Saturday, August 25, 2007


Doctrines that contradict each other cannot both be true. They can both be false or only one true, but not both true. Scriptural doctrines can't contradict each other. When they do, something is wrong in the interpretation. The correct understanding of separation will not deny a Biblical view of unity. Scriptural separation and unity harmonize perfectly. However, they don't among fundamentalists and evangelicals. This inconsistency results in varying mixtures of disobedience to both teachings. The fundamentalists tend toward violating their own view of unity more than evangelicals contradict the Bible on separation. As a means of compromise, the more liberal fundamentalists look to merge with the more conservative evangelicals by dividing the transgressions in an equal number between separation and unity. Bob Bixby calls this an "emerging middle." Conservative evangelicals see their violations of separation and move right. Moderate fundamentalists notice their infringement of unity and move left. They meet in the"middle," when there really is no Scriptural middle.

We don't have left, right, and middle when it comes to the Bible. We have right and wrong alone. We do what God says or we don't. It is as simple as that, despite the silly protests or silent-treatment you might get from the politcally inclined evangelicals and fundamentalists. A middle is nothing more than a mollifying gloss. Doctrine becomes a balancing act. It's like attempting to take the middle ground on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Instead, we are to sort out what Scripture says and do it.

How the Doctrine of Evangelicals and Fundamentalists Contradicts Itself

Two doctrines, both found in Scripture, that we must practice and that do not deny each other, are separation and unity. Evangelicals and fundamentalists teach that all believers make up the body of Christ. They say that the true church is all believers (You'll see this belief here, among many other places). Let's look at 1 Corinthians 12:25a:

"That there should be no schism in the body."

God's will is no schism (division, faction) in the body. For those who believe that the body of Christ is all believers, no schism in the body means that believers are required not to separate from other believers at all. On the other hand, Scripture teaches separation from believers. Evangelicals mainly just don't talk about separation. You'll rarely hear them use the word. Primarily, they'll say "purity," not separation. They know it contradicts. Of course, it contradicts with purity too, but separate sounds like something someone has got to do. They don't want to do anything. Fundamentalists, however, have a problem here. That's why it is mainly them writing the odd and tortured essays attempting to bring these two concepts together. They know that the Bible teaches separation from believers and yet we are to have no schism in the body. A couple of conservative evangelicals try to bridge their Snake River Canyon between separation and unity (Phil Johnson , Al Mohler, and Mark Dever). They're about all I've heard attempting to do this among the evangelical crowd.

So they're teaching on separation contradicts their beliefs about unity. At least one of them must be the wrong. Which one is it---separation or unity? They're wrong on both. They don't understand either unity or separation. They are continuously disobedient on both of these doctrines and, therefore, practices. We can't "balance" separation and unity. We practice both of them 100% Scripturally.

What's wrong in the practice of fundamentalists and evangelicals? First, evangelicals don't unify with every believer. Phil Johnson writes in his "Dead Right" essay:

So there clearly are times when it is appropriate to refuse to keep company with someone who is a believer, especially if that person is deliberately and incorrigibly disobedient to the clear instruction of Scripture.
Wait a minute! I know that this statement is loaded with qualifiers, but how can we avoid any schism in the body and yet separate from a believer? Separation is schism. That can't be right in a system that says the body of Christ is all believers. Of course, there's a way that evangelicals like Johnson will deal with this, which we'll mention again later. However, they contradict their own belief about the unity of the body.

Second, they don't separate based upon Scripture. We need to consider at least a few of the passages on separation for us to see this.

Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. . . . . And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14, 15

Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. Romans 16:17

But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. 1 Corinthians 5:11

Separation passages don't limit the Scriptural doctrines and practices that are a basis for separation. However, that is how evangelicals and fundamentalists deal with their transgression of this doctrine. They place values upon teachings in the Bible and rank them according to their perceived importance. They say that certain kinds of false doctrine, the false doctrine of lesser importance, must just be allowed as they relate to fellowship (unity) and separation, so we must just agree to disagree on their so-called "non-essentials." The evangelicals are dogmatic about having a taxonomy, more so than certain actual teachings of Scripture.

Mark Dever, the Southern Baptist pastor in the Washington, DC area, uses 1 Corinthians 15:3 as a proof text for a taxonomy of doctrine to decide what is worth separating over. It amazes me how sure they are that the text is propagating their kind of essential/non-essential teaching. If these kinds of classifications are found in the Bible at all, they could only be inferred from the text. Evangelicals are notorious for not requiring doctrine and practice based upon inferences, and yet, here they require it. In the John Piper, Bethlehem Baptist statement on Scripture, we read: "It is not legitimate to infer a meaning from a Biblical text that is not demonstrably carried by the words which God inspired." So go ahead and look at what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:3:

For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures.
Dever preaches ("Discern Your Doctrine" message) that "first" (protos) means "most important" here. When Paul wrote "first of all," Dever is saying that the gospel is a more important doctrine than any other doctrine. He jumps from there to say that the gospel then is the doctrine that Paul would separate over. Dever would not say that we shouldn't separate over other doctrines, just that the gospel is more important than the other doctrines. Then he would say that it is easy to see that certain teachings are not worth separating over, like those mentioned in Romans 14.

What's wrong with all this?

1. The passages on separation, like the three above, don't limit separation to the gospel alone.
2. Protos ("first") doesn't for sure mean "most important," but also could mean "first in order," that is, that Paul would preach the gospel before he preached other doctrines. And then even if it means "most important" or "foremost," he might be saying that the the death, burial, and resurrection are the most important of any of the truths that he is teaching in 1 Corinthians 15.
3. 1 Corinthians 15:3, 4 doesn't provide any kind of taxonomy for separation, even if it were a more important doctrine than others.
4. A Romans 14 issue is a non-scriptural one. We don't separate over non-scriptural issues. That doesn't instruct us then not to separate over Scriptural ones.
5. The Bible doesn't mention anywhere a taxonomy of doctrines worth separating over. It isn't even implied anywhere. Neither will you find it taught in historical materials. (Phil Johnson has written on this and defended a taxonomy on separation, dividing only over the "essential" issues, which I have answered in this series of articles.)

Shouldn't this bother fundamentalists and evangelicals? Aren't they the ones who claim to get their teachings from what is demonstrable in Scripture? Don't they argue against many practices because they don't see them explicitly taught in Scripture? Why is it that they are so receptive to making something authoritative that isn't found in the Bible at all? Aren't they guilty of turning the teachings of man into the commandments of God?

The true position will be completely consistent on both separation and unity. The right stance on unity allows obedience to every Scriptural instruction on unity, and the correct view of separation will result in submission to every text on separation. We can embrace complete compliance to all that the Bible teaches on separation and unity. Evangelicals and fundamentals contradict themselves. Their doctrine can't be true. So, what is the truth? What doctrine will remain consistent?

