Bellingham Statement 1

Posted By on September 25, 2008

In no particular order, what I’m going to do in the ensuing posts is to write out statements of affirmation and denial and hope that readers critique the language in careful, constructive ways. Naturally, after we get a bunch of these posted it may become clear how to group them or “mix and match” them for coherence.

Here’s the first:

I affirm that the Bible is revelation from God produced in writing through the agency of human authors. This agency involved human authors writing on the basis of their own abilities, education, styles, worldview, backgounds, and idiosyncrasies. I deny that the writing of the Bible required encounters between God and the writers where the human authors came under divine control as though God’s delivery of his revelation necessitated seizing the mind of the writer to produce the words of the text. I further deny that the words of the text were given to the authors by God through some sort of dictation process, whether audible or mental.

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15 Responses to “Bellingham Statement 1”

  1. A Checkered Heart says:

    So far your first statement doesn’t stray from the Chicago Statement.

    Perhaps a bit wordy, while not completely equivanent, these can pair up:
    abilities=education, styles=idiosyncrasies, worldview/backgrounds

  2. Chris says:

    I agree, however, there seem to be times where there was a much more direct process going on and the authors knew it. Certain visions in Daniel, the entire book of Revelation, the 10 Commandments… While your statement is important to note, it also can’t just be a blanket across the entire text where the evidence seems to be otherwise.

  3. DJR says:

    Mike posted this : “I deny that the writing of the Bible required encounters between God and the writers where the human authors came under divine control as though God’s delivery of his revelation necessitated seizing the mind of the writer to produce the words of the text. I further deny that the words of the text were given to the authors by God through some sort of dictation process, whether audible or mental.”

    Wouldn’t the delivery of the 10 commandments to Moses be an example where the scriptures themselves delineate between divine inspiration and automatic writing/possession on the part of the individual being used to convey truth? Had God wanted to “seize” the mind of Moses the scriptures may have stated ‘So God took control of Moses, and using his hands inscribed on stone 10 commandments for the people to follow.’ Yet what we do have, is an example where God Himself conveyed truth with His own hand on parchment made of stone, and then “inspired” human minds to convey the historical account and context of this event on parchment made of paper with their own hands.

  4. Rairdan Brannach says:

    Instead of the hard denial of two different modes of ‘inspiration’; a softer, more generic denial could be made.

    The denial could involve a general denial of any sort of dictation process to the agent as well as denying direct, physical or mental control of the agent during the process.

    Using phrases like “seizing the mind”, to those who believe such things, could be seen as a caricature of their position, giving them more reason to hate and discard your effort.

  5. cwmyers007 says:

    Dr. Mike,

    Pleasure to see that you are back blogging after your hiatus! I talked to your friend Tim today! It was a pleasure to meet him. You have some excellent folks working at Logos. Anyways, there is some critique in order for your statement:

    First, your statement openly denies dictation as if it NEVER happens. I recognize this is not normative, but I believe God did indeed dictate (sometimes, and I will cite Scripture below). Remember, the Ten Commandments were written by the ‘finger of God,’ that is even better than dictation! Here are some verses that I am appealing to and I am suggesting that you reword the statement so that you say that dictation is NOT normative, and should be considered a rare event for the transmission of God’s revelation.

    The Scriptures I appeal to are:

    Exodus 17:14
    Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.”

    Exodus 34:27
    Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.”

    Deuteronomy 10:2
    I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke. Then you are to put them in the chest.”

    Deuteronomy 27:3
    Write on them all the words of this law when you have crossed over to enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the LORD, the God of your fathers, promised you.

    Deuteronomy 27:8
    And you shall write very clearly all the words of this law on these stones you have set up.”

    Deuteronomy 31:19
    “Now write down for yourselves this song and teach it to the Israelites and have them sing it, so that it may be a witness for me against them.

    Isaiah 8:1
    [ Assyria, the LORD's Instrument ] The LORD said to me, “Take a large scroll and write on it with an ordinary pen: Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz.

    Isaiah 30:8
    Go now, write it on a tablet for them, inscribe it on a scroll, that for the days to come it may be an everlasting witness.

    Jeremiah 30:2
    “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘Write in a book all the words I have spoken to you.

    Jeremiah 36:2
    “Take a scroll and write on it all the words I have spoken to you concerning Israel, Judah and all the other nations from the time I began speaking to you in the reign of Josiah till now.

    Jeremiah 36:16-18
    16 When they heard all these words, they looked at each other in fear and said to Baruch, “We must report all these words to the king.” 17 Then they asked Baruch, “Tell us, how did you come to write all this? Did Jeremiah dictate it?”
    18 “Yes,” Baruch replied, “he dictated all these words to me, and I wrote them in ink on the scroll.”
    Ezekiel 43:10-11
    10 “Son of man, describe the temple to the people of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their sins. Let them consider the plan, 11 and if they are ashamed of all they have done, make known to them the design of the temple—its arrangement, its exits and entrances—its whole design and all its regulations [a] and laws. Write these down before them so that they may be faithful to its design and follow all its regulations
    Habakkuk 2:2
    [ The LORD's Answer ] Then the LORD replied: “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.`

    Revelation 1:11
    which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.”

    Revelation 1:19
    “Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later.

    Revelation 2:1
    [ To the church in Ephesus ] “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands:
    Revelation 2:8
    [ To the Church in Smyrna ] “To the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again.

