Friday, January 29, 2010

Answering the SharperIron Article on Preservation part five

What is superior, so-called external evidence or Scripture? None of us have seen Jesus. None of us have witnessed His return. Peter saw the Lord in His second coming glory, an "eyewitness of His majesty" on the Mt. of Transfiguration, and yet he said that he had "a more sure word of prophecy." The predictions of Christ's second coming in the Old Testament and in the apostles (2 Pet 3:2) were greater than the evidence of the actual, genuine variety of Peter's real experience with Jesus at His first coming. And yet, the written Words of God are superior. Shouldn't that guide us in the matter of knowing what we know?

We haven't seen Christ and yet we are to believe He's returning merely on the force of Words that have been written. Why? The prophecies always come true. You have always been able to count on what God said. You always will. That makes those Words evidence, more evidence than what men typically depend on as proof. It may not make sense to give up one's whole life to a Person as his Lord, His Despotes (2 Pet 2:1), His Sovereign Boss, Who He has never seen, just based upon Words. That may not seem like enough evidence. But those Words are trustworthy.

I see what God promised regarding His Words and so I believe that He did that. I reject textual criticism because it clashes with what God said He would do. It might seem more smart. But I trust that God would lead His people to the Words they would need to live, assuming that they wanted to live what He said. Should we doubt the authority of God's Words, doubt either God's ability or willingness to follow through what He said He would do with regards to His Words? Of course not.

In my last post in this series, I answered a few comments under an essay written by Aaron Blumer at SharperIron, Preservation: How and What? In the 17th century, John Owen had quite a bit to say about bibliology, and he speaks regarding the understanding of the "Word of God" as the written Words of God. In his Biblical Theology, just recently translated from the Latin and only yet in hard copy, he wrote (p. 791):

I freely grant that God spoke before any of His words were ever committed to writing. And so, in that sense, I freely agree that the Word of God existed before the Bible. But when the same word came to be written down, did it somehow cease to be God's Word? The nature of the word is in no way changed by its being reduced to a written form. . . . [T]he word of God came to be written, so that we might God's will from God's Book (2 Timothy 3:16). To the Scriptures we are constantly sent by God Himself in order to learn of His will from His Word (Deuteronomy 17:19; Isaiah 8:20; John 5:39). Special blessings are reserved for those who are found constantly meditating on God's written Law (Psalm 1:1-2).

He continued going after those who would spiritualize the idea of the Word of God (pp. 791-792):

A[n] . . . objection is as follows, 'The word is near us. It is in our mouths and in our hearts (Romans 10:8), and the word of Christ is said to dwell in us (Colossians 3:16) and obviously that word is not a letter, is not written.' To which I make reply that the word which dwells in us is the word of faith which the Apostles preached (Romans 10:8), and the Apostles preached nothing but what was written by Moses and the prophets (Romans 16:26). Indeed, Paul asserts that word to be the written word most openly and unambiguously (Romans 10:11).

The Word of God is the written Words of God. God promised to preserve those Words in perfection. We should assume the perfection of God's Words. Owen wrote (p. 828):

Our contrary doctrine asserts the perfection of the Scriptures, and that from the following considerations: 1. From its Author, who is God. God operates with nothing imperfect, means or end. from a perfect cause only perfect results may be expected. And why could, or should, God, wishing to reveal His will, not reveal it in a perfect manner? Shall it be said that he was unable to do so? That would be to blaspheme His infinite wisdom and omnipotence. Was He unwilling to do so? That would be a slur on His infinite grace and goodness. God must, therefore, have provided a faultless revelation of His will. . . . In every respect, then, is the written Word perfect.

Please notice that Owen says the written Word is perfect. Not was. Christian men viewed the apographa as perfect, the copies they used to be identical to the originals. Inerrant originals is a new concept, originated by Warfield in the late 19th century. The term inerrancy itself was a word concocted to separate the autographa from the apographa in the matter of perfection. This wasn't how men believed until then. They assumed God fulfilled His promises.

The Septuagint Argument

A major argument for the sake of proving that Scripture does not teach perfect preservation is that Jesus quoted from the Septuagint, which was a corrupt text, with different wording than the original Hebrew text, therefore, He wasn't concerned about the very Words of Scripture. What is important, the argument would go, is that we get the message, so these small numbers of textual variants (hundreds of thousands according to Bart Ehrman) do not matter, and this is buttressed by the example of Jesus' quoting the Septuagint.

I've mentioned in posts and in the comment section here that Owen had already obliterated that argument. Someone then commented that they had read his material and didn't see that. Let me show you.

Beginning on p. 540 of his Biblical Theology, Owen starts a small section entitled: "Digression on the Septuagint Greek Version of Scripture." In his second line, Owen wrote:

About this version I might as well say what Protagoras puts in the mouth of Laertius, when discussing the gods of the nations, "But concerning such gods I make no claim to know whether they exist or not."

He ended his first paragraph:

[T]here are not lacking scholars who dismiss the entire story of its origin as being hopelessly embroiled in worthless Jewish fable.

On the end of p. 543, we read:

Whenever and by whoever completed, it is quite clear that the Septuagint was a product of the time when the Jewish Church was rushing headlong to ruin, and from that fact alone we should know how much it had been carried down to our own time whole and uncorrupted (author note: Owen is assuming how much it actually was not whole and was corrupt).

He continued on p. 544:

However, despite all of this, the point will be made that our Savior used this version and so commended it to the Church. This is rather like that of the author who solemnly tells us how our Lord used to sing mass and perform as a sacrificing priest! This could be brought out of the New Testament writings with about as great degree of probability as his endorsement of the Septuagint!

Owen then gave the better explanation for what people see in similarity between Septuagint and Jesus' quotations. First he admits some of the sameness: "Certainly, there are frequent phrases in the Greek New Testament which agree in wording with the Septuagint, where the version differs from the Hebrew." And his explanation is several fold. However, he ended the paragraph on p. 544 with this:

Christian users and copiers of the Septuagint would naturally adapt their quotations to those given in the New Testament. The asserters of this certainly have strong probabilities for their opinion.

