The Doctrine of the Inspiration of Scripture

The continuation of defining the doctrine of inspiration and the inerrancy of Scripture. This is part 2 of 3.

The Doctrine of Inspiration

Charles Ryrie defines inspiration as “the act by which God’s superintended the human authors of the Bible so that they composed and recorded without error His message in words of their original writings.”[1] Millard Erickson also defines inspiration by reminding us of the work of the Holy Spirit in inspiration, that is “the supernatural influence of the Holy Spirit upon the Scripture writers which rendered their writings an accurate record of the revelation, or which resulted in what they wrote actually being the Word of God.”[2] One of the key hallmarks of inspiration is the work of the Holy Spirit and how the Scriptures were produced: the words of Scripture were conceived by our Lord and the writers using their human words when speaking “in the Holy Spirit,” by His initiative and under His controlling direction.[3]

Based on the definitions provided, we can understand that inspiration is used to designate the product, it is not about the process. It is the whole of Scripture given in the form of expression that is from God; but the whole of it has been given by God through the instrumentality of men.[4] Looking again at 2 Peter 1:21, that “prophecy” of Scripture was not spoken of the human writers or out of them, but it was from God.[5] Second Timothy 3:16-17 further describes Scripture and inspiration: “All Scripture is God-breathed (or inspired) and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” This points to how God did not just dictate the words or breathe in the words to the authors, but how Scripture was breathed out of the authors by the Spirit working in them. As Paul and Peter both suggest in these verses, we can see that they and other biblical writers didn’t view the production of Scripture as a “human product breathed into by the Divine Spirit, and thus heightened in its qualities or endowed with new qualities; but as a Divine product produced through the instrumentality of men.”[6] Moreover, these writers were moved by God’s “Divine initiative and borne by the irresistible power of the Spirit of God along the ways of His choosing to the ends of His appointments.”[7] “The main point about verbal inspiration is not that the words are inspired rather than their content, but that there is no such thing as the one without the other…. The content is not to be had without this form.”[8] This demonstrates that inspiration does not happen without the work of the Holy Spirit. To deny inspiration, is to minimize the work of the Holy Spirit. Warfield says that inspiration occurred not by the distant act of dictation, but that “it took place in a process in which the control of the Holy Spirit was too complete and pervasive to permit the human qualities of the secondary authors in any way to condition the purity of the product as the word of God.”[9]

Inspiration is, as Carl F. Henry states, “a matter solely of God speaking in His Word, supernaturally to and through chosen men, making his thoughts and message known to those who must have otherwise been strangers to them.”[10] Henry reminds us that God’s Word shares His “very own attributes” and cautions the Christian community that “without an authoritative Scripture, the church is powerless to overcome not only human unregeneracy but also satanic deception.”[11]

In trying to define inspiration, clarity must first be provided in an age that likes to use this word in many different ways. Nowadays, it could mean writing a song, or jumping off a cliff, or even killing an innocent person; if inspiration is to be used, we must be clear as to what it is. In Carl F. Henry’s definition, he not only indicates the Spirit’s part in inspiration, but also some of the by-products of inspiration in regards to inerrancy and preservation. He states, “Inspiration is that supernatural influence of the Holy Spirit whereby the sacred writers were divinely supervised in their production of Scripture, being restrained from error and guided in the choice of words they used, consistently with their disparate personalities and stylistic peculiarities.” The doctrine of inspiration is made up of four separate doctrines: inerrancy, authority, canonicity and sufficiency. Each of these doctrines are all by-products or derivatives of the doctrine of inspiration.

The doctrine of authority can be defined as that which is to be obeyed. As authoritative, Scripture reveals God and His commands and promises. Since Scripture has God as its source, we can attribute it to being God’s Word and having all the authority of God, thus Scripture is to be obeyed.

Scripture points out the character of God, and reveals that He is worthy of all praise, glory and honor. The second doctrine, that of canonicity, could also be called worthy of preservation. The books of the Bible were collected and set apart as Scripture because those who had compiled them could see that they were worthy of preservation and were authoritative. As the early church read these books, meditated on them and collected them, they recognized them as Scripture. Why? Because these certain books came with the authenticity as being God’s inspired Word. They were recognized as being from God and worthy to be called God’s Word. Since they were God’s Word, they were worthy to be obeyed and put into a collection.

The third doctrine that resulted from the doctrine of inspiration is that of the sufficiency of Scripture. This doctrine affirms that Scripture is enough. Inside the pages of Scripture lies everything that is needed for the follower of God to be “…thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:17, NIV); it provides all that is necessary for the Christian to live a godly life.

Finally, that leads us to the doctrine of inerrancy which will now be discussed in further detail before defining inspiration.

[1] Charles Ryrie, Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1999), 82.

[2] Millard J. Erikson, Christian Theology, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1983), 199.

[3] Benjamin B. Warfield, “Inspiration 8-18” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Internet, available from http://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Def.show/RTD/isbe/ID/4618/Inspiration-8-18.htm, accessed 13 April 2014.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid, Section 9.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Geoffrey Bromiley, “The Inspiration and Authority of Scripture,” Eternity, August 1970, 14, quoted in Carl F. Henry, “The Authority and Inspiration of Scripture,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank Gaebelein, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979), 20.

[9] Warfield, Section 8.

[10] Henry, 8.

[11] Ibid, 13.

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One thought on “The Doctrine of the Inspiration of Scripture

  1. Pingback: The Significance of Women in Luke: A Radical Reversal | Seeking Our God

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