Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Recent James White Videos and the Bible Version Issue, pt. 3

Part One.  Part Two.

I do get how that certain bibliological error needs exposing and some of it is King James only.  A big swath of King James supporters don't believe in the preservation of scripture.  They've invented double inspiration or a kind of edition of double inspiration that I call English preservation, that God preserved His word in the English, not in the original languages.  Then you have the liberals, the Bart Ehrman types, attacks on inspiration, and the now regular appearances of new, innovative perversions that diminish scripture, numerous of these.  False religions assault the Bible.  Continuationists often claim extra-scriptural revelation.  Everything I've written so far in this first paragraph could keep someone very busy without getting to the doctrine of perfect preservation and general accessibility of scripture to every generation of believers.

James White, however, dedicates himself to battle certainty in scripture.  He and others like him take the odd position that you are a danger if you believe there is a settled text.  Unless you are committed to some dilution of the biblical text, you are in trouble with them.   Anything that rises above preference for the text behind the King James Version must be eradicated by White and others.  If it really is fine with them, then it shouldn't matter, but it does.  It does.  It's very, very serious to them as seen in the time they dedicate to it.  White and others say so.  There are so many alternative Bible interpretations and positions that White tolerates. He doesn't do repeated exposes and write books about those things like premillennialism or amillennialism.  Those don't get on his radar.

Someone who believes there are already errors in scripture shouldn't have a problem with someone having certainty in a Bible of which he himself approves.  On the other hand, I think that James White is dangerous, because he rejects the biblical teaching of preservation of scripture and spreads it to others, causing doubt.  I can't believe in biblical and historical preservation and tolerate White's position.  I can't believe in more than one Bible, which itself isn't even a Christian worldview.  He is in error, based on the teaching of the Bible itself.

As I've said, I'm sure there are those with a lower view of the Bible than White who are buoyed by his conservative evangelicalism.  I think I should rejoice when he's true.  Hopefully I will, but he isn't right here, so we continue with his two recent videos.  In the last paragraph I quoted in part two, White said this:

[W]e live in a day where the world is so opposed to our faith, that the days of my grandparent's generation where you didn't have to worry where you got the Bible and you didn't have to worry about textual criticism and you didn't have to worry about sexual ethics and marriage and everything else.  That day's gone.

White speaks of a day when you didn't have to worry about where you got the Bible and you didn't have to worry about textual criticism.  Those were the days before James White and men like him, who say they're doing such a great service to the church.  People assumed they had the Word of God in the King James Version.  Now they have doubts, and James White contributes to that.

At 15:15, when White is answering a question by Eric Hovind about people who say that the Bible was written only by men, he says this:

Of course, if you come to the issue of the Bible, um, I don't want to ground the authority of the Bible in any example or story that I give to somebody else, because if I, if I put my hand on something and say I swear by this, I'm saying this has a higher authority.  The same way, we can point to evidences of the truthfulness and consistency of the Bible, but we have to be very careful that we don't communicate to people that history, or manuscripts, or anything else, is a superior authority to the Bible.  Well, then the authority of scripture comes from the fact that it is theopneustos, it is God breathed, it is God speaking.  When you put your hand in front of your mouth and you speak, you cannot but help but feel breath.  That's the intimacy of what the Word of God actually is.  Jesus believed that. . . . As a pastor, as an elder in a church, when I encounter someone who can in a flippant and easy way question the authority of scripture, I am immediately concerned about this person's welfare, I really am.

I agree with everything that White said here.  He should not ground the authority of the Bible on a story about Erasmus or in the next manuscript that someone digs up or finds in a cave.  If God says He would preserve every Word and that every one would be available, that discounts anything that is different than what believers used for hundreds of years and many generations.  There should be no flippant or easy way for that to be dismissed, and yet is all the time, including by White, who places a higher degree of authority on the existence of textual variants in manuscripts than the testimony of God's people.

