Since the time of the Reformation, Christians have summarized their beliefs about the Bible in four words. These attributes of Scripture form an acrostic, SCAN, which stands for sufficiency, clarity, authority, and necessity.
- The sufficiency of Scripture means that the Bible contains everything we need to know for salvation and living in a way that pleases God (2 Pet. 1:3). Nothing needs to be added in order to make up a lack in it. It is a finished, complete document that communicates all that Christians need to know about God in order to be rightly related to him and to live godly lives in this world (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
Sufficiency also means that Scripture is the final word from God (Heb. 1:1-2). Just as Jesus in the final revelation of God, and is the living Word of God, the Bible objectively declares all that God wants us to know about him. This is why nothing can be added or deleted from the Bible (Rev. 22:18-19). While tradition can help us understand how faithful Christians of the past have understood the Scripture, and gives us a pattern for faithful Christian living, the Bible is the final arbiter of truth.
- The clarity of Scripture means that the teaching of Scripture about salvation and godly living can be understood by all who seek to study it in belief. This does not mean that everything in Scripture is equally clear, for there are some parts that are difficult to comprehend. It does mean, however, that God has not hidden the meaning of his revelation behind vague and esoteric language. Most of the Bible is written in rather plain, straightforward language. It is pictured as a lamp that lights one’s path (Psalm 119:105), leading clearly to truth and understanding.
Clarity also means that we do not need a religious expert to interpret the Bible for us. Every Christian possesses the indwelling Holy Spirit, who leads us into truth (John 16:13). This does not mean that we can determine the meaning of the Bible for ourselves, or that we don’t need to build on the theological understanding of Christians of the past, but rather it means that the Bible is not incomprehensible to us unless a priest or religious authority tells us what it means.
- The authority of Scripture means that the Bible is revelation from God himself, and that we are obligated to listen to it and obey it. Whatever the Bible speaks about is the truth, and it should arbitrate between competing truth claims. This does not mean that other human endeavors do not help us know our world, but if they contradict a clear statement in Scripture, the determination of truth lies with Scripture. The reason for this is that the Bible is the very Word of God, so it possesses the authority of God himself.
The authority of Scripture implies that it is also trustworthy, without error, and reliable. This has been challenged in countless ways by science, history, archaeology, philosophy, and others, but the Bible has always proven itself to stand the scrutiny of the human mind. Unbelievers want to elevate their own reason and authority over the Bible, but this has failed them every time. Whatever man considers to be wiser than God is shown to be foolishness (1 Cor. 1:18-21)
- The necessity of Scripture means that apart from God revealing himself to us, we could not know God. While many things about God can be known by general revelation, what can be seen in the created order (Rom. 1:19-20), the Scriptures are necessary for us to know that Jesus died and rose again to save us. God is divine, perfect and infinite. We are creaturely, fallen and finite. God is so different from us that we would have no way of knowing him. But God condescended to reveal himself so that we might be restored to him. God has spoken to us in a way that is clear, translatable, objective, and able to be preserved.
If God had not revealed himself in the Bible we could not possibly know all the story of redemption that he has worked on our behalf. Because he has given us his Word, we can know the full riches of his gift of salvation through Christ. The necessity of God’s Word for salvation means that unless someone brings the Word of God to unbelievers they won’t know how to be saved (Rom. 10:13-15).
In order for us to defend the Christian faith, we must know what the Bible teaches about itself, and what Christians have always believed about it. The Bible is the bedrock of all that we believe and serves as the foundation for all that we call knowledge. It is important that we firmly grasp the truth about Scripture, especially in light of the many misconceptions and challenges raised against its reliability.
In addition, it is important for Christians to read and know the Bible on a personal level. It does no good to defend the Christian faith, share the gospel, and proclaim the truth of the Bible if we are not daily reading and meditating on it ourselves. The Bible is not a fact book to memorize; it is the revelation of the living God that is to be understood, believed, and lived. Only then will have the transformative effect that it is meant to have. The Scriptures transform more than just our knowledge; they completely renovate our hearts and minds, our words and actions, and our very being.
This is one reason why earlier in this study we learned that one of the best ways to become a good apologist and evangelist is to know the Scriptures and sound doctrine thoroughly. When we eat, sleep, and breathe the Scriptures, our senses are sharpened to discern and refute arguments that are false and idolatrous (Heb. 5:11-14). The Holy Spirit uses our knowledge of the Scriptures to give our minds the sharp ability to know what to say at the right time. As you consider the role of the Bible in apologetics, it is my hope that you will become a thoroughly biblical apologist.