Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Obvious Disconnects for Evangelicals and Inerrancy

When I was in jr. high, a friend of mine was wearing a completely white suit with white shirt, white tie, and white shoes to church, and then he spilled his little cup of grape juice from the Lord's Table on himself.  It was just a little cup, but it was so obvious.  How could so little juice get so much coverage?  He could act like nothing happened, but it was too obvious.  It doesn't make any sense not to admit the obvious.  You've got a nasty big grape juice stain on the front of you, and we all know what it is.

What motivated this post is something that I sympathize with, that is, an inerrancy summit in Southern California, March 3-8, at Grace Community Church with John MacArthur.  A load of evangelicals will show up and in advance, the conference has kept posting articles and videos about inerrancy by well known conservative evangelicals.  All of this interests me.  I'm happy to know that they want people to believe in an inerrant Bible and to encourage trust in the Bible.  However, I see a big nasty grape juice stain.  It's obvious, but they act like it doesn't exist.  A few will read this, but I predict the grape juice will remain.

I know God isn't happy, because He wants to be believed.  He wants His Word treated like fact.  He doesn't want it replaced by scientific naturalism.

The conservative evangelical version of inerrancy is a modernistic invention, made up in the last a little over hundred years out of sheer cloth.  They act like it's historic doctrine, as if it's been around for centuries.  They are leaving the house and you're supposed to think that grape stains are stylish. They've always been around -- where's yours?

What's wrong with "inerrancy"?  Nothing would be wrong with it, if it were inerrancy.  What I'm talking about can be illustrated by one of the more recent articles posted on the site by a Matt Waymeyer and entitled, "Can We Trust the New Testament Text?"  He starts the essay with a story of an evangelism opportunity with a pantheist, who told him that "now we have no idea what the original actually said!"  That brought Waymeyer to the questions:  "If the original manuscripts of the Bible no longer exist—and if the existing manuscripts do not completely agree with one another—how can we have confidence in the Scriptures we possess today? Can we really trust the Bible as it has been handed down to us? Can we really insist that it is nothing less than the inerrant Word of God?"

How does Waymeyer answer this question?  Of course, he goes to the Bible and shows what it says about preservation.  We can trust the Bible has been handed down to us in and with perfection for the same reason we can trust that God created the heavens and earth.  That's what he says, right?  Wrong. He writes;

In response to this question, I would like to focus specifically on the New Testament and suggest three reasons why the differences between the manuscripts should not shake our confidence in the reliability of the biblical text. Those three reasons are the abundance of existing manuscripts, the insignificance of most textual variants, and the preservation of primary biblical doctrines.

That is inerrancy?  I don't think most people would think so.  They may have thought that you meant without error, but that's not what you meant.  You just used a word that sounded like it was that. Three of the main speakers from the conference made a video about preservation as it relates to inerrancy.  I listened carefully.


If you break down what they said, you don't hear that the Words of God were preserved.  You don't. Ligon Duncan says, "It's the best it's ever been."  And how do we know that?  Albert Mohler says, "No one questions the Bible we have is almost without question right down to every single particle exactly in the original autographs."  The contradiction in the statement is humorous:  "No one questions the Bible we have is almost without question."  If no one is questioning, then it is without question, but he says it is "almost" without question.  So it is with question.  So someone is questioning.  If there was no question, then textual criticism would be over, but we know it isn't, so in that sense it is a lie.  The grape juice is obvious.

Mohler keeps going, and again, it's funny to me.  "Not one major doctrine, not one major text, on any major issue related to the Gospel, related to Christ, to, to, to anything has ever been controverted." Does anyone know what he's talking about?

First, he says, major doctrine, major text.  Hint:  minor doctrines, minor texts, yes.  The very nature of this new definition of inerrancy says that minor things are now in question.  This isn't as objective as science.  You've got some fudge room in here.  And then he starts listing what he's talking about -- the Gospel, Christ, and then he stutters...to, to, to....hard to say.  So much deniability in here.  Major doctrine or major text related to anything!  Not exactly anything, because it's only the major anythings, not minor ones, despite the fact that almost every single particle is without question.  And does he or anyone listening really believe that it is incontrovertible?  There is no more argument about the text among evangelicals?  Their text changes all the time.  New translations are being made all the time.  The English Bible they use is a new one, improving on the last new one, which came from the last new one.

