Inspiration and the Means
Although Chapter 3 concluded with the crux of our understanding of biblical inspiration, our task is not yet complete. Thus far we have analyzed how the believing mind accepts or appropriates various data which, upon reflection, it recognizes as having come from God. In the process of this analysis we discovered that biblical inspiration is a subset or species of inspiration, and thus its meaning is enhanced to the degree that we understand how inspiration functions in general. We also discovered that biblical inspiration is a subset of divine inspiration and that the criterion of divine inspiration is whether or not a given person or community has come to know God better as a result of its newly enhanced horizon of expectations. An implication of this discussion is that, strictly speaking, all acts of inspiration are retrospectively realized. That is, one never enters a situation expecting to be inspired in a certain way. Were that the case, the expectation would logically and chronologically precede the situation and thus obviate any enhancement. One may know beforehand that an enhancement is needed, but one cannot know precisely how it will manifest itself within a given situation. 1
This last point seems at odds, though, with what the evangelical community has characteristically confessed about the Bible. Evangelicals have long insisted that the Bible is inspired regardless of whether a given individual or community agrees that it is. They have done so especially by means of three assertions: that the Bible is verbally inspired, that it is plenarily inspired, and that it is inerrant. If the present proposal concerning biblical inspiration intends to remain within the evangelical community, therefore, we shall need to consider these three confessional doctrines, doctrines which at least initially appear to inform us about the Bible itself rather than about the reflective interaction of the believing community with it.
I shall conclude that the major value of the doctrine of verbal inspiration