Monday, September 21, 2009

Bibliology and Separation part two

A fundamentalist recently carved out some very narrow doctrinal ground over which he would separate. He said he'd divide over the belief that God re-inspired an English translation of scripture. He would break fellowship with those who hold to that doctrinal error. Besides that one specific point, he didn't mention anyone else from whom he would separate. The double inspiration doctrine adds to the Bible even though leaving its adherents with complete certainty concerning God's Word. Others hold to aberrant bibliological doctrines that leave them reeling with uncertainty. We don't hear a peep about separation from those deviations from the same fundamentalists. The numerous mentions go to the errors that result in most assurance in God's Word, as if those are the ones that create the greatest dangers. These also happen to be the fallacies most ridiculed by scholarly evangelicals so impressive to fundamentalists.

How is it that we determine what are the bibliological doctrines that are worthy of separation? Shouldn't all departures from scriptural doctrine merit separation? If not, then separation becomes about just us and our personal taste or what it is that is the most theologically correct to separate over.

We started this series by talking about how it is that we come to our positions on issues. Then we delved into inspiration and what violations of that doctrine exist as worthy of separation.


Do we separate over someone who believes in 65 or 67 books? How many wrong books or missing books must there be for us to separate over that error?

We've seen a recent glut of books in the popular bookstores attacking canonicity. A couple of these are Lost Scriptures: Books that Did Not Make It into the New Testament by Bart D. Ehrman and Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas by Elaine Pagels. These are foremost textual critics of our day and they believe that we've left out some other genuine books of the Bible, perhaps because of some early Christian conspiracy. They believe that they've followed the trail of textual evidence to the truth as textual criticism sees it, not allowing theological presuppositions to get in the way.

Where does the Bible tell us that there should be sixty-six books? How do we know there are sixty six? What would tell us why there are sixty-six?

Scripture doesn't tell us there are or will be sixty six books. It doesn't tell us what their names will be. We have sixty-six. We know their names. Sixty-six have been accepted by many. Orthodox churches use sixty-six in their teaching and preaching. Christians all over carry around and possess copies of the Bible with sixty-six books in them. But how did we come to this group? This is canonization.

We can see that Christians recognized and acknowledged scripture when they saw it. We know they had some kind of basis for doing so. Paul understood that Isaiah penned God-inspired writ as seen in Acts 28:25:

And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers,

Then Paul writes this in 1 Timothy 5:18:

For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.

This text applies the word "scripture" (graphe) to an Old Testament quote (Deut 25.4) and to an New Testament one (Luke 10.7), without any distinction. Peter writes in 2 Peter 3:15-16:

And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.

This accords canonical status to a collection of Paul's letters. Believers knew what were the Words of God and received them, even as Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 2:13:

For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.

This is what the Lord Jesus prayed in John 17:8:

For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.

Believers did not receive non-canonical books as God's Word, like Paul's third letter to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 13:1).

How did believers know which were God's Words? We understand this from 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.

The Spirit will guide into all truth. The Holy Spirit guides to His Words. Believers receive them. These thoughts are exactly what Christians have said they have believed in history. This statement is made in the London Baptist Confession (1689):

We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the church of God to an high and reverent esteem of the Holy Scriptures; and the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, and the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man's salvation, and many other incomparable excellencies, and entire perfections thereof, are arguments whereby it doth abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God; yet notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth, and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.

What did believers makes copies of? They made copies of the canonical books. They copied scripture, not non-scripture. We see this in Colossians 4:16:

And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.

For Colossians to be read somewhere else (in Laodeicea), churches needed to make a copy of the epistle to the Colossians. Churches made these copies. Churches knew what the truth was. The church is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16). Churches confirmed what the books and the words of Scripture were, even as God's assembly (ekklesia) is "the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:15).

