The Bible is Inspired
Inspired, definition : "breathed into", animate, make come to life. Verb: to inspire. Abstract Noun: inspiration.
There are other words which mean something like 'to inspire':
- to animate (to make live, to give zest, passion, or interest to; to cause someone/something to move or take action.) In Genesis, the Breath animates the shaped mud that becomes Adam. In Ezekiel, the Wind animates the bodies of the dead nation Israel.
- to enliven (to make live, breathe life into)
- to evince (to cause or prompt a response that is not automatic, instinctual, or habitual)
- to invigorate (to give energy or vitality to. This is most used by some Charismatics.)
- moving (adv.) (evoking a deep or strong emotional response that leads to action.)
- to stir (to put into motion by circular agitation, usually in order to mix ingredients) or stir up (to rouse from repose or indifference into action. This is often used by mainline Protestants.).
There is also the specific kind of divinely inspired speech known as 'prophecy', which is reviewed in greater depth on other pages at this site, including on prophecy itself and on prophetic history.
The Holy Spirit works in and through the Bible, shaped it, and makes it work in us. The Spirit inspired its (human) writing; The Spirit inspired the church's (human) selection of its content; the Spirit inspired its (human) interpretation over the years. The Spirit inspires us (humans) today when we read it with the eyes of faith, or hear it spoken or interpreted aloud, or see it truthfully portrayed and followed (by Spirit-led humans). The Spirit fills the whole process, every step from ancient event to you. One biblical term for the Scripture's inspiration is Greek theopneustia, "God-breathed". Because it is so specially inspired, there is much literature, art, social conscience, personal experience, and patterns of relationship that are inspired by Scripture. The Holy Spirit brings you into the Bible's stories and its story line, leading you to discover how it is your story too.
Through the Bible, the Spirit gives us God's promises and comforts. The Spirit inspires us through Scripture to respond to God's gifts of salvation, grace, and forgiveness in Christ. The Spirit patterns or trains our behavior through the Bible's stories and persons, including the negative lessons. The Spirit uses it to cause new and/or renewed life to begin, to see and live beyond the world we live in and take part in. The Spirit acts to inspire us to go a step past just learning something about Scriptural times - stepping us into a different and fresh future. If the Bible can be at all called 'the church's book', it can only be because of how the Spirit inspires Christ's followers through it. Thus it is firstly 'the Spirit's book' before it is the church's.
Verbal and Plenary Inspiration
Two other words are sometimes used for describing how the Bible is inspired. 'Verbal inspiration' means that each word in it is fully inspired by the Spirit - each word is a Word from God. The other term is 'Plenary inspiration' (Latin plēnus, 'full'). It means that the inspiration of the Bible as a whole is special and equal throughout. The words are usually used together, as "verbal plenary inspiration", but, like inerrant and infallible, sometimes pitted against each other, as "verbal vs. plenary". These words are mostly found in Calvinist and Reformed-oriented writing, that is, in Presbyterian, Dutch Reformed, and most Evangelical circles, though it occurs elsewhere as well.
Verbal inspiration fits especially well with the view that the Bible is inerrant, in that if each word is a word from God, it can't be in error. (For problems with that, see under inerrancy.) Most mainline Protestants refuse to use the term 'verbal inspiration' or 'plenary inspiration', and believe that not every word in Scripture is equally inspired. Some, for instance, speak of a 'canon within the canon', certain books and passages which bear the purposes of God in a way that can lead us in interpreting the rest. Some Protestants even believe that there are words and phrases and happenings in the Bible that are not inspired at all. Often, this comes from a sense of justifiable horror at some of the truly cruel and murderous stuff that's found there. Yet it must be said that our judgements about such deeds can't help but be full of human hypocrisy about our place with God. Most experienced Bible readers understand that humanity's darker sides, even those of the very-human, Biblical authors themselves, have key lessons to teach us from the Spirit, and are fully part of the story it reveals, and thus part of its inspiration.
I think it's best not to use either 'verbal' or 'plenary' to describe the Bible's inspiration, because most people don't know what they really mean - not even the people who use them. Both terms are most often used for arguing doctrines and polemic (fighting-word) disputes. They are used as presuppositions. That is, instead of discovering its truth, one starts with it as true and then forces everything else to fit into it - even if it can't. This blocks you from listening, which in turn blocks the Spirit from inspiring your conversations and thinking. Instead, say their most helpful meanings in a different tone and a more understandable way by using other words, such as those found on our descriptive word list and on this page.
