The Inspiration of Scripture (4) – Some Concluding Thoughts6 min read
What is at Stake? – Implications of the Doctrine
Israel was the nation to which the oracles of God were committed. The idea of having a written and codified law seemed simple enough to them, causing them to vow rather ignorantly, “All that the Lord has commanded, we will do.” However, they soon realized otherwise in their forty years of wilderness wandering. Such is what the Lord emphasizes in Deuteronomy 8:
“All the commandments which I command you this day shall you observe to do, that you may live, and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the LORD swore unto your fathers. And you shall remember all the way which the LORD your God led you these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you, and to prove you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments, or not. And he humbled you, and suffered you to hunger, and fed you with manna, which you knew not, neither did your fathers know; that he might make you know that man does not live by bread only, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD does man live.” (Deuteronomy 8:1-3).
Truly life without the Word of God is not life at all; rather, it is the mere sentiment of human survival based on an ever changing foundation. If physical life is the essence of one’s entire existence, his substance of life changes according to his feeble self-control and frail dependence on circumstances. The futility of life that only recognizes physical realities is proof that “man does not live by bread only.” Something more is needed, something to meet the needs of the heart. That something is the Word of God in its entirety. Everything hinges on whether or not God has spoken. Everything depends on the reality of Biblical inspiration.
This affirmation can be taken further to say that, if God has spoken, everything hinges on how He has spoken. The passage does not speak of God’s words to anyone particular. Rather, it emphasizes specific, objective, authoritative revelation outside of man to which he is obligated to respond. If God’s revelation were not specific (utilizing words), there would be no clarity in what to obey. If God’s revelation were not objective (“from His mouth,” not “to my heart”), there would be no consistency in what to obey. If God’s revelation were not authoritative (from the mouth of the Lord), there would be no motivation to obey. All of these characteristics of God’s Word are understood inasmuch as the subject of inspiration is understood, not only the fact but the details of divine revelation. Thus, the believer’s entire outlook and foundation is at stake when considering the subject of inspiration. Notice a few practical examples:
- Our view on inspiration (and consistency with that view) affects our view on inerrancy. The question of Biblical errors – whether historical, typographical, doctrinal, or scientific – has long been the determining factor between liberal scholarship and believing scholarship. Once Scripture is seen to contain error in certain parts, man suddenly becomes the arbiter of which parts those are; and this contradicts the very purpose of Scripture to give man something objective whereby he can judge himself. If Scripture is (a) the communication of God, (b) deliberately given by God down to the smallest pen-stroke, and (c) entire in its authenticity, then it must by necessity be without error, since the omniscient God cannot lie. If Scripture contains a single error, either (a) God, knowing better, lied or (b) God did not have a deliberate part in every aspect and part of Scripture. Thus, either God ceases to be God, or the Word of God simply becomes a collation of documents generally influenced by God, just like any other impactful theological work. If Biblical inspiration is affirmed and consistently held, inerrancy must follow. If inerrancy is rejected, Biblical inspiration must be compromised. We must understand that and how God has spoken.
- Our view on inspiration affects our ultimate authority. Scripture’s authority is not rooted in its design, its insight, or its profundity; Scripture is authoritative because it is God-breathed. However, the moment its God-breathed nature becomes partial, man becomes the ultimate authority. If only the concepts and not the words are inspired, man is free to interpret those concepts as he pleases, thus making self the ultimate authority. If only some of the passages are inspired, man is free to determine which ones, thus making self the ultimate authority. If Scripture only becomes the Word of God as it speaks to a person, man is free to determine what speaks to him and what does not. If inspiration is less than total, at best it becomes a mere guide by which man is free to determine the right and the wrong for his life according to his every whim. The chasm between fully of God and partially of God is as great as the chasm between God’s authority and man’s rebellion.
- Our view on inspiration affects our approach to the Bible. Inspiration claims that the Bible is God’s Word; if one believes this, he will approach it with trembling. Inspiration claims that the very letters and tenses are deliberately given by God; if one believes this, he will take the greatest care to formulate a precise interpretation of Scripture. Inspiration claims that the Bible is an objective revelation from God; if one believes this, he will judge himself by it and not it by himself. To fail in our view of inspiration, we fail in our ability to meaningfully expound the Scriptures and do justice to its purpose.
Conclusion: An Affirmation of the Doctrine of Inspiration
To conclude this article, a short affirmation will be helpful to summarize the position held by the author.
As to its definition, I affirm that inspiration is “That act whereby God through human instrumentation breathed out His revelation in the form of spoken and/or written words.”
As to its details, I affirm that inspiration entails:
- Reality: It is true and existent. It is not simply a fabrication of hopeful minds.
- Human Authorship: It had genuine authorial intent in most cases. It was not simply the transcription of God’s dictation by means of amanuensis.
- Full Divine Control: It had full subjection to the control of God so that every part of Scripture in the original autographs were exactly how He intended it as a perfect written revelation of Himself. It was not simply the divine approval to man’s idealistic thoughts.
- Completeness: It covers the entirety of Scripture and excludes no part of it. It does not only apply to the scholar-approved sections of the Bible.
- Exactness: It applies to the structure, words, tenses, letters, and accents of the original text, because God had full control and deliberate action in every section. It does not only apply to the concepts presented in Scriptures, though the concepts are fully of God as well.
- Objectivity: It makes the Bible God’s Word in and of itself. It is authoritative, period. Its divinity does not stem from man’s acceptance of it. It does not become the Word of God as it speaks to me; nor is it simply a witness to divine revelation. It is divine revelation.