Statement of Faith I: The Bible
Despite all of the liberal theologians that I’ve been reading as of late (John Shelby Spong and Oliver “Buzz” Thomas), I still hold to the premise that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God. I believe that it is fully authoritative in all matters of faith and morals, however I do not believe that it is the only source of faith and morals. I believe that the Bible is the only infallible source of faith and morals–there’s a difference.
Inspiration is such a tricky subject. I don’t believe that God dictated the Bible to its human authors. I believe that the Holy Spirit inspired the authors to write as they did, and what they did. But some things may have just gotten lost in translation or modified because of the understanding of the writer.
That isn’t to say that our copy of the Bible is untrustworthy. Far from. I believe that the Bible is fully trustworthy. What it does mean is that the Bible was written at a specific time for a specific people, and you have to take that into account when reading it. It was not written yesterday for you.
The Bible, in its original autographs, contained no error or contradictions. But we’re not dealing with the original autographs, we are dealing with copies of copies of copies. It appears that God, for his glory, has chosen not to superintend the process of copying the book. Preserving the Bible appears to be solely a human responsibility, and we haven’t always gotten it right.
Again, this doesn’t mean that we can’t trust the Bible that we have in front of us. There is a mountain of manuscript (MS) evidence that the Bible has been preserved as accurately as mistake-making humans can preserve a text. In fact, the New Testament alone has almost 6,000 MSS from different years and geographic locations that attest to the overall accuracy of the text.
But mistakes can and do happen, and are almost certainly present. However, none of the mistakes affect doctrine or practice of faith.
God has chosen to reveal himself in two ways: general revelation and special revelation. General revelation is nature itself–we can learn a lot about our Creator by studying his creation. Special revelation is the inspired, inerrant Bible that we hold in our hands.
I have established that the Bible is the inspired and inerrant Word of God. That means that it is authoritatively binding on all Christians. The Bible contains, first and foremeost, the stories of man’s interactions with God. That means that the revelation is progressive; new details supercede old ones. For example, we are no longer bound to the laws in Deuteronomy; they exist solely for our instruction. They served their purpose in history, and now they have passed on. The new covenant is one of grace in Christ.
The Bible, though difficult, is still to be read and wrestled with by Christians today. This is God’s final and authoritative Word, and great care must be used in its interpretation and application.