Part One. Part Two. Part Three.
I left off this series, evaluating two new James White videos, at the ten minute mark of the second video. Why should I do this? It's a good opportunity because you can sit and watch James White, and then get my analysis, which is a good learning circumstance. It's coming right out of his mouth from his face, right there in front of you, and then you read my comments.
If James White speaks the truth, I gladly agree with him, but he doesn't here. To me, he seems delusional on this issue. He can't even grasp the biblical position and he goes wholesale for the new and unscriptural one. He's not just against the right view, but he's angry and insulting. It's odd, but let's pick up where we ended the last post, where he assaults what has been called the Ecclesiastical Text view.
For about a minute, after 10 minutes, White lists off what he considers important knowledge to get this issue right. As I hear each one, I don't see anything there that deals with the issue. He mentions the Westminster Confession and the London Baptist Confession and says sarcastically, "God bless every single one of them," adding "but none of them were infallible." Let me mark this down. None of them were infallible. OK. What's the point? The implication is that they were wrong here. Sure, these men could be wrong, but it was a lot of people who wrote these, a lot who agreed with them, followed what they wrote, and they defended their confessions with scripture. If you are going to disrespect their conclusions, you should overturn it with more than just disdaining tones.
Then White asserts that John Calvin wasn't ecclesiastical text, because he judged certain readings to be better than others. That just shows that White doesn't understand what he's talking about. It is true that the editions of the TR vary slightly. That's not enough to reject a scriptural position. What did these men write about that? What was a position of perfect preservation, a settled text, that knew that errors came into the hand copies? I've answered that again and again here with the exact quotes of the men. Something like the Ecclesiastical Text position is what people believed at that time. It is the only historical and biblical defensible position. I know that people want answers on specific texts, but there really are not that many and for a person of faith it should not be enough to push the eject button on biblical doctrine. I know it does with White and others, but to a destructive end.
No one is saying that the single state church leader, Calvin, represents historical theology. I recognize how important he is to these reformed people. However, saying that at that juncture in history he preferred one TR reading over another does not do anything to this position. White says "not a one" believed the Ecclesiastical Text position, when in fact everyone did. Perhaps a few didn't, but so small a number did not (I don't know of any) that it is accurate to say that everyone believed it. It is the position that was written down that they believed. White either doesn't know what people thought and believed at that time about preservation of scripture, or he just ignores it so as not to undermine his own position. White says "they didn't seem to have that idea." No, that's what they thought.
White then calls this "the infallibility of reformed scholasticism." The kindest thing I could call this is a "red herring." Their position wasn't a scholastic position. And they didn't prove their position, like White, by talking like their mere support made it divine edict. No. This was historic, biblical belief. This is what they saw scripture teach. This is where the unity of the spirit comes in. Could they all have been deceived at once? Was this a total bibliological apostasy? This is White's position. He doesn't call it that, but it is what he is saying. If you are going to upend established doctrine, you've got to go to the Bible, not naturalistic forensics, new archaeological finds.
Toward the end of the 11 minute mark, White says he believes in sola scriptura, but, but, "some of our forefathers didn't have all the information." What doctrine is this? Because I think it deserves a name. It's the didn't-have-all-the-information doctrine. Scripture is sufficient and they had scripture, but they didn't have all the information. In addition to scripture, you need information. Does that contradict sola scriptura? I'd say so.
You hear the typical postmodern quips from White. "That very much concerns me." "That troubles me." Who cares? What concerns you has no authority, more so than what Calvin wrote has no authority. Your being troubled doesn't give me the evidence necessary to show that my beliefs are wrong. I need better than that. All the facial twistings and squirming in the seat and the eye rolls -- none of those persuade me. They actually do the opposite to me.
At 12:20 and following, he says that the Ecclesiastical Text position sounds good in an online chat, but it "can't answer questions about specific readings." This is how the debate goes. You show the biblical doctrine, the historical doctrine, but that is overturned in White's mind by textual criticism, which isn't scripture. The other side doesn't have to show you a doctrine. They don't have one. They don't start with doctrine, and this coming from someone who says don't be persuaded by scholasticism. This is also coming from someone, when the textual criticism goes off the rails, returns to doctrine, as seen in his debate with Ehrman. White likes to say, "I'm sorry, but," when he's not sorry. I'm sorry, but you don't get to pull the doctrine card, when you're the ones who say that presuppositions don't come into the equation.
White's specific reading, which he had already mentioned twice in his video, is Revelation 16:5. A text like that is the crack through which he can drive his Mack Truck of textual criticism. White knows what Revelation 16:5 said in all the Greek manuscripts. He knows that. Does he? Has White seen every manuscript available to every translator before printed editions came, and the printed English translations came? You can't prove a universal negative, which is why human discovery lacks as a basis for faith.
White then brings in Luke 2:22 as another specific reading and one that he asked Douglas Wilson about, which also indicated to me that he does think this is Douglas Wilson's position. This is the typical argumentation of the critical text person. It is a textual variant gotcha game. There aren't very many of these, very few. It's like the exceptions for pro-abortionists -- they want to know about incest and rape. These exceptions become the basis of the belief instead of sola scriptura. That's how Christians should operate. Elevating science above the theology was the rationalism and liberalism of the 19th century, and now we can't say what marriage is. The Bible is the truth. What it says about itself is the final authority.
After 14 minutes, White says if you don't have textual criticism, you can't answer questions, which is what damages apologetics. White has lived in his own mind of textual criticism, only answering questions with his view of the world. Living in my own mind, I'm saying that you can answer the questions, except they have real authority unlike his. He spouts off three verses where he says the TR reading is indefensible. When he says indefensible, he intends for you to see it his way. It is defensible, but he means that you can't defend it with the rules of textual criticism, which were invented by men and essentially unbelievers.
At the 15 minute mark, he says someone has counted 1800 differences between the TR and the majority text. The majority text, you may not know, is a recent invention also part of textual criticism. When you say "the majority text," you're already wrong, because there is no "the majority text." Not every manuscript has been collated, so we still can't say what's the majority. I call this "the math view," and it isn't a biblical position. White himself says "the majority text," which is either ignorant or misleading.
He spends 16-17 philosophizing about this, and lands on 1 John 5:7, which he says indicates that we don't have the original text of the New Testament. Anyone who defends 1 John 5:7 he says, despite it's inclusion in the confessions, is an unhelpful zealot for this age in which we live. I have no comment.
At 17:30, around there, White says he saw a very "troubling" combination of canon issues and text issues. That sparked my interest, because that was one of my chapters in Thou Shalt Keep Them. It also makes me wonder if this guy he's arguing with has read that chapter. White says that confusing canon and text leads back to the arguments of Rome and the more conservative forms of Islam. So there, swatted that away with ease.
White attacks the idea of a received text, coming to the church by the providence of God. He asks if the very recent finds of the papyri are not the providence of God. That, of course, isn't the point. He either doesn't get the point or he's acting like he doesn't get it. I could say it's the providence of God that I stuck my hand with a screwdriver two days ago, but there is no doctrine to derive from it. Believers didn't have the papyri for hundreds of years, so if you believe in providential preservation, you don't believe that should "correct" what God did preserve. That isn't a belief in preservation. It's a denial. It doesn't surprise me that people find new manuscripts. There are regular archaelogical finds that people, who operate like White, think should be used to correct standing doctrine. They shouldn't. They should be interpreted in light of what we already know. Christianity and the church are not in flux, not a flexible, meandering thing, changing based upon what new discovery might come about (18:40).
The next post will be the last.