Authoritative Witness

Some suggest that the Bible is authoritative by virtue of its “supernatural origin” and think of God’s involvement as one of “dictating to human secretaries.” An alternative and more helpful perspective is that God inspired human writers to discern the divine intent and presence in the passing of ancient stories and in the reporting and interpreting of observed events. Likewise, we, by way of the Holy Spirit, practice our own discernment as we read the scriptures seeking inspiration. Accepting the Scriptures as unique and authoritative means acknowledging this twofold understanding of biblical inspiration: that God’s Spirit (1) guided the ancient writers and (2) continues to guide contemporary readers.[1]


For some, thinking of scriptures as authoritative conjures experiences of the Bible used to coerce and judge. But the Bible is, above all, an authoritative witness to the amazing grace and liberating love of God exemplified in Jesus Christ. Indeed, the church has had a long tradition of interpreting scripture according to the “rule of faith” and the “rule of love.” The former holds that the witness of scripture must be consistent with the basic teaching of the church through history; the latter insists that the interpretation of scripture must never conflict with the commandments to love God and neighbor.[2]

[1] Migliore, Daniel L. Faith Seeking Understanding. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1991, 44–63.

[2] Presbyterian Understanding and Use of Holy Scripture, 123rd General Assembly (1983) of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (1983).