In his lecture How the Bible Is Being Challenged in Our World Today, Michael Kruger of Reformed Theological Seminary suggests that behind every issue is the question of: "What is your ultimate authority?" He explores the common use of the critical pair of words "for you" as people no longer talk about absolute rights or wrongs, but "what is right or wrong for you." His bottom line in his analysis is that in today's anti-authority world, we are witnessing a "battle of authorities" between the authority of the self and that of the Bible and its Author.
What if someone came to you and challenged your understanding of something in the Bible with the words, "Well, we really don't know ... we wonder if that is true ... that was Paul writing ... that was Moses writing ... and after all my way of interpreting the Bible is that Jesus loves everyone."
The assertions made by this person effectively undercut the authority of the Bible on a number of points:
- God has made it perfectly clear what we should know. Whether we want to obey it, is really the question. The assertion that we "really don't know" is an appeal to ignorance, but cleverly the person has put themselves in the authoritative position of telling people what they can or can not know regarding the intentions of the LORD of the Bible and denying the fact that it is an objective standard.
- The statement that we are wondering "if that is true" sounds very humble at first flush, but it likely has an underlying idea that as long as there is no moral absolutes in the Bible, then a person could never be accused of going against its clear teachings. This self-authoritative "fudge factor" opens the door to any and all interpretations.
- The statement that it was Paul or Moses writing, undercuts the belief in Biblical inspiration where the Holy Spirit guides the human authors of the Bible, including Paul or Moses. ((2 Tim 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21). Even Jesus said that King David spoke under inspiration of the Holy Spirit ( Matt 22:43).
- The statement "my way of interpreting" is a vital clue to where this person is coming from. Instantly we know that they have elevated their personal interpretation over that of the global and historical church and even Reformed hermeneutics.
- The statement that the interpretive grid of "Jesus loves everyone" has a superficial appeal of things like motherhood and apple pie. How can you argue with them? Yet the very statement is a challenge to the Bible's authority, as we cannot pit the love of Jesus against his standards as a King of a Kingdom, nor the fact that He is the Judge, and in time those who have not bent the knee to Him will face "the wrath of the Lamb." In effect the person has cherry-picked the Bible under their own authority, and declared that this is the interpretive grid that should be imposed on the whole Bible. Thus the person is not submitted to the witness of the entire Scripture, but rather the entire Scripture needs to be subjected to their grid.
Michael Kruger rightly assets that in dialogue with a person it is vitally important to be cognizant of the questions, "what authority are you using and what authority is the person you are talking to using?" He does this because he is seeing, just as the example above, that there is a pervasive tendency in our culture and even in the church for people to set themselves up as the ultimate authority. His closing statement is an appropriate response: "God's Word is the only thing powerful enough, mighty enough, strong enough to cut through the morass of post-modernity today."
If sheep recognize the voice of their shepherd, would it not be true as well that true followers of the Great Shepherd would recognize and obey His voice, which is clearly heard through the Scripture? Do we really take the words "thus says the LORD" with the same trembling that a subject of a king in the Ancient Near East would receive them? Or have we allowed ourselves and some people to effectively say, "I will tell you what 'thus says the LORD' means?
- Michael Kruger spoke at the Gospel Coalition on the subject of the self-attestation of the Bible and talks about how the Bible reads the reader and how it is an encounter with the Living God, link here. [Updated link] http://tgc-audio.s3.amazonaws.com/2015%20National%20Conference/2015%20NC...'s%20Word_%20Recovering%20the%20Doctrine%20of%20a%20Self-Authenticating%20Scripture.mp3
- Kruger references Wayne Grudem's document "Scripture's Self-Attestation and the Problem of Formulating a Doctrine of Scripture" where he shows, for instance, that the phrase "thus says the LORD" carries the same weightiness as a royal edict that an Ancient Near Eastern king would issue to his subjects (Isaiah 36-37). He shows from Jeremiah 23 and 28 that if a false prophet spoke "not from the mouth of the LORD" disaster was inevitable.