Luke 4 is often used as an example of Jesus' quoting the Septuagint, since the Luke quotations of Jesus does differ from the Hebrew text there. Owen makes one comment on the Luke 4 passage on p. 812:

Further, we might note how, in this work of Bible exposition, Christ Himself anticipated His ministers by His expositions of the prophets in the synagogues of the Jews.

Owen called what Jesus did in the synagogue in Luke 4 to be "expositions." I along with others have said that Jesus "targummed." Owen calls them "expositions," not quotes.

Owen isn't sure about the origination of what is called "the Septuagint." He certainly doesn't believe that Jesus quoted from it. He says that Jesus was expositing in Luke 4, not quoting. He did not think that Jesus quoted from it or endorsed it, and has other explanations for the similiarities between the Septuagint and the New Testament quotations, one of which is that the copyists of the Septuagint stuck in the New Testament quotations as their translation. Those targums were not in line with the Old Testament Hebrew text, but they would then follow along with the wording in the Septuagint.

This leaves us with a high view of inspiration and preservation. It gives an explanation for the Septuagint that fits with God's promise of perfect preservation. Or in other words, it takes away a "reason" not to live by faith.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Answering the SharperIron Article on Preservation part four

How do most false doctrines and then false religions start? They do when people try to fit the Bible into something that isn't in the Bible. They attempt to conform the Bible to somebody's life or problem. They scramble through Scripture looking for a way to explain something that they want. And then they find new doctrines in the Bible that no one has seen there before. When the false religion starts up, men haven't been very careful with historic, already established doctrine. I see examples of this in the comment section to Aaron Blumer's Preservation: How and What? This does bother me, but I have to say that it is par for the course. I give people the orthodox and historic position and I'm attacked with a scorched earth type of methodology. Someone comes up with a brand new doctrine that they have concocted at the moment, and they are left alone. It shows some big problems in the realm of discernment and how loose men have become with Scripture.

I thank Aaron for dealing with this, because normally people leave it alone. Here we're talking about our authority for belief and practice, Scripture, and men want to say that it isn't that important---it's just a distraction not worth their time. I don't know how that could be the case. If we fall at the level of Scripture, all other doctrines are affected. Here's some of what I read.

The Exact Words Don't Matter: Something New in Bibliology

The first substantive comment comes from Bob Hayton. Bob starts by showing his creds, indicating that perfect preservationists would see preservation and availability in other verses besides the ones to which Aaron referred. And then he writes this:

I'd say the idea of "word" being an audible word from God, His message or plans is also important. In our age of printed Bibles on every shelf and in every store, we think of "word" as "book" or "Bible". But often in Scripture that is not what is meant by the term. If you look in Acts the term often refers to the message of the Gospel. The "Word" spreads, grows and accomplishes things. Of course the Bible is living, but it is the message of the Gospel itself that actually accomplishes this. 1 Pet. 1 even defines "word" there as "the gospel preached to you". William Combs makes this point in his excellent article on preservation.

I think it is really helpful to see how Scripture itself handles the matter of textual variations and quotations. Scripture often gives parallel accounts that are direct quotations that are different in exact word order and other particulars. Moses recounts the history of Israel in Deuteronomy, and he quotes what he said at various times in the history. If you compare what Exodus has for Moses' statement, it often does not match up with Deuteronomy's account. The synoptic Gospels and other sections of the New Testament also provide examples of one account given to us in more than one form. Then later passages in the Bible quote earlier ones. The prophets quote from the Pentateuch, and the NT epistles and Gospels quote from the OT. These quotes reveal that often loose quotations are considered equivalent and as authoritative as the exact word-by-word original Scripture. This is really important, because this quality of the Bible must be allowed to influence how we think about differences among manuscripts and between various Bible versions. Are word differences a really big deal? Well, how does the Bible exemplify what we should think about word differences? Is authority tied to a specific exact quotation or rendering of the Word, or is it tied to the nature of the quotation (quoting from God's word)? -- These kinds of observations and questions are important for those who would consider Scripture's witness in relation to the Bible controversies of today.

The tell tale line in all of Bob's comment is: "Are word differences a really big deal?" There we go. What we're establishing here is that the exact words of Scripture don't really matter. How orthodox is this? Is this what believers have thought and believed? Are people really fine with this now in evangelicalism and fundamentalism? It is new to what would even profess to be believing.

Bob makes a couple of arguments here that are both merely reactions to the historic and biblical position on preservation, attempting to cast doubt on them. They don't disprove anything, just cause enough doubt to say that we've got to give the eclectic text its legitimate place. People like Bob don't start with a scriptural doctrine of preservation to come to their view. They start with external evidence and then run to scripture to figure out a way to justify it. Bob's not the only one doing this kind of thing. They find new things in the Bible that others have not said before.

The fact that Bob can point to William Combs might make it seem credible, because there is a journal article (that's scholarship). Understand that a lot of new doctrine is being written up in journals all over. It's almost required to be a journal contributor in the academic world. The two arguments Bob makes on behalf of "the exact words don't matter" are his "nature of the word" argument and then his "no specific quotation view." I haven't read these two as teachings anywhere in the history of Christian doctrine. Why would they come into play now? We've got an eclectic or critical text and modern versions to defend. So the historic and biblical view is cast by the wayside.

Despite the novelty of these arguments that Bob gives, which are accepted at SharperIron without question, the burden of proof does seem to rest upon me to overturn the new doctrine. I'm amazed at this development. Nonetheless, I want to answer.

The Meaning of "Word"

Here I'm dealing with the first paragraph in Bob's comment. In the very next comment, a Charlie also uses this same tactic:

One exegetical detail that sometimes gets lost in these debates is the meaning of God's "word." Due to our contemporary (and correct) habit of referring to the Bible as "God's Word," the tendency is to assume that whenever we see a reference to "the word of God" or "your word," it is a reference to the Bible, or the portion of Scripture complete at this time. I'll have to run through some resources for confirmation, but I'm pretty sure that especially in the OT, the use is many times rather referring to specific statements and promises of God.

