Conclusion of “Surprised by the Voice of God

This post wraps up the discussion on Jack Deere’s “Surprised by the Voice of God.” To look at what is true, normal and real, this post summarizes what has been discussed and asks, “how can we know we are listening to the Holy Spirit?”

Conclusion

The issue in all of this is not that we judge each other about the experience. While the experiences may be real, it doesn’t mean that they are true. The description of it may be true, it might be truly what someone thinks happened, but it doesn’t mean that the content of the experience is actually true. An experience can be either: real and true, real and untrue, unreal and true, or unreal and untrue. Just like parables were not real, they were still true and true does not always mean that it is real. The problem at the root of the issue is simply how can we know if it is true? The only way to know is to measure it against a standard of truth. The standard of truth is that it comes from God and it has God as its source. While it is not proper to judge others experiences, we should examine the truthfulness of it. The question is how would we know if it is true? Deere suggests that we trust the voices inside of us that he calls the “spirit.” He is asking us to accept something that doesn’t carry the authority of Scripture. He is asking us to trust something that is inside of us and may not even be from God. Deere is suggesting that we walk by signs and wonders instead of by faith. From an evangelical Christian perspective, a fundamental problem with getting revelation from experience instead of Scripture is that it “makes rather selective use of the Bible and even contradicts many biblical texts.”[1] This experiential model of revelation “deprives Scripture of revelational value and considers it the framework for a ‘language-event,’ an internal encounter in which one experiences authentic being.”[2] Another issue arises with receiving revelation from God only through experience. The characteristic defect is not that its emphasis is on experience, but rather its excessively narrow concept of experience.[3]

While this writer agrees that we need to be humble, willing and obedient, we must also come to God seeking His will and plan for our lives and be “willing to live by faith and trust His ways that are far greater than ours” (Isaiah 55:8, NIV). God is meant to be feared. He is worthy of awe and who are we to demand anything of Him. God has provided us a trustworthy collection of inspired God-breathed books that come with His divine authority equipping His servant for obedience. His Word is filled with historical stories that are unique and are profitable for us because they teach us about and how to follow Him.

Bibliography 

de Bras, Guido. “The Belgic Confession.” Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics. Internet. Available from http://www.reformed.org/, accessed 20 April 2014.

Dulles, Avery. Models of Revelation. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1992.

Deere, Jack. Surprised by the Voice of God. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996.

Henry, Carl F.. “The Authority and Inspiration of Scripture.” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank Gaebelein, vol. 1, 2-35. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979.

Mayhue, Richard. “Alarmed by the Voice of Jack Deere,” in The Masters Seminary Journal. Fall 1997, 151-161.

McQuilkin, J. Robertson. Understanding and Applying the Bible. Chicago: Moody Press, 1986, 240. Quoted in Roy Zuck, Basic Bible Interpretation, 285. Colorado Springs: David Cook 1991.

Pinnock, Clark H.. Biblical Revelation – the Foundation of Christian Theology. Chicago: Moody Press, 1971.

Piper, John. “Thoughts on the Sufficiency of Scripture.” Desiring God. Internet. Available from http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/thoughts-on-the-sufficiency-of-scripture, accessed 20 April 2014.

“The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy,” in Inerrancy, ed. Norman Geisler, 493-502. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980.

Warfield, Benjamin B.. “Inspiration 1-7.” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Internet. Available from http://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Def.show/RTD/isbe/ID/ 4618/Inspiration-1-7.htm, accessed 13 April 2014.

Warfield, Benjamin B.. “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.

Wolterstorff, Nicholas. “True Words.” in But is it All True?: The Bible and the Question of Truth, ed. Alan Padgett and Patrick Keifert, 35-43. Cambridge, UK: WM. B. Eerdmans 2006.

Zuck, Roy. Basic Bible Interpretation. Colorado Springs: David Cook 1991.

[1] Avery Dulles, Models of Revelation, (Maryknoll: Orbis Books 1992), 78.

[2] Henry, 24.

[3] Dulles, 81.

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Prophecy: Jack Deere’s view on it

Next, we look at how Jack Deere views the office of the prophets and prophecy both in biblical times and modern times. The main definition for prophecy focuses on Deuteronomy 18. While this writer agrees that prophecy is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we must be careful to not elevate that gift to the same level as the divinely inspired Word.

