Sunday, January 27, 2019

Kent Brandenburg and Frank Turk Debate on the Preservation of Scripture -- Part One

by Kent Brandenburg

On day one God spoke and there was light.  When God spoke, whatever He said would come to pass.  After creating Adam, God made a covenant with him (Gen. 2:16-17):
Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
Then God created for Adam the perfect companion, his wife Eve.  Shortly thereafter, in his first act Satan tempts her to doubt God’s Word (Gen. 3:1), “Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?”  And then, “Ye shall not surely die.”

He changed a few of God’s Words, caused uncertainty in Eve, so that what God said wasn’t authoritative to her any longer—you know the rest of the story.

Satan continues using the same strategy.  Modern agnostic, Bart Ehrman, illustrates this by testifying of his apostasy in his Misquoting Jesus:
This was a compelling problem. It was the words of scripture themselves that God had inspired. Surely we have to know what those words were if we want to know how he had communicated to us. . . . I kept reverting to my basic question: how does it help us to say that the Bible is the inerrant word of God if in fact we don't have the words that God inerrantly inspired, but only the words copied by scribes---sometimes correctly but sometimes (many times!) incorrectly? What good is it to say that the autographs . . . were inspired? We don't have the originals! . . . This became a problem for my view of inspiration, for I came to realize that it would have been no more difficult for God to preserve the words of scripture than it would have been for him to inspire them in the first place.
Satan wants us to think that God’s Word has errors, so that we don’t trust it.  Should we or can we juxtapose a perfect, holy, majestic, non-contingent, immutable God with an errant Word?   Yet, that is the position that Mr. Turk takes in opposition to my affirmation.  And if we have a Bible with errors, what authority does Scripture have?  These present some great difficulties to the orthodoxy of my opponent.

John Feinberg writes:
[I’m not] able to understand how one can be justified in claiming absolute authority for the Scriptures and at the same time deny their inerrancy. This seems to be the height of epistemological nonsense and confusion. . . .  Suppose that I have an Amtrak railroad schedule. In describing its use to you, I tell you that it is filled with numerous errors but that it is absolutely authoritative and trustworthy. I think you would be extremely dubious. At least the schedule would have one thing going for it; it declares itself to be subject to change without notice.
If God’s Word supported the doctrine of errant Scripture we should believe and expect it.  However, Scripture does not espouse that.  The Bible advocates first its verbal, plenary inspiration and then its own perfect, Divine preservation and general accessibility to every generation of God’s people.   Only the textus receptus of the Greek NT fulfills this Scriptural pattern.  The text behind the modern versions we know wasn’t always available and it is still, according to its own proponents, a work in progress.

Professing believers have historically held to perfect preservation and general accessibility.  Not only will I show this in the debate,  but Mr. Turk already has on his own blog with links just to the right, when he references the Westminster Confession (1646) and the London Baptist Confession (1689), which both state:
The Old Testament in Hebrew . . . , and the New Testament in Greek . . . , being immediately inspired by God, and by his singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical.
I ask, why not just believe his own posted statement?  The debate would be over.  The confessors were convinced that God’s promises were true, as should Mr. Turk.  I am confident that my opponent will reveal greater trust in merely human statements of history and science than he does what God’s Word says about its own preservation.  I anticipate that he will eagerly lean upon works by or about Erasmus as sufficiently infallible and proclaim that not one Greek manuscript of the NT is identical without himself or even the ones who make that claim possibly being able to see the manuscripts relied upon for the printed editions of the textus receptus.

Mr. Turk might say, “But the confessions don’t say which words were God’s perfect ones.”  Yet the writings of the confessors themselves reveal that they believed a text identical to the original manuscripts was accessible to them.  In the NT, those words were the textus receptus.  Why do professing believers now reject a position of perfect preservation and general accessibility of God’s Word?  Rather than the Bible as sufficient, sole authority, they depend on their history and external evidence.  In short, toward God’s promises of preservation and accessibility, they aren’t like Abraham, who “staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God” (Rom. 4:20).  Instead, they are Thomas in John 20:25: “Except I see . . . , I will not believe.”  They’ll use terms like epistemology, but what they mean is that they don’t believe what God said He would do.

I expect many to come to aid Mr. Turk in rebuttal of my affirmation to give him more history and supposed examples of errors in Scripture.  And when they are finished, what will be their result? More certainty?  No.  No, the consequence will be more doubt about God’s Word.  Does that sound like the product of God?  Of the Holy Spirit?  Of course not.

Question:  Does God in the Bible promise His people the preservation and general accessibility of every Word of God to every generation of believers in the language in which He gave them?


by Frank Turk

Kent --

Through your opening statement, you have made a series of logical leaps which aren't warranted, but we have 10 questions and answers through which to uncover the worst of them. Let me answer your question with two assertions, and I'm sure they'll give you some room to run.

[1] It's a false assumption to link "inerrancy" with one eclectic text. I wholly reject the idea that God's word has any errors in it, but I think that means something other than what you intend here.

[2] I reject the claim that God has promised to preserve a singular text of all the books of the NT down to matters like scribal spelling errors and emendations. God didn't make any grammatical promises to anyone in the Bible.

So God's word has no theological and no historical errors in it, but that does not imply any kind of promise to make sure every scribe always copies every word perfectly.

Let me apologize that I haven't been available to answer your first post in a more timely fashion. I am travelling for work this week, and I have limited internet access.

Many people have never read the KJV Translators' 1611 preface to their work. I link to it here for everyone's information.

Does this preface say anywhere that the Textus Receptus -- the volume produces by Erasmus from a small variety of dissimilar texts -- is without any differences from the original text of the books it represents?

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