(This article was originally written for my local newspaper.)
Have you ever heard the story of Admiral Cloudesley Shovell? Shovell was a famous admiral in the British Navy. He fought in many important battles in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, and he was a popular British hero. But he is infamous for a disaster that occurred in 1707.
The problem was that sailors at the time were unable to accurately measure longitude, the position of their ships. In a real sense, sailors in Shovell’s day did not know where they were or where they were going. They had no standard to determine their exact location and course.The way we view and react to the world around us sets the course of our lives. We all have a basis for our view of how things work, a set of assumptions we make about the world that enables us to make our way. If these assumptions are flawed, if we use the wrong standard to determine our course, our lives will end in disaster.
The words of the Bible are the only adequate standard to use while navigating life. The Bible’s truths are the only assumptions we can make that allow us to really think (See: The Defense of the Faith by Cornelius Van Til and The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Timothy Keller).
We have abundant evidence to prove that the Bible is God’s Word given to us. We have the testimony of the church that the books of the New Testament were written by eyewitnesses of the events they wrote about and that their message has been communicated to us through the centuries. (See: Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony by Richard Bauckham and The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? by F. F. Bruce)
Those eyewitness testimonies tell us about Jesus’ teaching that the Old Testament was true (Matthew 4:4, John 17:17) and His teaching that the New Testament would be true (John 14:25-30, 16:12-15). They also tell of Jesus’ many miracles, which testified to the truth of what He taught (John 10:38, 14:11).
We also have evidence that anyone can see who just gives the Bible a fair reading. The 66 books of the Bible, written over thousands of years by authors many miles apart, do not contradict each other. The truths given in the Bible are obvious to an intelligent person who is familiar with ‘the ways things work.’ The Bible’s words themselves are so majestic and powerful that they overcome resistance (Psalm 36:9, 119:105).
Above all, we have the testimony of God’s Holy Spirit that the Bible is true. He speaks to us in our hearts with the words of the Bible, and we are firmly and finally convinced of the truth of Scripture. God moves us in our hearts and minds. We are convinced that the Bible is the ultimate authority over us because God, the Ultimate King, gave it to us.
Everything we need to be saved from our sins and to live for God’s glory is clearly stated in the Bible or can be reasonably understood from those things stated in the Bible. We can understand the Bible because what we need to know is said in one part of the Scripture or another so clearly that even those of us who are not theologians or experts in biblical languages can understand.
The truths of the Bible ‘trump’ any opinions of the church. They overcome the opinions of ancient writers. They overwhelm the teachings of mere men. They ‘ride rough-shot’ over the intuitions and feelings men have in their hearts.
Since these things are true, how can we ignore the Bible? How can Bibles collect dust on the shelves in our homes? Why do we not pick up the book and read it?
This is hermeneutics (/hərməˈn(y)o͞otiks/), the science and practice of understanding what Scripture says. These are the practical rules used to understand the Bible, and we should look at them in detail so that we do not make mistakes. They are the guide to the life-guiding truths of the Bible.
(The author is indebted too Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't by Jim Collins for the story of Admiral Shovell. Parts of this article are paraphrases of parts of the First Chapter of The Westminster Confession of Faith.)