First of all; in answering the objection that verbal inspiration is, necessarily mechanical, we may notice that this is a thoroughly rationalistic argument. It does not appeal to Scripture. It is not an argument based upon the Word of God, either directly or by implication. It is purely speculative. It arises out of human reason. In this respect it is very similar to the argument raised by the Arminians and Pelagians against the doctrine of salvation through sovereign, irresistible grace, namely, that this doctrine reduces men to mere stocks and blocks, that is, suppresses completely their rational, moral nature. Neither that argument against the truth of sovereign grace, which aims at destroying the doctrine by showing that its supposed consequences are evil, nor the present argument against infallible inspiration, which also aims at destroying the truth by pointing to a supposed evil consequence, is true. However, in connection with what was stated concerning our attitude and approach in dealing with this subject, we may point out that this argument would not change the truth that the Bible is the infallibly inspired Word of God whatsoever. In other words, supposing it were true that inspiration, in order to be plenary and verbal and infallible, necessarily had to be mechanical; and supposing that we could find no plausible explanation of the relationship between the two; what then would the answer of the Christian have to be? This: then inspiration may have been mechanical, but by all means I insist that the Word of God is the Word of God from beginning to end, without any human admixture whatsoever! If I am compelled to make a choice between accepting a so-called mechanical inspiration or denying that the Bible is the infallible Word of God, verbally inspired, then I will choose for mechanical inspiration!
In the second place, it is a self-evident fact that the Lord did not suppress the human instruments who were employed by the Holy Spirit in the production of the Scriptures. This supposed consequence of the doctrine of infallible inspiration none of its adherents will ever accept. For this is obviously contrary to fact, contrary to the evident nature of Scripture’s contents. Certainly, in respect to their individuality, their personal characteristics, their style of writing, their time, their circumstances—in regard to all these the human instruments were not suppressed by the Holy Spirit. For these very elements shine forth from every page of Holy Writ; and they cannot be ignored.
In fact, I would emphasize that the child of God does not have to be afraid of or try to evade this fact. To my mind, all this simply adds to the wonder and the beauty of the Scriptures, that is, as long as we consider it from the point of view of faith.
Consider all the variety in Scripture for a moment.
The Holy Spirit employed many different human instruments in His wonderful work of inspiration. Some of these men we learn to know rather well from the pages of Scripture. Of some of them we know very little personally. And some of them we cannot even identify: we do not even know their names. The Scriptures, moreover, were written over a period of some fifteen hundred years. Yet somehow all those writings, scattered over the centuries, belong together, constitute the one, infallible Word of God. Still more: those writings were scattered all over the ancient world—the desert of Sinai, the land of Canaan, Babylon, Persia, Rome, Asia Minor. Well-educated men, such as Moses and Paul, but also simple Galilean fishermen were among those human instruments. Among them are numbered prophets and priests and kings, choir leaders, shepherds, herdsmen. And these men were inspired to write while guiding flocks, while in prisons, in palaces, in the courts of great world-rulers. Moreover, these Scriptures were written by men who apparently had no knowledge of one another and who had no knowledge of what others were writing or were going to write. Undoubtedly it is also, true that they wrote without knowing even that what they wrote would eventually be a part of one large book. In other words, in all the production of Scripture there was as little outward and mechanical unity as is imaginable. And yet there is the most beautiful inner harmony conceivable in Scripture. And there is perfect unity. To be sure, the Lord did not mechanically come to these men, as it were, and say, “I want to dictate a portion of my Word; write this down.” Such is not inspiration. And even though it is possible to point to instances in which holy men were indeed commanded to write, the truth of inspiration does not hinge on this fact.
But there is more.
That which belongs to the individuality of these writers comes to manifestation in Scripture. The sacred writers wrote in their own language, Hebrew or Greek, not Holland, or French, or Chinese. They wrote from the point of view of their peculiar times and circumstances, not only in general and as far as the old or new dispensations are concerned, but also in detail. And this is true not only of historical books, but also of prophetical writings. The prophecy of Isaiah, for example, could only have been written in the particular setting of time and place and minute circumstances and events in which it was written. And this is indicated in Scripture: “The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.” Isa. 1:1. The same is true individually of many of the psalms of David, so that their background and setting very obviously played a part in their contents. Variety is also plainly manifest in style. How different, for example, is the contemplative and intuitive and direct style of John from the logical and reasoning style of Paul. How different are the prosaic Chronicles from the poetry of the Psalms.
