A Brief Musing on the Authority of the Bible

Christians claim that the Bible is the only supreme authority for human belief and living. What does the authority of the Bible mean and how are we able to access that authority?

Isn’t “authority” an inherently personal concept? Persons exercise authority over other persons. Therefore, when we speak of the authority of the Bible, aren’t we actually speaking of the authority of God Himself? I think so. God has inherent supreme authority over all creation; that is his inherent right as omnipotent creator. He not only has the right to do whatever he wants to do with his creation or each constituent of his creation, he also has the power to do so. The Bible, then, is God’s communication of his authority to humanity. Authority may be expressed and/or exercised. God chose to communicate his authority in written human language to particular people at a particular time, for all people for all time. Now, the Bible (surely) doesn’t contain a communication of all of God’s authority; rather, God chose to express certain aspects of his authority to humanity. When someone expresses their authority by communicating it, isn’t he or she, in a sense, also exercising authority? The “divine discourse” which is the Bible was a communicative act of the God of the universe. His purposes in communicating in this way are surely multi-faceted, but we can say for sure that he desired to reveal himself, to reveal the truth about humanity and the world, and, in climactic fashion, to reveal what he has done in Jesus Christ to enable human fellowship with him. Thus, his authoritative communication demands response from individual human beings, and responses range from faithful embrace and obedience, to indifference and ignorance, all the way to outright rejection and disobedience. However, God’s speech-act does have effects (as all speech-acts do). In some who hear the message, it hardens their hearts. In others, it transforms them into new creatures.

So, how do we then access the authority of the Bible, which is God’s own authority? Simply put, by understanding it. If the Bible is God’s communication of his authority, we access this authority when we come to understand what the communication means. However, once we gain some understanding of the communication of God’s authority, we are then automatically responsible to obey. God claims authority over each of us. We must respond in some way. By God’s own enabling, we believe and obey. To whatever degree we understand his communication, his discourse, his word, we must respond with faith and obedience.

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Published in: on January 13, 2010 at 9:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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