Saturday, May 25, 2019

The Fallacy of Critical Text Apologetics with Islam: James White and Pooyan Mehrshahi

Robert Truelove interviews Pooyan Mehrshahi with a focus on the superiority or necessity of the received or ecclesiastical text position related to Muslim apologetics.

Evangelical apologist and critical text advocate, James White, very often warns that apologetics with Moslems is ruined by a received text position.  He states this with absolute dogmatism, while giving zero proof or evidence for his contention.  Instead of speaking with a tone of incredulity and rolling his eyes, he should explain the preeminence of his position.  The only evidence is that he says it, so it must be true -- he's the authority.

On the other hand, we listen to Pooyan Mehrshahi explaining his position and giving actual evidence for it.  I've written the same thing related to my evangelism of Moslems (here).  Listen to Mehrshahi here on the preservation of scripture.   He is a pastor of a Baptist church in Cheltenham, UK and has an amazing personal testimony, having grown up with Shia Islam, learning Arabic and memorizing the Quran in Iran.  The biggest attack on Christianity by Islam is the corruption of the text of scripture.  They, as Mehrshahi asserts, use and quote evangelicals to support their position.  The right position and powerful position against Islam is the doctrine of preservation, which is the truth.  I don't imagine White's (and those like him) position on the text of scripture doing anything but providing ammunition for Islam against Christianity.  He hurts the cause.

Please watch the interview of Mehrshahi and then listen to Mehrshahi's sermon.  They will square you away against the deceit of the position of White, whose position is just false.


Anonymous said...

The reality is Mehrshahi gives no evidence for his position either, at least in this video. He just complains that the textural debate harms his ability to evangelize Muslims. I have no doubt he is right but that should not be the point. This is something more important here than which position makes it easier to evangelize Muslims. The more important issue and really the only issue is which position is right. Truth should matter. And on that bigger level, this video is just a waste of time. I had hoped for better.

Kent Brandenburg said...


I don't usually print insulting anonymous comments, people who are real brave when anonymous and sitting behind their keyboard to say harsh commentary, but I printed this one, because I think it is illustrative.

First, what is evidence? Mehrshahi offers personal first hand evidence, examples, just like I did, of what the attacks are from Islam on the message of the New Testament, and what combats those. That is apologetics. So, yes he did. All White says, that I have ever heard, is the claim that it hurts apologetics to take a received text position. He gives no examples, just mocks ironically like you do here.

Second, the point of the video is the singular Moslem apologetic point of view. That is important, because it undermines work with Moslems, which you say is a waste of time. I guess you don't care about evangelism of Moslems then. I don't know what else to conclude. Have you ever evangelized one Moslem in your life? Could you tell us the story as to what happened? I'm doubting you'll do it, for the same reason you won't give your name.

Third, Mehrshahi on your other point, as to what is the truth, gives that in his sermon, the audio to which I linked, on the preservation of scripture. If the video was a waste of time on that front, which is wasn't, because it wasn't the point, then the sermon he preached fulfills that, debunking your last point. Scripture is truth. You said truth should matter. When the Bible speaks, it is the truth, and its truth about its own preservation is the reason Merhshahi took his position, originally from an NIV, critical text view, according to his testimony.

Anonymous said...

You apparently did not read me carefully.

My point is that Mehshahi gave no evidence to support his belief in the received text. None. Not in this video or the audio you linked to either. The only evidence he gave was anecdotal about a whole other issue: whether it was harder to evangelize Muslims because a textural debate exists. That is a pragmatic concern that has nothing to do with truth. It is also a secondary concern. Who cares if it is easier to evangelize Muslims if you are doing it with a Bible full of errors?

As you well know, there are plenty on the other side of the debate (more than your side probably) that hold the Bible in as high a regard as you do. They are people that for many good reasons consider for example Alexandrian texts to be superior to Byzantine texts. Those people are not the problem as you and Mehshahi try to suggest. You seem to think if those people will just go away that everything will be better. No, in fact, there needs to be a debate about text since it is a complex issue and presumably you and other people are interested in the truth. If you think this is a cut/dried slam dunk thing, you don't know much about it.

