Infallible Inspiration

Rev. Kamps is pastor of the Southwest Protestant Reformed Church in Grandville, Michigan.

Many men happily confess that the Bible is an inspired book. They will even say that this inspiration is of God. After all, the Scriptures themselves declare that “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.” Most men then would recognize that, if they would be taken seriously by the church, they must at least pay lip service to the doctrine of inspiration. But they are determined to deny that the Bible is without error. It is the infallibility of the Word of God that is offensive to so many in our day. Consequently, they studiously avoid confessing that God’s inspiration of men was infallible. Inspiration—yes. Infallibility—no! According to a report by Montgomery, far more than one half of the American clergy in the major Protestant denominations could not agree with the statement that the “Scriptures are the inspired and inerrant Word of God not only in matters of faith but also in historical, geographical, and other secular matters” (God’s Inerrant Word, J.W. Montgomery, p. 22). Let us also note that to confess that the Scriptures are inspired by God would, it seems, also imply that they are inerrant. But many will not accept that implication.

The claim is made today that the Bible is indeed inerrant with regard to spiritual matters, that is, the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is argued, however, either that there are errors in matters of history, geography, and science, or that to ask the question whether the Bible is inerrant about such secular matters is itself inappropriate. Very few men are so bold as straight forwardly to ascribe error to Scripture. Rather, men tell us that to read the Bible for factual information on history, science, and geography is to look for answers to these questions in the wrong place. The gospel is the content of Scripture. The Bible is not a science textbook. God’s purpose with Scripture is to make known the good news of the gospel in Christ Jesus. With such an exclusive perspective on the content of Scripture, these same men stand aghast at the church of Jesus Christ condemning their teachings of evolution, their denial of a worldwide flood in Noah’s day, their denial of the historicity of Adam and Eve, or their assertion that Adam had a mother. They are dismayed by the church’s lack of acceptance and understanding, for they assure all who will hear, that they truly believe in and love the Lord Jesus. For them there is no contradiction.

Such an understanding of inspiration may appear to be helpful for the church. If we can divorce the gospel from the actual event of the self revelation of God, then all debate with a world of unbelieving scientists, historians, and others about these so-called secular matters would cease. Besides, then too the Christian scientist, historian, philosopher, and men of other “secular disciplines” could pursue their studies and work without fear of contradiction by the church institute. The church then would be freed to preach the gospel and do the work of missions, and would no longer have to concern itself with the pronouncements of its members in matters about which the Bible does not speak authoritatively. The authority of Scripture would be limited to the matters of sin, grace, and salvation in Christ Jesus. Maybe then the church of Christ could have some peace.

But is it really that simple? And are our difficulties so easily set aside? Can the worldwide flood narrative of Genesis be declared non-factual without “corrupting the gospel”? Is it possible to reject the doctrine of an instantaneous creation, and by that very denial not also reject something of the gospel, if not all the gospel? Would not Jesus Himself of necessity be viewed as mistaken (or, worse, dishonest), for He spoke of the flood in Noah’s day as a worldwide flood and as an actual miraculous work of God (Matt. 24:36-39II Pet. 3:1-7).

It is my observation that men resent the miraculous! They refuse to believe that which they can not explain by appeal to natural causes. In addition they feel restricted and fenced in by a church that would appeal to Scripture to condemn, as unbiblical, theories that contradict the plain testimony of God’s Word. This is the reason, too, why they reject the doctrine of infallible inspiration. The writing of the Bible was a miracle. It was God’s work alone. This work of God cannot ultimately be explained. It is to be believed in faith. To explain this work of God is to deny it. Can one explain the sending of manna out of heaven to the Israelites in the wilderness? Jesus gave sight to the blind. Can anyone explain how this was done, other than to say that it was by the word of His command?

So too the truth of divine, infallible inspiration. Faith has as its object God. Whenever one comes face to face with God’s work, he stands before the miraculous. The Bible states the fact of inspiration. We are commanded to believe this fact. Only the elect regenerated sinner can believe this truth. Here, too, they that are in the flesh cannot please God (Rom. 8:8). The fact of divine, infallible inspiration is to be believed on the testimony of God’s own Word. Those who deny divine, infallible inspiration of the Scriptures have fallen into unbelief. They will not hear what the Bible says about itself. They have stopped up their ears to the Word of God, as did those who heard Stephen, when he declared to them the miracles of the incarnation of the Son of God and His resurrection (Acts 7:57).

Gresham Machen writes concerning the meaning of inspiration this:

The latter doctrine means that the Bible not only is true, the writers having been so preserved from error, despite a full maintenance of their habits of thought and expression, that the resulting Book is the “infallible rule of faith and practice” (Christianity and Liberalism, p. 73).

