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Saturday, August 01, 2015

Indirect Evidence for Inspiration

In an era when not just politicians, lawyers and Muslims but average men and women increasingly play fast and loose with truth, one may forgive a little scepticism when someone makes a claim.

All scripture is breathed out by God”, Paul once wrote to Timothy.

That is a pretty significant assertion, and it is not one that can be substantiated by direct evidence. Christians cannot produce Polaroids of Paul or David in the process of writing the words of God surrounded by a nimbus or with an angel handing them a scroll. Nor can eyewitnesses confirm the presence of any Spirit Being overshadowing, indwelling, controlling or directing the authors of scripture. They are all long gone, if such witnesses ever existed.

The Fork in the Socket

This should not bother us much. We hold many things to be true based primarily or entirely on circumstantial evidence. I stick a fork into a wall socket, for instance. The tips of the fork vaporize almost instantly. Some molten metal spatters around. The lights in the room probably go out and if I know anything about how my home is constructed, I will likely attribute that to a working circuit breaker or fuse. If the lights don’t go out, I will shortly smell burning insulation.

None of this categorically proves the existence of electricity, but it is strongly suggestive.

A claim of inspiration is not categorical proof. Rather, it is one factor in the circumstantial case for inspiration. If scripture is inspired, we ought to expect such a claim within its pages simply by virtue of everyday experience. Each novel on my shelves has a spine listing its name and author. Every letter I have ever received in the mail has a line at the bottom where someone declared themselves to have written it. Every email in my inbox comes identified with the name of the account from which it originated. If God is involved in the writing of scripture, we ought to expect him to say so. Lo and behold, those who are alleged to have spoken for him say precisely that.

Unconscious Claims

But people who make claims may be liars. A second and rather compelling source of evidence is not what people say when they are advancing specific claims in the interests of a particular agenda, but what they say when they are talking about something else entirely. The things we take for granted, the assumptions we make automatically and unconsciously, and the facts we mention incidentally provide evidence of our real beliefs that may be more persuasive than any deliberate and conscious claim we might make. So too, the remarks made in passing by the writers of scripture about its authorship when that is not their subject at all are quite intriguing.

Like the rich man’s brothers in the Lord’s parable, I suspect those who reject the inspiration of scripture will continue to do so even if someone returns from the dead to explain it to them. In the end, inspiration, like every other doctrine found in the word of God, requires faith applied to the evidence provided in order to produce fruit in the lives of those who read about it.

The Spirit and ... Everybody

Therefore I won’t waste a lot of time trying to prove the unprovable. What I would like to do is simply list the indirect evidence for the inspiration of scripture found only in the New Testament. I find it quite compelling. If you don’t, I have a track record over the last two years of not moderating a single comment, so feel free to dig in and push back.

Jesus Christ about David:
“He said to them, ‘How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord …?’ ”
Jesus Christ about the writers of the entire Old Testament:
“Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ ”
Peter about David:
“Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus.”
Paul about the writers of the New Testament, including himself:
“When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.”

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons …”
Peter about the Old Testament prophets:
“Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.”
John, of his own writings no less than seven times in Revelation 2 and 3:
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
Those who don’t give any credibility to the doctrine of inspiration will assuredly continue to disbelieve, and that is their prerogative. But what they can’t reasonably do is assert that only a few New Testament figures claim inspiration, or that they only claim it for a few of scripture’s authors. The assertion of inspiration is, consciously or unconsciously, a theme of the apostles and those who wrote for them. It isn’t a Pauline thing, a Petrine thing or even a teaching peculiar to Jesus Christ himself.

It is the consistent, ringing claim of the entire Bible.

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