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February 13, 2010

 By Dr. Gary S. Day

The Nature of Inspiration

Our view of Christianity depends on our view of the Bible, for instance, whether it is the only infallible rule of faith and practice or not.  It is proposed here that the Bible, as Loraine Boettner (in Inspiration of Scripture) says, “Contain one harmonious and sufficiently complete system of doctrine; that all of their parts are consistent with each other; and that it is our duty to trace out this consistency by careful investigation of the meaning of particular passages”

The Church as a whole has fallen in the teaching of other doctrines into a flexible accommodation, while being tenacious about the doctrine of inspiration.  Both Catholic and Protestant churches have agreed that the Bible is trustworthy and its writing true with the doctrine of infallibility embedded into their historic and official creeds, yet unbelief has made inroads upon this doctrine of the Church also. Indifference to sound doctrine by the church people is a chief cause of its ingress.  Because of the uncertainty that doctrinal dissension has caused, many today do not know what they believe concerning the inspiration and authority of the Bible.  The foundation of doctrinal uncertainty is the supposed ‘higher’ critical investigations concerning the Scriptures themselves.  The spiritual aim of the demonic influences behind it all is to develop a new system of theology that eliminates the authority of God and His Word, the Bible.

The unity of and between the books of the Bible is truly remarkable, since the authors wrote from differing social and cultural strata over a period of about sixteen hundred years.  And the themes of truth that pervade the writings, such as the Messianic theme, is just as remarkably unified through both the Hebrew Old Testament writings and the Greek New Testament writings.  Even the casual reader is able to discern the gulf between the Bible, which claims for itself divine origin, and other writings. 

Two terms that are used to describe the inspiration of the Bible, and that are nearly synonymous, are plenary inspiration and verbal inspiration.  Boettner gives the meaning to plenary inspiration as “a full and sufficient influence of the Holy Spirit extended to all parts of the Scripture rendering it an authoritative revelation from God, so that while the revelations come to us through the minds and wills of men they are nevertheless in the strictest sense the word of God.”  Verbal inspiration takes the influence by the Holy Spirit beyond the general thoughts of the biblical writers to include the very words they wrote, which God intended to convey.  The results are the infallible accuracy of what they wrote.

It is necessary that the very words be inspired for the truths of the various biblical themes to be consistent, without prejudice or error.  The nature of inerrancy is that God chooses His own Word.  A look at pagan beliefs and modern philosophical treaties show the limits of human spiritual wisdom.  The Bible is the only book that adequately explains the majesty of God and the depravity of the human nature in its sinful state, and the remedy for that state.  That remedy is the redemptive power of Christ Jesus.

The emphasis in the Bible concerning the inspiration of the writings by God extends not only the very words, but the tense of the words, the number of a word (singular or plural) the letter of a word, and a even to a part of the letter of a word (for example Mark 12:26; Galatians 3:16).  The first thing that a reading of the Bible tells us about its inspiration is that the writers themselves claim that their communications were inspired by God.   The prophetic form, “Thus says the Lord” is known by all.  Paul acknowledge that he was writing Scripture and that he and other Apostles spoke in the words which the Spirit taught (1 Cor 2:13).   The writers of the Bible were the Lord’s messengers, and those who heard them, heard God (Ezek 2:5; Matt 10:40; John 13:20).  There are a profusion of internal Scripture texts that teach the Divine inspiration and authority of the Bible. 

External witness to the fact is in the truth of what it proclaims and in the morally changed lives, and of the witness or the early Church and Church Fathers as to the Bible’s veracity.  Added to this is the fact that no contradictions or inconsistencies derive from the writings in the Bible, though many try to prove there are errors. 

 The truths of the distinctive system of theology derived from the biblical writings are dependent upon the accuracy of those writings.  Because they are trustworthy we have an evangelical rather than a naturalistic, humanistic or Unitarian system of theology taught within the Scriptures.  If the doctrine of inspiration is undermined, then the whole of Christian theology is also undermined, as is the Bible’s use for preaching and comfort.  This is the reason why biblical critics try to destroy the traditional belief of Biblical inspiration and authority.  Human authority is wanted to replace the authority of God.

Errant Christians who exclaim the Divine inspiration upon translations of the original languages of Hebrew and Greek do not help clarify the matter.  Divine inspiration does not extend to the King James Version, the Hindi Version or any other translation of the Bible from the original language.  Translations are just translations, good for transmitting the truths of Gods Word, but are not the original languages.  Translations choose the words in translations.  God chose the words of the original autographs of Scripture.  Sometimes there are no equivalent words from the Hebrew to say the Korean or the English language, for instance, so translators choose how to ‘interpret’ those Hebrew words into the translated language.  The translators’ meaningfulness is well and cannot be faulted, but they are still not writing the original autographs, as they all will attest.  Yet for all practical purposes these translations are the very word of God to us who do not speak or read the original languages, for they are based upon the best manuscripts from them.

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