A fundamental of the genuine Christian faith have always been a defense of Scriptural authority. This concept can involve more than one idea, let me just throw out some key ideas. First, the saying sola Scriptura, the concept of Scripture alone, referring to the exclusive nature of the Bible’s authority. Second, the concept of the canon of Scripture, referring to the 66 books regarded to be a part of the Bible. Third, is the divine inspiration of human authors so that their word is identified as truly God’s words (see my recent post 1 Thessalonians 2:13: A Study on the Doctrine of Word of God). Now, in the time in which we live it is absolutely necessary to be able to defend this Scriptural authority. As one seeks to do so, one is struck with the tension of two things. The first concern is the avoidance of arguing in circle or by begging the question (see Jason Lisle, “How Do We Know that the Bible is True?”). The second concern is the avoidance of establishing a standard by which to judge the Bible that in reality becomes the authority. I think this has been an underlying struggle as I’ve sought to study the defense of the faith.
I just started reading a book titled Canon Revisited, by Michael J. Kruger, in which the author discusses the means of which to identity he true NT canon, which books should be in the New Testament. I am only in the second first chapter, but somethings are already being seen in a new light for me. The word he uses to describe his means of how to identify which books are in the canon is self-authentication. Now, I don’t think this is particularly unique, as I think it is essentially in the line of thinking in which one must note that the Bible is and must be its own ultimate proof (see Mike Matthews, Can We Prove the Bible is True?).
Yet, the word “self-authenticate” is much more clearer to me in this issue. The idea of “authenticate” suggests that there Is a reason that it is held to be true, and thus we understand that there is still a reason for believing it. This also keeps the door open for evidences to be presented as support for our faith, even if it is recognized that evidences need to be properly interpreted. (c.f. Ronald B. Mayers in Balanced Apologetics. This is an often repeated idea in his book)
I will see as I read Kruger’s book on the canon my conception of the word self-authenticate is same as his and I will see if his approach holds up to scrutiny. A major concern I have is that he comes from a strong Calvinistic background, and may be too quick to bring up either the Holy Spirit’s internal testimony or the effects of sin on our minds. Nevertheless, I think a light has dawned in my mind on this concept. Furthermore, a concept which I need to compare to this is what Norman Geisler concludes as his tests for truth in his classic work Christian Apologetics. The two tests he offers at the end of his evaluation of competing worldviews is (1) The test for truthfulness is undeniability, and (2) the test for falsity is unaffirmability. Geisler is surely no presuppositionalist, but I need to compare his tests with the idea of self-authentication as Kruger develops it. Hopefully I can see the differences clearly (or similarities if they are indeed there).
In conclusion, the concept of a self-authenticating Bible has everything to do with how we witness to all kinds of unbelievers. If we have a self-authenticating Bible, then we have a foundation on which to appeal a change of worldview without arbitrariness. In this post-modern time, I think we must avoid arguments that reduce to “You should believe this because it will meet your needs.” or “You should believe this because I know it is true myself and you can trust me.” All our truth assertions must be based on truth/reality claims backed up by sound reasons. (see Lisle’s article sections “A Subjective Standard” and “By Faith”). The concept of a self-authenticating Bible consisting of 66 books inspired by God may yet be a key concept in that pursuit.
See also: Sola Scriptura – The Word alone!