Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Authority of the Bible: official views

Every now and then I do a post on this subject, as it's one that comes up regularly at University and also affects many contemporary debates, such as that going on in the Episcopal church of the USA at the moment at their General Convention.

I thought it might be interesting to look up the 'official' view of a number of churches to see what they actually said.

Church of England

Article VI of the 39 Articles of Religion of the Church of England

VI. Of the Sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for Salvation.
Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation. In the name of the Holy Scripture we do understand those canonical Books of the Old and New Testament, of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church.

following from a Methodist catechism

The Bible is the record of God's self revelation, supremely in Jesus Christ , and is a means through which he still reveals himself, by the Holy Spirit.

Methodist Church of Great Britain website

Baptist Union
taken from the "What is a Baptist?" area.

The Bible is described as the 'Word of God' because Baptists believe that its writers were inspired by God's Spirit. As such, it has authority to guide both what we believe and how we live our lives.

That our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, God manifest in the flesh, is the sole and absolute authority in all matters pertaining to faith and practice, as revealed in the Holy Scriptures, and that each Church has liberty, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to interpret and administer His laws.

taken from Baptist Union Website

Evangelical Alliance

Interesting this one, as this is the umbrella organisation for Churches, missionary societies, etc which hold the Bible as their supreme authority. They have a basis of faith, which constituent organisations sign up to. Item 3 is:

The divine inspiration and supreme authority of the Old and New Testament Scriptures, which are the written Word of God—fully trustworthy for faith and conduct.

I found it interesting that none of the above used the controversial words 'infallible' or 'inerrant' in their definitions. Increasingly people from the conservative wing of Christianity are talking about 'orthodox' and 'mainstream' using terms like these, when in fact they haven't been the normative Christian standpoint at all; in fact they are a relatively recent doctrinal development in the way they are understood in contemporary theology.
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