Monday, September 24, 2012

Cult-Like Tendency in Modern Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism, part one

One common feature of cults, a major one, is a belief in a total apostasy.  They justify their existence with the fiction that they represent the original, divine teaching, when the truth is that they've invented new doctrine not found in Scripture.  If it's new, it really isn't true.  Paul said that some would depart from the faith, not all (1 Timothy 4:1).  Neither would the gates of hell prevail against Christ's church (Matthew 16:18).  Here's what occurs.  In this age in which we live, saved people are indwelt by the Holy Spirit.  He is the Spirit of Truth.  A particular teaching inspired by the Holy Spirit is not going to disappear.  The Holy Spirit leads and teaches and guides.  He isn't going to allow for the elimination of one of His truths.  God's doctrine is not going to change.  It was faith once and for all delivered (Jude 1:2-4).

With everything in the first paragraph being true, churches, believers, should not expect new doctrines.  If there were a doctrine that seemed new with what may seem to be no historical attestation, one would expect the only possible way that the obvious historical position to be overturned would come from overwhelming exegetical evidence.  However, the latter is, if not unlikely, probably impossible.  What I'm talking about here should be the hard fast understanding of Christians.  When new doctrine might be invented, come on the scene suddenly without any trace of previous existence, it ought to be doubted.  Everyone should be suspect of its veracity.  The reception of the new doctrine ought to be considered to be cult-like.

Before I start in on what you've been really waiting for, please make sure you read the first two paragraphs, because they buttress the rest of the post.  Second, I understand that cult-like is inflammatory.  I know that.  It is, however, the kind of terminology that the ones with the new teaching use to describe those with the historic teaching.  And they'll say it with no evidence, no basis or proof.  This is cult-like.  New doctrine that originates in the 19th and 20th centuries is cult-like.  I also call it a tendency, which softens it a little.  Maybe it shouldn't be softened at all, because it is serious, but I want it to go down a little easier, and like Mary Poppins said, "Just a teaspoon of sugar...."  That's my disclaimer.  Now for the application part.

This list will be eclectic, so don't assume that I'm ranking in some order of importance.  Some of it is interpretation and other is application.

Was there a total apostasy on bibliology?   Every presentation of a doctrine of preservation of Scripture in written materials since the invention of the printing press reads as "we have all the words of Scripture available to us in the language in which they are written." That was defended exegetically and doctrinally.  The defenders knew the existence of textual variants.  Still they believed in a perfect, error-free verbally preserved Bible in their own hands.  They didn't mistake preservation for inspiration, but they did believe that what was inspired, the original text Old and New Testaments, was preserved.  That would mean that those words were still inspired, since they were preserved.

Enter textual criticism.  Doctrine changes.  Were they basing this on new evidence of historical doctrine?  Does this trace itself back to a total apostasy of orthodox bibliology?  Can a so-called science, a kind of forensics, overturn what Christians believed and taught?  This is a cult-like tendency.  The sort-of mainstream Christian media is ignoring this bit of truth for the same type of reasons that the mainstream public media ignores selective important news.

The change and then denial of the historic doctrine has a domino affect.  We've got new words that were not a part of historic bibliology to stake out and protect the new view on the preservation of Scripture.  One of these is inerrancy.  If you use google books and do a search between 1600 and 1850, you won't find men using the word inerrancy as a technical, biblical term.  I found it used 2 times in relations to the Bible, none before 1800.  It's a technical term today that has dumbed down what we should expect for God's Word.  It doesn't mean that we have the same words.  However, the same perfection as having the same words is how a man used the term in 1836.  And then after 1850, you find the word used 2,330 times, just an explosion of usage, and  almost all of those after 1890.   The doctrine of inerrancy, ironically, was a doctrine of errancy.  The doubters had to form a new definition of a perfect Bible with errors and that doctrine would be inerrancy.  It isn't a historic doctrine.  It's an invented one to give the impression that these theologians believe in a perfect Bible.  When they say perfect, they aren't saying the same words as the originals.  They are saying perfect, as in, there are no errors in the teachings, and even if there are, those are corrected in some other context.  All of this, as I read it, was to give people some stable idea to hold onto, since Christians no longer believed that they held all God's inspired Words in their hands, in order to keep people from apostatizing.  This is what evangelical and even fundamentalist seminary professors are drilling into their students, so that they don't produce any more Bart Ehrmans.

More Later


Joshua said...

That last sentence struck a chord with me.

Growing up with Christian parents, I was taught that the Bible was perfect, unchanged and infallible. I believed it, and the Bible certainly claimed this for itself.

