In the previous five posts, we have been examining the historical circumstances under which the Bible was written and compiled. We have also been considering the reasons that we can be confident that the Bible is trustworthy.
But it is important to understand that our confidence in the Bible does not rest solely on historical evidence. Studying the historical evidence can be helpful and we can see God’s hand in the formation and preservation of his word. But in the end, no amount of historical evidence can dispel all of the uncertainty that we may feel.
In other words, historical studies are important, but they are not likely to prove conclusively which books should be considered part of the canon. So I am going to relate an argument that I picked up from John Frame as to how we can be sure of the Bible’s genuine authority.
John Frame believes that the Word of God is its own authority. Here’s the thing. If we claim that the Word of God is our highest authority, then we cannot appeal to some other source (a church council, historical data, etc.) as the ultimate validation of its authority. So Frame reasons from biblical concepts and statements in order to confirm our canon.
Think about this. From the inception of the nation of Israel, God’s people have always had a canon (a collection of authoritative writings) through which God has governed his people. Initially this was the Ten Commandments, then God added the whole Mosaic Law, then the book of Joshua, then the Writings, the Prophets, etc.
While no human being was permitted to add to it (Deut. 4:2, 12:32), God himself could, and he chose to add to the canon in specific ways at specific times. Not only did God give his people revelation, but he also providentially ensured that they would recognize this revelation as his words. For example, when Abraham was told to sacrifice Isaac, he didn’t have to wonder if the voice was God’s. He somehow knew. Or when Moses heard God speaking from the burning bush, he somehow knew that this was God speaking to him.
Frame also finds the purpose of God’s revelation significant: it was meant to create a covenant agreement with his people and to govern their lives. Basically, God spoke so that his people would hear and act. It is therefore inconceivable that God would give his people revelation and then allow that revelation to be lost. For these (and other) reasons, Frame believes that we can trust the canon we now possess.
Did you catch that? God has always possessed the ability to communicate with his people, and when God speaks, his people don’t have to wonder whether God was really speaking to them. They know the voice of God (John 10:27). And because God speaks to his people so that they will hear and act according to what he says, why would a God who is fully capable of effective communication allow his words to us to be lost or perverted?
We can be sure that our Bibles are the word of God because we have confidence in who God is and how he interacts with his people. Confirming evidence is always helpful, but ultimately the authority comes from God himself. If he wants to speak to us, then his authority will reside in the words he speaks. And that is exactly what we find when we open our Bibles. A loving, powerful, authoritative God speaking loving, powerful, authoritative words to his people.
And if God is speaking to us through his word, we would do well to listen and obey (2 Pet. 1:19, James 1:22).