Our Faith and the Bible

How significant is the Bible? I think that our faith in God, and in Christ and the Holy Spirit and redemption and the Church and the second advent of Jesus, is owed to the reality of the Bible written in the languages of all cultures. From the beginning of human history the form of oral tradition has prevailed as the singular method of communicating knowledge. But to preserve that knowledge the ancients communicated in written form. I dare say that without the Bible written in our language(s) Christianity may not have succeeded strictly or merely through the method of oral tradition. What is the Bible?

Here, the question pertains to nature, and not to description. To insist that the Bible is a collection of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek writings, written over the span of fourteen hundred years by perhaps forty or so authors, does not address what the Bible is by nature. We can call the Bible "the word of God" and not communicate clearly what "word" indicates, whether every written word in this collection contains the thoughts of God, and by what method God preserved those words through various authors.

God, so authors of the Bible demand, decided to reveal Godself to the human beings God created in the image of our triune Creator. The Bible, then, is a record of the partial unveiling1 of "the person, character, and purpose of God."2 Hence what we claim to know of God we learned through the writings of men and women in the Bible who encountered this self-revealing God -- the God of Israel (1 Kings 8:23) -- the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Exodus 3:6). Imagine, then, if God had not revealed God's own reality. We claim a justified true belief today (justifiable claims to truth), regarding Christian theology and practice, by the revelation given to us by God through men and women who recorded their experiences and certain messages God gave to them.

Within this unveiling of the person, character and purpose of God, the Bible unfolds as a narrative of how God interacted with a people-group chosen to proclaim the wonders of this Creator to the whole world (Isa. 49:6). But even Israel's failure to fulfill the purpose to which God called them could not thwart God's intended goal to reach the ends of the earth with a message -- a word -- of reconciliation and redemption and salvation.

But in what sense do we insist that our holy book, our "word of God," is the word/message of God to all? If we are not strict pluralists, and we do not deem other supposed holy books on equal par to the Bible, then upon what basis do we do so? Each proponent of any given religious/spiritual sect that contains writings describing or outlining tenets of said tradition can insist that their holy book is the Book of all books and thereby claim authority of that book, a revelatory nature of that book, and name it as inspired. How do we know that the Bible is inspired of God? Merely quoting 2 Timothy 3:16 will not suffice. We must have an uncontested source for inspiration.

In fact I believe we do have an uncontested source for belief that the Bible is the Book of all books, inspired, and the word of God: Jesus. He, without doubt, maintained confidence that at least the Old Testament was the inspired word of God (cf. Matt. 15:3; 22:31; Mark 7:13; John 5:39; 10:35). Evidence demonstrates Jesus believed that the Old Testament was, in truth, the "word of God." The only problem with my insistence, however, is that we are relying on men who quoted Jesus rather than possessing any writings from His own hand. Still, even if we claimed to possess copies of words penned by Jesus Himself, we have no method of verifying, absolutely, such a claim.

The Bible is neither a devotional book nor a book of promises, an owner's manual nor a road map, for it follows neither distinctions of a devotional, a mere book of promises, a manual or a map. The Bible, ultimately, is a story, a story of God, a story of people, a story of sin, and a story of redemption. Within this grand story we discover laws and commands, some of which are historical-contextual and are no longer relevant; we find history, poetry, songs and prophecy and letters. What is of utmost importance for our topic is that God decided to create human beings, gave those human beings allowance to render their own decisions regarding God's way of living, and, when they freely chose to rebel, God lovingly intervened and provided redemption in and through Jesus Christ.3 All else contained within Scripture are mere details that may, in some sense, contribute toward that ultimate truth. The core nature of the Bible is this grand redemptive truth.

But how do we know that the Bible is truth? This question is primary. If we suggest that the Bible is one truth among other religious/spiritual truths then we bow to pluralism. If we claim that the authors of the Bible insist that the words are truth then we are guilty of blindly and uncritically accepting the claim and are no better than any cult member guilty of the same with respect to his or her cult leaders. If we propose that the scriptures "speak" to our soul in a manner no other book does then we become relativists who must concede when others render similar statements regarding their favored writings.

What we are asking, then, is How do we objectively know that the Bible is truth? None of us witnessed God speaking to anyone nor inspiring anyone to write; we did not walk with Jesus; we did not talk with any apostles. Since God is the only objective being in the known universe, so we emphatically propose, then only God can objectively know truth. Is the best that we can claim, in that case, is that we maintain justifiable reasons for claiming the Bible as truth, even as the truth of God, and may rightly claim the Bible as the word (preferably, message) of God? I think we may claim slightly more, in that, we have a succession of witnesses throughout history, each one who personally knew others, who carried out the truth-claims stemming back to Christ Himself. Our very faith is verified by a historical procession from the days of Jesus as recorded in the Bible.


1 "'Unveiling' is the more complete disclosure of the God who is already apparent. It is customary to distinguish between two forms of this disclosure. On the one hand there is 'natural' (sometimes known as 'general') revelation; on the other there is 'special' revelation, which indicates all that is not accessible except through the eyes of faith." Samuel Wells, What Episcopalians Believe: An Introduction (New York: Morehouse Publishing, 2011), 29.

2 Ibid.

3 "The Bible presents a message about God and His purposes. It describes the creation of the universe, including the direct creation of men and women in a paradise on earth. The Bible describes the call of Abraham, the giving of the Law, the establishment of the kingdom, the division of the kingdom, and the captivity and restoration of Israel. Scripture sees humankind as fallen from a sinless condition and separated from God. The promise of a coming Messiah who will redeem men and women and reign as King appears through the Old Testament." David S. Dockery, Christian Scripture: An Evangelical Perspective on Inspiration, Authority and Interpretation (Eugene: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2004), 25.


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My name is William Birch and I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition but converted, if you will, to Anglicanism in 2012. I am gay, affirming, and take very seriously matters of social justice, religion and politics in the church and the state.