White's 27 Minute Video, Entitled, My Concerns With the Ecclesiastical Text Position

I am familiar with the terminology, the Ecclesiastical Text.  The first I heard it was over 20 years ago from the late Theodore Letis.  It was his position on the preservation of scripture.  As I consider what he wrote now, he was just representing the historical, biblical position on the preservation of the Bible.  This does not count as an endorsement of Letis, just that I think what he was saying on this was true.  In the past at least, what I heard espoused by Douglas Wilson sounds like this Ecclesiastical Text view.  Some today have hijacked Letis terminology, who don't even believe his view.  Somebody must be careful not to argue a straw man on this position, if he's going to oppose it.

White says he opposes the Ecclesiastical Text position, has "serious problems" with it, and in the above linked video, he speaks about it.  He says it is a subject that is very important to him, and he did the video, he explains, in response to a conversation someone had with him in a social network. At the very beginning White says that this position is the end of meaningful apologetic defense.  Big words.  One would think it's got to be very bad with that kind of blasting.

White says in the second minute that the Ecclesiastical Text position is thoroughly inconsistent with reformed presuppositions, even though it's the reformed that take it.  He says it is also inconsistent with "sola scriptura and things like that."  In the third minute, White explains that he was motivated by statements that were very offensive and that he was shocked or at least disappointed by what a fellow reformed Baptist elder said to him.  The man said about White that the Muslims want White to debate in their mosques for a different reason than White thinks, that is, because they use again and again White's defense of the critical text.

At about 3:25, White does a very typical for him type of mockery of this man and his audacity. You've got to be kidding White if you think that Muslims know what the Ecclesiastical Text is.  That is a red herring.  Muslims think the Bible is corrupted, something James White agrees with.  It is true that they don't hear very often a position in defense of a settled, perfect text of the Bible.  It is probably also true that someone who took that position would not get into a mosque to debate, like White can.  That position, the historic and biblical position, contradicts the chief Muslim attack on Christianity.  They like a guy that plays right into their hands.

A little after the four minute mark, White says Ecclesiastical Text advocates must admit textual variants, just like he does, White ticking off the various editions of the textus receptus (TR).  He says Muslim scholars pounce on any admission of textual variants and both he and TR proponents must admit variants.  When I talk to Muslims, I don't admit variants.  I go to scripture and show them verse after verse that teaches the perfect preservation of God's Words, and that we trust what God said, that we have a perfect Bible, because God said so.  That is doing spiritual warfare, depending on theopneustos, the breath of God, to pull down strongholds, not getting into acceptable percentages. White can't do that, because he doesn't believe it.

Who are meaningful Moslem apologists?  I find that every Moslem I talk to, wants to talk, and is ready to talk.  They have various degrees of readiness, but more than any other pagan religion, Moslems will engage on their religion.  They want to persuade you.  Scripture is sufficient for whatever Moslem apologist you want to confront.

White says that's the problem with the ecclesiastical text position.  He says it exists in the backwaters of reform-dom.  This is very typical type of speech of White, who says he was shocked and disappointed with how someone treated him, said, as normal, right up front.  Of course, he's tooting his own horn, implying that he's way down stream with the top Moslem scholars, and these guys are in their little reformed fiefdoms, away from the big time, like him.  It's laughable.  He really does get me laughing out loud, all of his antics.

After spending a minute insulting his opponents, White lectures us that Moslems don't know their own textual history, even outside of the backwaters, where White paddles, except for some of them.  And he means by that, of course, that he does know, because, ahem, he's studied the history of their text, and can give them textual variants of the Koran.  This is White's idea of being on an even playing field -- the Bible and the Koran have variants.  They both have errors!  Neither know what the original text was!!  This is "meaningful" interaction, "meaningful" an important qualifier to White.

At 6 minutes, White asks, "What are we supposed to do?"  If he was serious, this is a very good question.  Men should know what to do.  He asks what the Ecclesiastical Text view will add to this.