This is a rather simple one to deal with and I don't mean that as an insult to the argument, even though I don't think it should even stand as an argument. I agree that "word" doesn't always mean "the written Word of God" or "the written Words of God." But sometimes "word" does mean the written Word or Words of God or that "word" does apply as the the written Word or Words of God. Those are the passages that we should look at to define what we mean by preservation. That makes this whole argument at least a red herring. It sort of just distracts people from the doctrine of preservation.

And yet I think there is something far more insidious with this argument, and that is what it does or tries to do. It attempts to discount the very Words of God. They are devalued for a "message." I would agree like anyone else that the teachings of those Words are also very important. However, we get the doctrine from Words, and single Words and letters make a difference. Remember the "seed"-"seeds" argument that the Apostle Paul himself draws our attention to in Galatians, making a point of letters. And Jesus, of course, mentions jots and tittles. Doctrines change based on a letter or a word. This can be illustrated again and again through the Bible.

Textual Variations and Quotations?

In Bob's second paragraph, he takes the second tack. In Bob's comment, he makes this statement: "I think we end up reading our view into Scripture, to some degree, on either side of this issue." Shortly thereafter, he writes: "I think it is really helpful to see how Scripture itself handles the matter of textual variations and quotations." This is an almost immediate example of exactly what Bob was talking about, that "reading our view into Scripture." The Bible doesn't teach us anything about textual variants. It doesn't say something like, "It's fine to have some wording differences when you make copies, so don't make too big a deal about that. Feel free to fudge a little. It's just the message that matters after all." I haven't read anyone else in history that saw that doctrine. What I read is just the opposite, that is, that every Word and the Word order, etc. is all important to God. That's even part of inspiration.

Then Bob makes the self-contradictory statement, again unchallenged by SharperIron critics: "Scripture often gives parallel accounts that are direct quotations that are different in exact word order and other particulars." I don't think those kind of statements stick out to the SharperIron contributors because it represents the theologically correct point of view. I recognize that's a judgment I'm making, but it is my explanation for it. Bob says there are "direct quotations" which are actually different in "word order and other particulars." Well, those aren't direct quotations then. Direct quotations are quote-unquote, word for word. Those are not direct quotations when the words are different. We are stretching language past its limits when we can call a paraphrase a direct quotation.

There is no doctrine there for acceptance of textual variants, copying mistakes, or fudging the text. What you have are targums, a time honored and scriptural usage of Scripture. It is like my saying to you, "Call upon the Lord to be saved." That sort of sounds like an exact verse, doesn't it? But yet I'm not quoting from Scripture. Or here's one: "Scripture tells me that we are to live by every Word out of the mouth of the Lord." Sounds very similar to the very Words of Scripture. This is not permission to accept copying errors or to make room for a new view of preservation. This truly is reading into the text.

And again, do you see where this all heads? It heads toward a kind of neo-orthodox view of Scripture where the exact Words don't matter any more, just the message or concepts. And from that, it's no wonder that options should be open for multi-interpretations of the Bible too. These are arguments that are coming very lately to the doctrine of preservation that clash with the already settled position.

And that all does bring us to the Septuagint argument, a very common and popular argument, one of the very few scriptural or theological arguments for the critical or eclectic text view. I mentioned in one of my comments here that I would talk about what John Owen has said about that. That will be for next post, Lord-willing.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Answering the SharperIron Article on Preservation part three

The Bible was complete in the first century A.D. All the doctrine we were ever to believe is found in Scripture. Any doctrine that was not in the Bible when it was finished would be an additional doctrine, a new teaching. It would also be something different than what God's Word says. For instance, the doctrine of salvation is not progressing. We haven't come into anything new about salvation since the book of Revelation was complete. The same goes for the doctrine of the Bible---bibliology. Whatever Scripture says about the Bible is what we are to believe about the Bible. Nothing new has developed in bibliology since Scripture itself was finished.

So we look back in history and all we see is a belief in the perfect preservation of Scripture in every bit of historical doctrine until we arrive at post-enlightenment textual criticism. We get to the 19th century and biblical criticism becomes popular. And then Benjamin Warfield, out of whole cloth, reads the "science" of textual criticism into the providential preservation of the Westminster Confession. This view of preservation isn't found anywhere in history. And it isn't what we read in the Bible either. Did we progress in our bibliology? Can we do that? Isn't that an unorthodox change to an established system of belief? Doesn't that conflict with previously settled doctrine? Is there such a thing as a new doctrine developing based on external findings? Shouldn't that be a problem?

And now we're to the place where the new view positions itself as the old one and the men who take it talk like the original one, the biblical one, just came on the scene. Well, if you've got to back up your claim with something established before the 19th century, that wouldn't be historic doctrine. And if you're not going to do that, then you should have to explain why it is that you don't have a historical bibliology for sure with something other than some kind of progressive bibliology or with a claim that the Westminster Divines were advocating the science of textual criticism in their Confession.

I bring this discussion on this occasion as an answer to Aaron Blumer's article, Preservation: How and What?, over at the blog, SharperIron. He said that neither of the two views of preservation that exist explained the how or what of preservation. The "how" is all over the Bible, a point I asserted in part two of this series. And so now I get to the "what."


Not necessarily from Aaron, but I've found inane the "what" part of this debate. The critical and eclectic text supporters say things like: "Scripture doesn't say that God would preserve the textus receptus text." Or, "The Bible promises its own preservation but it does not say that it would be a printed edition in the sixteenth century." Aaron says that neither side can know what the exact Words of Scripture are without relying on something external as proof. For this, it all depends on what someone considers evidence. Jesus Himself had to be deduced as Messiah or Lord outside of Scripture. God's Word was the criteria, but those looking and waiting for the Messiah were basing their conclusions on what Scripture said they should be seeking.

Christians of the past believed that we would know what the Words were through the guidance of the Holy Spirit (John 16:13). Since the Holy Spirit authored those Words, moved upon holy men of God to write them, then He would also lead believers to receive them. Holy Spirit guidance smacks against textual criticism. The science of textual criticism makes a point of ignoring scriptural presuppositions. The Bible itself shall not be relied upon in textual criticism. Man's reasoning buttresses the critical and eclectic text methodology.

