Church Education Trust

Christian Belief



The Inspiration of Scripture.

The Method of Revelation.

We have already seen that the very fact of revelation demands a permenant record. How was this record made available for us? This is the question which the subject of Revelation seeks to answer.

Christian theology as the science of the Christian faith, is based on the documetary records of God`s revelation of Himself in Christ. These documentary  records are contained in the Holy scriptures and these are therefore the primary source of Christian Theology.

A record of divine revelation, that is, that it is not the product merely of man but of the Holy Spirit. Generally, inspiration signifies the operation of the Holy Spirit upon the writters of the books of the Bible in such a manner that their productions become the expression of God`s will. It is by this means that the scriptures become the word of God.

In dealing with the subject we will first give some definitions of inspirations; secondly, we shall compare inspiration and revelation; then we shall say something about the meaning, extent and methods of inspiration; finally we shall produce some proofs of inspiration.

a.Definition of Inspiration.

"Inspiritation" comes from the latin word meaning "a breathing into". It was the latin word used to represent the Greek word which meant "the breathing of God" or "God breathed." inspiration, therefore, is the extraordinary agency of the Holy Spirit upon the mind in consequence of which the person who partakes of it is enabled to embrace and communicate the truth without error, infirmity or defect."

McDonald Redwood defines inspiritation as follows: "Inspiration is the act of God whereby holy men were endued with and moved upon, by the Holy Spirit in such a unique manner as to (a) qualify spiritually and mentally to write the various books of the Bible and in so doing (b) preserve them from error in fact or sense."

Inspiration is therefore the "inbreathing" of God into man or as Warfield suggests, just the breathing of God, since there is nothing to express the "in" in the Greek word while there is in the Latin.

It also refers to the result of that "inbreathing". Therefore when we consider the term in connection with the Holy scriprures  as the record of the divine revelation, it means that the whole of the narrative, both of the Old Testament  and the New Testament, "is inspired in every part is the authentic, authoratitive and infallibly accurate record of all the facts of which its treats, whether these be facts of revelation supernaturally communicated or facts of history, biography, observation and experience which lay within the knowledge of the writter or vould be acquired by the use of natural means." (McCaig).

b.Inspiration and Revelation.

It is important to note the difference between Inspiration and Revelation. Revelation is the act of God whereby he communicates, opens up and discloses directly to the mind of man, those things which concern himself, His will, His character, his attributes, His plans and purposes, His truth, none of which could ever have been known or searched out by any human means. (Ephesians 3:3; Colossians 1:26).

Revelation, therefore, is the direct communication of God to man, whereas Inspiration is the actuating energy of the Holy Spirit whereby man is fitted and enabled to receive that revelation and communicate it to others without error. "The disclosure of the mind of God is Revelation when viewed from the standpoint of truth unveiled; it is inspiration when viewed in relation to the method of its impartation and transmission." (Wiley intro.P.49.)

Inspiration and revelation do not mean the same, neither do they cover the same extent of ground. While all scripture is inspired, all scripture is not necessarily of the nature of Divine revelation. There is a distinction between the recording of contemporary historical events or the choosing what portions to record in the writings of another and the recording of truths and events which could only be known by direct revelation of God.

Therefore while all is not revelation, the accuracy of all, whatever is its nature, is guaranteed by the fact of inspiration. Likewise Revelation communicates the divine purpose behind the events of history, whereas inspiration enables the writer to set down both the facts and the purpose accurately and correctly.

The distinctions between the two find their deepest meaning in the differences between the offices of the Son of God and the Holy Spirit. The Son is the revealer and the Holy spirit is the inspirer. Jesus as the Divine word is both revealer and revelation. (Collosians 2:3, Matthew 1:27, luke 10:2, 2 Tim.3:16).

The Holy Spirit is the inspirer, whose office it is to make known to men the truth as it is in Christ Jesus. Jesus is the Truth , the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth. (John 16:14, Heb.1:1-2).

While there are those distinctions, Revelation and Inspiration are closely and inseparably united. Revelation and inspiration go together and give to the written word a quality which distinguishes it from any product of ordinary human wisdom. (2 Tim. 15-17).

