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The Authority of Scripture

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
August 6, 2022 12:01 am

The Authority of Scripture

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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August 6, 2022 12:01 am

Scripture is supremely authoritative because it comes from a source who is omniscient, infallible, and completely incorruptible. Today, R.C. Sproul points to the Bible's divine authority.

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Coming up next on Renewing Your Mind. We are in a timeframe right now where the question of the integrity and authority of the Bible is not just something that is challenged in the secular world, it is challenged routinely within the church itself. We live in a postmodern, post-Christian world. The experts tell us to believe in naturalism, the idea that everything came about by random, natural means. So when we as Christians claim that our holy book, the Bible, is divinely inspired, most people are skeptical.

Today on Renewing Your Mind, Dr. R.C. Sproul will provide us with a foundation for why Scripture is our ultimate authority. In our last session, we began the new section on the authority of the Bible, and we looked at how establishing the authority of the Bible is one of the top priorities of Christian apologetics. And we also saw that the Bible, if we claim is self-authenticating, leaves us open to the charge of circular reasoning and raises all kinds of problems about its trustworthiness. And I also mentioned that defending the Bible in this day and age means that we're on a collision course with a culture that has been very much influenced by philosophical naturalism. That's why it's so important, first of all, to establish the reality of the supernatural, which we've labored so much to do in this course.

Because then we at least allow for the possibility of supernatural activity such as miracles. Now also I have to say that on more than one occasion so far in our course, I have referred to the Scripture before establishing the Scripture as a normative authority. If you remember a couple of sessions ago, we looked at the psychology of atheism, and I looked at Paul's teaching in Romans 1 with respect to his claim that natural man suppresses the truth of God and then exchanges that truth for a lie, giving themselves over to idolatry.

Now I did that before having gone through the process of establishing the Bible as the Word of God. So really the only value that had from an apologetics viewpoint thus far is to indicate that there is a reply from the New Testament to those who accuse theists of establishing their notion of God purely for psychological reasons. And also you will remember that I said at that time that the case for the existence of God cannot be made on the basis of psychology in either direction, that it has to be established on an objective basis rather than in a subjective inclination. And so that's why I was pointing out to you that both sides can argue from a psychological perspective, but now we're still left with the task of establishing that the argument, for example, that the Apostle Paul gives in Romans 1 is normative and binding on us because it's not merely his philosophical opinion, but it is nothing less than the Word of God Himself.

Again, what we're dealing here with is the question of authority. If you've been to high school or to college, you've had to write term papers, if perhaps you've written a master's thesis or a doctoral dissertation, and you know that in the academic world when you're involved in research and writing a research paper, the professors look very carefully not only at the body of the composition and not only trace the arguments that you set forth, but they're also keenly interested in the sources and references that you cite to defend your thesis. If all of your quotations are from Dell comic books or from the Sunday afternoon roto section of the paper, that's not going to get you very far in the academic world. They want to see that you have examined the highest authorities in a particular field because by citing the authority, you give added credibility to whatever thesis you're espousing or defending. But we all realize if, for example, we're arguing physics, somebody can cite Niels Bohr and get some kind of credibility for citing that authority and then turn around and get the opposite view from Albert Einstein, because you realize that here two of the great titans of modern physics are in radical disagreement on certain points. I could also cite Plato as an authority on something and five minutes later get a rebuttal from the pen of Aristotle, and these two giants disagreed on certain issues. And so, in the final analysis, in this quest for truth that we're engaged in in the academic world, searching for authority, what would be ideal is if we could establish an authority that was irrefutable and absolute in its scope. And that's what, again, we're dealing with when we're talking about sacred Scripture because we're talking about a question of whether the content of this book comes from a source, which source is first of all omniscient and second of all infallible and third of all completely incorruptible and righteous, incapable of lying, incapable of erring, incapable of defects of any kind, which is what you're trying to establish when you're trying to establish that the Bible is the Word of God, because again, if we were engaged in the controversy and you were citing Aristotle and I was citing Plato or you were citing Bohr and I was citing Einstein, and God Himself appeared in the room and said, this is the answer, how foolish would it be for us to challenge you, because obviously the final word begins to Him because He is the only impeccable source of truth that we have at our disposal.