Deere’s View on Prophecy

A serious issue with the book is Deere’s casual handling of the biblical prophets, or as to use his term, those that are “prophetically gifted.” Deere doesn’t believe that a failed or missed prediction makes a false prophet. He will even go so far as to say that the 100% accuracy rule of Deuteronomy 18:15-22 is not the correct interpretation of that text, nor does he hold 100% accuracy view for the New Testament.[1] Thus, let us now look at Deuteronomy 18:18, 20, 22 to see what it says:

[A]nd I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him…. But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, is to be put to death…. If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken.

In reviewing the passage in Deuteronomy, the view of this writer is that Deere has missed the mark. If one claims to be a prophet and speaks presumptuously for God a message that God has not delivered to them, then the prophet is a false prophet. Since they are a false prophet, then they are deserving of death. From this passage, there are two main standards of truth. First, that it must be 100% accurate. Second, that it must match the word of God. This standard would then apply in spirit at all times, not just in ancient Israel. In view of the text, an Old Testament prophet could be defined as one who speaks for God. A prophet is one in whom God has placed His words and because they are from God, the standard of accuracy is 100%. “Deuteronomy 18 does more than establish the prophet as a divinely deputized spokesman; it correlates his mission with the proclamation of God’s divinely given words.”[2]

Contrary to the biblical standard of Deuteronomy 18, Deere instead believes that “the way to discern between false and true prophets is to examine the fruit of the prophet’s ministry.”[3] Deere later mentions that “certainly, truth or fulfillment of prophecy would be part of the good fruit.”[4] By mentioning fruit, he is causing the reader to observe the effects of the prophet instead of the accuracy. While Deere admits that he knows of no prophets that are absolutely accurate 100% of the time, he believes that prophetic error can still produce fruit of the Spirit.[5] At the same time, in viewing prophets in this way, he has made a fundamental mistake saying in effect that God speaks in error.

This directs us back to the definition of a prophet. If prophecy can be defined as speaking God’s words, then what Deere terms a “prophetically gifted” person must be called a prophet. While Deere says that the “prophetically gifted” are right most of the time but not all of the time, if they claim to speak the words of God, then by definition they must be called prophets. If the standard of a prophet is that they will speak the words that God will put into their mouths, and because God is who He is and He is the standard of truth, then the prophecy must be 100% accurate. Unfortunately, these “prophets” do not meet the standard of truth that God set out for them in His Word. Deere instead tries to fit God’s Word into his theology. Truth can be defined as “a statement or idea that is true or accepted as true.”[6] Examining truth further, the “root notion of truth is that of something measuring up – that is, measuring up in being or excellence.”[7] God is the only and best standard of truth. When God-breathed out His inspired Word by using the Spirit to guide the biblical authors to write these inerrant words, He gave us His standard of truth.

The issue at hand is not about adding these prophetic words to the Bible. As discussed, the canon is a closed discussion. The issue is if God is speaking these words through these “prophets,” then they are from God and have God as their source. This means that they are also considered inspired, which means they must be true. But when Deere says that not every prophet is 100% accurate and are wrong some of the time, then they cannot be from God because His words meet the standard of truth and come with His authority. These “prophets” simply do not measure up.

[1] Deere, 69.

[2] Henry, 16.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Deere, 326.

[5] Ibid, 68-69.

[6] Merriam-Webster, s.v. “True,” accessed May 3, 2014,                                            http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/true.

[7] Nicholas Wolterstorff, “True Words,” in But is it All True?: The Bible and the Question of Truth, ed. Alan Padgett and Patrick Keifert (Cambridge, UK: WM. B. Eerdmans 2006), 43.

Deere’s Treatment of Scripture

This section begins the focus on Dr. Jack Deere’s treatment of Scripture in his book, “Surprised by the Voice of God.” We will begin with an overview and then look more closely at the authority of Scripture and how Deere treats these revelations.

Deere’s Treatment of Scripture

“The Bible is the sacred Christian book. The fate of Christianity turns on its supernatural origin, the factuality of its redemptive history, and the validity of its teachings.”[1] The central and pivotal doctrine of Scripture is the doctrine of inspiration, it states that all Scripture is God-breathed and has God as its source. Since it is “wholly and verbally God-given, Scripture is without error or fault in all of its teachings, no less than what it states about God’s acts in Creation, about the events of world history, about its own literary origins under God, and its witness to God’s saving grace in individual lives.”[2] As a result of being from God, the inspired Scriptures carry with it the doctrines of inerrancy, authority, canonicity and sufficiency. This means that the Scriptures that God breathed out through the work of the Spirit to give us these trustworthy words come with His authority and are worthy of preservation so that His people may be equipped for obedience.

