Topic of the Month
Poems and songs. History and narrative. Wars and celebrations. Romance and grief. The Bible is an eclectic book.
But it’s more than a book. It’s a compilation of sacred writings God gave us to know and love him better—it is the Word of God.
The Bible itself describes Jesus Christ as the Word (John 1). The phrase “Word of God” can, then, apply to the speech and the Speaker. God’s speech is powerful: it can decree events and cause things to come into being (Gen 1:3; Psa 33:6). God’s speech is also intimate: it comes in personal addresses to people (Gen 3:16–19). And it comes both through human lips (Jer 1:9) and in written form (Exod 31:18; Josh 24:26; 1 Cor 14:27) (Grudem, Wayne A. Systematic Theology, pp. 47-49).
What we believe about Scripture impacts everything about our faith, from our beliefs about God to our understanding of ourselves. While the topic of Scripture is exceedingly broad, you can think about it in three main categories: the doctrine of Scripture, the canon, and the characteristics of Scripture.
The doctrine of Scripture
No device has ever recorded God’s spoken words. It is God’s word in written form that is available to us to study, inspect, examine, and discuss (Grudem, 49). Through Scripture, God engages with and relates to us.
And because the whole Bible points to Jesus Christ, the express image of God, we learn through studying Scripture what God is like.
The doctrine of Scripture helps us understand what the Bible is and how it came to be—and to grasp its meaning more fully. It helps to answer tough questions related to believing the words in a book that originates from a God we cannot see.
The canon of Scripture
Because the 66 books of Bible were written over 1,500 years by 40 authors on 3 different continents in 3 different languages, it was critical to decide which books belong inside the cover of a Bible—and which don’t. The “canon” of Scripture refers to these books recognized as authoritative and divinely inspired by God.
The document in question needed to conform to orthodoxy, have had authorial contact with the apostles, and be widely accepted. The Old Testament canon was not finalized until after the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, while the process of canonizing New Testament books began in the first centuries after Christ’s resurrection. Church councils and individual churches played a role in recognizing the canon as Scripture publicly until the list was finalized in 397 AD.
Key characteristics of Scripture
Though there is no “official” list of key characteristics of Scripture, there is a general agreement (with some debate). In Wayne Grudem’s magnum opus Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Theology, he outlines four characteristics of Scripture, which have been used by many other Christians:
- 1. Authority:Because Scripture originates from God, it is the ultimate verbal authority; it carries his authority as ruler over all he created (2 Pet 1:20–21).
- 2. Clarity:The clarity of Scripture means that “the Bible is written in such a way that its teachings are able to be understood by all who will read it seeking God’s help and being willing to follow it” (2 Pet 3:16) (Grudem, 108).
- 3. Necessity: The Bible is “necessary for knowing the gospel, for maintaining spiritual life, and for knowing God’s will, but is not necessary for knowing that God exists or for knowing something about God’s character and moral laws” (Rom 1:19–21; 2:14–15; 10:13–17) (Grudem, 116).
- 4. Sufficiency:The sufficiency of Scripture means that “Scripture contained all the words of God he intended his people to have at each stage of redemptive history and that it now contains all the words of God we need for salvation, for trusting him perfectly, and for obeying him perfectly” (2 Tim 3:15–16) (Grudem, 127).
The doctrine of Scripture includes other elements, like inspiration, the process by which God communicated his revelation through human authors. All the written words of Scripture are both human words and, at the same time, God’s words (2 Tim. 3:16).
Two other fiercely debated elements are infallibility and inerrancy. To say that Scripture is infallible means that God cannot lie, and therefore, Scripture is incapable of erring (Ps. 119:43; 142; 151; 160; see also John 17:17). The Bible will not fail to accomplish the purposes for which God gave it (Isa 55:11). That Scripture is inerrant means it is free from error: “Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact” (Grudem, 90).
How Logos can help you explore Scripture
It’s impossible to understand everything about the Bible and God’s superintendence of the writing of Scripture. But since the meaning of the Bible is vital to our faith, it’s also critical to understand what Scripture is and how it came to be.
Here are some ways you can use Logos Bible Software to learn more about the doctrine of Scripture:
- Learn about the doctrine of Scripture with library filters that make it easy to organize resources and pinpoint exactly what you are looking for.
- Find key biblical references about the inspiration of Scripture with customizable search templates.
- Research the key elements of the doctrines of Scripture in the Lexham Survey of Theology.
- Track what you learn with a built-in notes app designed for Bible study
Engaging the Written Word of God
In this collection of articles written over forty years, Packer sets out his beliefs about the authority of Scripture and the principles that should be applied when interpreting it. Important topics such as the adequacy of human language, upholding the unity of Scripture, and challenges in biblical interpretation are considered in the first two sections: God’s Inerrant Word and Interpreting the Word. In the final section, Preaching the Word, Packer turns his attention to pastoral leaders and the...
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