Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Serious Griping

Paul in Philippians 2:14 wrote: "Do all things without murmurings and disputings." In modern vernacular, "Don't gripe." Murmuring and disputing are both types of griping. You murmur when you gripe about what you're doing. You dispute when you gripe about having to do it. In both cases, you don't like what you're doing, so you gripe about it.

OK, so that's bad. But it's really bad. Right before v. 14 in the context, comes this in vv. 12-13:
Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
What are we doing? We are obeying, working out our salvation, and doing His good pleasure. That's what your life is about as a Christian. It's big time. While you're going about doing the things that God wants you to do, which is characteristic of a believer, don't gripe about it.

Why? What reason do you have for not griping while you're doing this? Paul gives three reasons in three clauses in vv. 15-16. Each of the clauses focuses on a particular beneficiary of your not griping. Three different recipients will benefit from your thankfulness and contentment. And the benefits to these three are the reasons why not to gripe. What are they?

1. YOUR OWN REPUTATION (Philippians 2:15a)

"That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke

Don't gripe so that you don't lose your Christian reputation. Complaining is so antithetical to Christian living that you would and should be considered not to be a child of God if it characterized your behavior. The unbelieving are the unthankful (Romans 1:21). Griping results in blame, harm, and reproach ("rebuke") being upon your Christian testimony. You don't want discontent and unthankfulness as your reputation.

2. UNSAVED PEOPLE'S REDEMPTION (Philippians 2:15b-16a)

"in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life"

A thankful attitude, disposition, and behavior will shine brightly a saving testimony to the lost. The world gripes and complains. You aren't any different, nor do you have anything unique, if you don't behave differently with this regards. The fact that you don't gripe will match up with the message of the gospel that the world so badly needs. It will seem like it is worth it to be saved when you behave like it is.


"that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain."

This might seem a little odd, but the last reason for not griping is that it will be a cause of rejoicing to your spiritual leadership. Your pastor, whoever has discipled you, and other spiritual leaders most responsible for your life will have cause for rejoicing at the judgment seat of Christ because you weren't a griper. Your behavior will reveal their efforts to have been worthwhile, not a waste. Paul wanted them to live thankful lives. Those would be the kind of lives he'll be able to rejoice in at the judgment of Christ.

So three people benefit from your not griping---yourself, unsaved people, and your spiritual leaders. The benefits each of these could receive for your not griping show how serious griping really is. By not griping, you'll save your reputation, the world around you will get an example of redemption, and your spiritual leadership will have cause for rejoicing.

Yes, you have my permission to use this outline.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Phil Johnson: Tertiary Doctrines Dovetailing with the King James Version Issue

Phil Johnson, executive director of Grace to You, and owner/operator of the popular evangelical blog, Pyromaniacs, appeared on the Way of the Master radio program, hosted by Todd Friel. On the show, Johnson answered questions that were sent in by listeners.

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?
  1. 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?
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 representation in writing of the words that came from God...the words that God spoke.

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.
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.

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.

Psychoanalysis Addendum

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.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Shark Versus Octopus: Surprising

I don't want to upstage my canonicity post with this one, but this one might win the interest category. An aquarium decided to put octopus and shark in the same tank. See what happens.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

If You Believe in Canonicity, You Can and Should Believe in Preservation part 2

To get a doctrine of Bibliology, we go to the Bible. Since we get God's instruction from His Word, we look to His Word even about His Word. Part of Bibliology is canonicity. Canonicity is a sub-doctrine to the doctrine of Scripture. We look to the Bible to tell us how we decide on what Books should be part of the Bible. Many might call this circular reasoning or begging the question. No. We're applying tests to what we already know exists. What the Bible says about itself, however, must be consistent with itself. So the Bible is where we learn about canonicity. We know, if it is true and authoritative, that the Bible will reflect what it says about itself.
Nowhere does Scripture say any of these things:
1) When the Bible is complete, there will be sixty-six books.
2) Here is how you will know which books are canonical.
3) Here is how you will know that the Bible is finished and complete.
4) Here is how canonicity will be completed.
5) Scripture will be done in AD90 or some other particular date.
6) There is a standard outside of Scripture that should be used to judge the canon.

