No matter what the issue or the doctrine is, you have at least some problem if you cannot establish historic precedent for it. Part of the tactic or strategy for enabling or allowing a new position that has not been taken or believed is to create some type of history of it. For instance, advocates of same sex marriage want people to see it in the fourteenth amendment. After reading that into a mid-nineteenth century law, they proceed to attack their opponents as hateful bigots who don’t care about a constitutionally protected right. So step two of inventing a new history is to attack the old or original or real history, to make it look like it was never the history at all. If you can get as many spokesmen as possible repeating the new history, people will just believe it. And then they’ll think that the old history is the one that was invented. Especially if it is convenient for people to take the new position.
A lot of people can be wrong. A few people can be right. Jesus reveals that point in Matthew 7:13-14. But when it comes to doctrine, not everybody is going to be wrong. Why? Some will depart from the faith, but not everyone (1 Tim 4:1). The gates of Hell will not prevail against the pillar and ground of the truth (Mt 16:18, 1 Tim 3:15). So if a several or multiple Bible belief were in fact authoritative and true, we would see at least some Christians believing it in history. But, alas, we do not. All we read before the 19th century is one Bible. We don’t find a multiple Bible doctrine in history. We have it today, but it started somewhere after the church started and the Bible was complete. In other words, men came up with that belief. It isn’t original. It’s a man-made doctrine. I would be happy to report otherwise if it were true. But I can’t, because it isn’t.
The larger point is that the Bible itself teaches one Bible. That’s how all those Christians came to their position. They just believed God. Just like there was no theistic evolution position until the 19th century. Christians just believed the biblical account in Genesis. You don’t find the multiple Bible position in history before the 19th century because the Bible didn’t teach it, so Christians didn’t believe it.
So nobody believes in multiple Bibles then, right? Well, no.
Sure, but it is only unbelievers or liberals who take the multiple Bible position, correct? Wrong again. Now you’re also a conservative if you believe that. You are still fundamentalist if you believe that.
And if you believe in one Bible? Sorry, but you are a silly, almost brainless, schismatic, thoughtless dufus. You’ve got to be. That’s the way this whole thing will work with no history. People who take the original position can’t be taken seriously for the new position to work. I mean, you can’t say that you believe in the Genesis account of creation, can you? It’s the same kind of thing here. Exactly.
To top all of this off, a whole new history of one Bible has been created out of whole cloth. The standard fake history, akin to same sex marriage being in the 14th amendment, is that the one Bible doctrine came from Benjamin Wilkerson, a Seventh-day Adventist, in a book he wrote in 1930. That’s very important. Wilkerson was in a cult (of course). So the nuts who believe this, as you would expect, started with a cult. And then a Baptist pastor did a little less than plagiarize Wilkerson. That was David Otis Fuller, and he spread this new teaching all over. So there we go. Not true. But part of the overall necessity of eliminating the real history of the original doctrine to make room for the new. I recently read this related comment:
And fundamentalists like to make any traditional view sanctified with the full authority of Scripture behind it. At least that’s the tendency of some. So the [one Bible] position found how to connect itself to Bible preservation in a way to make the view doctrinally based.
This comment wasn’t even questioned. It is now blindly assumed by many. The idea here is that a preferred position was invented in 1930, one convenient to certain Christians, one Bible, and then these went to the Bible to commandeer verses for the cause. That is a lie. In this case, it is definitely a purposeful lie, propaganda-like.
When I’ve had discussions with those considered to be the greatest experts for multiple Bibles, they agree that the historic doctrine is one Bible. They know that’s what Christians believed. When you read the bibliology of Christians, those justified by faith, and creeds and confessions from the same, no one believed in multiple Bibles. All of them believed one Bible. They came to that belief from Scripture itself. Their conviction for one Bible originated from the promises of God’s Word.
All the history I read for multiple Bibles goes back to Benjamin Warfield at Princeton in the late 19th century. That’s where the teaching of multiple Bibles began. So you’ve had one line of doctrine about one Bible, and then diverting from that stream of orthodoxy, forming a new path, is Warfield. Others followed. And since then they have invented a fake history and attacked and degraded the true.
John Adams, in 1770 in his defense of the British soldiers who participated in the Boston Massacre, said:
Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.
The fact is that Christians have always believed in one Bible. Whatever may be the wish or inclination of the multiple Bible people, they cannot alter that fact.
Faith believes what God said just because He said it, not because it’s been proven to us or because we’ve experienced something. Since faith puts confidence in what God said as true only because He said it, it is faith in things that we cannot see. At one time, theology was the queen of the sciences because God’s Word was considered evidence. The Enlightenment and its consequences changed this way of thinking for professing Christians.
