Doctrine of Scripture

I was mulling for a few minutes what I might say if I had to write a statement of faith that included something about scripture. I was thinking I’d go straight for the 2 Timothy 3 jugular and start with something like this:

I believe that scripture is God’s word, given for the purpose of giving us the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith, in Christ Jesus (1 Tim 3:15). Therefore, any interpretation of scripture that points to Christ (John 5; in particular to Christ’s suffering and subsequent glory, Luke 24, 1 Peter 1), demands that we understand God as God has been revealed in Christ, or that demands of us that we walk in the way of Christ, is to be received as the authoritative word of God that will lead us into faithful belief and practice.

Do you have some doctrine of scripture that you work with? How does it influence how you do or don’t read the biblical texts?

20 thoughts on “Doctrine of Scripture”

  1. Seems like that definition is kind of limiting. Sounds like you only accept Scripture as authoritative if it directly points to Christ in some way, but none other. I sent out the following one time to stony silence:

    Inspiration of Scripture
    All Scripture is inspired, and God breathed, useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Tim. 3:16-17. The writings of Paul are inspired of God but capable of being distorted by ignorant and unstable men. 2 Peter 3:15-17. I do not add to or take away from the Holy Scripture what it claims for itself. It is trustworthy and relevant for this time.
    I reject any radical dispensational teaching that claims that the red letter words of Jesus Christ are not meant for Christians, or that attempt to make any portion of the New Testament including teachings on the Gifts of the Spirit, or confession of sin, irrelevant to Christians today. I accept the dispensational teaching that the Old Testament laws are primarily for the Jews under a different covenant than we, the Gentiles. But, the Old Testament is exactly the Scripture referred to by Paul in 2 Timothy, and thus retains its inspiration in teaching us the history of the faith, and moral principles about how to live a godly life. This is especially true of the 10 commandments, the Psalms and the Proverbs.

    1. Hi Michael,

      Your view seems to be a collection of what you believe and do not believe which is inherently limiting for each application it does not address. For example, you say that “all scripture is inspired, and God breathed, useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…” I’m not sure what any of this mean? In what sense is it any of these things, and based on whose or what method of interpretation?

      It seems to me, you need a paradigm through which to read scripture that in turn contributes to a web of knowledge pertaining to how you understand and relate to God. It seems that is in part what Dr. Kirk is offering in his statement.

    2. There’s lots of good here. Clearly I agree with the latter parts of 2 Tim 3, not just the one I cite! But I wonder if they’re not supposed to go together? That is, it is only with a Christological telos that we who know that Christ is the goal of the story can faithfully read scripture so as to correct, reprove, be trained in righteousness, etc.

      There are hundreds of ways in which the OT would summon us to walk that I think are either not required or even antithetical to our Christian calling. Jesus, and the story of his saving work, becomes the hermeneutical guide for me.

  2. Daniel, I have been thinking about this for some time, thanks for bring up the topic. I wonder if it wouldn’t be helpful to approach a doctrine of the bible like we approach the doctrine of Jesus. We know that he is fully human yet fully God, but how this fits together is a mystery.
    Couldn’t we approach scripture in the same way? It was written by specific people in a specific time and conveys their knowledge of God and their emotions, but it is also given to us by God for our understanding of him. I prefer to use language like this than infallible, inerrant ect., which to me are used as modern shibboleths.

  3. Like the Christ centered approach. But begs the question as to what interpretation is authoritative. I can argue that any of my wacky interpretations fit the criteria set forth. But that doesn’t mean correct or authoritative

  4. You give me hope. If only evangelicals were listening to you and Peter Enns instead of the usual suspects. We could actually have good conversations about scripture and theology.

    1. In Luke 11:28 Jesus says that the blessed people are the ones who hear God’s word and keep it. And in Matthew 7:24f Jesus says that whoever hears his words and does them is like the wise house builder whose house cannot be destroyed for it is built on solid ground. For me that does it. His words are life. And in John 6:63 Jesus indicates that his own words convey the spirit and life. My doctrine is the word that Jesus speaks. All other scripture both Old and New Testament are commentary to Jesus’ words.

  5. I Corinthians 15 (especially v. 58). The argument Paul makes about resurrection and the subsequent “Therefore” characterizes my entire purpose for being: Resurrecting stuff.

  6. I’m inclined to think about authority in terms of “authoring.” Scripture is authoritative because through it, and it alone, God authors a new community through Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and ascension in the power of the Spirit. Scripture’s authority can be seen a posteriori in communities that, however different, that love mercy, do justice, and walk humbly with the God made known in Jesus Christ. We don’t trust in scripture; rather through scripture we trust in Jesus and experience him by the Spirit in becoming a community that looks like him. Looking back, we can affirm the authority of the Bible as that instrument through which God authors new chapters in his story with the world through his right and left hands of the Son and Spirit.

  7. Scripture is a gift from God, a revelation we should be grateful for. We need the Spirit or else it will seem like foolishness.

    I try to use 2 methods of interpretation, the original reader/hearer method and then the method knowing that Christ is the goal of Scripture. Then once I have done my best in those 2, I ask how does this apply to myself and the groups I belong to, for example, my family, my church, my country and my world.

    One thing Scripture is NOT is it is not like Euclid’s Elements (a geometry textbook with axioms and proofs). As a general statement, it is not composed of atomic truth statements and trying to treat it that way can lead to abuse of Scripture and people.

  8. I’m glad you included “points to Christ”. Allows for some typology, thus allowing for some continuity with the church fathers.

  9. “Do you have some doctrine of scripture that you work with? How does it influence how you do or don’t read the biblical texts?”

    Jesus loves me this I know
    For the Bible tells me so…

    In the movie The Hunt for Red October, Jonesy, the dedicated and brilliant seaman running the sonar onboard the USS Dallas, tells his captain when he is questioned about the ship’s multimillion dollar computer system; “Well Captain, I think when the SAPS system gets confused it sort of ‘runs home to mama!’”

    I suspect that is what I do in my doctrine of Scripture. I hold to a belief that Jesus loves me. If I were to mull that over for a few minutes, I would have to conclude that Scripture then points me toward Christ and His life. I struggle with the idea that those who wrote Proverbs or the Psalms or the various parts of Isaiah actually had Jesus consciously on their minds. But taken as a whole I can see the collection of Scriptures that tell God’s story continuously pointing to someone who is then revealed to be His Son.


  10. I’m no scholar, and I’m slightly intimidated by the intelligent and insightful comments above, but I’ve found it helpful to think of the Bible as the word of God but Jesus as the Word-with-an-upper-case-W of God – therefore Jesus is the lens through which we try to reconcile the trickier parts of Scripture – the Cross is more important than the Flood, for instance. My understanding is nowhere developed enough to call it a doctrine, but it’s helped me grapple with some of the more uncomfortable texts.

    I also think it’s helpful to realise that God speaks through genre!

  11. 25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. (Luke 24)
    I read all scripture as God’s search for reconciliation with humanity from the Fall until the New Heaven and New earth. Scripture is all story inspired by the Holy Spirit. I think it was Calvin who said that we would know it is real by the Spirit.

    “Since no daily responses are given from heaven, and the Scriptures are the only records in which God has been pleased to consign his truth to perpetual remembrance, the full authority which they ought to possess with the faithful is not recognised, unless they are believed to have come from heaven, as directly as if God had been heard giving utterance to them.” (1,VII,1) (Institutes)

    Calvin wrote and Word and Spirit go together. Everything else is secondary. Bible is the lens through which we see God at work in Christ. That’s why we know that God is working all things out for our good and his glory. Christ is the story.

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