We see a mindset in Scripture that believers would receive the Words that God gave and kept (Matt 13:23; Mk 4:20; Lk 8:13; John 12:48; 17:8; Acts 2:41; 8:14; 11:1; 17:11; 1 Thess 1:6; 2:13; James 1:21). This is from which the concept of textus receptus comes---the received text---that is, that true believers would know what the Words were and would receive them. God would lead believers to those Words supernaturally, not through some man-invented process. This is where the concept of providential preservation comes in.

So what do we do today? We look for what God's people received. This is where I begin to hear arguments like this: "They received only what they had and what they had wasn't very good." How do we know that what they had wasn't very good? Again, men make that decision based on the "science" of textual criticism, not based on faith. Faith says that every generation of men would have the Words of God. And then I hear something like this: "But not everybody had the Words of God before the printing press." But isn't this just faithlessness? I don't know what men had and did not have. But I assume that God kept His promises. The people that wanted the Words could get to them. I don't believe that they had the same degree of accessibility that we have today, but I believe they were accessible because God said they would be accessible.

How do we know what books are in Scripture? The Bible doesn't say that we are to have 66. It doesn't say what are the names of those books we are to be looking for. Christians have believed that those books that God inspired believers would know. They would ring with authenticity. We base the canonicity of Books on the same terms as canonicity of Words. Scripture doesn't, however, teach a canonicity of Books but a canonicity of Words. The Bible emphasizes Words that are inspired and then kept by God's people. The question of which Books was settled by the churches. No passage says, "Have a church council," or that "church councils will decide what are the exact Books that should be in the canon." However, we have a basis for believing that saved people, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, would know what God's Words were. We are guided by this truth in the "what" of God's Words.

This faith in God's preservation is the same faith that I have in my own salvation. It's the same faith I have in the inspiration of Scripture. I know that God keeps me despite all the sinning I have done. I could say that I have some evidence to the contrary that God keeps people saved because believers keep sinning. I ignore the externalistic for the criteria of Scripture. Abraham could have forsaken God because he didn't see that he was a great nation, but he staggered not in unbelief. He kept on going based on God's promises.

There is more. I don't put my trust in a special society of forensic scientists, the textual critics, which have been unbelievers. To the critical and eclectic text men, this makes them more objective. That's not what I see about preservation of Scripture in God's Word. I see the church as responsible. This is what dovetails with the "how." What did the churches accept? Whatever it was that they settled on is what I'm going to settle upon. And I'm talking about true churches, not apostate Roman Catholicism.

And last, the Bible says again and again that it is perfect. That it is pure. And we know that it is speaking about the Words. The preservation passages establish this. How can we add or take away from something that isn't already settled? I'm not going to list all the places that say the Bible is more pure than anything. I've done it many times before. This is the standard that men have expected and that we should expect because of what the Bible promises. I'm not going to waver from that.

Eclectic and critical text has instead given us a constantly mutating Bible that we know will only continue to be changed all the time. This doesn't fit a historic or biblical bibliology. I reject it based on that evidence. The evidence is the biblical criteria I should expect to be fulfilled. So again, how do we know what we know? I know by faith. God's promises are enough for me, because He never lies.

I'll have more to write in answer to some of the comments to Aaron's article, including some of what Aaron himself comments on his own post.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Answering the SharperIron Article on Preservation part two

Aaron Blumer in his article, Preservation: How and What?, finishes with this line: "Divine authority cannot be properly claimed for either position." We came to know the two positions to which he refers as those he titled "discrete preservation" and "dispersed preservation." Aaron concludes that there is no Divine authority, and by that he means scriptural authority, for the "how" and "what" of the preservation of Scripture in both positions. I agree that there is no biblical basis to the "how" and "what" of dispersed preservation. But we can see where the dispersed position came from anyway---not from scripture but from the influence of post-enlightenment rationalism. The question becomes: does the Bible guide us to the criteria by which we will know what are all of God's Words? I say yes. The church has said yes.

Aaron repeats the mantra of the eclectic and critical text, that is, the Bible tells us that it was preserved but it doesn't say what or how. It's been repeated so many times that now many think that it is fact. We have showed this to be wrong in our book Thou Shalt Keep Them. We spent a whole section of the book revealing what the Bible says about "how." No one has refuted that section. It's solid exegesis. I understand that the "what" might seem trickier, but it also playing around the fringes of neo-orthodoxy. How do we know "what" the Bible is anyway? Why do we believe we have sixty-six books? This comes down to epistemology, that is, how do we know what what we know? I've talked a lot about that on this blog, especially in a five part series you can find by searching the sidebar on the right.

How the world resolves its disagreements in ordinary affairs is to look at observable evidence and see whose hypothesis is verified. The world would say that a naturalistic explanation is necessary to say something is the truth. What the world calls foolishness is the wisdom of God. Some of the most fundamental beliefs we hold are not determined by evidence as the world knows it. The world does not acept the evidence that believers hold, for instance, for justification by faith. Believers will accept as knowledge actions and circumstances that are outside the scope of man's experience. We have a transcendent and all-powerful God Who intervenes in the universe and peforms miracles that cannot be explained by the ordinary principles of man's experience. This is where believers rely upon the Word of God as a basis for their faith.

Our knowledge is not dependent upon empirical means. Some of what we believe, we do because of a presuppositional worldview that believes what God says in denial of empiricism. The two views that Aaron represents in his piece at their root represent, at least in this one doctrine, two worldviews. One starts with Scripture and uses it to lead him to the truth. The other starts with human observation, what he calls evidence, and let's that lead him to the truth. One knows by faith in God's promises. The other knows by empirical evidence.


God explains how His Words were preserved in both the Old and New Testaments. This is where you would be helped to do a study of the Hebrew words natsar and shamar, which are translated "keep," "guard," and "preserve," and the Greek word tareo, which means the same. What we see from a study of these Words, which are found many times, is that God takes responsibility for keeping His Words, but He used His institutions of Israel (Rom 3:2) and the church to do it. This is one reason why the church is called "the pillar and ground of the truth" in 1 Timothy 3:15. Jesus deposited His Words with the church (John 17:8) with the responsibility of keeping them.

