Thursday, May 27, 2010

Canonicity: How Does It Work?

In the comment section here at What Is Truth, someone recently wrote these statements:

I have a few a priori beliefs. They include: God exists, He has revealed Himself to us in the Bible (which consists of the 66 books we have today). . . . . As for the canonicity question, I'm unlikely to ever go into in much detail. Here's the short version: for me, the belief that the 66 books we have constitute God's inspired word is a priori. It is one of the givens I build all my other doctrine on. Is perfect text preservation an a priori for you?

I want to frame this correct. I'm taking it from part of what he stated: "the belief that the 66 books we have constitute God's inspired word is a priori." Before we can even understand the nature of this belief, we have to understand what a priori is all about. Before we explore that portion of this consideration, I would first agree that a belief in God is a priori. Why do I believe that? Because that's what the Bible says. Romans 1:18 says that unbelievers "hold the truth in unrighteousness," that is, they suppress the truth. The next verse (v. 19) goes on to say that God has already shown Himself to them. And, of course, they just suppress that truth rather than receive it. So I agree with this commenter about an a priori belief in the existence of God.

A Priori and A Posteriori

A priori is a Latin phrase, of course, and it denotes the foundations upon which something can be known. It is in contrast to a posteriori, the latter something knowable on the basis of experience. A priori is known independent of experience. Someone who believes something a priori would necessarily have some reason to justify that something is true that is not derived from experience. When we say "experience" we don't mean only the experience of the one knowing. For instance, I don't have to experience the distance from the sun in order to know or believe that it is 93 million miles from the earth. I can depend on others' measurements, their experience, in order to know this to be true. This is not a priori knowledge.

Scriptural doctrine is not a priori knowledge. Believers rightly consider the Bible to be sufficient empirical evidence for faith and practice. So we should consider legitimate arguments from God's Word as a categorically reliable experience for justifying a proposition.

A claim that one knows or believes a particular proposition a priori, like the existence of a 66 book canon of Scripture, without having any epistemic reason of support, is and should be susceptible to very serious skepticism. It is not enough simply to claim that we have a 66 book canon---that is akin to sheer guesswork. One is obliged to shed some light on the reliability of the proposition of a 66 book canon. The absence of experience or rational insight does not insist nor should it encourage a priori argumentation.

Lines of Reasoning

Two major lines of reasoning have dominated the argument about the canonicity of Scripture---what are now referred to as a Roman Catholic view and a Protestant view. Both actually make their argument from the Bible. The Protestants have criticized the Roman Catholics for their circular reasoning, which goes something like this: the Bible says that the church sustains and safeguards Scripture, so the church determines which books are canonical. With this attack on circularity, the Protestants must defend against their own. The Protestants wished also to affirm the Bible as what ruled their belief about the Bible, maintaining sole scriptura as the source of authority.

Richard Muller in his Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics refers to the work of Dutch Protestant Leonard Van Rijssen in his Summa Theologiae Elencticae Completa (1692). Muller explains and translates (pp. 387-388):

In the first case, Scripture itself demonstrates by its marks or qualities "such as light and splendor," that it is worthy of belief; in the second, it is the Spirit who, as noted in Luke 24:45, "opened" the understanding of the disciples, and who, by implication, opens the understanding of believers to the truth of the Scriptures; in the third, it is the church, used by God in the preservation and communication of the truths of Scripture. If, therefore, Scripture is said to be proven worthy of belief by the Spirit, the statement refers to the Spirit as the efficient cause of the belief. If, however, we ask on what ground we believe that the Spirit testifying within us is the Holy Spirit, the answer is that we know by the marks of the Spirit revealed in Scripture. As for the objective authority of Scripture, it is to be grounded on the Scripture itself, understood as self-authenticating. Nor, comments Riissen, does it hold against the Protestant argument to claim that the church is the authority that indicates which books are canonical and which are not---for John the Baptist indicated the identity of the Messiah, but the Messiah's authority surely did not rest on John the Baptist!---"it is one thing to discern and declare the canon, quite another to constitute it and make it authentic."

Rijssen makes a strong argument for an a posteriori belief in canonicity. The church does not have authority over Scripture any more than John the Baptist had authority over Jesus. The church identifies the canon and John the Baptist identifies Jesus. Rijssen also debunks the idea that church acceptance and recognition are church authority (in contradiction to such modern writers such as Ridderbos, who advocate a priori belief in a sixty-six book canon). The church doesn't have authority over Scripture, but Scripture itself provides that basis for its own canonicity. Believers will be guided by the Spirit to the authoritative New Testament books. Muller also refers (p. 394) to Musculus (born in 1497), 1560 work, Loci Communes Sacrae Theologiae on canonicity:

[T]he apocryphal or "hidden" books belong outside of the canon, inasmuch as they contain common teachings arising from "the spirit of man" more than from the Spirit of God---and they also include "some points not fully in agreement with the canonical Scriptures."

The Callican Council of 1559 was the first Protestant council of the French Protestants. In their Gallican Confession, they wrote:

We know these books to be canonical, and the utterly certain rule of our faith, not so much by the universal agreement and consent of the church as by the testimony and the inward persuasion of the Holy Spirit, who enables us to discern them from other churchly books.

His "theological attainments" procured Edward Leigh a seat in the Westminster Assembly, one of which was his five volume A Treatise of the Divine Promises (1633). He wrote (pp. 42-43):

From the Divine flows the Canonical authority of the Scripture. The books of Scripture are called Canonical books . . . . because they were put into the Canon by the Universal Church.

Of course, those who read here know I don't support the doctrine of the universal church as Leigh did, but the point is the same in that saints recognized that the Holy Spirit guided believers to accept the Canonical Books, something they were continuing to do in the 17th century. For this to be an merely a priori as our commenter asserted, it would seem that would have received no further attention past the first few centuries.

In something more modern (1984), Brevard S. Childs, in his The New Testament as Canon: An Introduction, wrote (p. 33):

It is hard to escape the impression that the later expositions of the criteria of canonicity were, in large part, after-the-fact explanations of the church's experience of faith in Jesus Christ which were evoked by the continued use of certain books.

Roger Nicole wrote a title to an entire section of his article in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society in June 1997 (p. 204):

The Witness of the Holy Spirit Given Corporately to God's people and Made Manifest by a Nearly Unanimous Acceptance of the NT Canon in Christian Churches

Nicole continues then:

There is a notable parallel here with the establishment of the OT canon. God entrusted his OT oracles to the Jews (Rom 3:2), and they were providentially guided in the recognition and preservation of the OT. Jesus and the apostles confirmed the rightness of their approach while castigating their attachment to a tradition that was superimposed on the Word of God (Matt 15:1–20; Mark 7:1–23). God entrusted his NT oracles to his people in the churches, and they are nearly unanimous in the recognition of the NT canon. . . . The consensus of churches on the NT is an index and evidence of the Holy Spirit’s guidance. The Holy Spirit is the moving authoritative force.

Keith A. Matheson wrote recently (2001) in his book The Shape of Sola Scriptura (p. 319):

But although the Church is a fallible authority, [scriptural teaching] does not assert that this fallible Church cannot make inerrant judgments and statements. In fact, in the case of the canon of the New Testament, adherents of [scriptural teaching] would confess that the fallible Church has made an inerrant judgment. But do we believe this because a particular Church tells us so? No, we believe this because of the witness of the Holy Spirit, which was given corporately to all God's people and has been made manifest by a virtually unanimous receiving of the same New Testament canon in all of the Christian churches. This is not an appeal to subjectivism because it is an appeal to the corporate witness of the Spirit to whole communion of saints. The Holy Spirit is the final authority, not the Church through which He bears witness and to which He bears witness.

