A Study In The Nature Of God’s Word (Authority) – Part 2

The nature of faith and knowledge

Some of you might complain about my goal to demonstrate the Bible as inerrant. You might say “Brian, doesn’t the Bible speak about faith? Isn’t that how we are supposed to approach Jesus Christ – on faith? Isn’t all of this discussion about ‘proving this’ and ‘demonstrating that’ simply unnecessary, based on what the Bible says about faith?” After all, we don’t know the Bible is inerrant, we just have faith that it is, right?

Well there is no doubt that scripture speaks about faith and belief. However, are we supposed to have faith yet never give any reason for that faith? Definitely not! In fact, the Bible speaks of more than just faith – it speaks about knowing things. Let’s look at 1 John 5:13:

“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (NIV – emphasis mine)

Let me read it again, this time from the message, which I think makes the meaning that much easier to grasp

“My purpose in writing is simply this: that you who believe in God’s Son will know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you have eternal life, the reality and not the illusion.”

John is stating that the reason he is writing is so that we who believe in Jesus as our savior can know that we have eternal life. He is telling us that the words he is writing are intended to give us certainty about our future. Now catch this all important fact – John is in essence telling us that the revelation of God, the very book he is contributing to as he writes, is sufficient to turn our faith into knowledge!

Now let me say this clearly so that we don’t miss it – if the Bible is inerrant, then what John is telling us here is that the very words of God revealed in scripture are able to move us from belief to knowledge. His revelation is just that powerful!

So how is this possible? Well, we need to take a moment and talk about the difference between belief and knowledge.

Can all beliefs be considered knowledge? No, I think we know that without thinking too hard, right? I might believe that it is dark outside, but I could be wrong. I have been known to be wrong, after all!

Knowledge is belief on steroids, if you will. Knowledge is something much more powerful than just belief. Knowledge is actually true belief with a reason to back it up! Let me illustrate.

Consider the following two statements:

1) I believe that the Bible is inerrant

2) I know that the Bible is inerrant

I am sure you already recognize the difference in the “force” of these two statements. But let me make it a bit clearer for you, just to be sure.

Consider these two statements:

1) I believe that the Bible is inerrant

2) I know that the Bible is full of mistakes

Now, I think most of us realize that the second statement is much stronger in what it says than the first, especially when we see it worded in such a way as to contradict the first. The conclusion found in the first statement could theoretically be wrong, after all. To say you believe something is not to say it is necessarily true – it is only to say what you believe. However, to claim to know something is to claim that what you are stating is actually true. The first statement makes no claims about truth, but the second one does

We use the word “know” all the time in our every day conversation. In fact, we use the word very loosely most of the time. We say we “know” something when we really only “believe” it, although we might believe it very, very strongly.

Not too long ago the news reported that JonBenet Ramsey’s killer had been caught. Do you remember? A man named Mark Karr confessed to her killing. I remember people saying to those who doubted the news reports “I know he killed her!” When questioned as to how they knew, they replied “because he admitted to it!” Ask yourself this question – did they really know, or did they simply believe he did it? What they should have said was “I believe Mark Karr killed her”, or maybe “chances are pretty good he killed her”. After all, a confession is not a good enough reason to convict someone of murder.

And that’s the key word here, after all –”reason.” What separates belief from knowledge is the existence of one or more good reasons. If you told a group of people that you know there is a flying saucer hovering overhead right now, you can bet they are going to want a really good reason before they accept what you are saying, right? After all, the simple assertion that there is a UFO overhead isn’t a good enough reason to accept it as true. Is it?

It shouldn’t surprise us, then, that the Bible has something to say about giving reasons for our beliefs. We have already seen that John has told us that we can know where we will spend eternity, if we believe in Jesus Christ. And we have just seen that knowledge requires a good reason, or else it is just a belief. Consider now what 1 Peter 3:15 says.

“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (NIV)

Wow, look at that! As Christians we are commanded to be prepared with an answer. What kind of answer are we to have? We are to have an answer for the reason for the hope that we have. The Greek word for “answer” there is apologia, which is where the word “apologetics” comes from. It means a “reasoned statement or argument”.

So there it is – we are to be prepared with a reason for why we believe what we believe. Why? Because giving a reason is how we demonstrate, to others and to ourselves, that we know that the Bible is true. Providing a reason is how we move from faith alone directly to knowledge about God’s word.

Where knowledge comes from

Does the Bible give us any reasons to claim it is inerrant? What possible reasons could there be in the Bible that would give us the warrant to claim that we know the Bible is free from error?

Before answering that question, we must first consider the Biblical perspective on the source of knowledge. Unless we understand the Bible’s claims about what is necessary to know anything, we can never hope to formulate any sort of argument for claiming that we know the Bible is inerrant.

First, let’s consider Proverbs 1:7a.

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (NASB)

Now if the Bible is inerrant (and we are assuming that presently for the sake of argument), then fearing God is the first step to knowledge. That is, we cannot know anything at all without fearing God.

What do we mean by fear? Well, the Hebrew word for fear in this verse is yir’ah {yir-aw’}, the most applicable definition of which means to respect and revere God. That means we must hold God up and bow our knee to him; we must respect him for who he is if we hope to know anything. In short, God must be the foundation we rest upon in giving reasons for what we claim to know. Intellectually, he must be our ultimate authority.

Next, let’s look at Colossians 2:1-3

“For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf and for those who are at La

od

icea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face,
2that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (NASB – emphasis mine)

Now that’s a pretty long passage, but catch what it says at the end. Jesus Christ himself is the very center of all wisdom and knowledge. Knowledge finds itself in Jesus Christ. Now that’s kind of a strange idea, so let’s skip ahead to verse 8 of the same chapter as this will help us understand a little better what is being said.

“See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.” (NASB)

Here we see that we are not to live our lives according to the philosophy of the world. Rather, we are to live our lives based upon a philosophy that is according to Christ.

It will be helpful for you to go back and read all of Colossians 2 at some point, including the verses between 3 and 8. For now, however, consider verse 8 in light of verse 3. Paul is telling us here to live our lives according to Christ, as wisdom and knowledge itself are found in him. That is, these treasures of wisdom and knowledge are found when we live our lives according to Christ.

Sound familiar? Remember Proverbs 1:7 from above? The starting point of knowledge is reverence for God. To put it another way, knowledge is not available to us unless we begin with God as our intellectual foundation.

Just like we are to center ourselves on God in a pursuit of knowledge, we are to center ourselves on his son Jesus Christ. Our philosophy (that is, our way of viewing the world around us) is to be centered on God and his son Jesus Christ, understanding that our very ability to know anything at all begins with putting God in the position of our intellectual authority.

This is a very important point to capture, because it answers the question of inerrancy for us.

The question of how we know the Bible is inerrant is ultimately tied to the question of how we know anything at all. The reason we can know the Bible is inerrant is the same as the reason we can know anything at all. But before we talk about what that reason is, we need to talk about the foundations of knowledge.

And we will take this up next time!


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