Here’s the second component of what I’ve been going through on Monday night with the men’s discipleship group I’m a part of leading. We’ve been introducing them to a basic doctrine of scripture. I wrote the first component (the first 3 elements) before I became acutely ill, so the part on inerrancy and the last 6 points are elements that I wrote after I was laid out. One day when I’m better, I’ll finish working those out in more detail. Either way, I pray this is informative and enlightening for you:
A General Overview of the Doctrine of Scripture
1. The Necessity of Revelation
1a. Certain things are hidden from all but God
– People can hide themselves from others (1 Sam. 10:21).
– The dreams of a man’s mind that he doesn’t wish to share (Dan. 2:8-11).
– The meaning of the past or the future (Is. 41:22-23, 44:6-8).
– The thoughts and intentions of the heart (Prov. 21:2; Jer. 17:9) since the heart can be deceived (Deut. 11:16; Ob. 1:3; Jam. 1:26).
1b. Certain things can only be made known by God
– God knows where every hidden thing is, including people (1 Sam. 10:22; Ps. 139:15; Jer. 16:17, 23:24) and everything else (Is. 48:6; Jer. 33:3; Dan. 2:22; Col 2:3; Heb. 4:13).
– The dreams of a man’s mind that he doesn’t wish to share (Dan. 2:26-28).
– The meaning of the past (Gen. 1-10) or future (Rev. 4-22).
– God knows the hearts of men (Gen. 6:5; Jer. 11:20) and Jesus knew people’s thoughts and heart motivations (Matt. 9:4, 12:25; Mark 12:15; Luke 5:22; 9:47).
1c. Sin & Satan have rationally separated men from God
– The carnal mind cannot see reality as it is in relation to God (Luke 16: 27-31; Rom. 8:5-7; 2 Cor. 2:14).
– Not only that, but Satan actively blinds unregenerate minds to the truths of God (Matt. 23:16-26; John 9:39-41, 12:36b-43; 2 Cor. 4:4; 1 John 2:11).
2. The reality of Revelation
2a. God himself is hidden and only know by God
– God hides himself (Deut. 31:16-18; Job 13:23-24; Ps. 10:1, 13:1, 44:24, 88:14, 89:46; Is. 45:15; Ez. 39:25-29; Mic. 3:4).
– The full scope of God’s many characteristics are unknowable (Is. 40:9-31).
– The thoughts and plans of God are unknown (Is. 40:13, 55:8-9; 1 Cor. 2:11).
– God the Father has never been seen by anyone (1 Tim. 6:16; John 1:18)
2b. God has made himself known
– “Our knowledge of God’s nature and purposes is limited by his disclosure; not a morsel of information can be confidently asserted about God and his will beyond what he has chosen to reveal.” (Carl Henry, God, Revelation and Authority: Volume II, 47)
i. In Nature
– In the night sky (Ps. 8:1, 19:1-6; Is. 40:12-14, 40:26)
– In the animals (Ps. 104:24-30; Job 12:7-10)
– In the regularity of nature and joys of life (Acts. 14:15-17)
– In the unregenerate conscience (Rom. 2:14-15)
– In creation in general (Rom. 1:18-21)
– In theological language, God’s revelation of himself in nature is called General Revelation: it’s general in the sense that it’s general in content, not because it’s general in availability.
– Nobody ever learns about the gospel from General Revelation; General Revelation only serves to condemn not redeem.
ii. In History
– By his acts: the event of the Exodus, signs and wonders, etc. (Ex. 7-17; 1 Ki. 18:20-40; 2 Ki. 1-8; John 5:36; 14:8-11)
– By his angels (Gen 18-19; 2 Ki. 6:17; Ez. 40-48; Dan. 10:12-14; Zech. 1:8-15, 2:1-13, 4:1-6, 5:1-6:8; Matt.1:20, 4:11, 28:2-7; Luke 1:11-20)
– By his own words: God has spoken directly to people in history, but this is very uncommon (Gen. 3:9-19; Ex. 33:11; Deut. 34:10; 1 Kin. 19:13, 15-18; Matt. 3:17, 17:5; John 12:28; Acts 9:4-5)
– By his prophets and apostles: Moses, Elijah, Isaiah, Paul, Peter, etc. (1 Sam. 15:10; 1 Ki. 17:1-2; Jer. 30:1; Col. 1:24-26).
– By his Son: The Angel of the Lord/Jesus Christ. (Gen. 16:8-12, 22:11-18; Ex. 3-4; John 1:18, 5:36-40; Gal. 1:11-12; Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:1-2)
– John 1:18 says “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known”
– The term there is exegomai, from which we get the word exegete.
– In a very special way, Jesus provided God’s own exegesis of himself.
