Understanding The Bible
Clarence E. Mason's "Bibliology"
PART-1: VARIOUS INADEQUATE
THEORIES OF INSPIRATION
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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 atheists.
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,
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 Theory
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
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 not
- 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 of angels.
- History is full of types. Much teaching is found in the
- 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
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 Theory
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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