top of page
  • Writer's pictureMcYoung Y. Yang

The Foundation of the Bible

Our Approach to the Bible Matters:

The art and science of reading Scripture and, more importantly, feeding upon the sacred text themselves is supported by the notion that the holy book of the Christian faith is not merely built—from its origin—upon human ingenuity; that is, the bible is not purely human thoughts built subjectively around experiences of God. Rather, as the Christian tradition holds, the Holy Bible is, at its foundation, a divinely inspired book which embodies the truths, character, and authority of the Creator God Himself (more on this below).[1]


If this is the case, establishing a solid, doctrinally saturated foundation can and will serve its reader in her reading process moving forward. Or said differently, our approach to understanding what the bible is will serve indefinitely how we will engage in understanding its content. As Craig A. Carter contends, “The act of reading a biblical text is not a secular act. It actually is a divine-human encounter.” He goes on to say, “Nothing is more fundamental to the Christ life than reading the text of Scripture and submitting one’s life to the One who speaks His Word through the human words of the inspired text. And nothing is more damaging to the Christian life than the attempt to secularize this act of reading; to do so is to act like an atheist. If reading in faith is how we become Christians, reading without faith is how we become atheists.”[2] To this end, examining our presuppositions about the bible and, in turn, securing them amid the construal of faith in Christ will transform our reading of the Scriptures as well as the art and science of interpreting the sacred text of the Christian faith. D. A. Carson summarizes this point well when he says,

The point to emphasize is that a genuinely Christian understanding of the Bible presupposes the God of the Bible, a God who makes himself known in a wide diversity of ways so that human beings may know the purpose for which they were made—to know and love and worship God, and so delight in that relationship that God is glorified while they receive the matchless benefit of becoming all that God wants them to be.[3]

The Pillars of Approaching the Scriptures:


When approaching the sacred text of Christian Scripture, we must solidify its weightiness, value, and worth. This will embolden us to access the troves of truth with humility and meekness. In addition, it will posture us with a readiness to receive, rather than an attitude toward criticalness which seeks to lord-it-over the text. Though we do not want to lose a willingness to think deeply and rationally about the content of the Scriptures, we do not want to simultaneously infuse our own moral standards above the text itself (like biblical criticism).[4] Therefore, it is vital that we establish foundational truths around the nature and essence of the Scriptures to temper our approach and tether our expectations. In order to do so, we must grasp three key doctrines: (1) the inspiration of Scripture, (2) the inerrancy/infallibility of Scripture, and (3) the authority of Scripture.


The Inspiration of Scripture. Where did the Scriptures come from? What is its origin? Is it merely a product of human dexterity? Did the text come down from the heavens on golden plates through angels? Or is it merely an ancient book filled with myths and legends? What are the sacred Scriptures of the Christian faith we hold dear and call the “Holy Bible”?


If we are going to have any confidence in reading, let alone, feeding upon the sacred text, we must ask and answer these fundamental questions. We must, as it is, come to terms with the nature and essence of the bible.


Thus, it is biblical to say that the Scriptures, new and old, are “God-breathed” (cf. 2 Tim. 3:16; Gk. theopneustos); that is, the bible is breathed out by God. This is where we get the term “inspiration.” However, “inspiration” must not be understood in the sense that the author’s felt provoked by the beauty, majesty, and wander of God and, therefore, wrote heart filled letters or stories of Jesus as though they were like artist who were inspired by a sunset or a rainbow and felt drawn to put their brush to a blank canvas. Again, the term “inspiration” is not used in this modern sense. Rather, inspiration—theologically used—emphasizes upon the notion that the words of the text come directly from God’s own mouth (hence the prefix “in-”). Or as Michael S. Horton describes: “Strictly speaking, then, Scripture is exhaled, not inspired.”[5] To belabor this point, the text of Scripture derives fundamentally from the very mouth of God; it is breathed out.


To this end, God uses human agents to bring about written text; however, all the more, the text themselves and its content derive from the covenantal Lord Himself. Or as the Apostle Peter writes in 2 Peter 1:19-21 (italics mine),

19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Therefore, the biblical text that you hold in your hand is not merely from the prophets and apostles—from mere human beings—but from the very mouth of the covenantal God of the universe. The biblical text, then, is wholly inspired by God Himself; that is, the text finds its origin from God.


