Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A Critique of the 2008 Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International, Resolution One pt. 1

I wandered over to SharperIron and the new administration there posted the first two resolutions of this year's Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International. Reading both these resolutions makes me so glad not to be a part of the FBFI, oh so glad. Baptists historically are first characterized by having the Bible as their sole authority for faith and practice. I wish these two resolutions could have come from Scripture. They would have seemed Baptist then. They do seem to be more fundamentalistic than Baptist, and mainly the fundamentalism of Bob Jones University and its orbiting colleges and seminaries.

Someone recently told me that I "obsess" on the issue of this first resolution. I was reacting to a posting, which is something that Spurgeon said that related directly to the issue. I didn't make the resolution. I'm just reacting to the one that FBFI made. I'm simply responding to a resolution that they wrote. They feel a need to write more about this issue. They talk about not having time to deal with it and they bring it up again and again. They have plenty of time to deal with the issue. I'd be glad to debate any of them about the subject. I've recently done that online. Mark Minnick talks to Mark Dever about fundamentalism. Right out of the box comes the King James Only issue. Men of the FBFI want to use whatever version of the Bible and not get in trouble with it. They want those who say anything to be the ones who are in trouble with them. If this is what they believe, they shouldn't need a resolution to give them comfort about what they believe and practice.

The first resolution is full of irony that I will be glad to point out. They have obviously made the point that men with a Biblical and historic belief will not be welcome in the FBFI. It seems that so many of the FBFI are quite comfortable with the ways of the so-called "conservative evangelicals." They'll go to be with the Together for the Gospel (T4G) guys with giddy enjoyment. Nothing holds a great many of the leaders of the FBFI from hob-nobbing with evangelicals who are not biblical separatists. We don't get any resolutions about separating from these men. They are more comfortable with Charismatics (CJ Mahaney) than they are men who believe the Scriptural and historic position on preservation of Scripture.

Resolution Number One

Loyalty to God and His Word: Resolution Affirming the Biblical View of Inspiration, Texts, and Translation

Whereas The Bible claims that it is plenarily and verbally inspired by the Holy Spirit in its original writings;

The Bible claims that it will be preserved by God throughout the ages;

The Bible claims that its Spirit indwelt readers will be illumined by the Holy Spirit as they read;

The practice of translating the Scriptures into common languages was affirmed by the practice of Jesus Christ and the practice of the New Testament Church;

The Bible makes no claim to the specific manner by which it would be preserved, or to further inspiration or perfection through any translators in any language;

The FBFI affirms the orthodox, historic, and most importantly biblical doctrine of inspiration, affirming everything the Bible claims for itself, and rejecting, as a violation of Revelation 22:18-19, any so-called doctrine, teaching, or position concerning inspiration, preservation, or translation that goes beyond the specific claims of scripture.

A Sorry Resolution

I can't but say that I'm angry with this resolution. I can't help but say that it really is full of absolute fabrication, invention of men. They can make their resolutions, but the God of Heaven sits on His throne and laughs. Their counsel will not stand. God's Words will not pass away, even as their committee will.

When I read this resolution, I can see that it is very careful in its wording, really in a deceptive way. Unless you read it closely, you will not see that it attempts very hard to say very little. It leaves room for a semi-truck to drive through the doctrine of inerrancy. I'll show you how.

The Title of the Resolution

Loyalty to God and His Word: Resolution Affirming the Biblical View of Inspiration, Texts, and Translation

This resolution isn't loyal to God or His Word. It is loyal to man-made organizations and human reasoning. Someone could argue that they're right about inspiration but it provides wide latitude for wrong doctrine. It does nothing to indicate how a Christian should apply Scripture to the issue of the translation of the Bible. It especially does nothing for a Biblical view of "texts." You should take notice that it doesn't say "Biblical View of Preservation." They don't care if you know what Scripture says about that issue. They say "texts," as if there are several "texts" of Scripture. They aren't talking about references or texts of the Bible that teach certain doctrine about God's Word. The only passage they reference in the entire resolution throws in Revelation 22:18-19 a mile away from its teaching and application. They want to use the warning of Revelation 22:18-19 without an understanding of what that passage even says.

They talk about inspiration in the resolution, but their point is to somehow accuse men who believe in the Scriptural and historic point of view of teaching some kind of ongoing inspiration. It's a smear that they are not willing to debate. They are comfortable with ad hominem, scorn, and ridicule. They can't discuss it in any kind of civil manner because they don't have Scripture to stand on. In the end, God and His Word still stands like a Rock in the midst of their attacks.

Line One of the Resolution

The Bible claims that it is plenarily and verbally inspired by the Holy Spirit in its original writings;

You may say, "What's wrong with that line? I agree with that." Maybe you do believe in it. The line; however, is not Scriptural. It could be, but the way that it is stated makes it ambiguous enough that it is not likely teaching what the Bible says about its own inspiration. It leaves the door open for errors in Scripture.

The committee that made up this resolution ended it by writing, "[T]hat goes beyond the specific claims of scripture." It is amazing that a group of people who would defend the "Sunday School" in resolution two would say something about going beyond the specific claims of Scripture. This is one of the ironies. However, they say this kind of thing to end the resolution because nowhere does God say in Scripture that He would preserve "the textus receptus." That's the extent of this argumentation. Of course, neither does God say in the Bible that He would write twenty-seven books in the New Testament. That goes beyond the specific claim of Scripture, but that's acceptable to them. Why? Because they say so. This committee does. Believe me, this is what they're talking about when they make this line in the resolution.

