Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Erroneous Epistemology of Multiple Version Onlyism part one

Recently in our discussion about the perfect preservation of Scripture, I've been told that my problem is a faulty epistemology. Here are some quotes from Jason in the comment section:

Frankly, your hermeneutic and your exegesis are scary, but your epistemology is even more scary.

As I've mentioned before, the root of this issue is all about hermeneutics and epistemology.

The only way forward here would be to discuss the hermeneutic and epistemology that backs your book.

I am still waiting for answers to my questions on epistemology. I am very interested in what kind of epistemological paradigm would allow you to treat Scripture like you do.

To involve everyone reading, we should understand what is "epistemology." Epistemology considers how and why we know what we know. Epistemology asks, "Is that a way of knowing?" Someone's epistemology would determine what should be the source of knowledge. It answers, "What is the basis of knowing?"

Jason and others assert that the Bible does not provide a sufficient basis to know the precise Words of God that God inspired in the original manuscripts of Scripture. They contend that biblical presuppositions will not tell us what those Words are. They argue that we need other means of knowing those in the realm of external and scientific evidence.

So the question is what criteria must be met to warrant belief in the perfect preservation and general accessibility of every Word of God to every generation of believer? Can we be assured through faith alone God's promises unto the certainty that we possess every Word of God in the language in which He wrote them? Or are God's assurances insufficient evidence to warrant the certainty that we know what God's Word are? Is faith in the promises or preservation and availability irrational and intellectually irresponsible on the basis of deficient attestation?

I will show that faith in perfect preservation of Scripture is warranted, that we have the evidence we need through the promises God has made to be certain. I will also show that the "scientific evidence" of textual criticism, as traditionally defined, falls far short as a basis for knowledge. The Bible, the Holy Spirit, and the church are enough to warrant faith in the present verbal, plenary perfection of Scripture.

The Evidentialist, Rationalist Epistemology

Hume in "Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding," the section on miracles, wrote that a "wise man . . . proportions his belief to the evidence." At the heart of the epistemological objection to belief in verbal, plenary preservation of Scripture ironically is another belief: the strength of one's belief ought always to be proportional to the strength of evidence for that belief. This is essentially the argument for "seeing is believing."

The evidentialist conception of proof is false on the grounds that it is self-referentially incoherent. An evidentialist accepts seeing as a basis of evidence without grounds for acceptance. He accepts seeing as a basis without providing evidence for seeing. Seeing is not evidence without evidence for seeing. This is why we must bow to biblical theology as the "queen of the sciences." It was called the queen of the sciences because in the final analysis it is the ultimate reigning truth. Biblical theology, the revelation of God in Scripture, trumps all other sources of information and knowledge. Jesus said, "Thy word is truth" (John 17:17).

The objection of the evidentialist to belief in what God promised argues an obligation to try not to believe without evidence. It reveals the bias of the evidentialist---his own sight. This stands self-evident to him as evidence because of his own belief in sight as reliable. To argue for evidence as sufficient, we must assume sight is reliable. We also make other assumptions that are not warranted. We must accept that our faculty for cognition functions properly and that our apparatus for forming and maintaining belief is free of impairment. Jesus referred to this thought in Matthew 6:22-23:

The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!

"The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked" (Jeremiah 17:9). "Every man at his best state is altogether vanity" (Psalm 39:5).

We also must consider the environment in which our faculties must operate. A bicycle does fine on a bike path, but it doesn't function under water or in the air. The world in which we live is cursed by sin. This curse not only affects us personally, but it affects everyone and everything around us. In other words, we live in an environment that is conducive to deceiving its subjects. "If it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect" (Matthew 24:24). "In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not" (2 Corinthians 4:4).

There is also the consideration of the proper aim or perspective. We can be a properly functioning apparati without operating within the specified design. We've got to be turned the right direction and in the correct proximity to make the proper conclusion. All of our capacity may be perfoming perfect and yet aimed at something aside from the truth. And this, of course, all predicate on an ability to find the right direction. Or are we lost? Are we gone astray? Are the objects in the mirror their actual size? "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way" (Isaiah 53:6). "They are all gone out of the way" (Romans 3:12).

Sin, instilled in everyone at birth, has altered our cognition and affection. The consquences for its recipients are dullness, stupidity, hardness, imperceptiveness, and blindness. Even when they're blind, they think they see. This prevents the victim not only from loving, but knowing what is worth loving. What we think is evidence could easily be the extrapolation of our own desires to satisfy our own pride.

