Inspiration and Infallibility

The word “inspiration” is found only once in the New Testament Scriptures.  It is the well know passage, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”  II Tim. 3:16.  The word here is very fitting and meaningful.  Literally translated it means “God breathed.”  When so translated within the text, it adds another facet of beauty, “All scripture is breathed by God.”  It makes us think of the way in which we express ourselves.  We speak and breath of our mouth carries forth the words that go from our lips.  So is it also with God when he speaks to you and to me; He breathes forth His Word and by His breath His thoughts are carried into our hearts.

By what we have said, however, we do not mean to imply that “inspirations” in II Tim. 3:16 is a poor translation.  Rather, it is most fitting.  In the original language of the Bible the word for “breath” and the word for “spirit” are the same.  The breath of God is the Holy Spirit.  It is through the Holy Spirit that God breathes forth His Word.  In the creation of the world, it was the Spirit of God Who brooded upon the waters, called forth the creatures, and wrote the glory of God across the heavens.  In salvation, it is the Spirit of God that regenerates the heart and writes the law of God within it.  And so when the Scriptures were written, God breathed and through the Holy Spirit His Word was written with pen and ink for the saints of all ages to read.

In trying to understand this, however, we should not picture the Spirit taking up a pen and starting to write; it is the Spirit that has revealed the Word of God, but always He did so through the agency of men.  That is inspiration.  In the Spirit’s work has been very complete and thorough.  We can distinguish four different steps that were followed.  1)  In the first step, the various authors were prepared individually for the particular aspect of revelation which they were ordained to record.  So in Scripture we read that Moses was brought in a very miraculous way into the court of Pharaoh.  There he was educated as a prince to be a ruler and a judge of people.  Why?  So that he would be enabled to receive the laws of God and to record them clearly and accurately.  We find that David was sent in his youth to care for the sheep in the field.  There he tasted of the beauties of nature and was prepared as a poet to write the songs of the Church.  Saul of Tarsus was educated in the logic of the Greeks and the laws of the Hebrews- so that he could set forth the doctrines of Christianity.  Each author was prepared as to his very nature to perform his own peculiar work. 2) Then after each man was prepared, God took His Word and Truth and implanted it within his heart.  These were not to be mere stenographers taking dictation from God.  God gave them hearts that could appreciate the Truth, know it and understand it as they wrote.  With all of the love of their hearts they wrote.  3)  Once they had received the truth God have to them the desire to write.  As Peter said, “The prophecy came not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”  II Peter 1:21.  Moses heard the law of God and in love was constrained to record it.  David saw the glory of God and overflowed with the desire to have it sung in the Church.  John, thrilled by the vision of Patmos, was compelled by the Spirit to write to the seven churches.  4)  Finally, that the work might be perfect throughout, God guided the hands of those men as they wrote.  He enabled them to observe and remember all that they had seen and heard.  He enabled them to write the Word in terms that were clear and exact.  Thus we have the Scriptures, breathed by God through the agency of man.

But, can we be sure?  Can sure that the Scriptures are true and accurate?  Is there any proof?

The Scriptures themselves give us abundant proof.  They say repeatedly of their own record, “Thus saith the Lord.”  One portion of Scripture quotes from another and ascribes to it absolute authority.  Jesus Christ, the very Son of God, assured his disciples that the Scriptures cannot be broken.  Martin Luther, noting all this, concluded, “It is established by God’s Word that God does not lie nor does His Word lie.”

For many, such proof is not sufficient.  They want proof apart from the Scriptures themselves, proof that is scientifically valid.  But this is quite impossible.  We cannot prove apart from Scripture that Moses actually talked with God and did not write from his own imagination.  We cannot go to Palestine and show that Jesus actually lived and walked upon the earth and spoke only that Word which He received from the Father.  We cannot give visible demonstration that the Bible is the Word of God and not the word of man, that it came through the Holy Spirit and not from the mind of man.  But neither is this necessary, not for the child of God.  Certain earthly facts may require visible demonstration to be believed, but not the inspiration of Scripture.  This we receive by faith.  When God swore an oath to Abraham, He swore by His own Name because there was none greater.  In a similar way the Scriptures testify of themselves and we believe, “All Scripture is breather by God.”

For us this immediately implies that the Scriptures are infallible – that is, they are completely without defect in all things of which they speak, whether of doctrine, life, history, or nature.  This follow directly from inspiration, for the Scriptures are breather of God.  God does not lie, and His works are not subject to error.

However, for you who are being raised and educated in this modern age, this presents its difficulties.  In school you are taught “the scientific method,” and it does seem to work.  It has built cars and airplanes; it has placed satellites in orbit and sent rockets around the moon.  Almost unconsciously, one begins to assume that science and its methods are a pretty reliable thing.  But then suddenly there are brought to you certain “scientific proofs” with which you do not know what to do.  You are told of a certain Dr. Libby, who with Carbon-14 has shown that certain pieces of organic material are one thousand, five thousand, twenty thousand, and even fifty thousand years old.  It is explained to you that the strata’s of rock in the Grand Canyon must have taken millions of years to be formed.  You are shown the stars which are billions of light years away.  And when you turn again to your Bible you read that the heaven and the earth were created at a time which cannot have been much more than six thousand years ago.

For the serious Christian student this all presents a problem.  You are taught these things in your science courses and you want to learn your lessons well.  But you also are a Christian, and you believe the Word of God.  On which are you going to stand?  Are you going to insist that Dr. Libby and his associates be scientifically refuted before you will question what they say?  It is not likely to be done very soon.  But what then?  Are you going to push and pull and twist the Scriptures to make them fit into the new scheme of things?  This is only too often done; but you may not play with the Word of God.  but the question remains very real for you, what are you going to believe?

There is one simple answer that will to suffice.  The conclusions of science, no matter how brilliant, are at best the wisdom of man.  The Scriptures are breather of God.  As Luther aptly put it, “When Moses writes that God made heaven and earth and all that is in them in six days, let the six days stand…If you cannot understand how it could have been six days then accord to the Holy Spirit the honor that He is more learned than you.”  Believe the Word of God.  It is the way of faith.