Saying You "Just Believe" There Are 66 Books
A Priori

Why do you believe there are 66 Books in the Bible and not 65 or 67? "I just do." Do you have a reason? "No. My faith is a priori in the case of 66 Books like it is with my belief in the existence of God." Faith a priori in the existence of God, as we established before in Romans 1, is a belief taught in Scripture. To say that our faith in 66 Books is the same would be the same as my saying that I know a priori that the physical ark of the covenant, that was carried by Israel in the wilderness, still physically exists. We don't just "know" that there are 66 Books without any kind of previously written basis for that.

To know the 66, we know that based on something that occurred before. We had Scripture that would provide the criteria. There is Scripture with which to compare. There is the Holy Spirit, who indwells us, because we heard Scripture, who testifies to us. This is not a priori faith. This faith comes from evidence (Hebrews 11:1-3).

Verses from Scripture to Consider

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.

John 17:17---Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

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.

1 Corinthians 2:14-16---But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.

1 John 5:6---And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth.

How It Works with Books

The Holy Spirit wrote all the Books. The Holy Spirit knows what the Books are. He knows there are 66. He knows which 66 are the right 66. The Holy Spirit also indwells all believers. The Holy Spirit leads and guides believers. That is the Holy Spirit working through them. It is the Holy Spirit doing good through them. As the Books are completed, the Person of the Holy Spirit tells believers what His Books are. By means of believers' agreement, by means of their recognition of which Books are actually God's Books, believers know what are His Books. This is not believers having authority over God's Books, but God the Holy Spirit having authority over His believers.

At times since believers agreed on what the right, correct Books were, the 66 and which 66, the right 66 have been challenged. Some have said there are others that are Books in addition to those 66. Some have said that some of the 66 are not actually right and correct. Because of these challenges, believers have continued to agree and recognize which 66 were the right and correct 66. These challenges have occurred in every century. Believers have kept agreeing and recognizing through the Holy Spirit working in and through them in order to sustain or maintain those 66 right and correct Books.

How It Works with Words

Just to start, the Bible itself, the evidence, the experience, believers need (a posteriori), says something about guidance to Words and reception of Words for believers. The Bible doesn't even say anything per se about Books regarding canonicity. It does say something about Words. However, within the more detailed guidance of the Holy Spirit of believers to Words, He will also guide to Books. If someone is not going to question Books, then He should not question Words, because Words are where the guidance and preservation and sustaining actually are. With that in mind, the following is how it works.

The Holy Spirit wrote all the Words. The Holy Spirit knows what the Words are. He knows the exact ones because He wrote them and He knows everything. He knows which Words are the right Words. The Holy Spirit also indwells all believers. The Holy Spirit leads and guides believers. That is the Holy Spirit working through them. It is the Holy Spirit doing good through them. As the Words are completed, the Person of the Holy Spirit tells believers what His Words are. By means of believers' agreement, by means of their recognition of which Words are actually God's Words, believers know what are His Words. This is not believers having authority over God's Words, but God the Holy Spirit having authority over His believers.

At times since believers agreed on what the right, correct Words were, the exact number of Words and which Words, the right Words have been challenged. Some have said there are others that are Words in addition to those Words. Some have said that some of the Words are not actually right and correct. Because of these challenges, believers have continued to agree and recognize which Words were the right and correct Words. These challenges have occurred in every century. Believers have kept agreeing and recognizing through the Holy Spirit working in and through them in order to sustain or maintain those right and correct Words.


Some might say, "Well, God will lead to Books, but He won't lead to Words." Or, "Believers can know what the Books are, but they can't obviously know what the Words are." Why? God gave the exact Words to individual men and we trust that. Some will say, it is not a matter of whether He is able, but whether Scripture says what He would do. But those same people will say that there are 66 Books. Why? How do they know that?

The same Spirit indwells every believer and all believers. Their testimony to the Words of Scripture are powerful. What they have done should be considered. God's Word is perfect. God's Word is complete. God inspired individual Words for believers to live by. Let's trust the Lord to guide us into all truth, into all the Words that He inspired. The position I'm explaining here is the position that has been taken by believers. We read it in history during the 17th century and since where we have much record of what Bible-believers said and wrote. This is no private interpretation. God is pleased by faith. May He continue to be honored by ours today.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Myth of ECx Internalism and Grace

During the 1970s a common and then continuing practice began in which churches dropped their denominational name for some non-descript, generic one. For instance, Calvary Baptist Church would become Calvary Community Church or just Calvary Church. This related mainly to two different issues. First, research showed that the general public had negative feelings about certain denominational titles, like Baptist. Going to a "Baptist" church might associate people with doctrines they didn't want others to think they held. People were less likely to come and visit if others knew they were visiting a Baptist church, for instance. These evangelical churches (EC) wanted to take away the stigma they saw that came with a denominational name. Second, denominational titles related to dogmatic church traditions. The EC didn't want their constituency to think they would have to follow certain traditional practices---men wearing a shirt, tie, and even suit or sport coat, women wearing dresses or skirts, the stately, formal, slow organ music, hard, intimidating church buildings, and then the prohibition of social taboos like dancing, the movie theater, and moderate alcohol drinking. The new title would mark a relinquishing of the old rules.

A big part of the explanation by the EC was that they had had an advantage in an emphasis on the internals and grace. Their Christianity wouldn't obsess on externals and so they would have better Christians, even if they didn't look like mom and dad's Christianity. Their people would not be burdened by the standards and rules of their forefathers, and so they would be more authentic. Part of the paradigm was the pastor dressing down with the casual shirt and facial hair that would signal the new graciousness. Out went the stodgy organ for the drums and the guitar. Goodbye to the song leader and hello to the worship team. The auditorium was not the sanctuary any longer, but the "center." The church buildings were now the campus. New terms replaced the old terms in order to signal the change.

Since the seventies, the EC does not remain monolythic. You've got different varieties of this same motif. Now you'll see the rock band EC with the trap set right in the middle of their "stage." You have the short sermon (30 min) with plenty of comedic material, with monthly series pulling from the Beatles and U2. The pastor, like, relates. Some EC like to spice up their hard-core reformed doctrine with some gutter langugae. In certain cases, a more conservative EC has shucked most of the cultural distinctions that Christianity held, but they major on expositional sermons that are, however, short on the precise applications that "step on any toes." "Stepping on toes" is a no-no at an EC. There are those who haven't changed the name from the denominational one, but they have most of the other trappings of the EC. Some have moved in some eclectic music into their main services, majoring on traditional hymns, but their youth and singles departments have picked up on the "Christian" rock, rap, and jazz. Perhaps concerned about the perception of worldliness, they hide their fads and pragmatism in the teen and twenty-something groups.

The new trend is "the gospel." You may say, "But wait a minute, that's good right?" It sounds good to say that you are gospel-centered. If you look at this a little deeper, however, you find that the gospel becomes an excuse for the acceptance of worldliness. They don't want anything to get in the way of their exposure of grace. Grace, grace, grace, and more grace. And then "unity." The gospel unifies those with differences on the "non-essentials." You sprinkle infants? That's OK as long as you believe "the gospel." We'll get together. You speak in tongues? Not going to be a problem because of your "gospel-centeredness."

Part of the point with the new emphasis on the gospel is a reaction to standards that churches once held and practiced. They "didn't smoke or chew or run around with those that do," so, of course, they were just painting on their Christianity. It was mostly a fraud and the EC can give documentation for this. And evangelicals still do on their myriad blog sites, showing how that the churches that said no to movies, no to alcohol consumption, no to immodest dress, or no to pants on women, that these were all just a replacement for authentic Christianity. Oh, and they were a big joke too. Ha, ha, ha. They just didn't get it! What a bunch of loons!

Do you see the obsession of EC with externals? It's not that they aren't emphasizing externals. They've just lowered their standards. Having lower standards doesn't make someone a better Christian. Being more like the world in the way that you sound, the way you look, the way you talk, and the way you act---which EC definitely are since they made this break---doesn't mean that you are more internal or more gracious. There is a point that right wing externals can be painted. Christians can fake it. They can find out what the correct codes are and fit into them. But the left wing externals can do the same. The difference, as I see it, is that the left wing is easier than the right. You can fit more easily into the world by dropping or lowering considerably the standards.

