Monday, May 04, 2009

Big Talk with Little to Show at Evangelical Textual Criticism

The blog called Evangelical Textual Criticism referenced my epistemology series and some discussion ensued in the comment section. Imagine a 50 gallon aquarium with several fish swimming around in it, thinking that they represent the whole ocean. Things that are said are credible in the fish tank. That doesn't mean they actually do stand up anywhere else in the world.

These are some of the devices that I noticed. I can point out where if you ask. Ad homenim. Appeal to ridicule. Circumstantial Ad hominem. Sarcastic questions. Smug dismissal. Argumentum ad populum. False dichotomy.

To start, Tommy Wasserman, who is one of the blog contributors, seems to be a very nice, very fair guy. That doesn't mean we wouldn't disagree on this subject, but he seems like he might be more open-minded. Mike, who commented here on the series, commented over there with a fuller reprentation of himself. Mike Aubrey, full name. The first comment out of the box, was this, from a Dr. Rod Decker (that's how he refers to himself), who teaches at Baptist Bible Seminary in Clarks Summit, PA. He writes:

I assume the link to the Brandenburg post was for entertainment purposes? :) You certainly wouldn't want to offend his fedeism (sic) with evidence.

I would go after it with Rod Decker any day. He is the doctor of the logical fallacy in the comment. He is wanting to equate presuppositional epistemology with fideism.

Then a "Ryan" writes this:

I had trouble getting very far into Brandenburg's writing. I think it's one of the sadder and less helpful features of fundamentalism that holding onto a doctrine in defiance of empirically proof to the contrary is somehow thought to be the more pious or faithful thing to do.

The second sentence takes some deciphering. At the word "empirically" it spun out of control. What I think he is saying though is that he's got empirical proof that I'm defying because I think it is more faithful, but that this defiance is an unhelpful quality to fundamentalism, assuming that I'm a fundamentalist. Moral of the story. It's bad because it is sad and unhelpful. So stop defying empirical evidence! What evidence? Textual criticism, of course.

Several of these comments help make my point for me about evangelical textual criticism as a kind of paradox. He writes:

To my mind they're sacrificing truth on the altar of doctrine.

"They're" (fundamentalists) sacrificing "truth" (conclusions from theories) on the "altar of doctrine" (notice doctrine and truth different to him). He thinks his empirical evidence is superior to the teachings of scripture.

And finally Ryan introduces a quote from Roman Catholicism:

They could learn from Catholicism, which learned from its mistake with Galileo and in Providentissimus Deus.

He's saying that we should learn a lesson from the Catholics, which got it right when they started looking at science and stopped looking at theology. Hmmmmm.

Then Dr. Rod Decker comes back and he comments, not quite in agreement with Ryan about fundamentalism:

Generalizing based on one (or even a few) glaring case(s) of obscurantism commits a fallacy similar to Brandenburg's.

I guess my fallacy is generalization. Ironically, Decker calls me an obscurantist. "Obscurantism" is "the practice of deliberately preventing the facts or full details of something from becoming known." He's a yellow backed dingo, so there! That would have had about the same effect. What's ironic about it is what facts these textual critics prevent from being known in doctrine and even in their "science."

Rod and Ryan go back and forth a little and Dr. Rod adds that I'm (and others like me) "anti-intellectual." Bubbles in the aquarium.

A Darrell comes on and writes to Dr. Rod:

I went to the same school as Brandenburg, but am a avid NT textual criticism fan. Go figure.

I is not a intellectual and is not an fan of textual criticism. Go figure.

A man with the handle, "The White Man," comes on and actually supports what I wrote. No one actually does deal with what he says. That's not something they seem to do at Evangelical Textual Criticism. Mike Aubrey (our Mike) answers him with this jewel:

Not everyone has time to spend hours discussing and arguing about Brandenburg's views just because "someone is wrong on the internet."