I bring this up because their first line of the resolution goes beyond the specific claim of the Bible about inspiration. Here's what God's Word says about inspiration in 2 Timothy 3:16:

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

All (pasa = "every") scripture (graphe = "writing") is given by inspiration of God (theopneustos = "God-breathed"). God breathed every writing. He didn't breath "the Bible." You may think that I'm getting too technical. However, I know how these men can slightly alter what Scripture says to fit what they want it to say. God inspired every writing.

In the Greek New Testament, there's actually no verb in v. 16. The first verb we get is in v. 17 and it is the present subjunctive of the being verb. Most of the God-breathed copies in Paul's day were copies. Having inspired writings were necessary to be fully qualified as a man of God. The writings around were mainly copies, so copies must have been considered to be inspired. The assumption of the text is that the identical writings that God breathed were the same ones sufficiently providing believers in Paul's day. In application, we can assume that the writings will be available to us as well.

I'm talking about a couple of specific claims of the text. God breathed every writing, not just the Bible as a whole. They would probably say that they meant that when they said "plenarily and verbally." The original writings were those breathed out by God. However, the text says that those same writings were what were equipping Paul and Timothy in the age in which they lived. Copies must have been considered to be still inspired. Verbal, plenary preservation is assumed by 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

They shift the emphasis from "every writing" to "the Bible" as a whole. All writings and every one of them were breathed out by God. These fundamentalists like to talk about the Bible as a whole. They don't believe we still have the individual writings. That is how they depart from what we see in the specific claims of Scripture. They don't want to believe that we have "every writing" available today to sufficiently equip us to do every good work expected by God. That is one reason why they will write "The Bible" and then refer to what God wrote as "it." It isn't "them" as in "every writing," but "it," as in the Bible as a whole.

Line Two in the Resolution

The Bible claims that it will be preserved by God throughout the ages;

You can see how that "the Bible" and "it" comes in very handy for their belief system in the second line of the resolution. These are men that do know what they are doing. The Bible does say that it will be preserved by God. However, it says more than this. God's Word says that "every letter" will be preserved by God (Matthew 5:17-18), not just "it." Scripture also teaches that God's Words would not disappear (Matthew 24:35), not just "it." I believe the Bible also says God will keep His Words for every generation (Psalm 12:6-7).

"Throughout the ages" is also very ambivalent. Nowhere does the Bible use this Scriptural-sounding phrase to describe preservation. What Scripture does say is that God's Words would be available for every generation of His people (Isaiah 59:21; cf. Mt. 4:4). Now if they really do believe that the Bible claims that it will be preserved throughout the ages, they will have trouble with what Central Baptist Theological Seminary wrote in their book on Scripture several years ago, which is now called Only One Bible? They said that the Bible doesn't teach that anywhere. They said that it was a logical conclusion, not that the Bible actually claimed that.

The major failure in this line; however, that doesn't fit with specific claims of Scripture is that the Bible, "it" as a whole, is what God would preserve. They don't believe we surely know what all the Words of God in the Bible are. For that reason, they concoct this totally unscriptural view that God said He was preserving the Bible as a whole. Scripture doesn't say anything like that. It says that God would preserve every Word for every generation.

7 comments:

CD-Host said...

Kent --

I think there is a pretty easy reason they wouldn't accept the view you are proposing. The conclusion runs 2 ways:

1) God preserves all of his writing perfectly preserved for all generations

c1) Any writing of God's will be available to all generations word for word exact

c2) Any writing which can be shown not to have been available to all generations word for word exact is not from God.

Your version leads to (c2) and c2, reopens the debate on the canon.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Thanks CD.

We assume c1 based on Scriptural presuppositions. That's also the historic view.

If we can't assume the preservation of Scripture with biblical presupposition, then we certainly can't assume c2 when there is no promise to perfectly preserve historical materials.

If we're going to assume anything, we're going to assume c1.

They won't agree because they stagger in unbelief. Also knowledge puffeth up.

CD-Host said...

Kent --

I think you are missing my point both c1 and c2 are directly derived from your interpretation of scripture. Thus its no longer a matter of the faith that God preserved "the bible". What has become a matter of faith is that whatever is perfectly preserved is from God. But then scripture doesn't answer the question as to what that is.

That's how the canon gets reopened. For example the Didache and the Letters of Clement are arguably perfectly preserved but Luke, and John are in big trouble.

In other words by distinguishing between "the bible" and "the word of God" you open the door for a frontal attack on the canon.

Bobby said...

Brother,

Thanks for addressing it. I join you in humble thanksgiving to the Lord for keeping me from ever joining the FBF.

That first resolution reminds me of an Obama speech.

But, they sure came out swinging for Sunday School! Yessiree. Fightin' Fundamentalists!

It is funny that last year they had Clarence Sexton preach and this year they pass a resolution that men who believe like him concerning the Text and Translations are heretics.

There is so much I'd like to write, but you've covered it well here.

Darrel said...

Thank you Kent for your Biblical perspective on this issue once again and reminding us to see "what the Bible says" and not "what Bible college professors say" or "what Bible commentators say" or "what fellowship leaders say". It reminds me also that perhaps "Biblical Baptists" would be a better term than "Fundamentalists".

DF

Charles E. Whisnant said...

Brother

Oh brother, I must say. But I certainly love to see different points of view. This is what keeps us balance. "Biblical Baptists" is still a Baptist point of view in content, and comes from Baptist and not necessary from God-breath words.

But what you do, is give us more to think about.

Lori said...

A return to the authority of Scripture and ONLY Scripture seems to be happening at BJU. A spirit of "cleaning house" of man-made rules that are not found in Scripture seems to be happening...slowly but surely. Of this, I am thrilled and encouraged.

I think it is important that we are careful to not always put people or institutions in the box that they have long been in...but rather, to give them the opportunity to break out of that box.

Lori