If God has given us the Scriptures to be the canon or rule for our lives, it follows that we must regard them as the supreme authority for our lives. Paul tells us that they are ‘breathed out’ by God. There can be no more authoritative word than one that comes to us on divine breath.
The Scriptures are also a sufficient authority for the whole of the Christian life. They are ‘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).
The Scriptures do not tell us everything about everything. They provide no instruction about computer programming, or how best to organize a library, the correct way to swing a golf club, or how to play chess. They do not tell us how far away the sun is from the earth, what DNA is, how best to remove an appendix surgically, the best coffee to drink, or the name of the person we should marry.
That is not an expression of any deficiency on their part. For there is a focus and a goal to the sufficiency of the Scriptures. Everything I need to learn in order to live to the glory of God and enjoy him forever I will find in the application of Scripture.
Yet this narrow focus broadens out into everything. For one thing, Scripture teaches us something about everything. Since the Bible gives us grounds for believing we live in a universe, Christians understand that everything has the characteristic of createdness, of derivativeness, and also that everything fits into the grand design of God.
So Scripture is sufficient to give me a rational ground for thinking about anything and everything on the assumption that this world and everything in it make sense. Further, no matter what my calling or abilities, the Scriptures are sufficient to teach me principles that will enable me to think and act in a God-honoring way when I am engaged in any activity or vocation.
In this context it is appropriate for us to ask an important and much debated question: If Scripture is our final authority, exactly how reliable is it as the authority on which we should base the whole of our lives?
If, convinced that the Bible is the word of God, we ask that question from a theological point of view there seems to be only one reasonable answer: Scripture is completely reliable. For the God who has ‘breathed out’ Scripture is trustworthy in everything he does and says. He is the God who cannot lie (Titus 1:2; Heb. 6:18; cf. Num. 23:19); he speaks the truth in everything he says (Prov. 30:5). The notion that he would be untruthful and err is contradictory to everything Scripture tells us about him.
However, Scripture also tells us that the word of God comes through the minds and mouths of men. Does this not mean that it will inevitably contain some mistakes? After all, ‘To err is human.’ If so, to use an old illustration, is it not more appropriate to think of the Bible as though it were a slightly scratched gramophone record? Or, in more contemporary terms, is the Bible not like a digitized version of an old recording— despite deficiencies, the music can still be heard, and if we listen with care we can make out the words quite well.