But what happens when someone starts to elevate a different revelation to have the same authority as the inspired Scriptures. What happens when we replace the authority of Scripture with our own experiences? What happens to God’s Word in a person’s life when they no longer look to it for revelation, but look to oneself? What happens when one starts skewing the lines to make the Bible fit into one’s life and theology instead of having the Bible provide one’s theology? In the next few sections, Deere’s treatment of Scripture will be examined against the doctrines of authority, canonicity and sufficiency to show how Scripture is mis-treated and his experiences have replaced Scripture’s primary revelatory role.

Authority of Scripture

Scripture is authoritative because it comes from God; it has God as its source. Since it is from God it has His divine authority and thus it is to be obeyed. God breathed out His instructions so that all who believe in Him will be “wise for salvation” (2 Tim. 3:15, NIV). Recalling that “all Scripture is God-breathed” (2 Tim. 3:16, NIV) means that Scripture is completely inspired. All of it has the authority of God. Some concepts or themes may not have the same importance as they once did or apply to the culture today, but that does not mean it is any less authoritative. There are some themes in Scripture that are more timeless or more important than others. Propositional truth is linked to a context in time and space because it uses language that is expressed in time and space of that certain culture. Even though some truths are more timeless than others, the Bible is still entirely authoritative because it is from God.

Deere argues that we have varying degrees of authority in Scripture. In discussing the present forms of prophecy and ongoing propositional revelation, he believes that visions, impressions and dreams have divine authority, but they do not have the same authority as Scripture. In making this statement, Deere suggests that all things that come from God have a varying degree of authority. Deere argues, “Nor am I saying that experience and Scripture are equal standards of authority for us.”[3] In his system, he is claiming that there are certain divine revelations that are more authoritative than others. This allows him to affirm that not only does Scripture have authority, but the experiences have authority as well. The issue is that if they are both from God, they should both have the same divine authority. God cannot be separated and neither can His authority.

In speaking of one’s obligation to obey spiritual promptings, Deere makes a contrast between the Bible having absolute authority over all believers and “divine personal guidance” having authority only over the person that it was given to.[4] In contrasting these two messages, he is stating that Scripture has one level of unique authority that applies to “all believers, everywhere, at all times.”[5] However, the divine messages have another level of authority because it applies to a limited time and place. Deere’s view of authority is significantly different from the view that sees all of Scripture having the authority of God. The commands in the Bible are not expressing God’s rules for all people, everywhere and in every time. There are some commands which are bound by time and others bound by culture. The Bible needs to be interpreted because some of it is relevant and applies to us today, while some of it does not, however it is all true and authoritative. The basis for his argument is that these visions, dreams and impressions have a different authority than the Bible.

Deere believes that the Bible is true but it does not help in interpreting the voices from God. “But probably more often than not, a naïve commitment to tradition often drowns his [God’s] voice in a sea of confidence in human methods and rules.”[6] What he is alluding to is that the extra-biblical voice of God is more reliable than the biblical voice of God. Deere is arguing that those who have incorporated a traditional form of Bible study are actually using a deficient method, while commending those who are supposedly interpreting the truth correctly because they are using the “voice” to know what Scripture is actually teaching.

In a warning about elevating interpretation above Scripture, Pinnock says, “The intent of the text is secondary to the needs of the interpreter. The Bible no longer rules us; we rule it!”[7] As believers, we can never allow our own interpretation or knowledge to have primary authority in our lives. While Scripture needs to be interpreted, it is Scripture that is authoritative.

[1] Carl F. H. Henry, “The Authority and Inspiration of the Bible,” in The Expositor’s Bible

Commentary, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979), 3.

[2] “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy,” in Inerrancy, ed. Norman Geisler (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980), 493.

[3] Ibid, 127.

[4] Ibid, 284.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid, 249.

[7] Clark H. Pinnock, Biblical Revelation – the Foundation of Christian Theology, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1971), 223.

The Sufficiency of Scripture and Concluding Thoughts on Inspiration

The final doctrine on the inspiration of Scripture is discussed briefly here in the form of the Sufficiency of Scripture. The conclusion ties the last few posts up and discusses the overarching theme on the importance of the inspiration of Scripture.

