Before we get thinking about the Bible’s unique authority, let’s think about a question. Why do we need the Bible? If you are like me, a lot of answers flood your mind, topping the list is that without the Bible we wouldn’t know how to be saved. But if we add a qualification, the question gets a bit trickier: given that there are so many good resources out there, why do we still need the Bible, itself? Why not read the wealth of devotional and theological literature, which is sometimes more accessible and is often written with our particular situation in mind?
One possible answer is that other literature can contain errors, while the Bible doesn’t. I’ve heard that answer before, and it satisfied me at first. But then I got thinking, I read the Bible, and I can have errors in my own interpretation. Sure, for people like Wayne Grudem and Sinclair Ferguson, errors are possible, and I’m sure there are a few. But I’m willing to bet that I’m a lot more likely to make mistakes in interpretation then they are. So the fact that we should read the Bible because human authors can make mistakes only exasperates the question, why do we need the Bible?
In order to answer the question, we need to think about what the Bible is in the first place. Some facets of Christian thought have identified the Bible as a the raw material out of which we create theology and practical application. The Bible’s like raw veggys and meat, by itself it doesn’t amount to much, but with the right touch can turn into something fantastic. The goal of theology is to take the information that the Bible gives and rework it for our contemporary situation. The Bible is kind of like an anthology: its value likes in vast amount of facts it contains, which can be reworked for something more useful. If this is how we think of the Bible, I doubt we’ll be able to come up with a satisfactory answer to the question.
The purpose of the Bible, I contend, is not only to communicate true information (though it is that too). It is the document that God uses to call His people to Himself. It’s like voice of the shepherd calling his sheep. God calls his sheep by revealing His initiative to reconcile them through Christ. Many people call the Bible a covenant document. It means that it is a contractual document that God uses to relate His people to Himself. But for God, His revelation doesn’t merely reveal that something is (like the contract you might write up when selling your house), it makes something happen. God spoke, and the world began. He calls His people to Himself, and His call creates His people. If we think of Bible like this, literature about the Bible (though valuable and useful—I love reading Grudem and Ferguson) can never take the place of the Bible. We need the Bible because it is what God uses to call us to Himself. The Bible is both a once-for-all call when we are converted, and it is a call to die daily, take up our cross, and follow him.
Now I think we’re in a better place to think about the authority of Scripture. Its authority is not merely that everything in it is true (though it is all true). Its authority is in the fact that God uses the Bible to call his people to Himself. Either the Bible is the absolute authority, or it is nothing—like either Jesus is who he says he is, or he’s a lunatic and we shouldn’t follow him one step. The authority of scripture cannot be established by some other standard. Some time ago I was in a discussion with someone who wanted to argue about the truth of Scripture. For every proof I offered, he and an objection. Proof—objection—proof—objection. We were sorta at an impasse. Part of the problem was that I was trying to establish the authority of scripture, like I would any other book. But the Bible is not like any other book. And we need to recognize that.