He does have a point, that is, if I'm wrong. Not every wrong on the internet must be discussed. Yes Mike!! Good point!!

There were then about four comments that were not derogatory, especially when Paul Ferguson comes in and makes a very well written comment to them. He even spurs Daniel Wallace to comment, and Wallace says:

One reviewer criticized my views as follows: "Wallace looked at evidence and then changed what he believed about Scripture." Actually, I don't take that as a criticism, because the evidence I looked at was what informed how I should understand the text. It was both exegetical and empirical in nature. But one thing I found curious about Brandenburg's four-part treatment of my views is that, in spite of claiming that he had dealt with my views exhaustively, point for point, he only interacted selectively with my article. To see why fundamentalists don't care for my non-doctrine of preservation, it's best to read the original essay for yourself. It's at

These kinds of things are humorous and I don't mean that in a disrespectful way to Dr. Wallace. Here's what's funny. First, he's commenting on the wrong series of blogs that I wrote. He thinks we're commenting on the four part series that I did about his article. Ooops. That gave me a chuckle. He's a little behind on that one. Then when he leaves me anonymous by calling me "one reviewer" and then cuts and pastes one sentence I wrote. He couldn't type my name. That's even a laugh-out-loud for me. Daniel Wallace does fit very nicely in the club though. He does nothing to deal with what I wrote....still. He says that I claim to deal with him exhaustively, but I really don't! (mad scientist laugh here). He said I interacted selectively with his article.

Let's review on the four part Wallace series. He sent me to it from his blog when he and I were discussing something there. He said that he dealt with the doctrine of preservation there. I read his whole article and found he only got into scripture in just a few paragraphs. I criticize those and find some amazing blooper-like mistakes there. Everyone should read my review of his article. It's supposed to be his definitive defeating of the doctrine of preservation and what incredible blunders! His first reaction to it was: "You cherry picked!" And now, "He was selective!" You'll find that I wasn't selective at all with the section on preservation. So do go look and read his article and read what I wrote about it. No one has come on to defend him. Someone started to defend him at a forum called CARM, and then stopped abruptly and suddenly once he got to the first argument. Then it was a deafening silence.

Then comes on another big named textual critic, Maurice Robinson. And he really does embarrass himself (of course in my opinion) with what he wrote. He makes a lot of extreme and inaccurate statements that go nowhere. His last sentence does sum it all up very nicely:

Our trust in the accuracy of the biblical text should rest upon a foundation more secure than the highly questionable theological claims of modern KJV/TR-only scholasticism which ultimately demand a response wholly based on blind faith apart from hard evidence.

Again, moral of his story: don't trust theology, but trust hard evidence. Which is what? Textual criticism. Especially his.

The comment section ends with something written by a Brazilian who is trying to say something in English, what seems not to be his native language. It was hard to understand what he wrote.

I'm giving this report, because I would rather deal with their comments here than there. I would love to discuss things with them, but they're not likely to interact, even as seen in what others wrote in their comment section and they ignored. Why do they ignore these almost every time? Robinson says it is because all of our arguments have been answered elsewhere. I've never read where our arguments are answered. Answers may be given, but they are similar to what I read in that comment section. They are so many bubbles rising to the surface. But that's the way it all looks inside the aquarium.


Mike Aubrey said...

Cat's out of the bag! Its true. I do disagree with you, and thus, also think you're wrong.

But we already knew that, didn't we?

either way, I am still listening and reading what you write though with plenty of interest.

As for the last name, that's a whole different story. I wasn't trying to hide anything. I mean, you could have found it on my own blog had you gone to my about page. Its right there. Its more out of habit than anything else. My google/blogger account has been set up to just display "mike" for a couple years now. The ability to type in my name and website url only appeared recently and I didn't want to appear as someone else all of the sudden. Besides, its significantly less typing to just click on the "blogger" option. At ETC, they knew me first as Mike Aubrey and here I was known first as Mike. Its an accident of history, nothing more.