The Pharisees weren't just about adding to Scripture. They also were into extreme reductionism, that is, limiting the teachings of God to the few essentials. They would relegate the law to the greatest of the commandments. Both ways still can concentrate on the externals to the exclusion of the internals, the real you on the inside.

Lowering the standards hasn't made EC more spiritual. It hasn't made them more authentic. All it has done is made their churches more worldly. The flesh loves the lower standards. They're easier. They are more genuine in a sense. Yes. The people love the world and so they don't have to fake that any more. But they also think they are more spiritual because they aren't faking it? Come on. Just because someone can put on his hip-hop gear for church doesn't mean that he loves the Lord more. That's the lie of modern EC. It's a heinous lie that uses the gospel to excuse worldliness.

So today we see church leaders touting movies and rock music. They don't prevent mixed swimming, women and men frollicking in the water, barely dressed. They don't stop anyone from drinking alcohol, because it's not just OK in moderation, but "a great blessing." And all of it is explained by "the gospel." This is what "the gospel" has done for them. And they don't judge each other in these matters, because they believe in "unity."

I know of a situation right now of fairly conservative EC. Under the leadership of their pastor, they changed the name of their church to the popular generic title. This was key. He tore off the tie for the polo shirt. He grew the facial hair. This EC brought in the drums and the guitars. In other words, the church took on the typical externals of the EC. They showed how important externals were to them, how pivotal they were.

The pastor of this EC got his hip worship leader. They were friends. They were close. They saw each other close up. This same younger man also took the leadership of the youth. All of this was, of course, so authentic and so genuine. And oh so internal. But all the young youth and music man did was fit into the new lower standards. It was easier. It was more fun. And he and his wife became the white wine experts and consumers of the movies. The grace and liberty were exhilarating. They were married with several children, close to the pastor, and he was having extra-marital relations with multiple other women. And this was all during this authentic time of genuineness at the very internal EC. Now this thirty something man and his wife are getting divorced.

These EC have taken up all these external features that show how much liberty they have an how in love with the gospel they are, even though their lives may not look like the gospel. I'm going to start calling them ECx, extreme evangelical churches. They require the lower standards. Anyone with higher standards is fake and can't be too spiritual, must be moralistic. They are ECx. Extreme. If you don't fit into their understanding of grace, which really is grace as an occasion for the flesh, which really is turning the grace of God into lasciviousness, then you aren't "gospel-centered." But none of that is really true. It's the myth of the ECx grace and internalism.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Isaiah 59:21 and Revelation 22:18-19 at Jackhammer

At the Jackhammer team blog on which I write, I've written two articles that those who only read here should go over to look at. You can comment here if you're more comfortable doing that.

The two posts are:

Isaiah 59:21 and the Perfect Preservation of Scripture


Revelation 22:18-19 and the Perfect Preservation of Scripture

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Gender Discord and Psalm 12:6-7

Thou Shalt Keep Them (TSKT)---that's what the authors named our book on the perfect preservation of scripture. And those words come from Psalm 12:7. Psalm 12:6-7 alone do not buttress the biblical doctrine of preservation; however, we believe that they teach it. We believe that these verses nicely complement the many other places that teach the perfect preservation of scripture as Christians through history have believed. Here's the psalm:

1 Help, LORD; for the godly man ceaseth;

for the faithful fail from among the children of men.
2 They speak vanity every one with his neighbor:

with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak.
3 The LORD shall cut off all flattering lips,

and the tongue that speaketh proud things:
4 who have said, With our tongue will we prevail;

our lips are our own: who is lord over us?
5 For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy,

now will I arise, saith the LORD;
I will set him in safety from him that puffeth at him.
6 The words of the LORD are pure words:

as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.
7 Thou shalt keep them, O LORD,

thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.
8 The wicked walk on every side,

when the vilest men are exalted.

What Do People Say

Others have contended that the "them" of v. 7 ("preserve them") refers to the poor and needy of v. 5. Among other men, I believe "them" refers to "words" in v. 6. It makes sense that "them" is "words" based upon proximity. "Words" is closer to "them" than the "poor" and "needy" are.

So why do the others say that "them" refers to "poor" and "needy" even though those words are further away from "them"? The first reason, they say, is context. Both sides say the context supports their position, so let's take that one off the table. Let's keep it to the grammatical point, that is, the gender of "them." The "poor and needy" side says "them" must refer to the "poor and needy" because of the agreement in gender. They have said that it settles the case. Done. Finished. No more debate needed. Why? The Hebrew word translated "words" is feminine in gender and the pronoun "them" is masculine. "Them," therefore, cannot refer to "words." On the other hand, "poor" and "needy" are masculine, so they would say this is obvious.

Doug Kutilek

This is what Doug Kutilek, big time critical text advocate, has said:

When we turn to the Hebrew text of Psalm 12, the ambiguity of the English disappears. Hebrew, like many non-English languages, has a feature that English lacks -- that of grammatical gender. In English, object words are classified according to natural gender: men, boys, and the male offspring of animals are classified as masculine and masculine pronouns he, him, etc., are used of them; women, girls, and the female offspring of animals, plus sometimes countries, boats, and until recently, hurricanes, are considered feminine, and feminine pronouns she, her, etc., are used of them. Just about everything else from forks, knives, and spoons to roofing nails and sheet rock is classified as neuter.

In English, we have only natural gender; many, if not most, other languages have, in addition to natural gender, grammatical gender. Some languages have two grammatical genders -- masculine and feminine (e.g., the Semitic languages); others add a third -- neuter (this is the situation in Greek, Latin, German, and others). Things naturally masculine and things naturally feminine are so treated, but very many things are grammatically treated as masculine, feminine, or neuter without any connection to natural gender at all. For example, the German word for spoon is masculine; for fork, feminine; and for knife, neuter.

In languages that have grammatical gender, it is usual and customary for pronouns to agree with their antecedents in gender and number. Hebrew here is like the rest. And also like the rest, there are occasional exceptions to the principle of agreement in the Hebrew Bible (see Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar, 135), but the Book of Psalms is exceptionally regular on the matter of gender agreement.

In the Hebrew of Psalm 12, the pronouns translated them in verse 7 are both masculine -- the first them being plural in number, the second being singular (him, literally), particularizing every individual in the group (with slightly different vowel points in Hebrew, the second pronoun could be understood as the first person plural common, viz., us). So, the antecedent noun can be expected to be masculine in gender and plural in number.

The word rendered words twice in verse 6 is a feminine plural noun in both cases; the words poor and needy in verse 5 are both masculine and plural in Hebrew. While the English translation is ambiguous and allows two different antecedents, the Hebrew is clear and plain -- the antecedent of them is the poor and needy ones of verse 5, not the words of verse 6. Gender agreement of pronoun and antecedent demonstrates this.

Kutilek talks like he is totally sure that gender discord between "words" and "them" really does settle the question.

Adam at OTSB

Then we have Adam at his Old Testament Studies Blog write:

Now, Psalm 12 is a complicated text, and to quote it glibly like this shows how sloppy Brandenburg is being in his exegesis to try to prove his point. There are real questions about whether the “them” in the phrase “you shall keep them, O Lord” refers to the words. In the first place, the genders don’t match up. The “words” of verse 6 are feminine [hr'], while the suffix “them” on “keep” in verse 6 is masculine [~rEm.v.Ti].
Adam assumes that we should conclude that "them" does not refer to "words" because the "genders don't match up"---no other explanation offered to his readers---this issue is settled because of the gender discord. Case closed.

And What About Gender?

