Christianity - Sources of Wisdom and Authority


The Bible

The Authority of the Bible is important to Christians.

The Old Testament and New Testament

The Church, however, has influenced which texts can appear in the Bible, so is the Bible giving the true meaning God wanted.

The Different views of Christianity.

  • God gave the writers the words to write - but what God said was perfect, but today the Bible isn't perfect as it has been influenced by human interpretation.
  • God inspired the writers, but only the Catholic Church can correctly interpret the teaching.
  • The Bible is a human interpretation of the way God expressed himself through Jesus' life.

Protestant - Sola Scripture - the Bible alone has authority

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Conservatism - Authority of the Bible 1

  • Evangelical Protestant - Christians are saved by grace, through faith in Jesus' atonement.
  • Atonement - After Adam and Eve disobeyed God, the world was reconciled by Jesus' sacrifice.
  • For some, the Bible is literally true and that you should interpret the texts as literally God's word. e.g. In Genesis, God created the Universe - the historical and scientific facts of the Bible are true.
  • God inspired all scripture, by inspiring the authors and telling them what to write.
  • Catholicism - The Bible is inspired by God.
  • Apostolic Tradition - stems from Jesus' apostles - Jesus told them to preach the Gospels and make more disciples.
  • Apostolic Succession - Jesus' apostles appointed Bishops to be their successors , the Bishops were given teaching authority, this established a line of succession lasting to the end of time.
  • Tradition is seen as a living tradition - Tradition is seen as dynamic - new truths can be discovered in Scripture.
  • The Bible is there to share the same divine authority - Scripture is the voice of God.
  • Both Scripture and Tradition have equal  authority - The Magisterium interpret both.
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Neo-Orthodoxy - Authority of the Bible 2

Parts of the Bible are not true because there are many historical and scientific inaccuracies 

Karl Barth - believed that the Bible:

  • Is not the word of God but it contains the word of God - God reveals himself in Jesus 'who is the Word'.
  • Is the way humans may experience God, realising their need for forgiveness
  • It is not inherent with science, history or religion - the writers were subject to limitations of the time and have low intellect.
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Liberalism - Authority of the Bible 3

Christians who reject the idea that the Bible is literally the inspired Word of God.

  • Some believe that the authors of the Bible were guided by God.
  • Process Theologians argue that the Bible is an entirely human document - about God and his purposes for the world.
  • Process theologians argue for the discrepancies between the Bible and Science.
  • God is not all powerful - he only persuaded matter - interpretations of Genesis 
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The Bible inspired by God written by humans


  • The Holy Spirit is the main author of Scripture - but the authors also used their own facilities and interpretations.
  • Matthew, Mark, Luke, John - all added their own style/ language, and interpretation.
  • Humans have contributed to the Bible and it is the Church's responsibility to study and understand how it should be interpreted.


  • The words of the Bible are not inspired - but Scripture becomes inspired when it provides a personal encounter with Jesus.
  • Barth 'revelation comes to us in a fallible vehicle' - The Bible contains fallible human words which can only be unveiled by God's revelation.  Simply, the Bible may contain language that is wrong or mistaken.
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The Church

  • Jesus gave the Apostles authority to lead the Church - Scripture supports the authority of the Church.
  • For Roman Catholics - The Pope is the head of the Church and has the ultimate authority.
  • Those who rebel against the Pope and the Catholic Church are Protestants.

Protestant Churches 

  • Sola Scripture - the Bible is the only source of religious authority
  • Christians can't say some parts of the Bible are true and false.
  • Without the Bible, there would be no Church.
  • Martin Luther - salvation comes through faith - everyone has equal access to faith and should not rely just on the church.

Roman Catholics

  • The Gospels are inspired by the Holy Spirit
  • The Bible was passed on and by the Apostles to religious teachers.
  • The Magisterium - oversee the passing and interpretation of the Bible.
  • Believe in Apostolic Tradition and Apostolic Succession
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Apostolic Tradition & Apostolic Succession

Apostolic Tradition - Jesus commanded his Apostles to preach the gospel to all. The Apostles only taught what Jesus and the Holy Spirit had preached to them. This is supported by Scripture.

Apostolic Tradition is maintained by Apostolic Succession 

Apostolic Succession - The Apostles passed on their authority to new bishops throughout the centuries. These bishops were given teaching authority to continue the work of the Apostles.

Tradition and Scripture are connected closely to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit remains present and active within the Church.

For Catholics, the rule of faith is to embrace Tradition and Scripture 

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The Authority of Jesus

There are 2 types: Jesus' authority as God 's authority and Jesus' authority as a human.

Jesus' authority as God's authority

This is the traditional view of the Nicene Creed and is the view for many Christians.

In Scripture, Jesus claimed to have divine authority. This authority came from:

  • His Teachings
  • The miracles he performed
  • Titles used - Belief in the Trinity (The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), Son of God, Messiah

Jesus' authority seen in his teachings and healings 

  • Those who heard Jesus' teachings were amazed by what he said and how he taught his lessons. Jesus taught with authority, and those who believed were convinced this authority came from God.
  • Scripture supports healing - Jesus healing the Roman soldier's servant confirmed authority - as he compared his authority to Jesus' unique authority 
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Jesus as the Son of God

This expression is used in the Old Testament. This was used to describe Jesus with a title of a human being but Jesus was God's representative and therefore had God's authority. 

E.g. David is given this title - God told him his sons would rule Israel - 2 Samuel 7:14

Kings were labelled Sons of God and were meant to reflect God's justice and mercy in their rule.

In the New Testament, Jesus being called the Son of God indicates a unique divine authority.

For early followers of Jesus, they believed he was the Messiah because they were promised one by God. So to believers, Jesus was anointed by God.

To say that Jesus is the Son of God means he has God's authority - and this is how most Christians have understood Jesus' authority 

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Jesus as the Son of Man

Used in the New Testament.

This was Jesus' preferred title - this ambiguity made it less likely that he would be associated as a power figure and a revolution.

This ambiguous term - can be interpreted as a way of explaining Jesus. To outsiders, Jesus would look as if he was claiming to be a normal human, but those who knew his work and mission would argue that his divine mission was to represent God.

Most Christians conclude that Jesus was both fully divine and fully human. 

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Jesus' authority as only human

2 types of Christian: Jesus was not divine. Those who take a liberal approach to the Bible.

  • Adoptionism 
  • Jesus was not divine by nature
  • God adopted Jesus as a 'son' at his baptism.
  • Unitarianism
  • Adopts a deist view (God had no relationship with the world after creating it)
  • Jesus was just a spiritual leader - giving useful insights, but having no divine authority. 

Liberal Approach

  • The Gospels were products of several decades of thinking about the significance of Jesus' life.
  • The teachings of Jesus would have been passed on through speech, so may have been exaggerated and altered.
  • Christians who accept science gives us an accurate picture of the nature of the world. While many accept God as the best explanation for the creation of the universe, they may reject miracles, even Jesus' resurrection. 
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Christianity response to Jesus' authority

Those who see Jesus' authority as God's authority will feel that they should obey his teachings.

Those who only see Jesus' authority as only human are free to decide for themselves whether or not they should follow his teachings.

Whatever the view of the nature of Jesus' authority he was a role model - and we should seek to reflect and follow 2 of his teachings to Love God and Love our neighbour (Matthew 5: 38-48)

For Evangelical Christians, they follow the principle of WWJD? (What would Jesus do?) - and use this as a reminder  to act in accordance with God's love in all situations

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