Anyway, keep writing. I'll keep reading. I think I'm beginning to understand your view. It comes down to the WC, essentially, yes?

I'm still struggling to understand how you fill in the gap of the syllogism I wrote in a previous comment, but I expect an answer will come eventually (or perhaps the syllogism, itself is wrong and I don't know it?).

And there's my full name below.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Uh-oh Mike. Now you'll be googled. :-) And seen on on this non-convention panel discussion.

You're OK, Mike.

I'll probably write one more in the epistemology series.

PS Ferguson said...

Dan Wallace’s conclusions are wrong on both exegetical and historical grounds. The truth is that every believer, using either Biblical or philosophical presuppositions, is led to some conclusion as to the content of the original autographs. The Scriptures do not simply promise the preservation of God’s “truth” or “message” but the Words. The church has historically held fast to these promises concerning the Words of God; not only in respect of divine inspiration, but also in regard to perfect providential preservation throughout the ages. However, since the Enlightenment, Protestantism has granted science increasingly independent authority and has surrendered the Bible’s authority whenever any supposed conflict arose between the two. The Enlightenment brought the age of the “sovereignty of reason” which attempted to verify everything in Scripture by modern critical methods of historical research. Just as in the case of creationism, until the eighteenth century the Church held to the historic doctrine of the perfect inspiration and preservation of the Words of God in all ages.

The zeitgeist of our contemporary apostate age now demands a “new and improved” version of everything including the Scriptures. Our places of worship have dropped the name “church,” reduced worship to entertainment, and promoted effeminate “preacher gurus” in Hawaii shirts to share the latest psychological fad. We have also now a marked subservience to scientism as the dominant cultural standard. Did the church make such a gross error in over 500 years of interpretation? What has primarily changed since the Reformation is the way man defines and uses science. Modern scientific opinion has been elevated to the status of general revelation giving it an absolute a priori veto over how we interpret Scripture. So much for singing, ‘Immortal, invisible, God only wise!’ Textual criticism is built on the intolerant foundation of prejudice against the promises of Scripture. Its motive is driven by the axiom that modern man always seeks out a way of removing His Creator from the source of truth, as autonomous man aspires to fill the vacancy.

Dan Wallace’s facile position is not the historic position of believers and the Reformation and his objections are mere hand-waving. Critical Text (CT) advocates, such as Wallace, have no ultimate and certain standard for determining objective truth. Without the Biblical doctrine of perfect providential preservation, we are left with non-answers in these areas. This is not a minor shift but one of seismic proportions. Fortunately, most CT advocates of the past were better believers than theologians and have been able to live with the inherent contradiction of their system by simply declaring the gospel from the Textus Receptus (TR). They were incapable of following their own premises out to the end of the road they were on. This has now been challenged by the belligerent approach of the new breed of CT adherents, the proliferation of translations, and the ever mutating latest edition of the evolutionary Greek Text.

The CT text position is a fallacy as it claims to reach conclusions that conform to the Bible, which are not derived from the Bible. It is true that some CT advocates talk about “preservation” but only by investing in their exegesis of preservation passages such as Matthew 5:18 entirely new meanings. In effect, they act like Humpty-Dumpty who retorted scornfully to Alice’s ignorance of his meaning, “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less .” Their position is not some imaginative or honest attempt to follow the truth where it leads, but radical interpretations of biblical texts based on Enlightenment premises. However, the preservation promises are clear to those that are willing to accept their conclusions. These fundamentalist and evangelical “scholars” need correcting for when theologically educated men make absurd statements they are no less absurd than when the lay person make them. We reject their arguments because they are fundamentally illogical, and believers should not utilise unsound arguments nor appeal to unbelievers to place their confidence in them. The objections to the doctrine of perfect preservation are rooted in philosophical pre-commitments and not exegetical concerns. True fundamentalists, especially those of the Reformed faith, will not surrender our historic faith for the gods of Enlightenment thinking just to be seen as acceptable by “progressive Evangelicals.” Like Ezra we will prepare our hearts “to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it” (Ezra 7:10) whatever the cost.

