Monday, September 01, 2014

Commentary on the Steven Anderson--James White Interview, part one

At the time of this post, you can find the full interview here.  A good way to do this would be to pull up that youtube page on a different tab and go back and forth between the video and this post.  I'll put in the minutes for the particular comments I make.


More than believing an indefensible position on the preservation of scripture, Steven Anderson doesn't believe a true gospel.  He denies repentance is necessary for salvation, which is in fact the gospel Jesus preached (Matthew 3:2) and commanded us to preach in the Great Commission (Luke 24:47).  Yet, James White gives Anderson two and half hours to use for his future documentary video.  I'll say very little about Anderson, but he does open a window with the interview, because it is more than just a monologue by White.  Even in debates, you don't get direct conversation like this between two people who don't agree.

White doesn't believe a biblical or historical position on the preservation of scripture.  He instead takes a post-enlightenment, rationalistic, and evidentialist view, albeit claiming to be presuppositional.   According to him, because of the existence of textual variants, even true churches lost the words of God and today men must restore them according to modern rules of literary criticism.  Taking his approach, no one will ever know what the exact, specific words of scripture were in the originals until he gets to heaven.  While he believes that God is sovereign over the identity of the elect, a few humans are sovereign over the identity of the words of God, a relatively brand new and heterodox doctrine of the Bible.

I have committed myself to dealing just with White's content and not his style, so at 1:06 we find how White came to his position.  It wasn't presuppositional, that is, revealed from scripture. Instead, as a young man he noticed the apparatus of his 3rd edition UBS Greek New Testament in a Bible college Greek class and asked what the footnotes were.  He says he immediately knew those would be important for Mormons.  Isn't the gospel the power of God unto salvation?  We hear, however, that White did not get his position from studying the Bible, but from a Bible college professor.

At 9:17, in explaining why he wrote his book, White says a King James Only position won't stand up to the best opponents of the Christian faith.  Some might think that you have to take White's word on this, since he debates Islamic experts, but in my experience with evangelism of many Islamics, their attack on the Bible relates to the proposition that scripture has not been preserved, one they could gladly assert by listening to White himself, who himself faithlessly rejects that we have every word of God.

At 13 minutes, White asks Anderson why the New King James isn't inspired, since it comes from the same text as the KJV, who responds that the NKJV is not translated from the TR.  White says, "It is in the New Testament," as if it isn't in the Old Testament (which would make it not a New King James), but Anderson corrects him that it does differ.  White doesn't refute this.  Anderson is correct here.  You can see in several places that the NKJV translators did not come from the same Greek text as the King James.  This is a regular lie of multiple versionists, saying that the NKJV comes from the same Greek text as the KJV.  It does not.

Anderson returns to White's contention of "circular reasoning" at 16:21, which White begins defining at 16:30.  He finishes his intitial explanation by 17:39, but the essence of the circular reasoning for KJVO according to White is that KJVO defend the KJV by saying that it is the Word of God. Anderson wanted just a definition of circular reasoning, so at 17:53, White begins defining circular reasoning itself.  At 18:42, White starts to answer Anderson's question, "Why do we believe that the Bible itself is the Word of God?" Anderson is attempting to show that White himself uses circular reasoning, while criticizing KJVO for believing in it.  White spends a few minutes in essence admitting that he too uses circular reasoning, but that he depends on the revelation of God rather than a particular translation to make his point.   White concedes that both he and Anderson rely on circular reasoning.  Shouldn't that halt White from using the circular reasoning argument?  The Bible remains the highest authority, so it should be relied upon to believe that itself is the Word of God.

Circular reasoning is one of those logical fallacies that people like to throw around to diminish what someone else is saying.  I would not take a different position than White.  The Bible itself as God's revelation is the highest authority and so I rely upon it as my authority that the Bible itself is the Word of God.  Sure, no verse in the Bible asserts the King James as the Word of God, so the reasoning would fail if that was in fact the reasoning.  It isn't.  White's assertion is a strawman.  His strawman perhaps applies to Anderson, but not to the historic and biblical doctrine of the preservation of scripture, which is preservation of every word in the original languages and general accessibility to every generation of believers.

