Monday, October 03, 2011

The Sharper Iron Crowd Ignores the Peter Van Kleeck, Jr. Post

On 9/25/11, Peter Van Kleeck, Jr. posted the following on the Sharper Iron English Bible Text Debate Forum:

In 1558 William Whitaker, a master apologist for the truth of sola Scriptrua, wrote his comprehensive apology against the Roman Catholic dogma of Bellarmine and Stapleton on the topic of Holy Scripture - Disputations on Holy Scripture. Under the First Controversy and the Sixth question Whitaker writes concerning the necessity of Scripture,

"For if in civil affairs men cannot be left to themselves, but must be governed and retained in their duty by certain laws; much less should we be independent in divine things, and not rather bound by the closest ties to a prescribed and certain rule, lest we fall into a will-worship hateful to God." [523]

So for this brief post, here is the question, to those whose trust rests in the quality and certainty of modern scientific textual criticism [MSTC], in what way is MSTC "bound by the closest ties to a prescribed and certain rule" seeing that Holy Scripture falls most conspicuously under the category of "divine things"?

I maintain that MSTC is not bound but rather is a "will-worship hateful to God." For the nay-sayer, I concur that a form of textual criticism was in practice before the likes of MSTC, but that form was not of the same genus. Not of the same genus in that pre-Enlightenment textual criticism was subject to the leading of the Holy Ghost as manifested in the spirit-filled believing community of the time, whereas MSTC is subject to the scientific deductions of select scholarly board. For those perhaps a bit confused on this point, here is a slice of Theology 101. Where the Holy Spirit is leading the word of God is also present, and where the word of God is present so also is the leading of the Holy Spirit. MSTC pretends no such thing. You need not look any further than the several prefaces to the various editions of the leading Greek NT's on the market today. The goal of the MSTC scientific exercise is not for certainty, truth, or doxology, but for scientific worship of their own wills by oppressing the church with their findings and declaring all others uneducated, ignorant, and old-fashioned. So I conclude, where the Spirit of God is leading, the word of God accompanies that leading, thus pre-Enlightenment textual criticism is not of the same genus as MSTC, and should not be considered as such.

For those who seek to position MSTC with in the limits of the "prescribed and certain rule" [i.e. Holy Scripture], know that if you cannot, then you are in danger of condoning, supporting, and advancing a "will-worship hateful to God." Why is it will-worship? Because MSTC's goal is professedly not that of God's will but of a never-ending scientific endeavor governed by the limitations of human cognition to locate God's words. [i.e. men worshipping their own will to decide certain content qualities of divine revelation] Why is it hateful to God? A willful act not subject to the will of God is what brought us sin and the fall of man. Thus, MSTC is nothing more than an present day extension of that god-overthrowing will evidenced by our first parents.

The purpose of this post is to sharpen the iron of the supporters of the MSTC, by challenging them to locate MSTC in the greater exegetical and historical tapestry of Bibliology and if they cannot, to abandon MSTC as a system suitable for the work of Christ's Kingdom.

Some will say that no one has commented because it is "just such a waste of time."  Others will say that it is "just a worn-out, now boring, so yesterday issue."  Some might say that they are "through with King James Onlyism."

If his post were of the Ruckman, double inspiration, or even English preservationist fare, it would get comments.  People would say something.  Long stretches of commentary and argument have been made over on Sharper Iron on this subject, even recently.   What Van Kleeck writes is not old and boring and so yesterday.  Those who support what he calls MSTC (modern scientific textual criticism) haven't dealt with what Van Kleeck is writing.

Now I'm going to get into opinion, even speculation.  Why is it that no one over at Sharper Iron is answering Van Kleeck?

First, it is very difficult to answer.  Someone doesn't want to embarrass himself by answering.  It is true and whatever someone throws up against him will look bad.  Ignoring is the better tack.  There's deniability there.

