The Self-Attestation of Scripture (Greg Bahnsen)

This is a loose transcript that I made of a portion of Greg L. Bahnsen’s “Seminary Course in Apologetics: Antithesis and Self-Attestation of Scripture” lecture.

The Self-Attestation of Scripture deals with what the Scripture says about itself. Scripture’s Self-Attestation is important because without it, we wouldn’t have an argument for Biblical Authority. We wouldn’t be able to claim the Bible is the inspired Word of God, if the Bible didn’t itself say that.

What if we all got together and said, “The Bhagavad Gita is the Word of God”. Would that make it the Word of God? What if we all got together and studied the Bible and declared it to be the Word of God? If the Bible does not claim to be God’s Word, all the extra-biblical arguments cannot justify that conclusion. So the Self-Attestation of Scripture is important for what we can conclude about the Bible itself. Like all of the other doctrines of the Christian faith, the doctrine of the Authority of the Bible must be proven by the Bible. And so you see now that we are automatically “trapped” in circular reasoning aren’t we? “Why do you believe the Bible to be the Word of God?” That’s what the unbeliever wants to know. As a theologian, the answer is cannot be evaded, “I believe it because the Bible says so.”

The unbeliever will say, “That’s circular reasoning!” But let’s back up a step. If the Bible didn’t claim to be the Word of God and we didn’t believe it on the basis of the Bible itself, what would be the basis for believing it? Consensus? No. Only God can define His own Word. When an unbeliever rejects our answer that the Bible speaks for itself, you know what he is really saying? What he is really saying is, “I won’t let the Bible be the final authoritative Word of God. I have precluded that possibility. How has he precluded it? Here is the horns of the dilemma: you can prove the ultimate authority of the Bible from either something outside of the Bible or from the Bible itself. The unbeliever already claimed that he won’t accept it on the basis of the Bible itself, because that’s circular reasoning. But we also see that nothing outside of the Bible can make it the Word of God, because there is no authority that is divine in its stature outside of God Himself. So when you look at both options, they both reach the same conclusion for the unbeliever-there is no authoritative god in history.

Whenever a claim to authority is made, that claim will be evaluated in light of evidence. But the difference between one who submits to the ultimate authority of what God has says and those who do not is whether you look at the evidence in light of what God has said or not. We’re not saying that all we have is an empty verbal statement, “I am the final authority”. God also expresses His final authority in a message and we will interpret the message with the evidence that goes along with it. But if we interpret the details apart from God’s authority and His interpretation, we will not come to the conclusion that He is the final authority. If we do interpret the evidence in light of His final authority then we will arrive at the conclusion that He has final authority. So everybody reasons from evidence, but everybody approaches the evidences in light of their ultimate presupposition.


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