Sunday, October 17, 2010

Carroll. Inspiration of the Bible - A Book Review

Carroll, B. H. Inspiration of the Bible. Edited by J. B. Cranfill. Nashville: T. Nelson, 1980. 137 pp. $6.50.

A self described infidel, until he found the Lord in 1865, Carroll, after having read Voltaire, Epicurus, Zeno, Huxley, and Darwin, just to name a few, and having found "nothing under the whole heaven; absolutely nothing" worth having in them, was taken hold of by the Bible's "unearthly power" (132-4). Knowing that his calling was to preach, Carroll was ordained in 1866, preached to small churches in Burleson County, and then became the pastor, in 1870, of First Baptist Church, Waco. After two years at the Texas Baptist Education Commission, he taught theology and Bible at Baylor, organized Baylor Theological Seminary, and was central to the founding of Southwestern Theological Seminary, serving as its first president. His preaching and his ministry were centered on the Word of God, whose inspiration is the focus of the present volume.


A candidate for the World's Guinness Book of Records for the number of forwards in its 1980 edition (one each by W. A. Criswell, J. B. Cranfill, George W. Truett, and L. R. Scarborough, in addition to an introduction by Paige Patterson), Inspiration of the Bible (a delayed volume edited and first published posthumously, in 1930, by J. B. Cranfill) is bracketed by the statement on Scripture of the 1833 New Hampshire Baptist Confession. This statement was not only a litmus test for the faculty of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary under Carroll's tenure (35), but more relevant to this review, sets the tone for Carroll's view of Scripture and of this entire volume. This volume was clearly written to countervail the effort of higher critics to undermine the doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture. Carroll achieves this by presenting evidence from Scripture and history that this doctrine had been believed "from time immemorial" (111), by presenting examples of inspiration in Scripture (even dedicating a whole chapter on defending the contested book of Daniel), and by apologetically tackling a myriad of difficulties and objections.

Critical Evaluation

Throughout this book, Carroll shows himself to be a visionary, answering the debates of the day with answers that are still pertinent today. For example, Carroll dismisses the responsibility of science in the questioning of inspiration, for science cannot discuss the supernatural, only the natural (28-9). As a matter of fact, according to Carroll, true science "is and has ever been in harmony with the Scriptures" (117). He therefore points out that the "disturber is speculative philosophy" (29), which dishonestly calls unproven, undemonstrated theories science (40). These same accusations are echoed in the current intelligent design debate. In another section, unapologetically believing that the Bible is the word of God, and unknowingly anticipating the turn of the century conservative resurgence, Carroll answered his contemporary, who espoused that the Bible only contained the Word of God, that the level of inspiration required to identify which parts were the word of God and which were not, was much greater than the kind of inspiration he was talking about (54). The illumination of a man "may go up and down," but the inspiration of the Book has no degrees (83).

In addition, Carroll should be commended for being careful not to say more than was needed to be said. For example, since Paul in 2 Cor 12 was not clear on the method of inspiration, Carroll did not include in his definition the method of inspiration (66). Ultimately Carroll defines "inspiration, in its Scriptural meaning, [as] that communication from God of a supernatural power invariably and adequately and perfectly accomplishing the end desired, whatever that end may be, and which no inherent force that is resident in nature, and no development of, or combination of inherent forces would in any length of time or under any environment bring about." This definition was so important to Carroll that he wished for people to write it "in letters of fire upon the tablet of [their] memory," and to facilitate the process he repeated it twice in the span of two consecutive paragraphs (37).


In this volume the reader is presented with the work and beliefs of a man who in his lifetime had answered clearly the thousands of Biblical contradictions of his youthful infidelity, save half a dozen (121), and was faithful to inspired Scripture. Beyond its apologetic benefits, this volume is an important historical treasure of what Baptists used to believe and will hopefully continue to believe in the years to come.

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