 3v16 leads us to argue incredibly simply but life-givingly. Get this and it will change the destination and the journey of whatever ministry the Lord gives you in the years ahead.
1. All Scripture is God's words +
2. The words of God are authoritative ->
3. Scripture is authoritative.
So our focus is to examine the words of God. What does it look like when God speaks – what we find about God's words in scripture will establish for us the authority of scripture for us. Start your engines, open your Bible!


  1. Hello Bruv :)

    Good to see you defending a high view of scripture. But why stop at the authority of scripture? Why don't you lock your knees and drive through right into inerrancy. We are asking everyone to sign up to it so we should be defending it, since it is perceived as a weak point too.

    And why do you leave out the argument that flows (less circularly) from the authority of Christ, to Scripture. So, God tells the truth, Jesus is God, Jesus viewed scripture as authorotative - seems like a much more persuasive argument to me.

    I think Calvin might also have made more of the self-attestation of scripture, it's existential, internal subjective truth telling quality. Dividing the attitudes of the heart.

    Anyway. Good post and we can't wait to see you soon buddy.


  2. Hi Tom.

    1. This is part 2 of 4... so et me get to the rest of it! Arguments from God's creating authority and from Christ are later in the notes.

    2. I'd have loved to have the time to push Inerrancy but I didn't have time and it was session 1 of a leadership school where Grudem is required reading. For the purpose of the blog I may well come back to Inerrancy and pursue it.