The Bible is the sole authority for Christian doctrine and conduct. It is the only infallible rule of faith and practice; it is the test for truth. The Word of God is the final authority to which theological questions must be referred. It is the only measure one can use to formulate true doctrines concerning God and His relationship with the universe.
I. Theology and Truth
Christianity is based upon facts. The theology of the true Christian religion is accurate; it embodies the truth; it conforms to reality. The doctrines of Bible theology are in agreement with the mind of God, who is the truth and the source of all truth.
Heathen religions are characterized by ignorance, superstition, and fanciful speculation. Christianity is founded upon facts, faith, and God's revelation of truth. Pagan mythologies are filled with stories that never happened and the adventures of heroes who never existed. The Christian religion, in contrast, is based upon historical facts. The Biblical narrative describes men who really lived and events which actually occurred.
The Founder of Christianity is a real person. His supernatural birth, earthly ministry, crucifixion, resurrection to immortality, and ascension to heaven are historical events. The theology which explains the true doctrinal significance of His life and works is conformable to fact and in accord with reality. A Bible synonym for the gospel message of salvation is the truth. When one believes the gospel he acknowledges the truth.
II. Importance of Truth
Is truth important? Does it make any difference what one believes? Is there any direct connection between one's religious belief and his eternal destiny? Is accurate knowledge essential to salvation? Many persons assert that religious belief is unimportant, that theology is nonessential. They declare that it makes no difference what one believes as long as he is sincere and has good intentions. They insist that all religious roads lead to God, that the roads men travel may be varied, but the ultimate destiny for all is the same. They teach that all religious men are going to the same place.
Some men feel that heathen religions are as valid as Christianity. They think Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, and Mohammedanism are just as good as Christianity. They suggest that Christianity should combine with the best elements of all religions in order to create one universal religion. Christianity, however, is not merely one religion among many; it is the religion. Jesus is the only Saviour; Christianity is the only way to God. All other religious roads are dead-end streets. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." Paul declared, "There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." Peter taught, "There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." Redemptive contact with God can be established only through Christ.
What one believes is important. Sincerity alone is not sufficient. It is essential that one believes the truth. Sincerely thinking that a bottle of poison taken from the medicine cabinet is a bottle of medicine does not change its contents. Sincerely thinking that one is on the right road when actually he is traveling the wrong direction does not enable him to reach his destination. Millions of heathen persons who worship idols and sincerely believe that they thereby will attain salvation actually are lost and doomed to destruction.
Faith is essential to salvation, and knowledge of truth is essential to faith. "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Rom. 10:17). The four F's of Christianity are facts, faith, feeling, and fruit. The first two are requirements; the last two are results. Faith must be based upon facts; belief must result from information. The one authoritative source for this information is the Bible.
What one believes does make a difference. It made an important difference for Adam and Eve who believed the lie of the serpent instead of the truth of God. One's salvation is dependent upon his believing the gospel. The gospel is "the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth" (Rom. 1:16). The importance of believing the gospel is emphasized in Christ's missionary commission. "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mark 16:15, 16).
III. Final Authority for Truth
Seeing that Christianity is based upon truth and that knowledge of truth is vital to salvation, one is led to inquire concerning the test for truth. What measure can one use to determine what is true and what is false? What standard can one use to formulate true doctrines concerning God?
Some men seek to determine divine truth by consulting the positions of stars in the sky, cloud formations, flights of birds, lines in one's hands, bumps on one's head, tea leaves, shuffling of cards, throwing of dice, and the analysis of dreams. These and similar superstitions cannot be valid sources of information concerning God's will and truth.
The ultimate test of truth, moreover, is not human reason, subjective experiences of Christians, tradition, sacred books of heathen religions, creeds, church councils, or popes.
The Bible alone is the final authority for Christian doctrine. The church has no right to formulate any doctrine which is not taught in the Bible. God's Word is the measure one can use to determine what is true and what is false. It is the authoritative source of truth
IV. Inspiration of the Bible
The sixty-six books of the Bible constitute the inspired Word of God. It is not that the Bible contains the Word of God; the Bible is the Word of God.
The Bible is genuine. The books of the Bible are authentic. They are not forgeries. The books actually were written by the men to whom they are ascribed. For example, the Gospel of Mark was written by Mark, the Epistle to the Romans was written by Paul, and the Revelation was written by John. They are not spurious. They were not written by men in later centuries. They are genuine.
The Bible is credible. The books of the Bible relate events that actually happened and describe men who really lived. The doctrinal teachings recorded in the Bible are true. The men who wrote the Bible were honest. Their writings harmonize with each other perfectly. History and archaeology confirm the truthfulness of the Bible. They show that the Bible is not fictitious but credible.
The sixty-six books of the Bible are canonical and constitute the completed canon of the Holy Scriptures. They are the only books that qualify as the authoritative embodiment of the divine revelation.
The Bible is inspired. It had a supernatural origin. It is the Word of God, the message of God to man. "All scripture is given by inspiration of God" (2 Tim. 3:16). "For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" (2 Pet. 1:21).
By verbal inspiration is meant that, in the original writings, the Spirit guided in the choice of the words used. However, the human authorship was respected to the extent that the writers' characteristics are preserved and their style and vocabulary are employed, but without the intrusion of error. By plenary inspiration is meant that the accuracy which verbal inspiration secures, is extended to every portion of the Bible so that it is in all its parts both infallible as to truth and final as to divine authority. (Chafer. Op. Cit., Vol. I, p. 71.)
The inspiration of the Bible is evidenced from the fact that the Bible itself claims to be the inspired Word of God. Old Testament writers, for example, used such statements as "thus saith the Lord" more than 3,800 times. Jesus and the apostles recognized the Old Testament as being inspired and authoritative. The apostles claim to have received the Spirit and to have spoken under its influence and authority.
The amazing unity of the Bible written by almost forty men over a period of time of more than sixteen centuries shows its divine origin.
The exact fulfillment of prophecies, the lofty standards of conduct required for men, the tremendous influence it has exerted in the lives of men, its survival through centuries of opposition, and its confirmation by archaeology, history, and true science are among the many evidences of the Bible's inspiration.
(Adapted from Systematic Theology, by Alva Huffer, published by Church of God General Conference, Oregon, Illinois 61061, U.S.A.)
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