Some Christians think that if we appeal to reason and evidences to demonstrate that the Bible is truly God’s Word, then we are elevating reason and evidence to a place of authority over God’s Word. I think this conclusion is misguided for several reasons. First, I don’t think it is legitimate to consider reason an “authority.” Reason is merely a tool for assessing reality. It is basic to all human thought. Indeed, one cannot even understand God’s revelation apart from reasoning. It would be a mistake, then, to pit reason against revelation as if they are two competing authorities. As Greg Koukl has argued, using reason to assess whether or not the Bible is God’s revelation to man no more puts reason above the Bible than using grammar to understand God’s revelation puts grammar above the Bible.
Secondly, this confuses the order of being (ontology) with the order of knowing (epistemology). While the Bible is first in terms of authority, it is not first in terms of the order of knowing. Knowledge of the divine origin and revelatory status of the Bible is not innate. We must acquire this knowledge. Knowledge of a proposition requires three elements: (1) belief that the proposition is true; (2) justification for the belief that the proposition is true; (3) the proposition must actually be true. Put another way, knowledge is justified true belief. Given the fact that knowledge requires justification, it cannot be wrong to require justification for believing the Bible is God’s Word. We could not know the Bible is God’s Word apart from such justification. As Kelly Clark has pointed out, reason is not autonomous as the standard of truth, but it is the best tool for discovering the truth.
A proper use of reason is not an exercise of subjecting God’s Word to a higher authority, but an examination of the Bible to determine if it is truly what it claims to be. We use our God-given reason to discover the truth that the Bible is a product of divine revelation.