It has been a long ride to get to this point. I started with a simply question of trying to find a theory of Biblical inspiration that takes into account all the elements and factors that can affect our understanding of how God inspired the Bible. I originally started to become interested in figuring this puzzle out when I was doing a series of posts on the different types of Biblical inspiration in my Theology for Dummies feature. The next thing I did was to try to see what the bible says about itself in a series called The Bible on the Bible where I simply was looking at what the Bible says about itself. Finally I looked at the process of canonization to see if that could shed some light on this question with a short but important series called How the Bible Came to Be. I have now come to a point where all this work has led me too this point.
I have through this process eliminated several of the standard theories of Biblical Inspiration. The thing is that the Bible and the canonization process do speak against many of those theories directly and indirectly and what I am left with is two standard theories plus a simple possibility that there might be another way of looking at it entirely that I might discover. The purpose of this post however is not at this point to look at what could be but what I have discarded and why. This is to establish my starting point for this Final Quest to find a theory of Biblical Inspiration.
Dictation Theory – In looking at what the bible says about itself and the contents of it pages I simply could not find any support for the idea that God just used the Biblical writers like a typewriter or word processor. That the Bible has human elements in it is pretty obvious and if God was dictating why is it necessary to have four gospels or multiple accounts of the same events? Why then does God then leave the process of copying and preserving his Word to people who have clearly made some mistakes in both? And finally, why then are there differences of opinion between Biblical authors at times? Sorry there is simply too much evidence that the Bible has human being involved as much as God and that has to be taken into account.
Verbal Plenary Theory – I could say ditto to what I said above about Dictation Theory. Much of the problems are the same but Verbal Plenary tries to bring in some human element by saying that the situations and life of the person writing were also controlled to the point where God let the human write but still gets absolutely what he wants. This is actually even more flawed because of this idea. It means that not only did God contradict himself ad look double minded at times, it means he screwed up various lives to get it this way. There is a real Calvinist taste to this theory that I find unpalatable.
Both of the above were pretty much discarded because of the Bible on the Bible Series. The text of the bible does not support either of these and to be blunt they seem to be Protestant inventions to prop up the idea od Sola Scriptoria. Textual evidence and even the Biblical authors themselves point to the idea that human beings were definitely involved in the process of writing and preserving the Bible and neither of these theories take those facts into account.
Limited Theory – I actually dumped this one because it is clear that the Bible makes its truth claims based on historical events. Without the history the Bible being factual, it has no basis for telling people what the truth is. The Old Testament hinges on the Exodus and the giving of the Law to Moses and the New Testament absolutely hinges on the resurrection of Christ. If these event did not take place then, the bible’s claims to divine inspiration are pretty much a wash. Limited Theory tries to divorce historical truth from spiritual truth and to do this to the Bible basically makes the Bible a nice work of fictional fantasy.
Neo-Orthodox Theory – I dumped this one because It becomes clear that parts of the Bible do claim they are the Word of God regardless of whether or not they have become the Word of God to the individual. I like the spiritual dynamic of Neo-Orthodoxy but God does speak sometimes very plainly and I don’t think you can just make the Bible a selective inspirational book because of this fact. The Law of Moses was always considered the Word of God right from the beginning of the canonization process. Neo-Orthodoxy puts the decision of what is inspired in the hands of the individual and divorces the history and truth claims as well.
Roman Catholic Theory – The real problem with this view is that Catholic tradition holds that they canonized the 27 books of the New Testament to make their apostolic foundation solid and give them more authority but then tries to claim they are the ones to decided what the canon is because of their authority of the church. This is simply trying to have your cake and eat it to. Circular reasoning abounds with this theory and to be honest if the establishment of the canon was to establish an apostolic foundation to the authority of the church they would defer more to it than the pope or other writings which it is pretty clear that they don’t. As much as Verbal Plenary and Dictation Theories are attempts to bolster the idea of Sola Scriptoria, this theory is about bolstering the idea of Roman Catholic Church authority and is just as self-serving.
The quick look at How the Bible Came to Be allowed me to discard the above three theories. I simply could not find a place for them when you consider how the Bible came to be as a dynamic and historical process where the authority of the people of God is trying to be established by having a repository of documents that serve as the central core for faith and practice.
That leaves only two standard theories left which I want to look at in closer detail which is the subject of the next post. What can be said for this long process is that it has narrowed my options for consideration. If I have a problem now it is there is little evidence left to consider and all that is left is trying to engage the problem philosophically and spiritually and that takes us off a completely objective footing. Anything I do decided will be a personal decision that lines up as best as possible with the evidence but I must say there is going to be a little grey area where I am going to simply have to stand in faith. The best I can hope for is a theory of biblical inspiration that harmonizes with the evidence but might have some gaps as to why it does so.
Next: A Closer Look Dynamic Theory