Doctrine of Sufficiency

The third doctrine that resulted from the doctrine of inspiration is that of the sufficiency of Scripture. This doctrine affirms that Scripture is enough. The Belgic Confession says that, “we believe that the Holy Scriptures fully contain the will of God and that whatsoever man ought to believe onto salvation is sufficiently taught therein.”[1] 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. “The written Scriptures were the statute-book by which God instructed, warned, and judged his ancient people.”[2] Henry concludes that the stated purpose of the biblical writings is to “give man all that is necessary and sufficient for his redemptive rescue and obedient service of his Maker.”[3] Scripture is sufficient in that it is practical because it is worthy to be taught, studied and obeyed.

God, in His infinite wisdom, gave us everything He wanted us to know in His inspired Word. He gave us what we needed and because it is from God, He gave us enough. If He wanted us to know more, He would have provided that to us. Sufficiency doesn’t mean that the Bible contains all the truths of this world or all that we need to live as obedient stewards of this world. It also doesn’t mean that all of God’s revelations were or are included in the Bible. There are truths outside of the Bible, like science and economics for example. “The sufficiency of Scripture means that we don’t need any more special revelation. We don’t need any more inspired, inerrant words. In the Bible God has given us, we have the perfect standard for judging all other knowledge.”[4]

The doctrine of sufficiency is that God has thoroughly, competently and completely provided all that is necessary in His Word for His believers to obey Him.

Conclusion

God has provided all mankind a true and accurate account of Him and His redemptive works that comes with His authority, been He has preserved and collected through all the ages and has equipped those who read this book everything they will need to listen and obey Him. This all started by God breathing out the very words that we can read today. It all started with inspiration when God breathed out these trustworthy words that came with His authority to be preserved so that His people may be equipped for obedience. “For the Bible is God’s Word now. It is his authoritative Word, in and through and by which the Spirit addresses us today….Scripture is indeed what God himself would have us know and would have us obey in the church as the Word of God.”[5] John Piper sums it up nicely saying, “the Scriptures are sufficient in the sense that they are the only (‘once for all’) inspired and (therefore) inerrant words of God that we need, in order to know the way of salvation (‘make you wise unto salvation’) and the way of obedience (‘equipped for every good work’).”[6]

The doctrines of authority, canonicity and sufficiency are all derived from inspiration. When God gave us His inspired works and these doctrines came to be, He provided the Christian examples of how God has worked in history, how He is working today and how He is equipping us for the future. He has provided us a profitable collection that is trustworthy and more than enough.

[1] Guido de Bras, “The Belgic Confession,” Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics, Internet, available from http://www.reformed.org/, accessed 20 April 2014.

[2] Henry, 10.

[3] Ibid, 27-28.

[4] John Piper, “Thoughts on the Sufficiency of Scripture,” Desiring God, Internet, available from http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/thoughts-on-the-sufficiency-of-scripture, accessed 20 April 2014.

[5] Henry, 10-11.

[6] Piper, “Thoughts on the Sufficiency of Scripture.”

Bibliography

de Bras, Guido. “The Belgic Confession.” Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics. Internet. Available from http://www.reformed.org/, accessed 20 April 2014.

Erickson, Millard J.. Christian Theology. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1983.

Geisler, Norman. “Canonicity of the Bible.” Internet. Available from http://www.pinpointevangelism.com/ The-Canonicity-of-the-Bible.pdf, accessed on 20 April 2014.

Henry, Carl F.. “The Authority and Inspiration of Scripture.” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank Gaebelein, vol. 1, 2-35. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979.

McGrath, Alister E.. Christian Theology: An Introduction. West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.

Piper, John. “Thoughts on the Sufficiency of Scripture.” Desiring God. Internet. Available from http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/thoughts-on-the-sufficiency-of-scripture, accessed 20 April 2014.

“The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy,” in Inerrancy, ed. Norman Geisler, 493-502. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980.

Warfield, Benjamin B.. “Inspiration 1-7.” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Internet. Available from http://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Def.show/RTD/isbe/ID/ 4618/Inspiration-1-7.htm, accessed 13 April 2014.

Warfield, Benjamin B.. “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.

A DEFINITION OF AUTHORITY OF SCRIPTURE

The next few post will continue to exam the doctrines that are tied to Scripture, such as authority, canonicity and sufficiency. This post provides an introduction to the subject as well as a look at the authority of Scripture.

A DEFINITION OF AUTHORITY, CANONICITY & SUFFICIENCY

The central and pivotal doctrine of Scripture is the doctrine of inspiration, that states that all Scripture is God-breathed and has God as its source. Furthermore, inspiration 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.”[1] As a result, 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.