– By his written oracles: – God has revealed himself in his written word (Ex. 24:1-7; Dan. 9:2; 1 Cor. 2:12-16)
– In theological language, God’s revelation of himself in history is called Special Revelation: it’s special in the sense that it’s specific in content.
– Of all the manifestations of special revelation, only one is still currently and regularly available to all believers: God’s written oracles.
-The creation of God’s written oracles is known as Inscripturation.
1. The Meaning of Inscripturation
– “Inscripturation is the work of the Holy Spirit by which he so guided the minds of the human authors and writers that they chose the precise words necessary to accurately reflect the exact truth God intended, all the while reflecting their own personality, writing style, vocabulary, and cultural context thus guaranteeing that this truth is accurately, inerrantly, and infallibly inscripturated.” (Decker, Rodney J., Paraklesis, Spring 2005 – http://ntresources.com/blog/documents/InspirTranslIntrvw.pdf – retrieved May 27, 2014).
1a. Inscripturation is not “writing down prophecies”
– Though there are many prophecies recorded in the scripture and many prophecies not recorded in scripture; the recording of a prophecy is not identical to the writing of scripture (Ex. 24:3-4 – the speaking and writing were two distinct and separate events).
– On one occasion, God directly wrote scripture with his own hand (Dan 5:5).
1b. Inscripturation is “writing scripture”
– It’s like prophecy, but with the prophetic act being one of writing rather than speaking. In the same sense that spoken prophecy is a prophet’s mouth speaking God’s words, inscripturation is a prophet’s hand writing God’s words:
– In Ex. 34, God says that he’ll write on the tablets (Ex. 34:1) but Moses is actually the one who writes on the tablets (Ex. 34:27-28)…but in Deut. 4:13 & 10:4 Moses claims that God was the one who did the writing.
– So the Scriptures are God’s special revelation to us, uncovered and communicated to us by means of the Holy Spirit.
2. The Need of Inscripturation
2a. Not all special revelation was recorded
– There are several times where the scriptures refer to prophecies that were not written down (1 Sam. 10:10-11, 19:19-24; John 21:24; Acts 21:9)
2b. Active prophets are rare in history
– The Bible covers a period of history that is roughly 4,000+ years, and there are active prophets on the earth for roughly 10% of that time.
2c. God’s revelation needed to be preserved
– Certain revelations from God needed to be preserved for the purpose of serving as a witness of judgment against those who rejected the word of the Lord (Is. 30:8-11).
– Certain revelations from God also needed to be preserved to instruct believers (Ex. 24:1-7; 1 Cor. 10:11)
– Our only access to all of God’s special revelation in history is through the scriptures. The scriptures are God’s inscripturated oracles recorded through his prophets.
3. The Process of Inscripturation
3a. The Lord commanded the writing of scripture.
– The Biblical authors were often compelled to write down their revelation because they were commanded by God to do so (Ex. 17:14, 34:27; Is. 30:8; Jer. 30:2, 36:2-3, 36:27-28; Rev. 1:10-11)
3b. The Spirit motivated the writing of scripture.
– At other times, the Biblical authors were compelled to write down their revelation because they simply wanted to do so (Deut. 31:24; Josh. 24:26; 1 Sam. 10:25; Luke 1:1-4; 1 Cor. 4:14-16; 2 Cor. 13:9-10; Jude 1:3).
3c. The Spirit of God then superintended the writing of scripture.
– The Bible covers a period of history that is roughly 4,000+ years, and there are active prophets on the earth for roughly 10% of that time.
– The process of Inscripturation is known as Inspiration.
1. The Meaning of Inspiration
1a. General definition – theopneustos – “breathed out by God”.
– “Inspiration is . . . a supernatural influence exerted on the sacred writers by the Spirit of God, by virtue of which their writings are given divine trustworthiness.” (Warfield, The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, 131)
1b. Inspiration is plenary – all inscripturated revelation is inspired.
– 2 Tim 3:16-17 is one of the key passages in scripture dealing with Inspiration. The verb used to describe the relationship between God and the scripture is theopneustos.
– Inspiration is a characteristic of the written product.
1c. Inspiration is verbal – Scripture is equally theopneustos in its parts as well as its whole. God specifically selected the words with which he communicated the ideas of scripture; the ideas themselves are not unrelated to the words of scripture.
2. The Method of Inspiration
2a. What Inspiriation is: 2 Peter 1:20-21 – The Holy Spirit carried along the authors to write exactly what he wanted them to write without overriding their personalities or literary styles. The term used to describe this is confluence – it’s the concept of when 2 rivers merge together to become 1. Every water molecule that is in the both rivers 1 mile upstream ends up in the resultant river, and yet there’s a new and different river created by the merging that is exclusively neither one of the two.
