I have long held that God loathes to use his power coercively. I have maintained this from a strict reading of the Bible. If God wanted a world where he could constantly coercively use his power he would have not put the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden. He would have intervened much more in history to the point it would be very clear to all of us that all things were completely ordered by God. The Bible tells us that God is not the author of sin but sin exists and the evil that is spawned by it. If God was absolutely coercive in the use of his power then sin and evil would not exist because it is clear that neither were his desire. On the flip side it is clearly stated that God desires all to come to repentance and yet not all do, if God had no problem with coercive use of force then this would not be the case. All would be saved.
I could go on an on with biblical examples of God’s seeming reluctance to act with coercive force. Most persuasive though are the moments of silence that are everywhere in scripture where people act and do things and God is not mentioned at all. The point could be made that what makes a miracle significant is that God normally does not do the miraculous. Miracles are defined by the fact they are not normal activity. The normal being God at rest and not acting at all. I think he is many ways is very much concerned more with our freedom to act than even we are concerned with it.
This is also not to say that the Bible does not record God using his power coercively, but It is rare. It usually involves when evil has grown so prevalent, God must act to stop it because it is beyond our capacity to stop it. He also acts to fight in wars for his people. This is cooperative coercion when both He and men fight together to deal with their enemies. This however is not God’s preferred mode. His preferred mode is peaceful cooperation where we willfully follow him and do his will.
This leads me to ask the question about the inspiration of the Bible: Would God prefer that inspiration is a cooperative act between him and the writer or would he prefer to coercively force the writer to write what he wants? Which would be better and have more goodness to it? We all hate people who manipulate us. We consider it an evil for someone to hold a gun to our head and force us to do something we did not want to do. Yet, somehow we flip this with God and it is OK for God to force someone to write something they perhaps did not want to write. We hate people who try to control every aspect of our lives but then we say God should do this and it would not be evil? I don’t think God sets up standards that for us that he does not follow himself. It would make God a hypocrite if he did.
That said, when we look t the one place where the inspiration of the Bible is described the words are ‘God breathed”. There is only a few places in the Scriptures that use this kind of language in describing how something came to be. 1) The creation of Adam, 2) When Jesus breathes on the Church in John and here where the Scriptures are said to be the god breathed actions of God. Breathing on something is not coercive act it however does in all three of these cases proven powerful results because of the nature of the breath of God to give life. It life-giving force not a coercive one. Man become a living soul, the church now has the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the Bible becomes living and active. It is this breath of God aspect that turn the moment of a writer putting ink to a page into something more. The church was still the people it was before but now more alive, Adam was a wondrous creation of dust but no life until this breath came. The Scriptures are just thoughts and ideas in a writers head until God breathes on them and they are put to paper with a pen. It is this process that I think must be persuasive not coercive. The Breath of God simply has the inherent power to give life but not a coercive power to force people beyond simply being alive. Once we have the gift of life part of life’s purpose is freedom to live in the capacity that life brings.
This is the element of Illumination Theory that appeals to me and I think is Biblically true. The author is still truly himself and has inspired thoughts related to his writing, but God comes along and gives breath to them where they truly have life long after they are written down. This both explains why the Bible is truly human but also truly divine at the same time. God is not upset with out human flaws as humans, he simply give life so that sin and evil cannot bring death to the process of inspiration. God inspiration means that while an author might be in error because of his human perspective that the world is flat, it does not mean that his thoughts are sinful or evil. In the presence of God’s life-giving breath during inspiration the forces of sin and evil simply cannot enter to ruin the process.
I think this answer the basic question of how inspiration works for me but does not answer the question of why I would consider a book inspired this manner or not. It keeps the dynamic elements and illumination theory elements I like in the discussion but it still leaves open a lot of other issues in regards to inspiration. The first on of these we need to answer is why then is the Bible authoritative despite or because of its fully human element?
Next: Humanity, Authority and the Bible.