The Internal Witness of Scripture

How can we come to know whether the 66 books of the Bible are the authoritative and inerrant word of God?

Abandon the authority and inerrancy of Scripture and you have no foundation upon which to stand. Insisting that only Jesus and the words that He spoke in the flesh are authoritative and inerrant will not suffice. Jesus Himself appealed to the authority of the Scriptures that spoke of Him. We can only and ever know Christ by means of the Scriptures that reveal Him.

 

Many years ago, I was teaching through a section of Romans that contains particularly difficult theological truths. No sooner had I finished teaching that an individual–who had been a member of evangelical churches for many years–came up to me and said, “Well, that’s Paul; that’s not Jesus!” This person was emphatically intimating that what Paul wrote did not carry the same authority as that of Jesus. This not only revealed a willingness to deny the authority of Scripture–it revealed a willingness to deny the inerrancy of Scripture.

After all, if Paul did not write the word of God under inspiration of the Spirit, then his writings are erroneous because he claimed to be writing God’s word for the church (e.g. 1 Thess. 2:3, 13; 4:8; Col. 1:25). Additionally, it would mean that what the Apostle Peter wrote was non-authoritative and erroneous because he also affirmed that Paul’s letters were on par with the authoritative and inerrant Scripture of the Old Testament (see 2 Peter 3:15-16).

What has become a matter of increasing concern for me is that there are more than we wish to acknowledge, in the evangelical church, who are not sufficiently grounded in their doctrine of Scripture. If Andy Stanley’s confusing statement on the authority of Scripture and Pete Enns’ brazen denial of the inerrancy of Scripture are any indication of the state of things in broad evangelicalism, then we are not doing nearly as well as we might have hoped. The fallout over the LGBTQ culture war has only shown this to be true.

So, how can we come to know whether the 66 books of the Bible are the authoritative and inerrant word of God? While any number of answers might be given, the most substantial is that which concerns “the self-attestation of Scripture.”

The internal witness of the Scripture to its own authority and inerrancy is one of the bedrock truths of historic Protestantism. In the opening chapter of the Westminster Confession of Faith, we read:

We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the Church to an high and reverent esteem of the Holy Scripture.And the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is, to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man’s salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it does abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God: yet notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.1

Note carefully the final statement: “Our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.” The only way anyone will ever be convinced of the inerrancy and authority of Scripture is by the internal testimony of the Scripture itself.

Prior to considering what the Scripture has to say about its own authority and inerrancy, we have to tackle an objection to the idea of self-attestation. Some have argued that it is absurd to accept the circular argument of going to the Scriptures to see if the Scriptures are, in fact, the authoritative and inerrant word of God. In his outstanding essay, “The Self-Attestation of the Scripture,” John Murray answered this objection when he wrote:

There is one sphere where self-testimony must be accepted as absolute and final. This is the sphere of our relation to God. God alone is adequate witness to himself. And our discussion with respect to the character of Scripture belongs to this category.2

If the Scriptures are in fact the word of the true and living God then they will de factobear His absolute authority and truthfulness throughout.

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