Category Archives: Fundamental Convictions

A Statement Regarding the Authority of Christian Scripture

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What do I believe with respect to the authority of Christian Scripture?

Well, here are my basic convictions:

  • I believe that the Christian faith is necessarily, intimately, and indelibly rooted in the God-authorized, God-breathed testimony of the prophetic tradition of the people of Israel and the apostolic witness of Jesus, the Messiah, as their testimonies have been preserved in the 66 canonical books of the Christian Bible.
  • Furthermore, it is my conviction that all that can be known about the one, true God with certainty is to be discovered only through this testimony (e.g., God’s nature, intention, will, activity in history, purpose, etc.).
  • Consequently, I believe that the contention of the writers and, where appropriate, editors of Scripture is infallible and inerrant with respect to their intention.

Now, permit me to delineate some implications…

The 66 canonical books of the Christian Bible are as follows: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, The Book of the Twelve (Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi), Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, 1 & 2 Peter, 1, 2, & 3 John, Jude, and Revelation.

I resist the idea that the contemporary authority of Scripture lies not in God, nor in the ordained authors, but primarily in the text itself, and therefore believe that though textual criticism is a necessary and useful discipline for Christian study, the authority of Christian Scripture does not depend fundamentally on such investigations.

I do believe that the testimony of the prophets and apostles as it has been preserved in the Christian Bible is rooted in events that must be presumed to be historical and provides a God-breathed, God-authorized (and for that reason, infallible and inerrant) theological interpretation of divinely selected segments and epochs of history as well as the God-revealed trajectory of human history.

Of foundational importance to me is the insistence that the authority of the Scriptural text is not an authority to be found in the grammar and vocabulary of the text itself nor is it to be found in the receiving and reading community.

Rather it is to be found in the authority that God entrusted to the prophets and apostles as they were elected, authorized, and inspired by God both to testify to specific historical events and to provide theological interpretations of those events for those who would accept their testimony and put their faith in YHWH (The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God who delivered the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt, the God who became flesh in the person of Jesus, the Messiah).  The authority of the Biblical text derives from its faithfulness to the testimony and teachings of the elect of Israel–i.e., the true prophets and apostles of YHWH.

Scripture's authority derives from its faithfulness to the testimony of the elect of Israel. Click To Tweet

I believe that though the early Christian community was tasked with recognizing the faithfulness of these writings to the testimony and teaching of the prophets and apostles, the community itself did not have the authority or responsibility to author or to authorize these texts.

I believe that the foundational conviction of Christian faith is a trust in the prophetic and apostolic witness to the Word of God delivered to them and entrusted through them to the Church by the Holy Spirit.  However, the interpretation of Scripture and the attempt to discern the intention of the authors and, where appropriate, editors of Scripture necessarily are subjective endeavors.

For this reason, I believe that theological disagreements are healthy and necessary components of Christian community.  What we must agree on, in my view, is not always the theological conclusions we draw, but the conviction that our task, in the Holy Spirit and in Christian community, is to understand and to apply the message intended by the authors and editors as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Our task is to understand and to apply the message intended by Scripture's authors and editors. Click To Tweet

I recognize that reading and interpreting the First Testament may require a different set of presuppositions than reading and interpreting the apostolic witness of the New Testament.  There certainly will be debate over the nature and extent of those differences.

However, pertinent to this statement of faith is the awareness that First Testament prophecy sometimes predicted future events that, contextually, appear to have been outside of the original intent of the prophets themselves.  This does indicate the possibility of the Holy Spirit utilizing the Scriptural text to say more than the authors and/or editors themselves intended to say.

With that said, I believe that, canonically, this expectation seems unique to prophetic and/or apocalyptic passages.

J. Thomas Johnson – updated 11/02/2016

A Statement of Doctrinal Confessions

Nicean Creed

What are our doctrinal convictions?

Let us begin by confessing that our beliefs are indebted greatly to the following:

With that said, here’s what we believe (presently)…

Christian Scripture

To see J. Thomas’s extensive comments on Scripture’s authority in the Church, go here.

God

We believe in one God, YHWH, creator of all things, holy, infinite, and eternally existing in a loving unity of three equally divine Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The Human Condition

We believe that God created Adam and Eve in the image of God, but, through a choice graced to them by God, they rebelled against God.  In union with that decision, human beings are sinners by nature and by choice, alienated from God, and under the curse of sin.  Only through God’s saving work in Jesus, the Messiah, can humanity be delivered from the corruption and penalty of sin.

Jesus, the Messiah

We believe that Jesus Christ is God incarnate, fully God and fully human, one Person in two natures.  Jesus–Israel’s promised Messiah–was conceived through the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary.  He lived a faultless life of obedience and submission to God, was crucified under Pontius Pilate, arose bodily from the dead, ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father as our High Priest and Advocate.

The Work of Jesus

As the mediator of a new covenant between humanity and God, we believe that Jesus, our Savior, was born, lived, died, and rose from the dead both for our deliverance from the corruption and penalty of sin and for our reconciliation with God.  Jesus’ birth, life, atoning death and resurrection from the dead together constitute the only ground for human salvation.

The Work of the Holy Spirit Today

We believe that the Holy Spirit, in all that the Spirit does, glorifies the Lord Jesus, the Messiah.  The Spirit convicts the world of guilt, regenerates sinners, and in the Spirit those formerly at enmity with God are baptized into union with Jesus and adopted as heirs into the family of God.  The Spirit also indwells, instructs, guides, equips, and empowers believers for Christ-like living and service.

Sanctification & Christian Living

We believe that God’s justifying grace cannot be separated from God’s sanctifying power and purpose.  We believe that God’s intention is to transform rebellious, self-centered, and self-reliant sinners into truly human beings–creatures who embody the image of God as revealed to us in the teachings, ministry, and life of Jesus, the Messiah.

Because, through the indwelling Holy Spirit, God has begun this work of transformation in all who believe, God commands us to love God supremely and others sacrificially, and to live out our faith with care for one another, compassion toward the poor, and justice for the oppressed.

With God’s Word, the Spirit’s power, and fervent prayer in Jesus’ name, we are to partner with God in the combating and the overcoming of the spiritual forces of evil at work within us, within others, and within societies.  In obedience to Jesus’ commission, we are to make disciples among all people, always bearing witness to the gospel in word and deed.

Though the sanctifying work of the Spirit in believers does not appear to render Christians incapable of sinning in a technical sense (on this side of the final judgment), we do believe that, through the Spirit’s presence and power together with our cooperation with the Spirit’s work, a person can be graced a life in which s/he is free from the domination of sin over the human will–that is, intentional, rebellious transgressions against the known will of God.  We believe that this freedom is in no way permanent and is dependent continually upon the Christian’s ongoing connection with Jesus by the Holy Spirit, through faith.

The Messiah’s Return

We believe in the personal, bodily return of our Lord Jesus, the Messiah.  The coming of Jesus, at a time known only to God, demands constant expectancy and, as our blessed hope, motivates the believer to godly living, sacrificial service, and energetic mission as communicated to us through the Holy Spirit by means of the testimony of the prophets and apostles as preserved in the Christian Bible.

Response and Eternal Destiny

We believe that God commands everyone everywhere to believe the gospel by turning to God in repentance and embracing the Lord Jesus, the Messiah, through a profession of loyalty to him as our rightful and sole Lord and a lifestyle of faithful intention to live in step with His teachings and example.

We believe that God will raise the dead bodily and judge the world, assigning those without faith to condemnation and the faithing to eternal life with God in the new heaven and the new earth, to the praise of His glorious grace.  Amen.