Thursday, January 21, 2010

Answering the SharperIron Article on Preservation part two

Aaron Blumer in his article, Preservation: How and What?, finishes with this line: "Divine authority cannot be properly claimed for either position." We came to know the two positions to which he refers as those he titled "discrete preservation" and "dispersed preservation." Aaron concludes that there is no Divine authority, and by that he means scriptural authority, for the "how" and "what" of the preservation of Scripture in both positions. I agree that there is no biblical basis to the "how" and "what" of dispersed preservation. But we can see where the dispersed position came from anyway---not from scripture but from the influence of post-enlightenment rationalism. The question becomes: does the Bible guide us to the criteria by which we will know what are all of God's Words? I say yes. The church has said yes.

Aaron repeats the mantra of the eclectic and critical text, that is, the Bible tells us that it was preserved but it doesn't say what or how. It's been repeated so many times that now many think that it is fact. We have showed this to be wrong in our book Thou Shalt Keep Them. We spent a whole section of the book revealing what the Bible says about "how." No one has refuted that section. It's solid exegesis. I understand that the "what" might seem trickier, but it also playing around the fringes of neo-orthodoxy. How do we know "what" the Bible is anyway? Why do we believe we have sixty-six books? This comes down to epistemology, that is, how do we know what what we know? I've talked a lot about that on this blog, especially in a five part series you can find by searching the sidebar on the right.

How the world resolves its disagreements in ordinary affairs is to look at observable evidence and see whose hypothesis is verified. The world would say that a naturalistic explanation is necessary to say something is the truth. What the world calls foolishness is the wisdom of God. Some of the most fundamental beliefs we hold are not determined by evidence as the world knows it. The world does not acept the evidence that believers hold, for instance, for justification by faith. Believers will accept as knowledge actions and circumstances that are outside the scope of man's experience. We have a transcendent and all-powerful God Who intervenes in the universe and peforms miracles that cannot be explained by the ordinary principles of man's experience. This is where believers rely upon the Word of God as a basis for their faith.

Our knowledge is not dependent upon empirical means. Some of what we believe, we do because of a presuppositional worldview that believes what God says in denial of empiricism. The two views that Aaron represents in his piece at their root represent, at least in this one doctrine, two worldviews. One starts with Scripture and uses it to lead him to the truth. The other starts with human observation, what he calls evidence, and let's that lead him to the truth. One knows by faith in God's promises. The other knows by empirical evidence.


God explains how His Words were preserved in both the Old and New Testaments. This is where you would be helped to do a study of the Hebrew words natsar and shamar, which are translated "keep," "guard," and "preserve," and the Greek word tareo, which means the same. What we see from a study of these Words, which are found many times, is that God takes responsibility for keeping His Words, but He used His institutions of Israel (Rom 3:2) and the church to do it. This is one reason why the church is called "the pillar and ground of the truth" in 1 Timothy 3:15. Jesus deposited His Words with the church (John 17:8) with the responsibility of keeping them.

The point of Israel and the churches keeping God's Words explains in a major way what we should be looking for in the realm of preservation. In that way, it also relates to the question of "what." What did the churches agree were God's Words? I've found that eclectic text people have no problem accepting the books that churches have handed down as canonical. And Scripture does not tell us how many books that we were supposed to accept. That alone, I believe, blows away the "what" question as considered by Aaron in his article.

So we ask ourselves, what did the churches keep? They were given God's Words as their stewardship and we should assume that they also had the means of getting the job accomplished. The churches received a certain text and rejected a certain text. This is how God said that He would preserve His Word, so we should allow that truth to lead us in our understanding of what He preserved.

Is it possible for churches to have come upon a new doctrine and progressed in their knowledge of preservation? No. A new doctrine will not be a true one. Churches have believed the truth. We will be able to find the truth about preservation in history because this is how God preserves the truth---through the church. So Christian men did not advance in their bibliology or in their means of assessing what God's Words were in the late nineteenth century. No, this was a deparature from the truth already established. Have there been any advances in doctrinal knowledge? We can better understand eschatological passages than what we once knew as we get closer to their fulfillment (cf. Dan 12:4). We are not experiencing an advance in bibliological doctrine with the science of textual criticism.

When we look at what the church says about the doctrine of preservation, it has taken the position of perfect preservation. It has believed that God would truly guide His people into all truth. They have assumed that when a mistake was made in a hand copy (a variant) that it would be corrected in another. God would lead His churches to all of His Words. If God would expect us to live by every Word, then it would follow that every Word would be available (Matt 4:4). Their position, guided by their scriptural presuppositions, was that they would have every Word because of the impossibility of the contrary. It was impossible that we would not have a perfect Bible. Mistakes in God's Word are not an acceptable alternative. It is not a position to which God has lead us in His Word.


This will be in part three.


Claymore said...

Well written: I look forward to part three.

Anonymous said...

Do you have any more copies in your

church book store? or would my

best be Amazon or Challenge Press?

Jeff Voegtlin said...

Through faith we understand...

Gary Webb said...

Thanks for your patient proclamation of these truths.
After I had been taught the eclectic/critical text position [but never had the received text position explained] and had served in the pastorate for about 6 years, I began a study of the Bible on this subject that took the same path that you are laying out.
It is my prayer that there will be others who will be willing to consider what the Bible teaches & then judge righteous judgment on this subject (John 7:24).

Aaron B. said...

Hi, Kent. Just wanted to note that I'm planning to write a part 2 that will interact with "Thou Shalt Keep Them" (which I am about half way through now) as well as points you raise here. Just have to read the next several parts in your series and do some assimilating.