Is the Bible 100% God's Word? The answer, according to Dei Verbum, is "yes." And yet, the Bible was written by human beings, with their own distinct writing styles and personal touches. As the Baptist NT scholar Dr. Rodney Decker puts it:
Inscripturation is the work of the Holy Spirit by which He guided the minds of the human authors and writers so that they chose the precise words necessary to accurately reflect the exact truth God intended, while reflecting their own personality, writing style, vocabulary, and cultural context. Inspiration refers to the God-breathed character of the written autographs of Scripture which constitute the exact expression of God’s revealed truth. In other words, inscripturation refers to the Spirit-directed process by which the Bible was put into writing, whereas inspiration refers to the product—the character of the written text that was inscripturated.
So, even though the authors of Scripture cooperated with the production of Scripture, and even though their cooperation was a necessary condition for the Bible that resulted, the Bible is 100% God's Word. In order to make sense of this, one must bring to bear on this analysis the distinction between secondary and primary causality. That is, in the work of inscripturation, God is the primary cause of Scripture, but he is not the secondary cause. In fact, the secondary cause consists of all the human authors of the Bible. Because what resulted is precisely what God intended, the fact that he employed secondary causes in order to achieve this end, means that the final product is 100% God's Word. But, in a sense, we can also say that because the secondary causes he employed were human agents with rational powers, therefore, St. Paul wrote Romans, I Corinthians, and Galatians, St. John penned the Gospel of John, I, II, and III John, and other Bible writers authored the other books, and so forth. This understanding does not diminish the divine authorship of Scripture, but neither does it diminish the human contribution to it. So, the Bible is 100% God's Word, even though it is entirely authored by human beings. In the same way, Jesus of Nazareth (the Eternal Word) is 100% God while being 100% human, and the fact that this one person consists of two natures does not diminish the integrity of either nature. For this reason, it would be wrong to say that God's glory is somehow compromised because the Son of God took on a human nature that cannot in principle contribute anything to his divine nature since the divine nature lacks nothing.
If you can understand this, then you can understand the Catholic view of justification. Here's what the Catholic Catechism states:
The first work of the grace of the Holy Spirit is conversion, effecting justification in accordance with Jesus’ proclamation at the beginning of the Gospel: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Moved by grace, man turns toward God and away from sin, thus accepting forgiveness and righteousness from on high. “Justification is not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man.”
Justification detaches man from sin which contradicts the love of God, and purifies his heart of sin. Justification follows upon God’s merciful initiative of offering forgiveness. It reconciles man with God. It frees from the enslavement to sin, and it heals.
Justification is at the same time the acceptance of God’s righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ. Righteousness (or “justice”) here means the rectitude of divine love. With justification, faith, hope, and charity are poured into our hearts, and obedience to the divine will is granted us.
Justification has been merited for us by the Passion of Christ who offered himself on the cross as a living victim, holy and pleasing to God, and whose blood has become the instrument of atonement for the sins of all men. Justification is conferred in Baptism, the sacrament of faith. It conforms us to the righteousness of God, who makes us inwardly just by the power of his mercy. Its purpose is the glory of God and of Christ, and the gift of eternal life:But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus. [Rom. 3:21–26]
....With regard to God, there is no strict right to any merit on the part of man. Between God and us there is an immeasurable inequality, for we have received everything from him, our Creator.
The merit of man before God in the Christian life arises from the fact that God has freely chosen to associate man with the work of his grace. The fatherly action of God is first on his own initiative, and then follows man’s free acting through his collaboration, so that the merit of good works is to be attributed in the first place to the grace of God, then to the faithful. Man’s merit, moreover, itself is due to God, for his good actions proceed in Christ, from the predispositions and assistance given by the Holy Spirit.
Filial adoption, in making us partakers by grace in the divine nature, can bestow true merit on us as a result of God's gratuitous justice. This is our right by grace, the full right of love, making us "co-heirs" with Christ and worthy of obtaining "the promised inheritance of eternal life." The merits of our good works are gifts of the divine goodness. "Grace has gone before us; now we are given what is due. . . . Our merits are God's gifts."
Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life. Even temporal goods like health and friendship can be merited in accordance with God's wisdom. These graces and goods are the object of Christian prayer. Prayer attends to the grace we need for meritorious actions.
The charity of Christ is the source in us of all our merits before God. Grace, by uniting us to Christ in active love, ensures the supernatural quality of our acts and consequently their merit before God and before men. The saints have always had a lively awareness that their merits were pure grace.(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1989-1992, 2008-2011; notes and emphases omitted)
In this wonderful presentation of how God's grace works in the life of the Christian, the Church offers an understanding that seems to rely on the very similar (though not identical) understanding of primary and secondary causality that the theory of inscripturation requires. God provides (primary causality) the actual and sanctifying grace that move us and allows us to participate (secondary causality) in the divine life. As quoted above from the Catechism, "Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion." And yet, "[m]oved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life" (secondary causality). Nevertheless, '[m]an’s merit... itself is due to God, for his good actions proceed in Christ, from the predispositions and assistance given by the Holy Spirit." For "the charity of Christ is the source in us of all our merits before God. Grace, by uniting us to Christ in active love, ensures the supernatural quality of our acts and consequently their merit before God and before men. The saints have always had a lively awareness that their merits were pure grace." As my friend, Bryan Cross, points out at Called to Communion:
[The Catholic Church] distinguish[es] between actual grace (i.e. the grace whereby God moves us), and sanctifying grace (the grace that inheres in our soul, and heals our human nature wounded by sin by giving us a share in the divine life of the Trinity.) Without actual grace, we cannot turn and prepare ourselves, to faith and calling upon God. To claim that we could do so without actual grace would be at least semi-Pelagianism. But, with actual grace we can prepare ourselves for sanctifying grace, the grace we receive through the sacrament of regeneration, which is baptism. When we receive sanctifying grace we also receive agape, and when we receive agape we are made right with God, and hence justified.
So, if one mistakenly insists that Catholicism embraces "works righteousness" because justification requires human cooperation (though performed in sanctifying grace), then one must be prepared to abandon the idea that the Bible is 100% God's Word, since the theory of inscripturation requires human cooperation. Conversely, if one accepts the theory of inscripturation while insisting that the Bible is still 100% God's Word, then one must abandon the idea that Catholicism is semi-Pelagian because its view of justification requires human cooperation (though performed in sanctifying grace).
One can, of course, reject Catholicism for a variety of other reasons. But the semi-Pelagian (or "work's righteousness") charge simply cannot be one of them, unless one is willing to abandon one's theory of inscripturation.
(Originally published on Southern Appeal)