The Correct Teaching on Separation and Unity: It Will Not Contradict Itself

The Consequences of Contradicting the Doctrines of Separation and Unity

Part Three Is Coming Soon.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


The One and Only Consistent Scriptural Position That
Harmonizes Separation and Unity

I have stopped blogging. OK. That’s not possible or you wouldn’t be reading this. I can’t be both writing this blog and not writing this blog. As you analyze what might seem fairly obvious, you can designate this the law of the excluded middle. Something is either "A" or "Non-A." I cannot be not-blogging and blogging. There is also the law of contradiction, which means that two antithetical propositions cannot both be true at the same time and in the same sense. "A" cannot be "non-A." A thing cannot be and not be simultaneously. And nothing that is true can be self-contradictory or inconsistent with any other truth. Rational thought requires this and meaningful discourse demands it. Scripture very clearly affirms the law of contradiction.
I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth. 1 John 2:21
If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself. 2 Timothy 2:13
The Consistency of Scripture

Scripture interprets Scripture. The Bible is God’s Word and so it is consistent with itself. The Bible does not contradict itself. If you read one passage of the Bible and it seems to contradict a different passage then at least one of the passages is being misunderstood, if not both. This is the logic of the laws of the excluded middle and of contradiction.

John W. Hendryx agrees with this truth and explains it in its proper context:

It is important to note that consistency and logic (like omniscience, justice and mercy) are among the perfections of God. Lest you doubt the validity of this assertion, the Scripture itself teaches this. Jesus Himself said that He is "...the Truth" and later in the same gospel he states that God's Word is Truth (John 17:17). These statements, of course, would be utterly meaningless if it did not mean that Jesus was opposed to all falsehood. The conclusion we must, therefore, reach is simply that God's Word does not contradict itself. . . . God keeps his promises, does not lie, nor does God have the capacity to deny Himself. Since this means God cannot contradict Himself in what He says, does and believes, then He calls us to do likewise (Be truthful, holy, keep your promises, do not lie). God Himself, as revealed in Scripture, is the ultimate presupposition we have in being consistent and logical in everything we say and do, and this is especially true for those who would be teachers of God's word.
Robert Thomas in Evangelical Hermeneutics (p. 413) wrote: "He (God) overruled natural limitations of humanity in inspiring Scripture, the result is an inspired Bible that does not contradict itself." Lewis Sperry Chafer in Major Bible Themes (p. 34) concurred: "In interpreting the Bible, every text must be taken in the light of the total content of Scripture, as the Bible does not contradict itself." In a positive way, the Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics reads: "WE AFFIRM the unity, harmony, and consistency of Scripture and declare that it is its own best interpreter." And then, negatively it says: "WE DENY that Scripture may be interpreted in such a way as to suggest that one passage corrects or militates against another." Article XIV of The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy states: "We affirm the unity and internal consistency of Scripture."

A Scriptural position on inspiration and inerrancy results in consistent or non-contradictory beliefs. For that reason, I can’t believe both in salvation by works and salvation by grace. Those two doctrines contradict each other; therefore, only one of them could be true. God is not going to contradict Himself, so we won’t get a right understanding of Scripture that results in any contradictions.

An Issue of Inconsistency

A huge number of both evangelicals and fundamentalists contradict themselves especially in one particular area of Scripture. They do this blatantly. Since no truth can contradict another truth, one or both of their contradictions must be false. That hasn’t stopped evangelicals and fundamentalists from regularly discussing how that they can force the contradictions to somehow fit together. And then this reflects on the nature of God. It makes Him deny Himself and thereby calls Him a liar. A professed "belief" or "truth" that contradicts something else taught in Scripture cannot actually be the truth.

Scripture is consistent, so part of believing it, and, therefore, God Himself, requires studying with the degree of diligence that would alleviate the contradictions. Leaving the incongruities cannot be the will of God and will not result in a right interpretation of Scripture. Instead, the inconsistencies will lead to a deviation from God’s Word in faith and practice.

Most evangelicals and fundamentalists have learned to ignore a major inconsistency. Some continue to struggle with the conflict between two major theses, yet tolerating the contradiction as part of their historic traditions. The discrepancy lies in their teaching of Scriptural separation and the doctrine of Biblical unity. Their beliefs about separation and unity contradict one another. Since they do, that ought to be tell-tale that they are getting something wrong, that they are missing something. These are both Biblical doctrines and they shouldn’t contradict. Later we will discuss exactly what is their precise failure, but first we will look at the kind of floundering and tangled, most often invented teaching that comes out of their error. Their Scriptural falsehoods lead to even greater twisting of the Bible.

The evangelical and fundamentalist discussions about this tension between separation and unity verge on the dissection of the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin. The contradictions make the Bible impossibly complex. The Bible is simple when it is interpreted properly—everything fits together in a plain, very comprehensible way. That’s not what we get in these filibusters on separation and unity.

Kevin Bauder, a fundamentalist, illustrates the convolution and perplexity that result from the contradictions in a series he wrote entitled Thinking about the Gospel:

An indifferentist is a Christian who affirms the gospel but denies that the doctrines of the gospel must constitute an unbreachable boundary for Christian faith and fellowship. . . . Indifferentism is a serious error. While indifferentists do not deny the gospel, they do demean it. They diminish its importance for Christian faith and fellowship. If we take seriously 2 John 8-11, then indifferentism is truly scandalous. At minimum, indifferentists are woefully deficient in discernment and obedience. Therefore, they must never be placed in positions of Christian leadership or held up as models of Christian faith and practice.

Bauder is attempting to reconcile doctrines that contradict one another. Fundamentalists and evangelicals to a lesser extent have been trying to do this for decades and to live comfortably with the strain. Bauder coins new words to accomplish this. Notice that indifferentism is an error and scandalous, basically offensive or shocking. He doesn’t call it a sin. And his punishment for the indifferentist is prohibition from leadership and exclusion as a "model." You won’t find that in the 2 John 8-11 text, which actually says that the indifferentist has become a "partaker of evil deeds," and someone involved in those evil deeds, obviously without repentance, must be separated from. Bauder falls short of this—his indifferentist is a Christian and so his view of unity comes into play. Contradictions with Scripture occur. Bauder continues:

Another error exists that is almost the opposite of indifferentism. We could call it "everythingism." An "everythingist" is someone who is committed to the "literal exposition of all the affirmations and attitudes of the Bible, and the militant exposure of all non-biblical affirmations and attitudes" (this was George Dollar’s definition of "fundamentalism" in his History of Fundamentalism in America, published by Bob Jones University Press in 1973). While the indifferentist makes too little of the gospel and of fundamental doctrines, the everythingist makes too much of non-fundamentals, weighting these doctrines as if they were essential to Christian faith and fellowship.

Obviously, the "everythingist" is bad to Bauder. By his own admission, Bauder doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t keep everything that the Bible says. He says that he believes in that. With that in mind, this is hard to figure out. How do we determine what disobedience to the Bible is worth separating over? Why isn’t "everythingism" right? What are the fundamental doctrines and why is it that only those are the only ones essential to "fellowship"? That’s not what we read in Romans 16:17, 18, 2 Thessalonians 3:16-15, and Matthew 18:15-17, among other places. Again, Bauder is attempting to reconcile separation and unity and in doing so, he contradicts passages on both of them. This inconsistency should reveal to him that something is wrong in his interpretation of Scripture. Instead, he is willing to live with the inconsistency, even though he shouldn’t. Then he says:

Of course, very few people, if any, are pure everythingists. Almost everybody recognizes that at least some teachings are non-fundamental, secondary, or even incidental. Pure everythingism is hard to find.