Recall that the doctrine of inerrancy can be defined simply as Scripture being true and without error. Since it is “wholly and verbally God-given, Scripture is without error or fault in all of its teachings, no less than what it states about God’s acts in Creation, about the events of world history, about its own literary origins under God, and its witness to God’s saving grace in individual lives.”[2] In an attempt to bring clarity and a greater understanding on the doctrine of inspiration, the purpose of this writing is to expand the awesome work of inspiration by defining the doctrines of authority, canonicity and sufficiency of the Scriptures. The Bible is authoritative because it has God as its source and since it is his Word, it is to be obeyed. Scripture is worthy of preservation and collection because they were recognized as being God’s inspired Word. Inside this authoritative collection of God’s inspired sacred writings, is everything the servant of God needs to follow, worship and live a godly life. Having defined inerrancy previously, these three doctrines will now be further examined

Doctrine of Authority

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. Scriptures “authority rests on its divinity and its divinity expresses itself in its trustworthiness.”[3] The Bible presents itself first and foremost, as the Word of the Lord, given to man through chosen recipients and transmitters of divine redemptive revelation.[4] Since the Bible is a result of the divine work of the Holy Spirit working through the biblical writers, “the product of their activities transcends human powers and becomes divinely authoritative.”[5] Scripture is to be obeyed because with God as the Divine Author, He breathes out instructions for His people and all mankind.

Yet many deny the authority of Scripture. They deny that Scripture was inspired by God and that it is authoritative. Critics will speak of degrees of authority, but in doing so they misunderstand what authority is. As mentioned previously, Scripture as a whole is authoritative. Every part of it comes from God and shares His very attributes, including His authority and trustworthiness. It is evident from Jesus’ own teachings and testimony that He viewed every word of Scripture as a word of God and thus authoritative ascribing God as its author.[6] Jesus appeals to the indefectible authority belonging to every part of Scripture, as both He and the New Testament writers make their appeal indifferently to every part of Scripture, to every element in Scripture, to its most incidental clauses as well as to its most fundamental principles, and to the very form of its expression (cf. Matt. 5:18). [7] This is not to say that every part of Scripture applies to every situation. One must recognize that some passages don’t apply in certain contexts. Some passages are more timeless and important than others, but all of Scripture comes with the authority of God. Henry warns us that “Whoever would speak of God as authoritative over human life, yet clouds the authority of the Bible, in effect obscures an authoritative God.”[8] “Without an authoritative Scripture, the church is powerless to overcome not only human unregeneracy but also satanic deception.”[9] In denying the authority that God gave to the Bible, the Bible has been reduced by one’s critical reasoning and has elevated that reasoning in direct opposition to Scriptural teaching.[10]

The doctrine of authority can be described as a function of God’s inspiration of Scripture that carries His sovereignty as the source of Scripture bearing His characteristics to reveal instructions to be obeyed. Scripture’s authority is profitable for the servant of God to do His will and “make you wise unto salvation” (2 Tim. 3:15, NIV).

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

[2] “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy,” in Inerrancy, ed. Norman Geisler (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980), 493.

[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] Carl F. Henry, “The Authority and Inspiration of Scripture,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank Gaebelein, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979), 4.

[5] Benjamin B. Warfield, “Inspiration 1-7,” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Internet, available from http://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Def.show/RTD/isbe/ID/4618/Inspiration-1-7.htm, accessed 13 April 2014.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Henry, 11.

[9] Ibid, 13.

[10] “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy,” in Inerrancy, ed. Norman Geisler (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980), 502.

The doctrine of Inerrancy and a working definition for the Inspiration of Scripture

The concluding post on the doctrine of inerrancy and how it ties together with the inspiration of Scripture. Also, I conclude with a personal working definition of the two concepts.

The Doctrine of Inerrancy

“Divine inspiration assures the inerrancy of what God inspires.”[1] The inerrancy of Scripture is demanded by the doctrine of inspiration to affirm that Scripture is true. To put it simply, inerrancy says that if God is true, then what His Word says is true, and if Scripture is God’s Word and God is a trustworthy God, then Scripture is true, or inerrant. To say it another way, God’s Word is always true and is never false.[2] Paul Feinberg defines inerrancy as, “that when all facts are known, the Scriptures in their original autographs and properly interpreted will be shown to be wholly true in everything that they affirm, whether that has to do with doctrine or morality or with the social, physical or life sciences.”[3] In a response to attacks and misunderstandings on inerrancy, a group of biblical scholars gathered in Chicago to produce what is known as “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.” In it, they define inerrancy as, “being wholly and verbally God-given Scripture is without error or fault in all of its teachings, no less than what it states about God’s acts in Creation, about the events of world history, about its own literary origins under God, and its witness to God’s saving grace in individual lives.”[4] This group went on further to say that one of the essential components to fully grasping and confessing the authority of the Holy Scriptures is a recognition of its total truth and trustworthiness.[5] Recognizing the importance of the issue, the board went on to say, “to deny it is to set aside the witness of Jesus Christ and of the Holy Spirit and to refuse that submission to the claims of God’s own Word which marks true Christian faith.”[6]

