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The Bloomington Statement

You may have heard that some Evangelical Christians recently offered a series of affirmations and denials about human sexuality known as th...

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Wrestling with God!

In a comment regarding the post which preceded this one, Byker Bob made a statement that really caught my attention. He wrote: "I believe that you really have to look at the way in which people see themselves in terms of their relationship with God. That is what is important. David was a man after God's own heart because no matter how he failed and sinned, he didn't turn his back on God. He steadfastly kept praising Him, and he kept on praying to Him. He knew that like all of us, he was born to sin, but refused to allow that to separate him from God."

Immediately after reading that comment, I was reminded of a story in the book of Genesis. We are told there that Jacob wrestled with a strange man for the better part of one night. We read: "And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob's thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him. And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed." (Genesis 32:24-28)

In the story, Jacob holds on to God's representative and refuses to release him until the man promises to bless him. Is this story a metaphor about how all of us should approach our relationship with the Divine? Do the experiences of these two very imperfect men (Jacob and David) teach us to keep on keeping on with God until we prevail? In other words, while our understanding of God and our attempts to follow "His" will may be very flawed/imperfect at present, does God consider the effort/struggle to understand and follow "Him" worthwhile?

I believe that these examples are indicative of the very personal nature of our salvation through Jesus Christ. In a very real sense, each of us must wrestle with God and refuse to let go until we receive the blessing. Although Jacob and David had many personal weaknesses and failures, neither one of them ever stopped trying - they never turned their backs on God and walked away from "Him." And, of even greater interest to us, God never abandoned either one of them. Like the man who wrestled Jacob, God remained with them both until they obtained the blessing. The lesson: Perseverance is rewarded.

Paul told the Philippians to "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." (Phil. 2:12) Maybe that is why Christ instructed us to focus on the beams in our own eyes rather than attempting to remove the speck from our bother's eye? (Matt. 7:1-5) Maybe we should all be focused on this important wrestling match in which we are currently engaged - this match that continues through the long night? What do you think?   

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!

The story of Adam and Eve has been used by conservative Christians to invalidate homosexual relationships and defend the traditional definition of marriage for many years now. "God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!" they proclaim with a self-assured grin (as if this simple statement has settled the matter beyond all doubt). In the real world, however, things are rarely as simple and clear as they first appear; and it's usually a good idea to dig a little deeper if we are truly interested in understanding some phenomenon.

First of all, even if we confine ourselves to the subject of human sexuality, any serious student of the Judeo-Christian Bible would have to acknowledge that there is a lot going on in the first couple of chapters of Genesis. And one of the first things we notice is that there are two very distinctive stories about the beginnings of humankind.

In the first chapter of Genesis, we are told that God created all plant and animal life to reproduce after its "kind." Next, we read: "And God said, Let us make man (Hebrew Adam) in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man (Hebrew Adam) in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." (Genesis 1:26-28, KJV)

Hence, in this initial story of the beginnings of humankind, Adam (man) is both male and female. We are also told that this Adam (male and female) is designed to reflect God's persona. As a consequence, we ask: Doesn't this suggest/imply that both genders derive their traits/characteristics from God? Is this story about a literal person or persons? OR Is this story meant to be representative of the origins of humankind in general?

God goes on to tell Adam (male and female) to "Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth..." To me, this instruction makes clear that this story was written to describe the origins of humankind. Adam is clearly told to reproduce and fill up the planet with his/their offspring.

Is this instruction general or specific in its application? Does God expect Adam to "replenish the earth" on his/their own? In other words, is it reasonable to conclude that God expected the first man and woman to populate the earth by themselves? Is that what happened? OR Did the population expand gradually over many generations of humankind? Isn't it clearly understood that this scripture refers to the origins of the entire human race and was intended to apply to Adam (humankind) in general? And, if it did only apply to one man and one woman, we must admit that they failed miserably in fulfilling this instruction!

In the second chapter of Genesis, we are given an entirely different account of the origins of humankind. Instead of the man and woman being created simultaneously on the sixth day, we are told that Adam was initially created as one male. We read: "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." (Genesis 2:7)

Next, we are told that God "planted a garden eastward in Eden" and placed the man in the midst of it (verse 8). Later, we are informed that God observed that "it is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him." (verse 18) The Hebrew indicates that God felt that Adam needed an aid or a helper. Toward that end, God brought representatives of all of the different species of animal life to the man and allowed him to name them (verse 19). Then we read: "And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him." (verse 20) In other words, none of the animals proved to be a suitable companion/aid/helper for Adam.

