Systematic Theology

The Inspiration of Scripture (Pt.1)

We have seen that God has revealed Himself to us in two ways, and yet these two ways are really one whole.

  1. General Revelation proclaims the existence of the Creator even in a sin-scarred, even though we reject the revelation that is in us and all around us in nature, yet this revelation is clear and authoritative. The testimony of the natural world, though perspicuous in itself, is obscured by our sin and the curse.
  2. Special Revelation both interprets General Revelation and tells us about God and reality through the medium of the written Word, especially today. The Bible is God’s Word to man, and that being so it must speak authoritatively.  In fact, it’s authority must be the authority of its Author.  The God-givenness of Scripture is what we generally call ‘inspiration’.

A Starting Definition

Inspiration is the determining influence exercised by the Holy Spirit on the writers of the Old and New Testament in order that they might proclaim and set down in an exact and authentic way the message as received from God. – Rene Pache, The Inspiration and Authority of Scripture, 45

This definition well describes the teaching of the Church through the centuries. The Almighty has communicated His Word to mankind in the Bible, employing the instrumentality of chosen men to write and preserve their works.  Since God is true and cannot lie or err (Tit. 1:2), it stands to reason that His written Word will be infallible and inerrant.  We are not left with a book that is an admixture of God’s words plus the well-intentioned, but flawed musings, of human beings about God.

Although Scripture does refer to mistakes and faults, it does so as a faithful witness to those failings.  It does not fail itself, but as the production of God is completely trustworthy upon whatever the subject it touches.  Indeed, this cannot be otherwise or else the entire revelation is put in jeopardy; the whole Scripture is the unalloyed truth.

According to Pache the first thing to state about inspiration is that it is ‘Spirit directed’; the whole enterprise from the choosing and guiding of the individuals, to the finished canon, was under the minute direction of the Third Person of the Trinity.

This is a very important point for at least two reasons:

  1. because it shows that God Himself is in control of the entire production, through the history of its production, and its preservation.

2. it shows that the divine side of the Scripture is more preeminent than the human side.  Yes the human side is there…it can be detected in the style, the language, and the personalities of the writers, but these are superintended by the divine power, and it is the divine will that they are bringing about. Therefore, the relation between the divine aspects of Scripture and the human aspects of Scripture are unequal – because God is in final control, the human beings are not.

Also, Pache says that inspiration is “the Spirit’s exercise of His authority on the writers of the Old and New Testaments in order that they might proclaim and set down”.  That is, inspiration involved both the proclamation of God’s message and the setting of it down in permanent written form.

Pache continues that this proclamation and setting down of the message of God was in an exact and authentic way – the message as received from God. In other words, what God wanted written got written! What Scripture says is what God says!

An Examination of this Doctrine

The key text is from Paul:

And how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. – 2 Timothy 3: 15-17

Pache does not put a lot of emphasis on this passage and its teaching in his definition.  I think that is where we will need to amend his work.  In this famous verse we have –  provided we accept the usual translation – a straightforward declaration of the Bible’s connection with the supreme God.  Men of God may have set down their writings while being ‘born along’ by the action of the Holy Spirit (as in 2 Pet. 1:21), but in this verse the attention is all on the production itself.

The Meaning of Theopneustos

All Scripture is theopneustos; literally ‘God breathed’, a term unique to Paul and to this passage.  Theopneustos is a compound verb constructed out of the welding together of two familiar words – theos: Greek word for God, and pneuma: the Greek term for ‘breath, wind, or spirit’.  So, as many interpreters have pointed out, Paul describes Scripture as being ‘God breathed out’.

The next thing to discover is what exactly the Apostle wanted Timothy to understand by this term; that is, what relationship does the breath of God bear to the written Word?

B.B. Warfield demonstrated a century ago that theopneustos, “very definitely does not mean inspired.”  Our word ‘inspired’ connotes in-breathing, whereas Paul’s word conveys the notion of ‘breathing out’ or spiration.  To attempt to get closer to the meaning we could turn to the term ‘expired’.  But of course that term has already been rendered inappropriate for our use by the fact that it usually connotes the last breath of something, therefore indicating that something is dead.  That gives us exactly the opposite meaning we are after, because the Word of God is “living and active” (Heb. 4:12).