Now, if this book comes from Him, then all the conflicts we have in our society today over ethics and over truth can find their resolution in a source that is utterly and completely dependable. I can tell you from a practical experience when I was a pastor years ago in Cincinnati and did a lot of counseling, and I would deal with marriage counseling issues frequently, for example, and I don't know how many times I would listen to people tell me their problems, and as I listened to their problems humanly, I wanted to fix it. I wanted to relieve them of their pain. I wanted to get them away from their struggles, and I was inclined to do what they really wanted me to do, namely they wanted me as their minister to give them my permission to do what God said they were not allowed to do. And I can remember many, many times sitting there thinking, well, it seems to me that the humane, reasonable solution to this human problem is such and such, yet at the same time I was acutely conscious that that was in direct opposition to the teaching of sacred Scripture. And so I was facing this conflict.

Do I trust my judgment or the corporate wisdom of psychologists and psychiatrists, or do I really see this book as a source of ultimate truth? Because if it is, that obviously has a tremendous impact on what counsel I give to people. We see the problem we have today over whose authority determines what is proper behavior. With respect to sexual behavior, with respect to stealing, with respect to murder, with respect to capital punishment, we are a nation divided on all kinds of issues, and we continue to debate them because we haven't agreed on a normative authority that will settle the issue. But for the Christian, he struggles up front with the question, do we have such a normative authority that settles the matter? Now, historic Christianity has always advanced the theory that we do have an authority that is rooted and grounded in the knowledge and in the character of God Himself. And it's only been in the last couple of centuries since the Enlightenment that the absolute authority of the Bible has been subjected to widespread criticism, not only from outside the church, but from within the church. And the last two centuries have seen a radical barrage of criticism against the Bible from within the church, from within ecclesiastical academic institutions, from the seminaries, from the Christian universities, from so-called Christian scholars who have attacked the trustworthiness of the Bible.

In fact, at the turn of the 20th century, Abraham Kuyper, the Dutch theologian, made the observation, which I think was somewhat astute. He said that biblical criticism has disintegrated into biblical vandalism. The great archaeologist, William Foxwell Albright, who was to Old Testament archaeology what Einstein was to physics in the 20th century, in his last written piece of literature expressed not only his disappointment and frustration, but his utter disgust for the influence of Hegelian philosophy and later existential categories of thought on biblical scholarship that has produced a mindset within the church and within the realm of biblical scholarship of radically unscientific theories about Scripture, ignoring the primary canons of historical investigation and empirical research, such as you find in the Jesus seminar, which bases upon one inventive imaginative theory after another. And so we are now in a morass of confusion within the church about the integrity and authority of the Bible. I personally believe, having studied in higher critical institutions for much of my academic background, that having to go through the rigorous process of being exposed to these critics and giving the criticisms, the philosophy of a second glance, that I came out the other side of that tunnel, maybe because I'm just pig-headed, but I came out of the other side so much more confident in the impeccability of Scripture than I was when I started.

But that's another question, and I'm getting ahead of myself now. But for now, let me just say we are in a timeframe right now where the question of the integrity and authority of the Bible is not just something that is challenged in the secular world, it is challenged routinely within the church itself. Now, let's begin where I started the last time with the claim of the New Testament writers, because if the writers don't claim to be speaking under the authority of God, there's no reason to go through this laborious process of defending the idea. But we know at the end of the Apostle Paul's life, his last letter to Timothy, where he gives his final admonitions and exhortations in the third chapter, he talks about that perilous times will come upon the church. And he says in verse 10, You have carefully followed my doctrine, my manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra, what persecutions I endured. And out of all of them the Lord delivered me. And yes, Paul is writing to Timothy, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and imposters will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them.

Now, let me just comment there. When he tells Timothy to stay the course, to endure in the path in which he has begun, he's saying to him, Remember the source of your instruction. Now, Paul may be saying, Well, I was the source or your grandmother was the source.

I don't think so. But I remember when I was a little boy and somebody would say something to hurt my feelings, and I'd go home crying to my mother, and she would dry my eyes with her apron strings, and I'd say, Billy Johnson said such and such and such and such. And my mother's comment was always, Consider the source. And what she meant was, What else can you expect from him?

I mean, that's the kind of stuff he says to everybody. And she was trying to ameliorate my pain by telling me that the source of these critical statements was an unreliable source. Now, conversely, Paul is saying to Timothy, Tough times are going to come. You're going to suffer persecution, but I want you to continue the course in which you're on.

Hang in there remembering what you have learned and from whom you have learned it. Consider the source, Timothy. And then he goes on to say what? That from childhood you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith, which is in Christ Jesus. So the source he has in view here is the Scriptures. And now in verse 16 he says, All Scripture is given by the inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. Now, what Paul makes here at the beginning of verse 16 is a universal affirmation about the Bible when he says, All Scripture. Now, let me pause here where Paul is saying all things are everything in a universal affirmative that includes all that is contained within this generic concept of Scripture. Now, what is Paul talking about here when he says, All Scripture is given by inspiration?