As a consequence, we are told that God decided to create a female human. We read: "And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man." (verses 21-22) This apparently solved the problem of providing Adam with a suitable companion/aid/helper as we are told: "And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh." (verses 23-24)

In this connection, it is interesting to note that the Hebrew word translated here into English as flesh is indicative of the body. In other words, this woman's bones were derived from his bones, and her body was made from his body. Thus, in later generations, an Adam would leave his parents household and cleave to this companion/helper/aid and become one body again.

Now, once again, we ask: Is this about one man and one women or humankind in general? Do these scriptures apply to the first man and woman? OR Do they apply to all subsequent generations? Doesn't the language about leaving his parents household make plain that the broader application is more appropriate? And, is this story about the inadequacy of animal companionship in fulfilling human needs? OR Does this story suggest that only female companionship is appropriate for males? And, although it's not explicitly stated, does this story suggest that sexual intercourse between one man and one woman is the only kind of human intimacy that can make one body?

Aren't we all Adam? Don't you and I possess the bones of his/their bones and the body of his/their body? And, if we do, doesn't that imply/suggest that the sexual union of any two people could make one flesh/body?

Finally, do ANY of the verses which make up this second creation story in the second chapter of Genesis say ANYTHING about procreation? In other words, isn't the entire focus of the second story based on suitable human companionship?

The chapter concludes with the statement: " And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed." (verse 25) Now this verse is also very interesting when we consider the puritanical attitudes of many Christians with regard to nudity and human sexuality. This scripture seems to indicate that the natural state of humankind is to not feel shame/embarrassment about their bodies and how they function!

Hence, it is not unreasonable to conclude that God created Adam, Eve and Steve. While a narrow reading of these scriptures is certainly possible, I think we have demonstrated that a more general interpretation is not only possible but is also more consistent with the context than the narrow one. 

Sunday, February 11, 2018

God, Natural Law Theory and Homosexuality

In his challenge to my Bloomington Statement, Mr. Jensen Carlyle has referred over and over again to Natural Law Theory. Hence, in anticipation of some statement by him on the subject, I thought that it would be helpful to him, the readers of this blog and myself to dig a little deeper into the theory. It is hoped that this exercise will offer some clarity on the subject and better articulate my view of its impact on the viability of the Bloomington Statement.

To begin, it is clear to me that Natural Law Theory (NLT) means different things to different people. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (IEP) tells us that NLT can refer to either a moral or legal theory. As a moral theory, the IEP article on the subject https://www.iep.utm.edu/natlaw/ states: "the moral standards that govern human behavior are, in some sense, objectively derived from the nature of human beings and the nature of the world." The same article goes on to say that, as a legal theory, "the authority of legal standards necessarily derives, at least in part, from considerations having to do with the moral merit of those standards." Now that seems clear enough, doesn't it? Don't get too comfortable with our definitions just yet. The IEP article goes on to inform us that there are many different manifestations of these theories.

For instance, most would probably agree that classical NLT finds its best expression in the writings of the Christian theologian Thomas Aquinas. In his Summa Theologica, Aquinas discusses his view that there are four types of law (eternal, natural, human and Divine). He wrote: " Wherefore, since all things subject to Divine providence are ruled and measured by the eternal law...it is evident that all things partake somewhat of the eternal law, in so far as, namely, from its being imprinted on them, they derive their respective inclinations to their proper acts and ends. Now among all others, the rational creature is subject to Divine providence in the most excellent way, in so far as it partakes of a share of providence, by being provident both for itself and for others. Wherefore it has a share of the Eternal Reason, whereby it has a natural inclination to its proper act and end: and this participation of the eternal law in the rational creature is called the natural law." You can read more at this location: http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/aquinas/summa/sum229.htm

Now others would point out that Aquinas was not the first to espouse these theories. They would point to antecedents among the Greek philosophers (Aristotle, Plato), which many conservative Christians would say automatically disqualifies the theory (by virtue of its having roots in pagan philosophy).

However, to avoid distraction with another lengthy and complex set of arguments, let us assume for the sake of argument that Aquinas was correct. I have pointed out that it is in the nature of at least some humans to be sexually oriented toward members of their own sex. I have also pointed out that because something occurs with less frequency in nature than some other occurrence, it does not necessarily follow that it is abnormal or unnatural. Earthquakes may not be the norm, but they are certainly part of the nature of the planet on which we live. Finally, I have pointed out that a rationale exists (though Jensen would say it is flawed) for believing that homosexuality does not exclude the possibility of moral behavior. Hence, from my perspective, homosexuality is not incompatible with Aquinas' notion of NLT.