Alright, so what about the gender discord? Seems to make sense. But no. Biblical writers tend to employ masculine pronouns for their antecedent feminine usage of the noun "words" and its synonyms. Throughout the Old Testament there are examples of feminine "words" (or its synonyms) with masculine pronouns. This is something unmentioned by either Kutilek or Adam. If they did not know, then they were ignorant and needed to know. If they did know, then they misrepresented the whole issue to their readers in disingenuous fashion.

We see this kind of usage in Psalm 119:111, 129, 152, and 167. In every one of those verses, we have a masculine pronoun referring to a feminine noun that is a synonym of God's Words. The masculine pronoun serves a purpose of communicating stability and strength to the nature of its antecedent, extending these qualities of the Patriarchal God. It is purposeful gender discord. This does really put a smack-down on Kutilek's "the Book of Psalms is exceptionally regular on the matter of gender agreement." Exceptionally regular....hmmmm. Perhaps we could just look at one of the Psalms that refers to God's Words a lot of times to see if this is the case. Oh wow, not exceptionally regular.

Now I brought up this very point to Adam in his comment section. And, of course, he thanked me for that information, hopeful to rightly represent God's Word, right? Wrong. He said my point was "totally irrelevant." Is that how you would read such an answer to the point in his post? That it was "totally irrelevant"? I hope not. Of course, it is relevant. This is sheer pride on the part of this young man, intellectual and spiritual pride. I've written Doug Kutilek about this same point. Did he change his article? No. He just ignored it. I've found this typical of Doug Kutilek. In addition to his "totally irrelevant" comment, Adam wrote this in his comment section:

Of course, let us take a look at the pattern of all of these:

Psalm 119:111
A. I have inherited Your testimonies [Fem.] forever,
B. For they [Masc.] are the joy of my heart.

Psalm 119:129
A. Your testimonies [Fem.] are wonderful;
B. Therefore my soul observes them [Masc.].

Psalm 119:152
A. Of old I have known from Your testimonies [Fem.]
B. That You have founded them [Masc.] forever.

Psalm 119:167
A. My soul keeps Your testimonies [Fem.],
B. And I love them [Masc] exceedingly.

Now, the problem is that the syntax of these passages is not parallel to the syntax of Psalm 12. Notice how, in all of these texts, you have colon A with one gender, and colon B with another gender, all in one strophe. This is an example of what is called “gender parallelism,” where masculine and feminine are put in parallel with each other in two adjacent colons. Now, compare these with what you have in Psalm 12:

Psalm 12:5-7
5A. “Because of the devastation of the afflicted [Masc], because of the groaning of the needy [Masc],
5B. Now I will arise,” says the LORD;
5C. “I will set him [Masc] in the safety for which he longs.”
6A. The words [Fem.] of the LORD are pure words [Fem.];
6B. As silver tried in a furnace
6C. on the earth, refined seven times.
7A. You, O LORD, will keep them [Masc.];
7b. You will preserve him [Masc] from this generation forever.

That is not exactly parallel to the texts to which you pointed in Psalm 119. Structurally we have two colons between the “words” and the masculine suffixes [6B and 6C], and we have consistent uses of two feminine or two masculine nouns in the colons that are adjacent. We also have masculine plural nouns in 5A and a masculine singular noun in 5C, which is exactly parallel to what we have in 7A [masculine plural] and 7B [Masculine singular].

Also, I never used the gender disharmony as the “basis” for anything. I do realize that there is such a thing as gender disharmony in Hebrew. However, none of the passages to which you pointed are syntactically relevant, as all the passages you have cited are examples of a common usage of gender disharmony [gender parallelism], which is totally irrelevant to Psalm 12. Part of my my argument is that the gender disharmony in Psalm 12 makes “words” as the antecedent to the masculine suffixes far less likely.

Aha, oh yes, ahem, we've got to look at the, um, pattern of the few examples I gave Adam to chew on. Adam is saying that, oh yes, of course, gender discord, yes, that happens, yes, he knew that, of course. But that's not what he said. All he said was that the genders didn't match up. He said nothing about a particular pattern in which the genders may be discordant. Nothing. If he knew that in the first place, and then said that gender discord was making a certain grammatical point, then he was misleading his audience. No admission of that, however. If he knew it, then he was misleading his readers. If he didn't know it, then he should admit it. The latter seems like a better choice.

But he comes back in his comment to say that the syntax is not parallel and he cites "gender parallelism," so according to him this case in Psalm 12:6-7, the point of gender disharmony rule is not occurring. The implication is that gender disharmony between the pronoun and its antecedent "words" only works with the syntax found in my Psalm 119 examples, but not with Psalm 12. So if that's true, then every example should be the same syntax as we see in the Psalm 119 examples, his so-called "gender parallelism." But it isn't.

Joshua 1:7 doesn't have the same syntax as the Psalm 119 examples.

Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law [feminine], which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it [masculine] to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest.

Psalm 78:5 doesn't have the same syntax as the Psalm 119 examples.

For he established a testimony [feminine] in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them [masculine] known to their children.

Leviticus 26:3 doesn't have the same syntax as the Psalm 119 examples.

If ye walk in my statutes [feminine], and keep my commandments [feminine], and do them [masculine].

1 Kings 6:12 doesn't have the same syntax as the Psalm 119 examples.

Concerning this house which thou art in building, if thou wilt walk in my statutes [feminine], and execute my judgments [feminine], and keep all my commandments [feminine] to walk in them [masculine].

There are more examples than these, but these above blow Adam's whole syntactical parallel argument to bits. His "gender parallelism" point is nothing more than gobbly-gook.

You should notice that Adam and Doug disagree on the second masculine pronoun in v. 7. Doug says it should be understood as a plural, "particularizing every member within a group." That's obviously how the KJV translators took it, when they translated it "them." It's what I believe too, except referring to "words" in the previous verse. Kutilek also says "the antecedent noun can be expected to be masculine in gender and plural in number." And that's because he has been either clueless or rebellious about the existence of this gender discord rule. On the other hand, Adam attempts to refer that second pronoun in v. 7 back to the supplied "him" of v. 5. He makes a pronoun refer back to an understood pronoun, and uses his colon argument in order to accomplish that. But if we really do have some pattern there, like he says, then where is the 7c? According to him, there is a 5abc and 6abc in order to make it work, but there is only a 7ab---no c. He is seeing things that aren't there.

So What's Happening in Psalm 12 with Gender Discord

It would be better to see the structure of the psalm as asymmetric, like this.

A. Psalm 12:1
B. Psalm 12:2-4
C. Psalm 12:5
B. Psalm 12:6-7
A. Psalm 12:8

Psalm 12:2-4 speak of the words of the ungodly and Psalm 12:6-7 speak of the Words of God. Both Psalm 12:1 and 12:8 recognize the need of divine help. Psalm 12:5 is the promise of God. And here's a big tip on this asymmetric structure. V. 1 and v. 8 end with the same exact word in the Hebrew text, the Hebrew word for "man," adam.

Kutilek and Adam make the psalm about the poor and needy. The poem is marked by an incredibly strong emphasis on speech—three uses each of "speak" and "lips," four of "say," and two of "tongue." There is also one “groans.” The poet is focused on words. Vv. 2-3 and vv. 6-7 parallel in the structure. The most obvious contrast is between the words of the evildoers and the words of God with the implication that the veracity of words is primarily dependent on the speaker.

Adam later comes back to use structure to make a point of gender harmony. He's reading into the text. He should just go ahead and look at the nouns that are closest in proximity. "Words" fits with "them." If you hear hoofbeats, don't think zebras, think horses. Don't try to force the text into what you want it to say.

Psalm 12 is a perfect example of gender discord in play. The contrast between man's vacillating, untrustworthy words with the pure, preserved Words of God takes advantage of the masculine pronouns to make that point. The One Who speaks those Words overpowers and outlives the ones who speak the others.


Psalm 12 is talking about words. The gender discord, used purposefully, indicates the trustworthiness, stability, permanence, and strength of God's Words versus those of evil men. There is a bit of irony here as it relates to the trust in one representation of Psalm 12 over another. You'll have to judge what and/or who to trust.


