Sunday, September 19, 2010

Answering A Fool According To His Folly - Defining "Divine Inspiration"

At about 8:05 pm PST on September 18, 2010 one of the followers of John Loftus who calls himself GearHedEd made the following challenge in a comment on a post A Mind of Its Own: How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives.
I notice that nobody touched this with a ten-foot Crucifix...
"Divine inspiration, you say?
Prove that there is such a thing as "divine". Show how it is anything more than merest speculation of men.
Can't use the Bible. That would be like saying "divine means 'with or exhibiting the quality of divinity'", which says absolutely nothing.
Also can't use argumentum ad populum (what I call "The Lemming Factor": everyone believes, so that is evidence of the object of belief).
Where's the hard evidence for
How about it Christians?
Divinity does not exist. I have said it.
You have one week to prove that it does.

Answering the Challenge

To Answer the question "What is Divine Inspiration?" we must first agree on what "Divine" means and what "inspiration" is. I say this because GearHedEd admitted that he does not know what "Divinity" means.He also says that he doesn't want to bring the Bible into it. Wonder why he didn't just "google" it?
"Divine" in the context of "Divine Inspiration" is an adjective describing a kind of inspiration. So let's use the adjective definition of the word "divine".
of or pertaining to a god, esp. the Supreme Being.
addressed, appropriated, or devoted to God or a god; religious; sacred: divine worship.
proceeding from God or a god: divine laws.
godlike; characteristic of or befitting a deity: divine magnanimity.
heavenly; celestial: the divine kingdom.
Informal . extremely good; unusually lovely: He has the most divine tenor voice.
being a god; being God: a divine person.
of superhuman or surpassing excellence: Beauty is divine.
Obsolete . of or pertaining to divinity or theology.
Of these I'd say we would agree that definition 3 is the one we want in context of "Divine Inspiration". So what about "Inspiration"?
an inspiring or animating action or influence: I cannot write poetry without inspiration.
something inspired, as an idea.
a result of inspired activity.
a thing or person that inspires.
Theology .
a divine influence directly and immediately exerted upon the mind or soul.
the divine quality of the writings or words of a person so influenced.
the drawing of air into the lungs; inhalation.
the act of inspiring; quality or state of being inspired.
I know what you are thinking: "What does inspired mean?" Being "inspired" means being moved or influenced in such a way.
When Biblical Christians use the term "Divine Inspiration" to describe how the Bible was written we merely mean that the God inspired the 40+ human authors of the 66 books of the canonical Bible to write what they wrote. Not necessarily that God took their hands and wrote the text or that God dictated what they wrote word-for-word. No. Also not saying that sometimes they did not quote God directly. We mean that God took their personalities and the ways in which they express themselves and gave them the ideas and the points to make but the writer expressed the ideas in their own way.

GearHedEd first tries to dismiss this by claiming that there is no Divinity and offers no proof that there isn't a God. I think anyone who has ever done anything as an artist that has ever touched another human being knows what "Divine Inspiration" feels like. "Inspired" means:

outstanding or brilliant in a way or to a degree suggestive of divine inspiration

Look at the word: "in" - "sprired". The very word suggested the inputting of a spirit. Being influenced by forces beyond yourself. Anyone who has ever had a brilliant idea knows this feeling. You know it was not you. You also know, if you are honest, that you can't just have similar "strokes of genius" whenever you want them or wherever you want them or even regarding what you want them about. Some people say that they were "lucky". Or that they just happened to be at the right place at the right time. Do they really stop and think about what it is they are saying? How is that any less "Spooky" or superstitious than just admitting that you got the ideas from God? It's amazing to me that most of the time God just lets people take the credit. How is being "divinely inspired" different than having an "epithany"? Given the following definition:

"a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience."

I'd say not much of a different other than calling something an "epithany" in the context I'm using it does not necessarily invoke the idea of God's involvement. The word has changed and evolved that way. It used to be directly connected to experiences with the divine, but I'll use it in the more modern colloquial sense here.

I know GearHedEd is attempting to ask for proof of God's existence, but that is not what he asked for. He asked for a definition for what "Divine Inspiration" is. As for proving that "Divinity" ie God does not exist, you can't make such a truth claim without proving it. As for whether my definition matches what the Bible says about itself. Yes it does.
16We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased."[a] 18We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.
19And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. 21For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. -2 Peter 1:16-21

Reason behind the title of this post.

