Recently a college student asked me this question. Should we accept the scriptures as God’s word, just because they say so? Did early leaders of the church decide for us what writings should be considered as God’s Word? Perhaps my response might be of help to others.
Did You Really Say That?
Let me take an example from real life. When you speak, Sean (name changed), and someone shares what you said with your friends, how do they really know it came from Sean? Since your friends didn’t hear it from you directly, they must make some decisions. Does it sound like something Sean would say? Can I trust the source of this information? How well do they know Sean? How reliable are they? Have they accurately reported Sean’s words in the past?
Whether we realize it or not, we put ourselves through these paces every time we hear a bit of information. Should we believe it? Can we trust it? And, instinctively, we sometimes ask the same questions of the scripture. Should we believe them? Can we trust them? Did God really say that?
Let’s Look at the Evidence
The scriptures tell a long story over thousands of years. God reveals Himself by telling this long story so that we would have plenty of reasons to trust it. By listening to the story, fact-checking the story, evaluating the witnesses, we can make good decisions. God is not asking us to believe without evidence. He has left a trail of evidence that winds through thousands of years of history.
When the early church leaders met to discuss these matters, they had a very practical problem. There were many documents floating around claiming to be inspired by God. So, the leaders met several times, in several locations, over a period if time, to evaluate the evidence. What documents had the best claims. Which were written by the best witnesses? Did any of them know Jesus personally?
The process of “canonizing” scripture was actually the same process you are in now. It was a process of evaluating the evidence and coming to some conclusions. And after many groups and writers from all across the ancient world, spanning a few centuries, evaluated the evidence, the vast majority of them were in agreement. With a few exceptions (that we can discuss later), most accepted the documents that we now have as those that have the best claim to be God’s Word.
You Know What You Said!
One more point. Let’s return again to the real world example. In a sense, when you speak, Sean, you know what you said. It is your word. Your friends don’t get to decide what your word is. What they think doesn’t change whether or not it is your word. If they get it wrong, if they misinterpret it, it is still your word. You know what you said.
In the same way, God’s Word is His Word, whether we accept it or not, whether we agree with it or not. God knows what He says. Humans don’t get do decide what God’s Word is. Only God gets to decide that.
At the same time, however, God wants us to know what His word is, so He tells a story over several centuries. He leaves a trail of evidence and invites us to follow it. I am delighted that you are taking Him up on His invitation.
Take some time to reflect further on what I have said, and we can discuss your questions further when you are ready to do so.
In His Service,