With no disrespect to Aaron and despite what he writes in his very first line, many fundamentalists and evangelicals don't believe God has preserved His Word, that is, unless "Word" is some generalized concept referring to the Word as a whole, not the very "Words." That is a new development in bibliology. When we talk about what God inspired, it is verbal plenary. If God preserved that, then He preserved all the Words in the order in which He gave them. If not, then I believe we are giving a whole new understanding of "keep" or "preserve." If there is some point to God's Word being individual words, then preservation of God's Word would refer to the preservation of the very Words.
Aaron's second paragraph presents a straw man as it regards the position presented by Thou Shalt Keep Them (TSKT). The book does not assert that the Bible teaches preservation of a "particular manuscript or text." In other words, we don't believe that God's Word teaches that some one single copy, not the original manuscript, wove its way through all of history untainted. We haven't argued for a promise of that. TSKT says that God's Word promises the perfect preservation of every Word and all the Words, that is, what God inspired. That's what God promises in His Word. I would welcome Aaron to show us the passage(s) that teach this "potentially discoverable" form of perfect preservation. Based upon what scripture promises about the preservation of His Word, that wouldn't even be preservation.
Let me illustrate. Let's say that I gave you 100 marbles and I promised to keep or to preserve every one of them for the rest of your life. Twenty years later, you ask for the 100 marbles back. And I say, "Here they are," and hand you a bag with 93 of them. I inform you, "I preserved your marbles." You wouldn't think that I did. You wouldn't call that preservation. No one would. Or let's say that I said, "Here are 93 of the 100 and the other 7 are ‘potentially discoverable.'" No one would think that is preservation or even some legitimate form of preservation. For someone to believe that this represents what God promises in the way of preservation strains credulity.
Aaron mentioned that Moritz and others have examined the preservation passages and come to very similar conclusions as the authors of TSKT did. I don't think so. We may both use the word "preservation" or both say "God has preserved His Word," but we mean something very different when we say that. Aaron says that our side "obscure[s] the real issues in the debate and attempt[s] to frame it in a way that heavily favors [our] view." Wow. I thought we were just exposing what scripture said about preservation, what I would hope that Aaron and other believers would think is a good thing. I would want to know how we obscure the real issues. And I would wonder what he thinks "the real issues" are. I never got any specifics from his article, just the accusation.
If someone takes a position that differs from Scripture or that contradicts what God's Word teaches, from where should we say that he has received his view? If it not biblical teaching, isn't it concocted by men. Aren't those men influenced by something extra-scriptural? If God's Word teaches something and we refuse to believe it, are we believing or unbelieving in that instance? I think we know the answer. From where does unscriptural teaching originate? It has to come from somewhere and I think it isn't hard to demonstrate that it comes from rationalism or humanism. We have orthodox doctrine in the Bible and then in history. If some new doctrine originates, it isn't unusual to investigate what caused the new doctrine. Since it isn't the Bible, we could show how that rationalism or humanism were involved. That's easy to do with the modern "science" of textual criticism.
Aaron professes that the scriptural doctrine of man's fallibility somehow guarantees that man will fail at preserving His Words. Based on that assertion, he should also conclude that we have no guarantee of perfection in the original manuscripts either, since man wrote those. Of course, he says that inspiration is different in that God guarantees perfection for inspiration, that God superintended inspiration in a way that would give us every Word and all of them. But not in preservation. Why not? The Bible says enough for us to conclude supernatural intervention in both inspiration and preservation.
TSKT didn't say that there wouldn't be errors made in copying. It did say that supernatural, divine intervention would result in the preservation and availability of every Word for every generation of believers. This is another straw-man in Aaron's arguments.
For several paragraphs, Aaron uses man's fallibility and the scripture that teaches it as a basis for saying that we don't have every Word. I agree with the doctrine Aaron fleshes out from the verses he uses (he especially illustrates it by misspelling my name throughout the presentation—"Brandenberg" instead of "Brandenburg"). I disagree with his application to preservation. God promised perfect preservation and accessibility. God's Word, God's promises, and God's power can always overcome man's fallibility.
What is ironic about this section is that this is the very basis for a presuppositional apologetic that buttresses the point of TSKT. We've got to trust that God would do what He said He would do. We assume He would. We look to see How He did. Because of our sin, we need supernatural interceding. God's Word tells us what to believe, not external evidence, which we should assume is spoiled and that man cannot interpret because of His sinfulness. This blows away the critical text and its rejection of theological presuppositions, saying that sinful man must allow external evidence to lead him to "the truth." Man doesn't discover revelation because of his sinfulness. Discovery and revelation are by nature mutually exclusive.
