In the last essay we began our study of the doctrine of the inspiration of the Bible.  We looked at four theories.  The most liberal position, the intuition theory, rejects divine inspiration and revelation, and therefore, attributes only elevated human inspiration to the biblical authors. 

            The illumination theory allows for divine inspiration and revelation, but insists that the inspiration of the biblical authors was quite ordinary.  Indeed it was the same kind of inspiration God might give to you when you prepare a Sunday school lesson. 

              The dynamic theory, which is the one most favored by orthodox Christians, believes that God inspired the biblical writers in a special, extraordinary fashion that produced a special revelation.  There was a unity of human and divine action in the process that raised the biblical revelation above all others as God’s Word for humanity, without taking away the writer’s freedom to do research and to choose the words he wanted to use. 

            The most conservative view is called the dictation theory.  It suggests that God used the human authors as stenographers to whom he dictated the contents of the Bible word for word.  In this view the authors were not involved except in a mechanical way.  Thus the theory often is called the mechanical theory. 

              In this essay I want to begin with something that usually is discussed in connection with the dynamic theory.  It is a concept called the Christological analogy.  As you know an analogy is when we say that one thing is like another. 

            The Christological analogy is the idea that the relation between the divine and human in respect to the Bible is like the relation between the divine and human in respect to Jesus.  However, some theologians push the Christological analogy much too far.  For example, some have claimed that the written Word (the Bible) partakes of the same twofold nature as the incarnate Word (Jesus). 

              That is not so!  The Bible makes no such claim for itself.  If the Bible were human and divine in the same way that Jesus is, then the Bible would be God, just as Jesus is God.  This is not what the Christological analogy means.  It means that there was a unity of divine and human action in the formation of the Bible, but not a unity of divinity and humanity. 

            In the case of Jesus, he is the Word of God become flesh.  He is God and Man.  In the case of the Bible, it is (as George Ladd puts it) the “Word of God given in the words of men in history.”  It is not the word of God become the words of men.  Therefore the Christological analogy is expressing only a similarity to the relation between the human and divine in Jesus, not sameness

              Now then, having in the last essay looked at the various theories of inspiration, how do we assess them?  This is a more complicated process than it might seem on the surface.  As always I believe that one should make a decision about which of the views is best in light of the biblical evidence.  Obviously, the intuition theory is for unbelievers.  For believers, that leaves the remaining three theories: the illumination, the dictation and the dynamic. 

            Those who accept the idea of inspiration, but who cannot accept the idea of an extraordinary inspiration tend to settle on the illumination theory.  Those who are uncomfortable with the idea of human participation in revelation like the dictation theory.  Persons who are comfortable with both human participation and extraordinary inspiration hold to the dynamic theory.  I personally hold to the dynamic theory for that very reason.  It accepts the reality of both divine involvement in an extraordinary way and genuine human involvement. 

              However, a decision in favor of one theory or the other does not end the matter, for it is (in my judgment) impossible to fit all of the biblical evidence under one theory in a “neat” way.  For example, I don’t doubt for a moment that some of the biblical authors were, on some occasions, so gripped by the Spirit, that the product of their writing at those times seemed like a dictated message. 

            To illustrate, let me use a non-biblical example, which easily can be transferred via the imagination to biblical authors.  George Matheson, a Scottish minister wrote the hymn “O Love That Will Not Let Me Go”, during a time of great personal, emotional stress. 

              His sister was being married, and this event apparently brought to his mind the traumatic experience of his youth, more than two decades before, when his fiancée rejected him because he was going blind.  He went into a mental depression, about which he writes: 

The hymn was the fruit of that suffering.  It was the quickest bit of work I ever did in my life.  I had the impression rather of having it dictated to me by some inward voice than of working it out myself.  I am quite sure that the whole work was completed in five minutes, and equally sure that it never received at my hands any retouching or correction.  I have no natural gift of rhythm.  All the other verses I have written are manufactured articles; this came like a dayspring from on high.  I have never been able to gain once more the same fervor in verse (A. E. Bailey, The Gospel in Hymns {1950}, p. 459.) 

            Can you imagine David’s experiencing something like this when he wrote the fifty-first psalm out of the deep sorrow he felt because of his sins?  This is why one must not reject totally the idea that some biblical authors were so profoundly inspired, on some occasions, that they wrote God’s message as though it were dictated word for word. 

            On the other hand, there are portions of scripture that do not give this kind of impression at all.  Indeed, as we saw from the self-testimony of Luke in the previous essay, the usual practice of biblical authors was to research the facts and write the Biblical books using the same procedures as when writing any other book,  The difference was that the Biblical authors wrote under the extraordinary inspiration of the Holy Spirit. 

            Therefore I believe there is a sense in which we must speak of degrees of inspiration.  We orthodox Christians believe that the authors of certain books were extraordinarily inspired.  And those books are in the biblical canon.  The authors of many other books were inspired to one degree or another as they wrote, but not in the special, extraordinary way that entitled the books to a place in the canon of Scripture.

            The Old and New Testaments are extraordinarily inspired and therefore are in the canon.  The book of Jude is an example of a book that almost did not make it into the New Testament.  The book of 1 Clement on the other hand was accepted as Scripture in parts of the Church at one time.  But it did not make it into the New Testament. 

            The Old Testament Apocryphal books are accepted as Scripture by part of the Church, and not by other parts.  The Roman Catholics accept these books as a “second canon;” but Protestants never accepted them as canonical.  Neither, by the way, did the Jews.

            This reveals that there is some uncertainty in respect to this matter of degrees of inspiration.  1 Clement was an inspired book.  But it was not inspired enough to get into the New Testament.  Jude was an extraordinarily inspired book; but that fact was strongly debated by the early Church.  Nevertheless. the Church recognized it to be extraordinarily inspired and entered it into the canon.  . 

            Could the Church have made a mistake in the matter of the canon?  I suppose humanity’s fallibility makes that possible, but let’s look at that possibility.  If 1 Clement had made it into the canon, it would not have changed Christianity.  We still would believe the same things we do.  On the other hand, had Jude not made it into the NT canon, again Christianity would not be changed.  The Holy Spirit inspired the church in these decisions just as he inspired the biblical authors.  As God he knew what he was doing.

            Now then, we want to conclude our study of the doctrine of inspiration.  When we formulate an orthodox doctrine of inspiration, we must begin with the idea that the entire Bible is inspired by God.  In addition, we must recognize, as Paul teaches us in 2 Tim. 3:16, that all Scripture not only is inspired by God, it is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness.  And, all of it is authoritative; that is, it provides Christians with a normative standard for “faith and practice.” 

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