The Authority and Inspiration of Scriptures

As Christians, we begin with the assumption that the Holy Bible is God’s Word and it is the truth.  We further believe that the Bible is the complete revelation of God’s plan and purpose for humanity and the universe.  No matter the age of the world, the culture of any people, the scientific or technological level of advancement, we hold that everything in the Bible is true for all humanity. Since God is eternal, then so must be his Words. Thus the Bible is relevant for any time in history and in the future to come. These Christian truth claims we hold to because they are based on the authority of the God who created all and who must necessarily be self-sufficient, omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent.

From the book of Genesis to Revelation, the Holy Bible comprises a canon of sixty-six (66) books.  Each is an inspired work of God of the Universe.  This complete and all inclusive one-volume encyclopedia is commonly known as God’s Word.  It is a work of necessity and divine strategy demonstrating that God exists.  As we experience the Scriptures, we come to know God’s love, justice, and mercy for the human race and the universe at large.  It is the comprehensive plan for humanity’s salvation.  It articulates and demonstrates the means by which the human race can restore the sacred relationship it once enjoyed with the Creator. 

Friendship With God

Since the beginning and after the fall of humanity, God developed the salvific plan.  This required that persons first acknowledge that they are sinners against God Almighty.  Following their confession and knowledge that they themselves cannot undo their sins or make reparations for it, but need to do so through Jesus Christ, they then submit to his Lordship over their lives.  He is God incarnate in human form who died for the sins of the world but has risen from the grave and ascended into heaven—thus conquering death.  He now sits on the right hand of God the Father where he now has authority over all of heaven and earth.  Only through him can we have salvation of our souls.

Humans by their disobedience fell out of grace with God and were heading along the wrong path.  This disobedience, as seen in Genesis 3 and known as the original sin, was committed by the first Adam and his mate, Eve.  They violated God’s direct command by eating from the tree of knowledge by yielding to the temptation of the serpent.  The crafty and evil serpent distorted what God had said to Adam, with an interpretation that was provocative and appealing. He told Eve that if she ate of the tree of knowledge, she “…will be like a god.”  She believed him and she did eat.  Satan played on the obvious ignorance of humans and he succeeded.

Later when God was looking for Adam and Eve in the Garden, he noticed they were hiding from Him.  Now they learned shame.  They also experienced guilt.  Here is perhaps the first instance of the clear workings of the human conscience.  In this experience both Adam and Eve were convicted by the truth that dwelt within them[i].  They willingly disobey an instruction from God.  When God questioned them about their reason for hiding from Him and for their disobedience, Eve “passed the buck” to the serpent; Adam blamed Eve and even implied that God Himself was accountable as He gave Eve to be Adam’s mate.  Sin was thereafter running in the blood of humanity as evidenced in the lies of the children of the first parents of the human race.  We see later in Genesis 4, Cain murdered Abel due to jealousy of the blessings God placed on Abel for the kind of sacrifice Abel made to the Lord.  When God asked for Abel, Cain lied saying that he did not know where Abel was.  Thus the human race continued along the path of sin and destruction: beginning with disobedience, blaming, hiding, jealousy, murder, and lying. 

John 3:16 is clear on the point of God’s love for all humans, so much so that his only begotten Son has died as a ransom or satisfaction for our sins (Heb. 9:15).  Despite the views of theologians, regarding Jesus as a ransom or satisfaction, the fact is, they all agree that he sacrificed his life for the sins of the world and God allowed it.  We remember his prayers in the garden of Gethsemane as he asked “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.  Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Mt. 26:39).  Clearly, Jesus was carrying out God’s plan faithfully.  Why?  Christ himself said that he was the son of man and he came to die for the sins of the world.  Thereafter, all can go to God through Jesus who says, “No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn. 14:6)

Despite our sinful nature, Paul said that God wants to save all Israel (Rom. 11:26; 1 Tim. 2:4).  This Scripture refers to all people—the Jews and the gentiles, the believers and the nonbelievers alike.  There is no discrimination of country, culture, and race, social or economic or educational status.  Hence whosoever has been informed of God’s grace by the salvific plan and then believes in His word, shall be saved and enter into an eternal sacred romance with God. 

Thus He authoritatively, as our Creator, wrote the divine how-to-do-it manual called the Holy Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16), which includes guidelines of how we can live peacefully together, relate well with Him, and be custodians of the lands (Gen. 1:26; 2:15).  We know that Jesus did live and walked on this earth.  So the stories about him are not fiction, but facts supported by archeological findings, as well as folklore and traditional history.  The findings of the Dead Sea scrolls have given scientific evidence which add to the credibility of Christianity’s Biblical recorded history.  According to the skeptics and the cynics, they claim that the Holy Bible was at most allegorical and only folklore.

