Inductivist Theories of Biblical Inspiration
The deductivist approach to inspiration surely represents the characteristic approach among evangelicals during the period of primary interest for this study. It is not, however, the only method employed by evangelicals. A minority of authors, using a different approach, introduced the possibility that the inspiration of the Bible could only be understood once nonreligious instances of inspiration were understood. This method is called inductivist because it begins with what is more surely known by the mind through experience and proceeds to inspect what is not yet known through comparison with the known. Unlike the deductivist approach, where the criteria which distinguish proper from improper judgments of experience are assumed to be impervious to revision precisely because they are not products of experience, Inductivism's critical criteria intentionally reflect the actual experience of persons. These criteria thus become subject to revision both in theory and in practice. This does not signal a loss of religious certainty, however. In fact, a gain in the certainty of religious knowledge is acquired precisely to the degree that more data, rather than less, may contribute to understanding.
Inductivist evangelical theologians do not begin with an uninspected given in their analysis of inspiration as do their deductivist counterparts with the doctrine of God and the concept of an inerrant Bible. Instead, they begin the analysis of inspiration at a much more basic level. The three theologians considered in this chapter all take "biblical inspiration" to refer primarily to the effects which the Bible has among those persons who call it inspired. Only then do they attempt to account for how it is that the Bible may be taken as the vehicle of inspiration. Inspiration, that is, is taken to refer to an act of the mind which perceives a source of enhancement and enlightenment outside itself. This source may or may not be a mental entity itself. If it is not, however, one is licensed to continue to seek for the source of inspiration in another knowing agent.