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The Divine Spiration of ScriptureThe Bible is God's Word

This evangelical author politely questions the doctrine of biblical 'inerrancy'—a term popular in the USA but not so much in Europe.

He argues instead for 'infallibility', the view that the original documents, being at least partly human documents, may include some minor errors, but that this does not prevent Scripture being God's Word. His arguments are persuasive. The book is The Divine Spiration Of Scripture: Challenging evangelical perspectives by A.T.B. McGowan (Apollos, 2007, ISBN 978-1-84474-220-2).

McGowan  notes that the doctrine of inerrancy, as crystallised by the likes of B.B. Warfield, was forged in the heat of the battle against liberalism. It thus ended up taking a position that Scripture itself does not support. If you are at all interested in such matters, this is a 'must read'.

In the Reformation confessions and catechisms…there was a gradual move towards putting the doctrine of Scripture at the beginning, with everything thereafter being deduced from that first premise. Logically, this makes perfect sense… however, this positioning of the doctrine of Scripture creates many problems when viewed 'theologically'. In fact this positioning of Scripture at the beginning of the theological system takes the primary focus away from God. (p27)

The doctrine of divine spiration (inspiration) is the affirmation that at certain times and in certain places, God the Holy Spirit caused men to write books and his supervisory action was such that although these books are truly the work of human beings, they are also the Word of God. The church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, ultimately came to recognise that there are sixty-six books that God caused to be written in this way over a long period of time. (p43)

There are evangelicals who are unhappy with the term 'inerrancy' but who nevertheless also reject the notion of 'errancy', believing that they are being presented with a false dichotomy. (p106)

What was the point of God acting supernaturally to provide an inerrant text providentially if it ceased to be inerrant as soon as the first or second copy was made? If God could act with such sovereign overruling providence to ensure that the text was absolutely perfect when it left the hand of the author, why did he not preserve it for us, if an inerrant text is so vital to the life of the church? (p109)

God the Holy Spirit breathed out the Scriptures. The instruments of this divine spiration were certain human beings. The resulting Scriptures are as God intended them to be. Having chosen, however, to use human beings rather than a more direct approach (e.g. writing the words supernaturally on stone without human involvement, as with the Ten Commandments), God did not overrule their humanity. This explains, for example, the discrepancies between the Gospels. Nevertheless, this is not a problem because God, by his Holy Spirit, has ensured that the Scriptures in their final canonical form are as he intended them to be and hence is able to use them to achieve his purpose. (p118)

One consequence of the nature of Scripture's dual authorship is that the theologian must be confident that God has spoken and therefore Scripture is infallible, not in the sense of inerrant autographa but in the sense that God has given us the Scriptures and they will infallibly achieve God's purpose in giving them. Among other things, this means that if we find passages that are in apparent contradiction, we must not try to force them into some artificial agreement. (p149)

In Bavinck we find someone who shared Calvin's high view of Scripture but who, because of his similar understanding of the nature of the human authorship of Scripture, has no problems with the apparent discrepancies, contradictions and other difficulties that so trouble inerrantists. (p163)

If one name in one genealogy in 2 Chronicles is demonstrably mistaken, the entire inerrantist doctrine of Scripture collapses, despite protests to the contrary, skilful footwork and unpersuasive arguments! (p209)

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