At about 20 minutes, White explains that "there is a proper place for a kind of transcendental circular argument."  White lays himself open to criticism here.  A transcendental argument would admit one God and so one truth.  You can't have two or three or four sets of words with a transcendental argument.  You've got one book and one set of words that God inspired and preserved.  You can then make that argument from the one book.  The argument is there.  White just doesn't believe it.  He goes outside of scripture, like utilizing science, etc., what he says he doesn't believe to prove the Bible is the Word of God, as proof of his multiple version position.

Anderson after 22 minutes really does make a very credible argument against White's position, using White's own argument, that is, if we stand in the Word of God for our position, the wisdom of God, then we can't stand on archaeology and history, etc. to come to our view.  Depending on other than the Word of God for faith is standing in the wisdom of men.  I could hear John Owen or Francis Turretin or the Westminster divines making the same argument.

At 23:50 or so, White starts to deal with Anderson's position on the Word of God.  He criticizes Anderson's one step circular reasoning.  He says that his own circular reasoning starts with God the Spirit replacing his heart of stone with one of flesh, giving him the faith to believe what God's Word says.  At 25:14 though, White says that he would get to the point with an unsaved atheist by saying exactly what Anderson said, that is, the Bible is the Word of God because the Bible says it is. White admits that Anderson and him agree at 25:30.  They do agree that both their positions arise from circular reasoning.

At 26, Anderson explains to White why he is KJVO.   His primary reason mirrors what White said was his reason for believing the Bible is the Word of God.  He says the Holy Spirit bore witness to him that the King James was the Bible, when the other versions were not.  Let me say right here, that is not how I argue for the King James, but I was hearing that Anderson was saying the same thing that White was, adding that other step in his circular reasoning, an internal witness of the Holy Spirit that White himself talked about just a few minutes earlier.

Anderson's pastor when he was a teenager took him aside to explain how the NASV was superior, and his explanation turned Anderson a different direction.  When Anderson heard that the new versions were reliant upon old manuscripts that had been lost, he says that he then knew that wasn't the Word of God.  Anderson and White had similar moments of discovering the existent of textual variants, but that took them in totally different directions.

At 30:30 or so, White begins reacting to Anderson's story.  From my perspective, White uses a strategy that I have seen him use in the past.  He puts words in Anderson's mouth.  He says, "What you just said is that you 'felt this.'" And then, "What you just said is that 'you believe this because the Holy Spirit has told me so.'"  When I heard White say that, I said, "Wow.  That's not what Anderson was saying."  Again, I don't take that same position as Anderson, but Anderson was reflecting the same argument as White, that is that the internal Holy Spirit, the one that God gave White, is the first step in his circular reasoning.  Anderson is saying the Holy Spirit bore witness, and White turns that into "the Holy Spirit told me."  He's trying to make Anderson's position look like some kind of double inspiration position.

At 31:30, White says that he doesn't think that John 10 is about English translations of the Bible. That is typical White type of tack.  Anderson isn't saying that "my sheep hear my voice" is about English translations.  He is saying that he hears the shepherd's voice in the King James.  He's not saying that the meaning of John 10:27 is that the shepherd's voice is an English translation, so, again, this is a White kind of debate technique.  Remember at 25:30, White himself says that he believes the Bible is the Word of God because of what could be construed as the same type of subjective, very personal reason.  I don't remember Anderson saying he "felt something," but that is what White turns the internal working of the Holy Spirit into -- feeling something.  Anderson does clear it up at 32:10 when he says there is absolute reality that the book of Mormon is false and the Bible is true, despite that a Mormon 'feels' it is the Word of God.

I think that Anderson's argument is weak.  I can't say it's false, because the Bible does say there is a personal experience we have with God through the Word of God.  It's weak because it does not differentiate Anderson's experience from the experience of an unbeliever.  However, it does reflect the same teaching that White made at 25:30.  Go back and watch.  White won't let it go.  He says at 33:45, "Steven, you've just made yourself the final arbiter of this issue."  I don't think so.

I believe that White is true in that you start with an atheist with presuppositions, the groundlessness of atheism because it clashes with the world in which we live, created by God.  You come to the Bible because it fits the only viable explanation for the world.  You utilize the general revelation the atheist suppresses.  It is true that someone doesn't believe the Bible because of his intellectual abilities, but because of the power of God.  But this is also what Anderson is explaining.  At this point, as I said, it is a weak argument.