A big clash exists in evangelicalism over the age of the earth—new earthers versus old earthers. The new earthers take the Genesis account literally. The old earthers are influenced by “human observation and discovery.” For instance, they look at the time it takes for light to travel from distant stars and assume that the universe must be billions of years old or else we wouldn’t be able to see these stars through a telescope. So there’s a challenge from science to the record of Genesis 1-3.
Many more evangelicals believe in evolution than what you would even imagine, and especially among the so-called elite and scholarly. This debate among them elevated in March when a well-respected Old Testament Hebrew scholar, Bruce Waltke, posted a pro-evolution statement on a well-visited evangelical website. Several conservative evangelicals have reacted to his statement in very heated fashion. Rightly so. I don’t want to get into extreme detail here, but the paradigm for evangelicals and their faith changed well before this debate began. I do think we have some pot calling the kettle black occurring here.
Evangelicals long ago started discarding scriptural and historic belief for sight. Nothing is more important to faith than the Bible. The Bible promises its own perfect preservation. Evangelicals and fundamentalists took this same paradigm of unbelief long before Bruce Waltke and these old-earth evangelicals. They now say that the Bible never really taught preservation per se. Well, not that the Bible wasn’t preserved—it was, just in a way that you have no hope of a perfect Bible and the one you have you really don’t know the number of mistakes. Just in too, that’s what the Bible has always taught. No one has said this before, but as I speak, well, that’s what it says about itself. I know that some evangelicals and fundamentalists are now saying that they are getting their doctrine of the preservation of Scripture from the Bible.
Having said that, most evangelicals and fundamentalists don’t believe in the perfect preservation of Scripture. Kevin Bauder represents their position on this when he writes in Only One Bible? (p. 155) that Scripture does not affirm that “any singled printed text preserves all of the words and only all the words of the autographa.” He continues: “Such a specific affirmation clearly lies outside of the teaching of Scripture.” Those two statements he makes in the first paragraph of his chapter, “An Appeal to Scripture.” The very next line, which is the first sentence of the second paragraph, he writes: “If the preservation of the Word of God depends upon the exact preservation of the words of the original documents, then the situation is dire.” That last statement is the rub for evangelicals and fundamentalists.
From Bauder’s statements, really just quoted as a representation, because this is the stand of almost all of evangelicalism today, you can see that they depend on their sight and their observation, i. e., their scientific discovery, for their position on preservation. Again and again, evangelicals say that miracle was not the means of God’s preservation. No miracle involved. Supernaturalism was not the means. You would see this many times in Only One Bible? This was not always the case among Christians. At one time, pre-enlightenment and textual criticism, relying on the Bible alone for their doctrine (sola scriptura), they believed in the perfect preservation of Scripture.
Preservation passages are being twisted with the same pattern as creation passages. If you are going to discard the promises of preservation found in the Bible for the science of textual criticism, that without theological presupposition proudly follows the “evidence,” then next will come other doctrines of scripture like creation. That’s not all, of course, because the abandonment of a grammatical-historical interpretation of Genesis 1-3 undermines the entire rest of the Bible, including the gospel itself.
A second part to this paradigm is the new evangelical emphasis on primary versus secondary doctrines. They rank doctrines for the purpose of cobbling together alliances. These old earth evangelicals want to keep the faux unity between them and the new-earthers. They attempt to do this by categorizing this creation doctrine as a non-essential. I read this all over. They insist that it does not affect the gospel, and since the gospel is “first in importance,” the old earth position should not separate them from the new-earth evangelicals. They just differ on a tertiary issue. This, of course, is ripped right out of the conservative evangelical and fundamentalist playbook. If the conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists do not agree to see the nuance between the two beliefs, and not to agree to disagree, they’re the ones causing unnecessary division in “the Lord’s body.” Evangelicals and fundamentalists don’t mind that you believe in the perfect preservation of Scripture. They just don’t want you to cause division over it. Keep the peace.
So let’s review. Evangelicals already moved into the conform-scripture-to-science column with textual criticism. The doctrine of perfect preservation was as firmly established as a Christian belief as teaching on creation from Genesis 1-3. So here we have just more of the same. And now we can still all get along because none of these are essential doctrines. Chalk it all up to a paradigm of evangelical unbelief.