The point of Israel and the churches keeping God's Words explains in a major way what we should be looking for in the realm of preservation. In that way, it also relates to the question of "what." What did the churches agree were God's Words? I've found that eclectic text people have no problem accepting the books that churches have handed down as canonical. And Scripture does not tell us how many books that we were supposed to accept. That alone, I believe, blows away the "what" question as considered by Aaron in his article.

So we ask ourselves, what did the churches keep? They were given God's Words as their stewardship and we should assume that they also had the means of getting the job accomplished. The churches received a certain text and rejected a certain text. This is how God said that He would preserve His Word, so we should allow that truth to lead us in our understanding of what He preserved.

Is it possible for churches to have come upon a new doctrine and progressed in their knowledge of preservation? No. A new doctrine will not be a true one. Churches have believed the truth. We will be able to find the truth about preservation in history because this is how God preserves the truth---through the church. So Christian men did not advance in their bibliology or in their means of assessing what God's Words were in the late nineteenth century. No, this was a deparature from the truth already established. Have there been any advances in doctrinal knowledge? We can better understand eschatological passages than what we once knew as we get closer to their fulfillment (cf. Dan 12:4). We are not experiencing an advance in bibliological doctrine with the science of textual criticism.

When we look at what the church says about the doctrine of preservation, it has taken the position of perfect preservation. It has believed that God would truly guide His people into all truth. They have assumed that when a mistake was made in a hand copy (a variant) that it would be corrected in another. God would lead His churches to all of His Words. If God would expect us to live by every Word, then it would follow that every Word would be available (Matt 4:4). Their position, guided by their scriptural presuppositions, was that they would have every Word because of the impossibility of the contrary. It was impossible that we would not have a perfect Bible. Mistakes in God's Word are not an acceptable alternative. It is not a position to which God has lead us in His Word.


This will be in part three.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Answering the SharperIron Article on Preservation part one

Here is my answer to the Aaron Blumer article on SharperIron, entitled, Preservation: How and What? I say thanks to Aaron, who is also Pastor Blumer of Grace Baptist Church of Boyceville, Wisconsin. I respect him for going at this issue. And I mean no disrespect in saying that he misses it in a big way because he does not represent what has occurred with the doctrine of preservation. And I don't mean this in a bad manner either, when I say this is a bit like talking to a Catholic about transubstantiation, who hasn't really interacted with the exegesis. The Catholic thinks transubstantiation really is the original position on the Lord's Table. I want to use this illustration in one other way. Aaron presents the preservation issue as if there are these two positions on preservation. It is like someone saying there are two positions on the Lord's Table: transubstantiation and then elements as symbols. Please don't take this as ad hominem. It isn't intended at all that way. I believe this an apt parallel though. The one good thing, I would always hope, that is different between those reading this, and even Aaron doing so, and a Catholic, is that the Roman Catholic sees the tradition as authority. You can show him Scripture and he won't budge. I've had those discussions. But we would think that genuine believers would respect the authority of the Bible on a subject and always put that above tradition, feelings, and even science.

Aaron presents two views of preservation. In doing so, he says that both sides believe in preservation of Scripture, and that neither knows what the Bible teaches about the how and the what of preservation. He says that both sides in the end are left with educated guesses about the how and the what. He seems to prefer the second sort of educated guess, which happens to be textual criticism, guesses educated by forensic science in that case. I don't believe that the second view is preservation of Scripture. It isn't how the Bible presents it, which I will talk about later. And I don't think that the first view is a guess at all, any more than we're guessing when we say that we have sixty-six books of the Bible.

Aaron goes through several preservation texts, which is the right thing to do, to see what the Bible says about its own preservation. He does miss a few good ones. But he concludes in so many words from looking at several references that speak of preservation that God has indeed preserved every one of His Words for people to use. That is a lofty conclusion for many evangelicals and fundamentalists. Many wouldn't want to be caught saying that. For instance, Daniel Wallace doesn't believe that Scripture says what Blumer concludes in his article.

The article by Aaron, however, has two major problems. One is that it provides no historical context, and two, the Bible really does say how and what. I'll explain both.


The first one, not giving historical context, is what provides the most trouble. The right position is the biblical position, but then it is also the historic position. There is no doubt that what Aaron calls the discrete view is the historic position. You won't find the other position, what he calls dispersed preservation, until you get to the 19th century. I have long believed that we first go to the Bible to get our doctrine and then we check on history to find out what men believed. If a new position comes on the scene, it should overturn the already established position with some very convincing exegesis of the Bible on the doctrine. We don't have that with the dispersed view. What originated the "dispersed view" was post-enlightenment rationalism in the form of the "science" of textual criticism. Textual criticism says to look to the external evidence to find out where it leads you, not at all affected by theological presuppositions. That has not been the position of the church. When I have presented the historical doctrine of the church, I have never had anyone deny it was the historic position. When I have argued with some of the most notable men in the field of the text of Scripture, they do not deny that converted men have taken the position that Aaron calls the discrete view.

From what I read, and I have read a lot about this, a vast majority of evangelicals and fundamentalists do not know the history of the doctrine of preservation of Scripture. True believers have always believed the view that I also take. It is the one that Scripture teaches. I think Aaron is referring to that view as discrete preservation. The fact that he gives it his own name seems to surely indicate that he has not interacted with the history of the doctrine. With the emphasis that Kevin Bauder and Central puts on history and scholarship, one would think that the students there would learn the historic view on preservation. I haven't read anywhere that would lead me to believe that they have. What I do read, that is written by them and their comrades, is that the history of preservation begins in the late 19th century. That's where we start in their history. That, of course, is also the time that evolution evolved, theological liberalism began to bloom, and what Bauder calls "proto-fundamentalism" got started.

Much of God's Word in Our Hands and God's Word Preserved (latter by Michael Sproul), two recent "dispersed position" presentations, quote almost entirely historic fundamentalists to defend their position as historic. I'm afraid that these men really do believe that they have presented the historic position on preservation when they quote mainly fundamentalists (what Sproul calls "our fundamentalist fathers," I guess to add authority to their words). Any real historian, like Richard Muller, I think, would be amused or even chuckle at the "history" to which these men refer (again I recommend for historic purposes, Muller's second volume in his Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, titled: Holy Scripture: The Cognitive Foundation of Theology). James White in his King James Version Debate doesn't even attempt to present the historic doctrine of preservation. Many of these men treat the doctrine of preservation as if it began with the textual critics and found its apex in Bruce Metzger of mid 20th century Princeton.

