Another Whack at Bellingham Statement 1

Posted By on October 14, 2008

Here’s the text of the original Bellingham Statement 1.

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, backgrounds, 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.

Now a second whack at it:

I affirm that the Bible is revelation from God produced in writing through the agency of human authors. Although there are instances in the biblical record where God apparently dictated what would become part of the biblical text (e.g., Rev 2-3, the messages to the seven churches), such instances are very rare. Rather, the normative process of producing the Scriptures was one where human authors wrote on the basis of their own abilities, education, styles, worldview, backgrounds, and idiosyncrasies apart from a divine encounter where the words of Scripture were chosen for the authors. It is therefore denied that the usual process of inspiration meant that the words of the text were given to the authors by God. Instead, human beings were, for the most part, the immediate source of the text of Scripture under the providence of God.  God is, however, the ultimate source of the text of Scripture by means of His providential approval of the words of each canonical book as they existed at the end of the process of inspiration.

This one is more “positive” in wording (I think). Now … what is unclear and in need of rewording? Better, what can be flagged in this statement that needs to be elaborated upon in subsequent statements?

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13 Responses to “Another Whack at Bellingham Statement 1”

  1. sboisen says:

    I agree that a positive affirmation is better than a denial (i almost said as much on the previous post, but decided i should go back and catch up first, which of course i haven’t done). I think you can go even further: rather than
    “It is therefore denied that the usual process of inspiration meant that the words of the text were given to the authors by God. “, can you just be content with simply stating (affirmatively) what you believe to be true? (the following two sentences, i believe)

    If you can, i’d specifically enumerate the places where dictation was apparently used, and then stipulate “Apart from …”

  2. DJR says:

    God is, however, the ultimate source of the text of Scripture by means of His providential approval of the words of each canonical book as they existed at the end of the process of inspiration.

    Boy oh boy . . . if you weren’t a protestant before you sure are now! LOL. OK, so obviously this statement is a major affirmation of Gods divine guidance of the soul of Martin Luther. And a nail in the coffin of the straw epistle of the book of James. Personally, these thoughts reaffirm my belief in the idea that Gods intent overall was to hammer into our minds the core truths of scripture, namely the idea that ownership of human souls had to be transferred back to Yahwey. And the best umbrella statement to characterize the rest of the Holy Spirits teachings would be: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto good works.”

  3. cwmyers007 says:

    Dr. Mike,
    This statement is much better! I do propose, however, two minor critiques:
    First, your statement, “It is therefore denied that the usual process of inspiration meant that the words of the text were given to the authors by God” is not the best wording and I say this on this basis:

    1. Is the unique working of the Spirit in the authors of Scripture considered a Spiritual Blessing? The shorter catechism (Westminster) says that the Bible was written by holy men who were taught by the Holy Spirit. Is not this teaching that produces holy writ considered a spiritual blessing? If you consider this a spiritual blessing, then your statement seems to openly contradict Ephesians 1:3 where it says that every spiritual blessing is from God.

    2. It also seems to be in direct contradiction with Proverbs 16, where it says, “To man belong the plans of the heart, but from the LORD comes the reply of the tongue.” Or “In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps” or “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD”

    3. It also seems to contradict Jeremiah 10:23, “O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.”

    4. It also seems to misplace the emphasis in Proverbs 19, “There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand.”

    5. Also consider Lamentations 3, “Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not? Out of the mouth of the most High proceedeth not evil and good?

    It seems that Scripture teaches that God’s giving of words to human beings should be primary in our thought here. Yes we acknowledge that God’s giving thoughts and words and man’s free agency to write and produce them on parchment and in the mind is what the Bible holds in perfect tension, but I think your statement still falls short of upholding this tension. In other words, God both gives these men the words and the men also produce these words of their own free-will, neither of these truths can be denied. God ordained that the words would be directly as they appeared in the original, yet God never forced or coerced the men to produce these words, rather the free agency of these men cooperated perfectly with the decree of God. You are rejecting the latter in your statement as if God did not ordain for the words to appear exactly how they were written by the authors at the original authorship. I believe this is a grave mistake. This tension must exist in your statement. I suggest something along these lines:

    I affirm that Scripture is given us from God primarily; in that he has decreed the words of Scripture and that they perfectly communicate the truth of His Son, who perfectly reveals God’s fullness. I also affirm that holy men by virtue of their free agency are the authors of Scripture, in that they have freely chosen the words of Scripture on the basis of their own abilities, education, styles, worldview, backgrounds, and idiosyncrasies. I affirm that the free-agency of the human authors of Scripture perfectly coincide with the predestined decree of God. I deny that God’s preordaining of Scripture and its content and words in any way forces or constrains the authors in any way. Rather, the Spirit of God has inspired the holy men to use their own agendas, motives, audiences, and (you get the picture, insert, insert) to produce holy writ that God has determined to be eternally relevant for all generations and all times to reveal himself and his plan for his people and the nations.

    Secondly, I also reject your use of immediate and ultimate…because I think they fail to uphold the tension that Scripture demands and it also cannot do what we must always do… and that is to place God as primary in all things, especially in the authorship of HIS revelation.

    I hope this finds you well.

    Grace be with you,

    Chris

  4. MSH says:

    @DJR: I don’t see how the statement could NOT be embraced by someone (like a catholic) who would include other books in the canon. Can you elaborate?

  5. MSH says:

    @sboisen: I also wondered about this. It may be wise to avoid the denial in this statement. I’m guessing, though, that denials may be needed elsewhere for clarification (but I’ll admit that sort of assumes my own inability to say what I think positively!).