The scriptural and historic doctrine of canonicity is a canonization of Words, not Books---certainly Books but only because Words were a greater to the lesser Books. I emphasize the word "doctrine," because we are allowing our scriptural presuppositions to guide us to the truth. We believe there are sixty six books because that's what we see is the fulfillment of what God said He would do.

Some would mockingly call this "fideism" because we don't have a text that says that there will be sixty-six books. God doesn't say, "I shall give thee sixty-six books." We trust that God would do what He said He would do. We look to see what He did and we accept it.

We should protect and propagate the doctrine of canonicity. Like we defend the doctrine of inspiration, we do the same with canonicity. What would an attack on canonicity look like? Do you think we should leave canonization to unbelieving textual critics? Would canonization be a pastor on a Sunday morning telling his people that the particular Words in the Bibles they hold before them are not the Words of God because they aren't ranked high enough by the textual critics? Does a pastor have the authority to tell His church what the Words of God are? I'm talking about something like these types of quotes that we see regularly from John MacArthur (and plenty of fundamentalists):

Already he's not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. Now what was his message? Notice one little footnote. It says he preached Christ. The best manuscripts have Jesus there.

The promise of faith is superior to the law because of its confirmation and its Christ-centeredness. Thirdly, its chronology. This just takes the argument a step further. Verse 17 is chronology. Interesting. "And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ," wow. That's fantastic. The two words 'in Christ' are not in the best manuscripts, so we would read it this way.

The best manuscripts translate this passage "for you are," not "it is," and that way it is personalized.

Should a man criticize the text of scripture to his church like this? Is this a pattern or a practice we see in Scripture? Wouldn't the Words canonized by the Holy Spirit be the ones that churches have agreed are God's Words? If someone would change those Words based on so-called "scientific" tests applied by textual critics, has he meddled with canonicity?


More to Come.

Those making comments in the comment section on this---consider arguing from scripture, since we're dealing with doctrine here.


mike said...

Erhman might be a text critic, but Pagels isn't.

PS Ferguson said...

Hi Kent

Excellent post. As you know, it is anything and anyone but the King James people for SI and the BJU, CBTS, DBTS crowd. Their position is not biblical and not historical but it is the position of the "liberal and Romanist scholars" so thats all right. However, the Reformed Baptists and the Reformed Churches asserted that God indeed had given us His settled Word, “...being immediately inspired by God, and by his singular care and providence, kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical” (WCF 1:8). As Dr. Theodore Letis opined,

Some will fault me for not answering every objection of Carson’s, but it was only our intention to raise the old issue of presuppositions and to underscore the fact that this debate is not one between experts with data and non-experts with dogma, but rather one between experts with the same data, but different dogma—the dogma of neutrality versus the dogma of providence… (pp. 201-204). [From, The Majority Text: Essays And Reviews In The Continuing Debate, the essay, “In Reply to D.A. Carson’s ‘The King James Version Debate’ ”.]

May I also add for those interested that the latest edition of the Burning Bush Theological Journal is now online. It deals with:



Anonymous said...

The double inspiration doctrine adds to the Bible even though leaving its adherents with complete certainty concerning God's Word. Others hold to aberrant bibliological doctrines that leave them reeling with uncertainty. We don't hear a peep about separation from those deviations from the same fundamentalists.

Pastor Brandenburger, I agree. There appears to be a double standard at work here. One thing I've noticed in other venues is that "Ruckmanite" seems to be used as a catch-all to (wrongly) describe anyone who is KJV-Only. It seems, in many cases, to be purposefully used that way so that the KJV-Anti has carte blanche to ignore any arguments made for the TR/KJV by dismissing it as "Ruckmanite" even when it is not.

I wonder if that could be the case with what you're describing in your first paragraph?

Gary Webb said...