Further, one can find proof of the flood, the nine pestilences, healings by Jesus, and many of the miracles reported in the Holy Bible of the Christians.  Many of us witness healings even today done in the name and empowerment of Jesus the Christ.  There are many writings about the archeological and scientific history of Christianity for those who need deeper and objective proof of the life of the Christ and the truth of the Scriptures.  Now even Jesus spoke of the Scriptures as God’s word.  At that time Jesus knew the Scriptures as the Mosaic Laws of which God or Yahweh was the author.  It was always Moses’ wish that his people would also hear from God.  God did speak to them after Moses was gone, just as He had done with Moses, Abraham, Noah and others.  All these occurrences were passed on from generation to generation as stories from the elders to children of Isreal.  They were recorded by the recognized methods of keeping archives at that time.

In these Scriptures, we see the Holy Bible, as life itself (John 5:24; Acts 13:46; Phil. 2:16; 1 John 1:1).  By being in enmity with God as we blatantly breached our relationship and friendship with Him, we condemned ourselves to eternal damnation.  So God sets out the process of our restoration to His image (Heb. 211; 10:10, 14), and our fellowship with Him (2 Ti. 2:21; Eph. 1:4; 1 Pet. 1:15, 16).

He further warns us, that it is sinful to add, subtract, modify from His word, for the Holy Scriptures is flawless (Prov. 30.5, 6; Rev. 22:18, 19).  Authentic archeological finds known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, over the last few years, have been validating the truthfulness and accuracy of the Holy Scriptures or Christian Bible. The Scriptures have been written by inspiration, according to the claims in the Holy Bible, and Jesus Christ did live in history.  Clearly, and biblically speaking, there can be no question about the completeness of God’s revelation from Genesis to Revelation.  Thus any ‘scriptural’ literature with contents in opposition to or that is not in sync with the Holy Bible, is false.

Scriptural Authority

As stated above, the word Scriptures, as used here, refers to God’s word which we call the Holy Bible.  God, the Creator of the entire universe, is immortal, all knowing, and is both transcendent and immanent.  He is sovereign as ruler of this universe and He knows our hearts, the past, present, and future of all existences.  He is loving, merciful, and just.  As I have argued in the first chapter, the God of the Old and New Testaments is the same and is compassionate.  He is aware and active in every aspect of our lives and has created all the ordinances which are operative within the world in which we live.  He does not always direct our paths, though He is ever aware of our tendencies and choices.  He blessed us with free will.

Upon what basis can we make all these claims regarding the God of the Holy Christian Bible?  What authority has the Scriptures?  Erickson has defined authority as “…the right to command belief and or action”[ii].  In this sense, Scriptures must have the right to instruct us on authentic doctrines as well as how we should behave in our lifestyles.  The word authority suggests to us a sense of status or positioning and it implies levels.  We can envision graduated levels from the lowest to the highest.  Along with this envisioning, is the idea of obedience of the lower to the higher, in graduated levels of authority.  We may go further in our thinking that with authority there must exist at least two coexisting conscious beings.  There would not be any constructive survival of an organization or a group of at least two without an authority structure.  Some must be accountable to enforce the rules.  This structure assures the fulfillment of any existing purpose.

Authority also alludes to control along with the idea of superiority and inferiority. In Genesis, God gave man to be the stewards of the creations of earth. Adam then had the power and right to name the plants and other living things. He was operating under delegated authority. We will remember that Scripture declared in Matthew that Jesus, upon his resurrection, now had authority over all the earth, world, and all else (Matt. 28:18).  While on earth, Jesus demonstrated his authority over the windstorms and nature (Matt. 8:26, 27).  He command diseases to go and had authority over death and life. Whatever he willed did happen because of this divine authority and right. Many were healed, Lazarus returned from the grave, demons flee, and he personally conquered death.

Authority requires a subject and a predicate.  The subject is the one with the right and power call authority. The predicate is the element or entity which must cooperate or yield to the action of authority.  In case there is no cooperation or one party is not functioning as he or she ought, there must be a “way” to encourage and ensure their reestablishing of the group’s performance level.  This “way” is the “application of authority”.  If one party either does not perform by choice or circumstance, the impetus of authority can cause the correction of the shortfall and so bring about adjustment.  Here the authority figures will compel or make it compulsory for the other party to perform. This procedure is also true in humanity’s stewardship of the earth. We do have power over our environment. This power is biblically based.  It was God-given from the beginning of the world.

Kenneth S. Kantzer said, “The Bible alone is the infallible rule of faith and practice.  It alone can speak with the authority of the omniscient God Himself.  It alone can tell man what [we] ought to believe, and what [we] ought to do”[iii].  Further, Armstrong quoted a Lutheran theologian Edward W. A. Koehler who wrote: “To ignore, disregard, or reject any doctrine of the Bible is rebellion against God’s authority, and will not go unpunished”[iv].

