The Authority of the Scriptures: A Response

Submitted March 2016

One of the best ways to learn how arguments are constructed is to study how other people construct their arguments. This is especially true if the argument is close to our position but differs in key fundamentals. Watch this YouTube clip and use the following questions to respond: What was his argument? Was his argument logically valid? Why or why not? What were his underlying assumptions?

The argument set forth by the man in the video clip appears to be that the Bible is not the final authority, due to being written down, translated and interpreted by fallible men, but that rather the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ (as he says, the Spirit of Christ) are the ultimate authority. He claims that “true followers of Jesus” do not subscribe to the Bible as any sort of authority, nor belong to any church, but associate only with Jesus Christ, led by the Holy Spirit.

I encountered several places where the man’s argument against the authority of the Scriptures was not logically valid.

In the first point, the man claims that while the Scriptures were inspired by the Holy Spirit, they were written by fallible men and were therefore fallible. While this does display an ignorance of the meaning of the word “scripture” (from Latin “scribere”, to write; thus a “scripture” must by definition be written), it also indicates a limited view of God. Why should God be powerful enough to inspire the thoughts of men, but not powerful enough to enable them to write those thoughts down infallibly? The wording of his argument also leaves the impression that some (if not most) of what God through the Holy Spirit inspired did not make it into the Bible.

In the second point, the man claims that if the Scriptures had truly been inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit through the writing and translation process, there would be only one single “version”. This is logically unsound because it assumes that the same compulsion of man to translate writing from the original language into that person’s first language would somehow not exist, should the Holy Spirit guide the writing of the Scriptures. This is tantamount to KJV Onlyist claims that this translation is “inspired” – everyone should read the Scriptures in English. While I concede that intent of the authors of the Bible can be best understood in its original languages, the Bible itself also says – and the man quotes at the end – that every tongue should confess Jesus Christ. To enforce the reading of Scripture and worship of God in only one language is not only anti-Biblical but smacks of Islam.

In a third point, the man also makes the claim that the fallible men who translated the Bible from the original languages were guided not by inspiration by the Spirit but by various other motives. This is a logically invalid argument because its underlying assumption falls outside the man’s referential experience. How can he know what motivated these men to translate the Bible?

My final (although by no means exhaustive) objection to this man’s argument is that the leading of the Holy Spirit (or the “Spirit of Christ”) is the final authority. My first objection is that this makes the ultimate authority internal, rather than external, and therefore unverifiable and also variable. My second objection follows from this; by what means can one know that any internal leading is indeed by the Holy Spirit? Is it not possible that that Satan could just as easily simulate an internal prompting by the Spirit? How is it possible to know that any leading by the Spirit is genuine and any sort of authority at all?

I do not disagree that Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the vital but for some reason unmentioned God the Father, are the final authority on Christian life and doctrine; nor do I disagree that copying and translating of the Scriptures was and is carried out by fallible humans. However, I do not accept any logic to his argument that any perceived internal prompting by the Spirit can be taken as more of an authority on the will of God than the Bible, which has been faithfully transmitted to us.

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