As for some of the other expressions of NLT and their relationship to this subject, I would point to the works of others who find problems inherent in interpreting NLT in a fashion consistent with Jensen Carlyle's previous comments on the subject. For those who are interested in pursuing the subject further, I have provided a number of links for your convenience:
The Morality of Homosexual Conduct: A Response to John Finnis - https://scholarship.law.nd.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1416&context=ndjlepp

Monday, February 5, 2018

The Bloomington Statement Revisited

Over the course of the last week, I have been carrying on a discussion with a blogger named Jensen Carlyle regarding my scriptural and philosophical justifications for the Bloomington Statement. Although I have found the conversation to be stimulating, it recently occurred to me that the folks who read this blog on a regular basis might be interested in following this discussion. For those who are so inclined, I invite you to review the original post and the comments which it has generated here: http://godcannotbecontained.blogspot.com/2017/09/the-scriptural-and-philosophical-basis.html

Part of the discussion has focused on whether or not homosexuality should be regarded as natural. I have contended that it should be regarded as natural for several reasons: 1) Whatever we may eventually learn about the role of nature vs. nurture in determining sexual orientation, it is clear that humans do not choose their orientation; 2) As homosexual behavior occurs in nature, it cannot be said to be man-made (I can't think of any examples of someone setting out to create a homosexual or develop a program to do so, can you?); 3) If homosexuality is innate, then it is natural; 4) If homosexuality is generated by environmental factors (hormones, mutations, chemicals, etc.), then it is natural; 5) Sexual attraction appears to be a universal phenomenon within the animal kingdom, and must therefore be adjudged to be natural; 6) The fact that homosexuality occurs less frequently than heterosexuality does not make it unnatural (volcanic eruptions occur with less frequency than earthquakes, but they are both considered to be natural phenomena); 7) Likewise, in this same sense of the word natural, homosexuality cannot be designated as unnatural simply because a majority of human society has deemed it to be abnormal.

The fact that marriage is a very human institution means that it is NOT natural. Yes, some animals mate for life, but I have never heard anyone suggest that such animals are married. People can and do procreate without marriage. Hence, it certainly cannot be claimed that marriage is an essential natural element of procreation. As it is not uncommon for single adults and institutions (e.g. orphanages) to raise children, we cannot claim that marriage is essential to the rearing and nurturing of children.

If we are talking about civil marriages, then the institution is defined by the society/culture/government of which it is a part. Similarly, if we are talking about religious marriages, then the institution is defined by the religion/church/denomination which administers it. Finally, if we are talking about biblical marriage, then we are looking at an institution which is defined by an individual leaving his/her parents home, cohabiting with another individual and having sexual intercourse with that person. From a biblical perspective, it is also generally understood that marriage is intended to be exclusive (yes, there are many instances of polygamy recorded in Scripture) and lifelong (albeit there are several disputed justifications for divorce also recorded in its pages).

Hence, from the biblical perspective, we must conclude that there are a great many folks who think that they are simply living together who are in fact married in God's eyes. Likewise, there are a good many folks who are on their third, fourth or fifth "marriage" who we could certainly characterize as NOT being married in God's sight. Remember, there is no biblical formula for a marriage ceremony. The Bible is much less formal about the subject than most churches and states appear to be.

To say that marriage is fundamentally about procreation and child-rearing is to ignore much of what the Judeo-Christian Scriptures say about the subject. We are told that Adam needed a companion and a helper - that it wasn't good for him to be alone. We are told that husbands and wives owe each other love and respect. We are told that sexual activity is meant to unite two souls, and that it is dangerous for the pair to refrain from this activity for any length of time. The Song of Solomon glorifies sexual attraction between a man and woman. In short, from a Scriptural perspective, marriage is about the union of two people.

To be sure, those same Scriptures make plain that God chooses to bless some marriages with children. And those children can and should enrich any marriage of which they are a part. Nevertheless, the marriage IS NOT about the children - it is about the two people who are a part of the contract. Hence, from a biblical perspective, we could say that children are incidental to a Godly marriage.

Now, admittedly we have been talking about marriages between one man and one woman, but does that mean that two people of the same sex should be excluded from participating in this institution? Are the folks who say that a comprehensive or organic union between two people of the same sex is impossible correct?

