I still don’t have the right answers. But I can explain why it is that I’ve been struggling to find the right place because of where I’ve been. One of the things that I’ve become aware of recently is that fewer people than I thought hold to the idea of biblical infallibility and total authority. I was raised to believe in those things, and I assumed that anyone who teaches from the Scriptures also believe them.
What I’ve been taught (and believed) can be summed up by the following two questions and answers (taken from my NANC theology exam and already edited and considered correct):
1. The Bible is spoken of as “inspired.” What does this mean?
The Bible clearly states that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Tim 3:16). This means that God gave the authors of the original Greek and Hebrew manuscripts the words that He wanted written. In 2 Peter 1:21, the Bible tells us “the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” This is a testament to the fact that the Bible is not the word of man, but the Word of God. The literal translation of “inspiration” in 2 Timothy 3:16 is “God-breathed” or “divinely breathed.” The picture that is painted here is that the very inner being of God has come forth in the words of the Bible.
Authors of both the Old and New Testament testified that their words were not their own, but God’s. Isaiah 1:2 declares that “the Lord hath spoken.” Jeremiah 10:1-2 states, “Hear ye the word which the Lord speaketh unto you, O house of Israel: Thus saith the Lord…” The first chapters of Ezekiel, Hosea, Jonah, Micah, and Zechariah all proclaim that the word of the Lord was given. In the New Testament, Paul expressly states that the things he had written were “the commandments of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 14:37). In Ephesians 3:3-5, Paul declares that what he has written was revealed to him by the Lord.
Time and time again the Bible proves that it is truly inspired by God. It makes claim after claim that the words written are the words of God. By saying that the Bible is “inspired” by God means that the words are those of God, not man.
Inspiration is vital to the Biblical counselor. The counselee needs to understand that the Bible is the written Word of God, and thus completely sufficient for addressing the problems of man. When the counselee grasps this concept, he is one step closer to believing that the Bible is Truth, and one step closer to salvation.
2. What is the relationship between infallibility and authority?
The Scriptures are infallible—that is, they are incapable of containing an error. The Scriptures also have divine authority—they are the basis for everything in life. We know that the Bible is infallible because we know Who authored it. The Scriptures are directly from God (2 Tim. 3:16-17). We know from Titus 1:2 that God cannot tell a lie. As a result, He could not allow anything untrue to be in His Word. In truth, the Bible reflects the character of God.
The Bible itself claims divine authority in 1 Thess. 2:13, “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.” Because the Bible cannot contain an error, these words speak of the divine authority of the Scriptures.
The Biblical counselor must understand that he can go to the Scriptures to counsel on any issue. There are root sins behind the majority (if not all) issues that would arise in a counseling session. To realize the authority of the Scriptures (in all matters) would immediately point the counselor in the direction he needs to go.
A friend of mine recently posted an article that responded to what was called “Bill Maher’s Absurd Take on Religion.” In it, the statement was made, “If Christianity really taught that God took out a pen, wrote a book for us, called it the Bible and dropped it from the clouds, I too would doubt. But Mr. Maher, Christianity doesn’t teach that.”
But…it does. At least in some places. I find it completely reasonable that Mr. Maher has an issue with Christianity because of that belief – because in more conservative fundamentalist churches that is exactly what is taught.
I’ve heard pastors say some of the most ignorant things from the pulpit and believed it because it came from a pastor.
Now’s the point where we all say yeah, but the pastor is just a man like everyone else and can be wrong (and probably is a lot of the time). But it doesn’t work like that in fundamentalist circles. The pastor is the man. Seriously. You know those bumper stickers that say, “The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it”? Well, in some cases that turns into “The pastor says it, I believe it, that settles it.”
Seems silly, doesn’t it? But it’s a very real part of fundamentalist Christianity.
I thought I had gotten rid of all of this baggage years ago – apparently I merely suppressed it.