Todd Clay is a blogger for Theolocast. I’ve never met him, but I have met his article called “Top 101 Theological Questions in 2018 (according to Google).” You can find the link for his article below…
The list is composed of Google searches regarding the Bible, Christianity, religion, etc. For the sake of clarity, Clay needed to make some exceptions from this list, so for example he had to remove personal names and names of books to not include them in his final list. He ended up including theological questions, basic psychological questions, doctrinal questions, and other appropriate criteria. All searches were questions even if the original entry was not posed as a question. These are questions asked by both Christians and Non-Christians. All questions can be answered by Christian theology. Furthermore, we should note that these are the biggest theological questions regarding Christianity at our current time in history; in 20 years these questions may be completely different since people may be asking an altogether separate list of questions.
The top theological question being asked in our society today is the question, “What is love?” 1 John 4:7-21 make it clear that God Himself is love. I am not considering this to actually be the most asked theological question, because I’m skeptical that a lot of people type this into google hoping for the rave song made famous by “The Night at the Roxbury,” with Will Ferrell’s head-bobbing as the song blares, “What is love? Baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me, no more.” So, I’m going to consider number 2 on Clay’s list as the actual most asked theological question from last year (2018). The question is, “What is the Bible?” According to the list, two and a quarter million people searched about this on a monthly basis. Now, I’d like to answer the question for Thinkchristiandaily readers. What follows is a talk I’ve done in the past on the question “What is Scripture? (the Bible)” I am adapting it for reading. Enjoy!
I did a wedding a couple of summers ago in downtown Dayton-and it was an outdoor wedding. The couple is a fun couple who like to play games with their friends and so they thought they should have some games at their wedding. One of the games was a homemade Gigantic Jenga set. So at some point in the night I just kind of sat back and watched as some of the people were playing this Jumbo Jenga game-and I noticed it was the most sturdy Jenga set I had ever seen, because it was made out of 2×4’s. And my thought was even though this thing is really sturdy, because it is made out of 2×4’s when that thing does fall I mean it is really going to come crashing down! So, I watched as some people played this game and there was a young lady who thought she would be clever pulling out the piece which it turns out all of the weight of all the other 2×4’s was actually leaning on-and so what happened is obvious-the entire tower which had been built up and stacked high came tumbling down, and it was unexpected too because there were a number of other moves she could have done to not have this happen. Now, I sit back a couple years later and I realize as we talk about the Doctrine of Scripture that that tumbling Jumbo Jenga tower was really an analogy of what will happen to the Christian faith if we get the Doctrine of Scripture wrong.
A theologian I respect a lot called Bryan Chappell has said, “If there is erosion of faith in this generation, it will be because we who are church leaders forget the nature of the book.” In other words, if the truths of Christianity come crashing down; if the righteous character of God’s people comes crashing down-the reason will be because church leaders have failed to adhere to and live out the Doctrine of Scripture being the inspired, authoritative, inerrant Word of God.
The best passage of Scripture for you to read to begin answering the question, “What is the Bible?” is found in 2 Timothy 3:10-17. Verses 15-17 are particularly helpful, so here they are below…
“and how from childhood you (Timothy) have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
When we look at verses 15-17 there are three different things being told about Scripture: 1.We are being told some existential things about Scripture, namely, “What Scripture is…” 2. We are being told some things about Scripture’s function, so, “What Scripture does…” 3. And then finally we are being told about Scripture’s Purpose, so “What Scripture accomplishes.”
Let’s begin by discussing “What Scripture is.” Notice the argument before verse 15, Paul, who is the older Apostle and is probably not far from death says to his young associate, Timothy, in verse 10 basically, “Timothy you have followed me throughout all my hardships, and you have seen how God has saved me from each of those…” he goes on to explain in verse 12 how as a matter of fact everyone who follows God will face at least some level of persecution… And furthermore, Timothy has seen evil people and impostors whose teachings about Jesus have been deceiving to others, because they are not Gospel ministers, but are indeed IMPOSTERS… And in light of this, verse 14, Paul says “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly received knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings” (Paul there is obviously referring to the Old Testament Scriptures that Timothy had learned his entire life), and he says that they are able to make Timothy “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” And now he is going to make the statement as to what Scripture actually is—in verse 16, “ALL SCRIPTURE IS BREATHED OUT BY GOD…” That is what Scripture IS.
