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Please excuse my ignorance I'm new to this.

I've been looking through the Q&A on the site and I've noticed scripture and especially passages from the Bible are cited as evidence for one argument or another.

What is the theological argument that the Bible should form the basis of the Christian belief system?

EDIT

Whils't Mason's answer gives a good description of the ways, in which, the Bible is a good guide to commonly held Christian beliefs, the answer is, as Mason hints, a tautology.

I'm still a bit confused. Is the Bible more of a commonly referred to reference book, or is is it the law of God?

I assume that Christian's believe they have a soul gifted to them directley by God and that soul can act as a kind of moral compass. Should I consider my soul's guidance to be inferior, equivalent or superior to an interpretation of the words in the Bible.

If your answer is the Bible, please support your answer with a reasoned argument.

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7 Answers 7

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I am going to assume that since you asked the question to Christians that an aceptable answer will be rooted in our worldview. For reasons that I will lay out we have to look to the Bible for what it says about itself. While this may appear to be circular, and I guess in one regard it is, we are claiming that ultimately the Bible is the authoritative revelation of God's truth and character. In the Christian worldview there is no other place to start.

Your question of use is a great one. Practically the Bible has one purpose, to tell the story of the fall of man, the inability for us to live up to God's standard, His plan of salvation for us through His Son, and the final restoration and redemption of this world. Within that though we have commands from God in the OT, Christ and the Apostles (Law), poetry and proverbs that give us wisdom and show us how to worship, and instruction on how to live out our faith in practice. So I guess the answer is "All of the above". For specific reasons why the Bible is the source for all of this, read on.

The Bible is the foundational theological text for Christians for 4 reasons:

  1. The Bible is the inerrant authoritative Word of God
  2. The Bible is clear
  3. The Bible is necessary for the Christian faith
  4. The Bible is sufficient for the Christian faith

With these 4 reasons in mind Christians look to the Bible as the revealed Word of God that tells His great story of redemption for this world, shows us how to seek Him for ourselves and trust Him for our eternal lives. Academic study aside, this is the point of Christian theology, to know and love God.

I’ll offer brief summaries of these points and point to sites or books on the topic if you want deeper insight

The Bible is the Inerrant Authoritative Word of God

First off the Bible claims clearly to be the direct Word of God. In the Old Testament verses like Jeremiah 1:9 show this explicitly how God spoke to His prophets:

“Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the Lord said to me,”

Additionally the Bible states that God “spoke through” the prophets, who words and teachings are the primary source for the Old Testament:

“But neither he nor his servants nor the people of the land listened to the words of the Lord that he spoke through Jeremiah the prophet.”

Jeremiah 37:9

Next, in the New Testament in Timothy we see the endorsement of the whole Old Testament as the direct Word of God.

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”

2 Timothy 3:16

The word for scripture here in the original Greek is graphe. In every occurrence of this word in the New Testament (51 of them) this word is used to refer directly to the OT. Also, note the phrase, “breathed out by God”. This is a claim that all of the scriptures come direct from God.

Finally in the New Testament we also have internal attestation to it’s nature as the Word of God.

“our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.”

1 Peter 3:15-16

The key thing to note here is that Peter uses the same Greek word we talked about above when he says “other scriptures”. Peter here directly places the letters of Paul alongside the Old Testament as graphe, or scripture.

Furthermore, the Bible is inerrant. But what does this really mean? Quoting Wayne Grudem, “The inerrancy of Scripture means that Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact.”

Just one note on a very plain explanation. Note the insistence upon the original documents being inerrant. My ESV translation is not inerrant, your KJV is not inerrant and the RSV is not inerrant. The Bible is fully true in the original documents.

The following Biblical claims to it’s own truthfulness build upon the statement that scripture is the direct word of God. The Bible is pure:

“The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times.”

Psalm 12:6

The Bible is perfect:

“I have seen a limit to all perfection, but your commandment is exceedingly broad.”

Psalm 119:96

The Bible is true:

“Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.”

Proverbs 30:5

The Bible is Clear

This may seem odd given the amount of confusion and discussion that goes on, but the Bible claims to be clear and that every man can understand what the Bible says about God. The whole nation of Israel was expected to know and understand the scriptures. As Moses instructed the people:

“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

Deuteronomy 6:6-7

David states that Word of God makes things understandable to us:

“The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.”

Psalm 119:130

If this is true, why do people misinterpret or disagree on what the Bible says? It is because of our own shortcomings. If the Bible is inerrant and the revealed Word of God then it is our standard, not our own understanding. This is a tough teaching to take, but we are instructed to approach God and His Word humbly, and that is certainly a counter-cultural idea these days.