Surely, we can all acknowledge that human sexuality is about much more than procreation? Indeed, most folks are willing to acknowledge that there is an emotional component to sex - that it is an expression of love. Are two men or two women excluded from experiencing this?

Without getting too graphic (we don't want to unnecessarily offend anyone), we should all be willing to acknowledge that homosexual folks engage in many of the same sexual behaviors that their heterosexual counterparts engage in. Like heterosexuals, homosexual folks come to climax and exchange bodily fluids during intercourse. Like heterosexuals, intercourse is about much more than a penis or a vagina (things like faces, mouths, hair, hands, breasts/pecs, buttocks, etc. are often integral parts of the act). And we should all be willing to acknowledge the most important sexual organ which humans possess - our brains. Just think about the role of imagination and desire in this behavior!

Finally, the claim that "no bodily good" can be derived from homosexual sex is unsustainable. As with heterosexual intercourse, homosexual sex can improve immunity, heart health, lower blood pressure, relieve pain and stress, strengthen muscles, improve sleep, reduce the risk of prostate cancer in men and improve bladder control in women. If that's not enough, think for just a moment about the potential psychological and emotional benefits which might be had by our theoretical homosexual lovers (pleasure, self-esteem and the expression of love, respect and tenderness for another person).

Hence, it is clear to me that the use of nature, procreation, child-rearing and comprehensive union as arguments against homosexual behavior and marriage is not sustained by a review of the available evidence. What do you think?

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Was Christ predicted by the Old Testament?

Yesterday, over at Banned by HWA, Dennis Diehl posted an interesting article about whether or not Jesus Christ was predicted by the Old Testament. He wrote:  "As we all know, the New Testament is the sequel to the Old.  But consider this.  How hard would it be to look BACK into the Old Testament, knowing it's "prophecies" on many topics unrelated to Jesus and write a rather mythical account of Jesus life which would match what the OT already said?  That, of course, would look very much like the OT predicted Jesus when in fact the story of Jesus was written by mining the OT for scriptures to write the story.  It would be very easy to do and actually was what was done." For those who are interested, you can read the entire article here:  http://armstrongismlibrary.blogspot.com/2018/01/fun-sabbath-facts-inconvenient-truth.html

Mr. Diehl goes on to point out the misapplication of several Old Testament verses in Matthew's birth narrative about Jesus. As he skillfully points out, this is accomplished by taking scriptures out of context, using deliberately mistranslated texts and bending the meaning of those verses to fit the circumstances of Christ's life in the early part of the First Century. Of course, Mr. Diehl is not the first person to point out these inconsistencies, and this is only a problem for those who continue to regard Scripture as infallible.

Nevertheless, while Mr. Diehl provides strong evidence for making his point about certain features of Matthew's birth narrative, does his evidence prove that Christ wasn't predicted by the Old Testament? Where did the notion of a messiah originate? Did such a concept exist prior to the supposed birth of this Jesus person? In short, did Christians invent the notion of a messiah in the pages of the Jewish Scriptures in order to explain/justify the existence of their founder (Jesus Christ)?

In their article on the "Mashiach" (or Messiah), Judaism 101 makes clear that the notion of a messiah is an "ancient" and "fundamental" part of Judaism. See the entire article here:  http://www.jewfaq.org/mashiach.htm  In other words, Jewish people clearly believe that their Scriptures predict a messiah, and their belief that such a person would arise clearly predates the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ in the First Century. What is the scriptural basis offered for this belief? They list the following: Isaiah 2, 11, 42, 59:20; Jeremiah 23, 30, 33, 48:47, 49:39; Ezekiel 38:16; Hosea 3:4-5; Micah 4; Zephaniah 3:9; Zechariah 14:9 and Daniel 10:14.

It should also be noted, however, that most Jews do not accept the person of Jesus as the fulfillment of these prophecies. Indeed, much of the Jewish commentary on the subject goes out of its way to make a distinction between the Christian and Jewish conceptions of the term messiah. Nevertheless, even the Jewish perspectives that underscore these differences make plain that the concept of a messiah was extant within Judaism long before the arrival of Jesus Christ on the world stage. See "The Jewish Concept of Messiah and the Jewish Response to Christian Claims" here:  https://jewsforjudaism.org/knowledge/articles/the-jewish-concept-of-messiah-and-the-jewish-response-to-christian-claims/

Hence, it must be admitted that there is a basis in the Old Testament for this notion of a Messiah. And, despite the attempts of the above referenced sites to discredit the notion that Jesus of Nazareth could possibly be the fulfillment of these prophecies, one has to acknowledge that 1) The notion of a Mashiach from the House of David, who will one day restore peace to the earth and rule over the nations is not foreign to Judaism or its Scriptures, and 2) The notion that there must be a sacrifice for sin, an atonement - the reconciliation of a people alienated by their sins from their God is also clearly an integral part of those same Scriptures. As a consequence, I would say that it is not unreasonable for Christians to discern a basis for their belief in the person of Jesus of Nazareth in the pages of the Old Testament.    

