How can we know the truth?
Christians of most, if not all, denominations and subcultures would answer in one accord... THE BIBLE!
If all eternal and spiritual truth finds its home in only one book, then anything outside of this book, no matter how seemingly reasonable, must be subject to scrutiny and not be seen as a sure ‘word from God.’ This post seeks to find what this infallible source has to say for itself about itself.
The Canon of the New Testament had not been settled until The Period of Fixation (AD 367-405) where, “in his "Epistola Festalis" (A.D. 367) the illustrious Bishop of Alexandria ranks all of Origen's New Testament Antilegomena, which are identical with the deuteros, boldly inside the Canon, without noticing any of the scruples about them. Thenceforward they were formally and firmly fixed in the Alexandrian Canon.” The Catholic Church recognized that the validity of these decisions regarding the canonization of the New Testament rested on also proving that those that making the decisions had made infallible ones. The most solid way to insure this proof was to claim that those making the decisions themselves were indeed infallible.
For good graces of discussion, let’s assume that the God who penned the words through other fallible men also had the ability to make sure it would get published whether or not the men compiling ‘his’ works were infallible or not.
Biblical infallibility is truly the chief cornerstone of the Christian faith. For quite obvious reasons, this was not the case among the early church for perhaps several generations after the day of Pentecost. This cornerstone is more paramount than even the Resurrection of Jesus, for without the thrust of authority of infallibility or inerrancy, the need for faith in the unseen increases while the grounds of conscious reasoning decreases. In other words, without an outside and objective benchmark for what is true, all bases for the Christian faith would be on pure experience and human opinion alone. If we can’t be sure of the records being literal historicity and the actual ‘Word of God’ spoken through man, than what is left in a Christian’s mind for their faith to stand on apart from their own experiences? Christian authority certainly is dead apart from the authority of the scriptures. Christians, as divided in doctrinal stances as they appear to be, would barely have a shred of commonality apart from the bible. It may even be reasonable to say that Christianity as we know it would not even exist apart from the Christian bible having been compiled and asserted to be the ‘Word of God.’
It is very important to see that most, if not all, Christians today would stand to the end on the belief that no truth (especially spiritual or divine) can be known outside of the bible. I repeat the Christian claim for emphasis…
‘There is no authority for truth outside of the bible!’
Seeing, then, that the bible is the only true authority on truth that is proposed to be in the world today, there is only one source to seek an answer to the question of the Christian bible being the ‘Infallible Word of God’… the bible itself. Its declarations are certainly the only source that can be trusted. Any answer outside of this ultimate authority cannot be trusted. We cannot trust our human reasoning, testimonies of any man or woman, our own experiences, or any other organized authority of any kind. The bible is the source of reliable spiritual and divine truth.
The verses to follow are all from the New Testament for one simple reason. We are discussing Christianity and proving that the Old Testament is the ‘Word of God’ apart from proving the same for the New Testament does nothing to support Christianity.
In the following, I am only going to highlight the verses that speak of the nature or authority of the scriptures themselves. To simply quote a ‘fulfilled’ Old Testament scripture or mentioning of another declared scripture speaks not to the nature or authority about scripture itself, but simply states what the scriptures have said. The verses that follow were the only ones I could find that had anything to do with ‘scriptures’ or ‘word’ and that may aid us in discovering the truth of how we can be certain that the New Testament is the ‘Word of God.’
Let’s see what the bible has to say for itself…
But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 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, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.(2 Timothy 3:14-17)
This is the most definitive verse used to waive the banner of inerrancy. At the time that this was written, however, the New Testament did not exist and it could be strongly argued that Paul was referring only to the Old Testament scriptures. To claim that this verse speaks of the entire 66 book bible that we have today would be taking this verse grossly out of context and reasonable application. One must first decide by faith that the Christian New Testament that we have today is considered to be scripture inspired by God before one can apply the declaration of this verse to it. This verse does not state that the New Testament we hold today is the inerrant or inspired word of God.
To say that scripture is ‘god-breathed’ or ‘inspired’ by God may be quite different than scripture being the ‘Word of God.’ An author named Tom is inspired by another author named Jim. The words of Tom are not inherently the words of Jim, however Jim was the source of inspiration. Adam is ‘God-breathed’ in Genesis. Does this mean that everything that Adam did, God was doing, or was it Adam, or was it both? Many preachers and writers do work under the anointing or inspiration of God. Does this mean that their very words are the words of God Himself or are they simply inspired? If they are the very words of God Himself, then we must heed the words of anyone ‘under inspiration’ as if they were spoken by God Himself. (That would become quite interesting.)
This Greek word meaning ‘god-breathed’ or ‘inspired’ is a tricky one because it is the only time it is ever used in the New Testament. However, regardless of how we interpret the word ‘inspired’, this verse does not state that the New Testament we hold today is the inerrant or inspired word of God.
