Tuesday, May 2, 2017

What We Believe: The Bible

At CrossPoint Church, "We believe that the Bible, as given to us in the 66 books from Genesis to Revelation, stands alone as the inerrant, inspired, infallible Word of God and has been preserved for every generation. It is our final authority in all matters of faith and practice."

But what does that mean? Note the exclusivity of this statement. We only acknowledge the authority of the Bible. That is why you seldom hear our pastors use the word scripture from the pulpit, choosing instead to use Bible or Bible passage. In our context, with most people being familiar with Mormonism, scripture has a broader meaning. Our focus is on the Bible.

When we say that the Bible is inspired, we mean more than that it is just inspiring. The word inspiration only appears once in the Bible (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16). There it literally means God-breathed. That the Bible is inspired means that God used unique human instruments in recording exactly what He wanted written down. The technical term for this is plenary verbal inspiration

Plenary refers to the entirety of the Bible. Both the Old Testament (cf. 2 Peter 1:20-21) and the New Testament (cf. 2 Peter 3:2) has been inspired by God. This is important because to say only portions of the Bible are inspired is to leave us guessing about which parts are truly from God. Such a view diminishes the Bible's authority. Verbal refers to the individual words. Each word of the Bible has been inspired (cf. Matthew 4:4). This is important because it means the Bible doesn't merely contain the thoughts or ideas of God. Were that the case we'd be left to sift through everything in hopes of being able to determine for ourselves what God would have us know. Inspiration gives us confidence in the Gospel message, in preaching and sharing that message with others, and in responding to the world around us. However, inspiration would matter very little if what was inspired were not preserved.

Preservation is based on the nature and promise of God (cf. Psalm 12:6-7). The Bible as it exists today is without error. This is called inerrancy and is important because it assures us of God's power (i.e., the God powerful and wise enough to give us His Word is powerful and wise enough to keep it safe) and His character (i.e., He hasn't knowingly or willingly allowed mankind to embrace error). The Bible has not been corrupted and is dependable for our use today (cf. Matthew 24:35).

You may be aware that the Bible was originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. That's not what we read on Sunday mornings. Instead we read and English translation. Translation is the process of taking the words of the Hebrew Old Testament or the Greek New Testament and rendering them into any other language. The thought of a translation concerns some people. Maybe you've even asked, "How do we know something isn't being lost in translation?" As God is actively involved in preserving His word, we should expect there to be trustworthy translations. Furthermore, we see translation in the Bible. By Jesus' day the Old Testament had been translated into Greek (called the Septuagint) and is often quoted by the New Testament authors. 

Teams of language experts undertake the painstaking process of translating the original languages into the languages of other peoples and today the Bible has been carefully translated into nearly three thousand languages. Translations may either be dynamic equivalency or formal equivalency. Dynamic equivalency is a methodology that attempts to interpret and convey the ideas and thoughts of a source text rather than the literal words. It results in a thought-for-thought translation (e.g., New International Version, New Living Translation, and the Good News Bible). Formal equivalency renders each word as closely as possible from the source text into another language. It is a word-for-word translation (e.g., King James Version, New King James Version, English Standard Version, and New American Standard Bible). This is very important in light of what we've said regarding inspiration. If every word has been inspired by God, then we recommend a word-for-word translation. (This is one of the reasons Pastor Logan preaches from the KJV.)

A final concept that relates to what we believe about the Bible is canonization. This refers to what is considered inspired and to be included in the Bible. As stated above, we hold the 66 books of the Bible, 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New, to be inspired of God. These are acknowledged to the exclusion of the Gnostic gospels, secret or lost gospels, the Apocrypha, and the writings of other religions. How did these 66 books become part of the Bible over the enormous amount of religious and spiritual writings that did not? Three criteria had to be considered.

First, who was the author? This is especially important regarding the New Testament (by which time the Old Testament canon had been closed and recognized for some 400 years). Did an apostle write the book, or someone closely associated with an apostle? Did the author personally witness the ministry of Jesus or get his information from someone who did? Second, did the early churches readily accept the work as inspired? Did those first century Christians recognize the authorship and acknowledge it as authoritative? Third, does it contradict the other books recognized as inspired? When it comes to the New Testament, this means examining them against the Old Testament and the writings of Paul, which were readily accepted. The New Testament canon closed at the end of the first century, as those eyewitnesses to the ministry of Jesus passed away. Considering these questions together, early Christians were able to determine what was the inspired Word of God.

We have a biblical example of canonization (cf. Deuteronomy 31:26). The "book of the law" refers to the Pentateuch, the first five books in the Bible. This verse shows us that God led Moses to acknowledge His Word as inspired. This is important because it keeps us from making the wrong assumption that man or a church makes the decision of canonization. God does, and again in light of preservation, that is what we would expect. You cannot remove God from this process. If God is actively guarding and protecting His Word, then we can trust that nothing is being left out or overlooked.

The Bible isn't authoritative because we say so, but because God said it.

*The content above was taken from Pastor Logan's four-part series A More Sure Word. You can listen to it HERE.

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