The Bible is Necessary

The Bible is necessary for our faith; we cannot know God apart from the Bible. As Paul says:

“For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ 14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? ... 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

Romans 10:13-15 & 17

Paul nailed this one on the head, so I will leave it there.

The Bible is Sufficient

This point is disputed often in its meaning, so I will do my best to be clear. When we says the Bible is sufficient we are saying that God has given us everything we needed to know for our salvation, for trusting Him perfectly, and for obeying Him perfectly. We do not need anything outside of the Bible to know who He is.

As this could be a whole topic on its own I will just cover a few references to back this up. Paul tells Timothy that, “from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” in 2 Timothy 3:15. Additionally in verses 16 & 17 Paul goes on to state that the scripture is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”

This is an affirmation that the scripture contains the knowledge we need for salvation, and to be fully equipped for the good works that Christ called us to.

As a closing note, I will state that I think you will get a small, but varying, group of different answers. Different Christian school of thought view the Bible in slightly different ways. I do not think there is universal consensus in the broader Christian church on this question when you get down to the details, so I would expect to see that reflected in the answers here.

My main source for this summary is Wayne Grudem’s excellent book, Bible Doctrine. I highly recommend it for an even further study on the subject.

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thanks for answer, I think this has helped me understand the "Why" part of my question. Essentially, only the Prophets and, those that actually met Jesus can have had any direct communication with God. Some of this lucky few wrote some useful "texts" on thier communication and what they learnt. Therefore, these "texts" are our most reliable records of the communications of God. I see then, that if we believe the Prophets spoke for God and Jesus was the son of God (and in some cases God too,) Then we must see the "original" Bible as our best reference. It makes me want to learn Greek. –  Jodrell Sep 30 '11 at 10:27
    
Whilst this answer best covers the "Why" angle I think riverc's answer best covers the "How", I would split or add more bounty if allowed. Please consider upvoting that answer too. christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/3307/… –  Jodrell Sep 30 '11 at 15:08

Wow, this is a really fundamental question. And the basic answer is, because the Bible is the foundation of Christian theology.

I hope that doesn't sound like a tautology. What I mean by that is that the Bible is where we find the description of what Christianity is and what it's about. The first few chapters of Genesis give us the creation of the world, the introduction to God and mankind, and the fundamental problems of our existence: sin and death. The rest of the Old Testament teaches us about God's chosen people, his relationship with them and the covenants he made with them, and their history. It places particular emphasis on how things worked out for them when they did and when they didn't live according to God's commandments.

And then we come to the New Testament, where the solution to the fundamental problems introduced in Genesis is given. God sent his son, Jesus, to earth to pay the price of sin and overcome death, to make it possible for mankind to be restored to a perfect state through faith in him and his atonement. It explains how Jesus did that, and what he taught us about how to live in order to make the atonement apply to us. Then it continues on, showing the founding and early growth of the church that Jesus organized, based on the writings and the travels of the apostles that he ordained as leaders of the church. They went around teaching people, organizing and building up the church, and clarifying various points of doctrine for people who didn't understand all the details.

This content makes the Bible a solid foundation for understanding the basis of Christianity and Christian doctrine, and the first authoritative place to look when searching for theological evidence on questions related to Christianity.

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It does sound like a tautology. It is a tautology. –  psr Sep 23 '11 at 22:09
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@psr: And, as a question of foundations, it must be a tautology (see basic beliefs). –  jrdioko Sep 29 '11 at 22:30
    
@jrdioko - But if it is a tautology, one could argue just as strongly that the Bible is not a foundation of theological evidence because the Bible is not where we find the description of what Christianity is and what it's about, so argument by tautology isn't very convincing, to say the least. –  psr Sep 29 '11 at 23:11
    
@psr: But how would they back up the claim that the Bible is not where we find the description of what Christianity is and what it's about? –  Mason Wheeler Sep 29 '11 at 23:20
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let us continue this discussion in chat –  psr Sep 30 '11 at 20:07

Think of it like this. When you purchase a car, you get a manual from the manufacturer. Christians believe the Bible is God's instruction manual for how to live the way He thinks best.

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And just like a car manual, we tend to not read the Bible until something goes wrong. –  a_hardin Sep 23 '11 at 18:29

OK, the Christian believe system, God's existence, and the Bible as God's Word cannot be proven outside the Bible - it is by faith and not by knowing that we are saved.

Therefore, yes, its is kind of a tautology when I say that the Bible calls itself the Word of God, and Paul calls it all inspired. Therefore it is the basis of our believe system, otherwise you might not be called a Christian.

Yet, the Word of God as a phrase can be interpreted as a name of Jesus. John makes that very clear. Therefore the Bible is not the complete word of God, as Jesus is alive and still talks through His Holy Spirit.