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
But the word of God grew and multiplied. (Acts 12:24)
And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God. (Acts 13:44)
And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: (Ephesians 6:17)
For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe. (1 Thessalonians 2:13)
Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever. (1 Peter 1:23)
Though all of these verses above speak of the characteristics of the ‘word of God,’ none of them point to the New Testament being the Word of God. It would seem a stronger and more realistic argument that the ‘word of God’ is something that cannot be written down, but is an un-seeable or unspeakable force or power that stirs in life and change within an individual. This has little to do with the words on a page that are to be adhered to or words on a page that we are judged by. Though these may be seen as beautiful renditions inspired by the ‘word of God,’ no where in these verses do they claim to be the words of God themselves. They actually speak to the idea that this ‘word of God’ either is referencing the Old Testament or has nothing to do with a book at all.
Remember, also, that one must first decide by faith that these verses are the words of God before one can apply the declaration and descriptions of these verses to it. We’re still searching for where the bible, today’s only sure source of knowing God’s truth, gives us the assurance that we’re on the right path to stand by the claim of infallibility.
For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. (Revelation 22:18-19)
To apply this verse out of a book written by John to the whole of the New Testament would be taking this grossly out of context. He is surly speaking of ‘the words of the prophecy of this book.’ He is not referencing the 66 book bible we have today, but the book that he had just written. Apart from the decision to place this book at the end, for obvious reasons, we cannot assume that this verse has anything with the other 65 books of the bible.
There isn’t much, if anything, left of Christianity apart from the words in the New Testament, but according to 1 Cor. 4:20, should Christians focus so much on the written words?
For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. (1 Corinthians 4:20)
This states it quite clearly. The kingdom of God is not in words. The kingdom of God is not found in the words in a book, but, at most, in what the words point to… the power behind the words. So, perhaps ‘the world’ should give Christians a break and not get so hung up about the bible and what it says. Maybe we should be disregarding what Christians say and start paying more attention to the power that they display because they’re living according to the kingdom principles of God. Do Christians provide the answers, solutions, and way to a powerful life that is impossible to be displayed in any other belief system or subculture? Do they display the power that would be expected from the people of the Almighty God?
All of the modern Christian tradition rests on the claim that the 66 books of the bible we have today are the inerrant ‘Word of God’ and that anything spoken outside of this Bible is subject to fault and error in the light of the bible’s glorious truth. No where in the 66 books is it ever declared that the Old or New Testament that we have today is the very Word of God. It would actually point that the Word of God is something other than words in a book. Since the modern Christian’s claim that their bible is the only sure way of knowing God’s perspective and will cannot even be found in the only sure source of knowing truth, then it would stand to reason that the assertion that the bible is the very ‘Word of God’ to man is simply that… an assertion that can neither be proven nor shown to be the truth by the only book that is claimed to be the only ‘Word of God’ to man.
To believe that all mankind will be judged by the words written in the bible is a belief that may be argued and supported by much reasoning and rationale. If one wants to believe by faith that it is the only inspired, actual, and literal Word of God to all mankind, than one is free to choose this belief and may even find forms of blessing for so doing. However, one cannot argue with a shred of logic or reason that the 66 book called the Christian bible declares itself to be so.
The belief of infallibility may be derived from various trains of thought. Christians, as I once was, can build grand structures of reasoning from many angles and perspectives to ‘prove’ that the book is the ‘Word of God’ as I once did, but in the end we cannot say it is because ‘the bible tells me so.’
I do realize how absurd it would for be for anyone to expect that every verse ever written in the bible is preceded by ‘Thus saith the Lord’ and even if it did, if we were to ask how we can know for sure it comes down to what they say it always comes down to. It’s a matter of ‘faith.’ The faith that is beyond the reasoning mind is the realm that Christianity values and stands firm on. If, then, it always will come down to a matter only to be understood in the faith realm apart from rational reasoning, then it would be most authentic to keep it that way. If it is not by reasoning, but by faith alone, than a Christian Apologist may be an oxymoron. According to the 'by faith' assertion, perhaps the reasoning mind only it's place for those who are coming or have come Out of Christianity.
It seems reasonable to this ex-Christian that the most effective path to winning anyone to the Christian world view is through the tools available within the Christian belief system. Many Christians would agree that faith is the most powerful thing that a Christian has. The Christian world view can only stand on faith without evidence of reason. If this faith is only by the power of God, then it would seem that the use of the reasoning mind is ultimately unreliable for a Christian to give an answer for the hope that is within them and therefore cannot really be expressed in any words. The use of words and communication requires the use of the reasoning mind. Entering into an argument of reasoning is futile and their most sure victory to win the hearts of the world is to use this faith that conquers all reasoning and believe us all into salvation.