From all this, it is very evident that men spake, men wrote, men taught, men sang, men prophesied, men recorded facts and events, and that too, with all their individual peculiarities of character and talents, of time and place, of history and circumstances. This is included in the wonder of infallible inspiration, and yet so, that nevertheless, “this Word of God was not sent, nor delivered by the will of man, but holy ,men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”
There is one very striking exception in Scripture. That is Balaam, that most despicable hypocrite of the old dispensation. We may well say, in the light of Scripture, that he did not want to prophesy. In fact, with all his evil nature he tried not to speak the Lord’s Word of blessing upon His people, and that too, repeatedly. In a way, he spake in the same way that his dumb ass was made to speak when Balaam was on the way to Balak. And we read that “the Lord put a word in Balaam’s mouth, and said, Return unto Balak, and thus thou shalt speak.” Numbers 23:5. And when Balak in the fury of his frustration says, “What hast thou done unto me? I took thee to curse mine enemies, and, behold: thou hast blessed them altogether,” Balaam himself replies, “Must I not take heed to speak that which the Lord hath put in my mouth?” vss. 11 and 12. Evidently, therefore, Balaam was in some sense undercompulsion. And yet, even this exception must be carefully defined. The longer you study this story of Balaam the more mysterious it becomes. For the Spirit of God comes upon him, and he hears the words of God, and sees the vision of the Almighty, and falls into a trance, and utters some of the most marvelous prophecies concerning the people of God. Undoubtedly the “exception” of which we spake, therefore, must be understood especially in connection with the fact that Balsam, though irresistibly moved by the Holy Spirit, was not a holy man. But at the same time, let us note that this very exception shows us also to what lengths the inspiration of the Holy Spirit can go. The wicked Balaam cannot possibly speak anything but the Word of the Lord. Though he with all his heart wants to say, “God damn Israel,” he necessarily must say, “God bless Israel.” And all of Balak’s silver and gold cannot change this situation. Numbers 24:1-14.
In the third place, we may state that essentially this, charge of mechanicalism is an attack upon the sovereignty of our God. When the Scriptures teach us that the Holy Spirit moved holy men in such a way that the end-product was the very Word of God Himself, who is puny man that he should say that God cannot do this without completely suppressing their individual human natures? Is our God limited? Is He to be judged according to human standards? Is He not able to do what He wills? Is He not also in this respect the sovereign potter, in relation to Whom all these human instruments are as so much clay which He molds according to His own good pleasure? And as the alone Sovereign One is He not able by His Holy Spirit so to use and to move holy men to speak and to write His own Word, and yet to do so in such a way that they speak and write quite in harmony with their own, individual natures and characters and times and circumstances? After all, He is God! And this entire question comes down basically to this fundamental truth.
Permit me to make a comparison once more between the nature and manner of inspiration and the manner of God’s operation in the work of salvation.
We confess that God’s grace is irresistible, or efficacious, and that all of the work of salvation as applied to the elect is from beginning to end the work of sovereign, irresistible grace. What does this mean? When the Almighty regenerates a man, can that man possibly remain a dead sinner? Of course not! When He works saving faith in the elect, is it possible for him not to believe? Absolutely not! When He converts, is it possible for a man not to turn? Absolutely impossible! When He preserves the saint, is it possible for that saint not to persevere? That is absolutely impossible! Well, then, does all this work of irresistible grace make of that man a mere puppet, a machine, a stock and block? By no means! What then? Must we somehow after all begin to limit the sovereignty of God? Or must we place the responsibility of man in opposition to the sovereignty of God, and say, “Yes, but man is also responsible?” Not at all! Can we say nothing at all about the manner of this work of God? Yes, we can. In general, first of all, we may say that the sovereign Lord of heaven and earth always employs His creatures in a way that is in harmony with the nature which He Himself has given them. He operates in a tree in harmony with its nature as a tree, in a fish in harmony with its nature as a fish, in a beast in harmony with its nature as a beast, and so also in a man in harmony with his nature as a man. To man He has given a rational, moral nature. Does He in His sovereignty simply ignore that rational, moral nature which He Himself has given man? No; but God sovereignly upholds and governs man in a way that is in harmony with his nature. Hence, He does not intervene between that man’s nature and his actions. But in the work of salvation He with absolute sovereignty operates upon, or rather, in, that nature itself, in his heart and mind and will, and changes a man ethically from darkness unto light.
In much the same way we may conceive of the wonder of inspiration by the Holy Spirit. The human instruments who were moved by the Holy Spirit were rational, moral creatures. Did the Holy Spirit violate their rational, moral nature, or change it into an irrational, brute nature? Did He set aside their power of intellect? Did He simply ignore their power of will? Did He supply Paul with an entirely different style than he normally had? Did He simply impose the twenty-third psalm on David, though, perhaps, there was nothing in David’s life and soul that had anything to do with his saying, “The Lord is my shepherd?” Nothing could be farther from the truth. Besides, we must not forget that the Holy Spirit moved holy men. God not only employed human instruments, but sanctified human instruments. And the Holy Spirit, therefore, not only used these men in a way that was formally in harmony with their rational, moral nature, but in a way that was fully in harmony from a material viewpoint with their nature, that is, with their nature as it was changed from darkness to light by the power of grace.
