The Bible Is Not a Buffet
By Kaylee Freeman
Imagine your favorite buffet. There are several options to choose from, and you’re not forced to get anything you won’t like. You can skip the vegetables and even have dessert before your main dish. The options are endless (well, more endless than they are in my kitchen), and you have complete freedom on what to choose and what not to choose. Though I’m a sucker for a good buffet, I sometimes expect my life to have buffet-like options. I may want to pick and choose what I eat, what I wear, what car I drive, and what music I listen to, often saying “yes to this, but no to this. I like this but I don’t like this.” When reading the Bible, I am often tempted to do this very thing—take the easy truths and leave behind the ones that are harder to handle. This buffet-style mentality must be forsaken when we come to the pages of Scripture.
Why? Because every single word of the Bible is God-breathed. We call this doctrine inspiration and it’s foundational to our right understanding of the truth.
What Is Inspiration and Where Do We Find It?
In his book, Fundamentalism and the Word of God, J. I. Packer describes inspiration as “a supernatural, providential influence of God’s Holy Spirit upon the human authors, which caused them to write what He wished to be written for the communication of revealed truth to authors.” In simpler terms, the Holy Spirit caused specific people to write what He wanted to be written, without overriding the authors’ personalities. God communicated what He wanted through the Scriptures, but He also allowed each author’s language, skills, and personality to be seen through the pages. So, it is most correct to say that what they wrote was inspired instead of saying the author himself was inspired. Through their obedience, the Holy Spirit worked to provide His perfect Word, which encapsulates the true story of the creation of the world and the fall of man, all the way to the coming of Christ and the re-created world. Because of this inspiration, all of Scripture is true.
We don’t have to convince ourselves of this doctrine with logic or by listening to other wise people in the faith; the Scriptures can—and do—fend for themselves:
2 Peter 1:19-21
“And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, 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.”
1 Thessalonians 2:13
“And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God.”
2 Timothy 3:16
“All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness.”
All three of these passages are examples of Scripture witnessing to its own perfection. As we hold up the doctrine of inspiration, we are able to see that the Scriptures are profitable because they are absolutely true.
Why Do We Need Inspiration?
We cannot know God apart from inspiration; it covers all of Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16). The God-breathed Word depicts the gloriousness of God’s character and also spells out the calling on our lives as followers of Christ. These scriptures are the way in which God speaks to us, revealing both the darkness of our sin and the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We desperately need to trust that God inspired the Scriptures, because without that doctrine, the teaching, reproving, correcting and training found in 2 Timothy 3:16 holds little value.
Without the doctrine of inspiration, we hold nothing more than a good storybook in our hands on Sunday mornings. The holiness of the Book is stripped away, and we are left with words that do not demand authority. The very foundation of our faith diminishes to a life of not really knowing the God we claim to worship.
What Dangers Do We Face In Denying Inspiration?
To deny the Scriptures is to deny God, and to deny God is to deny the authority found in Scripture. If we deny inspiration, we cannot know when God speaks and when He doesn’t. We steal the authority away from the Scriptures and take it into our own hands; we begin to pick and choose what we believe about God. We like this portion, so it’s from God, but we don’t like this part, so we’ll ignore it and move on to something else. Our flesh jumps at every opportunity to be god of our own lives and even god over the text about God. If we take this authority upon ourselves, we’ll soon be treating the Bible like our favorite buffet instead of recognizing and adhering to Scripture in its entirety.
Without inspiration, we have no gospel because we have no message from God. We would not know of creation, the law, the prophets, or the lineage of David; and we would not know of Jesus Christ. We cannot make sense out of the world through any other book but this one.
It is no small matter to argue against the doctrine of inspiration. Theologian John Carnell once remarked, “We are free to reject the doctrine of the Bible’s view of itself, of course, but if we do so we are demolishing the procedure by which we determine the substance of any Christian doctrine.” This is the foundation that we as Christians continue to build upon for the rest of our lives; by it, we can take God fully at His Word.
[Join us next week for part 2 as we take a deeper look into the latter part of 2 Timothy 3:16; now that we know the doctrine of inspiration, we can understand just how profitable Scripture really is.]