The word here is the word grafe, which literally means the writings, which in the first century when Jewish people talked about the grafe or it is written or the writings, what they were referring to clearly was the Old Testament. So at the very minimum, Paul is claiming inspiration for the Old Testament. Now, the question is whether the New Testament documents properly belong to the category of Scripture. And while we're asking that question, let me just jump ahead to Peter's statement at the end of his second letter where in verse 14 of chapter 3, Peter says, Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace without spot and blemish, and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation, as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles. I mean, here we have Peter cognizant of the body of literature and the epistles that have been produced by his co-apostle, Paul. He says, Speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures. There's no question that Peter's testimony here is to the effect that Paul's writings belong to this category, that people are twisting Paul's words just like they do the rest of the Scriptures, indicating that Peter puts Paul's writings on the same level of Scripture as the Old Testament, which again, there are many other reasons to do that with the rest of the New Testament documents, the promise of Christ that they would be taught and led by the Holy Ghost and so on. But in any case, back now to Paul's statements in 2 Timothy when he speaks of all the Scripture, all the graphite, are given through what my English text says is the inspiration of God.

Now, I would agree with B.B. Warfield from the old Princeton School of Theology that this is technically a mistranslation when it speaks of inspiration, because the word that is used in the text here is the word theopneust, which literally means in the Greek, God breathed. God breathed. But the idea that Paul is speaking of here is that the Scriptures have been breathed out by God. See, I breathe in, I take in a breath, and when I speak, as I'm speaking, my breath is exhaling.

I am breathing out. Now, when we talk about inspiration, the doctrine of inspiration has the idea that God somehow does something to the human rider, and we'll look at that later, but He is breathing into them some superintending power to keep them from distorting His words. But here, the word theopneust refers not to the mode by which God superintends the human authors who set down the Scripture.

The question here is the question again of source. When Paul says that all of the Scripture is God-breathed, what Paul is saying is that the ultimate and original author of the Scripture is God. It comes from His source.

He breathes it out. The disciples or the apostles breathe it in, but it is coming ultimately from God. That is the point that he is speaking of here in the context of asking Timothy to remember the source of his instruction, that ultimately the content of the Bible comes from God. So, really, it would be better to say that the Bible is based on expiration. Now, when we speak of inspiration, again, we're talking about a doctrine by which the Scriptures claim that the content is not through the private insight of the prophets and apostles, but these men wrote as they were moved or carried along by the Holy Ghost, where you see there now a divine and supernatural enabling of the human agents of revelation.

Just like the power of the Holy Ghost comes on Jeremiah in the Old Testament, then the message that he delivers to Israel is not his reasoned opinion, but he says to the people, thus saith the Lord, because the Spirit has given His Word, put His Word in his mouth or in his pen, and that what Jeremiah is, is the one who is the human agent who conveys the Word of God. So, again, we haven't defended that thesis at all yet. All we've tried to establish so far is the claim that what Paul is claiming here and Peter seconding the motion in his second epistle is nothing less than the divine origin of sacred Scripture. And, again, I remind you just because the claim is made doesn't mean the truth has been established. That remains for us to argue, but simply from here we understand what it is we're trying to defend, namely the claim that the apostles and the prophets together make, that their Word is not their own Word, that their Word finds its source and origin in God Himself.

It was Dr. R.C. Sproul's firm conviction that defending our faith requires that we understand the fundamentals of logic and reason, but it also requires that we know Scripture and what God has said about truth. Thanks for joining us for Renewing Your Mind on this Saturday.

I'm Lee Webb. Each weekend we return to Dr. Sproul's series on classical apologetics. It's called Defending Your Faith. It surveys the history of apologetics, and it's a great introduction to the foundations of logic.

Let me commend this 32-message series to you. It's on 11 DVDs, and we will be happy to send you the full set when you give a donation of any amount to Ligonier Ministries. You can call us to make your request at 800-435-4343, but if you prefer, you can go online to Theologian Brian Edwards said, Philosophy and religion may reform, but only the Bible can transform. It's important for us to be able to use both philosophy and the Bible as we defend the truth claims of Christianity, and Dr. Sproul helps us do that in this series. So again, request Defending Your Faith when you contact us today with a donation of any amount.

Our online address again is, and our phone number, 800-435-4343. Today Dr. Sproul addressed the authority of Scripture. Next Saturday he'll look at the reliability of the Bible. I hope you'll join us for that next week here on Renewing Your Mind. God bless you.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-15 11:38:07 / 2023-03-15 11:46:14 / 8

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