Brother Brandenburg,
I have never really thought about the fact that "Ruckmanism" does leave people with a certainty about what the word of God is, & they are right as far as an English translation goes. I came to the Masoretic/Received Text position after having been trained to follow the Critical Text philosophy & position. I have been strongly "anti-Ruckmanism" because of the double-inspiration issue [as well as Ruckman's personal life, ungodly spirit, & crazy doctrines]. However, I have to admit that, concerning the Bible in English, the Ruckmanite position is FAR BETTER than the Critical Text position. The CT position not only undermines the King James but EVERY Bible, including whatever "version du jour" the CT crowd is promoting.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Good comments all. I thought the Letis quote was interesting about data and dogma, good one P.S. Titus and Dr. Webb's comments were about the same thing. I liked the "version du jour" observation at the end.

Mike, Ehrman and Pagels criticize the text, but I understand the technical aspect of your comment.

Don Johnson said...

Just an observation here for your consideration.

And I do hear the call for separation from the many purveyors of doubt. In general I agree.

But this thought that Gary puts forward, "However, I have to admit that, concerning the Bible in English, the Ruckmanite position is FAR BETTER than the Critical Text position" is essentially the same thought behind the toleration of men like Piper and Driscoll (especially Driscoll) by the confused and wavering fundamentalists.

Remember what they say about Driscoll? "Well, he is crass, but I have to admit his theology is FAR BETTER than the Revivalist Fundamentalist." Essentially the same is said about Piper or any Conservative Evangelical.

When it comes to our stance of cooperation or non-cooperation with any individual, it isn't the similarities that decide the issue it is the differences. How important are those differences? Are they of sufficient value to warrant a withdrawal of cooperation, support, affirmation, etc.

I am not arguing with Gary here, he has simply provided a means of illustrating my stance. When it comes to Ruckmanites, zero tolerance. (I do agree with you, Gary, that some quite reasonable non-Ruckmanites are tarred with that brush by non-KJO types. That is unfortunate and wrong. But as far as I am concerned, it is irrelevant to my stance against Ruckmanites.)

I hope that might help the discussion some.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Joshua said...

Come on Don, no one is supporting Ruckman here. I pointed out earlier that no one touches him or his followers with a ten foot pole. One guy realising that Ruckmanism leaves people with certainty over the word of God doesn't qualify as hypocrisy in separation.

It's just an observation, not a call for cooperation. I prefer JMac to Driscoll, but both are in critical error and I wouldn't be associated with either. The waverers use their comparisons to justify their following a false teacher. If Gary is advocating supporting Ruckman just because he's better than Ehrman Ill eat my King James Bible.

Gary Webb said...

If you are sounding a warning to the effect that I (and perhaps others) would consider Ruckmanism or those that hold it as potential brethren with which to have fellowship, I would find that fairly ridiculous. Saying that the Ruckmanite position is "better" than the CT position makes no provision for fellowship. It is simply a comparison. However, it does say something about why we would separate from those who hold the CT position. Yet, even then, I believe that many (perhaps most) hold the CT position out of ignorance, & therefore I am willing to converse & argue & show grace. That was my position at one time, but I did not know any better. I am glad that some men like D. A. Waite were willing to answer my questions in a gracious manner. I would have to say (and this is not an attack, but my personal experience) that I have received far more gracious treatment from the TR men I know that I have from CT men.

Don Johnson said...

Hey, guys, you are missing my point, I think. You may not have read any of my critiques of fundamentalists who are willing to give sops to the other side. I know Kent has, so perhaps he can comment on what I am saying.

And I don't want to distract from Kent's main point here, so I'll leave this alone after this.

My point is simply that there is a tendency to give some kind of grudging acceptance of individuals with whom you disagree if they at least support a point of view that you think is critically important. In the case of the fundamentalists and Driscoll et al, it is the Calvinism of Driscoll and Piper etc that they love, so they are willing to overlook or give some benefit of the doubt. I am asking those of you who are on the KJO side if something of the same kind of thing is going on with Ruckman. You reject Ruckman's methods, language, lifestyle, double inspiration, etc., BUT he at least gives certainty about the text.

