Here is my answer to the Aaron Blumer article on SharperIron, entitled, Preservation: How and What? I say thanks to Aaron, who is also Pastor Blumer of Grace Baptist Church of Boyceville, Wisconsin. I respect him for going at this issue. And I mean no disrespect in saying that he misses it in a big way because he does not represent what has occurred with the doctrine of preservation. And I don't mean this in a bad manner either, when I say this is a bit like talking to a Catholic about transubstantiation, who hasn't really interacted with the exegesis. The Catholic thinks transubstantiation really is the original position on the Lord's Table. I want to use this illustration in one other way. Aaron presents the preservation issue as if there are these two positions on preservation. It is like someone saying there are two positions on the Lord's Table: transubstantiation and then elements as symbols. Please don't take this as ad hominem. It isn't intended at all that way. I believe this an apt parallel though. The one good thing, I would always hope, that is different between those reading this, and even Aaron doing so, and a Catholic, is that the Roman Catholic sees the tradition as authority. You can show him Scripture and he won't budge. I've had those discussions. But we would think that genuine believers would respect the authority of the Bible on a subject and always put that above tradition, feelings, and even science.
Aaron presents two views of preservation. In doing so, he says that both sides believe in preservation of Scripture, and that neither knows what the Bible teaches about the how and the what of preservation. He says that both sides in the end are left with educated guesses about the how and the what. He seems to prefer the second sort of educated guess, which happens to be textual criticism, guesses educated by forensic science in that case. I don't believe that the second view is preservation of Scripture. It isn't how the Bible presents it, which I will talk about later. And I don't think that the first view is a guess at all, any more than we're guessing when we say that we have sixty-six books of the Bible.
Aaron goes through several preservation texts, which is the right thing to do, to see what the Bible says about its own preservation. He does miss a few good ones. But he concludes in so many words from looking at several references that speak of preservation that God has indeed preserved every one of His Words for people to use. That is a lofty conclusion for many evangelicals and fundamentalists. Many wouldn't want to be caught saying that. For instance, Daniel Wallace doesn't believe that Scripture says what Blumer concludes in his article.
The article by Aaron, however, has two major problems. One is that it provides no historical context, and two, the Bible really does say how and what. I'll explain both.
NO HISTORICAL CONTEXT
The first one, not giving historical context, is what provides the most trouble. The right position is the biblical position, but then it is also the historic position. There is no doubt that what Aaron calls the discrete view is the historic position. You won't find the other position, what he calls dispersed preservation, until you get to the 19th century. I have long believed that we first go to the Bible to get our doctrine and then we check on history to find out what men believed. If a new position comes on the scene, it should overturn the already established position with some very convincing exegesis of the Bible on the doctrine. We don't have that with the dispersed view. What originated the "dispersed view" was post-enlightenment rationalism in the form of the "science" of textual criticism. Textual criticism says to look to the external evidence to find out where it leads you, not at all affected by theological presuppositions. That has not been the position of the church. When I have presented the historical doctrine of the church, I have never had anyone deny it was the historic position. When I have argued with some of the most notable men in the field of the text of Scripture, they do not deny that converted men have taken the position that Aaron calls the discrete view.
From what I read, and I have read a lot about this, a vast majority of evangelicals and fundamentalists do not know the history of the doctrine of preservation of Scripture. True believers have always believed the view that I also take. It is the one that Scripture teaches. I think Aaron is referring to that view as discrete preservation. The fact that he gives it his own name seems to surely indicate that he has not interacted with the history of the doctrine. With the emphasis that Kevin Bauder and Central puts on history and scholarship, one would think that the students there would learn the historic view on preservation. I haven't read anywhere that would lead me to believe that they have. What I do read, that is written by them and their comrades, is that the history of preservation begins in the late 19th century. That's where we start in their history. That, of course, is also the time that evolution evolved, theological liberalism began to bloom, and what Bauder calls "proto-fundamentalism" got started.
Much of God's Word in Our Hands and God's Word Preserved (latter by Michael Sproul), two recent "dispersed position" presentations, quote almost entirely historic fundamentalists to defend their position as historic. I'm afraid that these men really do believe that they have presented the historic position on preservation when they quote mainly fundamentalists (what Sproul calls "our fundamentalist fathers," I guess to add authority to their words). Any real historian, like Richard Muller, I think, would be amused or even chuckle at the "history" to which these men refer (again I recommend for historic purposes, Muller's second volume in his Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, titled: Holy Scripture: The Cognitive Foundation of Theology). James White in his King James Version Debate doesn't even attempt to present the historic doctrine of preservation. Many of these men treat the doctrine of preservation as if it began with the textual critics and found its apex in Bruce Metzger of mid 20th century Princeton.
If anyone is going to say that there are two views, he ought to tell us where those two views came from. He should be required to do that. Usually someone, any scholar, any preacher, must do that. The first view, which Aaron doesn't represent correctly (I'll show how later), comes from Scripture and has evidence in the history of Christian doctrine. The second view does not have a historic basis. It started in the 19th century, which, by the way, was also the time that a lot of false theological beliefs were concocted. We should expect that the old position would be overturned by excellent, in-depth exegesis. It wasn't. We still do not get exegesis as a basis for the critical text or eclectic text position. That's why there isn't a major foundational difference between what we hear from James White and Bart Ehrman in the debate. On most of their fundamental points, they agree. Neither of them rely on scriptural presuppositions to come to their views on preservation.
When I ask for a scriptural presentation for the preservation position of those taking this "dispersed preservation" view, they don't have one. They only have criticism of the "discrete preservation." And it takes on a scorched earth type of argumentation. They usually try almost every avenue possible to discredit the scriptural and historic position. They did not and do not start with the Bible to come to their own view.
So Aaron presents two views. My problem is that the second one shouldn't be considered legitimate. It didn't start with a doctrine of preservation. Aaron Blumer deals with passages of scripture, but the dispersed preservation position itself started with a denunciation of the doctrine of preservation with the idea of overturning the historical position to make room for textual criticism. There is where I find it akin to saying there are two views on the Lord's Table: transubstantiation and symbolism. There aren't two views. We shouldn't exalt transubstantiation by giving it the status of a legitimate position. I say the same about the second position, the "dispersed preservation" view. Roman Catholic dogma has been influenced through the centuries by various external sources of rationalism and mysticism. A return to biblical doctrine for many in Europe in the 16th century was mockingly called fideism by Roman Catholic authority. Romanism considered theirs a groundless faith without the aid of reason that they had embraced. Doctrines like transubstantiation are not fideistic.
Is what I write above true? Yes, it is. Why isn't there more interaction about this? Not many men will even talk about it. The few that do will attempt to read textual criticism into statements made by Francis Turretin or extrapolate the science of textual criticism into the work of Erasmus. This is not telling the story. It is more scrambling to attempt to explain why they don't have a history. One would think that men who have truth on their side would be glad to discuss this. They won't. They certainly do not want to hear that they have a view read into the historic confessions to make room for post-enlightenment rationalism. What I have found is that they simply mock the historical view. And that is acceptable as discussion. They say it is just a silly translation issue for which they have no time. Certain pressures come upon evangelicals and fundamentalists that tie them to an eclectic or critical text and modern versions. And those who believe the biblical and historical position today are marginalized and dismissed in some fashion like believers in a Catholic inquisition.
I will finish this very soon. In the next post I will talk about the problems he has in representing the discrete position. By misrepresenting this view, a strawman is erected. Again, stay tuned.