Evangelical Definitions Of Inspiration: Critiques And A Suggested Definition -- By: Louis Igou Hodges

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 37:1 (Mar 1994)
Article: Evangelical Definitions Of Inspiration: Critiques And A Suggested Definition
Author: Louis Igou Hodges


Evangelical Definitions Of Inspiration:
Critiques And A Suggested Definition

Louis Igou Hodges*

*Louis Hodges is professor of systematic theology at Columbia Biblical Seminary, P.O. Box 3122, Columbia, SC 29230–3122.

The doctrine of the inspiration of Holy Scripture has been described as part of the very essence of Christianity1 as well as the sine qua non of evangelical theology.2 It is the major assumption behind the single original doctrinal affirmation of the Evangelical Theological Society. The amount of material that has been published within the last two decades either concerning the doctrine of inspiration, or building upon (e.g. the field of hermeneutics), evidences that it is a major watershed of contemporary evangelicalism.3

Such strong and consistent emphasis would lead the observer to expect a uniform definition of inspiration. Yet a careful study of formal definitions of inspiration offered by evangelical writers reveals a broad diversity in content, emphasis and expression. A major dissonance becomes apparent between the articulation of the doctrine on the part of evangelicals, who build upon the profound and masterful presentation made by B. B. Warfield,4 and its formal definition. The reflective reader begins to suspect the presence of theological obscurity, literary imprecision, or imprudent carelessness surrounding the formal statement of this crucial doctrine.

The purpose of the present paper is to provide suggestions for overcoming this inconsistency. First there will be a brief discussion of the importance and nature of definitions. Second, several important definitions of inspiration selected from those collected (see Appendix) will be scrutinized for ambiguities, weaknesses, and boundaries that are inadequate for protecting the doctrine from nonevangelical invasion. Third, a definition will be proposed—not as the final word, but hopefully as an advancement toward greater clarity of thinking and precision of expression. The intention

is not to fire heavy artillery at fellow evangelicals but to suggest that some in-house tidying-up is in order.

I. Definitions In Perspective

While definitions play a crucial role in every serious field of inquiry, they are of particular importance in technical discourse.5 Even those thinkers who consider definitions to be theoretically superfluous have to admit that meaning equations often convey more important inf...

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