Well... so is that a good thing to do?

I think we need to be very clear about Ruckman and not give him any credence whatsoever.

But what you do with that is up to you.

For Kent, do you think I am making sense on this point, or not?

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Eddie Haskell said...

I am posting this anonymously and I hope that everyone here will respect that and leave it that way. I do not want my name tied in any way to Peter Ruckman as a defender of his.

As much as there is to criticize about him and his doctrine I think we should be careful to always deal truthfully even with those that we vigorously disagree with. Truth is still truth and we don't want to be guilty of not speaking truth.

So, I am giving a quote from PS Ruckman himself. The following is from Theological Studies Volume II, Copyright 1998 by Peter S. Ruckman, page 781: "So our position is this: The King James Bible may not claim for itself the original inspiration of God, breathing through the men who spoke when they were copied down by a writer at the time they spoke. However, it can claim to be preserved without proven error in the universal language of the world . . ."

Unless I am missing something this does not sound like "double inspiration" to me.

Just thought this might aid the discussion.

Kent Brandenburg said...


I'm fine with anonymity on certain occasions and I'll give you that, even as you might understand why in certain instances anonymity is bad.

I knew about that Ruckman quote and would be glad to have that be Ruckman's position. The quote itself is something that I do think about from time to time. I haven't actually written a piece that I believe reports what Ruckman himself believes, despite the now terminology, Ruckmanism. However, I have read other direct statements from Ruckman himself that contradict this particular statement in this book, leaving his position more ambiguous than the above supplied quote.

Thanks for referring to the quote, however. I have read Riplinger and others with a clear double inspiration position, so we don't have to pin it on Ruckman. I also tire of the pounding on this issue at the exclusion of other more common ones, as it relates to the Bible (which I'm pointing out in this series).

Anonymous said...

Don Johnson - Well... so is that a good thing to do?

If your question is specifically about whether it is a good thing that Ruckman gives his followers certainty about the text, I'd say "yes." As has been strenuously pointed out above, this in no way constitutes approbation of Ruckman himself, or any of his other positions. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

I think we need to be very clear about Ruckman and not give him any credence whatsoever.

I would agree.

Here's a general question for Pastor Brandenburger, or anyone else as well: Regarding the promise of the preservation of God's Words given in Psalm 12:6-7,

"The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever."

I would understand this to apply to beyond just the "original language manuscripts." For instance, I fully believe that I John 5:7-8 (the Johannine Comma) is Bible, it's as much the Word of God as John 3:16. I also understand that it has very little attestation in the Greek witness. However, it is found in the Vulgate Latin, the Old Latin, and in some of the early Western (i.e. Latin) patristics like Tertullian and Cyprian, indicating that they obviously had it in their Old Latin Bibles as far back as 200 AD. That's as far back as purely empirical evidences will carry us (though, I might add, it is further back than anything that relies up the Critical Text exemplars - Sinaiticus and Vaticanus - can claim). We understand preservation in the English (while, of course, rejecting Ruckman's double inspiration), so wouldn't the same apply for, say, the Old Latin witness as well?

Why the excessive demand that something be in the Greek, or else it's not really real?

Kent Brandenburg said...


I think I answered your comment here in a comment on the first post, so I refer you to that one.

By the way, everyone, the two articles over at Burning Bush are excellent, especially the one by P.S. Ferguson. There are a wealth of quotes in there that are fabulous. He provided the link in his comment.


This is the way I view it. We have the Greek and Hebrew words available, and we look to Mt 5 for that position, because jots and tittles don't refer to the translation. However, I believe that the Holy Spirit can point to the correct Words through a translation, just like He points to the correct books, even though men aren't reading Greek and Hebrew ones. The translations provide evidence of the veracity of the Greek words. That's how I view it. See Dr. Webb's chapter on Mt 5:17ff in Thou Shalt Keep Them ;-).