“So you’re calling me a liar?” I thought I’d just get that out of the way. But to answer it: maybe, but not necessarily you in particular. That’s what will make it easier to read in a blog post. First, let’s go over some definitions, so everyone will be up to speed. Eclectic and Critical Text people are the same ones. Both of them support looking at all the textual variants and deciding what they consider to be most likely the original Words of Scripture. MVO means “multiple version only” and it is supposed to sound like “King James Version Only,” except different. They are the opposite of KJVO, but most of them, I’ve found, don’t like the MVO tag. I believe it fits, however, so I keep using it. They don’t believe in one Bible. They believe only in multiple versions. So it’s bullseye as far as I’m concerned. It doesn’t sound good, but if you don’t like the way it sounds, then don’t be MVO.
And finally, “truth serum.” Wikipedia, which is good enough for this essay, says:
A truth drug or truth serum is a psychoactive medication used to obtain information from subjects who are unable or unwilling to provide it otherwise.
I like the definition for the purposes of this post. Alright, I figure that the MVO guys will say, “We’re telling the truth, so we don’t need no truth serum.” Well, let’s just see, OK? Our Critical Text guy has the Swedish name of Olle F. Lilfathe. We’ll just call him Olle. So let’s start with some control questions and see what he says. The truth serum has been administered, so Olle is all set.
Q: Is your name Fred?
Q: What is your name?
Olle: Olle F. Lilfathe
Q: OK. Olle, do you believe that the Bible is the Word of God?
Q: Do you believe that God inspired the sixty-six books of the Bible in the original manuscripts?
Q: Do you believe that God inspired every Word and all the Words of the Bible in the original manuscripts?
Q: Do you believe that God has preserved His Word?
Q: Do you believe that God has preserved every one of His Words available for us today?
Q: So you don’t believe we have every Word of God available to us today?
Q: So when you say that God has preserved His Word, what do you mean?
Olle: God has preserved most of the Words from the original manuscripts, but not all of them.
Q: So you don’t think we have all of God’s Word today?
Olle: No. They might be somewhere, but we don’t know where they all are or what they all are.
Q: Olle, do you believe that the Bible teaches the perfect preservation of every Word?
Q: Let me read one verse to you. It’s Jesus speaking in Matthew 5:18, “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” What do you think that verse is saying as it applies to the preservation of Scripture?
Olle: That God has preserved every one of His Words, even to the letter.
Q: Even for today?
Q: But you said that you don’t believe that God did preserve all of them. Let me be clear. Is that what you said?
Q: But you’re saying that Jesus said that He would preserve all of them?
Q: Olle, doesn’t what you said Jesus would do and what you said has actually happened contradict each other?
Q: Are you saying that God didn’t keep His promise?
Q: Do you think God keeps all His promises?
Q: Did God promise to preserve all His Words?
Q: So do you believe that God preserved all His Words?
Q: Are you contradicting yourself, Olle?
Q: Why are you contradicting yourself, Olle?
Olle: The truth serum is making me do it. I guess I really don’t believe what God said He would do.
Q: Why not?
Olle: It doesn’t seem possible that He could do it. I mean with all the textual variants and differing editions. I don’t know how we could know which Words were His or whether we even have all of them or not. It’s too hard for me to believe.
Q: Olle, if you have 100 marbles and you gave them to me to keep or preserve, how many would you expect back later if I had preserved them?
Q: What if I had 94 of them, would you consider that preservation of your marbles?
Q: Do you think that we have all the Words of God available to us today?
Q: Do you think that God has promised that all of the Words of God would be available?
Q: So why don’t we have all of them?
Olle: God didn’t keep His promise.
Q: Are you sure?
Olle: I’d say “no,” but I took this truth serum.
Q: Thank you for your honesty, Olle.
Olle: You’re welcome.
God promised a wonderful blessing to those who would read or hear the last book of the Bible, the Revelation of Jesus Christ (Revelation 1:3):
Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.
This verse has several interesting features. It is the first of seven blessings in Revelation. No accident there—Revelation completes God’s special revelation to mankind. The blessing is for people engaged in three activities. They are three present participles, continuous action—”readeth,” “hear,” and “keep.” Those describe what you would do in a church service—Scripture is read, then preached, and finally practiced. What is read, heard, and then practiced? “Words . . . which are written therein.” Those who try to turn “words” into concepts, ideas, teachings, or just oral speaking will have a hard time doing that here. There is an assumption here right away that we will have the words necessary for reading and hearing, the ones “which are written therein.” You don’t read oral teachings—you read only written words that are in either a scroll or book.
We vault forward to the last chapter of Revelation. The Greek term translated “words” in Revelation 1:3 is logos. In Revelation 22 that term is used repeatedly and it is either translated “sayings” or “words.” You find it in vv. 6-7:
And he said unto me, These sayings [logos] are faithful and true: and the Lord God of the holy prophets sent his angel to shew unto his servants the things which must shortly be done. Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings [logos] of the prophecy of this book.