I realize some people might have a problem with the title of this post. They might find it offensive and controversial. Good. I was inspired to use this title because of the following passage:
4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
or you will be like him yourself.
5 Answer a fool according to his folly,
or he will be wise in his own eyes. - Proverbs 26:4-5
This passage has always intrigued me because on the surface it may seem to contradict itself. But if you look more carefully and look at other translations the meaning of these Proverbs become clearer.
Verse 4 is in the context of speaking to a fool using his context and understanding - accepting his worldview and presuppositions. You will indeed end up just like him.
Verse 5 is in the context of speaking to a fool and correcting his worldview and presuppositions so that he will not remain conceited and blinded.
And before one gets angry and and offended by the term fool, you need to find out if the Bible is referring to you or not. And guess what? The Bible tells us very clearly what makes a person a fool in the context given in Proverbs.
The fool says in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. - Psalm 14:1
The Bible is not talking about only atheists or agnostics. Notice that it also adds "there is no one who does good." Not just the atheist. Being a theist is not enough.
18But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds."
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.
19You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
20You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? - James 1:18-20
So what does God want of us? Notice James is not saying that faith is not needed. It is. But we are saved by faith so that you can do the good works that God has predetermined for us to do!
8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast. 10For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. - Ephesians 2:8-10
What do you have to have faith in?
Jesus said in John 8:24:
24I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins."
Who did Jesus claim to be? The "I Am" who brought Israel out of Egypt. The Way, the Truth, and Life. The only way to salvation from sin and death. The Son of Man (from Daniel 7). The Messiah. The Redeemer of human kind. The Promise. The Prophet. The Bread that came down from Heaven. The good shepherd. This and more. This is the Gospel. If you wanna know what the Gospel is you must follow Jesus.
I now have a challenge to issue on my own. I believe the Bible is true and divinely inspired as per the definitions I gave above. Before we can wrestle with whether or not the Bible is true we have to agree on what it says. To anyone who takes issue with anything I have written here, let us first agree upon whether or not scripture says what I have said it says. IF you agree that it does then we can discuss whether it true or not. You also have a week. I am waiting.
Enhanced by Zemanta


  1. Look at the original quote again, Marcus.

    I didn't ask anyone to define "Divine inspration", nor did I ask anyone to define "Divine".

    I said,

    "Prove that there is such a thing as "divine". Show how it is anything more than merest speculation of men."

    Defining the words that describe a concept do NOT actualize the concept, much as many Christians might protest to the contrary. But let me narrow it down for you a little, so you perhaps won't be confused further:

    The reason I included "divine INSPIRATION" in the post was because it is claimed that the Bible is/was somehow not the words of the MEN who wrote it, but the (wait for it...)


    In other words, it isn't "the adjective definition of the word "divine" that I was poking at.

    It was the noun definition.

    (As an aside, of the adjective definitions given above, only #'s 6, 8 and 9 are even remotely non-circular; i.e., not following the form I warned against in my post:

    "That would be like saying "divine means 'with or exhibiting the quality of divinity'", which says absolutely nothing.")

    Why, Marcus, must you persist in twisting everything anyone says, and then addressing points that aren't in the original statement?

    No, wait!

    You answered this, too! I am chastened...

    "4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
    or you will be like him yourself."

    You have Biblical instructions to twist arguments around to suit your sensibilities...

    Carry on...

  2. your misdefinition of "divine inspiration" and "divine" you asked for the clarification. My point was that you have to get those straight before you even begin to address the straw men you are bringing up.

    I didn't twist your argument. Just pointing out it's starting in the wrong place. You are indeed chastened. I don't think you understood my comments at all. If you think Proverbs 26:4-5 gives you instruction to twist arguments then you show just how bad your exegetical skills are and why I had to start where I did. And by the are welcomed.

  3. I didn't "misdefine" anything.

    You're trying to deflect the discussion into safer waters.

    Prove "divine" is anything more than a man-made concept.

    Prove that "divine" exists.

    That was alwatys the challenge, and I suspect that your dishonest techniques are an attempt to evade the fact that you don't have (and inded CANNOT have) an answer for this.

  4. Did you read this, Marcus?

    "Can't use the Bible. That would be like saying "divine means 'with or exhibiting the quality of divinity'", which says absolutely nothing."

    The second half of your post is null and void. I don't care if you could recite the Bible word for word, from end to end; using the Bible as proof of the things that are in the Bible is like saying,

    "Blue is the condition of being Blue. There, I have defined it."

    How do you not understand this?

  5. GearHedEd, you did mis-define "divinity". And my point remains unless we agree about what "divine inspiration" is you cannot prove or disprove it's existence. Proving that the "divine" exists is different then proving that "divine inspiration" is true. I haven't used the Bible to prove anything. I gave a definition for "divine inspiration" and only showed that the Bible agrees with my definition and disagrees with yours. That's not proving the Bible with the Bible. Why can't you understand that?