Fundamentalists deny this, but their authority for their ranking of doctrines doesn’t come from Scripture, but as Bauder writes plainly here—the recognition of almost everyone. Their basis in doctrinal value judgments is populism—"it must be true because so many people believe it or are saying it." God told us to obey everything (Matthew 28:20, Deuteronomy 30:2). That may clash with the crowd, but it’s still God’s Word. However, that doesn’t jive with Bauder’s system of separation and unity. He concludes his essay with this rather ambiguous paragraph:

If we want a truly biblical Christianity, then we are going to have to avoid both errors. We are going to have to treat everythingists and indifferentists with about the same misgiving. Of course, in order to do that we shall have to become skilled at judging the importance of doctrines. We must develop special proficiency for discriminating fundamentals from non-fundamentals.

According to Bauder, the true position falls somewhere between indifferentism and everythingism. Why? It just does. He says so. Others would agree. They will continue arguing ad infinitum on what degree. The "separatists" will scold the "compromisers" and the "conciliatory" will castigate the "isolationists." The key, Bauder says, is to become "skilled at judging the importance of doctrines" and "develop special proficiency for discriminating fundamentals from non-fundamentals." How will you obtain these skills and this proficiency? What are the guidelines for success? That’s what we need to know, but Bauder doesn’t give an answer for it. We’re left with the sense that all we can do is to give it our best shot. After all, "we’re not perfect, just forgiven."

Joel Tetreau, someone who would profess to stand left of Kevin Bauder, but another fundamentalist, attempts to make sense of the contradiction by labeling various men and groups of men:

Today, I am convinced that Type B’s outnumber Type A’s. Once in a while, I get a note or a piece of communication from an angry Type A who tries to convince me that Type B’s are really just new-evangelicals who should leave the movement. I’ve always responded that they are actually closer to Hyper-Fundamentalism (type A+) than we Type B’s are to New-Evangelicalism (left of Type C). I have suggested that they should leave because the closer reality is that they have changed the face of Fundamentalism, not us. They aren’t used to this interaction. In the old days, Type A’s would bark at a Type B, and the Type B (or C) would leave. Those days are mostly over. In its place is a civil war. Hopefully, we will wage this with Biblical ethics. The war is mostly between A’s and B’s.

According to him, we need a "war" to stake out the correct position. This war between professing believers, he hopes, will be fought with "Biblical ethics"—perhaps no choke holds or hitting below the waist. His "Type A+" seems to be someone closer to Bauder’s "everythingist" and his "Type C" must be closest to the category of the "indifferentist." Apparently, Tetreau is striving for that important middle ground of fundamentalism, a completely even number of contradictions of each separation and unity.

Phil Johnson, a professing evangelical, describes the uncertainty about how to balance contradicting ideas or practices with an article entitled: Fellowship or Fight. He sums up his position when he writes:

Clearly, there are two extremes to be avoided. One is the danger of being so narrow and intolerant that you create unnecessary divisions in the body of Christ. The other is the problem of being too broad-minded and sinfully tolerant—so ecumenically minded that you settle for a shallow, false unity with people whom we are commanded to avoid or whose errors we are morally obligated to refute.

This is clear. He says so; it must be. Again, the key is to avoid the extremes, stake out the middle ground. You can feel the struggle in his words. "This isn’t going to be easy, folks!" What makes it so difficult is that it is not only not taught in Scripture, but refuted by God’s Word. Phil Johnson represents his evangelical view of fundamentalism in his seminar entitled, Dead Right: The Failure of Fundamentalism. If you read carefully, you'll see his twist of Scripture in order to reconcile his own degree of contradiction between the doctrines of separation and unity. He writes:

In fact, I believe as Christians we have a duty to contend earnestly for the faith whenever vital gospel truths are threatened. I recognize that there is a core of truth that is absolutely essential to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and when someone’s teaching deliberately rejects or fatally compromises any of those essential truths. . . . I believe Scripture forbids us to have fellowship with people who deny essential gospel truths. . . . Scripture repeatedly makes clear that we are not to seek fellowship with people who corrupt the essential truths of Scripture—even if they claim to be Christians, and especially when they demand that we compromise our convictions or tone down our message in the name of unity.

His language is loaded with qualifiers that give him room to determine what in the Bible is "vital" and "essential." "Vital" and "essential" aren't found in passages on separation and unity. He downloads the words to fit his position. Nowhere does the Bible say that the grounds of separation are a "core of truth that is absolutely essential to the gospel of Jesus Christ." He as well as other evangelicals or fundamentalists have invented an unbiblical view that contradicts the Bible's teaching on separation and unity.

Recently a coalition of four well-known evangelicals have agreed to ignore sufficiently their doctrinal differences to come "together for the gospel." These four—Albert Mohler (a Southern Baptist seminary president), Ligon Duncan (a Presbyterian pastor), Mark Dever (a Southern Baptist pastor), and CJ Mahaney (a Charismatic pastor)—in reality come together for the five points of Calvinism. Supposedly, cessation of sign gifts (Mahaney), infant sprinkling (Duncan), and associations with Billy Graham (Mohler) aren’t sufficient considerations to break fellowship. Other popular evangelical Calvinists, like John MacArthur and John Piper, laud and support them for unity. In an elevation of Calvinistic soteriology, they choose indifference to eschatology (amillennialism or premillennialism), baptism (infant sprinkling or believer’s immersion), or charisma (continuationist or cessationist). They look for common ground and essentially ignore the rest for the sake of "fellowship," or do they?

Recently Mark Dever writes in an article on August 15, 2007 saying that he would not have communion (the Lord’s Supper, which is a test of fellowship) with someone who was not obedient in Scriptural immersion. How does someone separate his fellowship from his fellowship? He fellowships with paedo-baptists, but he doesn’t fellowship with them. He’ll get together for the gospel, but he won’t get together for the Lord’s Table. They can’t participate in communion because he says that they are clearly disobedient. However, these disobedient people, unrepentant, can preach in his pulpit, and he will gladly get together with them. Do you see the contradiction? If someone takes a Scriptural position, these types of contradictions will not exist. They reflect blasphemously on the nature of God and His Word. They obliterate the Scriptural teaching on separation and unity.

Discussions about the degrees of separation and unity are repeated everywhere and often among fundamentalists and evangelicals, "ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth" (2 Timothy 3:7). Formations of multitudes of groups and circles and fellowships come from an estimation of what is the appropriate degree of contradiction they’re willing to tolerate. Almost every faction is built around a particular personality or school. The adherents travel to conferences where sufficient agreement exists. They’ll never reach a solution, because of clear discrepancies in their doctrine. Some individuals are politically suavy enough to travel in several circles at once. They are able to accentuate an acceptable degree of diplomacy to fit into many groups, perhaps even brokering a unique skill or ability or success into adequate approval.

God’s Word does not contradict itself. The teaching in Scripture on separation fits perfectly with its instruction on unity. Men can practice Biblical separation and Biblical unity in a consistent way. God does not deny Himself. That isn’t, however, what we witness in most of evangelicalism and fundamentalism. They’re views of separation and unity are unscriptural; they’re wrong. If you follow they’re path, it’s one that ends in disobedience to God’s Word.

