The Theology of the Text: What is Scripture?

This article is the first in the series called “The Theology of the Text,” designed to cover the topic of the text in short, accessible articles. 

The Theology of the Text Part I: What is Scripture?

Christian theology is built from the ground up from Scripture. Without Scripture, there is no stability to the Christian religion. If the Scriptures are rejected as the ultimate foundation for the Christain religion, subjectivism and human experience become the god of the church. What we believe about Scripture is of utmost importance, as it is the foundation for all Christian faith and practice. The reason that the Scriptures are the foundation for faith and practice, is because God declares them such, and gives them to His people for that purpose. 

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”

2 Timothy 3:16

There are two points from this passage that are important to know: 

  1. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God
  2. All Scripture is given as a sufficient rule of faith; for practice and interpretation

The first point means that every line of Scripture is delivered from God to man by way of His inspiration. That is to say, that God is the author, and the men who physically wrote the Bible were the instrument, or writers. There are two points that should be observed from this first point: 1) The Scriptures are God’s words written down, and therefore pure and perfect. 2) The use of human means to write the Scriptures does not suppose human error, as God inspired those human authors. The process of giving the Scriptures to the church was not an accidental that God simply used in a reactionary way. Scripture is something He Himself caused and delivered. The nature of inspiration is such that the very words are inspired, and also that the vocabulary and experiences of the writers were employed by God. This has been called “organic” or “verbal plenary” inspiration by some, but it is important to remember that the nature of inspiration was not so organic that the words of Scripture are simply human words and ideas that God used. All Scripture is given by God, and therefore all Scripture is God’s words, regardless of the means that He used to accomplish such inspiration. 

The second point means that the Scriptures were given as a sufficient rule of faith to the people of God for all matters of faith and practice, “instruction in righteousness.” This serves as both a rule for what the Scriptures are to be used for, and also gives the people of God the necessary “self-interpreting” hermeneutic principle. First, the Scriptures are given “for instruction in righteousness.” That means that there are other ways to learn things outside of the Scriptures. There is benefit in reading history books, maths textbooks, theological commentaries and works, and other works of literature which cover various disciplines not pertaining to faith and practice. That does not mean that the Bible does not say anything about math, or science, or history, just that the Bible itself does not say it is the only means to get knowledge in all things. The Scriptures provide the foundation for how a Christian approaches all other disciplines, but does not contain exhaustive knowledge of all other disciplines in itself. It is sufficient as it pertains to Christian faith and practice, and also sufficient in its declarations about the Christian should approach other disciplines. Second, since the Bible is sufficient for all matters of faith and practice, that means that the hermeneutic principle of “let Scripture interpret Scripture” is warranted from this text. There is no need to interpret the Scriptures through Biological science, ecclesiastical tradition, critical approaches, or using various numerological systems. Further, this also means that no further revelation is necessary “for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” The Scriptures are fully sufficient for understanding all of Scripture. Historical studies may help one understand context better, but Scripture should always be read with the self-interpreting principle. 

Conclusion

The Scriptures set forth in 2 Timothy 3:16, and many other passages, that the Word of God is pure (Ps. 12:6) and perfect (Ps. 19:7), and sufficient for use in all matters of faith and practice. The source of a multitude of modern errors stem from rejecting this doctrine. When a Christian reads Scripture and hears Scripture correctly and faithfully preached, they are hearing God’s words (John 10:27). The Scriptures are lacking nothing, in word count and in what they teach. There is no prophetic word, vision, or dream which is necessary, because the Scriptures are sufficient. God gave the Scriptures to His people so that He could speak surely in every age until the last day (Mat. 5:18). In an age where the Bible is viewed as a corrupt, man-made document, this doctrine is essential to affirm for the sake of assurance of faith, and unity among the people of God. 

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