From this perfect unity of God's attributes and revelation of Himself and His will through Scripture, we expect the same lack of contradiction in our own doctrine and practice. Recently, however, two such contradictions have caught my attention. I wrote about a first in part one, entitled: "Contradiction Number One: The Eruption over the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship Sermon."
Contradiction Number Two: The Supposed Rejection of Total Apostasy and Yet a Belief in a Total Apostasy in the Scriptural Doctrine of the Perfect Preservation of Scripture
The concept of a total apostasy is foundational to most cults. They must prove that the doctrine and practice of the first century early church has been forsaken for an erroneous replacement. For instance, the Jehovah's Witnesses must believe that the pure, original teaching of the Person of Christ had been lost to the conspiratorial Trinitarians. The Campbellites must accept that the pure, original teaching of salvation had been lost to the novel salvation-by-grace-through-faith alone view. The Mormons, to make room for their theological system, must show how that the right interpretation of scripture had actually been lost.
We have a scriptural basis for not believing in a total apostasy. Any belief that espouses a total apostasy of doctrine, we should reject. True doctrine will not be lost. We should assume that. Paul in 1 Timothy 4:1 writes:
Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.
The key here is that "some shall depart from the faith." Not all. Some. "The faith," which includes all of the teachings of scripture, will not be lost. Ironically, even most of those, who don't think we have all the words of the original manuscripts of the Bible available to us, do believe that scripture promises that none of the doctrines will be lost. This is an important part of their belief in preservation, that is, that no doctrine is lost in the words of the critical text. They hope to calm the fears of those who are finding out for the first time that 'we're not sure what the words of the originals are.'
Jude 1:3 also rejects a total apostasy.
Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.
The key portion on this is "the faith which was once delivered unto the saints." "Once" comes from the Greek hapax, which means, "once for all time." It is a strong statement about the teachings of God's Word. They were delivered to the saints once and for all time. "Delivered" is aorist, speaking of completed action. The deliverance of the faith was complete. We don't need to be concerned that we had not yet been given doctrine that God still planned for us to receive. From this verse we believe that no doctrine would be lost.
A scriptural pneumatology, the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, precludes the possibility of a total apostasy in the age in which we live. Jesus made promises that ensure that every Christian can count on having all of the teachings from God's Word.
John 16:13---Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.
1 John 2:27---But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.
In John 16:13, we see that the Holy Spirit "will guide [us] into all truth" and in 1 John 2:27 that the Holy Spirit "teaches [us] of all things" and "is no lie." Biblical Christianity will last and every doctrine will survive in its midst.
Does this mean that there will never be a total apostasy? There will be a total apostasy. 2 Thessalonians 2 talks of that time and we know that this apostasy will be witnessed when the Antichrist reveals himself. Verse three informs us of that:
Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.
The "falling away" (apostasy) and the "son of perdition" being revealed occur at the same time period. Also the Holy Spirit, the restrainer (the one who "lets" or "restrains"), will be taken away.
For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.
The Holy Spirit will go before the apostasy occurs, explaining how it could take place. 2 Thessalonians 2 goes on to describe it in verses eight through eleven:
8 And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: 9 Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, 10 And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:
Until this occurs, there will be no total apostasy. All doctrines will remain intact.
So What Happened to the True Doctrine of the Preservation of Scripture?
Most evangelicals today say that the true doctrine of the preservation of Scripture is that God chose not to preserve the words of the original manuscripts. He preserved the doctrines of scripture, but we do not possess a perfect copy of God's Word any more. Enough mistakes were made in copying that we do not know what the words of the original are anymore. They contend that this is the orthodox doctrine. Those who do believe in perfect preservation they will attack as heterodox and heretical.
If what these evangelicals propose, which includes many fundamentalists, were actually true, then we should find their doctrine from 1500 to 1800 among orthodox, evangelical Christianity, that is, the ones who possessed the Holy Spirit. However, when we read the doctrine of reformation era and post-reformation era saints, we don't see this supposedly orthodox doctrine of the "preservation of all the doctrines but not the words." They didn't believe that. They believed that they had available to them all of the words of Scripture. You find this in the Westminster Confession (WC) and the London Baptist Confession and the Formula Consensus Helvetica. You will find this bibliology of modern evangelicalism and fundamentalism nowhere during that time period.
When we can't find a particular doctrine in history, we should look to see if we can determine when it arose. This is actually simple. Evangelicals didn't start holding this view until Benjamin Warfield of Princeton Seminary came along to read this view into the WC in the late 19th century. No one else had read this doctrine in the WC until that point. Many evangelicals and then fundamentalists (once the fundamentalist movement began in the early 20th century) latched ahold of this new Warfield doctrine.
Today you can read fundamentalist materials written that attempt to formulate a history to their new doctrine. As you read their books and articles, you see that they trace the teaching no further than the late 19th century. And then they claim this as a historic position. You read this in God's Word in Our Hands: The Bible Preserved for Us and in God's Word Preserved and God's Word Preserved: A Defense of Historic Separatist Definitions and Beliefs. Notice how Sproul says, "Historic," in his title. I believe that we would need to give a new definition to "historic" if "historic" refers to a doctrine that one can trace back a little over one hundred years. That is just the opposite of a genuine understanding of "historic."
Neither of the above mentioned books does anything to show why the history of 1500-1800 could not be true. They don't show why we shouldn't believe what Christians believed in that time period. Both Sproul and the authors of the other book just make an assertion that they have a history, one that cannot be proven for them. They either don't think it important to deal with historic doctrine or they're ignorant of it. If their doctrine on preservation is true, then there was a total apostasy from 1500 to 1800 at least. They need to explain that. Not only haven't they, but no one has. That should make their doctrine completely suspect as the actual new doctrine, the new heterodox doctrine of preservation.
When you read the materials by mainly fundamentalist authors in their multiple volumes attacking the historic doctrine of preservation and the King James Version of the Bible, what you will see is that they mainly resort to ad hominem attacks, including slanderous smears of those who hold to the scriptural and historical position. This is a major part of their strategy to make their position acceptable. They attempt to discredit those who take the historical orthodox belief. They often point out how that they are the ones that are being slandered and misrepresented, and yet, this very activity is a major technique they utilize to buttress their own position.
True believers should expect more than this theological contradiction of those who claim orthodoxy. They ought to be able to produce some history. If they can't, then they should admit that they're holding to a new position. To do otherwise is dishonest and manipulative. A new doctrine should not arise without scriptural and historical support.
If I had this kind of charge brought against me, that is, that I am believing a brand new doctrine without historical basis, and that by doing so, I am holding to the total apostasy of a particular doctrine, I would take it very seriously. I would go to the one(s) making the charge and give them my answer. I wouldn't stand for it. I would want to show that it wasn't true. I would expect to see that reaction from men, evangelical and fundamentalist, who claim to hold the truth.