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Don Stewart :: What Is the Illumination Theory of the Authority of Scripture?

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Don Stewart

There are those who believe that the authority that the writers of the Bible had is something that is common to all Christians. These people hold that illumination is the explanation of the origin of Scripture. There is ability within each human being that allows them to give insight into divine mysteries. The Bible was a result of God's Spirit heightening the religious perception of the writers. This theory holds that present-day believers could still write Scripture.

This View Confuses Authority And Illumination

This however, confuses authority and illumination. The influence of illumination is common to all Christians. Illumination is how the Holy Spirit helps them grasp the things of God. The Bible says.

Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God's Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:14).

Jesus said.

And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven" (Matthew 16:17).

It Is Not A Biblical Idea

Illumination is promised to all believers but it is not the same as divine inspiration. We are told the prophets, at certain times, received truths by divine inspiration but were denied illumination for the comprehension of these same truths.

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that was to be yours made careful search and inquiry, inquiring about the person or time that the Spirit of Christ within them indicated when it testified in advance to the sufferings destined for Christ and the subsequent glory. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in regard to the things that have now been announced to you through those who brought you good news by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven-things into which angels long to look! (1 Peter 1:10-12).

The psalmist cried out.

Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from your law (Psalm 119:18).

Although the Holy Spirit divinely inspired their words, He did not see fit to give them the understanding of what they always meant.

Why Hasn't More Scripture Been Written?

If the Scriptures were merely the result of an illumination possessed by all believers, then why haven't we had any further revelation since the first century? Why don't we have a new Bible written today? There would certainly be no reason to deny this possibility if Scripture were merely the result of a gift given to all believers.

No More Scripture Has Been Given

However, there is no biblical evidence that God continued to divinely inspire writers after the New Testament era. To the contrary, Jude informs us that the faith has been "once and for all delivered."

Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).

God Has Told Us All That Is Necessary

There is no need for any more divine revelation where God divinely inspires writers to set forth His truth. The truth of Scripture is now complete. The writer to the Hebrews said.

God, after he spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom also he made the world (Hebrews 1:1,2)

There is no further need for God to supernaturally reveal His truth to all humanity.

Divine Inspiration Is Limited To A Select Few

Divine inspiration was limited to a small group of men whom God specifically chose to use to put His Word in written form to humankind. It is not a universally shared experience among believers. Not every one who had the gift of prophecy was divinely inspired to write Scripture. Therefore divine inspiration does not continue in the present day.


The illumination theory of the authority of Scripture says that the writers of the Bible achieved a certain understanding of God's truth and then revealed it to humanity. That spiritual ability, it is argued, resides in each believer. Consequently it would be possible for any enlightened believer to receive and deliver God's truth, as did the biblical writers.

Illumination, however, is not the same thing as divine inspiration. Divine inspiration consists of God giving his truth while illumination refers to human beings understanding that truth. The illumination theory of inspiration confuses the two. Furthermore, the Bible gives example of biblical writers who did not understand what God had revealed to them. This demonstrates they had not reached some spiritual plateau to be able to receive God's Word. Furthermore if this were true in the past, then why is it not true today? Why don't we see more Scripture being written?

This theory opens the door for any believer to compose Holy Scripture when given insights by God. However this is not necessary because God has spoken with finality in the New Testament. There is no need for any more divine revelation.


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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