Clarence E. Mason's "Bibliology"
PART-1: VARIOUS INADEQUATE
THEORIES OF INSPIRATION
BY THE AUTHOR
Dr. Clarence E. Mason, Jr.
Philadelphia College of Bible
- VARIOUS INADEQUATE THEORIES
OF INSPIRATION (Strong)
- Naturalistic Theory
The Bible is a human product, void of the supernatural element and so
given to errors. This theory is advanced by rationalists, infidels, and
This is no theory of inspiration. It is rather a denial. It does not lie
within the purpose of this course to prove the supernatural character
of the Christian faith and of the Bible. Our purpose rather is to define
the Christian view of inspiration.
- Intuition Theory
Inspiration is a higher development of that natural insight into the truth
which all men possess to some degree. Morrell writes, "Inspiration
is only a higher potency of what every man possesses in some degree."
This view would classify the Scriptures with other great works such as
Shakespeare, Tennyson, etc.
This view also falls short in that what it claims to be inspiration is
in reality no inspiration at all. What one man may be "inspired"
to say, another may be "inspired" to brand as false. The Vedas,
Koran, and Bible cannot all be true. This involves a contradiction nullifying
the validity of "inspiration." Hence religion becomes merely
a matter of opinion with no final basis of authority. In the final analysis
such a view of inspiration either denies the personality of God or denies
His real interest in man.
- Illumination or Gracious
Inspiration is the intensifying and elevation of the religious perceptions
of the Christian, the same in kind, though greater in degree, with the
illumination of every believer. Hence the Bible is the result of the meditations
of godly men. Sabatier calls inspiration "piety raised to the second
power." It differs from piety only in intensity and energy.
The view is inconsistent with the claim of Scripture itself. All writers
of Scripture did not claim to be illuminated. Compare 1 Pet. 1:10-12,
where it is reported that the OT prophets did not clearly and fully understand
that of which they wrote. Also, it is to be noted that this theory can
in no wise secure the Scriptures from error. The writer is still the victim
of a depraved nature. He may have perfect understanding and yet not be
able to perfectly convey that truth to others. Compare the teacher who
knows his subject well but is not able to get it across to others.
- Partial Theory
This theory suggests that only certain parts of the Bible were inspired.
The usual view is that its religious or spiritual truths are God-given
but the historical, scientific, and geographic details are not. Park writes,
"Inspiration is such an influence over the writers of the Bible that
all their teachings which have a religious character are trustworthy.
" J. Patterson Smythe writes, "The Holy Spirit who inspired
the Bible knew that these little details of genealogies and battles, and
such like, in the history of Israel, were not a whit more important to
us than similar details in the history of England."
Note: To be included in this view are those who emphasize that the Bible
contains the Word of God in contrast to being the Word of God. Also included
are those who ascribe to the words of Christ an inspiration above the
rest of Scripture.
If only parts of the Bible are inspired, who is to determine those parts?
The position is not consistent. The Bible is so thoroughly bound together
by testimonies of one portion to the accuracy of another that to deny
the validity of one part is to deny all. It stands or falls together.
Further objections against the position that the historical portions are
- It is the historical
portion of the OT which is most quoted and used by the NT.
- History is not recorded
only to transmit memorials of former ages. It is given to show the
character of God and of man.
- History records the intervention
- History is full of types.
Much teaching is found in the historical portions.
- Note the dramatic power
and the brevity of the historical sections. Life of Christ given in
800 lines: creation summarized in 31 verses, etc
- Prophetical reserve.
Note how the Scripture guards against the worship of humans, i.e.,
Mary, Paul, Peter.
The rejection of Neo-orthodoxy (alias Barthianism, Theology of Crisis,
New Theology, New Modernism, Transcendental Theology, Dialectical
Theology), although difficult to pin down due to its denial of the
absoluteness of truth, belongs here under partial inspiration. Neo-orthodoxy
teaches that the Bible is the Word of God in all places where it is
word bearing. Because it accepts the results of destructive criticism,
it views the Bible as containing errors. However, since these errors
are details pertaining to geography, history, creation, chronology,
and genealogy, the religious value of the text is not impaired. In
this way, Neo-orthodoxy speaks of the Bible as being reliable but
not infallible. Regardless of high sounding phrases, this is partial
inspiration and must be condemned as such.
Concluding note: "It strikes us that there is no arrogance to
be compared with that of a man owning the Bible to be a book from
God, and then making bold to sift with his own
hands the pure in it from the impure, the inspired from that which
is uninspired, God from man." (Gaussen)
- Thought or Concept Theory
The thoughts of Scripture are inspired but the actual words are not. God
gave to the various authors the messages then left them to express themselves
as best they could. Human expression of Divinely-given concept.
For the most part it is to be agreed that the concepts were inspired (exception--the
prophets who did not fully understand their own writings). To say that
this is as far as inspiration actually went is against the voice of Scripture
itself as it emphasizes the very letter.
The view that He stopped at the thoughts involves the difficulty that
accurate thoughts are useless unless expressed in accurate language. James
Orr, writing concerning verbal inspiration, says, "It opposes the
theory that revelation and inspiration have regard only to the thought
and ideas, while the language in which these ideas are clothed is left
to tlie unaided faculties of the sacred penman. . .if there is inspiration
at all, it must penetrate words as well as thoughts."
Add to these objections the thought that all nature testifies to the fact
that God is interested in details. If inspiration does not dwell on the
words, moods, and tenses, then all exegesis is at an end. The Thought
or Concept Theory appears to be supported by some to allow for the supposed
contradictions and errors in the Word. It permits a rather low view of
Scripture. In reality it solves no difficulty. If God was able to give
the thoughts. He certainly was able to cause the writers to transmit those
- Dictation of Mechanical
The writers of Scripture acted as mechanical secretaries copying each
word as God dictated.
Although on occasion God did dictate, facts do not substantiate this theory.
It cannot account for the individual differences between the writers so
that their writings can be distinguished. The stern character of Moses,
the poetic nature of David, the love of John, are clearly stamped on their
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