Second, he sounds like he knows what he is talking about and it is easier to make points against straw men and people who don't know what they're talking about.  And then you just broadbrush everyone else into that person's category.  Here you have someone that knows theology, philosophy, and history.

Third, and related to the second, he has read more about this than the normal Sharper Iron reader.  The normal Sharper Iron guy has read what fundamentalists have written, the modern books.  He doesn't know historic bibliology.

Fourth, and related to the second and third, the Van Kleeck post ruins the fundamentalist and evangelical fake narrative on this issue.  They've got to have it be a twentieth-century only issue.  That narrative is easier to shoot down.  What Van Kleeck is writing about is the actual issue, the true, the real narrative, and no one would want to give it any credibility by even commenting to it.  They feel better off just ignoring it.

Fifth, you won't be able to use your typical cliches, propaganda, and mockery with what Van Kleeck wrote.  It doesn't soundbyte very well for your affectionate crowd.

Sixth, MSTC have now created an environment where they don't have to answer to the truth.  At least on earth.  They will be better off with a Bible with a percentage of doubt.  They will get along with more people, be more popular, and even be more faux-scholarly.  The emperor is still wearing no clothes.

Seventh, Van Kleeck just seems very, very smart and Sharper Iron guys just don't want to get whipped up on.  Even the name, Van Kleeck, Jr. sounds intimidating, like he would be a theological sharpshooter who would throw up theological raisins and shoot them out of the air.

So the cowering continues.


Bill Hardecker said...

Pastor Brandenburg,
Do you know if this is the Peter Van Kleek who wrote "Fundamentalism's Folly" (actually a transcribed speech - but a good read nonetheless) or is this a son of his, as suggested by the name "Jr."?

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Bill,

Jr. is Jr to the guy that wrote that, yes. My best knowledge says that Jr went to or is attending Westminster for seminary.

Aaron said...

The nature of a forum is that lots of people start threads nobody is interested in talking about.
I'm usually too busy managing the front page to watch the forums much wasn't aware of this one until your post showed up in one of my Google Alerts.
The question is not difficult so I'll post an answer.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Aaron,

It must be fun to get google alerts with a Sharper Iron mention and then click to open up that present. Somebody is talking about the blog. And then you read this.

We're even, because I didn't know about the Van Kleek post and one of your readers alerted me to it with an email.

You are not solely responsible for answering every forum post. I don't think there is any ethical responsibility on your part. It shouldn't be in the job description. Your other guys could come to the rescue.

I hope Van Kleek hasn't lost interest after so many days, and I wouldn't know how to get ahold of him, because I don't know him. I'll wait for his answer to your comment.

My observation is, for such an easy answer, you don't answer what he's written. Is his "Theology 101" correct or not? I guess you assume it is. And if it is, then you would need to show how that MSTC is based on a theological presupposition. That is a tough task, because the very nature of MSTC is that it must not be. As Daniel Wallace would say, don't let theology get in the way, just allow the evidence to lead you to the truth. And who is more conservative than he?

I'm going to guess that your a through e will not be the explanation, and I also believe you knew that none of them were what he would say. Using those "possibilities" shows that you either don't know the pre-enlightenment bibliology, or that you do and you want to discredit it and explain it away. The former seems the most charitable.

You don't seem to provide any answers yet to the non-difficult question, as you put it. I hope he answers you. It won't look good for me now if he doesn't.

Good hearing from you.

Aaron said...

You can't "answer" any question until you know what the question is. I'd rather answer than merely respond.
But key terms in the question have to be defined before it really has any meaning.

Aaron said...

Actually, on second thought, I may have to settle for responding to the question rather than answering it.
Some questions are not answerable because of assumptions built into the question (like "When did you stop talking to Martians?").
That may prove to be the case here.
In any case, the question is not answerable without clarified terms.

d4v34x said...

I don't think it will look any worse for you if Kleek doesn't answer than I thought it looked for SI when they (we) didn't.

I only knew about that post cuz I read it here.