It is axiomatic to even the most ardent critic of the KJV that the recovery of the “autograph text” is outside the possibility of recovery simply by a neutral Textual scientific methodology. Even the leading exponents of textual criticism candidly concede this. By eliminating God’s work of preservation, they have left the church disarmed, vulnerable and in total confusion. They are like those of old of whom God says in the last verse of the book of Judges “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judg 21:25). These multi-versionists have no final authority, save for their own reasoning or outsourcing to a scholar to tell them what God probably said. They are attempting to compartmentalize their faith and their scholarship into separate worlds. However, since no one is viewpoint neutral and everyone has presuppositions, why do the CT advocates want to exclude Biblical presuppositions on the issue of the text?

mike said...

Well then, just to be clear on this, I'm neither the baseball player, the real estate salesman, nor the British boxer.

Titus Quinctius Cincinnatus said...

I wonder why Ryan is so enamoured with "empiricism" when that method of epistemology is so limited?

To put it into the context of NT textual criticism, why does he think "empiricism" answers our questions when "empiricism" is obviously limited to the scope of what mss. we have available?

Before he, or other "textual criticism fans" jump on this and accuse KJVers of making empirically unsubstantiated claims, I would point out that so do critical texters. There is no way - none whatsoever - that any of the claims about textual reconstruction on the part of the CTers can ever be evidentially validated. Not when most of the evidence has been destroyed or has degraded to dust. When a CTer makes a statement about "such and such verse really doesn't belong" or "such and such verse should read this way," they are making a fideistic statement, since there is no way they can ever positively verify (or even test) their statement, not with the extremely limited data set they are operating from.

What's doubly ironic is the way CTers tend to, well, ignore evidences that don't their fideism. Take the case of I John 5:7-8, the Johannine Comma. Standard line is - those dumb ol' KJVers really don't know what they're talking about, since all of us smart people know that it was introduced into the text in the 5th-6th centuries.

Nevermind that Augustine alludes to the verse in the late 4th. Nevermind that Cyprian quotes it ~250 AD. Nevermind that Tertullian cites it ~200 AD.

But see, the typical standard rebuttal to these is, "Well, they didn't really cite it." How do they know this, especially when an actually reading of these writers says they did? Because admitting this evidence would take their apple cart and turn it completely over, and dump it into the river. Ergo, none of this evidence really "counts." And if you think it does, then you're just an idiot who obviously didn't go to the right seminary.

You know, the type of seminary that teaches you to ignore evidences uncomfortable to the CT position.

But see, it all comes back to this empiricism Ryan seems to love so much. Not only is it limited in scope and ability, but for many CTers, it is also quite dispensable, when it leads to the "wrong" conclusions.

I.e. - just the sort of fideism that they decry Pastor Brandenburger for showing.

I think fideism is necessary, I just choose my fideism (as does Dr. Brandenburger) on the basis of the Bible, not on the lesser and imperfect authority of Daniel Wallace and Co.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Amazing comments from Paul and Titus. Very good. We've got some excellent contributors here, especially on this issue.

Titus, I get a big laugh, a real one, not a virtual one, every time you call me Dr. Brandenburger.

Kent Brandenburg said...

By the way, I was thinking a little about a few of the guys over at Evangelical Textual Criticism and how that this view, the one I am espousing, the one that all Christians took before enlightenment, seemed so foreign. These textual critics are unaware of the historic position on preservation. It is not at all a basis for how they come to what God's Words are, and yet men are to trust them.

Titus Quinctius Cincinnatus said...

Titus, I get a big laugh, a real one, not a virtual one, every time you call me Dr. Brandenburger.I don't get it. That's you're name, right? Dr. Brandenburger? Dr. Ken Brandenburger?