Dr. Josh Mulvihill
A factory worker had the responsibility of blowing the whistle every day precisely at noon. To be sure of the correct time, he set his watch by a clock on the wall of a local jewelry store. After doing this for some time, it occurred to him that the jewelry store owner had to have some standard by which he could set his clock. Thus, one day when he was in the store, he asked the owner, “How do you know the time to set your clock?” The jewelry store owner replied, “Well, you see, on the other side of town there is a factory, and every day precisely at noon they blow a whistle.”
This story is a humorous reminder that each of us chooses an authority that operates as the standard we use to make decisions and determine what we believe is right. The authority we choose defines morality, determines life purpose, and helps us understand the world. For Christians, our standard of authority is to be God’s Word, but increasingly, Christians are developing a low view of the Bible and look to other sources for guidance.
A Low View of Scripture
A low view of Scripture often leads to a rejection of the Bible’s authority, in part or total. Here are five indicators of a low view of Scripture:
The Bible is believed to contain errors, which opens the door to reject key doctrines or even Jesus Christ.
The Words of Jesus are elevated at the expense of the whole counsel of the Bible, and the moral teachings of the Old Testament or theological arguments of Paul are not accepted.
The Bible is treated as outdated or irrelevant and not applicable to some areas of life in the twenty-first century. The Bible is reinterpreted to align with modern scholarship or altered to match popular social views.
The Bible is believed to be insufficient for life and is treated as a seasoning, not the main course for teaching, preaching, or curriculum. The revealed truth and wisdom of God’s Word are replaced by science, psychology, or pragmatism.
Supernatural portions of Scripture, such as miracles, virgin birth, deity, atonement, or resurrection, are doubted or rejected.
Defining Authority of Scripture
The Bible is authoritative over our belief and conduct and accurate in all that it says. We submit to the authority of the Bible when we believe in God’s words and promises, obey God’s laws, and apply God’s truth to life. What is in Scripture is authoritative for all of life and sufficient for discipleship. All other sources of wisdom, such as science and psychology, if interpreted according to the Bible, may be helpful. When the authority of the Bible is compromised, it can result in Christians who form ideas that are not rooted in Scripture yet believe their thinking is biblical.
OUR VIEW OF BIBLICAL AUTHORITY IS BASED ON ANSWERS TO THREE QUESTIONS ABOUT THE BIBLE:
1. IS IT TRUE?
In every generation, there are new and creative attacks on the Bible. The world is trying to discredit the reliability and destroy the validity of the Bible, but that is nothing new. The first battle over the Word of God occurred in the Garden of Eden when Satan questioned God’s authority: “Did God really say?” (Gen 3:1). Satan still uses the same tactic today. Did God really say that marriage is between one man and one woman? Did God really say that He created males and females different? Did God really say that He created the world in six days? Did God really say that we are born sinful? Did God really say that Jesus rose from the dead?
The most important aspect of biblical worldview formation is what you believe about the Bible and how the Bible shapes your living. It is the foundation for all biblical worldview development. That means it is not enough to know what is in the Bible; we need to develop robust confidence about the Bible. What we believe about the Bible determines how we interpret what is in the Bible. We must have an exalted view of God’s Word.
Ultimately, we must decide if we believe the claims and content of the Bible or if we believe it is inaccurate or in error in any way. We can have unwavering confidence that the Bible is true, trustworthy, and without error. It is not blind faith. Trust is based on robust evidence such as the transformation of lives, the unity of message throughout the entire Bible, the Bible’s indestructibility throughout history, archaeology that authenticates its accuracy, fulfilled prophecy, and thousands of ancient manuscripts that prove the Bible is accurate and unchanged.
Resolve to believe whatever you find in the Bible, whether you like it or not. Beware of the danger of receiving some of what the Bible teaches and rejecting parts. Settle in your mind that you will receive all, believe all, and what you cannot understand you will take on trust.
2. WILL I FOLLOW?
We have a generation who wants to be in authority but does not want to come under authority. Our culture views submission as a dirty word, while personal autonomy and radical individualism are highly valued. We have scores of people who have not been taught to come under the authority of another person (parent, employer), and as a result, they have not learned to come under the authority of God and His Word.