Now that should make you feel good. :^)

Kent Brandenburg said...


I wouldn't put this in a 'when you going to stop beating your wife?' type of category. From your perspective, I guess that would be, when you are going to stop abusing historic bibliology? You would be saying that he hasn't proven that you (your kind) have ever abused it. But I think he has with his Theology 101 statement, that is, unless that isn't true. That's why it would seem to need to be proven untrue. We'll wait and see what happens.


I understand the tendency only to read the front page on SI. Not much forum activity has occurred. That's why I waited so long.

And I know I'm being provocative. :-D

Kent Brandenburg said...

Immediately after writing this, I went to SI and found that Van Kleek has indeed been watching and has commented on both of his two threads. I like his answer. He is writing something similar to what I would and actually have, if anyone would read here. And we don't even know each other. He mentioned a few guys I had not heard take our position.

If I were to add to his answer to point #1, it would be that we see how the Holy Spirit led by what was received. What did they receive? What they received is where He led. This very argument would be used for canonicity.

Bill Hardecker said...

I don't want to sound like Biden, you know, not knowing the Van Jones guy...but it is Van "Kleeck," not "Kleek." My mistake.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Wow. Corrected, Bill. Van Kleeck.

Reverend Alabaster said...

Hi. I have recently been directed to this blog and it is good to see that the Standard Sacred Text position continues to be expressed throughout the believing community. I just wanted to clarify that I am the son of the Peter Van Kleeck that wrote Fundamentalism's Folly. Thank you all for joining in the discussion on Sharper Iron. I hope it will continue there is so much more left to to talk about. Have a blessed Lord's Day everyone.

Peter Van Kleeck Jr.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Peter,

Sorry about the misspelling of your name. I really don't do that very much, maybe feeling the extra "c" was redundant or something. I knew of you and your dad, just never met him and came to our positions from different geography and society.

I hope to read more of you over there. I don't think you've answered Aaron yet, but I'm imagining that you'll get there. Or else Aaron can't be answered because he won't be answered. That also may be true, but it's too early to judge that.

Aaron said...

Just update on this.
Quite a discussion is in progress. One guy kind of blew a gasket. Feel bad about that. It was not my intent to use the "heresy" as some kind of argument or as an emotional bomb. It was meant to express some distance from the direction he was going with inspiration--which was ancillary to the real debate anyway.

As for Peter, we have not heard from him in a few days now.
I don't know if he intends to continue

Kent Brandenburg said...


I check my email and read comments and publish them and get back to answering them when I can. As I get back to answer, I notice that Van Kleeck has now answered. It doesn't seem to be as easy as you initially thought.

I like you Aaron. I really do. I want and hope the best for you. However, on this you seem to have closed your mind with a predisposition to holding onto your present way of thinking, maybe helping you keep in good standing with your present associations. A change to this sacred text position, the historic bibliology of confessing Christianity, would bring ridicule to you, the typical opposition to it.

As I have read you, I think I understand you more now. I'm going to write about it sometime, but what I read is that you see a value in modernism that you believe needs to be embraced. For instance, John Locke and Thomas Jefferson represent modernists that brought something good, so modernism must not be all bad. However, I would argue that the Locke and Jefferson modernism is also very bad. I would say that modernism brought us nothing of value, and whatever good we did receive, we got in spite of it.

And modern textual criticism and a new bibliology is another product of modernism. You are willing to take this trajectory with that predisposition about modernism. You are left with your faith in mathematical probability and what should be an unacceptable degree of uncertainty, one that the Bible does not speak of. But you are willing, like others with the MSTC position, to adjust your theology to fit your science, to readjust historic bibliology and even make MSTC fit into Warfield's spin on divine providence.

I would ask that you at least consider, and give an honest attempt to understand, what Van Kleeck is explaining. He understands it.

