A few months ago, I was engaged in a Facebook conversation in which a person asserted that the Constitution could NOT be divinely inspired, because the founding fathers were flawed — evidenced by their views on slavery. I wasn’t ready for the accusation, and didn’t respond at the time. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it since. With the holidays over, I think it’s time to explore my ideas on my blog. It appears that I may be the only reader, so I think it’s pretty safe!
What are the Standards of Inspiration?
It would seem that, in order to decide if something could be divinely inspired, the prerequisites should be considered.
- Does the “mouthpiece,” or person being inspired need to be perfect?
- Can there be flaws in the language when the record of inspiration is made, or would that negate the inspiration?
- Are there hallmarks that are evident when God is inspiring someone?
A good starting point is this video, “Discerning Light”
Is Personal Perfection Required?
To me, the presumptuousness of the standard is readily evident. Where, in any record, has there been anyone, save Jesus only, who has claimed perfection in attempting to do the work of God? Who, standing on the face of the earth today, would have the audacity to claim perfection? How then, do we presume to hold God to such a standard? Moses was censured for disobedience, David made some incredibly tragic personal choices, Samuel made mistakes as a father, and Saul (who was renamed Paul) had quite a history himself!
So, how then, do we begin to suggest that in order for someone to be inspired of God, they have to be perfect? If that were the requirement, we would have little or nothing inspired of God in this world. Perhaps that is what my friend feels, but I have seen evidence of God being much more intimately involved in earthly affairs.
What about Language Flaws?
To me, it seems that a God who can work through imperfect people to get his message across can work with language — even down to an individual level. So many times, the basic point of the message is the same, even if the words change. For instance, if I were relating a short shopping trip to someone, I might say something like, “I just drove over to Walmart and bought some Tylenol, some charcoal, and some paper towels.” (O.k., weird list, but I’m writing off the top of my head!) There are tons of variations that still have the same essential meaning. Since I have a little bit of experience with a Southern dialect, I could have said, “I went over yonder to the store and fetched me some Bounty, some charcoal, and some aspirin.”
While we could quibble, the point is the basic message is the same, and would only change if we started splitting hairs over the significance of “went” versus “drove” or “Tylenol” versus “aspirin.”
How Can You Know if Someone is Being Inspired?
This may be the golden question for the post. There are a lot of people around who claim that they are speaking for God. Then we have claims like those of the LDS church that God inspired the founding fathers of America, and that the Constitution was inspired by him. How can I tell the real from the fake?
This might also be a good place to distinguish between revelation and inspiration. Revelation is actually a message from the Lord, and is held to a higher standard. Inspiration is a call to action based on thoughts and feelings you receive through the power of the Holy Spirit. It is similar to revelation, but is held to a lesser standard.
In the interest of time and space, I will point you to some good resources on inspiration and revelation:
So, Was the Constitution Inspired by God?
My short answer is yes. I believe that God has the perfect ability to work with people at their current level of spiritual sensitivity and guides and directs more than most of us would consider. I believe that the founding fathers of the United States of America were seeking divine guidance and received it. This is different from accepting the Constitution as scripture or claiming perfection– it is acknowledging that men were able to accomplish something miraculous and were guided by God in the process.