January 15, 2013
iv. The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, and obeyed, dependeth not upon the testimony of any man, or Church; but wholly upon God (who is truth itself) the author thereof: and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God.
One of the first things that must be firmly embedded in our minds, both as Christians and consequently as biblical apologists, is the absolute self-attesting authority of Scripture. It is generally agreed that, if any section of the Westminster Confession of Faith was more carefully crafted than another, it was the section that deals with Holy Scripture. You can, no doubt, understand some of the reasons for that, particularly in the face of opposition from Roman Catholicism. The Confession is concerned, particularly in section four of chapter one, to show that it is in Scripture's authority that we see its divinity and inspiration represented.
Notice first of all, that the divines are interested here in the authority of Scripture. And the intent of the paragraph is to set out for us the ground or reason why the Scriptures are authoritative, and thus why they ought to be believed and obeyed. They set out, very clearly, that the authority of Scripture does not, in any way, rest on the Church or its councils. Rather, its authority rests on its author, God, and is to be received because it is His Word. This is sometimes called the autopiston of Scripture, translated as self-attesting, or self-authenticating. What does that mean?
It does not mean self-evident. Self-authentication is an objective attribute, whereas self-evident refers more specifically to the knowing agent. It therefore does not mean that revelation as self-authenticated compels agreement. That which is self-authenticating can be denied. It does mean that it needs no other authority as confirmation in order to be justified and absolutely authoritative in what it says. This does not mean that nothing else attends that authority; there are other evidences, which the next section makes clear. What it does mean is that nothing else whatsoever is needed, nor is there anything else that is able to supersede this ground, in order for Scripture to be deemed authoritative. This is, at least in part, what God means when he says, in Isaiah 55, that His Word, simply by going out, will accomplish what He desires. This is the case because of what God's Word is in itself. It always goes out with authority, because it carries His own authority with it.