The criteria for canonization came from fleshing out principles of Scripture. Scripture is sufficient, so it will also help us arrive at the principles about the Bible that will determine what the Books of the Bible are. The Bible nowhere contains a list of the laws for canonicity. We look at what the Bible says about God's Word to glean what we would consider legitimate Books of the Bible. Not every one of the principles applies to every one of the Books of the Bible, but cumulatively they show us the canon of Scripture.

What does God's Word say that leads us to the canon?
1) The Bible will be complete, will be a settled book. Proverbs 30:5-6. Isaiah 8:16. Revelation 22:18-19. Jude 1:3.

Scripture presents itself as complete, not to be added to or taken away from. For Scripture to be added to or taken away from, it must be something that is settled or complete. If it isn't settled or complete, it can't be added to or taken away from. If God's Word is to be sixty-six books and someone has sixty-seven, he has added to Scripture. If the Bible is to be sixty-six books and someone has sixty-five, he had taken away from Scripture.

2) God's people, Old and New Testaments, are the caretakers of God's Word. Romans 3:2. Deuteronomy 31:24-26. John 17:8. 1 Timothy 3:15.

God gives the Books to Israel and the church. They immediately receive those Books. It is evident which Books they receive.

3) The Holy Spirit will lead His people into all truth. John 16:13. 1 Corinthians 2:4-11.

We know that whatever Books God's people recognize or accept are those that the Holy Spirit has led them to.

4) Those who write God's Word will have authority to do so. Deuteronomy 18:18. 2 Corinthians 12:12. 2 Peter 1:1, 20-21. Galatians 1:1-24. Hebrews 2:3-4.

We see authority to speak or write the very Words of God. Many of them are prophets or apostles. The prophets and apostles we know had authority from God.

5) What is His Word must be consistent with the rest of Scripture. 2 Timothy 2:13.

Scripture will harmonize. It won't contradict itself, so anything that would contradict would be suspect.

6) His Word won't have error; His Word is perfect. Psalm 12:6; 19:7; 119:40.

We would assume that Scripture would not have false doctrine.

7) God's Word seems like it is the Word of God to Believers. Luke 24:32. 1 Thessalonians 2:13.

When something is Scripture, it will read like Scripture. It has that "ring" of inspiration to it.

8) Jesus and apostles give testimony to Books' canonicity. John 5:39; 10:35. Luke 24:44. 2 Peter 3:16.

Books that Jesus and the apostles recognized as Books, we know were Books of the Bible.

9) The Books were quoted as being Scripture. Micah 4:1-4. Daniel 9:2.

Certain Books were quoted in other Books as being Scripture. This tells us that men were recognizing Books as Scripture immediately.

Based on these principles, we recognize sixty-six Books of the Bible. We do not believe that some book like the "The Gospel of Judas," found now after hundreds and thousands of years, could be Scripture, because that would not fit several of the criteria above. Any potential book that would at least contradict any of the above principles could not be considered to be Scripture.

Let's Apply the Principles Faithfully and Consistently

One Dallas Theological Seminary graduate, J. Hampton Keathley, III, wrote on canonicity:
That God would provide and preserve a Canon of Scripture without addition or deletion is not only necessary, but it is logically credible.
He makes that logical conclusion from 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and 2 Peter 1:20-21. From those verses, he wrote:
In view of this, the logical question is: “Would it not be unreasonable for God to fail to providentially care for these inspired documents to preserve them from destruction and so guide in their collection and arrangement that they would all be present with none missing and none added that were not inspired?”
So he believes that preservation is an implication of inspiration. If God inspired His Word, it follows that He would preserve it intact. He is teaching the preservation of Books, and yet, in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 we have verbal, plenary inspiration. The assumption from inspiration of Words isn't preservation of Books. The same God Who could inspire every Word could keep every Word.