The Inerrancy and Infallibility of Scripture. If the biblical text is inspired by God, what qualities are embodied in it? What features does the text hold in congruity with God’s character? Can the Scriptures be trusted? Can we rely upon the Bible’s message or story? Is it truthful in all that it portrays?


Not only are these questions tied to our view of inspiration, but inspiration itself is intrinsically tied to God’s character. Thus, the message of Scripture must align in its content and substance to the integrity and righteousness of God Himself. Meaning, Scripture reveals who God is. Therefore, the Scriptures teach that God cannot lie (cf. Num. 23:19; Titus 1:2; Heb. 6:18). The Scriptures teach that God is truth and, thus, is truthful (cf. Ps. 31:5; Isa 65:16; Jer. 10:10; Jn. 3:33; 7:28; 8:26; 14:6; 1 Jn. 5:20). The Scriptures teach that God is righteous (cf. 1 Sam. 12:7; Ps. 48:10; 119:137, 142; Jer. 12:1; Dan. 9:14; Jn. 17:25). This means, then, that in accords to all that it speaks, the biblical text is forthright and truthful. Or said negatively, the bible is without error (hence the term inerrancy). To this end, according to Paul D. Feinberg, “[inerrancy] means that when all facts are known, the Scriptures in their original autographs and properly interpreted will be shown to be wholly true in everything that they affirm, whether that has to do with doctrine or morality or with the social, physical, and life sciences.”[6]


Furthermore, it is appropriate as well to say that Scripture, by its nature, is infallible. Not only is the text truthful in all that it affirms and, thus, is inerrant, the text—in concert with the character of God—cannot error. Or said more bluntly, the bible does not have the ability nor the capacity to be in error.[7] All of this, then, is due to the text being inspired by God and, therefore, an embodiment of His truthfulness.


To this point, we have conveyed that the Word of God comes directly from God Himself (inspiration) and, through His breathe and consistent with His character, the Word of God is without error or mistake (inerrancy/infallibility).


The Authority of Scripture. If the bible derives from the very mouth of God (inspiration) and, consequentially, the text—by its nature—upholds His truthfulness and fidelity (inerrancy/infallibility), does it conclude, then, that the text embodies an authority in the realm of life and faith for the believer? Is the text merely a book about primitive values? Or is the bible a lens into reality established by God in His creation through His design? How much weight—if all these things are true—should we give to the Scriptures themselves?


Authority is no small task if it is identified that the one by whom authority is held can be validated by her office, capacity, and/or credentials. Accordingly, God by His nature demonstrates that He affirms every criterion in Himself when it comes to ultimate authority. The Scriptures clearly teach that “all things were created through him (Christ) and for him (Christ)” (Col. 1:16; italics mine). To this end, Christ as Creator has authority to dictate the whats and hows of creation; it is His prerogative to create all things for His own glory (cf. Col. 1:18). Kevin J. Vanhoozer, then, contends that “[authority] is the right or power to command people to walk this way rather than that: ‘Have this mind; do this; say this.’”[8] Therefore, Scripture is the primary vehicle in the hands of God to communicate His truths to the world; that is, the commands found within Scripture do not merely function as opinions nor sentimental sayings. Rather, the texts of Scripture—being inspired and inerrant—encompass authority from the One who speaks, God Himself. John M. Frame states it helpfully when he says, “Control is about might; authority is about right. Control means that God makes everything happen; authority means that God has the right to be obeyed, and that therefore we have the obligation to obey him.”[9] To shun the significance of the Word, then, is to belittle the One by whom those words derive. To this end, the text of Scripture encapsulates authority because it embodies the very words of this speaking God.[10] As B. B. Warfield articulates, “In one of these classes of passages the Scriptures are spoken of as if they were God; in the other, God is spoken of as if He were the Scriptures: in the two together, God and the Scriptures are brought into such conjunction as to show that in point of directness of authority no distinction was made between them.”[11]


Therefore, the text itself is not merely a human book to be taken or left at a whim. The text is inspired by God, inerrant in its content, and authoritative in substance. It is a book like no other book, and a book that is not just a book. The Holy Bible is the very words of the living God.