How the Doctrine of Evangelicals and Fundamentalists Contradicts Itself

The Correct Teaching on Separation and Unity: It Will Not Contradict Itself

The Consequences of Contradicting the Doctrines of Separation and Unity

In part 2, we will reveal the contradictory teachings of fundamentalists and evangelicals that lead to this ongoing, never-ending debate and result in serious deviation from God’s Word. We will show plainly the position that will not contradict itself, so that everyone will believe it.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

A Case Study on Jesus' Teaching from Scripture

The Lord Jesus Christ had just devastated the attack of the Pharisees and Herodians in Mark 12:12-17. Then came along the Sadducees and Jesus ended His session with them in 12:18-27 by saying this in vv. 26, 27:
And as touching the dead, that they rise: have ye not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: ye therefore do greatly err.
Our Lord quoted a text from the Old Testament (Exodus 3:6) and then taught from it. I want to examine what He did with this text and show what kind of example His dealing leaves us.

The Background

The Sadducees were the elite, essentially secular Jews. They did not believe in the resurrection, angels, or spirits (Acts 23:8), the anti-supernaturalists, i.e., the liberals. They had a low view of inspiration, even as they respected only the Torah as a basis of authority, so studying the Bible took a low priority for them. They came to Jesus with a question about the resurrection, using a ridiculous hypothetical situation. They had probably used it successfully before against the Pharisees. You could call their hypothetical, 'the seven brothers for the one bride' (not to be confused with seven brides for seven brothers).

Their trick question begins by establishing the Mosaic levirate laws from Deuteronomy 25 (12:19). Each of seven brothers dies and the next in line marries the widow, every marriage childless, until the last of the seven passes away, and then she dies in the end. The question: In the resurrection, which of the seven sons will be married to the woman? This question was intended to embarrass the recipient who believed in the resurrection.

The Lord starts by rebuking the Sadducees for their lack of knowledge of Scripture (12:24). Jesus then relied on His own Divine authority by declaring some brand new information on the status of marriage in heaven (v. 25). All of this together provides the context for His exegesis in Mark 12:26, 27. The Sadducees didn't understand the very Torah they said that they relied upon as a guide. Jesus, however, did know the Scriptures.

Jesus' Teaching

1. The Lord Jesus Christ exegeted teaching from a text that was not about what He was teaching.

Read Mark 12:26. Read Exodus 3. See any teaching on resurrection in those verses? No, you don't. Resurrection was a distant secondary doctrine in Exodus 3. Jesus brought it front and center. Jesus authorizes this type of usage of a text. God not only permits, but obviously wants us to take teaching from texts that are not about that particular teaching. Everything God says is right and true, so the secondary truths or applications are just as authoritative as the primary ones.

2. The Lord Jesus Christ got teaching from a logical deduction from the text.

The Sadducees were proud of their logic. Their whole levirate marriage question was one of human reasoning that was then shattered by the Lord. Indicating how illogical they actually were, Jesus shows the Sadducees a logical deduction that they had missed. He trades one very fallacious deduction for a valid conclusion from the text. They couldn't deduce a thing about marriage in heaven from laws of levirate marriage. They could, however, conclude something logically about resurrection from a popular passage in the Pentateuch.

3. The Lord Jesus Christ culled His teaching from the mere tense of a verb.

We don't believe in thought or conceptual inspiration, but verbal plenary inspiration. Where would Jesus stand in His teaching from Exodus 3 without the present tense of the verb? When God spoke to Moses from the burning bush, He said literally, "I myself God of your father, God of Abraham,...." Jesus translated that, "I am the God of Abraham." Of course, Abraham had died, so how was God presently the God of Abraham? He was presently the God of Abraham because Abraham was presently alive. Why? He had resurrected.

If God had said, "I was the God of Abraham," the teaching about resurrection wouldn't have been in Exodus 3. God expects us not only to get teaching from individual words and even letters (cf. Galatians 3:16), but He expects us to take doctrine from the tense of verbs. We would assume then that we would still have all the exact tenses of the verbs preserved for us, wouldn't we? Or are we to assume anything from things that God teaches?

Since God takes teaching from the mere tense of verbs, then I would assume that we would also look at the mood of the verbs as well. For instance, Romans 5:1 reads:

Therefore being justified by faith, we have (exomen, present-indicative verb) peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
If you look at a Westcott and Hort New Testament, which I have on my Bible Works program, it reads differently:

Therefore being justified by faith, we may have (exwmen, present-subjuntive verb) peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
See the difference that one letter can make---an omega instead of an omicron and we go from assurance of peace to doubt about peace. Some say one small aspect about a verb doesn't matter, but Jesus says that it does.

4. The Lord Jesus Christ inferred major teaching from a text, one not explicitly taught.

The listener infers; the speaker implies. Jesus inferred from Exodus 3:6 the doctrine of resurrection. Do we see resurrection in that text? No. So then, how can we take a teaching, and a major one, from a text that says nothing about it? We can and Jesus illustrates that we can. In doing so, He leaves us an example to follow His steps. He places a logical inference on the same authoritative level as a direct statement of Scripture.

Compromising Christians and new-evangelicals busy themselves developing taxonomies that rank the authority of Christian doctrine by whether the teaching comes from direct statement or logical inference. They say that inferences from Scripture do not have the same authority as Scripture itself. Jesus says they do; they say they don't. New-evangelical Millard Erickson ranks logical inferences below direct statements of Scripture. In his Christian Theology (pp. 83-84), he writes:
Direct implications of Scripture must also be given high priority. They are to be regarded as slightly less authoritative than direct statements.

Even professing "fundamentalists" say that inferences from the Bible do not carry the same weight as the Bible. One writes:

But even very clear inferences are less authoritative than the sacred text. Otherwise, why not add them to Scripture? Shouldn’t there be an eleventh commandment, “Thou shalt not abort unborn babies”? We all believe this is a sound inference, but it does not have the same authority as Scripture because God did not inspire it, and the fact that He did not inspire it means, at best, it has an authority nearly equal to that of Scripture. We may proclaim it as the teaching of Scripture, but we are not free to claim it is equal to Scripture. We may not put it in the mouth of God by claiming “Thus saith the Lord.”
A major step in the development of liberal theology was the rejection of the inferences of Scripture. In "The Growth of Liberal Theology" in The Cambridge History of English and American Literature we read:

We must note, however, as still characteristic even of liberal divines at this time that, while Hampden will rigorously criticise any inferences from Scripture, he asserts without qualification that “whatever is recorded in those books is indisputably true."
Hampden was a pioneer in the Oxford movement (1833-1845) in England, which down-turned Oxford toward liberalism. A primary means was his attack on inferences from Scripture. R. W. Church writes in The Oxford Movement:

Dr. Hampden was in fact unexceptionably, even rigidly orthodox in his acceptance of Church doctrine and Church creeds. He had published a volume of sermons containing, among other things, an able statement of the Scriptural argument for the doctrine of the Trinity, and an equally able defence of the Athanasian Creed. But he felt that there are formularies which may be only the interpretations of doctrine and inferences from Scripture of a particular time or set of men; and he was desirous of putting into their proper place the authority of such formularies. His object was to put an interval between them and the Scriptures from which they professed to be derived, and to prevent them from claiming the command over faith and conscience which was due only to the authentic evidences of God's revelation.