You find it in vv. 9-10:
Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings [logos] of this book: worship God. And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings [logos] of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand.
You find it in vv. 18-19:
For I testify unto every man that heareth the words [logos] of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words [logos] of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
So the “words” of 1:3 are the “sayings” of 22:6-7 and 22:9-10 and the “words” of 22:18-19. They are words in a book, written Words. So here we shouldn’t be getting the common anti-preservation-of-scripture criticism of “these words could be talking about all the words that God ever spoke that aren’t even recorded in scripture—do we even know what those words are?” These have to be the very words that were written down in the original manuscripts. And “that are written” in 22:18 translates a perfect participle, so we see the words to be written at a point in the past with the results ongoing. That alone speaks of the preservation of the words.
In Revelation 22:18-19 God through the Apostle John gives us a warning. The first part of the warning is in v. 18 and it is about adding words, that is, including extra written words in the book. If someone, upon those words being written in the original manuscripts, shall add to those words, God shall add unto him the plagues written in this book. The words are written in the book. And there is a play on words here obviously. If someone were to add words to the book, he would have added to him the plagues in the book, that is, this person must be an unbeliever. You will notice in the book of Revelation that the plagues come upon unbelievers.
The second part of the warning is in v. 19 and it is about taking away words of the book. If someone were to take away words from the book—another play on words—God would take away his part out of the book of life and out of the holy city. It doesn’t say that God would take someone’s already recorded name out of a book, but his part. Someone can’t have his name removed from the actual book anymore than he can have his person removed out of the holy city. His “part” is what he would have had in the book of life if he had not been a person who would tamper with scripture. Anyone who is saved wouldn’t show the Bible this kind of disrespect. Parallel with the adding, this part of the warning about taking away judges the person to be an unbeliever.
These warnings are commands against any alteration of the words of this book. Not one word should be changed. “Add” and “take away” speak of additions and deletions. What is written in Revelation would have been and continues to be very unpopular. Some of the audience of those letters to the churches would receive it with anger. So a strong warning is given. Doctrine can rise and fall on one word, even one letter. God doesn’t want any changes to the words written in the book.
An ironic point for v. 19 is that there are differences in the very verse itself between the critical text (CT) and the textus receptus (TR) “Shall take away” is present tense (aphaire) in the TR and aorist tense (aphele) in the CT. The former denotes continuous action and the latter speaks of point action. The former indicates a habitual or characteristic activity and the latter a one time act. The TR warns against a lifestyle of taking away from the words of the book and the CT warns against taking away from the words of the book even one time. The meaning of the verse changes with this change in the tense of the verb.
Is the warning against altering the words of only the book of Revelation or of any Scripture period? This is the only such warning in the New Testament. No other New Testament book ends with this warning. It ends Revelation in major part because Revelation is the last book of the Bible. No words should be added or taken away from scripture. The canon of Scripture closes with Revelation. This is the last of God’s special revelation.
Instruction about Preservation
The teaching of Revelation 22:18-19 doesn’t seem to be that difficult. What those two verses say looks to be very straightforward. They start to get muddled when someone doesn’t like what they say or if what they say clashes with a doctrine that a person already holds. Revelation 22:18-19 teaches that every Word of God is important to Him. He does not want one Word added or taken away from the Words written in the Bible. It is very serious if someone adds or takes away even one Word from the Book. The Words matter, not just the message.
These two verses say nothing about taking away from the teaching of the book. They talk about adding or taking away from the Words. This isn’t a warning about trying to change the doctrine of the book. That would be bad, to twist what the book means. However, it very clearly forbids the adding or taking away from the Words. To not get that, you have to read something into the verse that isn’t there. If you do change the Words, you are changing the teaching, but altering of the Words is what 22:18-19 talk about.
Revelation 22:18-19 assumes a settled text. You can’t take away or add to a body of words that is unsure. If you aren’t sure what a book is to begin with, you can’t know if you made any changes that did surely add or take away from the Words. You can’t disobey a prohibition against adding or taking away words when those words are uncertain to begin with. So the warning itself here in 22:18-19 establishes a settled text of Scripture.
