Excerpt from “Inspiration”

In 1881, A.A. Hodge and B.B. Warfield, both Presbyterian theologians, authored an article for The Presbyterian Review entitled Inspiration. The work itself is fairly short, but it is often hailed as the best brief treatment there is on the doctrine of inspiration.

I was reading through Inspiration a second time through, and I thought I would share the following passage, as it serves as a good summary of the firm foundation we have when it comes to defending (or just believing in) this vital doctrine.

The full text of the article can be found here.


Proof of the Doctrine

We of course do not propose to exhibit this evidence in this article. We wish merely to refresh the memory of our readers with respect to its copiousness, variety, and cogency.

1. The New Testament writers continually assert of the Scriptures of the Old Testament, and of the several books which constitute it, that they ARE THE WORD OF GOD. What their writers said, God said. Christ sent out the Apostles with the promise of the Holy Ghost, and declared that in hearing them men would hear Him. The apostles themselves claimed to speak as the Prophets of God, and with plenary authority in His name binding all consciences. And while they did so, God endorsed their teaching and their claims with signs and wonders and diverse miracles! These claims are a universal and inseparable characteristic of every part of Scripture.

2. Although composed by different human authors on various subjects and occasions, under all possible varieties of providential conditions in two languages, through sixteen centuries of time, yet they evidently constitute one system, all their partsChristianity  tourism destinations minutely correlated, the whole unfolding a single purpose, and thus giving indubitable evidence of the controlling presence of a divine intelligence from first to last.

3. It is true that the Scriptures were not designed to teach philosophy, science, or ethnology, or human history as such, and therefore they are not to be studied primarily as sources of information on these subjects. Yet all these elements are unavoidably incidentally involved in the statements of Scripture. Many of these, because of defective knowledge or interpretation upon our part, present points of apparent confusion or error. Yet the outstanding fact is that the general conformableness of the sacred books to modern knowledge in all these departments is purely miraculous. If these books, which originated in an obscure province of the ancient world, be compared with the most enlightened cosmogonies, or philosophies, or histories of the same or immediately subsequent centuries, their comparative freedom, even from apparent error, is amazing. Who prevented the sacred writers from falling into the wholesale and radical mistakes which were necessarily incidental to their position as mere men? The fact that at this date scientists of the rank of Faraday and Henry, of Dana, of Guyot, and Dawson maintain that there is no real conflict between the really ascertained facts of science, and the first two chapters of Genesis rightly interpreted, of itself demonstrates that a supernatural intelligence must have directed the writing of those chapters. This, of course, proves that the scientific element of Scripture, as well as the doctrinal, was within the scope of Inspiration. And this argument is every day acquiring greater force from the results of the critical study of Scripture, and from advanced knowledge in every department of history and science, which continually tend to solve difficulties and to lessen the number of apparent discrepancies.

4. The moral and spiritual character of the revelation which the Scriptures convey of God, of the Person of Christ, of the Plan of Redemption, and of the law of absolute righteousness, and the power which the very words of the Record, as well as the truths they express, have exercised over the noblest men, and over nations and races for centuries; this is the characteristic self-demonstration of the Word of God, and has sufficed to maintain the unabated catholicity of the strict doctrine of Inspiration through all changes of time and in spite of all opposition.

5. This doctrine of the Inspiration of Scripture, in all its elements and parts, has always been the doctrine of the Church. Dr. Westcott has proved this by a copious catena of quotations from Ante-Nicene Fathers in Appendix B to his “Introduction to the Study of the Gospels.” He quotes Clemens Romanus as saying that the Scriptures are “the true utterances of the Holy Ghost.” He quotes Tertullian as saying that these books are “the writings, and the words of God,” and Cyprian as saying that the “Gospel cannot stand in part and fall in part,” and Clement of Alexandria, to the effect that the foundations of our faith “we have received from God through the Scriptures,” of which not one tittle shall pass away without being accomplished; “for the mouth of the Lord, the Holy Spirit spake it.” Dr. Westcott quotes Origen as teaching that the Scriptures are without error, since “they were accurately written by the co-operation of the Holy Ghost,” and that the words of Paul are the words of God.

The Roman Church (Can. Conc. Trid. Sess. iv.) says “God is the author of both” Testaments. The second Helvetic Confession represents the whole Protestant Reformation in saying (Ch. I.) : “The canonical Scriptures are the true Word of God,” for “God continues to speak to us through the Holy Scriptures.” The Westminster Confession says: “It pleased the Lord at sundry times and in divers manners to reveal Himself and to declare His will unto His Church, and afterwards … to commit the same wholly unto writing.” It declares that the Scriptures are in such a sense given by inspiration, that they possess a divine authority, and that “God is their author,” and they “are the Word of God.”

It is not questionable that the great historic churches have held these creed definitions in the sense of affirming the errorless infallibility of the Word. This is everywhere shown by the way in which all the great bodies of Protestant theologians have handled the Scripture in their commentaries, systems of theology, catechisms, and sermons. And this has always been pre-eminently characteristic of epochs and agents of reformation and revival. All the great world-moving men, as Luther, Calvin, Knox, Wesley, Whitefield, and Chalmers, and proportionately those most like them, have so handled the Divine Word. Even if the more lax doctrine has the suffrage of many scholars, or even if it be true, it is nevertheless certain that hitherto in nineteen centuries it has never been held by men who also possessed the secret of using the Word of God like a hammer or like a fire.

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