“There is a well-established and very useful distinction between extrinsic and intrinsic authority. If one accepts a statement as true, not because the statement in itself can convince one of its truth, but because the person making the statement is qualified to make it, has the authority to say what is true in this case, then the statement depends on authority external to it—extrinsic authority. If one obeys a command, not because one can see the point or purpose of what one is being required to do, but because the person making the command has the authority to command one, then the command relies on extrinsic authority. Someone who is sick and goes to a medical doctor, who diagnoses his condition, tells him what is wrong, and prescribes medicine for him, may well be quite unable to judge for himself whether the doctor’s diagnosis is correct or whether her prescription is likely to work, but because she has medical qualifications and is regarded as reliable by the community, he trusts her diagnosis and obeys her orders. This is extrinsic authority. If, on the other hand, someone observed that my poor state of health could well be due to the overwork and stress I have been suffering recently and that I really ought to take a holiday, I might find this a convincing diagnosis and be able to see that the advice is sensible. In this case it would not matter who made the observation; they need no particular expertise or authority to back up their statements. The statement itself convinces me, so that I accept it as true and do what it requires of me. The statement has intrinsic authority.
It is also worth noticing that in many everyday situations extrinsic and intrinsic authority are both operative in varying degrees. Imagine yourself the pupil of an expert teacher, whose authority to speak about his subject is not merely textbook knowledge but is also based on half a lifetime’s experience of the subject. He will give you factual knowledge, which you can in fact check for yourself from the books if you feel the need. But you will also benefit from his powers of judgment, his accumulated knowledge of what works in the subject. This you have to trust, though gradually, as you become expert yourself, you will be able to verify such things from your own experience. But finally there may also be personal knowledge that you cannot check or verify for yourself. A teacher of modern art who had known Picasso personally might tell you anecdotes about the artist or report what Picasso had told him about his work. Here you or anyone else could only take his word for it. This does not at all mean that you have to be credulous or uncritical. You may have grounds for trusting your teacher’s accounts, because you have been impressed by him as a reliable person. What he tells you may cohere with whatever else you know of Picasso and so be plausible. It may, as it were, ring true. But in the end you take what the teacher says on trust. In this example there is, in some areas of the knowledge you gain, a shift from more reliance on extrinsic to more reliance on intrinsic authority, as you yourself come to understand the subject more profoundly, but there are also other areas in which extrinsic authority is irreplaceable. In a mature understanding of the subject, as much of what you have been taught you come to find convincing in itself, so also your grounds for trusting what you cannot in principle verify become more substantial.
If we apply this kind of analysis of authority to the Bible, it seems to me that for most believers the Bible’s authority is a combination of extrinsic and intrinsic elements, and that this is also how the contents of the Bible represent themselves. Surprisingly rarely do the biblical writers demand obedience or belief by sheer appeal to the authority of God. They appeal in all kinds of ways to reason, imagination, and experience. They persuade and convince in all the ways in which literature can persuade and convince. Certainly there is a major dimension that can only be taken on trust, but it is constantly admixed with the intrinsic authoritativeness of what is said. Moreover, much of what Christians, like the pupils of the expert teacher, must begin by taking simply on trust gains a degree of intrinsic authority for them as they grow more deeply into and practice the faith. (Moreover, we should think of the community of faith as much as of the individual. The community’s experience of the intrinsic authoritativeness of Scripture far surpasses the individual’s.) The Bible claims an irreplaceable and important element of extrinsic authority, but it does not rely on this alone.
In summary, then, the Bible combines internal convincingness and the requirement on us to trust the truth of its message. This combination is a complex and intimate one. All too easily people make a simple distinction between extrinsic authority as oppressive and intrinsic authority as consistent with human autonomy. As we have seen, it is not as simple as that. Both in everyday life and in Christian experience of the Bible, the two go together in various different combinations.
This seems to me broadly consistent with traditional doctrines of Scripture. Perhaps these have emphasized the extrinsic authority of Scripture too one-sidedly: Scripture has the authority of God’s Word, and what it says should be believed because God has the authority to say it. But traditionally the inspiration of Scripture had as its corollary the inspiration of the reader of Scripture or the reading community. The Spirit who inspired the Scripture also inspires its believing readers to accept it as God’s message and to understand it. This should not be understood as a kind of magic that makes credible to us what would otherwise have no credibility. It can be understood to mean that as the Spirit inspires our Christian living and thinking, leading us further into the experience of what the Bible teaches, so we find the Bible making more sense to us—existentially, intellectually, imaginatively. As the Spirit actualizes the Word of God in our lives, so the Word of God authenticates itself to us. There is a kind of hermeneutical circle of authority and experience.
I suppose that, for people growing up in a Christian context, it has often been the case that they start by regarding the Bible as an extrinsic authority, because everyone they learn from does. Then there comes a point when it begins to penetrate their existence—some might call this their conversion—and the Bible, they might say, comes alive for them, speaks to them; they feel for the first time that they know what it is really about. That is recognition of intrinsic authority or convincingness. Maybe now for many people things happen the other way around. In a secular culture they are not inclined to treat the Bible as authoritative at all, and it is only when its message in some form (not of course necessarily as the text of the Bible itself) strikes home for them that it first gains any authority for them at all. They start with the existential convincingness of the gospel message, but they also then need to acquire a trust in the word of this God they have begun to know. There has to come for all of us a taking, on authority, of what we cannot exhaustively verify. For the new convert and important dimension of that is becoming part of the Christian community for whom as a whole the Bible has authority.” (Richard Bauckham, God and the Crisis of Freedom, pp. 56-58)