Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary

29 Aug 2012

Is Preservation the Corollary of Inspiration?

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Webster defines corollary as “(1) a proposition inferred immediately from a proved proposition with little or no additional proof, (2a) something that naturally follows: result, and (2b) something that incidentally or naturally accompanies or parallels.” Thus to say that preservation is the corollary of inspiration means that preservation is a doctrine that can be “inferred immediately” from the “proved proposition” of inspiration; preservation “naturally follows” or “parallels” inspiration. To say that there is a correlation or parallel between inspiration and preservation does not reveal anything about the exact nature of that preservation. It is perfectly reasonable to assert a corollary between inspiration and preservation without asserting that preservation be in every way equal to inspiration—for example, that inerrant inspiration demands inerrant preservation. This is the fallacy of the KJV-only position, which takes the corollary to demand a kind of preservation that is perfect, or almost perfect, and uses that argument to restrict preservation to a specific translation (KJV).

A right understanding of the corollary suggests that there is no real purpose or value in inspiring a document that is not preserved. What, we might ask, would be the purpose of producing an authoritative record (inspiration) and letting it perish? Why, for instance, let Paul write an inspired letter to the Romans and then have it perish on the way to Rome? Of course, that did not happen, but could it have happened? If one denies a corollary between inspiration and preservation, Paul’s letter could have perished before it got to Rome. 

The purpose of inspiration was to produce Scripture (graphē, 2 Tim 3:16), a written record, a deposit of divine truth for the readers, not the writer. Without preservation the purpose of inspiration would be invalidated. Since it was clearly God’s intention that Paul’s inspired letter to the Romans be read by the Romans—it could not have perished—there must have been a divine work of preservation at work for at least a few weeks or months until the letter was received by the Romans. This suggests that there is some degree of correlation between inspiration and preservation. And the letter to the Romans was not meant just for the Romans. No Scripture was intended for just the original recipients—“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope” (Rom 15:4). Similarly, Paul warns the Corinthians using the example of Israel’s failure: “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come” (1 Cor 10:11). If the Old Testament Scriptures (“these things”) were “written down,” that is, inspired for the purpose of instructing future believers (“warnings for us”), that purpose for the inspired writings demands their preservation.

1 Response

  1. Don Johnson

    I hope you will continue on this line of thinking, Dr. Combs. Very helpful.

    It seems to me that evidence in the Corinthian epistles for one or two other epistles to the Corinthians plays into this topic as well.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3