The Main Protagonist

We are also informed that the “crown” or central figure of the Holy Scriptures according to Charles H. Dodd[v], is Jesus Christ.  Erickson said, “ultimately … every knee will bow and every tongue confess who and what he is” (Phil. 2:10-11).  Erickson was referring to the Lordship, the position of authority of Christ—the anointed one.  Kantser stated, “the Bible … is not merely a book which contains the Word of God.  [It is the] living Word of God, calling [humans] into fellowship with Himself; [But hearing God’s Word], may lead [humanity] to Jesus Christ and the revelation of God”[vi].  He also noted that Jesus Christ’s gospel is clear enough that “[people] may hear it, understand it, receive it, and be saved”[vii].

We notice the bold claim of Jesus Christ himself who said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.  If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well” (John 14:6, 7).  Erickson quoted Oscar Cullmann who said, “there can be no Heilsgeschichte (salvation history) without Christology (what Jesus has done in history); no Christology without a Heilsgeschichte which unfolds in time.”[viii]  Therefore the New Testament with its new dispensation of how the fellowship between God and humans can be restored is totally dependent on what Jesus Christ has done, said, believed, and stood for (and is still standing for).  All Bible believing, faith-seeking-understanding Christians resolutely accept Jesus’ claim of Lordship and authority.

We see that God’s salvation plan to restore the relationship between Himself and the human race was already suggested in the beginning, just after “the fall”.  We read that God told the serpent, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Gen. 3:15).  My NIV Bible says, ‘“he will crush your head” foreshadows Satan’s defeat when Christ rose from the dead.  A strike on the heel is not deadly, but a crushing blow to the head is.’[ix]  Many modern and ancient theologians see this verse as a promise of a particular prophecy that Jesus, as the seed of the woman, will crush Satan’s head.  Van Dam says, “the enmity of which God spoke in Gen. 3:15 was a curse for the serpent but a blessing for Adam and Eve and the believing seed.  The full victory implied in these words was initially fulfilled in Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection.”[x]

Scriptural Inerrancy

Kantser said, “By [the] act of divine inspiration the Bible here and now becomes the contemporary, living Word of God…”[xi].  “The inerrancy of Scripture [or God’s Word]”, according to Erickson, “is the doctrine that the Bible is fully truthful in all of its teachings.”[xii]  Further, Erickson pointed out “Jesus, Paul, and others regarded and employed details of Scripture as authoritative.”[xiii]  The Scripture “was written” or “breathed out” by God (2 Tim. 3:16), as we shall see later, and God is the same in the past, present, and future (Heb. 8:13).  As Erickson stated, since God “cannot be ignorant of or in error on any matter,” then the Scriptures must be absolutely true.  Erickson is supported by St. Augustine who declared, “what Scripture says, God says”[xiv].

Paul said, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God…” (2 Tim. 3:16, NKIV).  Erickson said, “by inspiration of Scripture we mean that supernatural influence of the Holy Spirit on the Scripture writers which rendered their writings an accurate record of the revelation or which resulted in what they wrote actually being the Word of God”[xv].  The Bible say, “No prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit,” (2 Pet. 1:21, ESV).  The assumption here is that the Holy Spirit is of God or is God Himself.  Either of these assumptions is fact.  Very clearly, in the Bible we read that the Holy Spirit is God’s Spirit and is therefore God.  Peter said:

“Annanias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land?  While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own?  And after it was sold, was it not under your control?  Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart?  You have not lied to men but to God.” (Acts 5:3-4)

Clearly, Peter has equated the Holy Spirit with God.  In fact, he called the Holy Spirit God when he questioned Annanias of lying to the Holy Spirit and then accused him saying that Annanias did not lie ‘to men, but to God.’

Erickson said, “In Acts 1:16 Peter says, ‘Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through the mouth of David….’”  Inspiration is the divine infilling of the human by God.  That is, God speaking through his elect.  Armstrong quoted Heinrich Heppe who said, “…Scripture alone has its source in God, who, by the Holy Spirit, is its Author”[xvi].

Divine Inspiration

Inspiration is sometimes confused with illumination.  Erickson said, “the illumination theory maintains that there is an influence of the Holy Spirit upon the authors of Scripture, but involving only a heightening of their normal powers.  There is no special communication of truth, nor guidance in what is written.”[xvii]  Thus the Holy Spirit increased the sensitivity and responsivity of the author’s own perception abilities.  This does not necessarily mean that special or specific communication of truth took place.  In this view, therefore, the illumined person has a raised level of consciousness and ability to understand spiritual laws and sublime realities or experiences.