You can pretend that Mehshahi quoting the Bible is providing evidence for the received text but that is nonsense. Either side can do that. the Bible does not discuss the received text. Its self-claims of inspiration/preservation do not prove the received text is the right text.

Last, again, you need to read more carefully. I said nothing about it being a waste of time to evangelize Muslims. I said it was a waste of time to listen to this video. I chose to invest the time because I am interested in the textual debate but I learned nothing. It was just a bunch of complaining that there are evangelicals who have the audacity to question that the received text is the best text.

Kent Brandenburg said...


I read you carefully. The doctrine of preservation is evidence of a received text. Scripture is evidence. Concerning evangelizing Muslims, I asked you if you every evangelized Muslims. I've evangelized many. In every single case, the preservation of the text comes into the conversation. It is their number one attack on the Bible. They have a preserved text, they say, and we do not. I'm saying the critical text men are who they use to defend their position. Apologetics should be biblical, so telling them what scripture says and what Christians have believed about what scripture says would given them a basis for believing in the preservation of scripture. Telling them what scripture says is powerful and then telling them that modern textual criticism is a new position, not the position of Christianity but a perversion of it, is powerful, because it is coming from scripture. That is what apologetics should do in the sense of how that Greek word is used in the New Testament.

Both sides do not quote the Bible on this issue. Only one side does. I don't know who you are or what your background is. I was a biblical language major. I know what has been written on this subject. One said has scriptural presuppositions akin to a canonicity argument, and the other defers completely to a faux-forensic science.

Matt Devers said...

Hey Kent, thanks for this. I recently had a big(over the course of several months) conversation with a ruckmanite and tried showing him laboriously how he was twisting scriptures like Ps. 12:6-7 and Eccl. 8:4 when he said they were talking about the KJV. I really liked the book "thou shalt keep them" and it's focus on just what the Bible says about itself. I have a specific question regarding the issue though. What do you do with texts like Revelation 16:5 which says "O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be" in the kjv but from what I understand all previous translations say "and holy" or " o holy one" instead of " and shalt be" and there are zero Greek manuscripts in that text that support " and shalt be" do you side with the preserved Greek texts or the choice of the KJV translators supporting Beza ( I think) Anyway my position, I think it's the Biblical one is, preservation in the original languages and every faithful translation of those preserved words can accurately be called the word of God. Thanks for your response.

Anonymous said...

The issue I suppose is what one considers apologetics. I don't consider quoting the Bible to defend the received text as real apologetics. I think that is closer to just burying your head in the sand. If you claim the received text fulfills God's promise (and only the received text), you should be able to back that up with more than just quoting the Bible. Because once again, the critical text people can quote the same Bible about their text.

I will concede that Van Til styled apologetics starts with Biblical presuppositions. That is obviously where you are though I think Van Til may think you are going way too far with it.

KJB1611 said...

Hi Anonymous,

You said that critical text people quote the same Bible about their text. Could you please point out where, e. g., James White quotes the Bible to prove his critical text position? I would be fascinated to see where he proves the critical text from Scripture. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Thomas, I never said that White said anything. I am not going to repeat what I said because you can go back and read it but try to engage with what I actually said rather than straw men.

If White or whoever did try to quote the Bible to prove the critical text is superior, I would not be impressed with them either. Because that is not support and is not apologetics.

I have a question for you guys. Are you aware of a Bible translation that was solid that existed before your received text? I am not. The Vulgate clearly was not. And if the answer is no, why should you believe that the received text is superior to later translations? After all, in theory, Erasmus and the other received folk did the same work as later translators. They compared manuscripts and did their best to come up with a good translation. Since there was nothing for about 15 centuries, what difference does it make if God waited a few hundred more years to provide the translation?

Kent Brandenburg said...


I agree with your overall assessment in the last line. I've talked about Revelation 16:5 in the past, but have read more about it since then. James White calls the variation a textual emendation by Beza, but I read a translation by Jeff Riddle of the Latin comment by Beza on what he did, and the received text there came from a Greek manuscript. What I've written on this is that the very few examples that someone like White gives, he attempts to drive through a Mack truck of textual criticism, so we shouldn't take his bait. There are textual variants in the hand copies. What the church received and what was available I trust more than the ongoing work of modern textual critics that deny a biblical doctrine of preservation. Thanks.