Above I made a list of points about canonicity not found in the Bible, six of them. Look back up at them again. Christians believe that when the Bible was completed, there were sixty-six books. They used principles from the Bible to know what books were canonical, even though those principles weren't designated in Scripture. From those same biblical principles to conclude that Revelation finished God's special revelation in AD90. Denominational councils officially agreed upon a canon, but there wasn't anything in Scripture that says that was how it would be done. Believers copied, passed around and down, and agreed upon the Books they recognized as Scripture. They numbered sixty-six.

And yet, if you look through any of the texts that are basis for the above nine points, they don't mention the Books of the Bible. They talk about the reception of Words. In the principles of Canonicity we have Words, not Books. Faith based upon the evidence, based upon Scripture, says that we would have a settled, perfect Canon of Words---all of them and every one of them. Canonization is far more fideistic than preservation. And yet believers accept perfect canonicity. They too should accept perfect preservation.

A common criticism of the verbal, plenary preservation doctrine is: 1) Scripture doesn't tell us how God would preserve. 2) The Bible doesn't say that the Bible would be preserved in the Hebrew Masoretic and the Textus Receptus. I reject the idea that the Bible doesn't tell how God's Word would be preserved. It does. But the second one, that God doesn't name the text type or the name of the manuscript family, that is a bogus criticism in light of belief in canonicity. Just like canonicity, we look for what God said He would do.

What would God do and what would He not do? We have good Scriptural reasons for rejecting the Shepherd of Hermas and including Esther and James. We have the same reasons for rejecting Codex Sinaiticus and receiving the Textus Receptus.

Is there really a legitimate, Scriptural reason that someone believes canonicity, but does not believe in perfect preservation of Scripture? No. Lack of faith explains it, a lack of faith that displeases God (Hebrews 11:6). Romans 4:20 describes what should be the faith in preservation.
He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God.
Oh ye of little faith. Will you not trust in the promise of God? He has preserved His Word, Word Perfect, for every generation of believers.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran's Day: Actual Sounds of World War One

On October 9, 1918, a British sound engineer, Will Gaisberg, with primitive equipment recorded immediately behind a unit of the Royal Garrison Artillery the sounds of a gas-shell bombardment. He determined to preserve the noise of war before the coming armistice caused it to vanish forever. Only ten WW1 soldiers survive the Great War, including one U.S. soldier.

Click to hear two minutes of these historic sounds.

Monday, November 03, 2008

If You Believe in Canonicity, You Can and Should Believe in Preservation

The front of my Bible says sixty-six books. I grew up with that number in my head because I had never seen otherwise---thirty-nine Old Testament, twenty-seven New Testament. As far as I'm concerned, the canon of Scripture, the number of books is settled. However, it has not been without controversy in history. Martin Luther doubted the canonicity of James, calling it the "epistle of straw." Eusebius, Catholic historian, in 340 said that James was a disputed text. Augustine and the council of Hippo (390) accepted the apocrypha as part of the canon. The 1395 Wycliffe version of the Bible in English included the Apocrypha.

Of the patristics, several accepted Shepherd of Hermas as part of the canon. Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and Didymus the Blind all three quoted it as Scripture. It is also included in Codex Sinaiticus. The Epistle of Barnabas is also found in Sinaiticus, as well as advocated by Didymus. If Sinaiticus is a better text, one representing the rules of textual criticism, then Shepherd of Hermas and The Epistle of Barnabas should be considered Scripture.

If Jesus actually did quote from the Septuagint, like many critical text advocates believe, then we also need to consider that the Septuagint included the apocrypha. Jesus therefore would have supported a canon with the apocryphal books part of their number. If it is true that the apostles quoted from the Septuagint, then the Septuagint, along with its apocryphal books, was the Old Testament of the apostles. Why should it not then be our Old Testament? And if Jesus' use of the Septuagint evinces the acceptability of a Bible laced with faulty words, then consistency requires the acceptance of a Bible with several more than sixty-six books.

