Inspired or possessed

Did God possess the authors of the Bible? Did they, like robots, write mechanically whatever God decreed? No. That’s pretty creepy. 1 Corinthians 7 can’t be reconciled with simple fundamentalist views of scripture. Three reasons why:

  1. Paul emphasizes that the command not to divorce is from the Lord, not Paul himself (verse 10). If this book is written by God, with Paul acting only as a sort of ecstatic medium, then why say that? The readers should already understand that everything you are writing is a direct command from God. This is a weaker argument than the following two.
  2. Proof by contradiction. Paul explicitly says that his next command (verse 12) is his own opinion, it is not from the Lord. In the most simplistic versions of inspiration every verse in the entire Bible is directly written by God. (Again, the human intermediary acts only as some sort of medium through which God writes.) if that’s true, then Paul’s statement here leads to a contradiction, because God cannot write that he is not writing, or every verse is written by God!
  3. On another matter Paul says he has no command from the Lord (verse 25). Similar to argument 2: if God writes every verse he cannot say he is not writing!

If we assume this letter was written by a human author, in full possession of his own mind and body, there is no contradiction. Paul simply points out cases where he has an explicit command from God (verse 10) vs no command (verses 12 and 25).

I have a high view of scripture. There is a reason these books and letters have survived for 2000 years. There is a reason they have shaped our culture. They are written by people who were inspired by God. Not possessed as an oracle or medium (although maybe there are exceptions e.g. Ezekiel). Inspiration provides energy, motivation, maybe a model for action. It is not the same as possession,  which is actually a very dark idea. Squashing of free will and all that.

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