Order Thou Shalt Keep Them below.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Christian Rock Equals Andres Serrano

In 1989 the National Endowment for the Arts funded an exhibition of Andres Serrano's work, which included a photograph of a crucifix submerged in the artist's urine. It was known as the Mapplethorpe exhibition because of the inclusion of Robert Mapplethorpe's work in the funding.

I think that the Serrano work and Christian Rock parallel almost exactly. I understand that those who enjoy and appreciate Christian Rock in almost every instance would not enjoy Serrano's art, but the two, Christian Rock and Serrano, provide an apt comparison. They both portray Christ in a profane setting. Both blaspheme Christ with their medium.

Christian rock is accepted by many Christians and Serrano is not, but I contend that is because Serrano does not appeal to the sensibilities of their fleshly passions. That's why this comparison works so well. Professing Christians have tossed discernment in judging the context and setting of Christian rock. They dial in on the Serrano exhibit. In the former they mistake their passion for some spiritual experience. In the latter, they willingly accept the nature of profanation due to their personal revulsion to urine. To God both former and latter could be characterized by human excrement.

You will not find one explicit verse in Scripture forbidding either Christian Rock or Serrano. You could argue against images of God, but that isn't one that evangelicals and fundamentalists who love Christian Rock have often opposed. So no verses against Serrano. I think this explains some of the emergent art exhibitions and their fondness for presenting Christ in the settings they do, and what we see of portrayals of Jesus commonly on Christian t-shirts.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Latest Young People's Symphony Orchestra Concert

Two of my daughters play in YPSO. When my son was principal trombone in the orchestra two years ago, they toured Australia and New Zealand in the summer, playing at the Sydney Opera House. This summer is a domestic tour in June in Alaska. They will play in Anchorage and Fairbanks. When David Ramadanoff, the conductor steps to the platform, my oldest daughter is right behind his right arm on violin, and when he moves, my middle daughter is right behind his left arm also on violin, wearing black-rimmed glasses. The fifteen year old young man playing the piano was one of the concerto winners this year. He is a cello player in YPSO, but he competed on the piano. Enjoy.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Can You Prove It From Scripture?

The Bible is our sole authority for faith and practice. You know what that means, don't you? Gotcha! That's what it means. Why? Well, because you can't show me a verse in scripture that says that rock music is wrong. So that means it's right. Game over! "I just want to do what scripture says and (sniff) these separatist Baptists keep trying to hold me to an unscriptural standard."

God's Word says nothing either about crack pipes, four letter words, cigarette smoking, men wearing dresses or skirts, sporting a nazi swastika, burning a cross in your front yard, and preaching in a clown suit every Sunday behind a pulpit that looks like a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken. And this line of argumentation---"you can't prove in scripture"---is growing. By the way, I don't think it's true. I do believe these things can be proven from the Bible. That's how God's Word works. Doctrines don't have to be formed with only explicit mentions. The Bible teaches in principle. That's clear. But this is a growing movement, and I do believe that you now see it in fundamentalism.

This is how it has worked. First, the supernatural quality of Scripture itself was questioned with higher criticism, that it was just a book written by men. Second, the actual words of Scripture were questioned with textual criticism. Scientists use natural processes, separate from theology, to determine what God's Words are. Now men aren't sure. Third, we can't know what Scripture means, because there are so many different interpretations and opinions. Fourth, we don't know how to apply Scripture, because when you make application, you're just giving your opinion---it's not something that Scripture actually says. All of this is in the realm of an attack on truth. Truth itself is being pummeled. Fundamentalists have begun accepting at least two, three, and four above, but number one definitely got the ball rolling. All of it combined attacks certainty and authority. Without certainty and authority, Christian living becomes affected, obedient and holy living grow cold.

The third and fourth of the above four relate to the question of this post. A couple of points come to mind. These attack the doctrine of perspicuity. God says Scripture is plain. We can know what he means. Another is the history of interpretation and application. Historic doctrine comes into play and this itself is based upon Scripture. It does matter what churches have said and believed. If it is a new doctrine, it should be questioned heavily. God says we can know what Scripture means, so we would assume that we wouldn't see a total apostasy of a particular meaning or application of the Bible.

Application relates to second premise issues. Scripture tells us something like "let no corrupt communication proceed from your mouth." That's the first premise. The second premise is that certain words are corrupt. Those may not be in scripture, but we can know that they are corrupt. We are going outside of the Bible to discern what corrupt communication is. God's Word assumes that we can know what corrupt words are. This discernment of true application in the real world affects a whole range of Christian living and obedience to God.

I want to connect this now to the preservation of Scripture issue. Over at SharperIron, Aaron Blumer wrote this in a comment:

I really think it serves everyone well if a vocabulary can be established that folks on all sides recognize. But at some point I fully expect PTPers [particular text preservationists] to resist that because many of them do not want the debate itself to be clear. That is, they do not want what the disagreement is really about to be clear. The reason is that when the debate is properly framed as really being mainly about what the Scriptures say, they can feel that this is not a winning approach for them. If they grant that, they lose the biblical doctrine debate and I think some of them know this or at least sense it. They fear that they will have to admit that they cannot claim their view is legitimate "biblical doctrine" but rather is a position based on other criteria.

Once that happens, you have to grant the other side an equal playing field in evaluating the external evidence. This they want to avoid because if it's not a true biblical doctrine, then we merely have a difference of opinion about history and there is nothing to "preach" on the subject--and neither side's legitimacy as fundamentalists can be called into question, etc.

It's a very hard path to walk for those who are already deeply vested in PTP as an article of faith--because of years of preaching it and serving up polemics based on it.

By the way, if we wanted to misrepresent Aaron, we wouldn't be linking to his article and then quoting a big swath of his material. Aaron says that we do not want the debate to be clear. And he concludes this based upon what? That we don't accept his assessment of the text of Scripture, one that differs from the historic doctrine of preservation. And this manifests what according to him? That we really are uncomfortable arguing our position based only upon Scripture? We're the only ones arguing this doctrine from Scripture. Aaron nor anyone else that I have ever read has presented a biblical doctrine of preservation from the critical text point of view.

The way that Aaron presents us is that perfect preservationists really feel like that coming just from Scripture is really not a winning approach to use. What? That's our only approach. That is the approach that we want, to discuss what the passages on preservation say. We want to get our view from the Bible. That's where we got our view.

The issue here is that the preservation passages must be applied. What is taught in the passages must be fleshed out in the real world. For instance, in John 17:8 Jesus prays to the Father: "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." The verse says that the apostles and those like them in the future (cf. v. 20) will receive God's Words. The verse doesn't say "what" those Words would be, but it does say that they would have them, receive them, so they would know them. They would receive them, not correct them or alter them. So we look for what we see in that verse in the real world. We believe that we can and will know what the words are from this and other passages.

Aaron also applies this verse to the preservation of Scripture. He believes he possesses twenty-seven books of the New Testament, but neither this passage nor any other passage says anything about twenty-seven books of the New Testament. But Aaron believes there are twenty-seven books of the New Testament because of verses like this one in Scripture. God's people would be able to identify God's Words. They would receive them. However, the application of the verses are second premise. We look to see what God's people received. So this is a doctrine that comes from Scripture. We like arguing from Scripture, but it also extends to the application of those verses.

Really Aaron in this comment let's his predisposition out of the bag. He wants to smack down the scriptural doctrine of preservation, and it seems using whatever means necessary to do that. He wants to portray perfect preservationists as men who are not comfortable with only sticking to Scripture. I'm comfortable with what the Bible says. It's where I get my position. And it is also a view that I see held by Christians in history. That too is a biblical doctrine.

