What the Bible Says about Inspiration
by Farrell Till
Re-posted here by permission from Farrell Till.
Thank you Mr. Till!
In two previous articles in this series, I showed that leading inerrancy spokesmen, past and present, have declared emphatically that the Bible was verbally inspired of God. As I noted, the term “verbal inspiration” denotes that God inspired not the thoughts or ideas in the Bible, but the very words that the writers used. In the second article, I also noted that there are good reasons why biblical inerrantists espouse the doctrine of verbal inspiration, because (1) the Bible itself teaches that God put his words into the mouths of the Old Testament prophets and at times ordered them to write “his words” that had been revealed to them, (2) the New Testament teaches that Jesus sent the “spirit of truth” to guide his apostles so that the words that they spoke were not their words but the words of the Holy Spirit speaking through them, and (3) the NT teaches that “prophecies of scripture” did not come from private interpretation but as men were “moved” by the Holy Spirit. The doctrine of verbal inspiration is the only effective description of the process of guidance that the Bible claims that God used in guiding his inspired ones into “all truth.” This doctrine is the exact reason why so many Bible believers also believe in biblical inerrancy. This belief is a logical consequence of the doctrine of verbal inspiration.
To show how this is true, let’s assume the truth of certain claims that Christians make for their god. They claim that he is omniscient (all-knowing), omnipotent (all-powerful), omnipresent (simultaneously present at all places), and omnibenevolent (unlimited in his love, mercy, compassion, etc.), among many other “omni” attributes. Now if the Christian god really does have all of these attributes and if he verbally inspired the writing of the Bible, then it would logically follow that everything written in the original autographs of the Bible would have been inerrant whether those things concerned theology or not. If you think that this doesn’t logically follow, then think for a moment. Suppose that God had not inspired the writing of the Bible but had sat down himself and personally written every word in the original autographs. If that were the case, would it have been possible for errors in history, geography, chronology, and such like to be in the original autographs? If so, then these errors would have had to result from a conscious desire on God’s part to put the errors into the Bible, because we can hardly imagine how an entity who knows everything there is to know and is able to do anything that is logically possible to do would have made inadvertent mistakes in history, geography, chronology, science, etc. When I was a teacher, it didn’t take me long to figure out that the most intelligent students would submit the most accurately written tests and essays. In other words, those who knew the most about the subject would make the fewest mistakes and earn the best grades. What if I had had an omniscient, omnipotent student? If that had ever been the case, then this student would never have given any incorrect answers or made other mistakes unless he/she had consciously wanted to and, thus, had deliberately written down incorrect answers, but it is hard to imagine why anyone would have wanted to do this. It is even harder to imagine how a god with the characteristics that Christians attribute to their god would have consciously desired to put errors into the Bible if he himself had written the Bible in its entirety.
Consider the following propositions:
1. God is omniscient.
2. God is omnipotent.
3. God is omnibenevolent.
4. God deliberately and consciously put errors into a book that he himself wrote, which book contains information about a plan of redemption that its readers would have to understand and obey in order to be saved from their sins.
How can number 4 be made logically compatible with the first three? If God had put errors into a book that he wrote himself, he would have had to know he was doing this, or else he would not be omniscient. If God had put errors into a book that he wrote himself, he would have had the ability to avoid writing the errors, or else he would not be omnipotent. If God had put errors into a book, knowing that he was writing the errors, knowing that he had the ability to avoid writing the errors, and knowing that the errors could mislead people into believing that which is not true and which would possibly cause them not to understand his plan of redemption, then God would not be omnibenevolent.
In response to this, some Bible believers will argue that God did not actually write the Bible himself but merely inspired its writing, but this in no way explains away the consequences of the doctrine of verbal inspiration. If God verbally inspired the writing of the Bible, as I have shown the Bible to teach, then ultimately the words were not the words of the men who wrote it but, as fundamentalists of the old school argue, the words of God himself, and that is exactly what leading inerrantists of the past and present have taught. So the issue at stake here is not what I believe or what Roger Hutchinson believes or what Robert Turkel or Joe Alward believes or what anyone else may believe but what the Bible teaches about itself and what the doctrine of verbal inspiration necessitates. No one is denying that there are Bible believers who reject the doctrine of verbal inspiration, because many of them obviously do. There are also Bible believers who reject the doctrine of biblical inerrancy. None of this, however, negates the fact that the Bible teaches that when God inspired individuals, he put his words in their mouths, and this is the exact reason why biblical inerrantists declare that the Bible in its entirety, in the original autographs, was completely inerrant in everything, in matters of history, geography, chronology, science, etc., as well as in matters of faith and practice.
Is this just something that Farrell Till is imagining about what the Bible says about inspiration? Well, in this series, I have supported all of my points with quotations from the scriptures, so those who would pooh-pooh what I have said about what the Bible teaches about inspiration have an obligation to show that the scriptures I have quoted did not mean what they say. They should also take note that I have their savior-god Jesus Christ on my side, because he too apparently thought that the scriptures are inerrant.
John 10:34 Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? 35 If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; 36 Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?
When Jesus said that “the scripture cannot be broken,” what did he mean if he did not mean that whatever the scriptures say has to be true and cannot be false? If, however, the scriptures recorded only what Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Ezra, Amos, Joel, Malachi, etc. thought or what they “chose” to say or what they knew only from personal experiences or “oral tradition,” then what basis did Jesus have for saying that “scripture cannot be broken,” for if what scriptures say are not the words that God himself directed his chosen writers to say, then scripture can indeed be broken, because it would be no more authoritative than what unknown writers put into pseudepigrapha like the books of Enoch, the Apocalypse of Daniel, or the Testiments of the Twelve Patriarchs.
In a follow-up series, I will examine the different theories of the new fundamentalists to show that they do not offer satisfactory alternatives to the traditional biblical inerrancy doctrine and in no way satisfactorily explain why a book purporting to be the “word of God” in any sense would have vagueness, ambiguity, and inconsistencies in it. I have already dismantled some of these new theories of inspiration in articles like “The Paper Shortage” and “It Doesn’t Matter?” but more are forthcoming. I have already completed detailed replies to Robert “No Links” Turkel’s attempt to “eviscerate” Dan Barker’s Easter Challenge and to Turkel’s attempt to prove that “Mark” did not end his gospel at 16:18 but had continued his resurrection narrative in an ending that has been lost.
These rebuttals show the absurdity of trying to justify ambiguities and inconsistencies in allegedly inspired works on the grounds of paper shortages, variations in “oral traditions,” individual “choices” of the writers, and such like.