Right before 7 minutes, White equates the Ecclesiastical Text view with the Moslem view of the Koran.  He says they take a theological position, and not a historical one, just like the Ecclesiastical Text.  This is another iteration of a typical critical text argument.  They use that same one with the Roman Catholic tradition of Jerome's Vulgate, except that it's not the same, because the Vulgate was a translation, and the Ecclesiastical Text view defends original language preservation.  The preservation of the Koran is not the same as the preservation of the Bible, because the Bible is in fact the Word of God.  It's true that someone might not take the Bible, the actual breath of God, as an authority, but it is powerful to pull down strongholds, unlike White's naturalistic arguments, meant to get debate points away from the backwater.

White says that there is no historical argument for an ecclesiastical text.  There is one.  And it's better than White's historical arguments, because it is true.  White says there is no means for an ecclesiastical text person for accomplishing anything in a conversation with a Moslem.  I haven't found that to be the case.  If you know the Bible, you can show what's different about the Bible from any other book.  The Koran can't compare.  You can talk about the means of preservation, the biblical means, and accessibility, something that White doesn't have in his naturalistic toolbox.  Those are powerful, because they are biblical, and the problem for a Moslem, like any other lost person, isn't intellectual, but volitional.

An Ecclesiastical Text person will explain textual attack and how that we know what the Words of God are, just like we know we have 66 books.  That is all historical, but mainly it is biblical.  We don't say the same thing as the Moslems.  That's just a lie by White, and one to which he adds a lot of attitude with it.

White says after 8 minutes that he's never seen the official ET, Ecclesiastical Text, rolling his eyes again and again, as he often does.  He said at the beginning of his video, that he had seen it.  He should become more educated then. He should perhaps go into the backwaters a little.  Or he could just read the Westminster divines, John Owen, Turretin, or Richard Muller's volume on the history of bibliology after the printing press.  He could perhaps get out of the 19th century and get into the 17th and 18th centuries, before the enlightenment.

Right before the 9 minute mark, he's got to do 20 seconds of "meaningless" ridicule, his face getting red, twitching and stroking his beard.  I get to the 9 minute mark, and can I believe it?  Yes.  He brings in the traditional Latin text of Rome. It's like talking to an evolutionist, the same three or four same stories again and again.  He sees a subjugation of the text to an ecclesiastical authority, mocking "ET" again briefly, an obvious reference to extra-terrestrial. (You tell me what White looks like when he talks like this -- be honest.  If he was in my church, I'd tell him to stop.)  White should read the Westminster Confession and the London Baptist Confession to get an explanation for what he mocks earlier as a "vibe" and here with the "church authority" argument.

Just an aside here.  The critical text people, including White, defy their own reasoning with their support of the Septuagint, a non original language text (and a corrupt one).  The big debate with Roman Catholicism was the superiority of the original language text above the Latin.  There is a biblical argument there.

Notice at the end of the 9th minute and into the 10th how that White argues for his position.  None of it is scriptural.  It's 100% humanism and naturalism.  You hear him say "the Byzantine platform" as if those forensics are vital to believers.  They're not.  He acts like they had no basis for their text in the 16th and 17th centuries.  He doesn't know what he's talking about, and it would be more sad, if he wasn't so laughable.

More to Come.


Robert Truelove said...

My response...

Robert Truelove
Christ Reformed Church

Robert Truelove said...

My response...

Robert Truelove
Christ Reformed Church

Kent Brandenburg said...


I can appreciate that you want to take a very measured tone. This is a more important issue than that, and your underplaying it with him, I believe is a mistake. You should match is rhetoric. There is a scriptural basis for doing that -- it's what Jesus and Paul did. It's taught in Proverbs. What's at stake? The supernatural nature of the Bible, a perfect Bible, a Bible that would come from God. There is a lot more than that, but you are making it sound like an OK option. Maybe this is because of your ecclesiology and your view of unity -- I don't know. I'm happy that you are not with White on this, but you shouldn't back down.

Also, overall White is a significant negative to ministry to Muslims. This is not a biblical apologetic. It isn't even reformed or Calvinistic, which should drive you folks crazy. They aren't going to be changed by winning the tit for tat with manuscript evidence. That does play into their hands, and you backed down on that. Why?

