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:
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.
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.
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.