The Problem with the Word “Inspiration”

When I wrote about “Inspiration Versus Inerrancy” the other day, someone responded that the word “inspiration” is problematic because its meaning can vary so much.  For example, you can read that a movie was “inspired” by a true story or that so-and-so is a truly an “inspiration” to us all.  You can probably think of some such examples yourself.  Thus to say that the Bible is “inspired” can communicate wildly varying ideas, depending on the perception of the person hearing you.

This is a fair point for someone to make, and I agree with it.  I’d only respond further with three quick points.

First, while the word “inspiration” has its difficulties, I don’t think it has as many difficulties as “inerrancy” (for the reasons that I gave in the earlier post).

Second, unlike “inerrancy,” “inspiration” is at least a biblical word; specifically, see 2 Timothy 3:16.   We can’t go too far wrong when using a biblical word to convey a biblical idea.  Note also that in 2 Timothy 3:16, the phrase says that the Scriptures are “inspired by God” – not just “inspired.”  That is, when we declare that the Bible is “inspired” we are actually using that single word as shorthand for “inspired by God” – not just “inspired” in a vague or undeclared sense.

Third, more often than saying the Bible is inspired, I say that it is the word of God.  This statement seems to work well in making clear my view because it gives someone a position to accept or reject.  That is, saying “the Bible is the word of God” doesn’t leave as much room for fence-sitting as the expression “the Bible is inspired by God.”  If the Bible is “inspired” in only a general or vague sense, then there are other books similarly described with which it must compete for attention.  However, if the Bible is “the word of God” it is in a class by itself – and deserves the appropriate attention – because all other books are merely from human beings.

By the way, I cannot imagine that I would have ever believed that the Bible was the word of God unless I had read it for myself.  The more I have read it, the more convinced I have become that it is the word of God.  Human beings simply could not have produced such thoughts on their own.  God truly does exceeding abundantly beyond all human beings can ask or think (Ephesians 3:20).

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