Additional note on Illumination.

The word "inspire" in general usage is very vague and unprecise in its meaning. It is used to infer nothing more than what is meant by "spiritual illumation". For our later discussion it is important to notethat this is not inspiration in the strict and technical sense of the word.

Spiritual illumation is the work of the Holy Spirit  on the heart and mind of any believer to enable him to grasp the truths of the word of God, that they be applied to his own life and experience and that the word of God may become a living word to him and not a dead letter.

111. The Meaning of Inspiration.

It is clear from the above statements that Inspiration is a combination of both Divine and human elements. There is the Divine operation on the human workman and the human reception of and cooperation with the Divine operation. "God spoke and the prophets received." The whole problem of the theory of inspiration lies around the fact of the combination of the divine and human operations.

Some place too much emphasis on the Divine side which produces what is sometimes called the mechanical theory. Others over emphasise the human side and this results in two types of theory called the Intuition  and Illumination theories. There is another theory which seeks to strike a balance between the two and is often called the dynamical theory. It is this type of theory that is mostly accepted amongst evangelical Christians today.

(a). The Mechanical Theory.

This is also called the dictation theory. It emphasizes the supernaturalistic element to such an extent that the personality of the writer is set aside completely.  The sacred writers resigned soul and body to god in such a way that they became mere "pens" off the spirit, rather than "penmen". They neither spake nor wrote any word of their own, but uttered syllable by syllable as the spirit put it into their minds.

There seems to be serious objections to such a theory, however.  First, it denies the inspiration off persons and only holds the inspirat of writings. But the word implies throughout that men are inspired and as good as states it in 2 Peter 1:21. Secondly, it does not agree with all the facts of Scripture. While some disclosures of truth were in audible words (numbers 7:89; Exodus 2:4,20, Matthew 3:17, Acys 9:5), in many cases the writers referred to as sources used, as in the books of Kings and Chronicles, Luke and Acts.

Thirdly, it seems contrary to the known manner of God's working in the human soul. "The higher and more exalted the divine communications, the greater the illlumination of the human soul and the more fully does man come into possession of his own natural and spiritual faculties." This theory may apply in certain cases but is too narrow for a general theory of inspiration. The Scriptures were not dictated mechanically but God breathed.

(b). The Intuition and Illumination Theories. 

These two theories go to the other extreme. They place too much emphasis on the human side. The intuition theory holds that inspiration is only the natural insight of men lifted to a higher plain of development. The theory is an extremely rationalistic one and denies altogether the supernatural element. It declares that Isaiah was only inspired as Shakespeare, Burns, Scott and Carlyle were. But such a theory overlooks the fact that man`s insight into truth is vitiated by a darkened intellect and wrong affections.

He cannot therefore, revealed to us the truth of god without supernatural guidance and control.  The illumination of theory maintains an elevation of spiritual perceptions rather than the natural insight. Inspiration is likened to the spiritual illumination received by every believer, only in a greater degree.  This means that Paul was only inspired as Luther was. 

But, as we saw earlier, illumination is only preparation for reception of truth and is not in itself the communication of truth.  To make it such is to elevate illumination too high. Both theories ignore the distinctive quality of the Holy Scripture which is not of kind that can properly be paralleled by human genius or even by ordinary illumination of Christians. The Scripture is off the nature, "thus saith the Lord."

(c). The Dynamical Theory.

This is also called the mediating theory.  The two previous extremes are opposite but not contrary. The dynamical theory in debtors to combine the two. "If we combine the  outward and the inward, god and man, the moving power and living instrument, we have a great and noble doctrine to which our inmost nature bears its witness." 

"God raised human agents into cooperation with himself, not excluding the human factor, but developing and expounding their facilities. The language was in a very real sense their own, yet it was that which god willed that they should use, and that which was fitted for his purpose.  There is no trace of toilsome effort after some special style; each writer retains his own natural style; John, full of love and zeal." Peter.... ardent and impetuous. 

How to explain the actual working of this theory is not always easy, but the next sections form an endeavor to do so in a way that is true to the teaching of the facts of Scripture.

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