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John Stott on thinking about Scripture

July 28, 2019

John Stott, in his booklet The Authority of the Bible, had this to say about different views of Scripture (from pages 23-24):

It is tragic in our day to witness the loss of this understanding. People talk of Paul, Peter, John and the other apostles as though they were foolish and fallible first-century Christians whose teaching was nothing if not their own opinions and may readily be set aside if we do not happen to like it. Even biblical scholars are sometimes most irresponsible in their treatment of the apostles. “That’s Paul’s view,” they say, “or Peter’s or John’s. But this is mine. And my view is just as good as theirs, in fact better.” But no, the teaching of the apostles is the teaching of Christ. To receive them is to receive Christ; to reject them is to reject Christ…

We are ready now to summarize the argument for our acceptance of the whole Bible as God’s Word written, uniquely revealed, verbally inspired, supremely authoritative. The argument is easy to grasp, and I think impossible to refute. It concerns the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ. He endorsed the Old Testament Scriptures. He made provision for the writing of the New Testament Scriptures.

This argument is not circular, as some objectors maintain. They represent us as saying something like this: “We know Scripture is inspired because the divine Lord Jesus said so, and we know the Lord Jesus is divine because the inspired Scripture says so.” If that were our position, we would indeed be arguing in a circle. But our critics mistake our reasoning. Our argument is not circular, but linear. We do not begin by assuming the very inspiration of Scripture which we are setting out to prove. On the contrary, we come to the Gospels (which tell the story of Jesus) without any doctrine of Scripture or theory of inspiration at all. We are content merely to take them at their face value as first-century historical documents (which they are), recording the impressions of eyewitnesses. Next, as we read the Gospels, their testimony (through the work of the Holy Spirit) leads us to faith in Jesus as Lord. And then this Lord Jesus, in whom we have come to believe, gives us a doctrine of Scripture (his own doctrine, in fact) which we did not have at the beginning. Thus the argument runs not in a circle (Scripture witnesses to Jesus who witnesses to Scripture) but in a line (historical documents evoke our faith in Jesus, who then gives us a doctrine of Scripture.)

The central issue relates, then, not to the Bible’s authority, but to Christ’s. If he accepted the Old Testament as God’s Word, are we going to reject it? If he appointed and authorized his apostles, saying to them, “he who receives you receives me,” are we going to reject them? To reject the authority of either the Old Testament or the New Testament is to reject the authority of Christ. It is supremely because we are determined to submit to the authority of Jesus Christ as Lord that we submit to the authority of Scripture.

I would say one reason–indeed the main reason–we see so many attacks on Scripture in our day is that many are in rebellion against its authority, and against the authority of Jesus Christ.

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