In my last post I presented evidence that the Bible claims that its words are God’s words. However it is another thing to show that the claim is true. In fact we can only know that the Bible is God’s words by the Holy Spirit’s assuring us that it is. This is suggested by 1 Corinthians 2:14, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (ESV).
However other arguments may be used to support the claim that the Bible is God’s words. The Westminster Confession refers to some of those arguments in the following paragraph but then concludes that we can only be fully persuaded that the Bible is God’s words by the Holy Spirit’s assuring us that it is.
“We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the Church to an high and reverent esteem of the Holy Scripture. And the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is, to give all the glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man’s salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it doth abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God: yet notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.” (chapter 1, paragraph 5).
If the above is correct, then we can’t prove that the Bible is God’s words by appealing to its logical consistency, historical accuracy, or other such quality because doing so would make what we appealed to a higher authority than the Bible. All that we can do is to accept its claim to be God’s words.
However to say the Bible proves itself to be God’s words seems to be a circular argument. We believe that it is God’s Word because it claims to be. And we believe its claim because it is God’s Word. And we believe that it is God’s Word because it claims to be. Etc.
Wayne Grudem considers this objection at length on pages 78-80 of his Systematic Theology (Zondervan, 1994), which my family and I are currently reading in our after breakfast Bible reading time. Although conceding that saying the Bible proves itself to be God’s words is a kind of circular argument, he claims that it isn’t a typical circular argument. He suggests that the qualities of the Bible that we appeal to, such as its logical consistency and historical accuracy, just serve to give us greater assurance that the Bible is the highest authority rather than serving as higher authorities.