So next time somebody asks you, “What is the Bible?” You can surprise them by answering “Well, thank you for asking, it is breathed out by God that’s what it is.” In the society we live in literally every worldview differs from this fundamental biblical worldview; and there are those even within the protestant and evangelical church who misunderstand or flat out deny a biblical view of the Inspiration of Scripture. What we are NOT saying when we say that the Bible is “breathed out by God,” is we are NOT saying that the words were written by man and they already existed and then God breathed into them and thus made them somehow significant and special words-NO! The idea being expressed here is that Scripture is kind of like a fire started when a dragon breathes onto a wooden structure-literally the fire would not exist at all if it weren’t for the fire-breathing dragon having breathed onto the building-that is the idea of the Bible-God breathed it out and therefore God’s Word exists. It should remind us of how God created the World and all things in it-and He did this “Ex-nihilo” which means “from nothing.” And furthermore, it should remind us of Genesis chapter 2, when God creates humanity, male and female, and it says in Genesis 2:7, “Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and BREATHED into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” In the same way, God gave life by breathing humanity into existence, God gives spiritual life by breathing Scripture into existence.” What Paul is explaining here when he says “All Scripture is breathed out by God,” is that the entirety of the Bible is inspired. When we say Scripture is inspired we do not mean what many people mean when they say they find the Bible inspire-ing! NO! Paul is not referring to the effect the Bible has on us, Paul is referring to the source of the Bible being IN HIM.
So, the kind of inspiration referred to in verse 16 is what theologians have referred to as verbal, plenary inspiration. Meaning that, as one theologian has written, “Both divine and human elements are present in the production of Scripture. The entire texts of Scripture, including the very words, are a product of the mind of God expressed in human terms and conditions.”
Scripture is only profitable because of the fact it is inspired by God. The only reason the Bible is of use for humans is because of its non-human origin. The words of man are of no value or of any use for your life because they all fall short of the Gospel! The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom-and so in both the Old and the New Testaments the profit a human gets from revelation is directly tied to the fact that God is the very source of what is read or spoken! No matter where you are going to church or where you go in the future the only way any of your church attendance is going to be of any value is if the pastor of that church preaches the Word of God! Profitable preaching is ALWAYS biblical preaching. Therefore do not fall victim to someone who says they have words of wisdom or they have the way to a happy or good life, but then when they start to speak they do not start with the Bible and come back to the Bible with each point they make. Let me make it even simpler: You need God’s Word you do not need a man or woman’s words-and a Christian is someone who legitimately WANTS and DESIRES God’s Word and does not WANT and desire mere words of humans.
Now, let me explain a couple of further implications of this view of Scripture.
As has been written, “When we faithfully proclaim the truths of the Bible, not only do we have the privilege of hearing God’s voice, we also get to see his hand.” That which is breathed out by God (Scripture) reflects God’s character.
Consider Psalm 19:7-9. The psalmist is describing aspects of God’s Word, however, if I didn’t just tell you this is written about God’s Word what would you think these verses are describing…?
The law of the Lord is PERFECT
The testimony of the Lord is SURE
The precepts of the Lord are RIGHT
The Commandment of the Lord is PURE
The fear of the Lord is CLEAN, ENDURING FOREVER
The rules of the Lord are TRUE, and RIGHTEOUS ALTOGETHER
Think about these adjectives and you would think of God Himself!… That is precisely the point-the Word of God reflects the character of God since He is the one who inspires it. This of course means the Bible itself is perfect, sure, right, pure, clean, enduring forever, true and altogether righteous—and so Scripture can be trusted as the hand of God to guide us where we should go and to direct what we should do.
This is the doctrine of biblical inerrancy. We must remember that when we say the Bible is INERRANT we must not fail to remember that it doesn’t necessarily mean our interpretations of the Bible are without error. We must be clear to say that people who interpret the Bible are finite and therefore are capable of error, however, the Word they are interpreting is infinite and infallible, and therefore, God’s Word is Inerrant-meaning it contains no error.
But some people believe the Bible is merely a good book-This shows up in rap songs- among interviews in Hollywood, and even with adherents of other religions. But the “Liar, lunatic, Lord” of CS Lewis applies not only to the person of Jesus but also to the Word of God. Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, and therefore either He was lying and He isn’t really, or He is just crazy and therefore he is just a lunatic, or else it is true and He really is Lord. The same thing applies to the Bible where over 3,000 times the words “Thus says the Lord” actually appear. So either this is a huge lie, or else it is wacky crazy lunacy, or the Bible really is the Word of the Lord! There is no way the Bible can be merely a good book- and we can’t accept that when people say it.
Here is a second HUGE implication of our view of Scripture being Inspired, authoritative, and Inerrant…
In everyday situations, God speaks to me in His Word.
Sometimes we wish God would reveal himself to us by writing in the sky-but if God did this eventually those clouds would blow away because of the laws of nature. Sometimes we wish He would speak to us in the thunder-however, if He were to speak this way primarily then how many of us would be able to perfectly time our recorders on our Iphones to make sure that Word is recorded and never erased? Instead what God has said to us by providing the Bible is this… “Would it be OK for me to write down my words for you so that you can literally have them wherever you go and whenever you need them (Of course it’s OK for God to do this and He doesn’t need to ask our permission)?”