Anderson goes off the rails at 35 by speculating that the the NIV user doesn't understand the King James Version because he isn't saved.  It's ironic that Anderson says this, hearing him later explain some of his unscriptural view of salvation.  And then he begins theorizing that the NIV is powerless because of the differences from the KJV.  It is too bad that it is Anderson doing this interview, because his position doesn't hold up.  He is a poor representative of the King James Version, similar to the demon possessed woman who testified to the authority of the apostles in Acts 16.  He's not the friend of the KJV that you want, even if he supports it.

Anderson's view, if taken to its end, does seem to send him the direction of denying the conversion of anyone not saved under the influence of the King James Version.  This was the same position that Jack Hyles took, who also didn't believe repentance was necessary for salvation.

At 38:45 or so, White says that he stands his ground against Catholics, Islamics, and Mormons as unsaved, because there is an objective standard, the Bible, and they're not believing.  He endeavors to differentiate his position from Anderson, whom he is portraying as subjective in his KJVO position, claiming that Anderson takes his view primarily on a feeling or the Holy Spirit talking to him, which White is obviously paralleling with the Catholics, Islamics, and Mormons.  And those three types of folks aren't saved because they contradict an objective standard, the Bible.  But White is wrong on the preservation of scripture, because he contradicts the objective standard, the Bible, for a very subjective position that comes out of so-called external evidences, that he himself says is not a basis for believing the Bible is the Word of God.  This is why I say that Anderson does us a service in having this interview.  You can see this as you watch.

Anderson tries to clear up this idea that NIV users are not saved at 39.  He says that they might be saved.  He shouldn't have gone there, because it seems he just keeps digging the hole deeper for himself.  I have to ask how someone like Anderson, who says he knows the shepherd's voice, could reject repentance, when the shepherd taught that.  This is a place where Anderson himself relies on his own logic to take a position, faulty logic that you hear more later in the conversation.

White is wrong to conclude at 41 that this is an aspect of KJVO.  He calls it a dangerous aspect of KJVO.  A lot of people who use other versions have wacky beliefs.  Mormons are King James Version themselves.  That is not a natural consequence of KJVO.  That is a faulty conclusion by White, but it is why with a King James supporter like Anderson, who needs enemies?

Anderson and White keep going down this path of new versions and salvation after 42.  Anderson says the NIV is the devil's book.  White asks why the devil would cause a book that still has all the doctrines in it necessary for people to be saved.  Anyone who is approaching new versions would be better served by saying that Satan does attack the Word of God by changing the words, as we see in Genesis 3.  People also misuse the absolutely correct Words, twisting them, as Peter mentions in 2 Peter 3.  The attack is more subtle than what Anderson portrays.  The attack is more like the following:  if we don't know what the Words of God are, then how can the Word of God be authoritative?  The confusion about the Word of God works at diminishing the authority of scripture and, therefore, the consequences, the conversions.  Satan creates doubt about the Word of God.  That is how Satan could use the multiple new versions.  White in this interview agrees with that.

The two men continue on the translation and salvation discussion, but in my observation they are both wrong on this point.  Anderson goes beyond a scriptural position by saying that it must be a particular translation.  White says it is just the "message" without actual words from God that are suitable.  People are saved by believing the gospel, but the power of the gospel comes from the Word of God.  I wouldn't want to depend on either position, because both are too risky.  White separates the Words of God from their message, as if the very Words aren't necessary for conversion---only the message.  One could say that this is a dangerous trajectory from a non-preservation position, disconnecting the message of scripture from the actual words.  Perverted views of inerrancy also attach to this natural conclusion of a non-preservation view.

At 46, Anderson starts questioning White on textual criticism and first about the major manuscripts behind the critical text.  I'm going stop here for now.


d4v34x said...

I've only listened to about 2/3 of the video, but it seems to me that the circular reasoning of White (which he qualifiedly admits to) is different from that of Anderson. Anderson essentially says that the Spirit confirms to him the identity of the words in addition to the truth of the message. White says the Spirit confirms to him the truth of what the words teach. This becomes clear when Anderson says someone has to hear at least one Bible verse in a salvation presentation, whereas White seems to be saying that one can hear the distillation of the message without necessarily hearing the actual words and be brought to faith by the Spirit.

Whites view seems to me to find Biblical support in the way the NT writers use the phrase "the word" (as in 1 Thess. 2:13) where "the word of God" is used to refer to the teaching and preaching of Paul and not simply the Scriptures).

