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

Don Stewart :: What Is the Dynamic Theory of the Bible’s Authority? (Divinely Inspired Thoughts, Not Words)

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What Is the Dynamic Theory of the Bible’s Authority? (Divinely Inspired Thoughts, Not Words)

False Views of the Bible – Question 4

One of the views of the divine inspiration and authority of Scripture, which has become popular in recent years, is known as the “dynamic theory” of inspiration. It can be summed up as follows:

Claim: Only the Original Thoughts Were God-Given. The Writers Used Their Own Words to Express the Thoughts

The dynamic view of the Bible’s authority says it is only the thoughts, or concepts, that are really divinely inspired, but not the actual words of the writers. That is, God initially divinely inspired the writers of Scripture, but left them to use their own words and expressions in describing the truth that He revealed to them. Divine inspiration only occurred at that initial moment when God communicated to the authors of Scripture; the process did not continue through the writing of Scripture.


We can make a number of observations about this theory. They are as follows:

1. This Theory Wrongly Emphasizes the Human Part of the Process

Those who hold this view are often reacting against a mechanical approach that sees God almost dictating word-for-word what the Scriptures should say. It attempts to emphasize the human aspect of the composition of the Bible. The human aspect of the Scripture should be appreciated. While this view attempts to balance the divine/human aspect of Scripture, it falls short of the biblical position. There are a number of reasons as to why this is so.

2. How Do We Know They Correctly Understood God?

This view opens the door to an enormous amount of problems. If divine inspiration only occurred at the moment of initial contact between God and the writer and dealt with their thoughts and not their words, then how can we be certain they chose the right words? How are we able to discern between the writer’s own fallible opinions and God’s thoughts? Why should we have confidence in the Bible if the forty plus authors were left to their own particular way of stating God’s truth as it had initially been revealed to them? Why should we assume their final product was always correct on every matter? Ultimately, we cannot if we hold this viewpoint. Truth would be mixed with error. Our problem would be that we have no way of knowing how much error was mixed in by the writers.

3. The Entire Process Is Divinely Inspired

The biblical view is that the process of divine inspiration did not end with the initial contact between God and the authors of Scripture. It continued throughout their composition of the work until each biblical book was finished. We should not assume that God left the human authors to their own devices after the momentary event of divine inspiration. There is no evidence whatsoever that He did something like this.

4. This View Confuses Inspiration and Illumination

This view also confuses inspiration and illumination. The emphasis in Scripture is on divinely inspired written words, not divinely inspired writers. It is not the process, but rather the end product that is stressed. It is all Scripture that is God-breathed, not all writers. Paul wrote:

Everything in the Scriptures is God’s Word. All of it is useful for teaching and helping people and for correcting them and showing them how to live. The Scriptures train God’s servants to do all kinds of good deeds. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 CEV)

Peter stressed that no part of Scripture originated with human beings. He wrote:

Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:20 NIV)

Today’s New International Version translates these verses in the following manner:

Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:20-21 TNIV)

The point is that God is the One who originated all of Scripture. It also says He carried the writers along as they spoke and wrote God’s Word.

5. The Bible Says Words Are Important

The Bible also teaches that the actual words used in Scripture are important. Indeed, Jesus emphasized the importance of His actual words. He said:

The Spirit is the one who gives life; human nature is of no help! The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. (John 6:63 NET)

Paul said the words he spoke were not with human wisdom, but rather were divinely given. He wrote to the Corinthians:

These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. (1 Corinthians 2:13 NKJV)

The New Revised Standard Version translates the verse in this manner:

And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual. (1 Corinthians 2:13 NRSV)

Paul says that God’s revelation comes to humankind, not just in thoughts or concepts, but also in specific words. Divine inspiration extends to the concepts, the wording and the words. To be completely reliable, the authority of Scripture must extend to the words as well as the thoughts. We understand the thoughts of the biblical writers only through the words they use.

Conclusion: the Concepts, as Well as the Words, Are Divinely Inspired

There is another point we must stress. The concepts in Scripture are also divinely inspired. We do not have to make the choice between the individual words being divinely given, or merely the concepts as being divinely inspired. God gave both the words and the concepts. Consequently, the end result is that the actual wording of Scripture, as well as the concepts, is exactly what God intended. Thus, the entire Bible, words and concepts, is the authoritative Word of God.

Summary – Question 4
What Is the Dynamic Theory of the Bible’s Authority? (Divinely Inspired Thoughts, Not Words)

The dynamic view of inspiration argues that God initially divinely inspired the various writers with His thoughts, but then left the composition of these thoughts up to each individual. The divine truths that were revealed to the biblical authors were put in their own words. Therefore, it is the concepts of Scripture that are important ? not each word.

The problems are as follows: If each writer were left to express God’s thoughts in their own way, then how do we know they expressed it correctly? Unless someone wants to argue that each of these writers was absolutely perfect, the logical result would be some errors in the transmission. Then of course we have the problem of finding these errors. As can be readily seen, this idea is ultimately meaningless. No one would have any idea as to which statements contained in the Bible were true and which were not.

The dynamic view falls short of what the Scripture says about its divine inspiration. While it is important to recognize the human side of divine inspiration, it is also important to note that the divine guidance did not end with the initial contact between God and the various writers. Inspiration is a process with the emphasis on the final result, not the initial contact. Consequently, the theory of dynamic inspiration leaves much to be desired.

What Is the Partial Inspiration Theory? (The Bible Contains the Word of God) ← Prior Section
What Is Natural Inspiration? (Intuition Theory) Next Section →
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