Christianity,  Theology/Bible

The self-authenticating power of the Bible

In case you missed it, Andy Stanley posted a lengthy rejoinder to criticism he has received since telling his church that the Bible is not the foundation of the Christian faith. I responded to this last week. Just tonight, both Jared Wilson and David Prince  have posted thoughtful responses. For my part, I would reiterate what I said last week. I really appreciate Stanley’s clear affirmation of biblical inerrancy. He writes:

I believe the Bible is without error in everything it affirms. I believe what the Bible says is true, is true… So for anyone out there who is still a bit suspicious, I affirm The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.

This affirmation is strong and unambiguous. So far so good. But Stanley goes on to argue that the real issue is not his doctrine of scripture but outdated ways of preaching the Bible. Because millennials don’t believe in the authority of scripture, Stanley argues that we cannot appeal to them with “the Bible told me so” arguments. He writes:

Appealing to post-Christian people on the basis of the authority of Scripture has essentially the same effect as a Muslim imam appealing to you on the basis of the authority of the Quran. You may or may not already know what it says. But it doesn’t matter. The Quran doesn’t carry any weight with you. You don’t view the Quran as authoritative.

Close to half our population does not view the Bible as authoritative either. If you’re trying to reach people with an undergraduate degree or greater, over half your target audience will not be moved by the Bible says, the Bible teaches, God’s Word is clear or anything along those lines.

Stanley’s argument assumes that the Bible’s effectiveness somehow relies on its plausibility to sinners. It assumes that unbelief dissolves the Bible’s authority. But we must simply point out that the Bible is not like other religious books. If the Bible is God’s word, it has an intrinsic power that the Koran does not.

Stanley’s approach functionally divides God’s authority from His word. If the Bible is “God-breathed,” then it bears the authority of God himself (2 Tim. 3:16). When the Bible speaks, God speaks. If the Bible is God’s very own word, then the Bible has a self-authenticating power that breaks through unbelief even before all the apologetic questions are answered. It has a self-authenticating power that cannot be nullified by any argument from skeptics.

We do apologetics because we love our neighbor and because we want to remove stumbling blocks. But we don’t do apologetics because we think the authority of almighty God depends on it. It doesn’t. God’s word can break through to the coldest heart with its very own self-authenticating authority.

That is why the simplest person among us can declare this word to the wise men of this age and can see brick walls come down in people’s hearts. This has always been God’s way: “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong” (1 Cor. 1:27).

Bottom line: If the Bible is the word of God, then it merely needs to be proclaimed. It has intrinsic power that cannot be nullified by the most hardened of skeptics. For that reason, we can have confidence in proclaiming it to anyone. And we can say “the Bible tells me so” without blushing.