Daniel Wallace recently wrote concerning textual criticism:

Evangelicals tend to allow their doctrinal convictions to guide their research. It is better to not the left hand know what the right hand is doing: methodologically, investigate with as objective a mind as possible, allowing the evidence to lead where it will.

This kind of thinking, that purposefully nullifies biblical theology, the supernatural, to let the natural go to work, describes what occurs in textual criticism. This is post-enlightenment rationalism upon which evidentialism is based. Wallace thinks more highly of himself than he ought to think when he says he "allows the evidence." He's presumptuous. What he ought to say is, "If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that." Textual criticism has always relied in the realm of unbelief. And as Paul wrote in Romans 14:23, "whatsoever is not of faith is sin." Christianity is the domain of full persuasion, not degrees of uncertainty.

The Fideistic Epistemology

Man's apparatus of belief, his sensus divinitatis, has not been obliterated by sin but rendered inoperable. The combined work of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God and faith repair the ravages sin has caused. We cannot presume that our cognitive and rational faculties can function properly without the supernatural operation of God upon us. Scripture, reliable as absolute truth, attests to this. We were created in the image of God, built with intellect and affections guided by the divine sense for God and truth, but man disobeyed God, lost this capacity, and then passed down this alteration to following generations. The remedy is through rebirth, regeneration, and justification in Christ.

Because of the indwelling Holy Spirit the believer is no longer a natural man without spiritual discernment. He has now been imparted a kind of supernatural-endowed understanding for the knowledge of the truth. This operates by faith. By faith we understand some of the most basic truths in the universe without which we cannot comprehend. The operation of faith pleases God. This is the position that "believing is seeing." Jesus said to Thomas in John 20:29:

Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.

Whatever God promises, we assume we can know. Since He promises the preservation and availability of every one of His Words, we know that as truth. Since He says the Bible is perfect down to the jots and tittles, we know that. Since He said that He would guide us into all truth, we know that. God said it. We believe it. Since He said it, we assume it will happen and we look for its fulfillment. We explain everything on those terms. They are the truth.

In His Word, we read of the internal instigation of the Holy Spirit. The same Spirit Who moved upon holy men to write every Word will guide believers to every Word (John 16:13; Matthew 4:4). The Lord's sheep hear His voice and know Him (John 10:27). They receive His Words (John 17:8; Acts 2:41; 1 Thessalonians 2:13). Before evidentialism and rationalism, believers received the Words of the Hebrew Masoretic text and the textus receptus.

Part Two will be coming soon.


Anonymous said...

Great Article!
Here is my synopsis;
Your epistemology (which is the correct one) is based upon faith in God's word.
Any other epistomology is based upon human reasoning and a "yea, hath God said,"
Quite simply Jason and other open and avowed textual critics need to repent and be born again.


Anonymous said...

Chris stated, "Quite simply Jason and other open and avowed textual critics need to repent and be born again."

That is pure truth and the end of the whole matter.

reglerjoe said...

Chris:"Quite simply Jason and other open and avowed textual critics need to repent and be born again."

See? This is the type of comment that derails interesting and thought-provoking posts and comment threads into an epithet sling-fest.

Good article, Kent. I do agree with Chris on that.

Wallace's quote is down-right scary... "investigate with as objective a mind as possible, allowing the evidence to lead where it will." So evidence is the leader? And how objective does one's mind need to be in order to accurately examine the evidence? How can we know we are being reliably objective enough? So we can't be sure of God's word, but we can have faith in our own supposed objectivity?

Anonymous said...

Thank you brother Brandenburg for an excellent, Scriptural argument. How grateful I am that we have an "unction and know all things" and an "anointing" and "need not that any man (unsaved man with "academic" "scientific" education) teach [us]", I John 2:20,27. It is also becoming more clear to me through these discussions that Revelation 22:18-19, though at first difficult to consider, actually do refer to textual critics. Then, again, back to I John 2:19 - "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us."
G. Webb

Anonymous said...

Pastor Brandenburg.. Thank you for this article. It is well written and easy for this layman to understand.

Jason said...


Looks like your blog doesn't allow trackbacks so here's a link to my response:

Kent Brandenburg said...

Thanks everyone who commented. I mean that. I can't take much time. I wrote this before I left on a road trip with our school in a fine arts and academic meet with another school all the way in Utah. It is a tradition with us every year.


Thanks for posting. I wasn't done with this one, so I'll probably finish it before I answer you. And I won't be back until Saturday essentially. I may have two parts to this. You can tell it ended rather abruptly, or at least I thought it did.

Hello everyone else and thanks.