Friday, January 5, 2018

God likes men who like p---y?

Have you ever noticed that some of the most vociferous opponents of homosexuality are men who either personally engage in sexual behaviors condemned in the Bible or are supportive of other men who do so?

For the sake of argument, let's assume that the Bible clearly condemns all same sex behavior in the following passages:
Genesis 19:1-5, Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13, Deuteronomy 23:17, Romans 1:18-32, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 1 Timothy 1:9-10 and Jude 1:6-7

However, the same folks who interpret these passages in this way often ignore Biblical passages which explicitly condemn divorce and infidelity. Consider the following passages:
Genesis 2:24, Exodus 14:14, Exodus 20:14, Proverbs 6:32, Matthew 5:27-32, Matthew 19:3-9, Mark 10:11-12, Luke 16:18, Luke 18:20, Romans 7:2, 1 Corinthians 6:9, 1 Corinthians 7:1-40, 1 Timothy 3:2 and Hebrews 13:4

How many of the Christian ministers and lay members who condemn homosexuality have committed adultery, divorced or been married multiple times?

How many Christian ministers and lay members support Donald Trump (a man who has sexually assaulted women, committed adultery and been married three times) as President of the United States?

Hmmm, Don't we refer to this as cherry picking?


Friday, December 29, 2017

Let God be true and every man a liar!

The following is an excerpt from something I wrote many years ago:

The Bible is probably the most controversial book of all times. The book has been claimed by literally billions of people around the world as "A" or "The" source for their religious beliefs.
Nevertheless, the diversity of opinions evident among these people on what the book teaches on various subjects is a source of consternation to both friends and foes of the Bible. In fact, we can observe groups within the Christian community that are at polar opposites in terms of what they believe the Bible teaches about various subjects. Some of them believe that Jesus is God, while others believe he is an angel, a prophet or that he was just a very special man. Likewise, we observe groups that believe people go to heaven or hell when they die, others add a third possibility called purgatory, while still others believe that people "sleep" or exist in an unconscious state until a future resurrection. The diversity of beliefs on any given subject is astounding!
Even so, all of the people who hold these various beliefs claim to derive them from the pages of the Bible. Hence, it is no wonder that anyone observing such a spectacle would be bewildered.
How can people reading the same book have such widely divergent views about what it teaches? I believe that these contradictory beliefs arise from three principal sources: the authors of the individual books that make up the Bible, the perspectives of their readers, and Satan's influence on both groups. Humans are subject to forces which cloud our judgment and skew the way that we look at things. Mankind is susceptible to prejudice, vanity, incomplete knowledge, fatigue, depression, peer pressure, greed, and a host of other forces and motivations that can cloud our judgment. And it is not unreasonable to assume that some of these distractions have influenced the human authors of scripture, and the people who have interpreted their work down through the centuries.
Although most Christians believe that Satan has been actively seeking to distort and confuse God's message to humankind (Revelation 12:9, I Peter 5:8), many of them seem to limit this activity to the distortion of a few Biblical teachings or doctrines. It seems to be incomprehensible to many Christians that Satan might have deceived folks by distorting the way they perceive or look at things in a more general way (notice the story of how he manipulated Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, Genesis 3:1-7).
Many of the people reading this will acknowledge what they have just read, and then they will go on to qualify that acknowledgement with an assertion that this cannot apply to the human authors of scripture. They will claim that the authors of scripture were writing under Divine inspiration, and that this fact exempts those individuals from the influences and distractions that would otherwise have impacted their work.
This, however, represents the exact same logic and reasoning that led to the Catholic doctrine of papal infallibility, which most of the people on the Protestant side of Christianity would find objectionable. Even so, while Catholics have asserted infallibility for one individual (the Pope), Protestants have applied the principle to all of the human authors of the Old and New Testament.
Even so, such an assertion does not mesh with what those same scriptures reveal about how inspiration works! The Bible informs us that God's inspiration is perfect, but that humans are not perfect (and will not be perfect until God's plan for mankind is finished - I Corinthians 15:42-54). In other words, Divine inspiration does not remove our human propensity for screwing things up - even in matters of faith. Moreover, there is ample evidence of this fact down through the centuries of recorded human history.
Nevertheless, for our purposes, we will ignore all the potential examples of this phenomenon from secular and church history and confine ourselves to examples from the Bible. In the book of Job, we read: "But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding. Great men are not always wise: neither do the aged understand judgment." (Job 32:8-9) Notice that God's inspiration of the human brain with the ability to reason does not guarantee that such inspiration is always followed by mankind. Even so, this scripture is dealing with God's inspiration of the ability to reason, and it could be argued that this has nothing to do with spiritual inspiration of the human brain. Hence, we will examine several instances in scripture where God's Holy Spirit was added to the "spirit in man" and observe the recorded effect of this kind of inspiration on human behavior.
Although the addition of God's Holy Spirit redirects the human reasoning process toward righteousness and reveals spiritual truth to our brains, God does not compel us to follow the Spirit's lead (Romans 8:1-10, I Corinthians 2:10-11). In fact, there are many scriptural examples of people sinning who we were supposedly inspired and led by God's Holy Spirit: Noah was drunk after the flood (Genesis 9:21), Moses disobeyed God at the waters of Meribah (Deuteronomy 32:51), King David committed adultery and subsequently murdered the woman's husband (II Samuel 11:1-27), Paul and Barnabas had such a bitter dispute over who would accompany them on one of their missionary trips that they parted company (Acts 15:36-40). There are many other instances of this nature recorded in scripture.
 And the Apostle Paul apparently felt that it was possible to "quench" and "neglect" the inspiration of God's Holy Spirit as he warned against them (I Thessalonians 5:19, I Timothy 4:14). Hence, it is worth repeating: The inspiration of God's Holy Spirit may be perfect, but how we react to or accept that inspiration is NOT always what it should be according to the Bible.
Still, there are those who will insist that the authors of scripture were not subject to these kinds of mistakes when acting in matters of faith (i.e. teaching doctrine or writing scripture). This argument reminds us again of the doctrine of papal infallibility, that the pope does not make mistakes when he is speaking "ex cathedra" (from the chair).
The Bible, however, contradicts such an understanding of inspired infallibility - even where an apostle and author of scripture is concerned. Paul informed the Galatians that he was forced to confront Peter for misleading Jewish Christians and confusing the Gentile ones (Galatians 2:11-14). Can anyone seriously argue that justification and grace are not matters of faith, and that Peter appears to have been on the wrong side of the issue in this case (Galatians 2:15-21)? And just for the record, Peter was both an apostle and author of scripture.
