Some initial thoughts on inspiration

I’ve avoiding diving too deeply into the subject of inspiration. On the one hand, I find it hard to pin down my own thoughts on the matter. On the other, I know that as we begin delineating what God does and doesn’t do, it’s very easy to lapse into error. Finite man is able to accurately define an infinite being.

Maybe it’s best to start with a couple of things I don’t believe:

  • I don’t believe in divine dictation. That is, I don’t believe that the Holy Spirit whispered in the ears of the biblical writers the word-for-word texts they were to record. There is too much humanity in the Bible for me to believe such a thing. Why would we have four gospels if that were the case?
  • I don’t believe in a purely man-made Bible. I believe that there was divine intervention in the creation and preservation of the biblical text.

Now let’s try some affirmations:

  • I believe the Bible is the product of God’s people under God’s guidance. I don’t believe the views and attitudes expressed in the Bible to be “secular” nor sinful.
  • I believe the Bible was created within a specific context and reflects that context. The Bible did not drop down out of the sky, nor was it written by a group of people who lived in isolation from their own situation. The fact that the Bible was written in at least three different languages illustrates that point.
  • I believe that the biblical teachings (even when not in written form) defined the religious culture of God’s people rather than vice versa. In other words, I believe the Jews didn’t eat pork because God told them not to, not that they put that into the Law because they weren’t pork eaters.

So that’s a start. Give me some feedback, share some of your thoughts, and we’ll continue this discussion.

8 thoughts on “Some initial thoughts on inspiration

  1. simplyrobert

    I tend to agree with your affirmations. For example, we see God’s will and God’s expectations through the epistles, but we also see Paul. We see who he is, is hopes, his fears, his frustrations, and his joys — even a peek into an opinion or two.

    I don’t think we’d get that if those epistles were simply dictated by the Holy Spirit.

    Grace and peace.

  2. Nick Gill

    “I believe that there was divine intervention in the creation and preservation of the biblical text.”

    Maybe participation rather than intervention? Intervention is when something is going on and someone else steps in, while participation doesn’t imply a coming-in from outside.

    “I don’t believe the views and attitudes expressed in the Bible to be “secular” nor sinful.”

    I would be a little clearer here in terms of *whose* views and attitudes you mean. The narratives often contain attitudes, among God’s people as well as outsiders, that are unrighteous. Poetry too, I think.

    “I believe that the biblical teachings (even when not in written form) defined the religious culture of God’s people rather than vice versa.”

    I might say shaped rather than defined, especially because we have no evidence that a significant portion of God’s people were particularly obedient to the biblical teachings at any point in their history.

  3. Harland

    I apologize for coming from an older school in framework for this conversation–although I don’t think that I am very far from what you have written.

    As I read the comments above, it seemed that Tim used language that unintentionally held some implied points. And that Nick was able to pull out a few of those and use more precise language in some clarifications. Yet, in both cases, their texts–as stated– were works in progress that came from a shared level of trust.

    And to me, if that is how I treat the Biblical text, then it seems to place me on a similar tier as the inspired text. It invites me as a partner into a conversation wherein I may not only opine but assert conclusions.

    This creates in me a high level of fear. Although probably no one likes my opinions better than I do, my opinions can be my best comfort and my worst delusion at the same time.

    Am I even close to the ballpark of your conversation?

  4. Tim Archer Post author

    Harland, I think it’s helpful to think of how we see ourselves regarding the text. I have often said we can place ourselves above the text or below it; I’d never really thought of placing ourselves on the same level. To me that’s almost like placing ourselves above the text. I feel the same fear you do.

  5. Nick Gill

    I really appreciate this line of thinking, because it is very easy to catch ourselves dictating meaning to the text. It really underscores the need to constantly return to the text and to never settle for last year’s understanding of a passage or a concept.

    On a different level, though, aren’t we who teach or minister… aren’t we partners with the text and the One who inspired it to help others draw closer to Him through the means of grace that is Scripture? I think of Ezra having to “give the sense” of the Scriptures to the returning exiles because they’d lost their understanding of the language while in Babylon, and their understanding of the will of God long before.

    The humility of Creation and Incarnation is precisely that God does invite us to partner with him to exercise his benevolent sovereignty. I’m a junior partner, for sure! But that’s the role I believe Scripture teaches that humanity fills.

  6. Harland

    Actually, I don’t think that Nick’s focus on partnership is reserved for teachers and ministers. The permanence of God’s truth remains in the message that is given by the text, I think. It has God’s power of salvation–or is His power. This product has is self-sufficient.. even in the hands of less-learned ones. The blessing of teachers and ministers is to be able to partner with God in helping a seeker to interact with God’s product.

    (I am NOT anti-clergy. Just PRO working along side everyone so that we might journey together.)

  7. Pingback: On Inspiration and Composition – Simply Gospel

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