Bible - Inspiration & Authority

Kicking Against the Supernatural Character of Scripture

By Dr. Paul M. Elliott
In the post-evangelical church, most pastors and seminary professors have lost any grasp they may have had of Scripture as the only supernatural Book.

From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase

Part one of a series.

In writing and preaching, we increasingly refer to the "supernatural character" of Scripture rather than only using the term "inspiration". The reasons have to do with the naturalistic mindset that many pastors and Bible scholars are communicating to the church. If they are right about the nature of the Word of God, the church might as well go out of business. Thank God, they are not.

In the post-evangelical church, most pastors and seminary professors have lost any grasp they may have had of Scripture as the only supernatural Book. Because the supernatural character of God's Word is at the core of authentic Christianity, we often address this doctrine in our print and electronic resources. I find myself speaking of it more and more as I preach in churches and at conferences.

Sometimes it is the main theme - if I am preaching, for example, from 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Hebrews 4:12-13, or 2 Peter 1:16-21. In other cases, the supernatural character of Scripture enters into my preaching because I am impelled to remind my hearers of a vital fact: Grasping the supernatural character of Scripture is essential to the proper understanding of any passage in the Word of God.

Why Speak of Scripture's "Supernatural Character"?

The Bible is the inspired Word - it is God-breathed. The words are His very words. But in this time of confusion on the doctrine of inspiration, with growing regularity we deliberately use the term "supernatural character" rather than speaking only of the "inspiration" of Scripture. We do this for two reasons.

First, pastors and scholars who only really believe in the human authorship of Scripture ever more frequently hijack the term to further their naturalistic agenda. When they speak of "inspiration" they too often mean little more than some supposedly elevated level of human thought. But one could easily say the same of Tennyson's poetry or Tolstoy's prose. The inspiration of Scripture is in an entirely different category. It is not on the human, naturalistic plane. It is supernatural. What God has communicated in written form on earth is His Word forever settled in Heaven (Psalm 119:89).

Our second reason for speaking of the supernatural character of Scripture is that this vital attribute of the Word does not end with Divine verbal inspiration. The Word of God was supernaturally given, but it is also supernatural in its ongoing operation. It is "alive and powerful" (Hebrews 4:12).

Pastors & Scholars "Kicking Against the Goads"

I long ago stopped being amazed at the range of reactions to a presentation of the doctrine of the supernatural character of Scripture - particularly from pastors. Many of them evince a visceral fear of the idea because it knocks the pins from beneath their assumed intellectual authority. Some are so steeped in materialism and rationalism that they cannot admit the idea of a truly supernatural Book to their thinking.

They are "kicking against the goads" - kicking against the supernatural character of God's Word - because that fact demands the surrender of their intellects, "bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5).

In the post-evangelical church it is the rare pastor who is truly committed to a fully-formed doctrine of inspiration - one that fully acknowledges the supernatural character of the Book on which his ministry is supposed to be based.

A Truth That Resonates in the Pews

But with people in the pews, it is a different matter. The doctrine of the supernatural character of Scripture, and all that it entails, often strongly resonates with them.

I believe I know how Ronald Reagan felt when he was compelled to go "over the heads" of the congressional leadership of his own party (his supposed allies) and present his case on many issues directly to the American people. In similar fashion, in this ministry we are determined that God's people will hear the doctrine of inspiration in full measure, whether some pastors and seminary scholars like it or not, because it is essential to any hope of renewed spiritual power and revival in Christ's church.

Pastors: The More Training, The Less Biblical Their Views

A recent Barna survey showed that among Evangelical and Reformed pastors today, the prospect of holding a right view of Scripture is in inverse proportion to the number of years of college and seminary training a man has had. The more training they have, the less Biblical are their views. [1]

That is no surprise to me, but I think it would still surprise the average professing Christian. This is not to say that seeking a seminary education is inherently wrong. But it is to say that the kind of seminary education most men are receiving today is inherently wrong at its foundation.

What does the supernatural character of Scripture mean, in the practical terms of evangelism and sanctified Christian thinking and living - the twofold mission of Christ's church in this present evil world? How are those implications obscured and even denied today? We shall examine these questions as we continue.


1. "The Bible In America: 6-Year Trends", Barna Research, summary as viewed on 3/14/2017 available at

Next: "The Word of God" - What Does This Term Really Mean?


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