Joshua said...

I find it curious that when TR men lambast, reject and call for separation from double inspirationists, it only takes one comment comparing the seriousness of their error with the CT position to demonstrate we aren't going far enough…

But stranger still is that men holding the CT position arc up when they are treated in the same manner we treat Ruckmanites. TR folk seem to have a rep for being savagely opposed to error - but now we're being criticised for being (of all things) soft on Ruckman, but too hard on faithless judges of Scripture?

I don't like ranking doctrine, and I don't like ranking errors either. Both are wrong. The CT error is vastly more widespread and damaging, but all false teaching eats like leprosy. They should be hated equally by all believers.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Well stated, Joshua. I think you've nailed it. I've been recently making the point of arguing about the principle over the person, since it's about God. I was comparing the relative silence on unpopular albeit widespread error.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Brandenburger - See Dr. Webb's chapter on Mt 5:17ff in Thou Shalt Keep Them

Is that a book or something? I I always tell my wife, "reading is for sissies." ;)

d4v34x said...

Kent, a couple things, the first two, admittedly, not arguments from scripture.

1. Why does God want us to read his word in a painfully archaic version of our own language? Personally, I can read Shakespeare and Donne and not miss a beat, so KJV language is fine for me. But for my neighbors and coworkers I have to do on the spot translation much of the time anyway just so they know what God is saying to them. Why? And no "His ways are past searching out" either.

2. Why does God want his people to wrestle through painfully bad translation (i.e. certain portions of Proverbs) in even small portions of His Word?

3. What was the epistle from Laodeicea that the church at Colassae was instructed to (presumably copy and) read in Colossians 4? Do we have it today?

Kent Brandenburg said...


This post wasn't about the KJ translation. Or translation philosophy. I'm just making sure that you knew that. On the first point, if people care, they'll know what the KJ says. It hasn't stopped my children. The ease in reading is not as important as the Words from which the translation comes. We start with wanting to have the actual Bible, and then we think about how well it is translated. It sounds like you're just wanting a translation that is easier to understand. The defined King James Version put out by D. A. Waite defines the harder to understand words.

For the second question, I've got to ask a question. Do you know Hebrew? If not, then how would you know that Proverbs is a painfully bad translation? For the sake of answering the question, if you wanted to update some of the words to make it easier for today's audience, the thing that has held that back more than anything is the debate over the text. Textual criticism has cast doubt on what the words are, so that there is a desire to keep the translation just like it is by those who don't want that doubt. Obviously it's already been done in the NKJV, so in a ways with the first two questions you're asking why not use a newer translation from the same text. The NKJV attacks the text behind the KJV, which is not acceptable to those who believe in the doctrine of preservation---that's number one. And then there are other considerations.

Third question, we don't know that we have the epistle to Laodecia. There are several different theories about what that epistle was and whether we still possess it. The fact that we don't know says that it is a non-canonical book.

d4v34x said...

In my view preservation encompasses quality of translation as well as the integrity of the source manuscript, no? If the TR is the only preserved source text, but we get a pretty good, very good, or even highly accurate translation of it, isn't something still lost? I know we have reference works and pastors (and even laymen) versed in Greek and Hebrew to help us with this with this, but unless the translation is 100% accurate from a 100% preserved manuscript, I don't have the complete Word of God in my own language, correct?

Kent Brandenburg said...


We only have a scriptural basis for God preserving what He actually inspired. Of course, I haven't yet dealt with preservation in this series, so we're jumping the gun a little. I have a hard time with the idea that the KJV is a bad translation. Generation upon generation of dedicated, godly preacher, who know the Greek language, has accepted it as a good translation. Nothing is lost in the KJ translation. We've got English words that people don't understand and some phrases that are outdated---that's it.

