Is Biblical Inspiration a Proof of Calvinism?
by Jack Cottrell (Notes) on Wednesday, September 30, 2009 at 2:26pm
SOMEONE HAS WRITTEN about a “Calvinist challenge,” thus: “I wanted to pass along a challenge a Calvinist has thrown down. My answer, thus far, has been that Scripture is silent on the ‘mode’ of inspiration, leaving the Calvinist with the same conundrum. I wondered if you might have a further thought on the following challenge:”
“How is it that God inspired the Scriptures in such a way that every word—indeed, every jot and tittle—was what He determined? Every standard evangelical definition of inspiration would emphatically insist that God used the personalities, vocabularies, intellects, and learning of the individual authors—and we completely agree. Let’s also stipulate that He did not employ dictation (except in a few cases where this is expressly stated). Yet the product was still determined sovereignly by God. The words are avowedly His words (2 Peter 1:21; 1 Corinthians 2:13). So how did this miracle occur?
“I say you cannot answer that question without embracing the very essence of the Calvinist position regarding God’s sovereignty and human free will.” [So says the challenger.]
In my book “What the Bible Says About God the Ruler” I show the clear distinctions among THREE different ways God works in the world: general providence, special providence, and miracles. (See also “The Faith Once for All,” 119-125.) The “Calvinist challenge” (above) seems to equate Biblical inspiration only with the category of miracles, which is shown by the emphatic use of the terms “miracle” and “determined.” My understanding of inspiration is that every jot and tittle of the Bible is APPROVED rather than determined. Every word is approved by God and thus bears his guarantee of truthfulness and his authority. Only the dictated parts would be produced by a process equivalent to miracles (and thus determined). Other parts are produced by a process equivalent to special providence, as in God’s life-long preparation of certain individuals to be Biblical authors, or in his raising certain thoughts and memories to the writers’ minds. Still other parts are produced by a process equivalent to general providence, in that they are the authors’ own thoughts and feelings (as in many Psalms, or in Paul’s list of greetings in Rom. 16), which are subject to God’s PERMISSIVE WILL only. But since God’s permissive will implies his right and ability to PREVENT any about-to-happen product of a writer’s pen from actually being written (e.g., a factual error), even that part of Scripture produced under his permissive will (i.e., general providence) has his approval. This shows how the Bible can be fully inspired and authoritative without saying that its every letter is “determined sovereignly” by God. The free will of the authors is still operative under general providence and special providence. Thus the so-called “Calvinist challenge” proves to be quite toothless.