Learning to follow God’s commands is at the heart of Christianity. Jesus defined discipleship in two words when He said, “Follow me.” Jesus clarified that followership includes learning to obey all that He has commanded. If the Bible is our authority, then we seek to follow its teachings and obey God’s laws. If there is habitual, unrepentant sin in our life, then we know that we have an authority problem.
There are two applications to consider. First, we must encourage and admonish children to follow God’s commands in the Bible. In Psalm 78:5-8, God commands parents and grandparents to teach the next generation to obey His law: “He commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments, and that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation.”
Second, do you obey God’s commands in the Bible? God calls us to complete surrender and obedience to Him. Are you serious about holiness? Or do you justify some sins as okay? Will you follow God’s commands in all areas of life? This applies to moral areas as well as God’s design for marriage, manhood, womanhood, and other critical social topics.
3. DOES IT APPLY?
Far too many Christians believe the Bible is applicable for salvation and devotional life but not for the rest of life. In theological studies, this is known as the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture and centers on how we apply the Bible to life.
Many Christians operate as if something more than the Bible is needed to navigate life or make decisions in today’s world. Christians often affirm the authority of the Bible yet repudiate it when they look to other sources for guidance.
In a study of 2,000 parents, LifeWay found that only 14% of Christian parents are familiar with what the Bible says about parenting and believe it is useful as a tool.1 According to the study, Christians look to the following sources for parenting advice: their own experience (91%), their parents (65%), their friends (62%), their spouse (58%), the Bible (46%), and the church (43%). The church and the Bible rank lowest on the list. Parents largely depend on their experience or the experience of others for parenting advice.
2 Timothy 3:15-17
One of the most helpful passages on the sufficiency of Scripture from the New Testament is 2 Timothy 3:15-17. Paul reminds Timothy that Scripture is able to lead a person to salvation in Christ, grow them into Christ-like maturity, guard against false teaching, and provide direction for life decisions. Paul states, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17).
Paul says the Bible is profitable, or useful, for four purposes:
Teaching. The Bible is given for instruction about what is true and false and what is right and wrong. According to the Bible, teaching is not concerned with facts to be learned but truth to be lived. God gave us the Bible to educate a child in truth.
Convicting (reproof). The Bible exposes sin, generates conviction, and makes people aware of what God requires. God has given us the Bible to convince children they have broken God’s law and apart from Christ stand condemned. Our primary objective as parents and educators is to nurture a child’s conformity to the character of Christ, which requires conviction that the child is not Christ-like in certain areas of life. God gave you the Bible to be the prosecuting attorney.
Correcting. The Bible has the power to correct. It literally means to straighten up what is wrong and reform. We are to use the Bible to treat spiritual diseases. God has given us, in the Bible, all the tools to address attitudes, actions, thoughts, and motives that do not align with the character of Christ. The Bible is given to you as the means to bring about repentance, confession, and forgiveness. God gave you the Bible to act as the physician (through Christ) to bring healing, health, and hope.
Training in righteousness. The Bible is given for character training of children. We are to use the Bible, similar to the father in Proverbs, to train a child in moral skillfulness. Children need to be taught to apply God’s Word to life. The Bible is given to help children make good and godly decisions and live in a manner that is pleasing to God. The Bible is useful to train a child or grandchild to live righteously. Children are inclined to develop sinful habits, and the Bible helps us train children to think, act, and live biblically. God gave you the Bible to be the coach and counselor for children.
We must recover a robust authority of Scripture. As the foundation of all we do, the Word of God will do more to spread the gospel, save marriages, raise the next generation to lifelong faith, grow organizations, and change the world for Christ than anything else.
Dr. Josh Mulvihill is the Executive Director of Church and Family Ministry at Renewanation. He served as a pastor for nearly 20 years, serves on the board of Awana, and helps to provide leadership to the Christian Grandparent Network. He holds a Ph.D. from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of Biblical Grandparenting, Preparing Children for Marriage, and Biblical Worldview. Josh is married to Jen, and they have five children. Connect with Josh on Facebook at Gospel Shaped Family.
ENDNOTES 1. Jana Magruder, Nothing Less: Engaging Kids in a Lifetime of Faith (Nashville: LifeWay Christian Resources, 2017), 22-24.