Arguments for the Canon

And yet we have heavy evangelical support for a sixty-six book canon. What are the arguments? F. F. Bruce wrote in his The New Testament Documents:
The historic Christian belief is that the Holy Spirit, who controlled the writing of the individual books, also controlled their selection and collection, thus continuing to fulfil our Lord's promise that He would guide His disciples into all the truth.
He saw the Holy Spirit as leading His disciples to the correct books. Greg Brahnsen wrote:
[W]e know from God's Word (1) that the church of the New Covenant recognized the standing canon of the Old Testament, and (2) that the Lord intended for the New Covenant church to be built upon the word of the apostles, coming thereby to recognize the canonical literature of the New Testament. To these premises we can add the conviction (3) that all of history is governed by God's providence (". . . according to the plan of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His own will," Eph. 1:11).
His main argument is for us to look what the church agreed was the Word of God. M. James Sawyer says we look at usage.
The common evangelical view of the development of the New Testament canon sees the canon as having arisen gradually and through usage rather than through conciliar pronouncement which vested the books of the New Testament with some kind of authority.
Charles Briggs in General Introduction to the Study of Holy Scripture argued that there was a three-fold program for canon determinations, the first being the testimony of the church (p. 163). He explained that this was the evidence of general consent, although given under the leading of the Spirit. It was from this general consent that conciliar pronouncements were made. Briggs final determining factor and highest principle of canon determination was that of the witness of the Spirit. He stated, "The Spirit of God bears witness by and with the particular writing . . . , in the heart of the believer, removing every doubt and assuring the soul of its possession of the truth of God" (p. 163).

Thiessen wrote in his Introduction to the New Testament:
The Holy Spirit, given to the Church, quickened holy instincts, aided discernment between the genuine and the spurious, and thus led to gradual, harmonious, and in the end unanimous conclusions. There was in the Church what a modern divine has happily termed an 'inspiration of selection'.
We see repeatedly this understanding that the Holy Spirit revealed the canon through the church. Churches, genuine believers, settled on the sixty-six books of the Bible.

In addition to this, we see that canonicity was still being discussed into the Reformation period. Sawyer writes: "The canon of the New Testament was not closed historically by the early church. Rather, its extent was debated until the Reformation." In other words, the canon was sixty-six books, but there was continued validation and verification of that through agreement of believers into the printed edition period of Scripture. We have the same thing with preservation. The printed edition period affirmed the textus receptus as the text of the New Testament.

Why 66?

We hear and read many evangelicals who agree that the church was led to the exact number of books by the Holy Spirit. Why would they think we have sixty-six? It isn't because Scripture says anywhere that we were going to receive sixty-six. The Bible tells nowhere how many books there would be. It doesn't even tell us that we would get several books. We knew it was books and that those books were the right books because those were the ones that the churches settled upon.

Agreement upon the words of Scripture is even plainer. Revelation 22:18-19 is commonly referred to in discussions about canonicity and they don't refer to books.
For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: 19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
You see "words" here, not books. Speaking about canonicity in his theology, Wayne Grudem writes (p. 65):
The severity of the punishments in Revelation 22:18-19 that come to those who add or take from God's words also confirms the importance of God's people having a correct canon.
He also references passages with "words" as a basis of canonicity and says:
We know that God loves his people, and it is supremely important that God's people have his words, for they are our life (Deut. 32:47; Matt. 4:4).
If non-preservationists were to be consistent, they would savage this writing by Grudem because he refers to Matthew 4:4 as a text that is speaking about the written Word of God. Of course, he doesn't get that kind of treatment, because canonicity is not such a controversial issue.