Aaron really insults perfect preservationists by saying that we have a position that we've been preaching, are deeply vested in it, and that's why we can't give it up when he comes along and shows us that it really isn't in scripture. That's fairly arrogant. He hasn't come close to debunking or overturning the scriptural and historic position. There is no protection of a vested interest as he accuses wrongfully. Just because men don't agree with his criticisms doesn't mean that they are desperately hanging on to their guns and religion. He's missing some key aspects to our arguments for the doctrine of perfect preservation. And so far he has refused to answer scriptural questions, which is ironic considering his accusations.

"Can you prove it from scripture?" The Bible teaches preservation of every Word of God to every generation of believer. Believers will receive His Words. They will be led to them by the Spirit. The Bible is perfect. It is pure. It is settled. Those teachings lead us to conclusions. Aaron makes conclusions too. He believes there are twenty seven books in the New Testament. He believes there are a particular number of books in the Old and New Testaments. He doesn't believe that there are books that are up for grabs. But he doesn't have a verse that teaches this. He takes that position by applying verses from Scripture. It is no less truth after he does.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Inspiration: How and What?

Does the Bible teach that it is a divinely inspired book? Those who say they believe in so-called "verbal-plenary" inspiration say "yes." Those who study the Bible in the most scholarly institutions of America are not so sure. Who is right?

Points of Agreement

Nearly all involved in the controversy are agreed that the Bible is inspired in some sense. Nearly all are agreed as well that Scripture teaches divine inspiration, somewhere and in some form, every one of the words of Scripture He inspired.

It is also agreed that the Bible depicts human beings as both finite and fallen and prone to error in what they do, but that God overcame human fallibility in some sense when He inspired “holy men of God” to record some form of Scripture. This is where we come to a major fork in the road. Though we do not have equally direct and clear statements to the effect that God also ensures that there are sixty six divinely inspired books, many believe a compelling case for this kind of inspiration can be derived from passages in certain sixty-six books that many refer to as Scripture or the Bible.

This article aims to examine all of the relevant biblical arguments to see whether we have sufficient grounds for believing God has continuously overcome the limitations of men so that they produce a divinely inspired, word-perfect text of sixty-six books. The goal here is not to argue outside of scripture, but to make myself a kind of blank slate and only judge my view of inspiration from the passages that are referred to by those who believe in a divinely inspired, word-perfect sixty-six book Bible in the original writings, essentially to hold myself to the standard that the word-perfect, sixty-book divine inspirationists say that they hold themselves to.

"All Scripture Is Given by Inspiration of God"

This phrase from 2 Timothy 3:16 has become the proof text for those who believe in word-perfect and divine inspiration of every and all the Words of a sixty-six book Bible. However, upon closer examination, I believe we can show quite clearly how that this is a position that the men who hold to this view are reading into the text based upon their ill-conceived presuppositions. For instance, 2 Timothy 3:16 itself doesn't teach what the word-perfect divine inspiration men say that it does. They take from this one phrase far more than it says. Here's how.

The verse starts with "all Scripture." These are two words in the original Greek, pas graphe. "All writing" or "every writing." The understanding of graphe is "writing." The next word is an adjective, translated in the King James Version with several words, "is given by inspiration of God." It is only one word in the Greek, an adjective, theopneustos, God-breathed. One could understand this terminology several ways---"every God-breathed writing" or "every writing is God-breathed." It is grammatically correct and many scholars believe that the translation should be: "Every inspired scripture is also profitable." Seeing that as a possibility does bring some ambiguity to the meaning of this verse from the start. It's not best to base some doctrine of divine, verbal-plenary inspiration of a sixty-six book Bible on such questionable writing.

The phrase is saying that certain writings are God breathed. Question: Which ones? Nowhere does the Bible in which this phrase appears tell anyone what the writings were that God inspired, that He breathed. And the verse says "writings," not "words" or "letters." Especially when we look at the quotations of the Old Testament in the New Testament and see that they don't match up "word for word," we really have a basis for seeing this as at the most a conceptual type of writing. "Writing" is in a general sense and not in any way specific.

Certainly the verse points a case toward God breathing out writings, but we don't have a basis for knowing what those writings are. And what certain men say are God-breathed, sixty-six books, they have no basis for knowing that those sixty-six were the ones that God breathed, or that he breathed two chapters or one chapter or five. And then we also know that the men to whom God breathed these writings were affected by the ruination of sin. Nothing in what men call the Bible, these so-called sixty-six books, says anything about whether the men wrote the books down correctly.

Do we know what was inspired and what was not? Nothing in these sixty-six books says anything about that, and all I'm trying to do is determine this based upon what the Bible itself says. And it says nothing about what are the writings and what are not. The sixty-six book Bible has verses in it that refer to books that are not among the sixty-six books. Why are they not included? It would seem that there is a biblical basis for including them, at least if the books in which they are mentioned are considered to be divinely inspired in such a way. When I base my position merely on what the so-called Bible says, I can't argue for what is inspired and what is not. There is no list included therein.

And then what exactly does this one adjective, found only here in the entire twenty-seven books men refer to as the New Testament, mean? We can't very well go to other verses to determine it's meaning. Is it a kind of divine inspiration at the level of William Shakespeare? Everyone has within him a spark of divinity, found in the image of God, that interacts with him in a way for his natural gifts to be used to their greatest extent. We can't say from this verse what exactly this "inspiration" is all about. Should we not build such a large case on a singular usage of a word? Wouldn't this word have appeared many more times if it really was so important?

"Holy Men of God Spake As They Were Moved by the Holy Ghost"

In addition to 2 Timothy 3:16-17, here from 2 Peter 1:20-21 is the only other proof text for the apparent doctrine of divine, verbal-plenary inspiration. Just to start, who are the "holy men" and what did they speak? It seems that we start with a lack of information right from the start by which we can make a decision. What came from holy men and what did not? And why were not all the books written by these holy men also part of the Bible? It smacks of subjectivity through and through.

And notice that it says that they "spake." Was everything that holy men spake, their oral words, actually moved upon by the Holy Spirit. And what was this movement? Many believe that "moved" means "to convey some burden" or "to be carried along." How does this relate to individual words and written ones at that? It seems that this passage does more harm than good for the cause of something written. It says "spake." Those are words from someone's mouth, not something in ink on some physical material, like parchment.


So far, a case for a biblical doctrine of word-perfect, divine inspiration of sixty-six books proves nothing beyond what is generally agreed: that God has given us to a certain degree a message. We don't know that it is in exact words, we don't know how many words, which words, or even books, and we don't know exactly how God went about accomplishing that. At the least, we've got to head outside of the Bible to determine how many books should be included in the whole. The Bible itself, as agreed upon the most conservative believers in inspiration, does not tell us how many books should be included. We have no Scriptural basis for determining what is God's Word and what is not and how exactly God made sure, despite the fallibility of sinful men, that we could even receive it in an untainted condition.


I recognize that many who read the above essay might be experiencing disgust and extreme revulsion. I understand. However, I wanted to argue against verbal-plenary, perfect, divine inspiration in the same manner as those who argue against perfect preservation of Scripture, so that they could get an understanding of what they sound like to us. I think my arguments above are just as good, even better, than what I hear against perfect preservation.

Aaron Blumer, the one whom I answered in my previous post, says he's taking his teaching only from Scripture. He says he's only letting Scripture have its say. I would ask him to show me where the Bible says there are sixty-six books and then within those books, and why within those books, why those paragraphs. Scripture might be inspired, but how do we know what is Scripture and what is not? He's got to make his argument
just from Scripture.

As others read my general summary of positions, they may not want to think of what I've represented as being inspiration. But shouldn't they if they are going to be "open minded"? Haven't I been clear? Anyone who disagrees---should we just admit right now that they are closed minded and attempting to just obfuscate the issue? I think you get the point.