I have found that people, who don’t know what God’s Words are, have to come up with some different meaning to Revelation 22:18-19 other than adding and taking away Words. They know what that meaning does to the uncertainty of the text found in eclecticism. So they make “words” to mean “teaching” in the face of a plain reading of the two verses. If that doesn’t work, then they say that it’s only adding or taking away from the book of Revelation, not the whole Bible. But even that latter position still leaves them with all their textual variants in Revelation itself, including in v. 19. There really isn’t a way to understand Revelation 22:18-19 without the perfect preservation of Scripture.
The book I edited and in which I wrote, Thou Shalt Keep Them, provided exegesis of key preservation passages in the Bible in their context. There were several passages that we did not deal with that will be part of a second volume when it comes out. One of these is Isaiah 59:21. Recently, I merely mentioned Isaiah 59:21 as a part of the introduction to a post at my blog on the LXX issue. A young man named Adam, attending Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, decided to attack this particular article. He dealt with it as though this really was the major work that I had done as an examination of passages which teach the perfect preservation of Scripture. I only quoted Isaiah 59:21, no more. I provided no commentary, but this is what he wrote concerning that:
Now, one has to really shake their head at the gross misuse of scripture here. Take, for example, the quotation from Isaiah 59. The context is Israel’s transgression before the Lord [vrs.12-13], and the resultant mistreatment of them by their enemies [vrs.14-17]. However, the text says that God will repay them for their deeds, and will bring them a redeemer, so that all will fear the Lord [vrs.18-20]. It is in that context that you find the statement about the covenant being with them in verse 21. Hence, the words here are the *promises* of God to his people, not individual words of the text itself. It is parallel to the usage of Numbers 30:3:
Numbers 30:2 “If a man makes a vow to the LORD, or takes an oath to bind himself with a binding obligation, he shall not violate his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.
Now, are we really to suggest that his vow was just one word? No, of course not. Yet, this is the very same context of covenants and promises of vengance etc. that we find Isaiah 59:21! All I can say is that this is a gross misuse of Isaiah 59:21.
He says that I grossly misuse scripture by relying on Isaiah 59:21 as a verse on the preservation of scripture. I’ve preached through the whole book of Isaiah, verse by verse and word by word through the Hebrew text. It took me about three or four years.
He talks about the context of Isaiah 59:21, but he really does not go back far enough to understand what Isaiah 59 is about. He needs to see the entire chapter if he wants to properly understand the context. A proper reading of Isaiah 59 will show that v. 21 really does teach the perfect preservation of Scripture to every generation of believer.
Context of Isaiah 59:21
Isaiah 59 allows us to see the world like God sees it, and in this chapter he depicts salvation for Israel and for all mankind. For our own well-being, we must give heed to this portrayal by God of His salvation. Chapter 59 begins like chapter 58 with a concern expressed as to why God is not answering prayers and why Israelites do not seem to sense His presence. They were not experiencing God’ s promises for one reason: their sin. Sin was the barrier between them and God, and this is the theme of Isaiah 59:1-8. As the people recognize the cause for their difficulties, they respond to God first by crying out to Him (vv. 9-11) and then confessing (vv. 12-15).
Isaiah 59:15-21 ends not only this chapter but an entire section that began in 56:1. God is pictured as a Mighty Warrior that defeats Israel’s enemies. But who are her enemies? The enemy isn’t the Canaanites, but her inability to live the life of God. God wants righteousness and He will come to deliver them from sin, and in so doing, Israel can become what God intended her to be. God will come to defeat sin in spiritual warfare. Ephesians 6:13-17 hearkens back to this text in Isaiah. God’s victory over sin has worldwide implications—from the east to the west God will be glorified. His ultimate purpose for attacking sin was so that He might be a Redeemer (59:20).
The Teaching of Isaiah 59:21
In the final verse of Isaiah 59, v. 21, God pronounces a covenant with those He redeems, those whom He saves from sin. And here it is:
As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the LORD; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and for ever.
The “them” are the ones that God’s hand is not to short that He cannot save (cf. 59:1). He guarantees those who turn from their transgressions several things.
First, God’s Spirit will not depart from them.
Second, God’s Words, which He has put in their mouth, will not depart out of their mouth. God makes a promise that these whom He has redeemed will always have His Words accessible to them. God will always provide for them what they need to know Him, believe in Him, and live for Him. Adam offers the typical, faithless treatment of “words.” He says, “These are not the individual words.” Instead, they are merely the “promises.” Where does he get that? Ironically, not in the words of Isaiah 59:21. He reads “promises” into the verse, that isn’t there, and it seems so that he might keep alive the uncertainty of the text that will permit his continued textual criticism.
Third, God’s Words will not depart from the mouth of those believers’ seed and their seed’s seed from that point unto forever. We’re still living under this promise to believers.