The fact that God has written His Word for us in the miraculous way He has done so is actually as wonderful of a miracle as you can fathom! God has created us as communicable agents who communicate through language and He has taken the highest percentage of how humans can communicate-through written language and He has given us His Word in this way. If He only speaks to certain people then what about other people in the world? What about other people in different eras of history? Not to mention our minds are finite and we can’t fully comprehend things and we certainly can’t all have photographic memories to be able to record the exact words all the time.
Scripture truly is as incredible a miracle as creation itself! I’ve heard people say “I wish God would just speak to me in visions and dreams…” No you don’t! Because then your whole life would be based on the highs and lows of whether you receive a vision or not! And what happens when you played football and rugby for too long like me and so because you’ve been hit in the head a million times you start forgetting stuff? You’re going to wish then that God would speak to you in a concrete written form! I’ve heard people say “I wish God would just pop out of the clouds and reveal Himself to me personally rather than in this book….” Think about it-if He were to reveal Himself to people in this way not only would it cause anxiety when He doesn’t show up to talk to you, but there are going to be times throughout your day when you are yearning for Him to communicate to you in an encouraging, wise, helpful, prophetic, apocalyptic way that speaks to your current situation-Praise be to God that that’s what we Have in Scripture! If we did not have written Scripture and God only revealed Himself through visions and dreams then I think people would be saying “I wish God would speak to me like in a book or something!” Hey guess what-that’s the Bible and it is an incredible miracle we have God’s written word!
The main question was “What is the Bible,” and I addressed existentially what Scripture (the bible) is, but now I’ll say something (briefly) about “What Scripture does,” then make mention of “What Scripture accomplishes.”
What Scripture does in its function is it provides a profit for the person who believes in Jesus who takes in the Scriptures by listening to it or reading it. And the profit described in 2 Timothy 3 is four-fold. Verse 16, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for:
Training in righteousness
I do not want to say much about this other than to say that if your view of the Bible is merely that it is relevant for your life then your view of the Bible is too small! The Bible is NOT MERELY relevant; the Bible is profitable. In its very function, Scripture is unlike any other book. I have read some books that I feel I have gotten some profit from because they helped shape my worldview, they expanded my critical thinking skills, I learned more about another religion, I learned some morally helpful stuff, but no book I have ever read or will ever read, and no book you have ever read nor will ever read is specifically PROFITABLE in regards to salvation! Only the Bible is profitable in this way. It is profitable for teaching the Gospel. It is profitable for reproving those who claim to be in Christ, yet are walking contrary to Christ’s character- and so the Bible is profitable in helping call out their sinful behavior. It is profitable for correction, so that we aren’t merely calling out sinful behavior, but we are actually showing them in the Scriptures how then they should change and live in light of the Gospel they believe. And the Bible is profitable for training in righteousness-this is referring to our sanctification.
You have to understand that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the main idea of Scripture as a whole-the OT points forward to him, and the NT points back to him and awaits his second coming. So, the message of how a sinner can be made right with God in justification by believing Christ took their place for them on the cross and dying as a sacrifice in our places-this message is at the core of the bible. Furthermore, the message then of how you should live once you have come to faith in the Gospel is only taught in the Bible! The Bible, all of it, all 66 books is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”
The Bible is-breathed out by God-the Bible’s function- what it does- is it provides a profit for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. And the purpose-what the Bible accomplishes is in verse 17, “that the man of God may be COMPLETE, equipped for EVERY good work.” The end goal of the bible is that anyone who believes in Jesus would be complete-lacking in nothing. This is what theologians mean when we say Scripture is sufficient. There are people (imposters) who will come to you at some point in your Christian life and try to convince you to be truly a Christian you need to DO such and such a thing, or you need to have such and such an experience, or you need to have received such and such a thing from God, but my friends, when you hear this please remember 2 Timothy 3:17 and remember that the purpose of the Scripture is to make you complete in your sanctification and equipped for every good work. Remember Ephesians 2:8-10 always, “For by grace you have been saved through faith and this is not your own doing so that nobody may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus FOR GOOD WORKS, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them…” And now, Paul says in 2 Timothy that the Bible is sufficient for making you complete and equipped for every good work in which you were created for! Obviously, God the Holy Spirit is the one working within you towards completion, but God has determined that His Word is the means of grace by and through which He will work to make you holy, and to grow your trust in Him throughout your Christian walk until you die, or Christ returns.
Mark my words, if churches continue to abandon the inspired, authoritative, inerrant word of God, and they take on a view of Scripture as something less than being inspired, authoritative, and inerrant, then those churches or Christian movements will cease to exist eventually. But if they somehow continue to exist in the meantime then their supposed “Gospel” message will become unrecognizable and ultimately non-salvific. We need to constantly pray that this will never happen at our local churches-and we need to pray that as we move forward we always stay committed to a view of Scripture being inspired, authoritative, and inerrant.