When you are talking about a translation, you are talking about something that is not absolutely precise. You've often got several correct options. You could have two different translations that are both right. I just preached in Luke 7 on Wed night and in verse 5, the verb, aorist active, is he built, speaking of what the centurion did for the Jews in building a synagogue for them. That's a good translation. However, there is an additional autos, "he," in the verse which makes the "he" emphatic. You could translate it, he himself built and that would be accurate. Do you get what I'm saying? The King James Version is accurate. It's just that men come along and think they are doing a better job now for various reasons.

You can't say that an inaccurate translation means that we don't have preservation. We have the Words preserved in the language in which they are written.

d4v34x said...

Kent, my point is not that the KJV is a bad translation, even though my understanding is that (admittedly small) portions could be translated better.

And obviously you and I would agree that the "several correct options" for translation must be a literal rendering that gives the fullest sense of the original.

You're right about translation and preservation, after I submitted my comment, I thought that through. Obviously there are thousands of languages that as of yet have no translation at all, yet God has preserved His Word.

I look forward to your next post.

Gary Webb said...

Brother Brandenburg,
I am preaching through John's Gospel & plan to preach on the Canon of Scripture this Sunday. The initial text is John 14:25-26. I am amazed at the wealth of material the Scriptures provide for determining the canon, plus the warnings against those who do not receive or seek to edit it. I will probably post this message on our web site: by Monday September 28. I may have to make it in 2 parts: "The mind will not receive what the seat cannot endure."

Anonymous said...

Pastor Brandenburger,

I actually got around to clicking the link and reading Doran's blogspot (I'm assuming he's the one who wrote? His email is the one linked to contact). While I agree with his disagreement with double-inspiration in English, I still think the whole post had a "hysterical" feel to it - and I don't mean in the "ha ha hysterical" sense.

Gary Webb said...

Brother Brandenburg,
To follow up to my previous post about preaching on the canon of Scripture - I did some reading in preparation for that message & was shocked at what I found. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE), which is supposedly one of the most conservative & comprehensive sets available (the old set edited by James Orr) makes out the determination of canonicity to be entirely a human effort. The article on the OT canon starts "The problem of how we came by 39 books known as OT 'Scripture' is a purely historical investigation." The article on NT canonicity states that the early NT writers had absolutely no idea of producing Scripture when they wrote the books of the NT. With such unscriptural pronouncements, it is no wonder that today's "fundamentalists" take a rationalistic approach to the text of God's Word.

PS Ferguson said...

It is interesting when we look at the publications of the self-styled “scholars” of Fundamentalism that most of them are dedicated to attacking the KJV/TR. One of the reasons Neo-Evangelicals like MacArthur are read so widely is because the anti-KJV fundamentalists have failed their generation in producing good expository commentaries. Even the despised John R Rice managed to write 200 books including a number of decent commentaries.

If we take Central Baptist Theological Seminary as a case study to note. Kevin Bauder and Roy Beacham have managed to produce one notable publication between them, One Bible Only? in 2001 which has the sole result of undermining confidence in the saints in the Bible. Pastor Harding says of Kevin Bauder that “may his tribe increase.” Personally, I hope the opposite. I have no doubt Bauder is an educated man by NE standards but to stand at the bematos and have One Bible Only? as the record of his “scholarship” is a frightening prospect. Other faculty members such as Jonathan Pratt, Jeffrey P. Straub, Thomas L. Zempel, and Daniel R. Brown have managed to produce a consistent zero. DBTS is equally inept and myopic in its attacks on the Bible. They can say what they want about DA Waite but he is light years ahead of them in producing non-KJV issue books.

It would be great if CBTS and DBTS would produce something worthwhile for the body of Christ instead of perennially undermining the Scriptures. Jonathan Pratt puts on his blog that KJV/TR advocates are not characteristic of “scholarly fundamentalism” and “an indelible stain on the garments of modern-day fundamentalism.” You would think Pratt has a long publication history of expository scholarly publications after his name to exhibit such hubris! Clearly, he does not do irony!