Position on the Scriptures
I. ON THEOLOGICAL ISSUES
A. Revelation—We declare our belief that the Bible is special revelation from God. Scripture repeatedly declares that God engaged in the work of “communicating to man truth which otherwise man could not know.”1 Scripture is not a book of human reasoning, nor is it a chronicle of the evolutionary development of man’s religious consciousness. It is God’s message to humankind (Deut. 29:29; 1 Cor. 11:23; 15:3; 1 Pet. 1:12; 2 Pet. 2:21; Jude 3).
B. Inspiration—We affirm the declaration of our Baptist World Mission doctrinal statement which says: “We believe in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments alone as verbally plenarily inspired of God, without error in the original writings and the sole authority of faith and practice (2 Pet. 1:21; 2 Tim. 3:16, 17).
C. Preservation—We believe God has promised in both the Old and New Testaments to preserve His Word as given to us in the original Hebrew/Aramaic and Greek texts (Ps.119:89; 152; 160; Heb. 2:1-4; 1 Pet. 1:23-25; 2 Pet. 1:19). By His providential care, we believe God has kept His Word pure down through the ages as He promised, and we reaffirm our belief in what our Baptist forefathers wrote in their London Baptist Confession in 1677 and 1688. It states in part:
The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the Native language of the people of God of old) and the New Testament in Greek (which at the time of the writing of it was most generally known to the Nations) being immediately inspired by God, and by His singular care and Providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore, authentical . . .”2
John Leadley Dagg, writing in 1857, explained providential preservation:
Although the Scriptures were penned under the unerring guidance of the Holy Spirit, it does not follow, that a continued miracle has been wrought to preserve them from all error in transcribing. On the contrary, we know that manuscripts differ from each other; and where readings are various, but one of them can be correct. A miracle was needed in the original production of the Scriptures; and, accordingly, a miracle was wrought; but the preservation of the inspired word, in as much as perfection as was necessary to answer the purpose for which it was given, did not require a miracle, and accordingly it was committed to the providence of God. Yet the providence which has preserved the divine oracles, has been special and remarkable. . .The consequence is, that, although the various readings found in the existing manuscripts, are numerous, we are able, in every case, to determine the correct reading, so far as is necessary for the establishment of our faith, or the direction of our practice in every important particular. So little, after all, do the copies differ from each other, that these minute differences, when viewed in contrast with their general agreement, render the fact of that agreement the more impressive, and may be said to serve practically, rather to increase, than impair our confidence in their general correctness.3
Scripture gives historical witness to God’s providence in preserving the Word (2 Kings 22:8, 9; Jer. 36:28).
D. Illumination—Illumination is “that influence or ministry of the Holy Spirit which enables all who are in right relation with God to understand the objective written revelation.”4 The indwelling Holy Spirit teaches believers the truths of God’s revelation (1 Cor. 2:9-13).
II. ON BIBLE VERSIONS
Recognizing that honest differences of conviction exist among us regarding Bible texts and versions, we believe we should balance soul liberty with Christian charity in these matters, and therefore, agree not to magnify these differences. Because the King James Version is the most commonly used translation among Baptist fundamentalists, and is acknowledged to be the greatest translation produced in the English language, we require the King James Version to be used by our missionaries in their preaching in the United States. Also, we require our preachers in our Baptist World Mission meetings and conferences to use the King James Version.
III. ON TRANSLATION WORK DONE BY BAPTIST WORLD MISSION MISSIONARIES
A. Philosophy of Translation—Much confusion has arisen in our contemporary world with the appearance of many translations, versions, and paraphrases of Scripture which represent a broad spectrum of translation philosophies. This confusion has extended to many countries. We believe that Scriptural principles apply at this point. We received the Word through “holy men of God” (2 Pet. 1:21). The Holy Spirit illumines believers as they study the Word (1 Cor. 2:9-13). Therefore textual and translation work should be pursued by spiritual believers. John Gill, another Baptist of former years clearly articulated this position:
For whenever a set of men have been engaged in this work, as were in our nation, men well skilled in the languages, and partakers of the grace of God; of sound principles, and of integrity and faithfulness, having the fear of God before their eyes; they have never failed of producing a translation worthy of acceptation; and in which, though they have mistook some words and phrases, and erred in some lesser and lighter matters; yet not so as to affect any momentous article of faith or practice; and therefore such translations as ours may be regarded as the rule of faith.5
These citations from Dagg and Gill articulate the position on bibliology that has been historically held by Bible believing Baptists.
Translation work should reproduce the words of the original text into the receptor language as accurately as possible and should follow a “formal equivalence” translation philosophy except where absolutely necessary to avoid losing the biblical sense. Translation work should not resort to philosophies which place primary emphasis on the response of the reader rather than on the substantive statements of Scripture, whether they go by the name of dynamic equivalency or paraphrase.
B. Translation Work—Baptist World Mission missionaries must consult with and secure permission from the BWM administration before they begin any Bible translation project. No BWM missionary shall cooperate in any ecumenical or New Evangelical Bible translation project. All completed translations must have the approval of the BWM administration prior to publication and distribution.
1Merril F. Unger, Introductory Guide to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1956), 22.
2William L. Lumpkin, Baptist Confessions of Faith (Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1969), 235, 251.
3John Leadley Dagg, Manual of Theology and Church Order (Harrisonburg, VA, Gano Books, 1982), 24, 25.
5John Gill, Body of Divinity (Atlanta: Turner Lassetter, 1965 reprint), 13.