We at In His Image are very much interested in the authority of the Bible. That is what we attempt to uphold on a day to day basis, both in our blogs, and all our audio and visual media. However, there are varying opinions on what constitutes an authority issue. Different people define it in different ways, but to us, it’s far too important to just define and leave on a shelf. So today we’re going to try to define for you what we believe constitutes an authority issue. Let’s dive in.
In order to understand why authority matters, we need to understand what authority represents. For the Christian, the authority we acknowledge as preeminent is that of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. However, we believe that the mechanism by which He speaks to us today is not through spoken word, but written. As such, the authority of God rests in His written word. That Word is contained in the book we know today as the Bible. As such, the Bible must be authoritative in any matter of which it speaks. This is how we come to the idea of the authority of the Scripture.
With that in mind, what makes something an authority issue? How could we determine whether a particular topic in the modern world is an authority issue? Knowledge of the Scripture is a major factor in making that determination. However, there are a few general ideas to keep in mind. First, is there a clear consensus in the Scripture on the topic? In other words, in the context of the Bible, is there clarity? The second thing to consider is if one of the positions has been historically held by the vast majority of orthodox Christians throughout the ages. Third, consider whether the issue affects the key message of the Bible. Does it impact the Gospel? Finally, do those arguing to a particular view appeal extensively to non-Scriptural sources?
If you can answer affirmatively to the three above questions, then you may have found a Biblical authority issue. Keep in mind, you do bring biases with you to the table when you evaluate the Scripture so do your best to check yourself before proclaiming something a Biblical authority issue. Perhaps seek out someone who has a slightly different theological perspective and see if they see it the same way.
Now let us apply what we’ve set out to an issue in the broader spectrum of orthodoxy and see whether it is an authority issue. Since this is a creation oriented ministry, let us look at creation. Is the creation narrative a Biblical authority issue? There certainly is clarity in Scripture. The Bible makes it painfully clear that God created in six literal, twenty-four-hour days in every passage that deals with the full creation account. The literal six-day creation event has also been historically taught and held by the vast majority of orthodox church fathers from the time of the Apostles, to the reformers, up until the early 1800s when the church started to compromise on Genesis. While there were a few church fathers who waffled, many of them had other, even less orthodox positions than an old earth. Worse, if you remove a young earth and or insert evolution into Genesis, you destroy the redemption narrative. Finally, those who attempt to make the earth old and or add evolution to the text cite science, not the Bible, to support their view. Thus Biblical creation is indeed an authority issue.
However, not all issues the Bible discusses are an authority issue. For example, there are a multiplicity of views of eschatology. Obviously, at least most of the prevalent views are wrong but determining which is which does not rise to the level of an authority issue. The reason why are people fighting over this issue all cite Scripture as their authority on the topic. None are appealing to science to settle the question for them. Further, there is no consensus within the orthodox historical church, nor does eschatology strongly impact the Gospel. Thus views of eschatology are not issues of Biblical authority.
There are other issues, tangentially related to Biblical authority which we simply do not have the ability to cover adequately in one blog post such as inerrancy, perspicuity, and preservation. We will be covering these issues in detail in future posts. However, all of these doctrines are immaterial if the Bible is not authoritative. Biblical authority is the key issue in these debates.