Kent Brandenburg said...


There are ancient translations of the received text in Latin, separate from the Latin Vulgate, and then into Syriac.

Anonymous said...

What are these ancient translations of the received text in Latin outside the Vulgate? Where can I study this subject? I am really interested in what evidence you have of this. I am very dubious but willing to learn.

KJB1611 said...

Dear Anonymous,

You said: "the critical text people can quote the same Bible about their text." At least in relation to James White, he never, ever, ever proves his position from Scripture. So who are these critical text people that prove their position from Scripture? Where are they?

Apologetics is giving an answer for the hope within the Christian (1 Peter 3:15). I am sorry that you are not impressed when people quote the infallible revelation of the living God to do that--His infallible Word is not "apologetics" or "support," it seems, although His Word can create a universe out of nothing by speaking--we need something that is better than that, though, something that will really impress.

Forever Settled by Dr. Jack Moorman, available free online here:

gives a survey from a Bible-believing prespective on the history of the text, including evidence for the TR far before the Reformation. Dr. Moorman's book is not infallible but it is a decent place to start. Other resources on the same link provide more detailed information.


Anonymous said...

Look no offense, but you don't get to define (redefine) apologetics. There is a specific definition of apologetics that is generally realized. And quoting the Bible as support for the received text does not fall into the domain of apologetics. You are welcome to do that of course but come up with your own term for that rather than calling it apologetics.

And that is before we even deal with the "drive a truck through" logical fallacies when you take that approach. Ironically when considering Kent's earlier beef with White, you just dogmatically assert that the received text is what the Bible was talking about when it talked about preservation without even trying to prove it. Who says? The Bible certainly does not say that.

I will check out the book. I hope it is better than the last one you suggested for when I asked for proof that the church has been preserved outside of Catholicism up until the Reformation. That one was woefully inadequate, focused mostly on American history and with clear scholarship issues. Honestly, if you guys are going to take dogmatic stands, you need some better scholarship behind you.

Mat Dvorachek said...


I don't think Thomas redefined "apologetics" by referencing I Peter 3:15 seeing as the word that "answer" is translated from in that verse is "apologia". You may need some better scholarship behind you.

Bill Hardecker said...

I finally got around to viewing and listening to the interview. Mehrshahi appealed to Pro. 24:21 as a basis for avoiding the critical text (somewhere around 23:52). He also by way of example cited the disappearance of passages such as Mark 16:9-20, the pericope adulterea (Jn. 7:53-8:11), and 1 Tim. 3:16. Clearly, Mehrshahi argues from within special revelation - this is Presuppositional apologetics (Scripturalism, Biblical foundationalism, Dogmatic apologetics). Truelove, though he didn't cite a Bible verse argues for the Scriptures as the basis for believing and advocating the Received Text. His mindset is guided by what the Bible says about its own inspiration and preservation - this comes through clearly when he said "the Scripture guides our reason" (around 29:17). This falls in line with the same apologetic methodology of Mehrshahi. I don't believe they are correct on all the implications of what they are professing, however both of them appear correct on the issue of NT textual criticism and share the same apologetic method.

Similarly, Bro. Ross argues from within the Bible as his point of reference in his answer. I too, am waiting for a reply to his question about what Scriptures are used by a critical text proponent as the basis for holding to a critical text position. This is a valid point and demonstrates that whatever else apologetic method a text critic advocate may or may not hold to, it is certainly not Scriptural.

Thou Shalt Keep Them remains a worthy read. Prior to this, the Biblical basis for the doctrine of verbal preservation is treated in only a few pages within a book (ex. D.O. Fuller's third volume: Counterfeit or Genuine? featured Donald Brake's article on Biblical Preservation; Waite's Four-fold Defense book, there are many others of course, Dr. Hills' the KJV Defended, etc.). But to find an entire book that exposits the Scriptures about its Bibliology is rare (methinks).