INTRODUCTION The point of these next several posts is to introduce the to reader four vitally important and related concepts that describe the historic Christian Doctrine of the Bible (also called bibliology): revelation, inspiration, canonization and preservation. As I interact with people, both believers and doubters alike, there seems to be a blurring of the lines on these subjects. Oftentimes the terms will be switched or in some cases, denied altogether or in part. As a Christian who also pastors and preaches on a weekly basis, the Bible is my life and it is the chief document that I use in understanding life, eternity and communicating God’s truth in Jesus Christ to believers and unbelievers. It is hoped these posts will shed much needed light on these subjects for the reader. To God be the glory!
1). REVELATION. God revealed His will and mind in words to 40 human authors. The revelation is free from error. (2 Peter 1:21) Whenever we speak of the subject of revelation as a whole, some distinctions can be noted. First, there is God’s revelation of Himself in creation (called “general revelation”) that discloses to human beings both His existence and essence of His nature. (Psalm 19:1-6; Romans 1:18-21) When we speak of God revealing Himself in the Son’s assumption of human flesh, we see this as the fullness of the revelation of His Person (also called the “incarnation”). Passages such as Philippians 2:5-11, 1 Timothy 3:16 and Hebrews 1:1-4 refer to God revealed in human flesh. In terms of the revelation of God’s will and mind through words, we turn to the concept of “inspiration”, which describes God’s revelation of His will and mind in the process of the composition of the Biblical documents.
2). INSPIRATION. The 40 Biblical authors, in their own writing styles, composed the scriptures by the Spirit’s superintendence through a process called “inspiration”. The Baptist Faith & Message 2000 of the Southern Baptist Convention explains: “The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God’s revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy.” (link for this quote is found at: http://www.sbc.net/bfm/bfm2000.asp)
Naturally the question that arises about Divine inspiration is that once God’s revelation became written down through the prophets and apostles in their own writing styles: did that revelation become corrupt? These compositions in the original manuscripts or what are deemed “the autographs”, were inspired, perfectly true in every word (inerrant) and completely able to lead people to the truth of God, Christ and Salvation and other matters (infallible). Passages such as Exodus 24:4; Proverbs 30:4-5 and 2 Timothy 3:16-17 speak upon the subject of the Bible’s inspiration and its nature as being without error.
Dr. Wayne Grudem writes on page 67 of his Systematic Theology: “With evidence such as this we are now in a position to define biblical inerrancy: The inerrancy of Scripture means that Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact. This definition focuses on the question of truthfulness and falsehood in the language of Scripture. The definition in simple terms just means that the Bible always tells the truth and that it always tells the truth concerning everything it talks about. This definition does not mean that the Bible tells us every fact there is to know about any one subject, but it affirms that what it does say about any subject is true.”
In considering these first two terms of “revelation” and “inspiration”, we can identify their workings and effects as the product of the extraordinary work of the Holy Spirit acting upon and with human authors. Such extraordinary workings produce documents that are without error in part or in whole. But now what about the time following the completion of each original document or autographic text of the Old and New Testaments? The Spirit’s extraordinary works of revelation and inspiration were done once the scriptures were completed. The discussion of the Bible proceeds into two other descriptive terms that we could deem the Holy Spirit’s “ordinary works” of providence in regards to the sacred scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. To those remaining areas we will continue our discussion next time.