If anyone is going to say that there are two views, he ought to tell us where those two views came from. He should be required to do that. Usually someone, any scholar, any preacher, must do that. The first view, which Aaron doesn't represent correctly (I'll show how later), comes from Scripture and has evidence in the history of Christian doctrine. The second view does not have a historic basis. It started in the 19th century, which, by the way, was also the time that a lot of false theological beliefs were concocted. We should expect that the old position would be overturned by excellent, in-depth exegesis. It wasn't. We still do not get exegesis as a basis for the critical text or eclectic text position. That's why there isn't a major foundational difference between what we hear from James White and Bart Ehrman in the debate. On most of their fundamental points, they agree. Neither of them rely on scriptural presuppositions to come to their views on preservation.

When I ask for a scriptural presentation for the preservation position of those taking this "dispersed preservation" view, they don't have one. They only have criticism of the "discrete preservation." And it takes on a scorched earth type of argumentation. They usually try almost every avenue possible to discredit the scriptural and historic position. They did not and do not start with the Bible to come to their own view.

So Aaron presents two views. My problem is that the second one shouldn't be considered legitimate. It didn't start with a doctrine of preservation. Aaron Blumer deals with passages of scripture, but the dispersed preservation position itself started with a denunciation of the doctrine of preservation with the idea of overturning the historical position to make room for textual criticism. There is where I find it akin to saying there are two views on the Lord's Table: transubstantiation and symbolism. There aren't two views. We shouldn't exalt transubstantiation by giving it the status of a legitimate position. I say the same about the second position, the "dispersed preservation" view. Roman Catholic dogma has been influenced through the centuries by various external sources of rationalism and mysticism. A return to biblical doctrine for many in Europe in the 16th century was mockingly called fideism by Roman Catholic authority. Romanism considered theirs a groundless faith without the aid of reason that they had embraced. Doctrines like transubstantiation are not fideistic.

Is what I write above true? Yes, it is. Why isn't there more interaction about this? Not many men will even talk about it. The few that do will attempt to read textual criticism into statements made by Francis Turretin or extrapolate the science of textual criticism into the work of Erasmus. This is not telling the story. It is more scrambling to attempt to explain why they don't have a history. One would think that men who have truth on their side would be glad to discuss this. They won't. They certainly do not want to hear that they have a view read into the historic confessions to make room for post-enlightenment rationalism. What I have found is that they simply mock the historical view. And that is acceptable as discussion. They say it is just a silly translation issue for which they have no time. Certain pressures come upon evangelicals and fundamentalists that tie them to an eclectic or critical text and modern versions. And those who believe the biblical and historical position today are marginalized and dismissed in some fashion like believers in a Catholic inquisition.

I will finish this very soon. In the next post I will talk about the problems he has in representing the discrete position. By misrepresenting this view, a strawman is erected. Again, stay tuned.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Heads Up on a Preservation Article I'll Be Answering Here

Over at SharperIron, perhaps the most well-known fundamentalist blog and forum on the internet, the owner/editor, Aaron Blumer, a very decent Christian man, has written an article on preservation. He separates positions on preservation to two, and one of them, what he calls the discrete position, is the one we take. I wouldn't call it the discrete view, nor do I think it should be called that, but it is what Aaron thinks of it. I believe he is being far, far more fair than most on this issue. However, he does not represent our position fully and therefore not accurately either. He references our book, but what he writes doesn't seem to have interacted with it much (in the comment section, you will see that Aaron hasn't looked at our book---ooops!). I will be answering his post here at my blog.

This is a heads up. This is dealing with it as a news item with the heads-up too that I will be answering him. I'll be doing it next on the blog here, that is, the very next post here will be on this, Lord-willing.

Aaron was very fair. I can see him taking some criticism from the other side on this. One thing you should know about SharperIron, however. You won't get anyone, anyone who can represent our position there that is a member. You've got people there who are probably supporters, but you don't have anyone who participates in conversations who represents our side well, even well enough to say that he is representing it. Then in the comment section you get some big problems being brought in that I've answered here many times, the time honored critical text support gets brought in the comment section with no answer. That is unfair and misrepresentative. For a long, long time, no one has been at SharperIron to present the position Aaron is talking about.

For instance, Bob Hayton brings in the Septuagint argument in the comment section, really the only thing that the critical side has going for it, and there is no answer to it that is given. John Owen himself answers Bob's argument in his Biblical Theology. That's right, this was dealt with in the 17th century---about 5 pages on it. No one references Owen's argument, because they don't even know about it. You haven't dealt with history on this if you haven't read Muller's book, and in my opinion, that is the elephant in the room. If someone hasn't read Muller, he most likely doesn't know what he's talking about. For one, Muller can read Latin, so he's read what people wrote in Latin. Another man in the comment section of SharperIron, Charlie, brings in an argument that is also an old critical text one, that is, that "word" isn't speaking about God's written Word, so we can't say that these passages are guaranteeing the preservation of written Words. That one is fraught with neo-orthodox danger and smacks against historic understanding. I've dealt with that argument here before too.

I appreciate Aaron's thoughtfulness. I'll be answering his post. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Taking Liberties that Are Not Ours to Take

I can't climb through an open window into your house without being invited. That's not a liberty that is mine to take. I don't get to borrow your car because the door is unlocked and the keys are in the ignition. You understand those in a personal way. You also can comprehend certain actions like those on a little larger level. I can't take my entire salary in cash under the table without paying taxes. I may not like most of the government, but I still owe the IRS. I might know how to get away with copying someone's CD, but that isn't a liberty that is mine to take. It's against the law.

