I have found the main issue which drives most other perspectives is the issue of the inspiration of the Bible. Why? Because if the Bible is indeed from God and is inspired and without error, then a person can discover things about God–indeed God Himself can be “discovered” and known as a person–and that changes all sorts of things in life.
If the Bible is from God, then:
- God is there we are not alone.
- We don’t have the final word or determine reality, God does, and we have to learn to adjust our world view and what we believe to God and His reality.
- If the Bible is indeed from God, then God is not silent, He has spoken in many ways to many people in the past. We can know what God thinks about things.
- It also means God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, into this world. God actually came and lived among us, and we can know about His birth, life and death–and what those things mean for humanity.
- No longer can we live any way we want to thinking we don’t have to answer to God for what we think, do, or feel. This is both constraining and freeing, because the ways God asks us to live are, in my humble opinion, the best ways to live life.
So what is usually meant by “inspiration”? Let me give a definition that needs to be read slowly, phrase by phrase: “Inspiration is that process by which God has worked through human beings without destroying their individual personalities and styles, to produce divinely authoritative and inerrant writings that represent God’s primary communication with mankind. The Word of God is correct in every matter that it touches—whether that be spiritual, historical, scientific, cultural, or any other matter.”
There is much Scriptural evidence for inspiration. The Bible itself claims to be inspired—
2 Timothy 3:16 states, “All Scripture is inspired by God,” (literally, God breathed). In addition, certain individuals when they wrote or spoke, claimed to be speaking God’s words as indicated by the often used phrase, “Thus saith the Lord.” (That’s the old King James’ version of the phrase). Certain Biblical writers also claimed that the writings of other men were part of the Scriptures (see 2 Peter 3:15-16).
Jesus Christ also referred to the Old Testament as Scripture and believed it to be the Word of God. He stated in Matthew 5:17-18 that He came to fulfill the Law, (i.e., Old Testament Scriptures), not do away with it, and that “not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” Either Jesus the Messiah was a liar, or the Scriptures are what He claimed them to be—inspired and without error.
Here’s another technical theological phrase: “I believe the Scriptures are the verbal and plenary revelation of God.” By plenary we mean that the whole of Scripture is inspired. By verbal we mean the very words and letters are inspired and correct in the original autographs (that’s essentially what Jesus said in the verse quoted above). This does not mean the Scriptures were dictated to men. Rather, God used each person’s writing style and personality to communicate His message. Second Peter 1:21 says that “men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”
Part of understanding God’s reality is correctly interpreting what He says in the Bible. Let me give an example. For a long time people thought the world was flat, then it was discovered it was round. We thought we knew “reality” (the earth is flat), but in fact we didn’t (the earth is round). This meant we needed to re-examine our interpretation of the Bible because people used the Bible to “prove” the earth was flat. For example, Revelation 7:1 says, “After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree.” At first glance, this verse seems to say the earth has four corners, which implies the earth is flat. We all know a globe doesn’t have four corners, so this verse seems to be scientifically incorrect. But is it? I don’t think so. It is using common human language that we still use today, even in our “scientific age.” We still speak of “the four compass points,” “the ends of the earth,” “the sun rising and setting.” If we can use such language to communicate with each other, and we all know what we mean when we use these phrases, then why can’t the Bible?
It is no more addressing scientific issues in this verse than I am when I say “I got up early to watch the sunrise.” I’m not trying to accurately describe the rotation of the earth around the sun in that statement, so I can’t be accused of being scientifically inaccurate.
I don’t feel the Bible can either when it used phrases and language which were common in the era in which it was written. It is describing the way things look from the perspective of ordinary humans on the earth, just as I am when I say I got up early to watch the sunrise. When the Bible speaks to scientific issues, such as in Genesis 1-2, then it needs to be evaluated by scientific standards. But at other times the Biblical authors used common words and phrases to communicate to the people of their day, just as we do today.
This again brings up the issue of interpretation. How do we understand what was written thousands of years ago? This is more important than we think. There are several ways of translating and interpreting Genesis 1. Depending on one’s translation and interpretation, one will hold to a recent (young earth) view of when creation happened, or ancient (old earth) view. This has huge ramifications for whether Christianity is relevant or irrelevant in the scientific community.
The apostle Paul knew how much interpretation mattered. In 2 Timothy 2:15-19 he wrote, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have wandered away from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some.”
Verse 15 encourages us to do our best to “handle the word of truth” in a “correct” manner. The implication is we can “handle the word of truth” in an “incorrect” fashion. Verse 18 makes this implication explicit when Paul warns that we can “wander away from the truth” in our interpretation and teaching. This means a person can quote a Bible passage, yet be wrong in their explanation of what the verse means or it’s implications.
Paul goes on in the passage to give an example of two people in his day who did not handle the “word of truth” accurately and came to a very wrong conclusion about the resurrection. The result of their wrong teaching on this issue was that the faith of some was ruined. People will not be in heaven because of Hymenaeus’ and Philetus’ bad interpretation about the resurrection.
Interpretation matters! Our salvation and the salvation of others is at stake.
Summary: I believe the Bible is inspired by God and inerrant, and when it is correctly interpreted (understood), it gives us knowledge about God and the world He has created. It also reveals that God loves each of us and has communicated His love to mankind. He wants us to respond to Him in love and obey the patterns of life and ways of relating which He has revealed because they are best for us.