By the way, this isn't personal with White. I don't like his style for many reasons, and don't like how he's treating you, but if he was right, I'd be his biggest cheerleader.

Kent Brandenburg said...


One more thing. I wrote this whole series without watching your video. It is interesting to see how we overlap. We've never met. It makes it more interesting, more powerful. We do say similar things. I have a stronger view than you, I think, and I'm not sure why. I think people do have to settle, and the use of these other versions is divisive. If someone is reading ESV, sure, I can be more happy than a Bible rejecter, but I think you give it too much credibility. Maybe I'm wrong.

Robert Truelove said...

Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man. —Colossians 4:6

I find a gracious response to a rant is far better received and instructive to all concerned. If I had lowered the boom on Dr. White, I would have only truly spoken to those who already agree with me. I don’t see answering a matter with grace as backing down. To the contrary, a gracious answer tends to be the one that finds it’s way into the hearts and minds of God’s people. Burgon, despite his positive contributions, set a horrid example for us as to how to speak to this issue.

In Burgon’s defense, the work of Westcott and Hort was far more offensive in his day as they were rescinding the Greek text based upon manuscripts that appeared to be corrupted flukes. The subsequent papyri discoveries have proven that Aleph and B are not flukes, but an early, regional text of Upper Egypt.

It is for this reason that I am not so radically offended by the present Critical Text which continues to lean so heavily upon the Alexandrian textual tradition. Despite it’s flaws, it is the text of the people of God in that region from at least the 2nd century and remains orthodox in it’s readings overall (despite its glaring faults). I figure if I can claim Athanasius of Alexandria, I can be gracious with those who use the text he no doubt used.

Having said that, this doesn’t mean this is a trivial matter. Let not grace be seen to belittle what is at stake here. It is not the Critical Text as it now is that is the weightiest problem; rather, it is the presuppositions and subsequent methodology behind it. The reasoned eclectic approach to textual criticism will never arrive at the “original autographs” as there is no way whatsoever to recover such a thing upon purely rationalistic grounds. The vast majority of the scholars in the field are agreed upon this point.

Failing to achieve this goal, it is shifting sand and I believe the next 100 years will lead to a complete polarization of the matter. I suspect Bible believing Christians will have a very difficult time maintaining the reasoned eclectic position. Not that most Christians will understand the principles involved in this highly technical subject, but it’s product will become increasingly offensive. I speak to future translations and future updates of the ones that manage to stay around (indeed, are they not all in flux as well?).

As things continue to head in this direction, more and more people will be looking for answers that are compatible with their faith. I think it is time we who hold to the Traditional Text be the most gracious, and kind in our dealings. Far more people will listen if we answer with grace, letting our words be seasoned with salt, and be more zealous for the hearts of our brethren than thumping our own chests.

This is at least how I see it.

Robert Truelove
Christ Reformed Church

P.S. As to the question of the Muslim apologetic, there was really too much else on the table to get into that too deeply. While I do agree with Dr. White that the entirety of the Greek manuscript history does indeed demonstrate that the text was not corrupted as Muslims believe, one can demonstrate that without being a reasoned eclectic. It is the reasoned eclectic approach that I believe undermines the apologetic (not the Alexandrian manuscripts).

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Robert,

Of course our speech should be with grace, seasoned with salt, but that would be rather ambiguous if we didn't have the example of it in the NT. When we see how Jesus and Paul speak, that is scripture -- it must be with grace. It is charis, the same word that is the resource for our salvation, but that same resource bring harsh conviction of sin, a deadly strike at our conscience. It's not all so cheery. Generally, we should love the person and want him to change, but there reaches a point where he acts like a wolf, and he is a danger. That's where White is IMO. I'd be glad to see him change and glad to have a happy, kind exchange, but I think you've got to meet the rhetoric to a certain degree.

Be completely honest here. Do you think James White is gracious in his approach, that he was in his video?