There is a pretty vast difference of meaning with the word 'inspired' between Rob Bell's book and Joseph Smith's book. In the former, 'inspire' would seem to be in the same sense of the writers of the screenplay Prefontaine - that is, the writers saw a person and the events that occurred in his life and felt like making a dramatized account of Steve Prefontaine's life. Which is categorically different to the latter, insofar as it would be claimed that god himself 'inspired' Joseph Smith by engaging him to write something. The former is passive - someone observed something and felt the need to write something in relation to that something. The latter is active - the object of inspiration actively reached out to the person.
I dare say that use of the word 'inspired' in the case of Joseph Smith would be incorrect use of language. That is, the word 'inspire' is the wrong word. It communicates the wrong information that the person using the word 'inspire' intends to convey.
The writer of a manual for an automobile wasn't inspired by their boss to write the manual; they weren't inspired by the engineers to write the chapter 'Troubleshooting'.
Sorry...'inspired' is becoming something of a button word for me. It seems to be one of those words, like 'faith', that is used willy-nilly by the religious as a placeholder label for 'I have no clue what I mean when I say this, but it's the arrangement of letters that I'll throw in here so that I don't have to think about why I believe this thingie I believe is true'. That may or may not be true for you OldChurchGuy - I don't really know - but do you think you could better explain what you mean when you use the word 'inspire'?
The key may be a definition we can agree with on the word "inspired". Here is one from Dictionary.com
"aroused, animated, or imbued with the spirit to do something, by or as if by supernatural or divine influence:
an inspired poet."
"1.of extraordinary quality, as if arising from some external creative impulse:
"they had to thank the goalie for some inspired saves""
If these definitions do not suit you, please present one that better fits what you mean by "inspired".
I think we can roll with those definitions.
In the case of Rob Bell and Karen Armstrong, do you think that the 'thingie' of inspiration (in this case, god) need actually be real to be aroused, animated, or imbued with the spirit to do something (in this case, write stuff down)?
In the case of Joseph Smith, do you think that the 'thingie' of inspiration (in this case, god) need actually be real to actually influence Joseph Smith to write The Book of Mormon? Do you think that the 'thingie' of inspiration need actually be real in order to actually make manifest actual golden plates written in actual ancient Egyptian that could be actually translated into the English language?
I guess my point is that the word 'inspire' is sorta still hiding information. Rob Bell could similarly be 'inspired' by the little engine that could to write about the merit of determination without the little engine that could being an actual manifest entity in reality. But you cannot say the same thing in the case of Joseph Smith - Joseph Smith could not be 'inspired' by the little engine that could to write about the actual words that the little engine that could without the little engine that could actually existing.
Basically, I can see how either actual god or the idea of god could inspire Rob Bell or Karen Armstrong to write what they wrote. But I cannot see how, in any way, the idea of god could provide Joseph Smith with actual golden plates to translate.
Again, one could say that Rob Bell was 'inspired' by god, and that Joseph Smith was 'inspired' by god, but in that case, you're actually still talking about two categorically different things.
Does that make any sense? Am I being overly pedantic here?
The key in this thread, to me anyway, seems to be the credibility of Joseph Smith. Did he actually experience a visit from God and/or angels that led him to the plates plus the ability to translate them? Did he believe he had such an experience? Or.....the list of questions can go on and on.
Short of creating a time machine and going back to watch him, one can never know with absolute certainty.
While I don't believe Joseph Smith actually had the experiences he claims, I do not rule them out completely. If I am dealing with a God responsible for the known universe, how can I say with certainty God did not choose Smith?