How do Christians know the Bible is true and comes from God?
Divine InspirationChristians call the Bible their Holy Scripture. Historically, this is because Christians believed the Bible to be the only book inspired by God. But what does it mean that the Bible is inspired by God? And why do different Christian thinkers believe it is inspired? And why think it alone is inspired? For generations, Christians have simply wondered: what is special about the Bible that makes it trustworthy?
Fortunately, the Christian tradition has spent a long time thinking about these issues. Though sometimes in tension, different answers and ideas have come forth through time. Some thinkers believe that God used human writers to craft the Bible; others hold that the Bible is a work of both God and humans, though how exactly is a divine mystery. Some theologians hold that the Bible is trustworthy on all matters; others, only on spiritual matters. All, however, are in agreement that this is an important issue worth investing our time in.
Here is a sample of perspectives on the issue. It’s a list of different Christian theologians, spanning 1800 years, discussing the importance and inspiration of the Bible. One or two wrote before the canonization of the Bible in the fourth century; their comments remain relevant, even though they don’t speak directly about the Bible as we know it today. Other theologians focus on one aspect of the Bible, e.g., prophecy. But each brings something new to the discussion worth thinking about.
- Divine Inspiration of the Bible by A. W. Pink
According to A. W. Pink, Biblical inspiration is the backbone of Christianity, and without it the “entire edifice of Christian truth” crumbles.
- The First Apology by St. Justin Martyr
According to Justin Martyr, the words of the prophets are inspired by “the Divine word,” and not simply inventions of the prophets themselves.
- Systematic Theology by St. Charles Hodge
Charles Hodge—the famed Princeton Theologian—holds that the Bible is infallible because it is the “word of God” given by “the inspiration of the Holy Ghost.”
- Summa Theologica by St. Thomas Aquinas
St. Aquinas also holds that the prophets spoke from a “prophetic spirit,” which cannot utter any false thing.
- City of God and On Christian Doctrine by St. Augustine
In On Christian Doctrine, St. Augustine suggests that Christians should accept as canonical those books which are accepted by the universal church. And those canonical books, St. Augustine believes, were composed by the Holy Spirit.
- Inspiration and Interpretation by John Burgon
John Burgon claims that the Bible is the work of both human beings and God, and that we cannot separate the two, but that they are indivisible aspects of the text.
- Commentary on Second Timothy by John Calvin
According to John Calvin, what makes the Bible unique among religious texts is that “we know that God hath spoken to us, and are fully convinced that the prophets did not speak at their own suggestion, but that… they only uttered what they had been commissioned from heaven to declare.”
- Doctrinal Theology by Heinrich Schmid
Schmid agrees with Calvin that what separates Christianity from other religions is the inspiration of the Bible. He goes on to hold that the author of the Bible is God, and that the human authors were merely instruments of God.
- Homilies on Second Timothy by St. John Chrysostom St. John Chrysostom finds the inspiration of Scripture something comforting; because of it, he does not doubt its truth. Further, he believes that because the Scripture is trustworthy, it allows for human persons to be perfected by God’s grace.
Of course, there are many more books in CCEL worth consulting. Here are a few more:
- Westminster Confession of Faith by Anonymous
- Canon of Old and New Testament Ascertained by Archibald Alexander
- Causes of the Corruption of the Traditional Text of the Holy Gospels by John Burgon
- Warranted Christian Belief by Alvin Plantinga
Written and compiled by Tim Perrine, CCEL Staff Writer