When I was converted at 21, I went back to my NIV and started reading - including the footnotes. "This verse is not found in the oldest and best texts". I was offended. Some oaf had left verses in my Bible that were dodgy.

I jumped on the internet to find out what the oldest and best texts were, so I could just read them. I wanted that pure, unchanged Word I had been taught in my youth, not tainted with later additions by scribes posing as the Words of God.

What I read confused me greatly. There was no single, pure, oldest and best text that I could get a solid translation from. There were two, that disagreed with each other, and the only consensus Christian scholars could reach is that these were more reliable than others that had previously been relied upon - but ultimately they didn't really know which verses should be in and should be out.

I'm not exaggerating when I say it shook me greatly, as no doubt it did for Erhman when he learned it. I didn't doubt these scholars. I'd never used the KJV, or even heard there was an argument over it. But I'd just found out that the absolute certainty and confidence of my youth in the unchanging nature of Scripture was ill founded.

At that moment, I could have walked down Erhman's path. It was open to me.

Instead, I shut down the browser, and trusted that one day God would sort it all out for me.

A year later, I stumbled upon a Baptist church. I liked them. They were deadly serious about God. They loved people. They would preach with authority, and without thought for trendiness. They had some what seemed to me silly, old fashioned, reactionary ideas about the KJV, music and dress, but I put up with that because everything else lined up for me.

Eventually the teaching on the KJV started to grate on me, so I decided to get to the bottom of it. Imagine my surprise when when I discovered the answers to my confusion a year earlier. The Bible had never changed. All the verses were there. Man had deemed two contradictory witnesses to be "older and better" than the combined witness of a consistent, used text, but it wasn't so.

So, that's why your last sentence resonated. It is a shock for young evangelicals. It challenges everything you get taught about the Bible. I feel like I've stood at the same crossroads as Erhman and been delivered. God is good.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Joshua,

First, I appreciate your defense at Remonstrans.

Second, You are right here again. God is good. It is a matter of faith and whether we can know by faith. We exercise the same faith for everything in the Christian life.

Bill Hardecker said...

It's a spoonful not a teaspoonful. Just being nauseously nuanced. All kidding aside. I have never heard or thought that the teaching of "inerrancy" to be invented from doubters, and that the heart of it is a denial of perfect preservation while attempting to maintain a similitude of preservation. I am so glad you are blogging this. I am so glad you are giving context to modern Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism. Thank you, and Praise God.

Joshua said...


I was trying to stay out of it, until he choked when asked for his testimony. I'm reading through Proverbs in my devotions at the moment, and it's like reading the book while watching the movie.


It was B. B. Warfield who first used the term in relation to the Bible I believe. Essentially, Christians had always believed that they autographa and the present texts were the same thing.

Textual critics were starting to take a stick to the manuscripts that had been previously relied on. Warfield thought he could deny the critics a grand victory by shifting the goal posts with his new idea of inerrancy - now only the autographa (that no one has) were perfect. Criticize that critics!

Every time I read in a doctrinal statement "in the original manuscripts", I think of Mr Warfield and his coin of inerrancy.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Thanks Billy.

Pretty good, Joshua. It's amazing what you can learn when you aren't the war game champ.

Steven Avery said...


Kent, I believe that inerrancy is a work that means less than infallibility, which includes in our current usage the nature and perfection and majesty of God as well as logical error.

However, the problem is not the concept of inerrancy, but "inerrancy in the original autographs" the Warfieldian disaster that is a complement to the hard errors of the modern version text, offering an excuse.

To give an example of why I do not think the word inerrancy itself is wrong:

William Perkins (1558-1602)
"The purity of Scripture lies in the fact that it stands complete in itself, without either deceit or error: 'The words of the Lord are pure words, Like silver tried in a furnace of earth, Purified seven times' (Psa. 12:6).

William Whitaker (1547-1595, Anglican): "Whereas, therefore, no one may say that any infirmity could befall the Holy Spirit, it follows that the sacred writers could not be deceived, or err, in any respect. Here, then, it becomes us to be so scrupulous as not to allow that any such slip can be found in scripture ... it is the special prerogative of scripture, that it never errs" (Disputations on Holy Scripture, pp. 37, 40).

William Ames (1576-1633, English Puritan): "Only those could set down the rule of faith and conduct, who were in that matter free from all error because of the direct and infallible direction they had from God" (The Marrow of Theology, pp. 185-186).

I really do not see a distinction between phrases like "free from all error" and inerrant.