The Bible’s authors were inspired by God.
That statement has been the focus of an incredible amount of controversy. But for some reason, late last night the thought occurred to me that the controversy is largely the result of taking that phrase in something other than its normal English sense.
There have been countless books and movies which were inspired by true events, or by the life of a particular individual, or by a song or a poem. If we say that a film was inspired by the life of Mother Theresa, we don’t mean that mother Theresa went and inserted thoughts into the mind of the filmmaker, but rather that the filmmaker found the inspiration for their film in the life of Mother Theresa.
Can we not say the same thing about the Bible’s authors in relation to God?
The author of the creation account in Genesis 1 was inspired by God – by the idea of one supremely powerful God being responsible for creation, rather than a large array of conflicting deities.
The apostle Paul was inspired by God – by the idea that God had chosen his time to bring Gentiles into his people, and to do so without requiring them to be circumcised, and by the conviction that God had chosen him, Paul, to be his messenger and spread this news.
The Gospel authors were inspired by God – by the belief that God was acting in and through the life of Jesus to bring about the long-awaited dawn of the kingdom of God.
The author of Song of Songs – OK, he or she may have had other things on his or her mind. But that is no more of a problem for this plain English approach to the language of being “inspired by God” than it is for other views of inspiration and the Bible.
If we take the phrase “inspired by God” in the normal everyday sense in which we use it, in which we might say that Mother Theresa was inspired by God to work among India’s poor, or Martin Luther King was inspired by God to struggle for equal rights for people of all skin colors in the United States, then the controversy vanishes. In its place we find a statement that seems to fit what we find in the Bible perfectly.
The Bible’s authors were inspired by God. Their belief in and beliefs about God were the driving inspiration that led them to write what they did, as they did.
Taken at face value, in its ordinary sense, this seems to be uncontroversial.
But the discussion about whether we should understand the language of the Bible’s authors being inspired this way, or differently, will itself surely be controversial. But perhaps focusing the controversy there may put the matter in a new and useful light.
What do readers think about this?