These men want to try to inspire confidence with their words.  But they are not deriving that confidence from the Word of God, so they are ambiguous.  There is no reference to the biblical doctrine of preservation. Why?  Because it clashes with their application of those passages.  It clashes with the historic doctrine of preservation.  They can't take their doctrine of preservation from the Bible, because it contradicts what they believe happened.  This is the big grape stain that is obvious.

You have this white suit.  It's the Word of God.  But it's got a grape juice stain.  It's obvious.  But they say, "It's white anyway. It's inerrant."  Anyone looking knows it isn't.  They say it anyway loaded with the adjectives that signal that they don't believe what they're saying.

18 comments:

Tyler Robbins said...

A quick note - I was thumbing through Jack Moorman's book "Forever Settled." He made the claim that 1 Jn 5:7 had been quoted by Cyprian (ca. 250 A.D.). I then remembered that Thomas Strouse made the same claim on the John Ankerberg Show in 1995. I fired up Logos and looked at Cyprian. He did quote it. I was very surprised to see that.

Farmer Brown said...

This is all very odd. On paper, these are believing and dedicated men, but the words they say do not reflect a regenerate state. It is discordant. Perhaps they do not know the shepherd's voice; I cannot say.

This is reminiscent of Balaam. He said these very faithful words; "If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the commandment of the LORD, to do either good or bad of mine own mind; but what the LORD saith, that will I speak" That is a very Godly sentiment. For all the gold and honor, he would not go against God.

He was also used to give this remarkable prophecy; "I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth."

On the other hand, he was involved in the death of many of God's people at Peor and was a tool of those that opposed God's will for the nation of Israel. His life ended on an Israelite sword because of this. Was he a believer? An unbeliever? He certainly spoke the word of God faithfully, but he also overthrew the faith of some.

What of these men, of Mohler, et al? Are they believers? Unbelievers? In many things they speak the word of God faithfully. However, they also overthrow the faith of some. Is the the "take away" of Revelations 22:19?

Whatever they are, I suspect like Balaam they are very dangerous to the people of God.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Tyler,

I think that it's interesting, actually funny to me (although I know that is offensive to some), that for most evangelicals and fundamentalists, the contradictions that you hear in Mohler are acceptable, completely fine. They know he's contradicting himself, but they think the truth has to live with contradictions. This is a liberal view of truth, and they accept it. I'm the bad guy in this though, because I'm espousing a Christian worldview, the only acceptable and arguable view. People won't dare say he's wrong.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Thanks Farmer Brown. I agree with you on this.

Don Johnson said...

With respect to 1 Jn 5.7, all the Cyprian quote can prove is that Cyprian, a Latin writer, had a copy of the Old Latin version from which he worked. It proves nothing about the original Greek.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Tyler Robbins said...

Don:

I could be wrong, but did Cyprian in North Africa ca. 250 A.D. really write in Latin? All the ecumenical councils up until at least Chalcedon (451 A.D.) were conducted in Greek. I thought Greek passed out of favor sometime after that. If I'm wrong, then let me know.

Regarding the whole textual issue, I was taught the CT approach and the "providential preservation in the vast number of manuscripts" philosophy in Seminary. I still hold to it, though I'm open to reading good argumenst against it. This alleged quote by Cyprian seems interesting. I have read that Wallace has written against it, and I'll be looking around for his reasons soon.

Tyler Robbins said...

Don:

Well, I took a moment to actually look, and it appears as though you're right about Cyprian writing in Latin! I still find it interesting, though . . .

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi everyone,

I think it's really neat when people interact with the post! Super cool when they do. Maybe I'm wrong with my assessment. So far I don't think so, but I guess people don't care. They are fine with continuing with the big fat grape juice stain, but saying that it doesn't exist.

Titus Quinctius Cincinnatus said...

@ Don Johnson - Cyprian likely was using the Old Latin version...but the Old Latin version (quite distinct from the Vulgate, btw) is thought to have been translated from Greek at the end of the 1st/beginning of the second centuries. What this means is that the OL could have been translated within two or three decades of the penning of I John.

