Verbal inspiration is the doctrine that the Bible is precisely word-for-word what God wanted to say. It is not merely the thoughts and truths of scripture that are inspired but the very words themselves. Upon first hearing the term, many people confuse the word “verbal” with “audible.” The verbal inspiration of scripture is not the belief that God audibly told the authors of scripture what to write. However, this confusion may have been perpetuated by some of its critics.
This doctrine is constantly under attack by theological liberals. They argue that we cannot have a verbally inspired text because the only way that could be is if God had audibly dictated to them precisely what to write, like an executive to a secretary. Or he would have had to put the writers of scripture in a trance and used their bodies to write word-for-word what he wanted. They argue that this could not be the case because both would produce a text without any authorial distinction. For example, we can tell what Paul wrote because he wrote with a particular style. Some of Paul comes through in the text. This would not be the case with the two options mentioned above.
We agree that both the trance and dictation methods are not valid. The author’s thoughts had to be involved in producing the text. For the liberals, this means the Bible is not verbally inspired. It is an errant book written by men about their experience with God. So how are we to understand this? How did God get word-for-word what He wanted out of the human writers without putting them in a trance or dictating the word to them? Below is an excellent quote by Gordon Clark that sheds light on the topic.
“Verbal inspiration must be understood in connection with the complete system of Christian doctrine. It may not be detached therefrom, and a fortiori it may not be framed in an alien view of God. Verbal inspiration is integral with the doctrines of providence and predestination. When the liberals surreptitiously deny predestination in picturing God as dictating to stenographers, they so misrepresent verbal inspiration that their objections do not apply to the God of the Bible. The trouble is not as the liberals think, that the boss controls the stenographer too completely; on the contrary, the analogy misses the mark because the boss hardly controls the stenographer at all.
Put it this way: God, from all eternity, decreed to lead the Jews out of slavery by the hand of Moses. To this end, he so controlled events that Moses was born at a given date, placed in the water to save him from an earthly death, found and adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter, given the best education possible, driven into the wilderness to learn patience, and in every way so prepared by heredity and environment that when the time came, Moses’ mentality and literary style were the instruments precisely fitted to speak God’s words.” – Gordon H. Clark – God’s Hammer, The Bible and Its Critics
We must never allow skeptics to sneak in an unbiblical caricature of God to argue against him or his word. The only way we will ever be able to do this is to be thoroughly familiar with scripture itself. It is the final arbiter of truth on all things pertaining to Christian faith and practice, and every word of it is gloriously God-breathed.