There is an attack today on the books of Scripture. Bart Ehrman, well-respected scholar and published author, in his popular Misquoting Jesus says that we read and use the books we do because a particular group of Christians were in the majority and they won out over the others, so it was they who decided what the Christian creeds would be. According to him, they established themselves to be right and then determined what future Christians would believe about Jesus. We only read their version of things because they had defeated the other groups. Many, many other books had been written about Jesus and were not much copied or preserved because, in his opinion, they didn't contain the popular teaching. Ehrman also believes that the books that we do have were fiddled with in order to align them even more with the orthodox and politically correct teaching.

So why isn't Ehrman right? We do still have those disputed and rejected books to which he refers. And many of them are very old, even though they are in the minority of manuscripts. Evangelicals reject what Ehrman says based upon what was preserved by the saints. Those are the books and history that we have. We have a bias toward those books which present the consistent and historic view of Jesus Christ. The other books passed by the wayside. We still have them, but just because they were preserved somewhere, doesn't mean that they should come up again for reconsideration. And yet, because we find an old manuscript, like Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, and we have rationalistic laws of textual criticism, we reject the text agreed upon by believers led by the Holy Spirit. This clashes with the evangelical approach to canonicity. The two positions, canonicity and preservation, should be consistent.

Canonicity and Preservation

What I am describing about books is also the historic Christian position about the Words as well. I've often referenced these quotes here and other places, but as an example, Richard Capel, wrote in 1658:
[W]e have the Copies in both languages [Hebrew and Greek], which Copies vary not from Primitive writings in any matter which may stumble any. This concernes onely the learned, and they know that by consent of all parties, the most learned on all sides among Christians do shake hands in this, that God by his providence hath preserved them uncorrupt. . . . As God committed the Hebrew text of the Old Testament to the Jewes, and did and doth move their hearts to keep it untainted to this day: So I dare lay it on the same God, that he in his providence is so with the Church of the Gentiles, that they have and do preserve the Greek Text uncorrupt, and clear: As for some scrapes by Transcribers, that comes to no more, than to censure a book to be corrupt, because of some scrapes in the printing, and ‘tis certain, that what mistake is in one print, is corrected in another.
He was referring to the words of the textus receptus of the New Testament. This fit right in with the Westminster Confession (1646) and the London Baptist Confession (1689):
The Old Testament in Hebrew . . . , and the New Testament in Greek . . . , being immediately inspired by God, and by his singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical.
The church already settled on the text of Scripture. They believed God perfectly preserved it. Something new couldn't be Scripture, just like a new canon couldn't be the canon. We aren't open to a new canon and we aren't open to new words of Scripture. Opening up criticism and discussion to new words would be akin to opening it up for a new canon. This isn't a historic, orthodox position in either case.

Some have charged those who believe the perfect preservation of Scripture with the name fideist, used in derogatory fashion. Fideism is supposedly a kind of baseless faith position that detaches itself from evidence. They say that since Scripture never promises preservation in a particular text type, we can't really apply verses on preservation to any particular text of the New Testament. Well, since the Bible never promises a sixty-six book canon, we can't really apply verses used for canonicity to the canon of Scripture. I say no to both of them. If I'm a fideist to believe in sixy-six books based upon biblical presuppositions, then I guess I'm a fideist then.

God inspired every Word of Scripture and all of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16). Hebrew copyists took this so seriously that they counted every Word so as to never miss one. Every Word was important, not just the doctrines or the message of Scripture. The attacks on preservation of the Bible for centuries and especially today provide the foundation for the postmodern uncertainty in churches and theological circles today. The devaluation of doctrine, that so many evangelicals talk and write about, has come in a major way because of their carelessness about the preservation of God's Words. Even the reformed have left in this their Reformation doctrine of sola Scriptura.

