What are the absolute, essential, non-negotiable, and foundational truths that mark orthodox, historical Christianity? The Bible is the sole infallible and inerrant standard of truth without any mixture of error. Christianity stands or falls on what one believes about the nature of Scripture. Over the next few weeks, I am going to explain and defend the cardinal dogmatic beliefs of historical Christianity. But we must start with the Bible. What is the nature of Scripture? Let me suggest five absolute non-negotiable aspects of what the Bible says about itself.
First of all, all Scripture is breathed out by God and therefore verbally inspired.
2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” The word “Scripture” in the original language means the actual “written word” of God. From Genesis to Revelation, every single word written down in the Bible is breathed out by a perfect and authoritative God who worked in the hearts and minds of the writers to pen exactly what God wanted written down.
This is commonly known as the Verbal Plenary view of the inspiration of Scripture. The Holy Spirit’s influence extends beyond just the direction of the writer’s thoughts to the actual selection of words and grammar used to convey the message. Robert Plummer in his book “40 Questions about Interpreting the Bible” says “God so mysteriously superintended the process that every word written was also the exact word He wanted to be written—free from all error.” We find proof of this in 2 Peter 1:20-21 which states “knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”
Secondly, (and this flows logically from the doctrine of inspiration), all Scripture is inerrant in the original manuscripts and therefore the Bible is absolute truth, without any mixture of error. Up the mid 1600’s essentially all Christians asserted that God’s Word was without error. But due to the Enlightenment and Renaissance there was an increased hunger to seek out truth and people began to critically examine the Bible and shed doubt on its veracity. Within the last 50 years, there has been major debate within Christian circles as to the nature of Scripture in regards to its truthfulness.
When we say that the Bible is inerrant we mean that the Bible is completely truthful in all things the Bible asserts—whether geographic, chronological, or theological details. Again, in inspiration God breathed out the actual words to be written so that EVERY WORD written is exactly how God wanted it written down. Allow the Scripture to speak for itself: Numbers 23:19 “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” Psalm 12:6 “The words of the LORD are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times.” Proverbs 30:5 “Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.”
The Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy is a very helpful document that clearly articulates this truth. This comes from Article XII: “We affirm that Scripture in its entirety is inerrant, being free from all falsehood, fraud, or deceit. We deny that Biblical infallibility and inerrancy are limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes, exclusive of assertions in the fields of history and science. We further deny that scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood.”
Thirdly, all Scripture is infallible and therefore the Bible will endure for all time. Jesus said this in Matthew 24:35: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”
Fourth, all Scripture is authoritative and therefore is the supreme and final authority in testing all claims about what is true and right. Again, Jesus said this in John 17:17: “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” Jesus emphatically asserts that not only is Scripture simply “true”, but that it is “THE” Truth with a capital “T”!
Finally, since Scripture is absolutely true and without error, the meaning of Biblical texts is a fixed historical reality, rooted in historical, unchangeable intentions of its divine and human authors. Therefore, there is a fixed meaning that does not change. This applies to sexual ethics, morality, and gender roles in the home and in the church. Thus, the practice of homosexuality, sex before marriage, sex outside of marriage, and any other form or sexual immorality is strictly forbidden according to the Bible’s fixed meaning on these issues. God’s Word defines marriage as a lifelong covenant between one man and one woman. Many in our culture today, want to redefine God’s standard for human sexuality and marriage because they think that we have evolved and progressed past many of the archaic or dated issues in the ancient text.
I will say it again: One’s belief about the nature of Scripture determines if he or she actually believes the foundational tenets of historic, orthodox Christianity. A low view of Scripture will produce a low view of God, Christ, salvation, grace, heaven, hell, and every other issue that Scripture clearly teaches. Dear reader, please make sure that you are in a church where this view of Scripture is cherished. Hold your pastor and spiritual leaders accountable to this holy standard. Anything less than this leads to the slippery slope of abandoning Christianity altogether.