Also, if Anderson believes a false gospel as you say (and I'd agree), we do well, do we not, to be suspicious of his bibliology?

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi D4,

Did you notice that Anderson was saying that the NKJV and the NIV were both powerful and inspired when they said the same thing as the KJV? They don't have the same words, so I don't think he's referring to the very wording of the KJV, but to the equal translation (albeit more modern English) of the same original text. The most sympathetic listening to Anderson has him saying that. I don't have a reason to support Anderson, because he doesn't take even a same view on preservation as I do, but I'm trying to be equally sympathetic to both, even though White's style is more off-putting to me.

Paul's teaching was obviously attached to words, or else why would he use "Word of God"? Plus, when an apostle spoke, it was as it were the words of God, which is different than when we teach. I think that many conservative evangelicals believe that teaching must be directly attached to words to be powerful, not just ideas or a message. I do believe the particular place in scripture that teaches that teaching must be used, and it must be what it says, but they are the words that say it.

Regarding being suspicious of the bibliology of unsaved people, that is presuppositional; in other words, allowing theology to guide you to the truth, versus looking at the evidence and just letting the evidence take you to the truth. That's what Dan Wallace says we must do. According to them, no theological presuppositions should come in. Are you applying that differently to Anderson? I happen to agree with you that theological presuppositions should guide us, but is that your position?

By the way, if you listen to Michael Krueger on the canon, he too says let theological presuppositions guide us on the books. I've listened to his lectures while jogging, and he says very good things that actually jive with what I believe on the Bible, not consistent with just allowing the evidence to lead you to the truth.

Kent Brandenburg said...

One more thing, evidence seems to be that lower story, lower realm, science, and theology is that upper story, upper realm, that is bifurcated from the lower.

David Waltz said...

Hi Kent,

Would like to thank you for this post. The video you linked to was quite informative—it gives one the rare opportunity of looking into the mindset of Mr. White in a setting wherein he is not in complete control of the format—very revealing. I also appreciated your commentary, and I'm looking forward to part two. With that said, I would like to ask of you some further clarification on the following you wrote:

"More than believing an indefensible position on the preservation of scripture, Steven Anderson doesn't believe a true gospel."

Could you elucidate a bit further on why you think Anderson's position is indefensible, and how your position differs from his.

Thanks much,


Tyler Robbins said...


This is why Anderson is not a Christian - he believes in a repentance-less Gospel:

Kent Brandenburg said...


Sorry it took so long to get back to you---we're starting the school year, a new orchestra season, we've had guests, and I'm working on a couple of remodeling things in addition to regular scheduled stuff.

Tyler got it right about the gospel of Anderson with his link above, so I won't cover that.

Regarding Anderson's view of the KJV, he doesn't take an original language preservation view, what he would call TR Only. He takes an English preservationist view (my term), believing that God preserved His Word through the English language. You can tell that Anderson believes this by how he deals with the issue. You can hear it in how he deals with translation issues with the KJV. More could be said here and maybe I will later.

David Waltz said...

Hello again Kent,

Thanks much for getting back to me; and no worries that it took a couple of days to so (I have a blog myself and certainly understand that there a lot more important things transpiring in one's life than the combox of a blog).

I thought that was Anderson's take, but I wanted to be sure. It seems a bit misleading that he terms the original language preservation position as "TR only", for one must also include the Masoretic text along with the Textus Receptus, if I understand the original language preservation position correctly.

I see that you have part two up; looking forward to reading it as soon as I finish this comment...


Daniel said...

Hi all,

It is not true Anderson believes in a repentance-less salvation. He proper distinguishes however between "repentance" (to turn from unbelief) unto salvation, and "repenting from your sins". Many for some reason believe that the word "repent" means "repenting from sin" automatically. Not true, God Himself repented amny times in the Bible. Repent simply means to change one's mind from something, to something different.

Kent Brandenburg said...


I noticed this comment by reviewing what I had written about Anderson in the past.

Anderson does not believe repentance is necessary for salvation. There is no teaching of repent from unbelief in scripture, so that is a strawman on repentance. I've listened to Anderson and that is not what he believes. Many in the revivalist/Hyles churches do, but not Anderson, according to his own explanation.

Repent doesn't mean just a change of mind and that's easy to see where the word is used. Change of mind is not what the Greek word or the English word means. Repentance is more than turning from sin, but it includes that, must be that at least.