SEAN: What does “Biblical authority” mean?
JOSH: Biblical authority means having the Bible as the source for your worldview. It means trusting God to provide the answers to the big questions in life, such as where right and wrong comes from. In reality, the Bible is not really the source of morality itself. Nothing is right and wrong just because the Bible says it. For instance, lying is not wrong because the Bible says, “Thou shall not lie.” Rather, the Bible says we should not lie because God is truth (John 14:6). The character of God is the foundation of right from wrong, and this is revealed through the Scriptures. Consider another example: killing is not wrong just because the Bible says it. Rather, the Bibles says, “Thou shall not kill,” because God is life in his very character and we are made in His image.
SEAN: How important is biblical authority to most Christians today?
JOSH: On a scale of 1-10, probably 2 or 3. Last night I was thinking about how I tried to raise you kids to base your lives upon God’s character and revelation in Scripture, which is difficult in our culture so focused on individualism. Most people prioritize their feelings today rather than biblical truth. Even in the church, we’ve allowed a new definition of tolerance—where you’re never supposed to question somebody’s beliefs, values, lifestyle or truth claims—to relegated the Bible to second place. Many Christians do turn to the Word of God as authority, but many end up walking away from its authority because they cannot defend its reliability.
SEAN: Why do you personally believe the Bible is authoritative?
JOSH: For two key reasons: First, intellectually. I have been intellectually convinced, and I believe the Holy Spirit has a lot to do with it, that the Bible is reliable and accurate. I believe the Bible is an accurate record of God relating to mankind. Second, experientially. The Bible has changed my life. As a young boy, I was homosexually raped for seven years, from ages 6-13, which included being forced to look at homosexual pornography. When I became a Christian, a local pastor mentored me for six months from the Scriptures. I could personally see my own life being transformed including my attitudes, feelings, emotions, and behavior. This gave me tremendous confidence that the Bible is both true and relevant to my life.
SEAN: How can we get young people to grasp biblical authority when there are so many counter messages coming from the culture?
JOSH: First, we need to model it. If students don’t see us living the truth of Scripture, they will probably walk away from their faith. They need to see Scripture lived out in our lives. Second, they need to hear it from our lips in a way that they can understand intellectually. Kids are exposed to so many challenges undermining the authority of Scripture on the Internet. Years ago, challenges from Islam and Hinduism were largely experienced in other lands. But now with smart phones, these challenges are just one click away. So, we need to both model and teach biblical authority to our kids.
Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 18 books, an internationally recognized speaker, and a part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.