The minds of Plato, Socrates, Confucius, Lao-Tsu and others were illumined.  They were sharpened and had high levels of perceptivity and sensitivity.  They were able to discern universal truths where the average humans could not.  Yet they were not inspired by the Holy Spirit to write His words, His truths and His teachings that lead to Salvation and eternal life.  Such illumined minds were able to articulate many Cosmic and Universal principles and laws.  There are practices, techniques, and methodologies by means of which we may contact the Universal Mind of God and be likewise enlightened.  But this does not mean we are ‘inspired as were the Bible writers.’

There is also the intuition theory of inspiration, which implies that the Bible’s author had a high degree of insight.  This is not an influence of the Holy Spirit upon their abilities of perception, as it is in illumination; rather, it is a natural endowment.  Here the subconscious mind suggests a solution or interpretation which “pops up” without warning into our objective consciousness.  We commonly call this a hunch or gut feeling.  We may later see the logic and reason that support the intuition we had.

It is the Holy Spirit who inspired the writings of the Bible and its interpretation.  Jesus said, “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.  He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you” (John 16:13-14). Here Jesus is speaking with Absolute authority regarding the actions of the Holy Spirit as recorded in the inspired Word of God.  We remember too, that Jesus is Lord and every knee shall bow to him (2 Phil. 5:10-11).  We also remember that he was God incarnate in human form; and that he now has authority over all the worlds.

Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)  Dodd said, “If the Bible as a whole is a revelation of God, and the crown of this revelation is the life of Jesus Christ, then we may start by asking, How did Jesus reveal God?”[xviii]  In this statement is implied the words of Isaiah who prophesied of the lamb led to slaughter for the sins of man.  This lamb was the Immanuel—God with us (Isa. 7:14; 53:7-12).  When Christ read the prophetic words in the Old Testament writings in the synagogue, he said to the listeners, that the Scriptures he just now read has been fulfilled that day.  He meant that He was the fulfillment of the Scriptures (Matt. 5:17).  Dodd said, “[Christ] has faced the question: How can I know Christ speaks of God with authority?”  and Jesus replied, wrote Dodd: “He who is willing to do God’s will can recognize whether the teaching (of Jesus) is from God or not (John 7:17)”[xix].

Perhaps one of the most important Scriptures for all humans is 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:21.  These Scriptures illustrate and prove God’s love for all humans who acknowledge Him as Creator and author of our lives.  Thus we accept him as having supreme authority.  In these Scriptures and in others we are assured that it is His words that are written in the Holy Bible, not humans’.  We are confident, as he made sure, by “personally” guaranteeing their inscription, by choosing special people (his elect) through whom  he will work and then inspiring them by “breathing” his words into them with his Holy Spirit.  How sweet our salvation knowing that He empowered the writing of the Scriptures—the sole authority of our Christian living, evangelism, and hope.

[i] Riley, Christopher. When Conscience Speaks, PublishAmerica LLLP, P.O. Box 151, Frederick, MD, USA, 21705, 2007, pg. 30-42.

[ii] Erickson, J. Millard.  Christian Theology (Second Edition). Baker Books, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49516. pg. 268.

[iii] Kantzer, Kenneth S. “The Authority of the Bible” in The Living God, ed. Millard J. Erickson. Baker Books—a division of Baker Book House Company, Grand Rapids, MI, 49516.  © 1973. Pg. 155.

[iv] Armstrong, John, H. “The Authority of Scripture”, (Sola Scriptura, ed. Don Kistler, Soli Deo Gloria Publications, P.O. Box 451, Morgan, PA 15064.  © 1995.) p.100.

[v] Dodd, Charles, H.  “How God Is Known”.  Ed. Erickson, J. Millard, (The Living God).  Baker Books, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49516.  pg 268.

[vi] Kantser, Kenneth S. pg. 159.

[vii] Ibid. pg 159.

[viii] Erickson, Millard J. pg 716.

[ix] Life Application Bible [New International Version].  Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois AND Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI.  ©1991. Pg. 12

[x] Van Dam, Cornelis. Ed. Willem A. VanGemeren et al.  “Crush,” Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis.  Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI., ©1997.  Pg. 67.

[xi] Kantser, Kenneth S. pg. 159.

[xii] Erickson, Millard J. pg 247.

[xiii] Erickson, Millard J. pg 251.

[xiv] Armstrong, John H. pg. 105.

[xv] Erickson, Millard J. pg 225.

[xvi] Armstrong, John H. pg. 121.

[xvii] Erickson, Millard J. pg 232.

[xviii] Dodd, Charles, H.  “How God Is Known”.  Ed. Erickson, J. Millard, (The Living God).  Baker Books, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49516. pg. 268.

[xix] Dodd, Charles, H.  ed. Erickson, J. Millard. Pg. 269.