You don't get much closer to the "original autographs" than that.

We should also note that the medieval German translations, represented by the Tepl codex, has the Comma as well, and they were also translated from the Old Italic Latin, not the Vulgate. Clearly, the Comma is broadly represented in that version.

At any rate, even if we rely on Cyprian alone, it is quite obviously apparent that the Comma was not "inserted into the text" by the late 4th century heretic Priscillian, as most KJV-antis repeatedly claim. That's simply impossible, yet knowing this, they still repeat the falsehood.

Don Johnson said...

Titus, "could have been" is not "is". It's sort of like trying to prove missing links from the fossil record.

As for the claim about Priscillian, your comment is the first I've ever heard of it, and I have studied the issue for a long time. Perhaps it isn't as widely asserted as you suggest.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Titus Quinctius Cincinnatus said...

Titus, "could have been" is not "is". It's sort of like trying to prove missing links from the fossil record.

Two points:

1) True, but rather irrelevant, since every single last argument used by the new versions supporters essentially falls upon the same sword.

2) The evidence I've adduced is a lot closer to "the original autographs" than pretty much anything the KJV-antis rely upon. Oldest is best, and all that.

As for the claim about Priscillian, your comment is the first I've ever heard of it, and I have studied the issue for a long time. Perhaps it isn't as widely asserted as you suggest.

I've seen it asserted in pretty much every KJV-anti treatment of the Johannine Comma I've ever read, and I've read quite a few of them.

Bill Hardecker said...

Pastor Brandenburg,
Do you know who popularized the notion that "no major doctrine" is affected by any of the manuscripts? J. Greshem Machen is one that I know promoted that idea. Where and when did that idea come from? If you can tell or perhaps share some more historical proponents of that,please do. Much appreciated. Be well!

Farmer Brown said...

All the historical back and forth is fine, but it is all also extra-biblical. The question to which all parts of the debate should be subordinated is, does the bible promise preservation? If yes, you can proceed from there.

If no, I think I am joining the Muslims. At least they know they have certainty about their "holy" texts. Even though we look from the outside and see several Arabic versions, Muslims reject that and claim preservation from the inception. They regarding anyone who denies preservation as attacking Allah and Mohammed.

No wonder they so lightly regard Jesus. Instead of outsiders attacking His words and being rebuffed by his followers, it is the people who claim to follow him who tear down his words. I would not follow us either.

Anonymous said...

Kent,

I've always felt the "oldest is best" argument falls apart on Scriptural grounds. For instance, 2 Th. 2:2 suggests there were perhaps forged letters of the Apostle Paul floating around in his day. That would make the oldest "texts" (Apostolic Period) suspect, no? If we do not have the promise of divine preservation, we are indeed in trouble.

tjp

Don Johnson said...

Titus, my point is not irrelevant at all, but you can choose to ignore it if you wish.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Titus Quinctius Cincinnatus said...

I've always felt the "oldest is best" argument falls apart on Scriptural grounds.

I agree. Just to clarify, I was using the phrase "oldest is best, and all that" somewhat ironically, since in any other case besides the Johannine Comma, new versions people would wholeheartedly embrace it as an evidentiary proposition.

Tyler Robbins said...

Today at the Shepherd's Conference, Carl Trueman briefly addressed the issue of "errors in the manuscripts" from a historical theology perspective. He produced a quote from Augustine (5th century) where Augustine affirmed inerrancy and also acknowledged errors in some manuscript copies. I would have liked to hear more. Though I'd let you know.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Tyler,

I started watching Trueman's session, but couldn't go to the end. I did notice how he made the note he was a proud amillennialist upon turning to Revelation 22. Later he made a parallel between the theological effect on eschatology from the Cold War and theology proper from the Black Death.

No one is denying the existence of textual variants. Never have, just like we know there were textual attacks in the first century according to Paul and Peter. That is not the point. I assume you know that, just saying. It's a red herring.

Plus, inerrancy as presented by Warfield is solely a 19th century doctrine, but I will look forward to reading the transcript.

Thanks.