When presented in stark contrast, the distinction between experiential and revelational ways of knowing seem mutually exclusive. The molecular biologist working to determine the dna sequence of an important gene can not understand why a theologian accepts a non experimental explanation for the origins of biology. But as the scientist moves from asking how to asking why and as the theologian moves from asking why to asking how, the inevitable collision of these 2 worldviews becomes a merging of them. When the epistemological tools of science and theology are used appropriately, they each speak to important questions. Immanuel Kant showed that experience is not able to discover a metaphysical apriori. This means then that either there is no metaphysical apriori or that we need to find it a different way. That “different way” can be through revelation, where explanation of those things beyond the ability of our sense perception to determine enters into our sense consideration through the rationality of words given to us by that metaphysical apriori through inspired writers. And that is a complicated definition of what the Bible claims to be…God’s word of revelation of Himself to us.
Jesus understood this and as we look at how He used the Bible, we can gain our first evidence into why the Bible can be trusted as God’s word to us more than any other word. Again, in a merging of worldviews, we can use an empiric assessment of how the Bible was used by Jesus to support His authority, trustworthiness and truthfulness. This empiric critique of revelation is what I call “biblical phenomenology”, namely using real life evidence of the use, transmission and practical working of the Bible to support its reliability and truthfulness.
In Matthew 4:1-11, when Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, he quoted the very words of memorized biblical scripture to refute His temptor. Additionally in Mark 7:6, he illustrates the predictive power of prophecy to support His teaching points. Old testament prophecy described events that ultimately ended up happening generations later. Additionally, Jesus as he illustrated His divine authority in John 10:34, quotes Psalm 82:6 to the very words and syntax of the passage to support His point.
Thus it is clear that not only did Jesus see scripture as a trustworthy authority, he saw this authority extending to the very words as recorded. What did Jesus do? He used the biblical witness to guide His living, moving, breathing and ministering life. In that case, shouldn’t we?