Where the consistent themes of God’s various revelations to and through the Hebrews and the dictates of a mind or heart sensitive to value converge is epistemological terra firma.
As the Scriptures are inspired, so, if faithfully used, do they become life-awakening and soul-inspiring. As they are living, their pupil is living likewise ; as they are wise and loving, he is changed into the same image from strength to strength, and from glory to glory. . . .
But in order that the inspiration in the Bible may become inspiration in us, we must read, and muse, till the fire burns. The deep book must be read with our deepest mind. “If the well is deep, and we have nothing to draw with, from whence then can we have that living water ?” Voltaire confessed that he had not even read the whole of the book upon which he poured out such a merciless scorn. Other infidels have confessed to a similar neglect. We say, then, for honesty’s sake, give as much study to your theology as you do to your geology or astronomy, your navigation, engineering, or farming, and “hasten slowly” in making up a final judgment on a collection of books so various, so reverend, and so ancient. But if you weigh it carefully, and drink in its spirit, if you read and re-read its Job and its John, and consider its moral tables and golden rules, and exult in its songs, and hush your heart with its prayers, and descend depth after depth into the passion and pathos of Jesus, and, after all this spiritual process, you still find it to be only a bundle of Jewish and old wives’ fables, then you will have falsified, we do not say the highest yearnings and moral instincts of your own being, but the colossal testimony of the ages, the innermost experience of the wisest men of the Christian ages.
Abiel Abbot Livermore, “The Bible, Inspired and Inspiring”
It cannot be too often repeated that the only legitimate method of determining what is involved in the idea of inspiration, or under what conditions it manifests itself, is by an examination of the books that are described as inspired, and an impartial study of the facts presented by them. The Scriptures nowhere make the claim of absolute and universal inerrancy. . . .
Without pretending to define inspiration, or to determine the mystery of its operation, we may, I suppose, say that what we mean by it is an influence which gave to those who received it a unique and extraordinary spiritual insight, enabling them thereby, without superseding or suppressing the human faculties, but rather using them as its instruments, to declare in different degrees, and in accordance with the needs or circumstances of particular ages or particular occasions, the mind and purpose of God. Every true and noble thought of man is indeed, in a sense, inspired of God; but with the Biblical writers the purifying and illumining Spirit must have been present in some special and exceptional measure. Nevertheless, in the words of the prophet, or other inspired writer, there is a human element, not less than a Divine element, and neither of these must be ignored. . . .
We cannot take at random a passage from the inspired volume and say, without qualification or comparison with other passages, that it is absolute truth, or the pure word of God, or an infallible guide to conduct or character. . . .
It is plain that there exist declarations in the Bible which are not free from the tinge of human infirmity and human passion. But abundant as are the evidences of the elevating and sanctifying work of the Spirit of God upon the writers in both Testaments, we have no antecedent right to suppose that every writer is in precisely the same degree subordinated to it. Neither Scripture itself, nor the judgment of the Church, authorizes us to affirm that every statement, or even every book, stands upon the same moral or religious plane, or is in the same measure the expression of the Divine mind: the influences of time and place, of circumstances and situation, of scope and aim, of temper and opportunity, must all be taken into account, before we can rightly judge of the precise sense in which parts of Scripture are to be regarded as the word of God, and of the precise degree in which they individually claim to be authoritative. . . .
Even in the most sacred parts of Scripture is the truthfulness of the picture, as a whole, dissociated from the mechanical correctness of its individual parts . . .
Nothing is more destructive of the just claims of Christianity than a false theory of inspiration: nothing has led to more fatal shipwrecks of faith than the acceptance in youth of a priori views of what an inspired book must be, which the study of maturer years has demonstrated only too cogently to be untrue to fact. . . .
The practical value of the Old Testament is not dependent upon a theory of the sense in which it is inspired; and those who judge the literature of Israel from what may be termed a critical as opposed to a traditional standpoint must dispute the claim, which representatives of the latter seem sometimes to make, that they alone are conscious of the worth of the Old Testament. . . .
Samuel R. Driver, sermon on “Inspiration”
Being out of relation to God is the meaning of depravity. However well our intellect, will, and heart otherwise function, they fail their primary purpose if they are not active in relation to God.