Last weekend's NFL football brought some controversy. When the Green Bay Packers lost in overtime, two plays stood out as a violation of the rules. In the Packers final drive, their first possession of the overtime period, they received a ten yard holding penalty, but replays showed that their quarterback was hit with a clear helmet-to-helmet tackle by a Cardinal defender. It was an immistakable illegal play that should have given at least a replay of the down. There would not have been a third and five play that ended in a Cardinal defensive touchdown. In the final play of the game, photographs show the Cardinal defender pulling down the Packer quarterback's helmet by grabbing his face mask. Not only would the Cardinal touchdown be overturned, but the Packers would have been moved fifteen yards forward because of the personal foul. Those incidents occurred on two of the final four plays of the game that, if called, could have changed the outcome of the game. I don't think any Packer fan believes that the Cardinal players should have had the liberty to get away with those two penalties against their team. Spectators understand that those kind of plays happen, but they don't believe that they should be allowed. They don't think that those are liberties that the officials should take in refereeing the game. They want the rules followed.

Many today seem to take a different approach with God. They take liberties with God that do not belong to them. They don't react the same way about God's laws being violated that they would about someone entering their house through an open window or a player committing a penalty against their team. They seem to think that they can take liberties with God that shouldn't be allowed in these lesser realms of life.

I'm not saying that we shouldn't expect liberties taken that shouldn't be taken. They will. We all sin. We all struggle with sins. We fall sometimes. But it's a wholly different matter when the liberties taken are not just overlooked but codified as acceptable and even superior behavior.

God says immerse. Someone sprinkles. God says immerse believers. Someone sprinkles infants. Those are not liberties that anyone should take with what God said, but they do. But what has now become the bigger problem? That someone doesn't accept this liberty that has been taken with what God said. It's not the sprinkling of infants that is today the problem, but that someone will break fellowship or separate from the one who has taken a liberty with what God said. God doesn't fellowship with unrepentant disobedience or sin. But we do out of what we see as love. God is love. He won't fellowship with it, but we will because of love. We're indicating that our love and our unity is superior to God's. That doesn't mean that we can't rejoice in some truth that the infant sprinkler believes, but do we fellowship with him when he tolerates this violation of God's plain teaching?

What is even more pernicious about this practice of taking liberties is that it now uses the gospel as a basis for it. These people are together for the gospel. They see themselves as having a robust, large kind of love that can overlook a false doctrine or practice for the sake of a transcendent unity. It isn't love. It is at best sentimentalism. It isn't about God. It's about being big. About having more friends. About not having to do the hard thing. About looking good in a world that values toleration above obedience and egalitarianism above authority.

This taking of liberties reflects on a view of either the plainness or authority of the Bible. Nowhere does Scripture tell us to allow for these differences. And we have enough of a grasp on language that we don't practice the same way almost anywhere else, essentially with areas that deal with our own tangible well-being. We don't nuance on what constitutes someone opening their car door into our car's paint job. We can see the ding. It's plain to us. It's our car after all. We don't want a car with a ding in it. We might forgive the act, but we do not embrace an acceptance or toleration of the continued practice of it. People are not at liberty to keep denting our automobile.

Because of the nature of this type of discussion anymore, I must say that when I use the example of infant sprinkling, it is just an example. This is not an essay about infant sprinkling. I know how hard it is, however, for people to accept certain other examples, even cessation of the sign gifts---tongues, healings, and miracles. Or public nudity. The conversation can easily turn junior high. It usually does on this. "He's a flame-throwing fundamentalist." "He's someone that's part of a very small and insignificant group of people who haven't found wide acceptance." "I can tell you from other conversations that I've had with him that he's unbalanced." "He wants to put women in burkhas." "He thinks that ladies who wear pants are going to Hell." This is a craft often learned in the high school locker room and then applied in theological circles.

When everything is finished, however, you still have God having said what He said and knowing what He knows. He's the judge. As much posturing and duplicity can be utilized as possible, but God is still on the throne. It is to Him and His Word to Whom we're accountable. And we know from His Word that He doesn't give us liberty not to follow what He said. He is of a very detailed nature that expects those specifics to be kept. He said no to any single item in Jericho, and one garment resulted in dozens killed. Nadab and Abihu died for a wrong recipe for the altar of incense. We can see how God looks at things. He is less lenient than most make Him out to be, even in areas of methodology.

The gospel brings liberty. Not to sin. Not to worship God the way we want. Not to be a stumbling block to the weaker brother. Not to be a bad testimony. Not as an occasion to the flesh. Not to disobey what the Bible teaches about separation. But to live in a way that pleases Him.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Is This Statement Scriptural? "Strictly speaking, biblical “separation” is refusing to extend Christian fellowship to someone who denies the gospel."

I like reading Scott Aniol's Religious Affections. Jonathan Edward's A Treatise concerning Religious Affections is important to have read and understand, and Scott does well to name his blog that. Most don't know or understand the implications of not knowing what Edwards talks about in his treatise. I believe he provides a very informative and helpful read at his blog, entitled: "Is Music a Separation Issue?" As it relates to most men today, Scott takes a strong position on music and worship. Much of what he writes is helpful. I recommend that you read his Worship in Song. It's very good and a book I have required for my pastors-in-training to prepare them to lead the worship of their churches. Of course, I also recommend my book, Sound Music or Sounding Brass too for those reading here that didn't know I wrote something on this in 1996.

I believe his question is an important one, that is, is music a separating issue? What is the best about what Scott writes is some history about philosophy of culture. In this article, it is for the first time I have read the terminology, "conservative fundamentalist." Scott had to know what he was writing there, introducing a new label, it seems. I've been reading "conservative evangelical," but it seems that as men relate to the culture as Christians, fundamentalists are now to be differentiated.

Scott is very strong. He's on the right side here. But he isn't strong enough, and that weakness surrounds a few statements he makes, first to start his article and then in the comment section. I believe that these statements parallel with the history of fundamentalism and they are a kind of traditional fundamentalist doctrine or just a fundamentalist tradition. They are not biblical. That should be our greatest concern, because we are talking about honor of, obedience to, and love for God. No one should be afraid to leave the fundamentalist reservation for the Lord Jesus. Here are the two statements in order:

Music philosophy is not a separation issue of the same kind of level as heterodoxy or flagrant, known sin.

Strictly speaking, biblical “separation” is refusing to extend Christian fellowship to someone who denies the gospel.

