Belgic Confession Article 3
We confess that this Word of God did not come by the impulse of man, but that men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God, as the apostle Peter says (2 Pet 1:21). Thereafter, in His special care for us and our salvation, God commanded His servants, the prophets and apostles, to commit His revealed Word to writing1 and He Himself wrote with His own finger the two tables of the law.2 Therefore we call such writings holy and divine Scriptures.3
1Exo 34:27; Psa 102:18; Rev 1:11, 19. 2Exo 31:18. 32 Tim 3:16.
In Article 2, the Belgic Confession explained the two means by which God reveals Himself to man: first, by the things which He created (general revelation); and second, by His holy and divine Word (special revelation). Here in Article 3, and all the way through Article 7, the Confession focuses on God’s special revelation: the Holy Scriptures.
Why do we Christians refer to the The Holy Bible or Scriptures as the Word of God? It is because we affirm that the Bible is not man’s reflection on who and what God is, but that God Himself, through the Holy Spirit, is its author. The apostle Peter asserts that “no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Pet 1:20-21). And the apostle Paul declares that “all Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Tim 3:16). Together, these texts affirm the “inspiration” of all of Scriptures.
The term “inspiration” of the Bible is misleading. When this word is used today, we think it is the “stimulation of the mind or emotions to a high level of feeling or activity” (American College Dictionary), and then imagine Elizabeth Barrett Browning inspired by her beloved husband in writing Sonnets from the Portuguese, or Michaelangelo inspired by the book of Revelation in painting The Last Judgment. No, this is not what is meant by the the Greek word theopneustos, translated “inspired” (KJV, NASB), because it literally means “breathed out (pneustos) by God (theos).” The Spirit of God is usually referred to in Scriptures as breath or wind (ruach in Genesis 1:2; pneumatos in John 3:5-8). So when God is said to “breathe out” His Scripture (ESV, NIV), it is His Spirit who is breathing the words out. This is why Peter affirms that all of God’s Word was spoken and written by men as they were “carried along,” “moved,” or “borne” (as a sailboat borne by the sea) by the Holy Spirit.
Does “breathing out” then mean that God dictated word for word what the prophets and the apostles spoke and wrote (dictation view)? Most Christians think so. This means that God bypassed the authors’ culture, background, and style. It is interesting to note that this is Islam’s view of the inspiration of the Qur’an – God took control of Mohammed’s pen when he wrote their bible! But in contrast to the dictation view popular among most evangelicals (and Muslims), liberals contend that God only raised the spiritual illumination of the writers, and that the Scriptures were not directly “breathed out” by the Holy Spirit (dynamic view).
The two views above are not what theopneustos means. That God used the prophets’ and apostles’ different personalities is evident in the varying culture, background, and style of each of the books of the Bible (organic view). Being “carried along by the Holy Spirit” means that the Holy Spirit superintended the human faculties in such a way that the writings are inerrant, yet retaining the culture, background, and style of the individual writers.
Inerrancy and Infallibility
Since the Bible’s author is the all-knowing, all-powerful, all-sovereign, perfect God, then what He wrote must also be perfect, without error (inerrant), and incapable of erring (infallible). God’s finger itself penned the Scriptures, so that the Bible is the only source of absolute, inerrant truth (John 17:17). So if someone says that Scripture has errors, inconsistencies, and contradictions, then he is also saying that God is not perfect, as if He is a Greek or Roman “god” who is a mere superhuman capable of and prone to mistakes and evil actions. If God’s written Word is not perfect, then God is not a perfect God, and so this God is not the God of the Bible.
Some other Christians also think that the King James Version of the English Bible is inspired. The doctrine of inerrancy asserts that only the original writings penned by the writers were God-breathed and inerrant. But what about the different translations in many languages of the world? No, none of these are God-breathed. However, in a broad sense, they too are “inspired” because God also superintended the transmission and translation of Scripture so that the pure gospel will be preached to all nations until He comes again. But God’s breathing out His words directly to men applied only to the prophets and apostles, not to the ensuing transmission and translations.
Others, particularly liberals, believe that only portions of the Bible are inerrant; that in spiritual things, it is, but in science and history, it is not. Still others argue that only the general thoughts are inspired, so that the Scriptures in its totality are not inspired. This is in contradiction to the Bible’s own assertion that every part of it is inspired and inerrant (plenary inspiration).
According to the prophets and apostles, all Scripture, every word, is “breathed out” by the Spirit of God (verbal inspiration). The Lord always instructed the Old Testament prophets to use the prophetic formula, “Thus says the Lord God,” when they spoke to His people (Exo 5:1; Eze 3:11). And in addition to his declaration that “all Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Tim 3:16), Paul says that his very own words are from the Spirit (1 Cor 2:13).
But the real scandal concerning God’s Word is not that only 34 percent of liberal Christians affirm the Scriptures’ inerrancy. The real scandal is that 92 percent of Americans own a Bible and the average household has three of the books, and yet “by and large, they don’t read it. And because they don’t read it, they have become a nation of biblical illiterates” (researchers George Gallup and Jim Castelli).
In fact, Biblical illiteracy borders on the insanely ridiculous. The next time you have a “spiritual” conversation with your Christian friend, do not be surprised if he tells you that “God helps those who help themselves” is in the Bible (81 percent); or that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife (12 percent); or that Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife (50 percent of high school seniors); or that he thinks the Rev. Billy Graham preached the Sermon on the Mount!
What could we expect from a Christianity in which the preaching is based on the Purpose Driven Life and “Jesus, Take the Wheel”? Instead of the pew Bible, there are now pew Purpose Driven Life; instead of the congregation singing “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded”, Carrie Underwood’s music video is on the overhead projector.
What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered, was all for sinners’ gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior! ‘Tis I deserve Thy place;
Look on me with Thy favor, vouchsafe to me Thy grace.
What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest Friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.
Next post: Is Dan Brown right in stating that the Roman Emperor Constantine “commissioned and financed a new Bible, which omitted those gospels that spoke of Christ’s human traits and established those gospels that made him godlike. The earlier gospels were outlawed, gathered up and burned”?