When I was ordained to the ministry in 1988, I had to write a paper stating my views on a number of areas of theology—Scripture, God, Christ, Holy Spirit, Man, Salvation, Church, Future Things, Angels & Demons, Spiritual Gifts—as well as several current issues—Marriage & Divorce, Homosexuality, Abortion, Social Drinking, and the Role of Women in the Church. When I transferred my ordination to the Evangelical Free Church in 2005, I had to rewrite the paper. Since people periodically ask me questions about these areas, I think it is time to restate my convictions about what Scripture says on these issues.
Here are my convictions about what Scripture says about Scripture.
Revelation is that act of God in which he discloses himself to man. (I use “man” in this paper to refer to both men and women. It is not intended to be sexist or to avoid political correctness. I am simply following the pattern of Scripture where “man” refers to “mankind.”) It refers to the communication of truth that cannot be otherwise discovered. God reveals himself through nature (Romans 1:19, 20; Psalm 19), conscience (Romans 2:15), providence (Acts 14:15-17), the Scriptures (1 John 5:9-12), and through his Son (Hebrews 1:1-2).
The Scriptures themselves declare that they are fully and verbally inspired, that is, that they are God breathed (2 Timothy 3:16). Inspiration has to do with the recording of truth. The Spirit of God moved upon men to write the sixty-six books of the Bible (2 Peter 1:21).
The Scriptures carry with them the divine authority of God and are therefore binding upon man—on his mind, emotions, will, and conscience. They are the believer’s supreme authority for faith and practice.
Since God, the Author of Scripture, is true and cannot lie (Psalm 31:5; Titus 1:2), and is himself without error, it naturally follows that the Scriptures themselves are without error. In addition, the Scriptures declare themselves to be true (Psalm 119:160; John 17:17). This inerrancy extends to all of Scripture as it is found in the original manuscripts. The Bible is inerrant in all that it affirms—history, science, moral, doctrinal. In telling the truth, the Bible allows for approximations, free quotations, language of appearance, and different accounts of the same event.
Illumination is the work of the Holy Spirit which enables man to understand God’s divinely-revealed truth (1 Corinthians 2:10-13). The Holy Spirit illumines both the unsaved man by conviction of sin (John 16:7-11), and the saved man by his teaching ministry (John 16:13-15).
I believe that Scripture should be interpreted using a literal (also called normal or plain) hermeneutic. It incorporates the following principles: 1) Interpret literally. Accept the literal meaning unless that meaning does not make sense. 2) Interpret grammatically. One must study the grammar of the text. This allows for figures of speech and the language of appearance. 3) Interpret contextually. Each verse must be interpreted in its various contexts (immediate context, context of the book, other books written by the same writer, whole of Scripture). 4) Examine the historical context taking the culture and historical setting into consideration. 5) Compare Scripture with Scripture, allowing it to interpret itself. 6) Recognize the progressiveness of revelation.
Canonicity concerns the recognition and collection of the God-inspired, authoritative books of the sacred Scriptures. Inspiration indicates how the Bible received its authority, whereas canonization tells how the Bible received its acceptance.
There were five key principles used in canonization. These are illustrated by the following questions: 1) Is it authoritative? Did it come with the authority of God? 2) Is it prophetic? Was it written by a man of God? 3) Is it authentic? Did it tell the truth about God, man, etc.? 4) Is it dynamic? Did it come with the life-transforming power of God? 5) Was it received, collected, read and used? Was it accepted by the people of God? The first two questions were used explicitly, while the last two were applied implicitly.
Scripture, rather than cultural values, forms the basis of all our decisions and actions. Expository preaching and teaching is vital because it helps to equip people to think biblically in order to measure their lives by the standards of Scripture. The proclamation of the Word of God supported by prayer is the most effective tool we have to transform our people’s lives for the glory of God.