Revelation: Why is Scripture authoritative?

Revelation: Why is Scripture authoritative?

Holy Scripture is God speaking. That simple but profound statement is why Christians believe that Scripture is our highest authority by which all other lesser authorities are tested. Practically, this means that lesser courts of reason, tradition, and culture are under the highest court of truth, which is divinely inspired Scripture.

By contrast, the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches teach that Scripture is a part of the larger pool of revelation that the church uses in its teaching. For them, authority is not in the Bible itself, but in the teaching office of the church.

Others appeal to the so-called Wesleyan Quadrilateral: Wesley believed that the living core of the Christian faith was revealed in Scripture, illumined by tradition, vivified in personal experience, and confirmed by reason. Scripture [however] is primary, revealing the Word of God “so far as it is necessary for our salvation.”  [ENDNOTE #1]

In practice, though, the Bible often becomes just one of four major sources of authority to be balanced. Thus, when contemporary critical theories of the Bible start to be taken seriously, the Bible often is judged by other authorities.

The central development of the Protestant Reformation was the return to Scripture as supreme authority. The Reformers coined the slogan “sola Scriptura” (sometimes prima Scriptura) to summarize this conviction. Nothing judges Scripture. It judges everything else. As followers of Jesus, we take the same stance He did and receive the Bible alone as infallible, inerrant truth from God with full authority over our lives.

The Bible is a living book of God authoritatively speaking as a perfect Father to children He dearly loves about how to live godly lives. For example, it commands us to “put away falsehood” and “speak the truth with [our] neighbor,” not as arbitrary rules of conduct but as church family members who are “members one of another.” [FOOTNOTE: Eph. 4:25.] It is a story of what is best in God’s loving family of the Spirit. It is the story of the God of redemption rescuing us from rebellion, brokenness, sin, and death. Its authority is that in these inspired words we find how to connect with the forgiving and transforming power of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

  1. United Methodist Church, The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church (Nashville: Abingdon, 2004), 77.