Aaron might think that he has a biblical basis for inspiration, one that we don't have for preservation. But that's only based on how you argue the issue. Aaron really does start with a predisposition toward the inspiration of the Bible when he comes to the two inspiration passages. Two. He is able to see them differently than the preservation passages, because he believes in the perfect inspiration of sixty-six books. I contend that the way he argues (and others just like him), what he writes, shows that he starts with a disposition not to believe in perfect preservation. Then he goes about looking at the passages. He's bound to be looking for arguments to eliminate the doctrine of perfect preservation.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Answering Aaron on the Doctrine of Preservation---Part Three

Aaron Blumer posted the third article in his series at SharperIron, Preservation: How and Why. I'll provide scriptural analysis for his article in this post. I offered to send this to Aaron first to proof it, but he said go ahead and just publish, so I have. Perhaps to those on his side of things, he's clear. From my perspective, it's hard for me to ascertain what he believes because of some contradiction, it seems, in what he writes. He makes these summation statements in his second and third paragraphs:

1. "Nearly all involved in the controversy are agreed that God has preserved His Word for us in some sense."
2. "Nearly all are agreed as well that Scripture teaches God will preserve forever, somewhere and in some form, every one of the words He inspired and that some believers will always have access to Scripture in some form."
3. " Though we do not have equally direct and clear statements to the effect that God also ensures word-perfect preservation (see part 2), many believe a compelling case for this kind of preservation can be derived from less direct passages."

The statements are so ambiguous that they are very difficult to figure out. His first "nearly all" sentence could mean almost anything. The second one has so many qualifiers that it is hard to put one's finger on what he means. And I really don't see how or where Scripture teaches the view that he espouses. He hasn't revealed any evidence for this view thus far nor research that shows nearly everyone believes at least what he has written.

I'm asking. Scripture teaches that God will preserve forever in some form every one of the words He inspired? What?!? In some form? Where does Scripture say that? In some form? And then "some believers" will "always" have access to Scripture in some form? How many believers? Two? Ten? And only those will always have Scripture "in some form"? Will they have all the Words or just all of Scripture in some form? What is "some form"? And Aaron supposedly got this from Scripture.

The third statement is also very difficult, but it does help us a little to interpret the other two. What he seems to say is that we don't have any teaching in Scripture that tells us that those "some believers" will have "every one of the words He inspired." Aaron is all for "some believers" will always have access to some "form" of Scripture. I can see why men on the other side have not written any doctrine of preservation up to this point. They are comfortable criticizing our position, but they strain to write their own. I don't see anywhere that Scripture says that God would preserve His Word "in some form." Where he gets that, I do not know. Nor do I know how anyone could see that as preservation. And I'm not trying to be mean here.

Initial Arguments

Aaron writes as though he has proven some point about word-perfect inspiration as opposed to word-perfect preservation. I'm happy he believes in the depravity of man, but he hasn't succeeded at showing some scriptural connection between man's limitations due to sin and the failure in preservation of Scripture. We know man is limited because of sin, but that does not mean that he can stop what God has promised He would do. Man doesn't stop sinning even after conversion (1 John 1:8, 10; Romans 7), but God still saves, preserves, and keeps His soul pure. We don't have physical evidence of this. It's all by faith in what God has said. The gap for Aaron in believing word-perfect preservation and word-perfect inspiration seems to be his own staggering unbelief, not the lack of scriptural evidence. There are more preservation passages than inspiration ones. Men have operated with the same kind of rhetorical, grammatical, and syntactical techniques upon inspiration verses as Adam uses with the preservation ones and left us without inspiration in their teachings.

Now let's get into the nuts and bolts of Aaron's article. He says that of four passages that we examined in TSKT, they only affirm a concept of preservation, but not word-perfect. It's hard to understand what Aaron is saying. I guess I'm supposed to assume that "we" in his sixth paragraph (there is no referent) means the "some believers" in his previous statements. However, "we" seems to mean himself and all believers throughout all history. And he says that the passages are "consistent with" the "idea" of "word perfect copies of Scripture." That sounds good, sounds about right. He is saying that they teach word perfect preservation. That's good! Don't get too excited, because those passages haven't, according to Aaron, shown how God was going to be able to overcome the limitations of man's depravity. That's bad! So man's depravity trumps God's sovereignty as it relates to God's Word. Where does Scripture say that? It doesn't. King Ahasuerus was sinful but He still opened up the history books on the appropriate night to read about Mordecai. Among many other events that God providentially used to save Israel, he was able to overcome the limitations of their sinfulness to accomplish it.

Then Aaron writes this: "Perhaps recognizing that these often-cited passages are not sufficient to support their conclusions, the writers of TSKT look to several other verses as well." Not true at all. Our view of preservation is the whole package. And we've got more than what is in that book. It wasn't as though we got through five or six preservation passages and then said, "Wow, this is not enough, let's add some other chapters." You can all be dispelled of Aaron's speculation about our state of mind.

Matthew 4:4

Regarding Matthew 4:4, Aaron says that "it is written" continues to the speaker's present. That's true, and as he wrote, that's what we said. We knew that. However, if those words in Deuteronomy 8:3 continue to Jesus' day, that means preservation. That use of the perfect teaches the doctrine of perfect preservation.

Then he makes a point that Matthew's use of rhema would somehow be spoken versus perhaps logos being written. Both rhema and logos are spoken words. Scripture comes out of God's mouth, it is God breathed. Rhema is used all over the NT and we don't assume that it is spoken versus written. For instance, in Ephesians 6:17, it says that the "sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God," and "word" is rhema. For Aaron to be consistent, we wouldn't have anything to use for spiritual warfare because the words we use could only be oral ones coming directly out of God's mouth. For awhile, I've thought this an inane argument, whether used by Aaron or anyone else. If truly we are to live by every oral Word of God, then that would be a greater standard for God, as we would be assured of possessing every word that God has ever said, including the ones in Scripture. It still doesn't disprove the availability of Scripture. It seems to be a red herring.

After that Aaron says the present tense of "proceedeth" means for sure here, based on the future tense "shall live," that the verb is talking about continuous action. He doesn't provide any exegetical basis besides merely his own statement. I'm thinking, "What a stretch!" The normal tense of speaking is present. There's not any big point being made here grammatically. The reason that "shall live" is in the future tense is because all the living is in the future relative to the Words that God spoke. It really is as simple as that.

It was appropriate for Jesus to quote Deuteronomy 8:3 against Satan because Satan was tempting Jesus to disobey God's Words. Jesus always submitted to the Father. In the context of Deuteronomy, it wasn't food that would keep Israelites alive, but their obedience to God's Words. Jesus was not going to turn stones to bread because that would violate God's Words. Israel could have as much bread as they wanted, but that wouldn't guarantee their survival—their obedience to God's Word would.

John 17:8

In order to knock down Thomas Strouse's chapter on John 17:8 in TSKT, Aaron makes this statement: "Strouse then cites several references to believers "receiving" the word (pp. 54-55) and, in the process, gives "receive" a special meaning: something along the lines of "to get a hold of a copy of the entire Bible that you know is a word-perfect copy" (my words, not his)." He admittedly uses "his words," not Strouse's to make a point. The problem is that "his words" do not represent Strouse's. The point that Strouse is making is that as copies of Scripture are made, God's people will receive His Words, that is, they will know what those Words are. Conclusions can be derived from that teaching, but that is the point of Strouse. Misrepresenting Strouse might be fun reading for the choir, but it doesn't do anything to Strouse's argument and especially to what John 17:8 teaches.

Then Blumer goes into attacking that point that "received Words" means "Bible canon." It is a straw man, because Strouse knows that Jesus wasn't referring specifically to the Old Testament in John 17 and that the "all Scripture" of 2 Timothy 3:16-17 at that time wasn't the entire canon. It would be. When Paul wrote to Timothy, Revelation didn't exist—should we assume something about the canonicity of Revelation from that? Of course not. And the words of the Old Testament are still Jesus' Words. He is Jehovah. And we still apply "all Scripture" to the whole Bible. The line of criticism is overt picky-ness that I can't imagine Aaron applying to others. And the point of the chapter anyway was different than one that Aaron was looking for—Strouse was expounding on the received-text attitude that would be found in genuine believers.

