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July 26, 2005

Ch.III. Q.16. Theories of Inspiration

THE chief theories of the method of inspiration are the verbal, the doctrinal, the neologian, and the dynamic. The Church has not formulated or sanctioned any one of them.1

2. The verbal theory is that God so inspired the sacred writers that every word which they wrote was selected absolutely by the Holy Ghost and not by themselves. Such a theory empties the human element of all reality, and makes it difficult, if not impossible, to allow any authority to modern texts and translations.2 It should be remembered in this connection that plenary inspiration means the inspiration of every part. It does not signify verbal dictation, or any particular method of inspiration.

3. The doctrinal theory acknowledges that the sacred writers were inspired to write true doctrine, but denies that the particular form of their writings had any other than a human source.3 Against this must be set the evidence that many of the very words of the Bible were divinely selected—e.g., Father, Son, Holy Ghost, Messias, ransom, propitiation, and many others. We cannot determine just how far this verbal inspiration extends.4 Moreover there is often an "inspiration of selection," by virtue of which human materials are chosen and shaped in the manner best adapted to the Divine purpose.5

4. The Neologist identifies the inspiration of the sacred writers with that spiritual insight and wisdom which is possessed by all righteous men who possess great natural gifts. Inspiration is attributed to such men as Socrates, Luther, and Keble.6 Thus inspiration is a matter of degree and is purely natural. This theory empties the word inspiration of all meaning, and is inconsistent with the unique and supernatural character of the Bible.7

5. The dynamic theory is, that the writers of the Bible had their spiritual faculties quickened and enlarged by the Holy Ghost, without losing their literary freedom or the peculiarities of their style.8 This undoubtedly represents the truth in many instances, but, in some cases, the nature of the writing appears to require no peculiar illumination or spiritual power;—e.g., the Book of Ruth, where the inspiration seems to have been merely an impulse to write, accompanied by an overruling of the process so as to impart a meaning to the result which the writer and his contemporaries knew little or nothing of. In fact, the inspiration—i.e., the Divine authority and spiritual bearing—may be the result of an incorporation into the sacred canon, by Divine guidance, of literature produced originally under natural impulse and, until its insertion into the sacred context, without Divine authority or supernatural value. At least Scripture nowhere asserts that all the Scriptures were originally written under Divine impulse.9

6. The variety of the work of the Holy Ghost in inspiration is such that no attempt to generalize is likely to be successful or lessen difficulties.10 It is sufficient to insist upon the fact of inspiration, or Divine authority for the result, and its unique and plenary character; acknowledging, at the same time, the reality of the human element. Light upon the methods of inspiration in particular parts of Scripture is to be sought by studying those parts themselves.11

1 Lee, Inspiration, pp. 32 et seq. and App. C. He gives patristic views, pp. 77-93 and App. G.

2 Lee, p. 33; Westcott, Introd. to the Study of the Gospels, p. 31; Strong, Syst. Theol., pp. 100-102.

3 Briggs, Gen. Introd. to the Study of H.S., p. 635.

4 Lee, Inspiration, pp. 44, 45.

5 Liddon, Univ. Serms., 2nd Series, xx.

6 Newton, Right and Wrong Uses of the Bible, ch. ii.

7 Westcott, Introd. to the Study of the Gospels, p. 31; Strong, Syst. Theol., pp. 97-98 (Intuition Theory).

8 Westcott, Introd., pp. 34-42; Lee, pp. 35 et seq. and Lec. iv.; and many modern orthodox writers.

9 Cf. however II. Pet. i. 21.

10 Clarke, Outline of Theol., pp. 40-41. Cf. Heb. i. 1.

11 Kirkpatrick, Divine Library, Lec. iv.

Posted by Debra Bullock at July 26, 2005 05:21 PM

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