What people wrote about Muller, I thought were more examples of the ridiculous approach people take to this. Muller wrote what people believed. Muller could write it because he has the language ability and the accessibility to the documents to report it. If someone is going to overturn what he reported, they would need to have the ability that he does to study the same documentation.

I think it is a strange circumstance for you and, I guess, your crowd simply to dismiss orthodox historic bibliology out of hand because it doesn't fit with your science. Is there anything other doctrine that you do this to? It would seem that you would need to, like Van Kleeck is asking, to overturn it with scripture. Was there some conspiracy in their harmonious conclusions on what the Bible said about preservation of Scripture?

Kent Brandenburg said...


You say that you have proven Peter Van Kleeck wrong in that comment thread. Maybe I'm missing something. Here is the essence of it, I believe.

1. What is the historic bibliology of preservation?

No one that I have read is saying that what Peter writes is wrong. You haven't proven that. So is this the position that believers took?

2. Is that historic position actually biblical?

No one I have read shows that it is unbiblical. They don't go to the Bible to do that. What you do is say that their position doesn't explain enough to you as to how we know the product was the work of God, the Holy Spirit. I've explained that to you, explained what those men said it was. You've just rejected it and offered no scriptural or historical alternative in place of it.

3. What changed the historic and biblical position and where is the work done that explains that change? Where are the bibliologies that establish the new position?

I don't see those anywhere. All you read is an attack on the old position simply because of the existence of textual variants.

4. Is MSTC the same as what the pre-Enlightenment did?

Van Kleeck shows the difference. You don't disprove that. You say that you have proven it wrong. I haven't read any way that you have done that.

5. Did the pre-Enlightenment reject Aleph and B?

A big part of your material--I don't see an argument--is that the modernists had new stuff to look at, so everything opened up again to keep editing and tweaking. Van Kleeck is saying that, no, they already rejected A and B and that's essentially MSTC, that is, now accepting, based on science, something that believers had already rejected. If that's true, it sinks your point of view. Maybe you don't see that.

Peter says read Muller and you take that as a logical fallacy, as if his point is to overwhelm you with reading material, so that you can't win because you would no way have time to read all the material necessary to get up to speed. Then show in your own limited way how it is that the overall point of Muller was wrong. No one else has done that. Maybe you can do it. Or you could admit that right now you don't know what you are talking about.

That's all for now. Thanks.

Kent Brandenburg said...

I don't believe the MSTC started with Scripture to come to their position. I don't believe they read their Bible and concluded: "Hey, we aren't supposed to expect a perfect text in our hands. It's going to have errors in it because textual variants are to high a hurdle to cross." I don't think someone reads Scripture and says, "Hey, that Psalm 119:89 is the key verse on preservation. The Bible is teaching its preservation in heaven. Oh, no wonder, I see now after studying the Bible and coming to that position, that we have all those textual variants. Good thing I thought Psalm 119:89 was the key verse before I saw those variants!" I don't believe that's what took place.

And to get the Psalm 119:89 thing settled. Do I believe there is a perfect Bible, all the Words perfect, in heaven? Yes. Could I conclude that from Psalm 119:89? No. And that's how you know for sure a double standard is here. The MSTC grill all the other verses, looking for every possible loophole as possible, treating those verses like no other verses in the history of exegesis. But on Psalm 118:89, they are sure it teaches preservation and preservation perfectly in heaven alone, and from the text alone. Really? The word "settle," the Hebrew word, does not mean preserve. It's easy to find out. "Settle" means "to stand" or "to establish." It's not used as "preserve." For instance, the same Hebrew word occurs in Genesis 18:2 and it is translated "stood," as in 'people stood with him.' So why is Psalm 118:89 the big verse on preservation? It isn't because it is such a good verse on preservation. It's because it jives with their presupposition that comes from variants. That is patently obvious.

This Sacred Text position is the position of God's people as we read it in history. That hasn't been disproven. The narrative is that they didn't have as many manuscripts. That doesn't work. They had textual variants. Their position was based on their doctrine, which is faith.