To the Point . . .
An Infallible Scripture:
A sure and certain word concerning Christ Jesus? An authoritative word about the human condition? An assured hope concerning salvation? Yes! But only because the foundation for our faith is known through Revelation given by God. And if this God is perfect, the Revelation He gives must by necessity be without failure or error. Otherwise, in view of the claims this Revelation makes for itself, it cannot be trustworthy or reliable. Along with our evangelical Anabaptist forbearers, we believe this body of Truth, written in Scripture, is therefore correctly described as infallible.
Necessary to our Anabaptist Faith
It is reassuring that the Anabaptists in the Reformation held, with other believers, the complete truthfulness of the Holy Scriptures, but their viewpoint is not the primary basis for our conviction. Rather we view Scripture as infallible because it is the view our Lord Jesus Christ held. He is our ultimate authority.
Matthew 5:17-19 is key to Jesus' view of Scripture. As part of the Sermon on the Mount, it becomes a clear guideline for all who seek to be His disciples. His perspective was that the revelation from God extended to the very words themselves, even to the letters of those words. Jesus was not correcting the Old Testament's written text when He says, "You have heard that it has been said. But I tell you." Rather, He is correcting their understanding of the text, correcting rabbinical commentary that had grown as an addition to the biblical text.
Jesus used the terms Scripture and Word of God as equivalents. He responded to the Tempter in the wilderness by appealing to the written Word of God. To Jesus the Old Testament Scriptures are authoritative. He used all sections, the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings (including the Psalms) as the Word of God. He referenced miraculous as well as historical records: the Exodus events, Jonah's predicament, the person of Daniel, and the historicity of Adam and Eve based on an acceptance of the written Scriptures. If the Scriptures were not a truly true record and Jesus did not correct this record, He is guilty of deception, misleading His hearers and us. Jesus' claim to be the Truth can not stand if He knowingly allowed His followers to continue believing as true a record filled with error.
Jesus hermeneutical method was to approach the Scriptures on the basis of their grammatical, historical, and literal application and interpretation. He relied on the canonical Scriptures and objected seriously to traditions of men which contradicted those Scriptures. He taught that the Word of God was the product of God's revelation, and was made known, not only in the acts of history but in the words which God spoke. He clearly saw Himself as the promised One foretold in the Scriptures.
Jesus' view of Scripture is the same as that proclaimed and adopted by the Apostles and the early Church. To the early Church, the Gospels and the Epistles were inspired by the same God, specifically the working of God the Holy Spirit. This "being borne along by the Spirit," was seen as extending to "all Scripture", in other words, plenary inspiration, and to the words of Scripture, or verbal inspiration.
This Christ-modeled view of Scripture, recovered in the Reformation era, is expressed by Menno Simons when he appealed to the infallible character of Scripture:
"We certainly hope no one of rational mind will be so foolish a man as to deny that the whole of Scriptures, both the Old and New Testament, were written for our instruction, admonition, and correction, and that they are the true scepter and rule by which the Lord's Kingdom, house, church, and congregation must be ruled and governed. [Romans 15:4; I Corinthians 10:1,2; II Timothy 3:16] Everything contrary to Scripture therefore, whether it be doctrines, beliefs, sacraments, worship, or life, should be measured by this infallible rule and demolished by this just and divine scepter, and destroyed without any respect of persons. [Psalm 4:41, Hebrews 1:8]."
Menno's view of the authority of Scripture is seen in his statement:
"I admonish and advise you if you seek God with all your heart, and do not want to be deceived, do not depend upon men and the doctrine of men no matter how venerable, holy, and excellent they may be esteemed. For the experts, ancient as well as modern, are opposed to each other. Put your trust in Christ alone and in His Word, and in the sure instruction and practice of His holy apostles, and by the grace of God you will be safe from all false doctrine and power of the devil, and will walk with a free and pious mind before God."
Believers who hold to a divinely inspired Scripture, the inspiration of which resulted in an infallible and inerrant Bible, fully sufficient and authoritative, are following the footsteps of the faithful, both of the Early Church and the Reformation/Anabaptist believers. While our following after Christ has not been infallible, nor our applications of the Word of God to daily living inerrant, we nevertheless believe the Bible remains both. It will continue to serve as the unchanging guide for right believing (orthodoxy) and right living as disciples (orthopraxy). Unless the Bible is handled as the infallible and inerrant book that it is in its original form, we will lose the basis of determining revealed Truth, we will slip from the established Foundation, and we will succumb to the relativism and subjectivism of our surrounding society.
We do not worship the Bible, but we do worship the God of the Bible. We believe that what God has said about the Bible is just as true as what He said about His Son. And we are obligated to believe about the Bible what God's Son said about the Bible. Our Lord Jesus handled Scripture as infallible and inerrant. He promised that His apostles would be inspired to complete the written record, a sufficient Authority through which His Holy Spirit would guide the Church in Truth until His own triumphant return.
Robert W. Gerhart -- Bally, PA
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© 1999 Evangelical Anabaptist Fellowship