If words mean anything, he had said that neither Unitarians nor any one else could get behind the bare letter, and what he called "facts," of Scripture, which all equally accepted in good faith; and that therefore there was no reason for excluding Unitarians as long as they accepted the "facts." But when it was pointed out that this reasoning reduced all belief in the realities behind the bare letter to the level of personal and private opinion, he answered by saying that he valued supremely the Creeds and Articles, and by giving a statement of the great Christian doctrines which he held, and which the Church taught. But he never explained what their authority could be with any one but himself. There might be interpretations and inferences from Scripture, by the hundred or the thousand, but no one certain and authoritative one; none that warranted an organised Church, much more a Catholic and Apostolic Church, founded on the assumption of this interpretation being the one true faith, the one truth of the Bible.

Ranking inferred teaching below direct statements has been and is a step toward liberalism.

New-evangelicals defy necessary inferences by saying that silence about a particular subject means liberty. If no text explicitly teaches against an activity, then they have license to practice that activity. Where did this rule come from? It originated with them and many of them repeat it regularly. Here is an example of this that is common all over the country and everywhere on the internet and in new-evangelical books:

If you think dancing is wrong, bu (sic) all means, do not dance, but since the bible says nothing about dancing being wrong, do not apply that as sin to someone else. especially if you, for some reason, think that your rules make you "Godlier" than everyone else. For you have crossed the line into being a Pharisee at that point.
Nick Costello writes:

The variety of styles has birthed much controversy and even division among Christians. The issue should never be over a particular 'style', for the Bible doesn't tell us what style God prefers. What if we get to heaven and find out God likes punk or rap worship? His Spirit cannot be placed in a box. We cannot tell others what music will or won't minister to their individual heart. Just like people have varying tastes in food, so do we in music too! (emphasis mine)
Now people think that silence-is-permission stands as the definitive approach to Scripture. Jesus debunks this whole hermeneutic here. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself authorizes doctrine by inference.

I recognize that now antagonists of this thought on inferences will think that "this is an inference made by Jesus, which makes it authoritative, but does not assume that our inferences are authoritative." We can and are to follow the example of Jesus (1 John 2:6). He will enable us by His Spirit to do "greater works" (John 14:12). We are to imitate what Jesus did (1 Corinthians 11:1).

I love this material from John Dick in Lectures in Theology (1850) about drawing inferences from Scripture:

It has been a subject of controversy, whether it is lawful to draw inferences from Scripture, and what authority should be assigned to them. It is not easy at first sight to conceive, why there should have been a diversity of sentiment upon a point which seems to admit of no dispute; for nothing is more plain than that, when a proposition is laid down from which certain inferences naturally arise, it is the office of the understanding to draw the conclusions, and to rest in them with equal confidence as in the premises from which they are deduced. . . . Had every thing, which it is necessary for us to know, been delivered in express terms in the Scriptures, the Bible would have been too voluminous for general use; and besides, such minuteness was not necessary. God does not speak in it to children, but to men, who are capable of reasoning on the common affairs of life, and can use this power in matters of religion.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

A Good Sign the NFL Season Is Here

I was just taking one day at a time until they started playing one game at a time. I know that the NFL Season is here because now they're not just talking the talk, but their walking the walk. Some players need to start putting their money where their mouth is, since they've already been putting their mouth where their money is. In some of the first preseason games, a few of them stepped up to the plate, and nipped at the bud problems they were having in the offseason. I don't think the problems can be attributed to just one man, because you win as a team and you lose as a team. We don't play these games on paper, so now's the time to do what they're paying you for, to get out their and make a contribution. They're not shooting real bullets in the preseason, but some of this is for bragging rights.

You've got to like the increase in NFL football interviews, as some of these journalists are able to get the most out of these players and coaches. They bring their A game to a question and answer time. As we near the regular season, we need to find out who will make plays, who can turn up the intensity during the key moments, who's loaded for bear, and who won't let the crowd faze them. I've noticed that some players rise to the occasion and others do not. Those that do leave everything in that interview, saving nothing for when they start counting wins and losses, they're obviously hungry and are not taking anything lightly. They know they have to come together as a team. They've got each other's backs. They are pinning their ears back so they won't come back with their tails between their legs.

You know the football season has arrived because they're saying all the right things. You can tell they believe in themselves and want to avoid the big letdown. No one can stop the interviews; you can only hope to contain them, or at least to control the tempo. Fox, ESPN, CBS---they're digging deep, sucking it up, and avoiding the mental mistakes that kill an interview. For sure, I hear them sticking with their bread and butter, because, after all, they know who butters their bread. They're not intimidated. They've had a whole offseason practicing on Barry Bonds, so they've had to turn it up a notch, bring it up to the next level already, capitalizing on their opportunities.

Players, coaches, journalists, radio hosts, all are pulling out all the stops in honor of a new NFL season. You don't sense tension because it sounds like they're just going out there and having fun. They're executing, playing both sides of the microphone, and sticking with their game plan, not in any hurry, because they still have plenty of time on the clock. This is what they pay them for, to be professionals. It's all a business.

Some of the questions I don't understand, definitely wounded ducks, thrown up for grabs, only a prayer. I know that they'd like to have them back, ill-advised. However, I hear some great second effort with cooler heads prevailing, ending with an exchange of pleasantries. Like many questions, many NFL interview answers are brutal, horrendous, making wish they'd just take a knee to stop the clock, to leave under their own power. Some are flat-out horrible, giving their critics plenty of fodder, room for criticism, but I'm happy when they are able to take responsibility, to be a warrior when they don't seem to thrive under pressure. Others come through in the clutch with ice-water in their veins. They're on top of their game, in a zone, and with those great instincts, don't say the same tired cliches that others do. They get their game-face on and make it look easy.

So, in honor of the beginning of another season, I'd like to thank my readers for making things happen, for having that linebacker mentality that never says quit, even when you could have stopped reading this long ago, even before the fat lady sang. You could have run roughshod over this article, but instead, it was a walk in the park. You answered the call; you were hitting on all cyclinders. En fuego. Nobody could stop you. You had on your big-boy pads. Now it's all over but the shouting. Thanks for maintaining your composure, circling your wagons, keeping your head in this essay, and hanging around. You's good people.

I have a few parting words. Never say die, because stranger things have happened. You can feel this story just slipping away like wind leaving the sails, but here's the back-breaker: the bus is warming up in the parking lot, so you can head for the exit. Elvis has left the building.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

A Defense of Barry Bonds: My One and Only Defense

First, A Little History

Growing up, I collected baseball cards. I still have them. A few of my little league baseball coaches would give us a dime if we won our game, and ten cents would buy a pack of Topps baseball cards with a flat piece of dry bubble gum attached to one of the cards. If you put your nose right against a card and take a big sniff, sometimes you can still smell the gum. I collected cards because I liked them. I would have never thought of them as an investment, although some of my cards are now worth over $1000.

I saw Hank Aaron play. When I lived in Wisconsin in the 1970s, he played for the Milwaukee Brewers. I can say that I saw the homerun record broken, because every time Aaron hit a homerun, he was breaking his own record.

I played competitive baseball from t-ball until the end of high school. By the time my baseball career (if you want to call it that) was over, I had played every position on the field in one season or another. I played on an undefeated team, 16-0, when I was an 11 year old. I still have five or six baseball trophies in some box somewhere.