That leads to the second part of your question: if I have my should from God, are impressions not valid guide? Romans tells us that we have to change our mind set to conform with God. The Bible also tells us that we are saved, will be saved, and work out our salvation daily. Our spirit is saved, our body will be saved, and we work on our soul (mind, soul, emotions) to conform more and more to God's.

We have been coined or molded by the world for so long, and still are, that I would not trust my own impressions, emotions, and opinions as much as I do the Word of God.

This said, I want to add that if my emotions or leading of the soul does not contradict the Word of God, why not go for it? Especially if it contradicts common sense ;)

And as the Bible shows us a relational God, ask some friends that you trust hear from God and have good biblical foundations.

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The word theology literally means discourse on God.

Theology translates into English from the Greek theologia (θεολογία) which derived from theos (θεός), meaning God, and logia (λόγια), meaning utterances, sayings, or oracles (a word related to logos [λόγος], meaning word, discourse, or reasoning) which had passed into Latin as theologia and into French as théologie.
Source: Wikipedia

Now, the Christian understanding of God is indeed founded on the Bible. Not only on the Bible for all Christians, but the Bible is the most authoritative source. Another way to say this is that those who believe in the God that announces himself in the Bible, are Christians.

Therefore, when having discourse on the Christian God (i.e. the definition of Christian theology), it makes sense to use the Bible (which defines the Christian God). This is no tautology.


If you really want some other basis than just the strict definitions for using the Bible as a foundation, you're asking for a tautology. There are really two cases. The possible authorities are, in the two possible cases:

  • (Sola Scriptura): the church that teaches Sola Scriptura, and the Bible.
  • (Non-Sola Scriptura): the church (which teaches the Bible is an authority), and the Bible.

So, you either have the Bible passages telling about teaching in the Bible itself (2 Tim. 3:15-17, Mat. 22:29, 2 Pet. 3:15-16, Gal. 1:8-9, etc.), or the church teaching. This is much more a tautology.


As for your assumption of the soul working as a moral compass, see Are our consciences trustworthy? (Hint: they aren't.)

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So, its an axiom of Christianity that the Bible is the book of God. This makes sense. Presumably, belief in God without the Bible is Nostisism or some other nomination? –  Jodrell Sep 29 '11 at 15:01
    
@Jodrell yeah, belief in God without the Bible as a foundation can be called Gnosticism, Islam, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, New Age, Unitarian Universalism etc. depending on other circumstances. –  dancek Sep 29 '11 at 15:14

I cannot answer this fully, but I noticed this has not been touched on.

The Bible is currently considered theological evidence because it is a canon, that is, a rule of books that should not be changed. In this way, it has a greater reliability than what a person could tell you, much the same way that written laws are more reliable than fiat.

The deeper question is difficult, which is to say, we know the canon of scripture was created because the books were considered theological evidence. But why?

It seems from evidence that the Council of Nicaea did not actually discuss the canon of scripture, but the council of Carthage (the 'supposed third') in August of 397 simply established the list itself. The reasoning appears to emerge from a consensus over the centuries about which books are reliable (as theological evidence) and which are not.

This is just to say, the main criteria seem to have been:

  1. It was not pseudopigraphia, such as the Book of Enoch (though some do include this in the number) but is a genuine book
  2. For old Testament books, it is either history of Israel (thus salvation history) or it prophetically witnesses to Christ.
  3. It was a book in common use, such as the Psalms, in temple service prior to Pentecost
  4. It could be traced in origin to the original twelve and their followers
  5. It did not contain superfluous or local instructions regarding the faith
  6. It was written / authored (dictated) by the Apostle John, who was the one surviving of the Twelve and a great hero of the faith to those in the early centuries.
  7. It was considered fit to be read publicly before all Christians, or all people in general as representing the teaching of Jesus.

EDIT: also, techincal manuals were excluded such as the Didache. In similar fashion, we Orthodox would not include the Liturgicon, the Horologion, the Menaion or the Book of Hours in the canon if it were composed today. You could say that 'meta books' - commentary or instructional - were not canonized.

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I think this answer covers the "How" part of my question. Clearly there must have been a point in the past when there were Christians but no Bible. You make a good explanation of how (and when) the Bible was collected into one "book." –  Jodrell Sep 30 '11 at 14:57

If you want a non-tautological answer, Ludwig Wittgenstein uses the theory of the "language game" to describe speech as a set of rules that have an agreed upon foundation, which both defines and limits the the thing. The agreed upon foundation is a postulate - you cannot conceive of the thing without it.

Christianity could be considered a language game, and the other answers here enumerate the postulates. That the Bible is the foundation is simply the most basic postulate of revelation - the idea that God revealed to us his will in the Bible.

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