God promises perfect preservation and availability of His Words to every generation of believer.
Regarding Isaiah 59:21, consider others who write about this verse. John Owen called Isaiah 59:21 “the great charter of the church’s preservation of truth.” Edward Young in his classic commentary on Isaiah writes (p. 442): “The gift of the Spirit (cf. John 16:13), who will instruct the Church in all truth and in the comforting, saving words that God has given her, will abide with her seed forever. The Lord is declaring that His eternal truth, revealed to man in words, is the peculiar possession of His people.” John Owen and Edward Young both see this verse the same way that I do. Adam would have to chide them as well for their “gross misuse” of scripture—pretty cheeky for someone in his M.A. program in divinity school.
I am amazed at the extent to which men will pursue a goal of attacking the doctrine of the perfect preservation of Scripture. Why not accept the plain reading of the text? God’s Word sustains authority and God offers His people certainty. We should cherish these wonderful gifts of God’s grace. Every generation of God’s redeemed really do have every one of His Words by which to live.
When I received Jesus Christ, I gave up my life. I surrendered my ambitions, my time, and my possessions to the Lord. I could have kept my life for myself, but I didn’t. Like Paul, I counted everything loss. I gave up any possibility of worldly success and popularity and even riches for this way I take. Why? I know how it ends. I know.
I understand how men judge success. I really do get what career choices are impressive to people. I have a good knowledge of how one reaches worldly fame. But no. I fully comprehend the reproach and hatred and rejection that comes with biblical Christianity. So why go the latter direction and avoid the former? I know what real success is, I know what pleases God, and I know that worldly fame is worthless.
Again, I know. I’m certain. I’m sure. When we read the Bible, we read faith and certainty. The language of God’s Word smacks of full assurance. Paul said in 1 Timothy 1:12, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded.” Luke wrote so that those reading would have certainty (1:4): “That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.” Paul told Timothy that “we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.” John wrote 1 John (5:13) “that ye may know that ye have eternal life.” Not hope so. Know so.
How can we say that we know something that we cannot see? We know because God’s Word can be trusted. “Let God be true, but every man a liar” (Romans 3:4). Paul to Titus (1:2) wrote: “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.” We can count on God’s promises, because God does not lie. So we know. He does not lie. His Word is Truth (John 17:17). It is knowledge we can count on, not knowledge falsely so-called.
More than I’ve ever seen, men do not have the certainty of which God’s Word speaks. As it applies to faith and theology, many call this postmodernism, where skepticism and lack of objective truth prevails. Belief takes a back seat to feelings. Doubt reigns as authentic with certainty as closed and totalitarian. Nuance abounds. Dogmatism is not tolerated.
One would think that, of all things, Christianity would contradict postmodern philosophy. Satan wants doubt. He questions God. He attacks truth. Now Christianity cooperates with that plan and uses theology to explain, affirming the doubt that Satan and the world system spawns. Most responsible, I believe, are evangelicalism and fundamentalism for codifying uncertainty and doubt.
We live in a day of assault on meaning. We’re now arguing about the words and symbols that are used to communicate. Few can be sure anymore. Is that modest? I don’t know. Is that foul language? Maybe. Probably not. I don’t know. What’s the man’s role? Maybe this. Could be this. I don’t know. What’s male dress? (laughter) What we are sure about is how unsure we should be. Being sure is not only impossible, but it’s mean. It’s insulting. It’s disunifying. But I didn’t offend you? But you did. How? Why? You did. So stop. OK? Alright. There’s something to believe in.
You can see how masculinity disappears in such an environment. Or whatever we once thought it was to be a man. I don’t want to be dogmatic. In the absence of manhood, we get the replacement manhood found in harsh, loud music, denim, shaved heads, two days of facial hair, salty speech, and man hugs. And lots of “dude.” Dude this and dude that. Like dude.
I’m saying that evangelicalism and fundamentalism have retreated to uncertainty and doubt, leaving everyone who wants certainty nowhere to go. If you choose certainty, evangelicals and fundamentalists will mock you. Evangelicals have been doing this for a long time. Fundamentalists have gotten started a little more recently.
Alright, so what do I mean? By the way, I’m contending that I can mean something. I’ve got to do that for the sake of argument. You might laugh, but that’s where we’re headed, if we’ve not already arrived, with no offense to those who think no one can arrive, but can only take the journey. Where does this all break down? It breaks down primarily in three ways that are major components now of evangelicalism and fundamentalism.
