June 14, 2023

Why Does Biblical Authority Matter?

R.C. Sproul
Why Does Biblical Authority Matter?

For centuries, people have debated whether or not we can trust the claims that are made in Scripture. Today, R.C. Sproul explains why we can and should place our full confidence in the Word of God.


When we consider the question of biblical authority, some people say: “Why do we get so exercised about it? Isn’t this whole debate about Scripture just a tempest in a teapot?” So, basically the attitude: “What difference does it make whether it’s impeccable in all that it teaches? It’s a matter of faith. We don’t have to have absolute certainty.”

Well, I have to admit to this much, that there should be no reason why we have to have an infallible historical source for reasonable knowledge about Jesus of Nazareth. I can conceive theoretically that God could have worked out the drama of the person and life of Jesus to the cross, the resurrection, and everything, and have a bunch of fallible people writing their accounts of it and making minor errors and discrepancies and contradictions here and there, and testing our faith at that point to see whether or not this was credible. We don’t demand infallibility from Herodotus or Tacitus or Thucydides or Xenophon or Josephus, and they deliver far less than infallibility. We know that. Nevertheless, we give them great credence. So why couldn’t that be the same with Scripture? Why do we have to be paranoid about making sure there aren’t any mistakes and so on in the Bible?

And I can understand except for one cardinal point, and that is the claims that Scripture makes for itself. Now, if somebody walked up to me and said—“Look, I’m not exactly sure what I saw last week. In fact, I have to doubt my own eyes because I’ve never had an experience like this before. But for what it’s worth, my testimony that I would give in a courtroom to the best of my recollection is that this gentleman that I’ve witnessed be killed—I saw them put a spear in His side, I saw them take the body down, I saw them wrap the body for His burial, and I saw them seal the body in a tomb—and I know you’re going to think I’ve lost my senses, but the other day I heard some people saying that He came out of that tomb after three days and was seen by five hundred people. And yes, last night I saw Him.” If that’s all we had, I would still want to hear more. This man could be credible, could be a believable source, even though his message certainly strains all credibility because he would be talking about the miracle of miracles, wouldn’t he? Somebody actually coming back from the dead.

But now suppose, on the other hand, that man came over and he said, “Now I’m going to write this account, and I’m writing to you saying that this is the Word of God,” and then I saw that that witness who bore witness to the most important event in human history made mistakes—insignificant mistakes, minor errors of history, of truth. What would happen to our confidence in his claim to be speaking with the authority of God?

You see, I do expect human beings to make mistakes. I don’t expect God to make mistakes. And if the Bible claims to be the Word of God and is not the Word of God, it could still be generally true. But this claim, at least, would be exposed as being a fraud.

And I’ll have to tell you, I would not devote my life to worshiping and serving a man about whom all that I know comes from a source that is proven to be fraudulent. I’d have to crucify my mind to give my life to a Jesus when the only thing I know about Jesus is rooted and grounded in this biblical record, and if the biblical authors who tell me this story about Jesus claim to be giving the Word of God and it’s not the Word of God, then I’m just simply not going to listen to it. It’s that simple.

Now, let’s be clear about something. In my judgment, just because a book claims to be the Word of God does not make the book the Word of God. I could write a book and say, “This is the Word of God.” You would know instantly that it wasn’t the Word of God because you know me. I hope anybody would recognize instantly that it wasn’t the Word of God. But how much would it cost—how hard is it to say, “This is the Word of God”? Anybody could say that. Saying it is not making it so. But you see what becomes the stakes when somebody does make the claim. And the Bible makes that kind of a claim.