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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: False Views of Scripture

Don Stewart :: What Are Some Inadequate Theories of the Bible’s Inspiration and Authority?

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Question 1

What Are Some Inadequate Theories of the Bible’s Inspiration and Authority?

The Bible is the textbook for Christians. It is the authoritative Word of God to the human race. Unfortunately, over the years, a number of inadequate theories about the inspiration and authority of Scripture have been proposed. Unhappily, these theories have become popular with many people; both Christians and non-Christians. This being the case, it is necessary that we know something about them and why they are not consistent with what the Bible teaches about itself.

These inadequate theories about the authority of the Bible can be briefly listed as follows:

  1. The Mechanical Dictation Theory

    Mechanical dictation argues that the writers of Scripture were merely passive stenographers who were not at all personally involved in the composition of the text. The production of Scripture was entirely a divine work. This view would hold that there is no human element in Scripture whatsoever.

  2. The Idea of Partial Authority

    Partial authority has the Scripture being God’s Word—but only in certain parts. The authority of Scripture is limited to certain sections. The only teachings in the Bible that are divinely inspired are those that would be unknowable to the human authors. Therefore, a person cannot merely quote any section of the Bible as authoritative Scripture since some parts are not authoritative. According to this view, it is crucial that we are able to distinguish the authoritative from the non-authoritative parts.

  3. The Bible Has Authoritative Concepts, but Not Authoritative Words

    This theory argues that only the original concepts that God gave to the writers of the Bible were divinely inspired. However, the choice of words was entirely left up to the writer. The writer then put what God originally told him into his own words ? not God’s words. Consequently, we end up with a Bible that are human explanations of what God revealed to the various writers.

  4. The Natural Inspiration Theory

    Natural inspiration treats the Bible like any other book. It is literature that inspires the heart, but it is not the Word of God. It sees the Scripture as a mere human production. Therefore, it is not any greater or more authoritative than other human writings.

  5. The Illumination Theory

    This view says that the ability to write Holy Scripture is something that is part of the nature of every believer. Therefore, Scripture is not limited to what we find in the Bible. Anyone who has the Holy Spirit of God is able to compose divine truth.

  6. The Encounter View (Barthian View, Neoorthodox View)

    The encounter view says the Bible becomes God’s Word only when the reader interacts with it. This theory believes the Scripture contains errors and contradictions. However, it says that the Word of God still comes through to the reader in spite of these imperfections.

  7. The Mythological View

    The mythological view holds that people can actually encounter God through a reading of the Bible, but they reject all accounts of miracles and the supernatural. The miracle stories in the Bible are accused of being nothing but myths and fables.

This briefly sums up these seven inadequate theories of the Bible’s inspiration and authority.

Summary - Question 1
What Are Some Inadequate Theories of the Bible’s Inspiration and Authority?

In the history of the church, a number of inadequate theories concerning the authority of Scripture have been proposed. One of the most popular is the idea that the Scripture was mechanically dictated to the various writers—the mechanical dictation theory. There is also the idea that only parts of the Bible have authority—the partial inspiration theory. Some hold that it is not the words of Scripture that are authoritative but merely the concepts—the inspired concept theory. A popular view among unbelievers is that the Bible is like any other book—natural inspiration. The illumination theory of inspiration says that the ability to compose Scripture resides in every believer. The encounter view says that the Bible only becomes the word of God when a person reads it and personally encounters Christ. The mythological view denies all supernatural elements in Scripture, but it still argues that people can experience God through reading the Bible.

None of these theories is consistent with what the Scripture teaches about its own nature and authority. When they are examined in the light of the teachings of the Bible, each of them is found to be an insufficient explanation of the facts.

Theories That Do Not Fit the Facts ← Prior Section
Was the Bible Dictated by God to Humanity? (Mechanical Dictation) Next Section →
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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