An unsustainable leap in Aaron's presentation occurs in this statement: "Our understanding of inspiration and preservation must account for what Scripture reveals about believers' propensity to err and sin." We all agree that man sins, but this does not change what God says He will do through the church, because God is sustaining that effort in a supernatural way. That's why we have promises of preservation and inspiration. What Aaron chooses to believe on this is something I've never read in anything—it is brand new doctrine—not found anywhere else in history, an occurrence that didn't seem to matter at all to the SharperIron audience, as long as what he wrote fit their previous thinking.
Aaron then takes this same point of fallibility and applies it to what all of Israel or an entire church does, regardless of what God said He would do. A good parallel here is that we are working out our salvation (Philippians 2:12) because God is working in us (Philippians 2:13). We're not saved or preserved or kept because of our power, but because of the power of God (1 Peter 1:5). No man can pluck us out of His hand (John 10:28-29). In the same way, God will reveal "all" of His truth to His own (John 16:13). The church is working out preservation, but God is guaranteeing it by His power. Because God commands a church to "hold fast," does that mean that a church could possibly not hold fast, even though they are regenerate? That's an assumption that Aaron seems to be making in his attempt to buttress this novel point that he makes. He says the church was capable of slipping and failing, when Scripture tells that Christ is able to keep us from falling. Are we to hold fast? Yes. But is He holding fast to us? Yes.
Aaron writes this, conceding a major point made in TSKT:
That they were given the responsibility of keeping and declaring the words of God (Brandenberg, [sic] 100) is not in dispute. But they were given many other responsibilities as well, and ultimately failed to execute any of them perfectly.
A major point of Aaron's whole first offering on preservation was that the "how" was sharply disputed. Here he says that the "how" is not in dispute. Despite the fact that Aaron did not admit that he had been persuaded on this point, I accept the admission that the "how" of preservation is no longer in dispute with him. He has accepted Scripture as to the "how" of preservation. God used His church. I congratulate Aaron for this concession. Perhaps others will follow in conceding that the church is the means of preservation, the "how" that is so often denied.
Aaron uses the oft cited example of the single copy left preserved and surviving in the temple in the Old Testament as a basis of a failure of preservation. I have never been able to wrap my brain around how that proves a point for the other side. It doesn't disagree with anything else in Scripture about preservation. The copy was still in Israel's temple both preserved by Israel and by God. If there was one copy remaining, that indicates preservation like only one possible heir in the line of Christ proves the continuation of the line of Christ. Someone may need to help me to understand how this doesn't only hurt those who are attempting to say that there was a failure in preservation, and that this proves that.
Concerning inspiration, Aaron says that God acted directly on the writers of Scripture as they spoke and wrote. I agree with that. Doesn't John 16:13 say that God would guide His own into all truth? The church has believed this, counted on this teaching, and used it as a basis for believing in a sixty-six book canon. God would make manifest to His own what His Words were. The very Holy Spirit who moved upon men in inspiration also could and did guide them in canonicity and preservation. We must believe in this principle as a basis for a certain, sixty-six book canon. That too is a miracle of God's providence.
We have a strong scriptural basis for believing in a word perfect Bible in the promise of not one jot or one tittle passing from God's law in Matthew 5:18. Jesus in Matthew 24:35 said that His Words would never pass away. The standard for Scripture is perfection (Psalm 12:6). John gave the standard of not one word being added to or taken away from the settled text (Revelation 22:18-19). You can't take away or add to a text that isn't settled. We should assume that God would testify to the very Words that He inspired so that those would always be available for His people (Isaiah 59:21; Matthew 4:4).
The reason why there are no preservation statements that parallel inspiration statements is because inspiration and preservation are two different activities of God. Men were not "moved" by the Holy Spirit in preservation of the already inspired text, but they would be guided by the Holy Spirit to it. God also promised that every Word would be available. We should assume that it would be.
Aaron ended by saying that future articles would explore whether God has "enabled fallible human beings to make error-free copies of His Word." Again, this is a straw-man. God promises every Word and all Words. There is no promise of a man making an error free copy. That should not hold anyone back from believing what the passages do teach, which still lead us to believe in a perfect, preserved text of scripture.
What we have here is a matter of faith. Abraham did not see and yet believed. He did not stagger in unbelief despite the lack of evidence. He believed God's Words. We should believe the promises of God for preservation like we believe the even fewer passages that teach inspiration. Here's the catch though. A Bart Ehrman knows what Scripture says about preservation. He believes it. When he begins seeing the textual variants, he staggers in unbelief and ejects from Christianity. He couldn't believe in a miracle of providence. Others know of textual variants and they just change what Scripture teaches and what the church had believed. Do you see what has happened? Men are reacting to sight and not living by faith. One rejects Scripture altogether and the other changes its meaning. Both are faithless moves. Let us gird up our loins as men and be strong.