  6. qaton says:

    Two thoughts:

    1) I read the statement from Oct 11th, regarding dictation. After numerous re-reads, I cannot see what is wrong with the idea of dictation. So what if Exodus 20 and Duet. 5 have variations. God is sovereign, and can tell it as He pleases, to whom He pleases, and when He pleases. There are good reasons for God giving various dictations of His word. Variations may provide additional perspective. While certainly nothing is wrong with the first dictation, the second may have been varied to provide a slightly different perspective according to the purpose of the author. Nothing is unreasonable or illogical about that. Even I can provide an account one day in a certain way, and provide a variation the next day which does not contradict, and is told to provide some varied information for a purpose I may have.

    2) The Oct 14th re-wording of the Bellingham statement (whatever that is) states that “the normative process of producing the Scriptures was one where human authors wrote on the basis of their own abilities, education, styles, worldview, backgrounds, and idiosyncrasies apart from a divine encounter where the words of Scripture were chosen for the authors.” How do you know this? Why do you think that this is the way it is? I would contend that it is not this way. 2 Ptr 1.20-21 says the opposite. Scripture came by a moving of the Holy Spirit upon men, not by any man’s will, and it was no private interpretation (idios). One’s idiosyncrasies is specifically denied by the Holy Ghost.

  7. qaton says:

    Another thought:

    I was reading this morning in 1Kgs 22 where “Micaiah said, As the LORD liveth, what the LORD saith unto me, that will I speak.” The process, as I see it, seems like something nearer to dictation than not. Micaiah equates two things:

    What the LORD saith unto me = that will I speak

    The process for Micaiah seems to be the exact opposite of what was stated earlier in this blog. That the scripture’s “human authors wrote on the basis of their own abilities, education, styles, worldview, backgrounds, and idiosyncrasies apart from a divine encounter.”

    In light of this how can the following statement possibly be true? “It is therefore denied that the usual process of inspiration meant that the words of the text were given to the authors by God.” Micaiah makes his statement as a prophet going to speak the Word of God. There is no indication that his circumstance is unique, and that other true prophets would speak according to their own “private interpretation” to be later approved, or disapproved, by God.

    God gave the Word of God. That is why it is the Word OF GOD. Not the word of man, validated by God by some seal of approval.

    For those stuck on the textual variations, thinking that they disallow something near to what is called dictation, I would only provide the following statement. Do you preach the gospel to a 40 year old hardened sinner, the same way you would a 6 year old? Is there any difference in the message? Of course not, it is the same gospel and same message. But no one could deny the use of different types of words and a different tone. Ever watch an intelligent grown man communicate with a two month old? The same person and seemingly entirely different personalities, manners etc.

    Why would you not think that God would talk to different men in different ways?

  8. MSH says:

    @qaton: You’d need to go back and re-read a number of the other posts to see what’s wrong with dictation. Put it this way: There are reasons why no theologian under the evangelical umbrella would argue for dictation.

  9. MSH says:

    @qaton: again, I’m not going to rehearse a dozen or so posts in the blog in this response. You’ll have to catch up.

  10. DJR says:

    If God said ” PICK up this bush and plant it in squandrant A3, would you be confused about the destination of the bush if He had said “GRAB” the bush instead?

  11. MSH says:

    @DJR: no idea what this one is saying.

  12. qaton says:

    Someday I may read all the posts, maybe soon. I honestly I have read more than a few. I have found that the reasons are entirely unconvincing. Maybe there is a hidden good one somewhere, and someday I may find it. It seems to me that some are so entrenched in their way/thought that they fail to see that there exists the possibility of another way/thought. Too much academic pride I suspect, but only God knows. Psalm 94.11 aptly states The LORD knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity. I read the thoughts about the different recitation of the 10 commandments (and others), and I addressed that in my previous post. There was nothing illogical about my thoughts that I could see. Moreover the reasons I have read seem to be based upon the vain imaginations of mere men, rather than based upon what the scripture says.

    Yes, it is true that there may be reasons why no theologian follows dictation, but what is that to me? My only question is as always what saith the scripture? Really now, who cares, or better yet, who should care what a bunch of theologians think? I want to know what God says. And God says “Thus saith the Lord.” God says the scripture is of no private (idios) interpretation. But someone here has the audacity to state that the scriptures were written with mens idiosyncrasies. I quote scripture to refute thoughts, others theorize from their vain imaginations. I would never spend my time theorizing about something that God has clearly stated unless I were in this for the fun or money.

    I gave examples from scripture which seem to me to be irrefutable. But no one here seems to use the scripture to tell me why dictation is wrong. Just because some of you have reasons, doesnt convince me. Are the reasons based in the Word of God? If not, then you have departed from the faith. There were reasons that the Sadducees followed their particular doctrines. But Jesus reasoned from the scriptures against them. I seriously doubt they went away convinced of their error by His reasoning. But His was the truth anyway, and the theologians were sent packing.

    Remember, Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. (2Jhn 1.9) I am abiding in the doctrine of Christ, subtracting nothing, adding nothing. Others here seem to have set aside the Word of God and bowed the knee to their theologicalness (my new word).

  13. MSH says:

    @qaton: Again, it’s just reality – I can’t get you up to speed; that’s up to you. The reason the blog exists is so that I don’t have to keep answering the same questions. Read the posts. Nothing you’ve said here is unaddressed there.

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