So perhaps we’re better off with the term “spirated.”  Or maybe it is just better to retain the word “inspired” while giving it this special meaning?  This means that in the Spirit’s superintendence, the Bible (in this context it would be the Old Testament, but also by extension the New), is as much a word spoken by God as the words which called for a universe to be created at the very beginning.  The Bible is, in truth, the voice of the Lord in inscripturated form.

Because the Bible is “God breathed” it is truly the Word of God before it is the word of man.  It is truly “the Sword of the Spirit” before it is the sword of the saint (Eph. 6:17).  It “cannot be broken” (Jn. 10:35).  It’s profitability for doctrine, for reproof, for correction and instruction in righteousness, is linked inextricably with its divine provenance.  It’s power, authority, integrity, and permanence are byproducts of its theopneustic or inspired character.   (more…)

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General Revelation (Pt.5)

Part Four

The Unsaved do not know God

The NT seems to say that the unsaved person does not know God.  We see this in several places.  Let us begin with Galatians 4:

Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? – Galatians 4:8-9

We are told that the Galatians once did not know God, and because of that they served false gods.  But now they are known by God and therefore know God.  Here Paul is plainly saying that there is a difference between those who know God, the saints, and those that do not know God, the lost or unregenerate.

Here is Ephesians 2:

Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. – Ephesians 2:12

Paul says that the Gentiles, by which he means the pagan world, were once “without God in the world.”  If they were without God it is hard to claim that they knew Him.  This is Paul’s view also in 1 Thessalonians 4:5 (“…like the Gentiles who do not know God” – cf. 2 Thess. 1:8).

From these texts it seems quite clear then that unregenerate people do not know God in any way, whereas saved people have been brought to a knowledge of God, and they are the only ones who truly do know God.

The Unsaved do know God

Now, if the unsaved are ignorant of God then what does one do with Romans 1?  Here Paul insists that the unsaved are aware of God.  In fact, it is on account of this that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.”  How can this be?  It is because of what the Apostle identifies as a suppression of the truth that their ignorance is willful (1:18).  The suppression is driven from within; from the “default setting” of the sinner, who, as the truth comes to him as revealed truth, changes it into something different.

In Romans 1 Paul is speaking about General Revelation, not Scripture.  And he says plainly that there are things that “can be known about God”, revealed things in creation (1:19-20).  Paul surprises us, for he declares this revelation from and about God to be “plain to them” and “clearly perceived” 1:20).  Hence, he can be dogmatic; “they are without excuse.”

Paul continues,

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images… – Romans 1:20-22

The problem with man’s thinking does not stop with the exclusion of the revelation about God in the world.  The mechanisms of thought are polluted or corrupted in their functioning.  Having ignored General Revelation the human mind must fill in the gap and imagine a story in its place.  Ironically, the sinner has a “God of the gaps” fallacy which effects their senses and their experiences.  They claim to “know” but that “knowledge” is not justified true belief, it is foolishness.

Then what the passage does is make connections between the almost reflexive denial of God and the inevitable manufacture of idols to take His place, at least superficially (1:23-25), and the knock-on effect this has upon morals.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen… God gave them up to dishonorable passions…and since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done… Though they know God’s decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. – Romans 1:24-26, 28, 32

Here then, quite clearly we have Paul, the same Paul who said that the Gentiles do not know God, teaching quite clearly that in fact the Gentiles, the unsaved people, do know God and they know God because God has revealed Himself in their surroundings and also within them.  Therefore, they are without excuse for their rejection of God and they are without excuse when they worship and serve idols. In fact we told in verse 25 that, “they exchanged the truth about God for a lie”. This lines up with Jesus’ words:

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God. – John 3:18-21

 

Where Jesus speaks about the fact that men loved darkness rather than light (that is, in contrast to light), because their deeds were evil, so that they would not come to that light. There is some knowledge, some sense, and some acknowledgment of the light.  Or to shift back to Paul’s wording, there is some knowledge of the reality of the Creator God.  And yet they are said not to know God. (more…)