The authority of scripture

"All scripture is God-breathed..."

I consider that all the 66 books of the Old and New Testament commonly included in Protestant bibles are divinely inspired in their original languages and contain no errors of fact about anything which they treat factually. No other writings have the same standing. There have been no errors of copying sufficient to distort their meaning, since God's infinite power protects his word from being corrupted. The scriptures are fully authoritative and contain all that we need to know about God and about the relations between God and man and the rest of creation.

The scriptures are complete and may not be added to. Neither may anything be taken away from them.

The Holy Spirit alone gives or withholds understanding of the scriptures.

The scripture is authenticated by the witness of the Holy Spirit and by itself. It must not be subject to any human authority as to its manner of interpretation, since this would be to place that human authority above scripture and the Holy Spirit.

The scriptures contain all that is needed to interpret them. (Since otherwise something else would have a higher authority than the scriptures themselves.) In interpreting them, we need to consider everything the scripture says on a subject; it is not sufficient to take verses by themselves.

The church recognises the scriptures; it does not authenticate them, since that would imply that the church's authority was superior to the scriptures'.

Any attempts to reinterpret scripture to accommodate human thinking (usury, evolution, homosexuality, the role of women and so on) are opposed to God, since they set up human reason as a rival authority to God. (On the other hand, we need to be sure that the scriptures do indeed say what we think they do.)

Since God requires our complete devotion and commitment, it follows that we are required to search the scriptures to discover if there is any way in which our lives or teaching are contrary to his word, and to change our behaviour if we find anything wrong. This applies as much to a church as to an individual.

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Oliver Elphick

26th June 2003

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