Three Non-Scriptural Views of Inspiration–and the Scriptural One

The phrase, “Thus says the Lord,” or “The Lord spoke” occurs 3800 times! The plenary verbal inspiration of the Scriptures is the orthodox view that every Word is inspired (breathed out) by God. Yet, there are (at least) three non-Scriptural views of biblical inspiration. Do you know someone who holds these views? Do you? Geisler and Nix said it right:

Just because God condescends to man’s level to communicate His Truth to them does not mean that He has to compromise His Truth in doing so. Adaptation to human limits does not necessitate accommodation to human error… God uses anthropomorphisms when speaking to man, but He does not use myths (II Peter 1:16). [Source]

  1. Neo-orthodox view of inspiration:  This view means that God is so far removed from His creation, that in no real way does He reveal Himself in creation. This view denies that the Bible is the Word of God, but simply uses words to point to the true Word of God, Jesus.  God uses these documents to create an encounter with the reader, and that helps the Bible become the Word of God to them. Karl Barth (1886-1968) and Emil Brunner (1889-1966) proposed this idea as a way to combat 19th century liberalism, those who tried to find the “historical Jesus” but discounted the biblical account of Jesus’ life.
    1. Two important attributes of God:
      1. His transcendence : above all– He exists outside of space and time.
      2. His immanence: among all–He is also present in creation
    2. Beware of pantheism: God is all.
    3. Beware of deism: God is Creator but removed from all.
  2. Limited  inspiration: The Bible contains the words of God, but isn’t in its entirety the Word of God. Sees Scripture as essentially a work of man where God helped some. “God guided the human authors but allowed them freedom to express themselves in their works, even to the point of allowing factual and historical errors. Fortunately, the Holy Spirit prevented doctrinal errors.” [Source]
  3. Dictation theory:   When one or more persons says something and another records it exactly as is stated.  The one doing the writing is only a recorder and none of his style, vocabulary, and influence occur in the finished product. [This] excludes the style of the one doing the writing and is instead an exact copy of what is said by the speaker. [Source] No reputable scholar has held to this for centuries, but it’s important to understand.

What do we hold to?  Plenary verbal inspiration. That is, every word is inspired. The Greek word is theopneustos: “All Scripture is breathed out/inspired by God” (2 Timothy 3:16).  Matt Slick tells us more:

Verbal plenary inspiration means that every word found in the Bible is given to us by God(verbal), everything in the Bible is authoritative (plenary), and every word is also divinely directed (inspired). But, this does not mean that everything referenced in the Bible is also morally proper. For example, the Bible might record someone’s lie or a murder even though lying and murder are not approved of in Scripture. But the recording of the events is under the direction of God and is accurate.

The verbal plenary inspiration applies to the original manuscripts, also known as the autographs. It was the originals that were penned by the prophets and apostles that were given by God, authoritative, and  divinely directed. [Source]

Bruce Milne tells us, “The Biblical writers were uniquely superintended by the action of Almighty God through His Spirit in all factors influencing their message.” [Source]

In closing, I bring before you a conversation between Billy Graham and his former evangelistic partner turned secularist Charles Templeton.  He noted: “All our differences came to a head in a discussion which, better than anything I know, ‘explains’ Billy Graham and his phenomenal success as an evangelist.”

In the course of our conversation I said, “But, Billy, it’s simply not possible any longer to believe, for instance, the biblical account of creation. The world was not created over a period of days a few thousand years ago; it has evolved over millions of years. It’s not a matter of speculation; it’s a demonstrable fact.”

“I don’t accept that,” Billy said. “And there are reputable scholars who don’t.”

“Who are these scholars?’ I said. “Men in conservative Christian colleges?”

“Most of them, yes,” he said. “But that is not the point. I believe the Genesis account of creation because it’s in the Bible. I’ve discovered something in my ministry: When I take the Bible literally, when I proclaim it as the word of God, my preaching has power. When I stand on the platform and say, ‘God says,’ or ‘The Bible says,’ the Holy Spirit uses me. There are results. Wiser men than you or I have been arguing questions like this for centuries. I don’t have the time or the intellect to examine all sides of the theological dispute, so I’ve decided once for all to stop questioning and accept the Bible as God’s word.”

“But Billy,” I protested, “You cannot do that. You don’t dare stop thinking about the most important question in life. Do it and you begin to die. It’s intellectual suicide.”

“I don’t know about anybody else,” he said, “but I’ve decided that that’s the path for me.”

You may be struggling with the plenary verbal inspiration for any number of reasons. I urge you to take a look at the Scriptures. Read them for what they have to say. Ask God to help open His Word (and His Son by His Spirit) to help you understand and see what this Book is truly all about.



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