Thinking About...Starting Points

Recently with a group friends I have been reading through the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF). The WCF is an old document; it was composed in 1640s by a group of pastors and Bible scholars from England. It summarizes the theology of the Presbyterian Church. The WCF starts with a chapter on the Bible. I’ve been thinking about what it means that the WCF chooses the Bible as its starting point.

Rule of Faith and Life

The Westminster Confession of Faith describes the Bible as “the rule of faith and life” (WCF 1:2). In other words, the Bible describes what we are to believe and how we are to live. This commitment of the WCF to build both doctrine and lifestyle on the Bible flows from Jesus’ own witness to the Scripture. Jesus cited the sacred Jewish Scriptures as his authority. He taught and lived with the firm conviction that they represented God’s truth.

Donald Macleod a Scottish pastor and theologian commenting on John 10:35*, puts it this way: “The Bible, in the judgment of Jesus, has the authority of law: absolute and infallible authority. It can’t be wrong. It can’t be false. It can’t mislead. It can’t deceive. It can’t be violated. That is the Lord’s own testimony.”**

The Bible as Starting Point

Jesus’ example and the history of the early church guides us to base our understanding of what we believe and how we live on the Bible. The Bible should be our starting point. It has become far more vogue to base our faith and life on other, less sturdy foundations: conventional wisdom, passing fad, fleeting feeling. It’s uncomfortable to give ultimate authority to the Bible rather than ourselves. But if the Bible is very breath of God***, filled with his authority, then it must be our starting point.

Of course, acknowledging the Bible as the rule of faith and life doesn’t mean that the Bible’s direction is always obvious. Life’s complex and variegated questions demand careful study and reflection. Thoughtful Christians must bring the full weight of their intellectual and critical resources to bear in the ongoing effort to understand exactly how the Bible is the rule of faith and life. However, the Bible possesses a unique authority for life and practice. It must be our starting point, just as it was for the Westminster Assembly in 1646.

*"If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken..." (John 10:35) **A Faith to Live By, 2002, p. 13-14 ***"[15] And how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. [16] All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, [17] that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:15-17)