Further, he states:

As a matter of fact, the doctrine of plenary inspiration does not deny the individuality of the Biblical writers; it does not ignore their use of ordinary means for acquiring information; it does not involve any lack of interest in its historical situations which gave rise to the Biblical books. What it does deny is the presence of errors that mar all other books…. But according to the doctrine of inspiration, the account is as a matter of fact a true account… (p. 74).

Scripture teaches that God has spoken. The content of the Old Testament Scriptures from Genesis to Malachi is the speech of God. Not Moses, Joshua, David, Ezekiel, and Isaiah were speaking; but God was speaking, and these men were but His mouthpieces. That is the simple meaning of Hebrews 1:1: “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in times past unto the fathers, by the prophets….” Surely, the very reason to assert the fact that it was God speaking is that these men in and of themselves could not bring us God’s self revelation. They were only finite, error-prone men and sinners besides. How could they then be the authors of the Word? They were not the source of their own pronouncements. God was speaking in and through them to our fathers.

In addition, Peter writes: “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation. For 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.” Here, it is emphatically stated that the prophets did not prophesy “by the will of man.” They did not concoct their own messages. Rather, they were “moved by the Holy Spirit.” That is, their prophecies were first given them and then they spake. Without the Holy Spirit in them they could not have given us one solitary word of the gospel. They would have not been able to declare that the great historical events of God’s self revelation were indeed Jehovah God’s works. They could not have understood and interpreted those miraculous events. Nor could they have applied their significance to the church. God was speaking!

It must not escape our attention that the prophecy that was spoken is identified with the written record of that revelation of God. Peter identifies the two. If you will, the spoken prophecy and the written record coalesce. They are one and the same. The written record is not inferior to the spoken prophecy in content or in power. The written record is God’s Word.

In II Timothy we read: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (3:16). Here the word translated “inspiration” is literally “God breathed forth.” The late, beloved H.C. Hoeksema warns us that this expression must be understood in the passive sense. It means that Gods breath is the source of Scripture. Some have tried to argue that this passage teaches only that the Scriptures are “breathing the divine spirit” (cf. Protestant Reformed Theological Journal, Dec. 1970, pp. 26-28).

The manner in which the Bible itself expresses its own origin and coming into being leaves no other conclusion possible than to confess that it is a miraculous work of our sovereign God. Scripture never attributes the source of its contents to men. The Bible itself claims to be exclusively from God.

The absolute sovereignty of God is the bedrock upon which the doctrine of the divine inspiration of Scripture is to be understood. Deny the absolute sovereignty of God and one will be forced logically, sooner or later, to deny the doctrine of the infallibility of Scripture. Only a sovereign God can bring into realization the infallible Word through the instrumentality of time-bound and culturally-conditioned men. These men were imperfect, forgetful, and sinners besides, and, therefore, could never in their own strength give us the Holy Scriptures. God so moved, directed, guided, and ruled over them, in respect to their persons, their time and history, the sources used, and every detail necessary to the writing of sacred Scripture, that never once did their limitations and imperfections taint or corrupt the record of God’s self revelation. God chose and prepared the writers from all eternity. Think of Jeremiah and of the apostle Paul. In regard to Jeremiah we read: “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations” (Jer. 1:5). And the great apostle to the Gentiles testified: “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen…” (Gal. 1:15). In this connection, it would be most beneficial to quote J.I. Packer:

To limit God’s sovereignty is to undermine “sola Scriptura.” This is not simply because the Bible views God’s sovereignty as unlimited, though it does; it is because any such limitation strikes at the truth of inspiration. If God is not in absolute control of the free human acts generally, then he was not in absolute control of the writings done by the biblical authors, and it cannot in that case be fully true that “the mind of the Spirit is understood when the text of the document is understood.” It was inevitable that Arminian and Deist theology, which both take God’s governing hand away from man’s self-determined actions, should have produced lowered views of inspiration and a style of exegesis which convicted the inspired authors of making mistakes” (God’s Inerrant Word, p. 57).

Let the above serve as a warning today to Reformed men and women. Deny God’s sovereignty in the area of soteriology and one inevitably in his generations will accept a lower view of Scripture, to state it mildly Error leads inexorably to more error. One cherished error requires more error, if one will not turn from his folly. Those who have been defending for decades, at all cost, an Arminian doctrine of the “offer of salvation to all” dependent upon the free-will of the sinner, now find themselves within a church affiliation that must wage a bitter battle for the doctrine of inspiration. Many Reformed churches have lost a confessional consciousness of God’s absolute sovereignty in the affairs of men. And Arminianism, with its denial of God’s absolute sovereignty leads to Modernism. Modernism is rank apostasy.

May the Lord give His people the grace ever to confess the sovereignty of God and thus, too, the miraculous character of the composition of sacred Scripture, which was made possible by the sovereignty of God over the human writers.

May our witness to the truth be used of God to turn men from the fatal error of rejecting the truth of divine, infallible inspiration, and to comfort and enlighten those who love the Lord and would honor His Word.