Even so, having established that humans acting under the inspiration of God's Holy Spirit are still subject to error, there will be those who will argue that the human authors of scripture were acting strictly in the capacity of scribes. In other words, these human authors were merely taking dictation from God, and God is the real and actual author of each one of the books which make up the canon of the Bible.
 This, however, is not in harmony with what the Bible itself teaches about how the scriptures were written! Paul told Timothy that "all scripture is given by inspiration of God" (II Timothy 3:16). Peter said that prophecy was not the result of human reasoning, "but holy men of God spake as they mere moved (or led) by the Holy Ghost" (II Peter 1:20-21).
According to the Bible, God has always worked through individual humans. That is HIS "modus operandi." In fact, there are only a few instances recorded in Scripture where God personally wrote anything (i.e. the Ten Commandments on stone tablets). Moreover, it is apparent that the authors of the various books which constitute the Christian Bible cite a host of other written sources throughout their works.
Hence, in beginning to understand the biblical perspective on what inspiration is (or isn’t), it would be instructive to look at the Greek and Hebrew words that were translated into English as "inspiration." The New Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (1984) identifies the Greek word as "theopneustos" and informs us that it is derived from the words "theos" (God) and "pneo" (to breathe hard or to blow). Thus, the word literally means "God-breathed" or "God-inspired."
The association of spirit with breath or wind is a concept that is familiar to the entire Bible, Old and New Testaments. Strong's identifies the Hebrew word for "inspiration" as "neshamah." This word also denotes a "puff of wind or breath" and is used to indicate Divine inspiration (as in Job 32:8).
So, the use of these words points to God as the invisible force influencing what is done. Christ once said, "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit" (John 3:8). With this background, it becomes clear to us that Spirit is regarded as a force and agent of God's will that is invisible to the human eye.
Scripture informs us that the Holy Spirit (Ghost) is the agent of God's inspiration, the force behind the phenomenon. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, "For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? Even so THE THINGS OF GOD KNOWETH NO MAN, BUT (by) THE SPIRIT OF GOD" (I Corinthians 2:11). He continued, "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (I Corinthians 2:14).
He wrote also to the saints at Rome that "the carnal (natural) mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirt of God dwell in you" (Romans 8:7-9).
Furthermore, we have already referred to Peter's statement "that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake AS THEY WERE MOVED BY THE HOLY GHOST" (II Peter 1:20-21). Thus, according to the Bible, God reveals his will to mankind by sharing with them “His” Holy Spirit, and understanding how that Spirit works is the key to understanding inspiration.
Although most Christians would accept the points just made, many of them share a misconception of the way the Holy Spirit works. They think of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit as the OPPOSITE of demon possession. In other words, they view the Spirit as something that controls, orders and dictates to the person to whom it has been given.
This, however, is not the way that the Spirit works - at least not according to the very same scriptures most Christians believe to be inspired. Instead, the Spirit leads, influences, gives, sends, designates, empowers, teaches, witnesses, moves, reveals, warns and sometimes even hinders (Mark 13:11; Luke 2:26, 4:1, 12:12; Acts 1:8, 2:4, 13:4, 16:6, 20:23, 28; I Corinthians 2:13; Hebrews 10:15). Hence, the Spirit DOES NOT CONTROL, it works through humans to produce results.
This important understanding is best illustrated by the concept of the GIFTS of the Holy Spirit. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth: "Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all (the Spirit does not eradicate or suppress the personality of the individual). But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will" (I Corinthians 12:4-11).
Thus, Paul portrays the Holy Spirit as giving different gifts or talents to various individuals within the church. This stands in sharp contrast to an understanding that would turn someone acting under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit into a mindless automaton or robot.
Notice also in this passage that Paul referenced the "word of wisdom." Strong's identifies the original Greek word translated as "wisdom" as "sophia," and it implies a wide ranging, general kind of wisdom. Paul also referenced the "word of knowledge" in his letter. Likewise, Strong's identifies the Greek word used here as "gnosis," and its use throughout the New Testament implies spiritual or moral knowledge. Hence, the ability to communicate effectively about things spiritual is also a function or gift of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus Christ made this aspect of the Spirit's work clear to his disciples when he told them that God would supply them with the Holy Spirit to help them after he (Christ) had returned to the Father. He said, "But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you" (John 14:26).
Remember, it was approximately twenty to thirty years later that some of these disciples decided to write their gospel accounts of Christ's life, and it was the Holy Spirit which helped them to recall those events and words. Jesus told his disciples, "But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me" (John 15:26). In other words, the Spirit would serve in the capacity of a witness who would testify on Christ's behalf.
From these scriptures, it is reasonable to conclude that the inspiration of the Holy Spirit guided, helped and supplied the various human authors of the Bible with the material they included in their writings. Nevertheless, the question remains: Does the inspiration of the Holy Spirit make its human host infallible?
An objective evaluation of the scriptural evidence dealing with this question would invariably lead to the conclusion that the answer to that question is NO. In fact, the scriptures are literally full of instances when individuals with God's Holy Spirit failed to live up to God's perfection.
