The first question dealt with eschatology, one about the future of Israel. Johnson is premillennial and he defended, although not strongly, premillennialism versus amillennialism. His reason for not being too dogmatic, he said, was that this was, like is typical of Johnson, a tertiary doctrine. He's not going to argue over eschatology, he says, because it's peripheral in its importance. And after all, Peter said that these parts of Paul's epistles were hard to be understood, so we shouldn't be so hyper about last things. Paul himself didn't treat it as unimportant, but Johnson says it is. Doctrines Johnson says are important are the ones that are important. We'll discuss more about that later.
That very first question led Johnson and Friel into a little segue about doctrines that aren't important but are talked about a lot anyway. Friel mentioned the King James Version. Johnson laughed. Then he asked Johnson if the debate over the King James had been a very profitable one. Johnson said yes and no. He didn't tell why it was good, but he did say why the debate was bad. Why? The people doing the most discussion are the least prepared to do so.
They weren't done talking about the King James issue at that point, but before I tell you what they said next, I wonder if you would know what is important to know in order to be one of those swamis who can discuss the issue of the preservation of Scripture. Johnson has bought into this notion that the people who know best about the identification of the true text of the Bible are the modern textual critics, those who spend a great deal of time in manuscript evidence, who use scientific rules they concocted to determine what are most likely God's Words. What verse does Johnson base this upon? None, of course. It's his opinion, and one that says that God did not preserve all His Words nor make them available to every generation of people.
To Johnson, if you think that what you need to know is what Scripture says about its own preservation, then you are one of those who shouldn't be involved in the version debate. Johnson and the Grace to You people (John MacArthur, etc.) always claim to rely on the sufficiency of Scripture for their doctrine and practice. In this case, they don't. Instead, they lean on textual critics, who are most often unbelieving.
Transcript of Friel-Johnson conversation on King James Issue
The discussion about the King James didn't end there. Todd Friel comments:
OK, Well, But there's a lot of people who would say, 'Then explain why God would have the King James Version for centuries as really the only text that was being used. Then all of a sudden a bunch of new manuscripts, and now we've got these other ones. It doesn't seem like God then would have been protecting His Word very well. I think that is a pretty strong argument.'Phil Johnson replies:
It's a good question. It is a valid question and it's, it's worth an answer. But it's not worth all the energy that a lot of people put into it, because if you take...uh...the two versions, the two set families of manuscripts, and put them side by side and compare the differences, it really doesn't amount to anything that's fundamental or essential. It's not gonna...uh...if you prefer one set of manuscripts over the other, it's not going to create a totally different kind of Christianity.Friel ends the mini-discussion interrupting Johnson's last statement with:
Right, somebody's not going to be a new denomination over this.Johnson says this is a "good question" and a "valid question." You heard it here. Johnson would usually ridicule something like this. He says it's worth an answer. But it's not worth putting a lot of time into it. And why? Because the differences between the critical text and the textus receptus (over 5,000 differences) are not going get rid of anything fundamental or essential in Phil Johnson's opinion.
Observations about the Friel-Johnson Exchange on the King James Issue
First, usually Johnson would ridicule something like this, if it was even brought up. He doesn't do it here with Friel, and he even says it is good and valid. To be consistent, he should have just laughed at it and mocked it, because from what I've experienced, that's what he does.
Second, Johnson doesn't answer the actual argument. Friel says it is "a pretty strong argument," and Johnson doesn't answer it. He gives an answer and it is essentially that whoever has that argument shouldn't let it concern him. If I were to make a conclusion just from what I heard, I would say that Johnson doesn't have an answer to the argument Friel presented.
Third, Johnson says that it's not worth our time because the two families of manuscripts are similar enough that nothing fundamental is lost. What is the problem with this answer?
- It denies what God said He would do (Isaiah 59:21; Matthew 4:4; 5:17; 24:35). Shouldn't that matter to someone Who says He believes the Bible?
- Errors affect authority. If we suggest that there are a few thousand errors in the words, despite the fact that fundamental doctrines aren't affected, that still takes away the authority of what we do have.
- There isn't a place in Scripture that says that fundamental doctrines are sufficient to live for God successfully. Jesus says something different in John 12:48.
- This clashes with what John MacArthur says about words. In a sermon I recently listened to, he made these statements:
In Matthew 24:35 the Scripture is very clear, “Heaven and earth shall pass away but My words...My words shall not pass away.” When God speaks He speaks with words and the Bible are the...is the representation in writing of the words that came from God...the words that God spoke.Perhaps Johnson doesn't agree with MacArthur on this teaching on the Bible. I would guess that he does. That's why the argument posed by Friel is actually a strong argument. I don't know if it occurs to these that they contradict their stated view of Scripture with their position on the preservation of the Bible.
It was Jesus who emphasized the importance of every word...every word and every letter when He said, “Not a jot or tittle will ever fail.” He said in Luke 18:31, “All the things that are written through the prophets shall be accomplished.” He even based His interpretation of the Old Testament on a single word...a single word. The words do matter. Jesus was answering the Sadducees in Matthew 22 and He said to them, “You are mistaken, not understanding the scriptures, or the power of God, for in the resurrection they neither marry...talking about the angels...nor are given in marriage but are like angels in heaven. But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read that which was spoken to you by God saying,’I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob?’” He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. And His proof is that God said, “I am...I am the eternal living one.” And furthermore, He is not only the eternal living one but all will live eternally as well. They didn’t believe in a resurrection and He proved His point or certainly to our satisfaction proved His point by talking about the eternality of God in the verb to be in the present tense.
Related to the Tertiary-Primary Doctrine Issue
In a matter of minutes in the dialogue between Friel and Johnson, Johnson mentions a few times that certain doctrines aren't that important. A major doctrine of his is that many doctrines are of minor importance. I know that this is how he gets around separating on doctrine. In order to keep the unity among evangelicals, Johnson reduces separating doctrine to a few essentials.
As you read Johnson and others, you find that the gospel is the only doctrine worth separating over. That's the one that means the most to us. We are justified and saved from eternal punishment by the gospel. He says that premillennialism isn't a doctrine that is worth separating over. I believe that the Apostle Paul would say something different. Johnson says he includes all eschatology, so timing of the rapture isn't worth separating over either. Someone can deny imminence and that's not a doctrine to cause a fuss, despite the fact that it is a major influence toward purity in the New Testament. God says it is a major motivator to purity, but it's only a tertiary thing to Johnson.
My concern with the text issue is the inclusion of verbal errors in Scripture, despite what God said He would do. God's veracity and the perfection of the Bible are at stake. Johnson, his cohorts at Pyromaniacs, and John MacArthur are leaders in the opposition of the emerging church. They decry the uncertainty produced by the emergents. The bedrock of that uncertainty is found in dozens of English translations, multiple texts, and a denial of the doctrine of preservation. The emergents are uncertain about meaning. Johnson is uncertain about the words. He's concerned about their uncertainty, but not so much about his own.
In advance, I predict the reasons people will give for this post:
One, I'm obsessed with the King James Version issue.
Two, I've got it out for Phil Johnson because he hasn't treated me very well.
Three, I've got a chip on my shoulder.
Four, I've got too much time on my hands (or, I need to get out more).
Five, I'm attempting to try to increase my popularity by zeroing in on someone popular.
Six, I'm not a scholar but I can seem like I am when I target scholars.
Seven, Controversy increases readership.
Perfect preservation is the truth. It's Scriptural. All the doctrines in the Bible are important. So Sigmund Freud Time is over.