I don’t believe in the Inspiration of Scripture.
Before you stop reading and condemn me as a heretic, let me explain.
I do believe that God was behind the writing of Scripture to give us an accurate and authoritative account of the history of His people and the early Christians. But whatever happened from from God’s side of things in the process of writing Scripture, I’m just not sure it can be called “inspiration of Scripture” as classically defined.
To the contrary, I find it possible that the doctrine of inspiration of Scripture as classically defined has erected the Bible as a Sacred Relic to be worshiped by the masses. I don’t think this was done intentionally, but it simply a consequence of the doctrine.
Over the next several posts, I want to explain the history of the doctrine of the Inspiration of Scripture, the passages that are used to defend it, and provide a slightly modified and nuanced approach to the process by which I think God might have superintended the writing of Scripture.
But before I get to any of that, today I just want to explain what led me to start questioning the doctrine of inspiration of Scripture in the first place.
About five years, I becamse aware of a recurring historical problem within Christianity, and within my own life as a pastor, where church leaders tell church people that they cannot really understand Scripture without the priestly/clergy/pastoral class to explain it to them.
Here is a brief summary of this history:
In the early years of the church, when anyone who could read was able to read Scripture, the church saw an explosion of ideas and theories about God, salvation, and the church, which it deemed “heretical.” Really, if you go back and look at it, many of these early arguments were primarily about power and control, but we’ll leave that alone for now…
So the church decided that in order to control the development and spread of heresy, the church would have to make formal decisions about a few things. So they met in counsels and made their creeds, and to be honest, came up with some pretty good stuff.
Along the way, one of the ideas that developed was the explanation for why the Bible had to be protected from the ignorant masses. The reason is that it was not like any other book. It was a special book from God. It had greater power and authority than other books, and as such, could only be entrusted to those who were trained in how to read and understand it.
So they developed the doctrine of Inspiration of Scripture to prove that the Bible was a special sort of book which needed special attention and care, and to justify their decision to pull Scripture out of the hands of the people, thus making it available only to the “educated priestly class.”
One of the primary ways they did this was by making the Bible available only in Latin, the language of the educated elite.
This situation continued, along with numerous abuses, for a little over 1000 years, until some of the “Protestant Reformers” came along, and decided that to win their battle with the Catholic Church, they should translate the Bible into the language of the average person, so that they could read the Bible for themselves. Note that there was still vast illiteracy at this point, but still, at least those who could read the common language (who were still among the educated elite) could read the Bible for themselves.
This was a good move by the Reformers, but as with pretty much everything the Reformers did, they did not quite go far enough. Some of the early translations were from the Latin, but others came along which were based more on Hebrew and Greek, the languages in which the Bible was originally written.
So while translations were made available in the languages of the common people, the doctrine of inspiration stated that only the original manuscripts were inspired. The translations were not exactly “inspired” in the same way. Thus, to truly understand what Scripture really meant, a person needed an understanding of Greek and Hebrew.
This situation has continued down to the present day where the common person is reminded in sermon after sermon and Bible study after Bible study, that “although the Bible says such-and-such in the English, if you go back to the original Greek, then you see that it really means this.”
Effectively, though we have given the Bible back to the people in their own language, in actual practice we have maintained the power, position, and authority of the priestly/clergy/pastoral class as the accurate interpreters of Scripture.
In such a way, through the doctrine of the Inspiration of Scripture, the Bible is set up on a pedestal as a “Holy Book” and the clergy are viewed as the holy Keepers of this Sacred Relic. As the Keepers, they have gained unimaginable power to control the masses by “magic words” from the pages of this relic, which only they can understand and explain.
A lot of this is due, I believe, to the doctrine of the Inspiration of Scripture. If the Bible truly is the inspired Word of God, then it needs to be treated with utmost attention and care by highly-trained professionals who can tell the ignorant masses what it really means.
But what if the doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture is wrong? What the Bible really is a book from God for all people?
That was one of the questions I began to ask five years ago. While I do not yet have a fully-formed answer to this question, over the next few posts, I will present what I have so far, and let you weigh in on the subject.
For now, what do you think? Am I over-reacting? Is is okay to have a priestly class to act a mediator between God’s Word and God’s people?