Answers to Common Questions

What is the role of the Holy Spirit in inspiration?

Second Peter 1:21 tells us that "prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." The phrase "carried along" in this verse literally means to be "forcefully borne along."

Even though human beings were used in the process of writing down God's Word, they were all literally "borne along" by the Holy Spirit. Commenting on this verse, theologian Charles Ryrie says "the human wills of the authors were not the originators or the carriers of God's message.God did not permit the will of sinful man to divert, misdirect, or erroneously record His message" (WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT INERRANCY, p. 47). Norman Geisler and William Nix explain that "God moved and the prophet mouthed these truths; God revealed and man recorded His Word" (A GENERAL INTRODUCTION TO THE BIBLE, p. 28).

Interestingly, the Greek word for "carried along" in 2 Peter 1:21 is the same word found in Acts 27:15-17. The experienced sailors could not navigate the ship because the wind was so strong. The ship was being driven, directed, and carried about by the wind. This is similar to the Spirit's driving, directing, and carrying the human authors of the Bible as He wished. The word is a strong one, indicating the Spirit's complete superintendence of the human authors. Yet, just as the sailors were active on the ship (though the wind, not the sailors, controlled the ship's movement), so the human authors were active in writing (using their own writing styles) as the Spirit directed.

Hence, as theologian Robert Lightner concludes, "the Holy Spirit of God was the divine author of Scripture. Though he used erring humans as penmen, he supernaturally (miraculously) superintended them as they wrote, keeping them from all error and omission" (EVANGELICAL THEOLOGY, p. 12).

Edward J. Young, in his book THY WORD IS TRUTH, explains inerrancy this way: "The Scriptures possess the quality of freedom from error. They are exempt from the liability to mistake, incapable of error. In all their teachings they are in perfect accord with the truth" (p. 113). And this "quality of freedom from error" is a direct result of the Holy Spirit's superintendence of the human authors of Scripture.

In EXPLAINING INERRANCY: A COMMENTARY, produced by the International Council of Biblical Inerrancy (headed up by such scholars as J.I. Packer and Norman Geisler), we read that inspiration...

involves a divine superintendence which preserved the writers in their word choices from using words that would falsify or distort the message of Scripture.Evangelical Christians have wanted to avoid the notion that biblical writers were passive instruments like pens in the hands of God, yet at the same time they affirm that the net result of the process of inspiration would be the same. Calvin, for example, says that we should treat the Bible as if we have heard God audibly speaking its message. That is, it carries the same weight of authority as if God himself were heard to be giving utterance to the words of Scripture.That does not mean that Calvin believed or taught that God did in fact utter the words audibly.But we are saying that inspiration, however God brought it about, results in the net effect that every word of Scripture carries with it the weight of God's authority. (pp. 17-18). 

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