Before moving any further, some qualifications and clarifications must be made about inerrancy. First, the doctrine of inerrancy only applies to the original autographs. Technically, it does not pertain to the copies or transmissions of the original text. In conjunction with that, inerrancy does not deny that there are not any contradictory or “problem” texts. It does not guarantee that solutions will ever be discovered to those text, only that a solution does exist. Believing in inerrancy, one can only assume that all the information is not available to address those problem texts.

Furthermore, inerrancy applies to the affirmations of Scripture. Scripture does record lies, errors and false statements but those are quoted accurately. Inerrancy does not demand strict adherence to the rules of grammar.[7] Inerrancy “does not exclude the use either of figures of speech or of a given literary genre.”[8] This means that general, phenomenal and metaphorical assertions are allowed. Inerrancy does not demand chronological, historical and scientific precision. It also does not require direct quotations in the quoting of others. This includes the “verbal exactness in the citation of the Old Testament by the New Testament writers.”[9]

What does inerrancy mean and allow? It means that the accounts that are presented as historical are accurate and actually occurred. It asserts that they are not myth or legend. Inerrancy means that what is stated in the sacred Scriptures is fully and completely accurate, reliable, trustworthy and authoritative. It means that the Bible is infallible, true and has no contradictions that cannot be resolved. Inerrancy means that Scripture is completely sufficient to achieve its purpose that is, the revelations of God and His redemptive works through Jesus Christ. Finally, inerrancy means that the authors aren’t simply stating their opinions, but the interpretations presented by the authors are truth.

Tying the doctrine of inerrancy back to inspiration, Bahnsen reminds us, “As the Spirit of truth He would not generate error…their message was made inerrant.”[10] Since the doctrine of inerrancy is grounded in the biblical teaching about inspiration, then Scripture being given by “divine inspiration, is infallible…it is true and reliable in all the matters it addresses.”[11] “If one interprets Scripture according to its own nature, standard, and purpose, there is no need whatever to hesitate in affirming its infallibility…God is himself truth, and his Word never falters.”[12] So, what does inerrancy mean? In this writer’s opinion, inerrancy applies to the original autographs of Scripture and affirms that Scripture is the true, authoritative, accurate and reliable Word of God. The Holy Spirit, as the witness to the Scriptures, authenticates and gives authority to the Bible’s claims and purposes by presenting a trustworthy collection of books that is infallible and free from all error and deceit.

Conclusion

Taking into account what has been discussed about inerrancy, the doctrine of inspiration can now be summarized. Inspiration applying only to the original autographs, is the act of the Holy Spirit working, moving and breathing out the very Words of God through human authors that were prepared by His Spirit to produce a sacred work that is totally inerrant and authoritative. The Holy Scriptures were written by God to provide instructions and promises to His people to obey in equipping them for His service.

The doctrine of inerrancy and inspiration technically applies only to the original autograph. One must remember that because God is God and in His providence has given and established His Word that we use today, and has not tried to distance Himself from it, yet calls us to obey it and for it to have authority in our lives, then we must conclude that it is the Word of God. Since it is the Word of God, and God is the source, it must be true and thus inerrant. God in His sovereignty and authority could have corrected the transmission or printing errors at any time, yet He continues to use this Scripture to mold and shape His believers, to reach the rest of the world and change hearts. At stake here is the character of God, and God has proven that He is willing to have His name attached to these Scriptures and use them to reach people each day, thus even the Bibles we use today must be called inerrant. “Copies and translations of Scripture are the Word of God to the extent that they faithfully represent the original.”[13] As Jesus Christ made all of His references to the Hebrew Scriptures of the Old Testament, most likely using the available copies, we too can put our entire confidence in the accuracy and veracity of God’s written Word.[14] They must be true because God is truth. “The Holy Spirit bears witness to the Scriptures, assuring believes of the truthfulness of God’s written Word.”[15]

The Scriptures are at its simplest a product of the divine, that “God-breathed” them out by His creative breath.[16] We do not have any idea or indication as to how God operated in producing them, only that God did breathe them out of these human authors to produce His inerrant masterpiece of literary work. “The purpose of the biblical writings is to give man all that is necessary and sufficient for his redemptive rescue and obedient service of his Maker.”[17]

[1] Ibid, 35.