I have lived in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1987. In other words, I have been here for Barry Bonds entire Giants stay at San Francisco. I've seen him play several times, almost all over at Candlestick Park before the new ballpark was built. I have seen him hit homeruns, a few in crucial situations. I often listen to Giant games while I'm busy doing something else. This was normal for me while growing up, to have a baseball game on the radio in the background. We certainly have one of the best radio announcers of all time in Jon Miller. I have kept up with the box scores of Giants games via newspaper and internet.

My Disclaimer Concerning Baseball Players

I don't think baseball players are role models. I don't. I think they are like any other people who have had professions. Some of the greatest players, like Ty Cobb, were some of the most onerous human beings. I don't think that they have any unique obligation to behave in a better way than anyone else on earth. I don't expect Barry Bonds to have a charming personality. I might like him better as a person if he did, but that doesn't change what I think of him as a baseball player. When I am watching or listening to a baseball game, it doesn't matter to me whether I think the player has a nice personality. A lot of what we think of players relates directly to how they treat the media. If the player does not treat the media favorably, the media will make him look like a worse human being, as if behavior is mainly measured by how one relates to newspaper writers and television reporters.

I start with all baseball players by evaluating their faithfulness to church. They play on Sundays. They can't have any kind of consistent church attendance with games on Sunday. I don't think it even matters for most professional baseball players. Because of that, I don't set any of them up as an example to follow. They are playing a game. A game. And they get paid because baseball is entertainment, so they are entertainers. Any true Christian would not play baseball on Sunday. He couldn't because church and the Lord's day is too important to him.

That being said, I personally don't think that Barry Bonds has a winsome personality. He's probably never been a fun teammate for most. He's likely been difficult to manage by many coaches. If I had him as a teammate, I wouldn't care as long as he produced on the field. I think I too should leave my ego at the door and judge a baseball player by how he plays baseball. He is getting paid to play baseball and should be judged by how he does that.

Did He Take Steroids?

I haven't read Game of Shadows, and won't. I'm not interested in this enough to take the time to read a book about it. I don't trust reporters any more than I trust anyone else, and maybe less. They don't like Barry Bonds. He is a polarizing figure, who can make people money if they write about him. People usually either love or hate Barry Bonds, just like the Oakland Raiders, the Dallas Cowboys, or the LA Lakers. Because people are interested in him, he gets written about. Everyone is looking for a new take, and all of this combined results in Barry Bonds disliking the media even more. He doesn't treat them well and partly because he doesn't think he's been treated well.

Here is what we know for sure. Barry Bonds has never tested positive for steroids. He has been the most scrutinized player in baseball for the last ten years and still no one has conclusively found steroids in his body. Others have failed tests. Others have said they have come out publically to say that they have taken them. I have always said innocent until proven guilty. I like our system of justice. Accusations are not enough to convict in the United States of America. You say, "What about the court of public opinion?" People have their opinions, but I believe we should give everyone the benefit of the doubt.

Alright, so the questions come, what about the change in his body as he has aged? I look at how his body has changed and I see the exact changes in my body. If he's on steroids, then I must be too. At the age of 25 I was 6'3", 185 pounds. Now I fluctuate between 210-220 lbs or so. You say, "You got fat." Well, no. I work full time as a pastor, so I don't lift weights like a professional athlete, but I have consistently lifted three days a week at least now for 20 years. I lift weights most of those days less than 30 minutes. From that 20 years of consistency, I have big, muscular shoulders, arms, and chest, which anyone who knows me can attest too. I dwarf what I was 20 years ago, like I'm a totally different person. Part of it is also physical maturity. So I look at Barry Bonds, and I think that he had a better diet and lifted and worked out far more than I have. If I was a professional athlete, I know for sure that I would have bulked up at least as much as he has. His physical growth does no surprise me at all.

I don't know about all the speculation about his hat and foot size. I do know that many people's feet swell up as they get older. Mine have. I still have my college football helmet. I wore a 7 1/4. I can't get it on now. I wear at least a 1/2 inch larger size than then. What happened? I've never sniffed steroids or even used a protein powder or health drink. I've just had a basic, regular American diet. I'm thinking that a lot of the people who have had comments about his size haven't had much of a work-out regime in their life, and are mainly a bunch of armchair players. Maybe he did take steroids, but I don't have definitive proof, so in the absence of that, I ignore it. I also know that many consider it the steroid era, so that the playing field was fairly even because many were taking these kinds of supplements to gain whatever edge or confidence they thought they could get.

Some say, "But what about his huge numbers after he was 37 years of age? No one else has done that." Many athletes are doing far more at later years if you haven't noticed, due to work-out and diet changes especially in the last 25 years. When I went through high school, we were told not to lift weights. Now, almost everyone lifts a lot. When you build up that muscle, you will be protected from other injuries if you keep a degree of flexibility. Did you just read that at the national swimming competition a woman 40 years of age won the 50 freestyle championship? Hitting a baseball is different than other sports. If you can keep yourself in good shape, you will get better at hitting because of experience. Bonds had perfected his home-run stroke, something that takes perfecting, almost like a golf swing. He had become more selective than ever, and he swings more than anyone in history at the best pitches to hit. That takes an amazing eye, which has nothing to do with size and strength. Have you noticed that Bonds fielding was deteriorating as his hitting was still maximized? Why weren't Bonds' steroids helping in the field? I didn't think that steroids could work so selectively, giving him superhuman hitting while he was eroding big time in the field. He went from a gold glove fielder, considered by some to be one of the best of all time, to a middle-of-the-pack fielder.

Look at Bonds now, at 43. He isn't taking steroids. He is being watched more closely than anyone. His OPS, combination of on-base percentage and slugging percentage, is 50 points higher than the next man in the entire major leagues. He hardly has cartlidge in his knees. What can we attribute that to? He surely isn't on steroids now, so why do his homeruns travel to prolific places that almost no other human being can hit? You can't have it both ways. And yet in the field, he still has great instincts and skills, but his physical condition makes him one of the poorest left-fielders in the National League. I see him as having worked so hard on his hitting stroke, that he took it to a whole new level, along with some of the most rigorous work-outs of anyone in baseball. He is a master technician at the plate.

Why Does He Deserve to be Considered the Home Run King?

Barry Bonds has been walked by far more than any other player in baseball. It isn't even close. He has been intentionally walked almost three times more than the next man on the list. So to start, he doesn't get as many at bats per season because pitchers (who might have been on steroids) are so careful with him. He has had at least 2000 less at bats than Hank Aaron. In each of his at bats, he gets far less good pitches to hit. In a game a few years ago, he was intentionally walked with the bases loaded. In every at bat, he may get one good pitch to hit. In a whole game, he might get one or two pitches to hit. When he gets that pitch to hit, he has more consistently hit it. He gets treated in a unique fashion that would work against hitting home-runs, that is within the letter of the rules, but not the spirit of baseball.

Barry Bonds has played most of his games in parks very difficult to hit homeruns. Pac Bell is one of the most difficult parks to hit homeruns in, and it is worst in right field, where Barry Bonds power alley is. You could see case in point in the all-star game this year. I didn't see the game, but I know that the left handed hitters were at a severe disadvantage in that homerun derby. Right handers won and finished in the top tier because of that. Candlestick was notoriously difficult to hit homeruns because of the horrendous wind.

Barry Bonds has played the outfield with no designated hitter. He wouldn't have the fresh legs of a Henry Aaron, who hit many of his later homeruns as a DH in the American League.