Number One Way Evangelicals and Fundamentalists Codify Uncertainty
I don’t want to give my point away with my divisional word. Evangelicals and fundamentalists will stop reading because they think it is too funny. At least, lol. Evangelicals and fundamentalists gave away certainty when they transferred certainty from the text of the Bible they held in their hands, the apographa, and moved it to only the original manuscripts, the autographa. At one time evangelicals, which were then also the fundamentalists—they were the same group—believed what God inspired, verbal-plenary, they possessed. They believed God’s promise of preservation. They believed that they had every Word of God in their possession by which they could live.
Now they don’t believe that. They’ve explained it away. So now we’re not sure anymore about what God’s Word is. We’ve now got dozens and dozens of English translations, and people have waned in their confidence in Scripture, and ultimately in God. God said He would preserve every Word, but they say, “No.” Their position is not what Christians have believed through history. God had promised, so they believed in what they called “providential preservation” of Scripture. Now evangelicals and fundamentalists say we’ve got the “Word” (not the Words) and the “Message” (the particular Words don’t matter so much). We’re supposed to be satisfied with that even if God promised to preserve every Word.
Since we can’t be sure about the Words of God, then we can’t be certain about the promises of God. We lose seriousness and stability in Christianity. The Bible is one part God’s Word and the other part human speculation, and a new edition of Scripture could come out any year. I believe this is the most foundational of these three. We’re basing the biggest decisions of our life on a book that is now wrought with uncertainty because only the original manuscripts were the very Words of God—so says evangelicalism and fundamentalism.
Number Two Way Evangelicals and Fundamentalists Codify Uncertainty
The new doctrine, which you won’t find in Scripture, that is now not only a doctrine but a major belief for evangelicals and fundamentalists, is that all believers unify only over “essential” doctrine. They say we give liberty in the non-essentials. And the essentials are an ever shrinking list and the non-essentials are a mounting, growing, gigantic list of doctrines. Because we have liberty in the so-called non-essentials, it ‘essentially’ doesn’t matter what you belief and practice in those areas. We’ll still have unity with you if you disagree only in the non-essentials.
Now if you disagree on the essentials, which, by the way, is a very amoebic, fluctuating list, then evangelicals supposedly can’t unify with you. The dirty little secret is that evangelicals don’t separate even over the essentials. They don’t separate–that’s only fundamentalists. And mainly fundamentalists and sometimes conservative evangelicals constantly argue over what the essentials and non-essentials are. They have stopped arguing over the very doctrine of essentials itself. You’ve got to believe that we unify only over the essentials. Why? Well, there’s no way you could “separate over everything.” You just can’t. Why? Cause that would be a lot of separation. Nobody separates that much. That’s just way too much separation.
This “essential”/”non-essential” doctrine has become a major doctrine in and of itself. Of course, that allows for uncertainty. You only have to be certain about the essentials. Everything else is sort of up for grabs. And if you are uncertain about a lot, that probably means that you get along with more people and you’re probably going to be liked more. And being liked is, well, big in evangelicalism and fundamentalism. Standing only on the “essentials” probably also makes you “gentle,” which has risen in importance as a trait to have. And if you are still struggling along, attempting to get a grip on what Scripture says, not quite getting it, but really trying, you’re more intellectual and definitely more authentic. And what this does is exalt uncertainty.
I’ve noticed evangelicals and fundamentalists scouring historic materials, looking for people who communicated this essential-non-essential doctrine, quoting anybody that gives a possible whiff of it, trying to establish its historicity. And now it is preached quite a lot. And the ones pushing it are saying that this is the way to “unity in the church.” By doing so they redefine scriptural fellowship, church discipline, and many other doctrines. Uncertainty can triumph in the environment of “only essentials.”
Number Three Way Evangelicals and Fundamentalists Codify Uncertainty
Evangelicals and fundamentalists teach a new uncertainty in the application of Scripture. Historic applications of Scripture to culture are now doubtful. The old standards are thrown out as Pharisaical and legalistic. Because of this, there is very little that you can see or hear that differentiates Christians from the world. This is doubt as it relates to the interpretation and application of the Bible. If we don’t even know what the Words are, how could we expect to know what it means. The latter seems far more elusive than the former.
At one time, we knew what male dress was. Now we don’t. We knew what modesty was. Now we don’t. We knew what fleshly lust and worldly lust were. Now we don’t. We know what worldliness was. Now we don’t. And even if we do, revert back to number two—it’s a non-essential.
All of these three combined result in a tremendous amount of disobedience to God, an extreme volume of unholiness, and a gigantic quantity of dishonoring the Lord. And above all these, uncertainty abounds. Because evangelicals and fundamentalist have codified uncertainty in these three ways, professing Christians are uncertain as to what Scripture is, what Scripture says, and how Scripture applies. And even if they are, it doesn’t matter, because you need only be certain about the essentials, which they are actually uncertain about.
