Author: Ron Graham

Bible Authority

Authority and Scholarship
—What is the value of religious scholarship?

In this lesson we examine whether scholarship has any value as authority from God. When scholars and theologians hold something to be God's truth, is it?

1 The Value of Scholarship

We all appreciate and respect the work that many distinguished preachers and theologians have done, as well as the labor of many scientists and scholars in fields such as archaeology, language, philosophy, and history. Our understanding of the Bible has been vitally enriched by their studies.

However, for every scholar who enlightens us in the truth, there is another who speaks "persuasive words of wisdom" that are not truth, but only "the wisdom of this age" (1Corinthians 2:4-8). God, in his wisdom, has "made foolish the wisdom of this world" (1Corinthians 1:20-31), and consequently made foolish those who speak it —no matter how highly the world may regard them as scholars.

Scholars can claim to have the authority of God only if they are leading us back to the very beginning and origin of the faith of Christ, "beginning at Jerusalem" (Luke 24:47).

2 Scholars Without Authority

There are some prominent scholars who are like certain prophets of old, of whom God said, "I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran. I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied" (Jeremiah 23:21-22). Some scholars teach "what is falsely called knowledge" (1Timothy 6:20-21). Therefore we must "test the spirits whether they be of God" (1John 4:1),

We should not accept what eminent persons say, just because they say it. No authority from God is vested in prophets, professors, or preachers by virtue of their own genius. A person has the authority of God only when that person speaks as God speaks and imparts the truth of God to people.

3 The Scholar and the Fisherman

With all respect due to scholars, we may find that in some cases the doyens of seminaries and universities have lost the authority of God, and we must look for it among farm and fisher folk. That’s what happened in Jesus’s time. He could not choose the scholars of his time as his apostles. Instead he chose from among fishermen and townsfolk. That was not because Jesus despised scholarship. It was because the scholars he knew were mostly like Nicodemus —they had rejected and lost the proper understanding of the truth of God (John 3:10-12), and so they did not have the authority of God.

A fisherman tells me that Jesus rose from the dead. He was there, and saw it with his own eyes (Acts 2:32). Two thousand years after the event, a scholar who was not there, and who has no evidence, tells me that the resurrection is a myth and the fisherman’s testimony is a fabrication. Whom do I believe? Who has the authority of God? True scholars will accept the words of the fisherman and reject the voice of their peers —and for such scholars we should give thanks, and pray that their voice will rise above the others.