Bonds, by the admission of many big leaguers, has had the best hand eye coordination of anyone they have ever seen. He picks up the ball out of the pitchers hand faster than anyone. He has an amazing eye. He has perfected his swing. He knows when to choke up on the bat to give him more quickness on the inside pitches. Bonds has figured out the swing more than any modern player, just like Wayne Gretzky figured out hockey at a whole different level than other players.

If the Lord tarries, he lives, and baseball continues, he's going to hit more. He hit another one last night into McCovey Cove, bringing the number to 757. It was a towering, majestic shot to a place few others have hit a baseball. Bonds has been a player like no other in my lifetime. When he gets up to bat, people still expect him to hit a homerun. He still is a disruptive force for other pitchers, basing their approach to the whole Giants' line-up to where he comes in the order. He has made the players around him much better players. Jeff Kent became the player he is today when he was able to be around Bonds and bat after him. Everything about his hitting increased with the influence of Bonds.

What Effect Do Steroids Have on Hitting?

I assert that we don't even know what steroids have done to home-run hitting. Many have said that size of parks and hardness of baseball have had a greater impact. Tony Oliva, former American League batting champ, has recently said:

I hope baseball can soon stop talking about steroids. What I do know is the ballparks (today) are smaller and the ball is harder. I know those are two reasons for more home runs. Maybe steroids were the third reason. I don't know.
After that, we also have the new work-outs and diet regimes of the new players. Ted Williams hit 521 homeruns in his career and he was an absolute bean pole. In an essay about what Ted Williams said about hitting, Robert Nishihara writes:

A good hitter must identify a pitch to hit, know enough about the pitcher and the game situation to give himself the best chance to succeed, and put hands and hips into motion to drive the pitch. Nowhere does Williams mention that muscle mass aides in any of those critical elements. Williams, himself, of course, was rail-thin, and yet, he managed to crank out 521 career homers.

Sure, added muscle mass may increase the distance a player is able to hit a baseball, but what negative effect does that added mass have in altering the fluidity of the player's swing and, thus, his ability to hit the ball in the first place? A popular baseball refrain cautions fast players who have deficiencies in the batter's box that one cannot steal first base. Similarly, a power hitter cannot hit a home run if he cannot hit the ball. And hitting a baseball is a unique skill in the world of sports. It is a powerful act that does not require extraordinary muscle strength. Instead, it is primarily dependent on technique, reflexes, and hand-eye coordination, not brute strength. It is a correlation that so many people are failing to make these days.
Some have said that steroids aid in focus and agression, strengthened confidence. Except for no cartlidge in his knees and advanced age, I don't see anything different in what Barry Bonds is doing regarding focus and agression. Those are rather ambiguous traits to use as a basis for calling someone a cheater.

So What's My Conclusion

I know there is an east coast bias in baseball writing. East Coasters, which include most baseball television personalites, disrespect the baseball efforts of West Coast teams. They miss a lot of their games because of time. Then people hate Barry Bonds because of his personality. A lot of that he has earned himself, but he is also covered and scrutinized more, and has become more and more prickly through the years. Because Bonds treats the media poorly, that's how they treat him. Barry Bonds has also put a dagger in the collective hearts of many baseball fans with homeruns he has hit against other teams. He's the man people love to hate. He comes across as totally arrogant and self-absorbed, cocky. They want to see him brought down because of those things.

It is my opinion that Bonds gets disrespected as a player because people don't like his personality. I believe there are sour grapes because the other teams don't have him, but San Francisco does. He doesn't get credit for how hard he worked. If he was on their team, they would love him as a player. He hasn't always run hard to first and sometimes he performs certain antics on the field, but in so many different ways, including intangibles, he has displayed greatness as a baseball player.

Bonds should be considered one of the top two or three hitters of all time. He is by far the best player in the last two decades in baseball. He has the statistics to show it. He has endured much opposition in order to set the record as the number one homerun hitter of all time. He has also had many factors working against him, and yet he has succeeded anyway.

He is one of three 40-40 men in baseball history. He will be in very exclusive club when he reaches his 3,000 hit sometime early next year. Only three or four others are in the fraternity of over 500 homeruns and 3,000 hits. He has 7 MVP awards. He has 8 gold gloves. He doesn't run out ground balls because he thought it was important for his team to be in the line-up instead of pulling a muscle running out an out at first base. He had an amazing jump on the ball in the outfield, kept as many balls as any from getting through the outfield, and he hits his cut-off. He perfected the pivot on balls down the line to throw out runners trying to stretch a single into a double at second base. He rarely was thrown out at home plate on a single in the outfield. I believe he deserves consideration as the home run king in a very legitimate way.

Monday, August 06, 2007

So Does the Bible Mean What It Says About Itself, Or?

I didn't want a longer title, but if I did, it would have ended like this, "Or Are We Required to Look at Historical Material to Verify What It Says about Itself?" A lot of individuals deny inspiration. Michael Baigent is a man, very well educated in theology and he does. Bart Ehrman (scroll down a ways within the link to read what Ehrman says about Christmas now) went to Moody Bible Institute, Wheaton, and then Princeton under Bruce Metzger, and he denies inspiration too. So did Rudolf Bultmann and Paul Tillich, that is, reject verbal-plenary inspiration. I say verbal-plenary, because they would both likely say, if they were alive, that they did believe in inspiration, more of the natural variety. Men have attacked inspiration and it's bad. Scripture teaches inspiration and in a very practical way in 2 Timothy 3:16, 17.

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
Every writing, mark, etching, or stroke of the pen is breathed out by God. Notice then how that inspiration is directly related to the practical. Sufficiency of Scripture is tied up with every Word. We can't decide we will go on and on about how that pas graphe means verbal plenary when it comes to inspiration, but then back away from its connection with sufficiency. I believe this is why when Ehrman lost faith in preservation, he lost faith in Scripture itself. He was being honest about it when he wrote:

As I realized already in graduate school, even if God had inspired the original words [of Scripture], we don't have the original words. So the doctrine of inspiration was in a sense irrelevant to the Bible as we have it, since the words of God reputedly inspired had been changed and, in some cases, lost. Moreover, I came to think that my earlier views of inspiration were not only irrelevant, they were probably wrong. For the only reason (I came to think) for God to inspire the Bible would be so that his people have his actual words; but surely if he really wanted people to have his actual words, surely he would have miraculously preserved those words, just as he had miraculously inspired them in the first place. Given the circumstance that he didn't preserve the words, the conclusion seemed inescapable to me that he hadn't gone to the trouble of inspiring them (p. 211 of Misquoting Jesus).
Author and theologian Mark Roberts pretty much mocks Ehrman for that statement. He loves his textual criticism, but he doesn't like his connection of inspiration with preservation. Do you see what Ehrman says? He thought that the reason that God had inspired the Bible was so that His people could "have his actual words." In the locus classicus of inspiration, 2 Timothy 3:16, 17, isn't that what God says, or am I missing something? But here's Robert's answer to Ehrman:

The question Ehrman should have asked was: What does it tell us about God that He inspired the writers of Scripture but did not perfectly preserve what they wrote down? The answer, I think, is that God was looking for something beyond making sure we always had His actual words. Now, even as one who actually believes that the words of Scripture are inspired by God and also chosen by the human writers, I would nevertheless disagree with Ehrman's basic contention about the purpose of inspiration. God's primary purpose in inspiring the writers of Scripture was not so that people would have His words, but so that they would be drawn into a truthful relationship with Him. The words matter, to be sure, but only as a vehicle for a relationship of faith with the living God. Some modest uncertainty about the words might, it seems, cause one to lean more upon God and less upon the words themselves.
How's that all sound to you? Scripture was written to be drawn into a "truthful relationship with Him." With Roberts we have a disconnect between "words" and "truth"? This is the kind of loosey-goosey theology (bibliology) that comes out of skepticism and doubt. Roberts relies on his own surmisings and speculations instead of just looking at the text to find out what God's point was with His Words.

