Any theology that counts itself “biblical” must begin with stating its understanding of the Bible. Since what may be known about God is plain in His creation (Ps. 19; Rom. 1), we could attempt a theology that starts with general revelation. But such an effort would be fraught with conjecture and have no objective basis for testing truth claims.

So, the Bible provides the appropriate beginning place for any Christian theology. And any Bible-believing theology will hold some important distinctives.

For instance, Bible-believing Christians believe the Bible to be fully inspired. God breathed out the Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16) and the Holy Spirit carried along holy men of old in order to preserve His thoughts (2 Peter 1:21). The inspiration of the word of God did not diminish the personalities, tendencies and abilities of the human authors. Nor did those authors distort God’s message and meaning as they recorded the scripture. Nor is the doctrine of inspiration a later invention by religious zealots and hucksters. With self-awareness, the prophets pronounced, “Thus says the Lord.” The apostles equated their preaching with God speaking, saying, “when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers” (1 Thes. 2:13; emphasis added). They also regarded their writings as scripture, as Peter does when he classifies Paul’s letters with “the other Scriptures” (2 Peter 3:16). We believe the 66 books of the Bible to be the divinely inspired word of God.

A Bible-believing theology of the Bible also holds to the Bible’s inerrancy. In the original autographs, the Bible is without error. “The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times” (Ps. 12:6). The word is pure because God is pure. For, “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” (Num. 23:19) Scribal and copyist errors can be discerned using the voluminous manuscript evidence available. But such errors never occur on any essential Christian teaching and actually increase our confidence in the Bible’s transmission since we can observe and study any departures in the manuscripts across languages, cultures, times, and places.

Bible-believing Christians believe the Bible, being fully inspired and inerrant, is also authoritative. As is often said, “The Bible is the final rule in all matters of life and doctrine.” Indeed, the Bible views itself in those terms. God repeatedly calls Israel to “Be careful to obey all these words that I command you” (Deut. 12:28; passim). Life in the New Covenant begins with “obeying the gospel” (Rom. 10:16; 2 Thes. 1:8; 1 Pet. 4:17) and continues with “the obedience that comes from faith” (Rom. 1:5; 16:26). We are with trembling reverence to humble ourselves beneath God’s word (Isa. 66:2), finding life in it (John 6:63, 68) and expressing love to God in obeying (John 14:15).

Bible-believing Christians also maintain that the word of God is sufficient for knowing God and living in a manner that pleases God. The seminal text is 2 Tim. 3:16-17 where the apostle Paul writes: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” By the scriptures we are made increasingly wise, even beyond our teachers (Ps. 119:98-99; Prov. 9:9). All that we need to know in order to serve God we find in His word.

What the inspiration, inerrancy, authority, and sufficiency of the Bible means for justice pursuits is that our definitions, understandings, practices and pursuits of justice should be framed and filled by the Bible. As God’s servants, we are not at liberty to seek after other sources of instruction that we place over or even on par with the Bible. Though we may certainly gain a great deal from other sources, we do not vest final allegiance to them, and we must test them all by the Scriptures.

Whither Authority and Sufficiency?

But in some circles there are troubling signs that some of the Bible’s doctrinal distinctives may be in danger. The threat is not so much a formal doctrinal retreat as a practical abandonment. We see this with both the authority and the sufficiency of the Bible when it comes to practical matters of justice, mercy, equity, righteousness, and love.

The abandonment of the Bible’s authority and sufficiency happen in at least two directions. Some folks run away; some folks back away.

It’s easy to tell when a person runs away from the Bible. But we might not notice a person backing away. Some self-described theological conservatives see theological progressives and liberals as running from the Bible. Something in the Bible is outright rejected. Another philosophy gets inserted rather than biblical theology. Then self-described theological conservatives say, “They’re running away from the Bible.” Indeed, some people are.

However, just as people can run from the Bible, people can also back away from the Bible. Take, for example, the same self-described theological conservative who says, “You’re running from the Bible.” Oftentimes the next thing that person says is, “The Bible doesn’t say anything about this or that.” The theological conservative thinks they’re still defending against the person running from the Bible. But, in fact, they’ve just declared the Bible’s functional insufficiency. Then, if the theological conservative goes on to cite their political party platform or their favorite writer/commentator instead of the Bible, they’ve backed away a second step—all the while thinking of themselves as defending the Bible or the truth.

Their strategy for defending the Bible functionally (not necessarily formally) abandons the sufficiency of the Bible. This is clear when we remember that the Bible says that it is sufficient to thoroughly equip the man of God for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17). The Bible does not have a verse for everything we face in the world. There’s no verse on tax rates. There’s no verse on foreign policy postures. There’s no verse on whether to buy a vacation home. There’s no verse on whether the husband or the wife should take out the trash (Hint: it’s the kids!). 

However, we believe that in the whole counsel of scripture we have enough teaching from God to know how to live for God in every area. We may have to debate specific tax rates or whatever. But for the Christian, that debate should be a biblical, exegetical, and theological debate that shows the Bible’s sufficiency for life and doctrine.

The Bottom Line

It’s not enough to merely declare a position or perspective is “biblical” only to then go our merry way with other ideas. We need to actually make our positions demonstrate their fidelity to the Bible. We need to recognize that the hard work of mining the Bible for our stances is what, in fact, proves we functionally or practically hold to the authority and sufficiency of scripture.

To be sure, there are other ways of knowing. But there’s only one way of knowing surely. That’s by taking the whole counsel of God as the sum and substance of our world and life view.

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The Front Porch

Conversations about biblical
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