Finally, however, let us not forget that this wondrous operation of the Holy Spirit is nevertheless mysterious. It is exactly at the point where the Spirit of God touches the heart and mind and will of holy men in such a way that they infallibly write God’s Word and yet write it as men that we come face to face with this mystery. How does that operation take place? What exactly takes place? Can you describe that work? No, I cannot; and there is no need of this. All I need do is believe, and then stand in awe before the wondrous works of God.
With this in mind, we may attempt to say a few words about what is called organic inspiration.
What is meant by this? Only too often, organic inspiration is presented in such a way that it merely means that the Holy Ghost sought out suitable men for His purpose, found them, and used them with all their individual characteristics, traits, and circumstances, just as He found them. I have found that this is a very common presentation of organic inspiration, even among Reformed people. But this is a very poor presentation of the matter, and leaves one very dissatisfied. Nor is it in any way an answer to the idea of mechanical inspiration really. Besides, it at least leaves open the possibility that the Holy Ghost was dependent upon and limited by the human instruments that He was able to find. And, in the light of His Godhead, the latter is impossible, of course.
Hence, it should be emphasized that the proper view of organic inspiration requires that we work from and with that grand and fundamental principle of Scripture, the eternal and sovereign counsel of the Most High, and that too. as sovereignly executed in time. This is a truth that is all too much ignored and neglected in connection with various other aspects of the truth. And the same must be said in connection with inspiration. But proceeding on the basis of this fundamental truth, we may distinguish the following elements in organic inspiration:
1) That just as God conceived sovereignly and from eternity of His people as an organism in Christ, so He conceived in His eternal counsel of the whole of Scripture, in all its parts and all its inter-relationships, as the written revelation of Himself, with Christ as the heart and center of that entire revelation.
2) That God from eternity and sovereignly conceived of and determined upon special organs of Christ’s body, organs of inspiration, and ordained all the details of their personality, character, talents, education, mode of thinking, style of writing, personal experiences, and historical circumstances in such a way that they were from eternity prepared to be fit instruments of divine, inspiration, each in his own place in the organism of Scripture.
3) That the Holy Spirit, and that too, as the Spirit of Christ, called these divinely ordained organs of inspiration into existence in time, forming them and preparing them, both naturally and spiritually, for their divinely ordained task.
4) That thus also the same Spirit inspired, moved, illumined, guided, and actually caused these human instruments, thus ordained, prepared, and called, to speak and to write infallibly God’s own Word.
Thus we may understand that these holy men were not simply human stenographers for the Holy Spirit. Nor were they merely a human framework on which God wrought the design of His divine Word. But the Scriptures and the human instruments were all of God, a wonderwork of divine grace, ordaining, preparing, moving, and guiding, so that we might have the complete and rich revelation of Christ, the Eternal Word of God.
This is one more distinction that is frequently made when the truth of the inspiration of Scripture is developed. Very briefly, this means inspiration to write. The term itself is not employed in Article III, but the last part of this article sets forth this truth: “And afterwards God . . . . commanded his servants . . . . to commit his revealed Word to writing.” After all that has been said on the subject of inspiration, in connection with which we have continually mentioned not only the spoken Word of God, but also the written Word of God, the Scriptures, we need not elaborate on this subject very much. Let us emphasize especially what the article itself emphasizes, namely:
1. That graphic inspiration is a matter of God’s “special care, which he had for us and our salvation.” To glimpse a little of this special care, consider for a moment the possibility that God’s Word had never been written and then preserved for us of the twentieth century. O, there was a time when God’s people depended largely on, oral tradition. In the world before the flood there were no Scriptures. But at that time oral tradition was very well possible, if you but think of the fact that Lamech, the father of Noah, could obtain the whole history of paradise and the fall directly from Adam. Besides, in those times God undoubtedly revealed Himself to men and inspired men to speakHis Word as well. But today you and I would have no Word of God if it were not for graphic inspiration. Indeed, this is a matter of God’s special care for us and our salvation. For without the Scriptures our salvation would be impossible.
2. That the significance of graphic inspiration is very clear here. This is the meaning of the reference to God’s writing with His own finger the two tables of the law. That reference is not merely to an isolated instance, but exactly means to emphasize that all of Scripture is so thoroughly the written record of God’s Word that it is as though God Himself wrote it all with His own finger.
And the conclusion of faith is plain: “Therefore,” that is, since in view of the truths confessed in this article that is actually the case—”Therefore we call such writings holy and divine Scriptures.” In other words, when we call them such, we are not using a mere, empty term; but we call them such because that is truly what they are!