    Revelation 2:12
    [ To the Church in Pergamum ] “To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword.

    Revelation 2:18
    [ To the Church in Thyatira ] “To the angel of the church in Thyatira write: These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze.

    Revelation 3:1
    [ To the Church in Sardis ] “To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.

    Revelation 3:7
    [ To the Church in Philadelphia ] “To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.

    Revelation 3:14
    [ To the Church in Laodicea ] “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.
    Revelation 10:4
    And when the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven say, “Seal up what the seven thunders have said and do not write it down.”

    Revelation 14:13
    Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.”

    Revelation 19:9
    Then the angel said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’ ” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”

    Revelation 21:5
    He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

    Indeed much of Revelation seems to be dictated. Remember, also, that we can define dictation loosely by saying that it is dictation when God says to: ‘write down what you see.’ I see this as visional dictation because God knows exactly what images he must produce to have you write exactly what he wants written. Actually, now you can peer into my head a little. As we have argued before (and you could not accept) that God ordains not only the ends, but also the means. He is intimately involved with his creation to the point of upholding its every atom by his omnipotence. If this is true, then every brain wave and circumstance and thought is influentially placed or allowed to be as it is with infinite wisdom into the plan of God so much so that he can produce a written Scripture from the minds of holy men by His Spirit, so that He may call it His Divine word, His revelation to man that is written. And in this sense (and in this sense only) could I accept a loose dictation theory as described above. God knew the circumstances that would produce that thought and the books or words that produce that revelation of mind to inspire the words written on scroll parchments and he does all this by His Spirit. This is how the Bible came to be. The Scripture is distinguished from other works because God designed these works in such a way to be universally recognized to convey God’s unique revelation of written infallible truth. I understand Jonathan Edwards’ The Life of David Braniard(sp?) to be inspired by God because I can see how he has used it to inspire countless missionaries, even William Carey! However, it is not inspired in such a way to be Scripture. God’s word for all times is only Scripture. It is likely that some day, many of Jonathan Edwards’ works will fall by the way-side. This is not because his works weren’t in many ways inspired by God, but because they were not designed by God to be Scripture. That is the difference. To opine on how God has designed Scripture to be Scripture is a whole other topic that we do not have time to delve in to!

    I LOVE THIS STUFF! Thanks for the posts! Keep up the good work.

    Grace be with you,

    Chris

  6. cwmyers007 says:

    Dr. Mike,

    Secondly, personally, I would like you to add in your statement something of the fact that these men were holy men. Remember how important authorship was for the Fathers who were recognizing the canon? Authorship was so important for many reasons, one of those being that authors of Scripture are unique–God spoke to them face to face (Moses) or revealed himself to them through the Son (Jesus’ disciples, Paul, all those who are the apostles). This truth should be distinguished…as they did at Westminster….the shorter catechism says:

    Q: Who wrote the Bible?

    A: Holy men who were taught by the Holy Spirit.

    Just some thoughts and suggestions,

    Chris

  7. TKeeney says:

    I further deny “no dictation” process-audible or mental?

    Exodus 17:14 and Ezekiel 3:10 do not pass as a form of dictation? There are many other instances.

    Granted that the writers were very often given latitude to express but is it accurate to say that no actual direct “Dictation” ever occured?

    St. John and The Revelation-NT ??

  8. TKeeney says:

    My second comment is really an expression of appreciation.
    Thank you Mike for tackling this business of “affirmation(s) and inerrancy.
    Too many times I have been left scratching my head after reading various statements concerning inerrancy and inspiration–they all too often appear to deny the very obvious issues blatantly presented within the field of textual criticism.
    Nonetheless, I am truly, factually persuaded that GOD has gotten the message across to us–in spite of us.
    Do please keep on with this.

  9. MSH says:

    @A Checkered Heart: It’s worded in such a way as to anticipate other wordings that come.

  10. MSH says:

    @Chris: This is good – in earlier discussions, I did note that on occasion revelation is said to be dictated. The ten commandments are USUALLY cited as an example, and that would seem obvious, but there is a problem with that example — the wordings get changed in Deuteronomy 5. That said, I do need to put something in here about occasional dictation. Good note!

  11. MSH says:

    @DJR: Actually, it isn’t a good example because the wordings of the commandments get changed slightly in Deuteronomy 5 – the other listing of the decalogue. Couldn’t God remember what he dictated the first time? See the most recent post (10/11).

  12. MSH says:

    @Rairdan Brannach: good points; I will try and reword this – and on the dictation, see the latest post.

  13. MSH says:

    @cwmyers007: Yes, the first statement wasn’t worded well in regard to dictation. I have said earlier in the discussion that it is rare, and so I need to include it in the statement – good catch. I would disagree with using the word, though (it is potentially confusing) in regard to your examples in Revelation (you wrote: “we can define dictation loosely by saying that it is dictation when God says to: ‘write down what you see.’”). There is no hint in a number of these examples that John is receiving words – as opposed to visions he can describe with his own words. In a few of them that case can be made. This is rare, though.

  14. MSH says:

    @cwmyers007: I’ll get to all that – this item was the first of what I’m guessing will be a good number of statements, strung together to form a whole.

  15. MSH says:

    @TKeeney: See the latest post. 10/11

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