A Logocentric People:


In God’s redemptive narrative, the Word of God symbolizes His covenantal presence which is the means by which He creates, redeems, and restores.[12] In the beginning, He speaks through His powerful Word, which creation is brought forth from darkness and void. In the midst of fallen Babel (cf. Gen. 11:1-9), God calls from darkness the patriarch—Abraham—and promises him a redemptive seed to restore the brokenness of the world (Gen. 12:7; cf. Gal. 3:16). In addition, the Hebrew people were called out of slavery and oppression from Egypt and given the Decalogue to govern and guide their ventures into the promised land. His Word was the central figure to lead them into prosperity.


Moreover, as a royal nation, Israel was granted privilege in being God’s people and the conduit to which the nations would see the blessing and fruitfulness of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Central to this blessing was the Word of God. The king of Israel is, then, commissioned to follow God’s decree and lead in his office according to God’s divine edict (cf. Deut. 17:14-20). Israel’s failure, however, pointed toward the need for the Suffering Servant to come and redeem His people. Jesus comes as the Christ who is the eternal Logos and God incarnate (cf. Jn. 1:1-3). In addition, Jesus redeems a people to Himself through His cross and resurrection and, in turn, indwells in His people through His Holy Spirit. This new messianic community would be driven and sustain by the Spirit empowered Word.

To this end, feeding upon the Scriptures and abiding in His Word is paramount to the vitality and vigor in the mission of the church.[13] In order for us to read well we must see well, and to see well we must read well to the glory of God. Soli Deo Gloria!

 

***footnotes***


[1] See John Webster, Holy Scripture: A Dogmatic Sketch (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 5. Webster states, “‘Holy Scripture’ is a shorthand term for the nature and function of the biblical writings in a set of communicative acts which stretch from God’s merciful self-manifestation to the obedient hearing of the community of faith.” [2] Craig A. Carter, Interpreting Scripture with the Great Tradition: Recovering the Genius of Premodern Exegesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2018), 32. Italics mine [3] D. A. Carson, Collected Writings on Scripture, compiled by Andrew David Naselli (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010), 21.

[4] See Eta Linneman, Historical Criticism of the Bible—Methodology or Ideology? Refelctions of a Bultmannian turned Evangelical (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1993), 26. Linneman goes on to say, “God’s Word is no longer the standard in humanism but is, rather, judged by the standard of humanistic culture. In this way culture—the product of the created human spirit—replaced the revelation of God the Creator. Faith in God, the Creator and Redeemer, was perverted into a subdivision of culture and the life of the human spirit. As a consequence man now regarded God’s Word as just a product of the activity of this human spirit. . . When the flesh assumes absolute sovereignty, as occurred in this case, it opposes every living manifestation of the Spirit.” [5] Michael S. Horton, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims On the Way (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), 160. Italics mine.

[6] Paul D. Feinberg, “The Meaning of Inerrancy,” in Inerrancy, ed. Norman L. Geisler (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1980), 294. [7] See argument from R. C. Sproul, Scripture Alone: The Evangelical Doctrine (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2005), 149-151. [8] Kevin J. Vanhoozer, “May We Go Beyond What is Written After All?” The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures, ed. D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2016), 752. [9] John M. Frame, The Doctrine of the Christian Life (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2008), 22-23. [10] See John M. Frame, The Doctrine of the Word of God (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2010), 40-43. [11] B. B. Warfield, The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1948), 299. [12] See Ryan J. Lister, The Presence of God: Its Place in the Storyline of Scripture and the Story of Our Lives (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015), 19-33. [13] See Christopher J. Wright, The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative. Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2006. See also Joseph Boot, The Mission of God: A Manifesto of Hope for Society. London: Wilberforce Publications, 2016.

 

McYoung Y. Yang (MDiv, SBTS; ThM, MBTS) is the husband to Debbie and father to McCayden (14), McCoy (13), McColsen (11), and DeYoung (7). He is a Pastor of Preaching/Teaching at Covenant City Church in St. Paul, MN. Along with his ministerial duties, he is a homeschool dad. In addition, McYoung is continuing his doctoral studies at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, MO. His ambition is to use his training as a means to serve the local church in living life through the Gospel lens.


179 views

Comments


bottom of page