2b. What Inspiration is not:
– God making a human book better. People sometimes think of “inspiration” in the sense in which it is used of art; something that “transcends” the typical norms of quality/excellence is referred to as “inspired”. Inspiration, in the theological sense, is not a quality of “divineness” that can be added to something that is already in existence.
– God planting ideas in the mind of the author and let them work out the words. God regularly gave his prophets people specific words (Num. 22:6, 35-38, 23:5-12, 24:1-13; John 11:51; 1 Cor. 2:13; Acts 2:4-11)
– Only certain parts of the Bible being “from God” (i.e. the moral parts or the parts about “how to get to Heaven”).
– “Jesus consistently treats Old Testament historical narratives as straightforward records of fact. He refers to Able (Luke 11:510, Noah ( Matt. 24:37-39; Luke 17:26, 27), Abraham (John 8:56), the institution of circumcision (John 7:22; cf. Gen. 17:10-12; Lev. 12:3), Sodom and Gomorrah (Matt. 10:15; 11:23, 24; Luke 10:12), Lot (Luke 17:28-32), Isaac and Jacob (Matt. 8:11; Luke 13:28), manna (John 6:31, 49, 58), the snake in the desert (John 3:14), David eating the consecrated bread (Matt. 12:3, 4; Mark 2:25, 26; Luke 6:3, 4), David as a psalm writer (Matt. 22:43; Mark 12:36; Luke 20:42), Solomon (Matt. 6:29; 12:42; Luke 11:31; 12:27), Elijah (Luke 4:25, 26), Elisha (Luke 4:27), Jonah (Matt. 12:39-41; Luke 11:29, 30, 32), and Zechariah (Luke 11:51).” – (Wenham, John W. “Christ’s View Of Scripture” in Inerrancy, Norm Geisler ed., 1980, 6).
– God mechanically dictating his words to men. Even the writers of scripture themselves realized that there were differences and variations amongst their own individual styles (2 Pet. 3:15-16), even between their own spoken and written communication (2 Cor. 10:9-11).
– The outcome of inspiration is inerrancy.
1. The Meaning of Inerrancy – Inerrancy is the understanding that the original autographs (the very document that resulted from the pen of a prophet/apostle…and that document alone), is free from all categorical errors. The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy defines inerrancy as “the quality of being free from all falsehood or mistake and so safeguards the truth that Holy Scripture is entirely true and trustworthy in all its assertions” and goes at length into what inerrancy is and is not. This is a most helpful resource on unpacking this topic.
2. The Limits of Inerrancy – Inerrancy does not extend to translations of the original Greek and Hebrew autographs (documents produced by the original pen of the prophets/apostles). Our modern Bibles are free from error only in as much as they are correspondent to the original documents and this is where the science & art of textual criticism becomes highly important to the student of the Bible. Right now, I’d suggest that the best introduction to the subject of textual criticism (written by a believer) can be found in Dr. James White’s book The King James Only Controversy.
3. The Necessity of Inerrancy
– Inerrancy is a logical necessity of the fact of inspiration.
– If the process of inscripturation was identical to the process of prophecy, then both prophecy and inscripturation resulted in divine revelation by God himself.
– If God is speaking through a speaking prophet or a writing prophet, those words bear the authority and moral character of God himself…including his perfect truthfulness.
Other Related Components of a Fully Developed Doctrine of Scripture
- Infallibility – People often mistakenly conflate Inerrancy and Infallibility but they’re not synonymous: inerrancy is factual and infallibility is hypothetical. Inerrancy revolves around the theological statement that “scripture, in the original autographs, contains no contradictions or statements of untruth” where as infallibility revolves around the theological idea that “scripture cannot deceive with regards to matters of truth”. In other words, inerrancy says “scripture contains no errors” and infallibility says “scripture cannot contain errors”.
- Sufficiency – Generally speaking, this is the understanding that, in the Bible, God has given mankind sufficient revelation to fulfill the ends for which he has intended scripture; namely, the revelation of himself and his plan of salvation history.
- Perspicuity – Perspicuity speaks to the clarity with which the scripture speaks; the Bible is not inherently cryptic or deceitful in its communication of truth. The Bible is written in common tongue to common folks and needs no special skills or sages to communicate its message.
- Efficaciousness – The efficaciousness of scripture speaks of its ability to fulfill its intended end(s). There is no lack in the Bible that needs to be filled by any external power or authority.
- Authority – The authority of the scripture addresses the weight of scripture with regards to the matters that it discusses. The Bible speaks unapologetically to all matters and is the standard of truth by which all other truth claims are judged.
- Illumination – The illumination of the scripture is the Holy Spirit wrought understanding of the truths of scripture as they ultimately relate to oneself and God.
Hope that’s helpful!
Until Next Time,
Lyndon “let’s not fight over infallibility; I know there’s lots of debate about the term” Unger