In addition to the examples already cited, we have many instances in the New Testament of Christians who fell short of perfection in spite of the presence of God's Spirit: Ananias and Sapphira lied to and tempted the Spirit (Acts 5:1-11), There was contention among the saints over the conversion of the Gentiles (Acts 11:1-18), They disagreed over whether those Gentile Christians should keep the Law (Acts 15:1-29), Paul and Barnabas had a serious argument (Acts 15:36-40), Aquila and Priscilla had to correct Apollos' imperfect understanding of Christianity (Acts 18:24-26), There were divisions among the Christians at Corinth (I Corinthians 1:10-17), Many of the people from that group had also accepted the practice of fornication (I Corinthians 5:1-8), Some of them were also engaged in lawsuits against each other (I Corinthians 6:1-7), There were widespread problems among the early church members concerning their belief system (Romans 14:1-23; I Corinthians 8:1-13, 11:17-29, 15:12: Galatians 1:6-9, 3:1); and sometime later Peter had to warn Christians about the presence of false teachers among them (II Peter 2:1-3).
For these individuals, the presence and inspiration of the Holy Spirit did not prevent them from making serious mistakes. Their human imperfections still manifested themselves in some dramatic failures, and they all (even those in leadership positions) fell far short of the infallibility and perfection of Almighty God.
In the Old Testament book of Exodus, we read that God inspired the craftsmen who constructed and furnished the Tabernacle of the Congregation (Exodus 31:1-11, 35:30-35). Are we to understand that the workmanship resulting from this inspiration was completely flawless and perfect? Are human hands even capable of that kind of perfection?
To propose that the craftsmanship of those individuals was flawless as a consequence of them having been inspired seems absurd and unnecessary to our minds. Even so, they were working on the most important and sacred objects relative to the religious practices of the Israelites.
Hence, we wonder: Could God have built and furnished the Tabernacle himself? Would not the finished product have been perfect if he had? The answer to both questions is most assuredly YES.
However, according to the Bible, GOD CHOSE to work through human instruments. God could have handed the Israelites everything on a silver platter, but HE CHOSE to involve them in what he was doing. God wanted them to have a stake in what he was doing. God wanted them to share in the responsibility for the finished product!
According to the Bible, inspiration is the Creator's part in a joint venture with the created. God certainly has the capacity to do everything himself, but HE HAS CHOSEN to operate in a different fashion. God has chosen to work through human instruments.
Scripture also makes clear that God is aware that the work of these human instruments is subject to errors and imperfections. After all, HE DESIGNED THEM! Nevertheless, God has designated a role for mankind to play in every instance of his interactions with them - the entire story of the Bible underscores this important point!
We have concentrated on defining inspiration because many Christians have adopted the notion that inspiration is synonymous with infallibility. Prior to the Protestant Reformation, most Christians accepted the church as the final authority in doctrinal matters. They believed that the pope and/or church councils were infallible.
Experience, however, had clearly demonstrated that popes and councils had often made mistakes and issued contradictory decisions. When Luther broke with the Roman Church, he declared: "Unless I am convinced by the testimonies of the Holy Scriptures or evident reason (for I believe in neither the Pope nor councils alone, since it has been established that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures that I have adduced, and my conscience has been taken captive by the Word of God: and I am neither able nor willing to recant, since it is neither safe nor right to act against conscience."
Protestants, therefore, supposedly rejected the infallibility of the church and substituted the Bible as the sole authority for their faith. Even so, they did not abandon the doctrine of infallibility. Instead, they merely directed the teaching toward the Bible itself; and by extension, the human authors who had written the various books which make up that Bible.
Nevertheless, by transferring this infallibility to the Bible and its authors, they had unwittingly found fault with God's methods for revealing and communicating his will to mankind. Ignoring what those very scriptures revealed about how they were written, Protestants had effectively declared God's methods for revealing his will to be too messy and insufficient to produce the perfection which they expected.
Protestants demanded an authoritative, crystal clear, black and white blueprint for their faith. In fact, the notion that the Bible could be anything less than that scared most of them. Even so, if we could only lay aside this philosophical baggage and explore what those very scriptures reveal about how they were written, we would find that God has kept his own counsel in determining how he has chosen to reveal his will to humankind.
The Bible reveals that God chose a number of different ways to reveal himself and communicate his will to mankind. And it clearly delineates the various means which “He” has used to achieve these things: The Creator has revealed himself through his creation (Psalm 97:6), Romans 1:20); God spoke directly to people, as he did when he spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai and gave him the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-11); God personally wrote those same laws on tables of stone and gave them to Moses (Exodus 24:12); God communicated to mankind through angelic messengers, as he did with Daniel and Mary and Joseph (Daniel 9:21-23, Luke 1:26-38, Matthew 1:18-21); God used dreams and visions to reveal his will to humankind, as he did with Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel and with John at the close of the Apostolic Age (Daniel 2:1-45, Revelation 1:9-20); God directly implanted his message into the minds of individuals, as he did with the seventy elders, Jehu and Ezekiel (Numbers 11:25, I Kings 16:1, Ezekiel 15:1, 16:1, 18:1, etc.); God communicated his will to mankind through his Son, Jesus Christ (John 15:15, Hebrews 1:1-2); As we have already mentioned, God led and moved individuals to say and write things directly through the agency of his Holy Spirit (II Peter 1:20-21); and Finally, God has enhanced our understanding of his will and message through the meditation and study of what was previously revealed to others, as in the case of David and Timothy (Psalm 119, II Timothy 3:14-17).