A Basis For Depending On Scripture (Seminary Papers)

MDiv, CITS, Sept 11, 2000

THOUGH there may be a way of depending on the Scripture (i.e., the Bible) without any adherence to or trust in its content (e.g. one may depend on the Bible for knowledge concerning what the early Christians believed and how they behaved, etc), dependence on Scripture, here, means dependence on the infallibility of and the reliability of Scriptural truth—and so to live life on the basis of what the Bible says concerning life. I contend, then, that the true basis of depending on the Scripture is the real fulfillment of the ultimate existential necessity of life in experience.

It is not what can be known by experience or reason that the Bible is depended for, but more for what it says concerning the unknown – concerning the Infinite, the origin and destiny of man and the cosmos, the significance of life, etc. The Bible, then, is a revelation – and this is generally accepted as a fact. Thus, the accounts of history and other writings are not mere accounts but a revelation of God’s working in history and in personal lives, His significance. But why believe the Biblical revelation rather than any other, seeing that the Hindus, the Sikhs, and the Moslems also claim their respective scriptures as being the true revelation? The answer has been given: the real fulfillment of the ultimate existential necessity of life in experience.

But doesn’t this seem to indicate that the basis is a mere subjective one and would very well justify the claims of a Hindu or a Sikh? The answer is that though the fulfillment is a subjective one, as it needs to be, it is not unreal and incongruous with the body of known truth. The nature of fulfillment doesn’t contradict reality. This is where reason comes into its role. Thus, though reason in itself is not the basis, it assists the basis. For since revelation deals with the unknown, there rises the possibility and the danger that anything can be said of the unknown. How then can it ever be known if the “revelation” is true or false?

Revelation is related to faith, and faith is relative (i.e., each one’s faith differs from the other; the proof that Thomas Didymus needed to believe in the resurrection might not have been necessary for the other disciples). I do not, however, endorse by this blind faith, which is almost always a result of traditional upbringing and narrowed thinking. And though faith is relative, it is inconvenient for one not to be able to give reasons for his faith. Thus, one might point to the historical accuracy of the Bible, another to its prophetical fulfillments, another to its scientific verity, and some other to the accuracy of its principles as applicable in life. The above are not the basis of depending, however. It often, and most often, happens that belief precedes the above kinds of proofs. And, furthermore, the above proofs deal mostly with physical and finite facts, whereas, the Bible is depended on for mainly its revelation of ultimate truth. Reason requires that where one is fallible and erroneous on natural truth, it or he is unreliable for knowledge concerning ultimate and transcendental[1] truth. The non-biblical revelatory sources fall short of this requirement of reliability in natural truth.

Reason and faith are distinct from each other; faith is irrational—thus, it would be a circular argument trying to prove by reason why one believes in reason. As said earlier, belief comes first, at least in most cases, and reason aids or strengthens it. Thus one may never be able to depend on the Bible, truthfully speaking, unless he first “knows” it (in the same manner that one can’t depend on another person without “knowing” him). And to “know” is a subjective experience. Also seeing that this experience wouldn’t be significant enough unless the experience and the revelation have something in common, it must also be said that the experience is a very significant and an existential one.

Furthermore, the fact of depending itself proves that there is a reason and a necessity for doing so, and that, an existential necessity. This existential necessity is the ultimate one in that it seeks an answer to the ultimate “why” of existence. The Bible provides an answer to this ultimate “why” of existence. And how does it do so? Of course, in the person of Jesus Christ. Thus, one may listen to a preaching, or to a testimony, or even have a direct revelation of Jesus Christ and be converted. He is told or comes to know that the Bible is the Guide of Truth for a Christian and believes it. Questions may arise later, but they wouldn’t shake him off very easily, since he is also continuing in knowing the Lord Jesus personally (to know Christ is to know the Bible). Thus would many a Christian say along with Sadhu Sundar Singh “I believe in the Gospels because of the Christ of the Gospels”. It is not that the Bible fulfills the ultimate existential necessity of life; but that because by coming to a “knowledge” (personal) of Christ, one’s ultimate existential necessity is fulfilled. This experience of real fulfillment is the basis for depending on the Scriptures, which Christ Himself believed to be the truth (Mt.22:29; Jn.5:39), and that speak of His revelation. And as one progresses in “knowing” the Scripture and through it Christ (the Christ of History is the Christ of faith and the Christ of experience) one intensifies in his dependence on the Scriptures. Christ gives meaning and vigour to his life (The ultimate “why” is existential and isn’t an attempt to know God’s mind, which is impossible).

In conclusion, seeing that the Scripture needs to be believed on for its answer to the ultimate “why” of existence, and this truth being transcendental is unverifiable in itself, unless there is some other alternative way to verify it, it becomes necessary that reason come into role here and decide whether the Bible is reliable in its logical form and statements of natural facts. But greater and more important than this objective verification is the subjective experience of fulfillment in Jesus Christ which is the basis for depending on the Scripture that reveals Him. If He isn’t living and active in my life, nothing which speaks of Him is reliable existentially.

[1] Cp. Ludwig Wittgenstein: “The sense of the world must lie outside the world…. What makes it non-accidental cannot lie within the world, since if it did it would itself be accidental. It must lie outside the world.” (Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, 6.41; reproduced by John Hick in Philosophy of Religion, 1970).

© Domenic Marbaniang, 2000

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