R. C. Sproul decries this in a recent publication on canonicity by his organization:
Beyond the radical reductionism of Bultmann, we have seen more recently attempts among professing evangelicals, and even within the Reformed community, to seek a different type of reduction of Scripture. We have seen views of so-called “limited inspiration” or “limited inerrancy.” That is to say, the Spirit’s inspiration of the Bible is not holistic, but rather is limited to matters of faith and doctrine. In this scenario, proponents suggest we can distinguish between doctrinal matters that are of divine origin and what the Bible teaches in matters of science and history, and, in some cases, ethics. Therefore, there are portions within the Bible that are not equally inspired by God. In this case, we see the reappearance of a canon within a canon. The problem that arises is a serious one. Perhaps most severe is the question, who is it who decides what part of the Bible really belongs to the canon? Once we remove ourselves from a view of tota Scriptura, we are free then to pick and choose what portions of Scripture are normative for Christian faith and life, just like picking cherries from a tree.

To do this we would have to revisit the teaching of Jesus, wherein He said that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. We would have to change it, to have our Lord say that we do not live by bread alone but by only some of the words that come to us from God. In this case, the Bible is reduced to the status where the whole is less than the sum of its parts. This is an issue that the church has to face in every generation, and it has reappeared today in some of the most surprising places. We’re finding, in seminaries that call themselves Reformed, professors advocating this type of canon within the canon. The church must say an emphatic “no” to these departures from orthodox Christianity, and she must reaffirm her faith not only in sola Scriptura, but in tota Scriptura as well.
Tota Scriptura?

What Sproul describes here is all over the place in evangelicalism. In a recent debate with Frank Turk at his blog on the preservation of Scripture, he wrote this:
Because we receive the NT in translation (for example, in the KJV), we must insist that the perfection of Scripture today is found in the message and not the words.
Later at another one of his blogs, he wrote this comment in bold print:
All believers at all times have sufficient special revelation to make a saving confession of faith; in this, their confession of faith is not dependent on any particular text type or even the perfection of any particular manuscript.
Professing fundamentalists also chime in with this view of the Bible. Paul W. Downey in God's Word in Our Hands writes (p. 376):
God's Word transcends written documents, even the physical universe, and will be completely and ultimately fulfilled if not one copy remains. The power and effectiveness and duration of the Word of God, and man's responsibility to obey it, do not demand the presence or even the existence of any physical copy.
Speaking of God and the preservation of Scripture, Kevin Bauder writes this (pp. 159-160) in One Bible Only?:
He might preserve some words and He might permit some to be lost, depending upon His own purpose.
Unless we define God's Word as the message or the concepts or the doctrines, we don't find tota Scriptura in those statements. This is not the historical position of the church. Men of the past believed that Scripture was preserved in the very Words and they believed that the Words in the copies they possessed were identical with the original manuscripts. Their bibliology applied to both the doctrines of canonicity and of preservation.

It really comes down to believing in the greater providence or greater miracle depending upon how someone defines providence or miracle. The first known historical account of the 27 books of the New Testament comes in 376BC. And yet, we believe that the saints had the books of the New Testament. The same Holy Spirit that led them could also lead them to the words. There really is no reason why He could not. Some might say that we don't have a historical basis to believe that they had all of them, but we do. The saints of the reformation period, who were still talking about canonicity too, agreed on the books and the words. Scripture was settled. It still should be.

Watch This and Tell Me What You Think

I have taught American Government three or four times and this is Government 101. That we can't get anything definitive about this boggles my mind.

As a bonus, see this Palin rally appearance in Raleigh, NC. At 1:56 in this video, we get an appearance of our friend Tim Dunkin with his wife being interviewed. He is a member of Calvary Baptist Church in Carrboro, Dr. Gary Webb, one of the churches in my sidebar. Enjoy both his style and substance.

A Stanley Kurtz Election Wrap-Up: All You Really Need to Know

No one out there has done better work on this presidential campaign than NRO's Stanley Kurtz. He has worked feverishly and accurately. Unfortunately, very few listened, it seems. The electorate may have reached a tipping point. It's much easier to dumb down a society than the alternative. Here's Kurtz' last pre-election article. Read it.