John sent me what follows in an email, and I’m thrilled. This is just what I was hoping for. You’ll note we have disagreements (perhaps!). John doesn’t think my view of Scripture is “high enough.” I’ll be responding to this soon, as I think part of the disconnect is that the way catch-phrases get defined (e.g., “verbal inspiration”) dictate “how high” a view gets perceived. Here are John’s thoughts (I’m hoping I got his formatting correct):
A view of Scripture not high enough: toward a revision of the Bellingham Statement
Mike Heiser has done the guild of biblical scholars a service by his careful discussion of a number of issues which arise in the development of a doctrine of Scripture adequate to Scripture itself. Several of the posts in his series (go here) rush in where angels fear to tread. This is exactly what needs to be done at this point, if only to reignite the debate all over again. Why are Catholics, evangelicals, and other classical Christians continually rethinking their view of Scripture? Because Scripture is as foundational to the life of the Church and to the resolution of controversies within and without as it was in the fourth century and the sixteenth century. Scripture is still the norma normans: the norm which norms every other norm.
Even those scholars for whom the Bible is not Scripture in the above sense, or Scripture at all, may nevertheless enjoy the spectacle of believers arguing about how many different ways Scripture can be in non-conformity with things we hold to be true but the authors of Scripture knew nothing about, and still be the unerring source of all the truth God intended to vouchsafe to all generations through Scripture.
I happen to think that Mikes view of Scripture is not high enough. He backs away from upholding verbal inspiration. At least, that is what some of his wording suggests to my ears. Not that he would walk away from the clear teaching of Scripture any more than I would. The question is another: what does an adequate doctrine of Scripture need to emphasize. Below the fold, I offer a revised version of the Bellingham Statement as I found it scattered on his blog. The instances in which I have substantially modified the contents of the statement are printed in italics. I have subjected the non-italicized portion of the statement to abridgement and a degree of stylistic revision, but, so far as I remember, no more. I swear I did less of a number on the Heiser Vorlage than did Deuteronomy with respect to the traditions it assumed and transcended.
Here is the revised text:
I affirm that the Bible is God-given revelation produced through the agency of human authors. The usual 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 point-in-time divine encounter where the words of Scripture were chosen for the authors. Although there are instances in the biblical record where God is said to have dictated what would become part of the biblical text (e.g., Rev 2-3, the messages to the seven churches), such instances are rare. Dictation or no dictation, God in His providence is both the ultimate and the immediate source of the words of each canonical book. His work of providence was sufficient at every point of the way to ensure that the words that he intended to be in Scripture, and no others, are in fact therein.
I affirm that the process of inspiration included not only the initial composition of a biblical book but also any subsequent editorial work done on the text of that book prior to the recognition of a completed sacred canon. Evidence in hand leads to the conclusion that the process of producing the Scripture text was subject to editorial activity in terms of additions, deletions, rearrangement, and repurposing. I believe that God oversaw any such process by means of providential influence in the decisions made by authors and editors so that the words of each canonical book met with Gods approval. Each and every book of the canon had such providential oversight throughout the process that the words God intended are exactly what we find in the final form of its text.
I believe that the description of the process of inspiration just described is consistent with the idea of divine revelation. I believe God presented the biblical writers with truth through a range of means, including (but not limited to) dramatic displays of divine power, time spent listening to the incarnate Christ, observations of providence if their lives and the lives of others, formal education, the reading of Scripture already extant, and religious training. All of these forces molded their lives and minds under the over-arching providence of God, preparing them to write that which God would move the believing community to embrace as canonical. Instilling truth about Himself and His works into the hearts and minds of the scriptural writers prepared them to write the very words God intended they write, those words and no others.
With respect to learning from the incarnate Christ, the writers were not required to reproduce the exact real time words that Jesus spoke, nor did they, as we know from the synoptic gospels. Rather, they learned truth and transmitted it in writing as their life context dictated under providence, at times capturing the ideas they heard very closely, on other occasions applying it in different vocabulary as the need arose.
As with hearing the words of Jesus, the writers of Scripture were likewise not required to memorize all the Scripture they heard and learned when writing their own works that would be recognized as canonical. Rather, they were free to apply preceding Scripture and quote it as needed to teach sound doctrine or make a theological point. The gap between many quotations of Scripture and the source manuscripts from which those quotations came shows us that the writers did not need to reproduce every word they found in the texts they quote, or in the exact order they found them in.