2 Timothy 3:15-17

Blumer's major argument here is found in these words:

[T]he passage does not say that Timothy "had access to" or "possessed" the "holy scriptures" but that he knew them. Unless we suppose that young Timothy knew every single inspired word of the Old Testament, "holy scriptures" in v.15 cannot have that meaning. Rather, it refers to the subset of the Scriptures Timothy had personally learned.

Aaron says he gets his teaching from Scripture. This one is simple. The passage says that Timothy knew the holy scriptures. The verb "hast known" is oida, which BDAG says is "to experience, to be acquainted with." Timothy had experiential knowledge with the holy scriptures. The level of Aaron's exegesis is the guess or speculation that, even though the text says Timothy did know the holy scriptures, this was not likely so. Shouldn't we just take the text at its word? Are we going to just deny what the verse actually says? This isn't a credible criticism.

I think that in light of the context we can assume that God had preserved every Word of the Scriptures that Timothy used. Unless Aaron and others want to assume that Timothy was studying directly from the original manuscripts as penned by the original authors, then we should believe, which we should, that the "all Scriptures" were the copies that Timothy and Paul had. Those were the same Words that God had breathed out. This assumes preservation.

(This paragraph is one that I added later to this post, after several comments had been made.) 2 Timothy 3:15 and 16 are connected by a grammatical point. Verse 16 begins without a conjunction, that is, it is asyndetic. So it can't be new subject matter. The holy scripture must be the all scripture because of that grammatical point. Timothy was using "all scripture." These verses assume preservation.

Blumer uses an illustration (money and hamburger) to say that we cannot conclude that the sufficiency of Scripture is based upon "all" Scripture. He is saying that some could be enough. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 say "all Scripture" throughly furnishes the man of God unto every good work. Blumer says that by that statement we cannot assume that something less than all Scripture would not be sufficient to do every good work. I don't believe that we can equate the money to buy a hamburger with the Words of God. We must be regulated by what God said, not by what He didn't. And He said that "all Scripture" is the basis for sufficiency. We should make assumptions based upon what God said, not what He didn't. What Aaron is saying is that it is possible that something less than all of Scripture would be sufficient for every good work. Who are we to assume that? We can't.


As we covered in the beginning of this post, it is hard to understand Aaron Blumer's view of preservation and where he might get the position he takes. What we can conclude is that he doesn't believe that we have all God's Words available. To me, that means that he doesn't believe in preservation. He says that he gets this view from Scripture. I would be happy to leave to you, when you read the passages that apply to the doctrine of preservation, to decide whether you believe the Bible teaches what Aaron says it does. The Bible does teach that God would preserve every Word and that they would all be available to every generation of believers. The God I know can and did do that.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Rock and Rap Music Are Becoming a Non-Issue in Fundamentalism part 2

I'm quite sure that most professing fundamentalists still wouldn't allow for rock music in their church services. Even if much of fundamentalist worship isn't acceptable to God, they won't use rock music at their churches. But I do believe that the relationship to rock music has changed in fundamentalist churches. Before they were sure that the Bible taught that rock music is wrong. Now you hear even some of the most conservative of the fundamentalists say that its difficult to judge whether it's wrong or not. To many now, it's just a preference they have, not playing rock music, but they would have a hard time explaining why they shouldn't allow it. They often sound tentative in their opposition to rock music.

What is the evidence that I see that says that rock music is becoming or already is a non-issue in fundamentalism?

Here's what I see. Rap music is played at the Together for the Gospel conference and professing fundamentalist men get together with those men at that conference. Some of the music at the same event is played with rock music. Most of the primaries find rock and rap acceptable. They may not like it personally, but most of their churches play it. That's not a problem for them.

MacArthur isn't criticized by fundamentalist leaders for the rock music played at his church. The Resolved Conference plays rock music for the young people that come---this is a Grace Community Church conference. That doesn't stop fundamentalists from fellowshiping with MacArthur and Grace Community Church. You don't hear this as a criticism coming from major fundamentalist leaders.

You will see at SharperIron, which represents a large segment of young fundamentalism, that there is stronger argumentation for rock music than there is against it. Some of their blogroll don't have a problem with rock music. They may not like it, but they aren't against it. Nobody suffers any repercussions for supporting rock music or fellowshipping with it. It's reasonable now not to have a problem with rock music at SharperIron. SharperIron is much more against the doctrine of perfect preservation than they are against rock music. Anti-perfect preservation is nearly at an essential doctrine with the rock music being a liberty.

You don't hear fundamentalist leaders writing this: "rock music is evil," "rock music is wrong," or "rock music is sinful." If they say anything at all, you hear or see them saying that it is a non-essential and a liberty issue.

Probably the major voice in fundamentalism against rock music now is Scott Aniol. You know Scott is against rock music. You can tell that Scott is not a favorite among the fundamentalists because of that. He is not respected by many because of how strong he is. And yet, when he talks about rock music, you will not hear him say that rock music is sinful, wrong, or evil. In a sense, I hate to say it because I like Scott's stand, but he tip toes around the issue. In a recent conversation on his blog, he and a colleague talked about how that cultures should be learning from each other and allowing other cultures to reveal our blindspots.

Promoted fundamentalists are friends with those who listen to and promote rock music. You see Dan Philips, one of the Pyromaniacs, go to a Chicago concert and promote rock music of various forms, secular and "Christian" on his blog. And he gets zero criticism from fundamentalists. None. Chris Anderson of SharperIron and in with fundamentalism and SharperIron, even Bob Jones University, considers him a friend. Rock music doesn't break friendships with fundamentalists. It's totally a side issue any more.

Why Is Rock Music Becoming a Non-Issue in Fundamentalism?

First, fundamentalism is being influenced much by conservative evangelicals. This is obvious. They want to fit in with those guys and mostly those guys use rock music in their churches. That's got to be overlooked.

Second, young fundamentalists listen to Christian rock and even secular rock. Fundamentalists know that. They don't want to come down too hard. I hear from credible sources that most kids on Christian campus are listening to rock music.

Third, the universal church belief and the consequential belief about unity has ditched rock music as an issue. If all believers are going to get together and most professing believers are using and listening to it, there's not going to be that unity they think we're supposed to have. So rock music has become a casualty of Christian unity.

Fourth, the people who do preach against rock music are not respected. Many of them use the King James Version and that is more odious to many fundamentalists than rock music. They would rather have rock music than KJVO. I sense this personally. It's easy to pick up. The major leaders that themselves don't like rock music preach all around the issue without actually saying the words "rock music." Kevin Bauder at Central is one of these. You know he's against it, but you don't hear him come right out and say it.

Fifth, fundamentalist churches had already started thinking about the audience, when it came to their choice of music. They weren't thinking so much about the unchanging nature of God as they were what people liked and what people would feel. Without the right purpose of music to anchor them, they have veered away from the right purpose. Some of that is seen in the influence of Patch the Pirate and certain fundamentalist 'evangelists' upon fundamentalist music. To their credit, some fundamentalist leaders, like Bauder and Aniol, understand the similarities between some of the Majesty Music and rock music. It's harder to oppose the rock, at least for them, when fundamentalists have entertainment oriented music themselves. The trite lyrics and show-tune music of revivalists in the midst of even conservative fundamentalists make fundamentalists seem as guilty. This kind of music has been acceptable in even the Bob Jones University branch of fundamentalism and the relations between those forms and rock music is very close in the minds of a Bauder and Aniol, among some others. If they were going to come down hard on rock music, they likely feel they would need to disparage a huge chunk of those with whom they have the closest affiliations.

There are probably more reasons, but these above are the major ones. I don't mind being wrong. But I think I'm right here. Rock music has become a non-issue in historic fundamentalism. What do you think this means for the future of fundamentalists?