[2] Paul Feinberg, The Meaning of Inerrancy,” in Inerrancy, ed. Norman Geisler (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980), 294.

[3] Ibid.

[4] “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy,” in Inerrancy, ed. Norman Geisler (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980), 493.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Feinberg, 299.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid, 300.

[10] Greg Bahnsen, Inerrancy of the Autographa,” in Inerrancy, ed. Norman Geisler (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980), 152.

[11] The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, 496.

[12] Henry, 34.

[13] The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, 496.

[14] Archer, 82.

[15] The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, 496.

[16] Benjamin B. Warfield, “Inspiration 1-7” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Internet, available from http://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Def.show/RTD/isbe/ID/4618/Inspiration-1-7.htm, accessed 13 April 2014.

[17] Henry, 25-26.

Bibliography

Archer, Gleason. “Alleged Errors and Discrepancies in the Original Manuscripts of the Bible,” in Inerrancy, ed. Norman Geisler, 57-82. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980.

Bahnsen, Greg. “Inerrancy of the Autographa,” in Inerrancy, ed. Norman Geisler, 151-193. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980.

Bromiley, Geoffrey. “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, 2-35. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979.

Erickson, Millard J.. Christian Theology. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1983.

Feinberg, Paul. “The Meaning of Inerrancy,” in Inerrancy, ed. Norman Geisler, 267-304. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980.

Henry, Carl F.. “The Authority and Inspiration of Scripture.” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank Gaebelein, vol. 1, 2-35. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979.

Ryrie, Charles. Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1999.

“The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy,” in Inerrancy, ed. Norman Geisler, 493-502. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980.

Warfield, Benjamin B.. “Inspiration 1-7.” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Internet. Available from http://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Def.show/RTD/isbe/ID/ 4618/Inspiration-1-7.htm, accessed 13 April 2014.

Warfield, Benjamin B.. “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.

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.

defining inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture

This is the first part of a three part post to discuss the pivotal doctrine of inspiration. Over the next three post, we will discuss inspiration: what it is, what it includes and what is part of it. Also, the doctrine of inerrancy will be discussed.

defining inspiration and inerrancy

Second Peter 1:21 states “For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” One of the key doctrines of the Christian faith is that of inspiration, specifically the inspiration of Scripture. A key ingredient to inspiration is the idea or concept of inerrancy, which is commonly thought of as “without error.” The Bible, and everything included in it, is a central and pivotal part of the Christian faith. To deny its Divine Authorship is to also deny its accuracy, authority, sufficiency and sacredness which is quite dangerous because it is to deny God’s character. The character of God and the descriptions of Him are revealed in Scripture as a truthful and trustworthy God; this is what makes the issues of inspiration and inerrancy so significant.

While the terms and ideas of inspiration and inerrancy have come under attack, it is the goal of this paper to lay out a definition that will be profitable and truthful to God’s revelations that are found in His Word. While these terms, inspiration and inerrancy, have been misconstrued and redefined by the modern world, it is important that we understand the concepts that these two terms refer to, and why they must be maintained as part of the Christian faith. God gave us the original writings by breathing out of the authors His divine words that those who believe in Him may be “thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:17, NIV). It is those original writings that were inspired and inerrant, but the copies that we can hold in our hands today are still accurate and reliable.

Why this Issue is Important

“The Bible presents itself first and foremost, as the Word of the Lord, given to man through chosen recipients and transmitters of divine redemptive revelation.”[1] The doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture says that God is the Source. The writings are inspired which means they came from God, or to say it in a more biblical sense, they are God-breathed. With God as the Source, Scripture describes, discloses, and marks His character. Among the many disclosures about God throughout His Word, is that He is true and perfect. Thus, if God is the source of the inspired Scriptures and of all truth, then what is written in His Word must be true and free from error. Since God is the source of Scripture, we can imply that Scripture has the authority of God; because God is who He says He is, Scripture is to be obeyed, and have authority and influence in a person’s life. The nature of Scripture as the Word of God means that every part of it is authoritative and trustworthy. “At stake is the credibility and reliability of the Bible as authentic revelation from God.”[2] “The result of inspiration is that God’s revelation is fully, permanently, and reliably committed to writing, assuring as a consequence the full trustworthiness of the prophetic-apostolic writing.”[3]

In recent years, skeptics have criticized the character of God through the attack on the inspiration and inerrancy of God’s Word. By describing that the Bible contains errors and questioning the process of inspiration, critics are challenging the providence of an Almighty God that is the only perfect and infallible being. Therefore, to challenge the Divine Word of God and bring His character into question is of utmost importance. For God cannot lie or deceive and what He reveals in His sacred Word must be true because God is the standard of truth.