Recently while driving across Nevada with my family, I was listening to a CD of a sermon sent out by a popular, conservative Bible teacher. His message was sent popularly all over the country, entitled "The Doctrine of Inspiration Explained." I thought he did a very good job in fulfilling what he set about to do. I wouldn't have done much differently than him in preaching the inspiration of the Bible. At one point in the sermon, he takes off against the idea of "thought inspiration" by saying:

This is a denial of verbal inspiration. If this is true, we’re really wasting our time doing exegesis of the text because the words aren’t the issue. Like the gentleman said to me on the Larry King Show the other night, which I mentioned, “You’re so caught up in the words you’re missing the message of the Bible.” That’s a convenient view. The idea that there’s some idea, concept, religious notion there that may or may not be connected to the words, but the Bible claims to be the very words of God. First Corinthians 2:13, “We speak not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches.” Paul says when I give the revelation of God, when I write down that which God inspires in me, it is not words coming from man’s wisdom, but which the Spirit teaches. In John 17:8 Jesus said, “I have given unto them the words which You gave Me and they have received them.” The message was in the words, there is no message apart from the words, there is no inspiration apart from the words. More than 3800 times in the Old Testament we have expressions like “Thus says the Lord,” “The Word of the Lord came,” “God said,” it’s about the words. There are no such things as wordless concepts anyway. When Moses would excuse himself from serving the Lord, he said, “I need to do something else because I’m not eloquent.” God didn’t say, “I’ll give you a lot of great ideas, you’ll figure out how to communicate them.” God didn’t say, “I’ll be with your mind.” God said to him this, “I will be with your mouth and I will teach you what you shall say.” And that explains why 40 years later, according to Deuteronomy 4:2, Moses said to Israel, “You shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall you diminish ought from it that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.” Don’t touch anything I command you because this is from God.
I agreed heartily with all that, and it absolutely contradicts what Roberts said in criticism of Bart Ehrman. Our whole exegetical approach to preaching is about words. Words were the point of inspiration and now doctrine and practice. Roberts wrote that inspiration was about getting truths to men. Read carefully what the preacher on this CD says next:

In fact, the opposite is true. Bible writers wrote down words they didn’t understand. In 1 Peter chapter 1 we are told there that the prophets wrote down the words and didn’t understand what they meant. The prophets, verse 10 of 1 Peter 1, who prophesied of the grace that would come made careful search and inquiry, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. Here they are writing about the sufferings of the coming Messiah, writing about the glory to follow the suffering of the Messiah, and then they’re searching what they wrote. They’re inquiring in the very words which they were inspired to write, to figure out what person and what time is in view. They couldn’t even interpret fully the meaning of the words they were actually writing. God did not give ideas without words but in some cases He gave words without complete ideas.
He says that the teachings weren't even as important as the Words, and he proves it from this text. Of course, this is all about inspiration. This man wants a Biblical view of inspiration. He doesn't want his people tossed to and fro by the skepticism and rationalism of men. He is taking the passages honestly. The very next thing he says is:

In Matthew 24:35 the Scripture is very clear, “Heaven and earth shall pass away but My words...My words shall not pass away.” When God speaks He speaks with words and the Bible are the representation in writing of the words that came from God...the words that God spoke.
This teacher, John MacArthur, by the way, while being honest with these texts, comes to the same conclusion about Matthew 24:35 as I did when I wrote a chapter on this verse in our book, Thou Shalt Keep Them. He says that the Bible "is" (present tense) "the Words that God spoke." Later in the message, commenting on the same verse, He asserts: "Scripture will not pass away and My words will not pass away." He is getting the same thing that I'm getting out of it. MacArthur later preaches:

It was Jesus who emphasized the importance of every word...every word and every letter when He said, “Not a jot or tittle will ever fail.” He said in Luke 18:31, “All the things that are written through the prophets shall be accomplished.” He even based His interpretation of the Old Testament on a single word...a single word. The words do matter. Jesus was answering the Sadducees in Matthew 22 and He said to them, “You are mistaken, not understanding the scriptures, or the power of God, for in the resurrection they neither marry...talking about the angels...nor are given in marriage but are like angels in heaven. But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read that which was spoken to you by God saying,’I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob?’” He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. And His proof is that God said, “I am...I am the eternal living one.” And furthermore, He is not only the eternal living one but all will live eternally as well. They didn’t believe in a resurrection and He proved His point or certainly to our satisfaction proved His point by talking about the eternality of God in the verb to be in the present tense.
He says that God has shown that a whole doctrine will rise and fall on one word. This is why inerrancy is such an important doctrine, and for the actual Bibles that we use. We get doctrine and practice, just like Timothy did, from the Words that were perfectly preserved. Do you see how that MacArthur in these instances is just being honest with the text? He has no axe to grind because he isn't considering the doctrine of preservation at the moment. He is mainly debunking the theological liberals who deny verbal, plenary inspiration. With them targeted in his scope, he feels free to cut loose with the honest teachings of these passages. You remember above what MacArthur said about Matthew 24:35. William Combs of Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary disagrees with MacArthur about its meaning:

Matthew 24:35 uses the same hyperbolic language as Matthew 5:18.“Not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law” is saying much the same thing as “My words will not pass away.” Both the words of the Law and the words of Jesus are immutable; they cannot be set aside; they are unalterable. As the words of God, they “stand forever’ (Isa 40:8). And just as “not the smallest letteror stroke shall pass from the Law” speaks of the authority and validity of the Law, so the fact that Jesus’ “words will not pass away” gives themequal authority to the OT. Carson notes: “The authority and eternal validity of Jesus’ words are nothing less than the authority and eternal validity of God’s words (Ps 119:89–90; Isa 40:6–8).” But unlike Matthew 5:18, which clearly refers to Scripture, 24:35 has reference to the authority of Jesus’ oral words. And though it is true that some of Jesus’ words were recorded in Scripture, written revelation is not the primary emphasis here.
See how Combs explains away preservation from the plain meaning of Scripture, totally contradicting what MacArthur says above. Anyone with an unbiased reading of the texts MacArthur references would get the same message from those Words that MacArthur did.

So. Does the Bible mean what it says? Or do we bow to rationalism and skepticism? Ehrman just pushed the eject button rather than believe. Roberts puts a spin on the point of inspiration. Combs skews and discombobulates passages. Why? "History" and "physical evidence" has thrown them into doubt. Does MacArthur himself believe in perfect preservation? I don't think so. He should based on what he says these passages mean. But instead, he as well as others stagger at the promises of God in unbelief (Rom. 4:20).