God's Solid Word in a Chaotic World
The authenticity of the Bible
By Ted N.C. Wilson
Imagine 745 miles of bookshelves. The Library of Congress in the United States is the largest library in the world, with nearly 145 million items on those 745 miles of bookshelves. The collections include more than 33 million books. While many of the books have been influential, no book has been as influential as the Bible. It’s a book that has been loved and hated. Throughout the course of human history and against relentless attacks, it has been miraculously preserved.While the Bible has greatly influenced political and cultural thought, its uniqueness comes from its source and subject matter. It is God’s revelation. Through the Bible God breaks through to us and communicates His eagerness to save us. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Tim. 3:16). It was God who inspired the biblical authors. They in turn wrote in human language.The Bible is not a collection of “cunningly devised fables” (2 Peter 1:16). The many fulfilled prophecies demonstrate the Bible’s reliability and confirm the trustworthiness and reliability of the Scriptures as the infallible revelation of God’s will. In spite of attempts to destroy it, the Bible has been preserved with amazing accuracy.A Question of AuthorityPerhaps the main reason many do not accept the Bible as God’s Inspired Word is because they would then have to accept the authority of the Bible in their personal lives. The Scriptures have divine authority because in them God speaks through the Holy Spirit. God was, and is, actively involved in the transmission of His Word. Biblical authors were moved long ago by the Holy Spirit to write (see 2 Peter 1:21). And the same Spirit that the inspired the Bible needs to be with us as we read it today. Without the Holy Spirit’s illumination of our minds we cannot understand the Bible, or even acknowledge it as God’s authoritative will.Accepting that God was and is actively communicating through His Word gives the Bible authority. It becomes the final authority on all matters of belief and of lifestyle. We cannot let scientific and sociocultural forces dictate what the Bible can mean. The apostle Paul’s words are as relevant today as when he first wrote to the believers in Rome nearly 2,000 years ago: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12:2).
Even amid the uncertainty of the world around us we can rest with absolute confidence on the unchanging words of God.
Some people, while accepting the Bible as the Word of God, take issue with whether the whole Bible is inspired. Applying different criteria, they claim that some parts of the Bible are not inspired, or not as inspired as others. In many Christian circles this criticism of the Bible has reduced the authority of the Bible to a bare minimum, or nullified it altogether. In effect, God’s communication with human beings has to a large extent been muted.The tools or methods generally applied to literature are insufficient with which to approach the Bible. The Bible is superior to all human wisdom and literature. It is the norm by which all other ideas or methods must be tested. Rather than judging the Bible, everything will be judged by it, for it is the standard of character and test of all experience and thought (see 1 Cor. 2:15; 2 Cor. 10:5).We Seventh-day Adventists accept the Bible as the foundation for all our beliefs, and see in its pages our unique prophetic identity and mission. We must resist the subtle, and not-so-subtle, ways in which the devil seeks to distance us from the Bible and a plain understanding of what God has said is true. We must take all the Bible as authoritative; for how can we trust Christ as Redeemer if we doubt Him as Creator? Or how can we trust the implicit biblical statements about the literal Second Coming if we doubt the biblical account of a six-day creation in its plain, literal sense? We need to face our everyday challenges with the same solid confidence that Jesus had in the Word when confronted by the tempter (see Matt. 4:4-10). Ellen G. White wrote that “we must be careful lest we misinterpret the Scriptures. The plain teachings of the Word of God are not to be so spiritualized that the reality is lost sight of. Do not overstrain the meaning of sentences in the Bible in an effort to bring forth something odd in order to please the fancy. Take the Scriptures as they read” (Selected Messages, book 1, p. 170).Hands-onAccepting the Bible’s authority involves more than just believing that the Bible is true. The Word of God is a point of contact between us and our Creator. Just as we cannot have a loving relationship with someone in theory, so we cannot accept the Bible’s authority in theory and not in practice. As we see that God’s divine authority is based on love and truth it must elicit a response of love, faith, and willing obedience in us.Early Protestant Reformers believed that everyone should have the privilege of reading and studying the Bible for themselves. Luther, Wycliffe, and many others were willing to risk their lives in order to translate the Bible into languages people could understand. They understood that in order for the Bible to have any effect, it must not just be spoken about, but actually be studied. The power promised in its pages will be poured out only on those of us who read it, live it, teach it, and preach it without fear or favor, and those who let our individual lives and our lives together be shaped by its clear and compelling truths. One of the important objectives of Ellen White’s writings was to encourage us to more avid Bible study. She wrote: “The Bible has been addressed to everyone—to every class of society, to those of every clime and age. The duty of every intelligent person is to search the Scriptures” (Signs of the Times, Aug. 20, 1894).A Solid AnchorOur environment is marked by instability. Destructive events in nature are increasing in frequency and intensity. There is great confusion in politics as world economies do not make the predicted recoveries. Rampant crime is on the rise. Societal and family values are disintegrating. How we cope with these situations has much to do with our quality of life, with personal satisfaction, as well as our eternal destiny.When we accept the Bible as an authoritative message from God, we are provided with a source of stabilization that brings meaning to our lives. We see that God is active not only in the governing of the universe but also in our daily lives. As we look away from the chaos and contradictions of life around us and take the time to look into God’s Word we understand ourselves and our glorious destiny. In the Bible we find security in knowing that our worth rests on our creation and redemption by Christ.God’s Word is authoritative for the church and its proclamation to the world. But more important, it is authoritative for my life. My belief in a personal God is formed by my understanding of God’s incredible love for us. I can trust God to do exactly what He says He will do in my life according to His Written Word. I can count on it, and I believe it.It’s a great blessing to know that even amid the uncertainty of the world around us we can rest with absolute confidence on the unchanging Word of God. The reading of the Bible, under the direction and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, will revive us and reform us. Let us as God’s people place ourselves individually and corporately under the authority of “the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:2). Let us covenant to read His Word daily. As we do this we will discover a new power in our spiritual lives that will energize and empower us to proclaim eagerly the good news that the chaos, uncertainty, fear, and pain will not go on forever. Soon Jesus will come. Soon there will be a “new heaven and a new earth” (Rev. 21:1) in which “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (verse 4, NIV). What a blessing that we can rely completely on a plain reading of the authoritative Word of God.Ted N. C. Wilson is president of the worldwide Seventh-day Adventist Church.