The Bible: So What?—Authority

Who do you turn to for information, and who can you really trust? The internet may be useful for discovering trivia or learnings facts about the material world, but increasingly people are feeling drowned by information yet starved of wisdom. They may thus be uncertain where to turn when it comes to answering the questions that really matter - questions about the meaning and purpose of our lives. Think of a question like 'What are people for?' A really great question, but one that's difficult to answer if all we have to go on are the philosophies and politics of men. The Bible contains an authoritative approach to these big questions of life, one that can be relied upon and trusted amongst the uncertain seas of human speculation. A good, reliable answer to these big questions is a great foundation on which to build one's life.

The average daily newspaper contains more information than a person in the 17th century would have come across in their entire lifetime. As a society, we are absolutely drowning in data. The internet has revolutionized both the amount of information we can access on a daily basis, and the way we access it.

But though there may be a lot of information, it hasn’t necessarily solved many of our problems – in fact, it may even have created more! There is so much information out there, and so many different opinions of so-called experts that many of us feel overwhelmed.

Conflicting Information

Take four simple questions:

  • Is red wine good for you?
  • Are food additives safe to eat?
  • If you are going to diet, what kind of diet should you select?
  • What are the long term negative effects of the contraceptive pill?

They’re not unimportant questions, but even the experts don’t agree how to answer them! There is too much conflicting information, and it is very hard to know who to believe. In a recent think-tank survey, 79% of people felt that they ‘can’t believe scientists on food and health issues – there is so much conflicting information’. Well if that’s true on these kinds of matters (on which we do have scientific data), how much more is it true for our ‘big questions’ about God, life, and the future of the world?

A computer can tell me how many bones there are in the human body in a fraction of a second, but if I ask it some of the bigger and deeper questions of lite (‘Why am I here? What’s the meaning of life? What does God want from me? How should I bring up my children?) then it is much less useful. We’re back to the question of authority. There might be a lot of websites dedicated to each of these subjects, but knowing which one to trust is another matter. It’s critical to find not just answers, but the right answers.

What we need is a benchmark, a reference point, an authority outside ourselves. But is there one available?

One Source

This is where the Bible comes in. This is why the Bible is so powerful. It is the source of authority about the really important questions. It is the benchmark, the reference point. It’s not down to my opinion, your opinion or someone else’s opinion why we are here, where the world is headed, or how we ought to live, because God has revealed these things in the Bible. People sometimes claim to have messages directly from God or that things are revealed to them by the Holy Spirit – but when these people don’t agree it casts a big question mark over the credibility of those claims. The Bible is itself an authority that we can turn to and look at independently in order to answer the big questions of life. This is a massive ‘So What’ about the Bible.

In discussing all this, what we are dealing with is essentially the question of authority. Who are we going to listen to and trust? What right or authority have you or I, or any other human being – no matter how well educated, sophisticated or cultured – to say what the world is all about when even the most well-informed person is drowned by their own ignorance! There is simply too much that we don’t know. I may be an expert in one field, but what do I know about the next? I may be very intelligent, but have no idea how to run my personal life. What credibility can I have, over against some other man or woman, to assert that I am right and they wrong? We are just trading opinions, and I don’t want to base my life on the opinions of fatally flawed human beings if I don’t have to. If I can turn to the Bible as God’s word to find truth then I have something infinitely precious.

Disagreements about the Bible

But don’t people have different interpretations of the Bible?

Absolutely right. It is perfectly true that there are many people who claim to base their faith entirely upon the Bible and yet have very different interpretations of what it is saying. But the point is that you can test for yourself what someone says against the Bible! You can read the Bible for yourself and come to a view. You can’t do that if two people are standing in front of you claiming to have had visions from God, yet are contradicting each other – and you didn’t see either vision! They may both be wrong.

There is a difference between two people having a discussion about what the Bible teaches or what some Bible passage might mean and, quite independently of the Bible, having a discussion about what we think God is like. The latter is pure speculation, your opinion versus mine. Unless God is going to talk to both of us directly so that we can hear Him, it is just two human beings having a chat, trading views. Interesting, but without any real assurance that we shall get at truth, or know that we have reached it if we do. If we discuss the Bible, however, even if we have different interpretations, there is a common frame of reference to guide the discussion. Other people can listen to our discussion, and test our views and conclusions against what they find in the Bible. The debate is on an all together different level. We have an outside authority to consider.

One simple test you can do is to see how much someone who talks to you about the Bible actually reads it. Not how well they know a few favourite verses or how they can flip through a well-worn path of references picked out of context. But how familiar with the Bible they are, how much they read it as a whole, for pure pleasure, and to get to know God better. The authors of this site belong to the Christadelphian community, and while this site is about the Bible not a particular community or its doctrines, it’s worth pointing out that reading the Bible regularly (every day) and discussing it together is one of the hallmarks of their faith and practise.

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