How does the Bible Reveal?
Revelation and to reveal [Latin revēlāre > re- + vēlāre (to cover) > vēlum (veil, opaque separation)].
There are matters we could only have any knowledge or understanding about if God told us. For instance, how could we really understand anything about God -- character, will, plan, being -- if God didn't show it to us? We lack the needed 'omniscience' to figure it out ourselves (that is, we don't even come close to knowing enough to do it). We'd be left with natural vague hints and intelligent wild guesses. We'd be on somewhat better ground about ourselves, but even there, we still can't seem to figure out for ourselves why we are unable to straighten ourselves out, why we hate, why we hurt those we love. Or, why it is that the better we become at doing things, the better we also become in ever-deeper evils (such as H-bombs, monopolism, mind manipulation, and ethnic cleansing). Learning about such things takes 'revelation': the One who knows shares this knowledge with us. Which is what God offers to do, as far as we listen. That's what the Bible is: God sharing these truths with us. That's what the prophets and apostles did. Christ was Himself the greatest revelation of God - watching Jesus is to see what God is really like. Through these writings, the Holy Spirit reveals to us that God's already done God's part in restoring our relationship with God, yet is still doing more. The Spirit then goes on to reveal us so much more -- what God has given us, how God wants us to live and to treat each other, deepening our relationship with God, about love and fellowship and family and justice, and even about the time to end all time when the healing will be completed and all will be revealed. The Spirit lifts the veil, and thus frees us. The primary way for the Spirit to do this is by revealing it through the Bible.
Christians are unlike Muslims on this matter. To a mainstream Muslim, the Qur'an reveals God's will and message, but not God Himself - not character, not depth of love, and not His divine nature. (Sufi Muslims are more open to such talk.) In Islam, Mohammed is the messenger of God, not the revealer of His character.
Theologians and apologists use many terms to describe types or means of revelation. One is 'general revelation'; this is what happens when a person thinks or takes action and in so doing they learn what God wants of them (even if the person is not or not yet a Christian). It's often contrasted with 'special revelation' - which is when God takes specific action for the purpose of revealing, such as in prophecy or Scriture. God's ultimate special revelation is Christ Himself, for it is through (and as) Christ we know God's character and purposes -- God's very being, letting us in on what we could not otherwise understand or even imagine.
There are words related to 'revelation' that are not hard to define :
- to expose (to remove protective cover, allowing outside forces to influence, affect, judge, or damage.)
- to disclose (to make known something that is already there or already true, as if by removing an enclosure. The word emphasizes that which is uncovered.)
- to share (in the sense that friends or 12-step groupers tell each other close personal information, emotions, or experiences.)
- to show (to cause or allow to be seen, direct one's attention to. This word emphasizes the intent that it be seen.)
- to uncover or unveil (to remove a cover over something, allowing what was under it to be seen. The emphasis is on the act of removing the covering.)
God's not trying to keep any secrets. God's just looking for someone who'll listen.
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The Bible As the Source
Source [ < Old French sourse < Latin surgere (to rise (from), surge)] Where it comes from. The Latin word gives a picture of spring water rising up from the ground.
There are other words whose definitions are in some way connected to viewing the Bible as 'source':
- wellspring or wellhead (a source of water for an active stream, well, or spring.)
- cradle (a low, small bed for infants, who are most precious -- thus also, what holds the precious communication from God. Also, a place of origin or starting-point. This term was used by Martin Luther.)
- nest (a shelter made by birds for holding their precious eggs, from which the new life hatches. Also, a refuge or safe haven.)
The Bible is the source of all Christian ways of thinking, a Christian view of the world, a Christian way of life, and Christian teachings and beliefs. US liberal Christianity challenges this description, by saying that it is better to draw their way of life from the world around them, and be open to seeing the world in ways very different from (even opposed to) what is revealed in the Bible. They hold that the Bible is 'a' source rather than 'the' source. This has been said before in Christian history. Those who hold this view, then and now, gradually become less and less recognizable as Christians. The Bible holds the only reasonably accurate report of Jesus and the early Church. It is the only place you can find what was discovered by those who lived with Jesus and lived in the original community He started. Thus, it is the only source for finding out what makes a Christian a Christian. It's not wrong to draw from other sources, but the Bible enables us to recognize how and what to draw from those sources. The more a person draws from somewhere else, the more they become something else.
One of the many ways that shows the Scriptures uniquely reveal God and God's purposes: when you draw from the Bible, it sends your focus back onto God.
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