Scott's going to get agreement for these from most fundamentalists. Hearty agreement. Some fundamentalists won't agree with him---the statements aren't strong enough. I don't consider myself a fundamentalist, even though I'm very supportive of the idea of fundamentalism, but these don't read as scriptural to me. That's my concern. They are unscriptural---weaker than scripture.

Do you think they are scriptural? If they are, why? Support it from scripture. If not, then why not? And again, support it from the Bible.

Monday, January 04, 2010

A Leaking Gospel

If the true gospel was a ship, it would be airtight, never to be sunk. It always would do what it was supposed to do, because the gospel is of God. It is His good news. He gave it to mankind. As God's creation, the gospel will succeed at what God intended it. The gospel that is His will produce what He designed.

The Lord Jesus Christ commanded us to "believe the gospel" (Mark 1:15). God saves through the gospel (Rom 1:16). Because of this, we preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15). Paul served God in the gospel (Rom 1:9). If anyone preach any other gospel than the one Paul preached, he is to be accursed (Gal 1:6-9).

I'm deeply concerned about a widespread movement, much more than a trend, that claims to exalt and celebrate the gospel, when it in fact attacks the nature of the gospel. It's taken me awhile to sort this out, but now I'm convinced that this movement undermines the gospel, meanwhile promoting what it says is the gospel. I am calling it a leaking gospel. It is an imposter that might be decorated with flags and bright colored paint, but it has enough holes to sink it. What leaks out from it is what God created the gospel to do. Contained in the gospel is the power to change, to sanctify, and to separate, all around the truth.

Supporters of the leaking gospel shout out their love for the gospel. They name their parachurch organizations after the gospel. The blog about the gospel. They convince many that nobody cares about the gospel more than they.

The problem of the leaking gospel centers on an important gospel text in the New Testament---1 Corinthians 15:1-4. There Paul writes to the Corinthians:

Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

The leaking starts with a wrong interpretation of "first of all" in v. 3. The English Standard Version (also the NASB and NIV) translates that "as of first importance." It is only two Greek words---en protois. This is the only usage of en protois in the New Testament. However, it is found one time in the Greek Old Testament. There it is translated in the KJV as "before": "Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded before" (Joshua 8:33). The NASB translates it "at first" and the NIV, "formerly." None of those say that en protois refers to importance, but order in every case. Young's literal translation gives protois a one word translation in 1 Corinthians 15:3---"first." "I delivered to you first." The "of all" comes from the KJ translators because of the preposition, en, in front of "first."

What is the normal use of protos, "first." Should it be understood as "first importance?" The first time we see protos in the New Testament is in Matthew 5:24, which says, "first be reconciled to thy brother." The primary usage of protos is order, not importance. Even if en protos does mean "as of first importance," which it doesn't seem to according to a common sense reading, nothing in the context would tell us that 1 Corinthians 15:3 is making the amazing statement that this is the most important doctrine in Scripture. And then if it really is saying that the gospel is the most important doctrine in the whole Bible, it doesn't say anything about the gospel being the only test of fellowship with other professing believers. This is not exegesis of 1 Corinthians 15:3. It is all reading this teaching into 1 Corinthians 15:3.

A plain reading of the text says that Paul is saying that the gospel was one of the first messages that he delivered to the Corinthians. Of course, he would preach the gospel to them first because they weren't saved. The gospel is foundational to other doctrines, because someone can't understand Scripture until he has been converted and has the Holy Spirit indwelling him. A person goes to Hell for all eternity if He rejects the gospel. There's no doubt it's important, but it is a massive jump to seal a most-important-doctrine-in-all-of-Scripture alone from 1 Corinthians 15:3.

This little two word Greek phrase has become the proof phrase for a particular belief about the gospel. From those two words, those in this leaking gospel movement say in essence that the gospel is the singular basis for Christian fellowship, that is, as long as someone has even a minimal understanding and then reception of the gospel, we are permitted to fellowship with him regardless of many other scriptural differences. With most of these, it goes even further than that. To them, those who separate over the violation of a scriptural doctrine or practice other than or in addition to the gospel somehow are diminishing or undermining the gospel.

A particular understanding of this one, two-word phrase, en protois, brings together Pedobaptists with Credobaptists, Charismatics with non-Charismatics, Bach worship with Grunge Rock worship, Traditionally Clean Speech with Foul Language, and Complementarians with Egalitarians. This application of one prepositional phrase dumbs down all the rest of the doctrine of the Bible. It also clashes with many passages that teach discipline and separation over other teachings and practices (Matthew 18:15-17; Romans 16:17-18; 1 Corinthians 5; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15). No right view of the gospel could contradict so much belief and practice from the rest of Scripture.

When we are saved by grace through faith alone (Eph 2:8-9), "we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" (Eph 2:10). Right behavior "adorn(s) the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things" (Titus 2:8-10) for God's grace "teach(es) us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world" (Titus 2:11-12). John writes in 1 John 2:29: "If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him." Whatever is truly about the gospel can't divide itself from all of the teachings of the Lord. The gospel changes someone to live everything that God said.

The gospel is not the only basis for fellowship. In one of the most important and few passages on unity in the New Testament, Ephesian 4:3-6, we see that unity is based upon "one faith." "The faith" encompasses all the teaching of God in Scripture. "The faith" is everything that we believe and practice as a church. It is what brings a church together---not just the gospel, but all the teaching of God's Word.

"The leaking gospel" is more concerned about the alliances of evangelicalism and fundamentalism than it is about the gospel. Someone who loves the gospel won't compromise something else in Scripture in order to "get along" with another professing believer. Those with this understanding of the gospel are more concerned about their kind of unity than they are the honor of God. God isn't honored by diminishing belief and practice to cobble together leagues, fellowships, denominations, and confederations. Those with "the leaking gospel" don't mind the erosion of true worship in order to keep an alliance together. You can see that this view of the gospel doesn't strengthen the teaching of the gospel, but empties of it of its power by cheapening the grace of God. God's grace conforms men to all that God said. That was why Jesus sent His church to teach new believers "to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:20).

So I say beware of those with the leaking gospel. They may talk of the gospel and bring it into most conversations. They may say that it is what their preaching and their worship is all about. That doesn't mean that they represent the gospel of God. Just because they claim to coalesce around the gospel does not conclude that they do.