[1] Carl F. Henry, “The Authority and Inspiration of Scripture,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank Gaebelein, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979), 5.

[2] Gleason Archer, “Alleged Errors and Discrepancies in the Original Manuscripts of the Bible,” in Inerrancy, ed. Norman Geisler (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980), 59.

[3] Henry, 26.

Models of Revelation continued: Presence, Awareness, and Proper Evangelical

Continuation of the discussion on Avery Dulles’ book, “Models of Revelation.” This post discusses the dialectical presence model and the new awareness model. Finally, it concludes with what the evangelical model more accurately looks like.

Model Four: Revelation as Dialectical Presence

Dulles defines this model by stating that, “God…could never be an object known either by inference from nature or history, by propositional teaching, or by direct perception of a mystical kind. Utterly transcendent, God encounters the human subject when it pleases him by means of a word in which faith recognizes him to be present.”[1] The “crucial moment of revelation” for this model is God’s utterance of a word charged with divine power.[2] This model is a response to the inner experience model which overemphasized the imminence of God. In this model, God is unknowable unless He makes Himself known. Revelation begins with God’s self-disclosure. The difference between this model and the experience model is that this encounter begins with God’s initiative. The content of revelation for this model is God, particularly God revealing Jesus Christ through words is one of its strengths.

Other strengths of this model are its focus on Christ and the need for revelation as God’s self-disclosure. The problems with this model is that it “views Scripture as a fallible witness to a revelational encounter” and considers its propositional statements fallible.[3] In addition, it limits divine revelation to the encounter with Christ and ignores other forms of divine revelation.

Model Five: Revelation as New Awareness

The form of revelation for this model is that of a “breakthrough into a more advanced stage of human consciousness, such that the self is experienced as constituted and empowered by the divine presence.”[4] The “crucial moment of revelation” for this model is the “the stimulation of the human imagination to restructure experience in a new framework.”[5] Revelation occurs by active involvement and immersion in the world. It is a reflection of God in human consciousness and is ongoing, not to be confined to the past.

The strengths are that symbols and experience can produce and induce a divine consciousness. It is also not as rigid and as authoritarian as other models. The weaknesses of this model though are quite substantial for the evangelical. Since God is not the object of revelation, the lack of content and rejection of verbal revelation are serious problems.

The More Complex Evangelical Model

Dulles reminds us that “The differences are limited and relate more to the theological understanding of revelation than to the fundamental idea.”[6] These models point out how different people understand the same terminology differently, which is part of the issue with revelation, it is how we respond or interpret it.

As we have seen, each model offers a variety of strengths and weaknesses. In the revelation as doctrine model, the major strengths are that God does speak and reveal Himself and His will verbally. Other strengths include the inspiration, inerrancy and authority of Scripture we recognize as part of the evangelical model. In the revelation as history model, God revealing Himself in acts in history is the main strength. The major strength of the revelation as inner experience model is that God does reveal Himself in a personal and communal relationship with His followers. The strength of the dialectical model is revelation occurring by God’s initiative and that God is perfectly revealed in Christ. Finally, the major strength of the revelation as new awareness is the value of symbols and active involvement in the experience of God’s creation. In summation, the evangelical model is much broader and more complex than Dulles originally described. By taking the main strengths of each models and incorporating them into the evangelical model, it becomes a more comprehensive and complete model that symbolizes the views of the evangelical Christian in an effort to know and respond to God’s divine revelations.

[1] Dulles, 28.

[2] Ibid, 28.

[3] Henry, 24.

[4] Dulles, 109.

[5] Ibid, 28.

[6] Ibid, 118.

Bibliography 

Dulles, Avery. Models of Revelation. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1992.

Henry, Carl F. H.. “The Authority and Inspiration of the Bible,” in The Expositor’s Bible

Commentary, vol. 1. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979.