The teachings of Scripture and the realities they reveal do not become real and beautiful to us just because they are asserted by an authority. That is not the way our minds or our hearts work. You can make a child eat his vegetables because you have authority. But you can’t make him like them. That is not what authority can do. It can keep the child at the table. It can even command tastes. But it can’t create them.
The watershed issue in every generation is the effective authority of Scripture and the realities it reveals.
Why don’t I just say, “The watershed issue in every generation is the authority of Scripture”? I admit the wording is a bit clumsy. Even the word watershed needs clarification. What I mean is this: In a mountain range, there is a crest from which all the rain, or all the melting snow, flows irreversibly toward one ocean or the other. As the water flows, it may have many twists and turns, but the ocean to which it is flowing was decided way upstream — at the watershed.
A watershed issue is like that. When the human mind and heart approach a watershed issue, the direction of the mind and heart on that issue sets in motion a way of thinking and feeling that may have many ambiguous twists and turns, but lead toward one ocean or the other.
Not every issue is a watershed issue. People may hold differing positions on some issues, and not find themselves streaming farther and farther away from each other toward different oceans. But a watershed issue is so pivotal, so formative, so pervasively influential that, even when the surrounding terrain looks similar, the rivers are flowing apart.
‘Authority of Scripture’
The next term that needs clarifying is “authority of Scripture.” Here at Desiring God we describe the authority of Scripture in our Affirmation of Faith:
God’s intentions, revealed in the Bible, are the supreme and final authority in testing all claims about what is true and what is right. In matters not addressed by the Bible, what is true and right is assessed by criteria consistent with the teachings of Scripture.
The foundation of that conviction is this:
The Bible, consisting of the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments, is the infallible word of God, verbally inspired by God, and without error in the original manuscripts.
Simply put, the fact that Scripture is God’s word means that everything it teaches is true, and all it requires should be obeyed. It has final authority for what is real and what is right. We believe this is what the Bible claims for itself:
All Scripture is breathed out by God. (2 Timothy 3:16)
No prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:21)