Your argument is sound… nothing but sound. —Benjamin Franklin
I, being of sound mind and body, am about to touch the third rail. I do so reluctantly, yet resolvedly. But before I do, I should like to say a very fond farewell to both of my readers (Hi mom! Hi dad!) and it has been nice knowing you all. Not that political suicide is the best way to go or anything. I certainly wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. But from time to time, it becomes necessary for one to sacrifice oneself for the sake of an important issue. So, here I go. I’m stretching forth my hand even as I type, reaching for that superconductor of electricity that is sure to send a shockwave through the ole’ system and land me flat on my back, perhaps pushing up daisies. Just remember, I did it for the Gipper…
All Spark and No Fire
So, here go I. Much of the controversy swirling around the King James issue centers on the question of whether or not the King James Version is inspired. The English Preservationists have made this the particular sticking point on this issue, and of course, we who also consider ourselves KJVO’s are loath to challenge them on the question. At least, if we value our place in the KJVO orbit, we better leave this one alone.
Which is exactly why I find myself anxious to address it. First, there is just something about a third rail that is especially electrifying. And secondly, I don’t believe that this particular third rail has enough juice to toast a piece of Wonder Bread. It is all spark and no fire, or something like that. I certainly don’t believe that this issue will be my undoing. But then again, I’ve never stepped on a landmine before either.
The real issue here is in the definition of terms. English Preservationists throw the term “inspiration” around as if it means nothing at all. Then, they stretch the term around like Gumby, trying to make it sound rational to (a) deny double inspiration, and in the same breath to (b) claim inspiration for our English Version. One might wish for a grain of honesty, just the size of a mustard seed, so that one could ascertain exactly what it is that they are arguing for, since they believe that the English version of the Bible is inspired, and deny that this means “double-inspiration.”
Since God inspired Hebrew words in the Old Testament and Greek words in the New Testament, and since, as far as we know, English words weren’t around at the time that holy men of old spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, we are faced with a dilemma. If we deny double-inspiration, then we can’t argue that our English version is inspired. If we argue that the English version is inspired, then we must necessarily believe in double-inspiration.
Either that, or else we will need to admit that we have elasticized the word “inspired,” turning “inspiration” into a clay humanoid figure. Logicians call it “equivocation.” When we use the same term in two different senses, all within the same argument, we are guilty of equivocation. Equivocation is very popular in humor. But equivocation is always mis-leading when we change the meaning of our terms mid-argument, without offering any sort of explanation for the suddenness of our switch.
Depends on What the Meaning of “Is” Is
When a man says that the King James Version is inspired, we understand that to mean that the English words proceeded directly out of the mouth of God. That would be the plain meaning of the statement. That is, if we are applying the commonly understood, 2 Timothy 3:16 meaning of “inspired” (theopneustos). If that same man then turns around and denies “double inspiration,” well then, either he is lying, or he is equivocating the meaning of his terms.
Humorous arguments rely on equivocation in order to make their point, and we generally understand that. For instance, a student was arguing that there are no such thing as black or brown feathers. In order to make his point, he argued that since a feather is light, and what is light cannot be dark, therefore a feather cannot be dark. You might recognize the equivocation in that argument. It is humorous, so long as he isn’t serious.
Worse examples can be found. My wife really hated the man who argued that women are irrational because the only rational being is man, and women are not men. She had an almost irrational desire to bash his brains out of his head. Fortunately, I was there to point out his equivocation. Necessity once required us to bring a man before the church because he argued that Ray Charles is God. He claimed that God is love, and love is blind. Since Ray Charles is blind, he concluded that Ray Charles must be God. In his case, he should have understood what the meaning of “is” is.
The Non-Inspired Argument
Unfortunately, not all equivocations are equally apparent. On the question of whether or not the King James Version is inspired, the definition-shift befuddles and be-muses at times. This is never more the case then when a man takes it in hand to explain how it is that he believes our English version is inspired. One favorite trick that he will use is to argue that if the King James Version is not inspired, then we have an “uninspired” or “non-inspired” Bible. Take this statement from Shelton Smith of The Sword of the Lord as an example. Under the head “If not inspired, then what is it?” he makes this statement:
As I hold the King James Bible in my hands, if it is not the inspired Word of God, then what on earth is it?
Are you telling me that it is somehow the Word of God but yet not inspired? Are you saying it is the uninspired Bible?
Ironically, the next section is entitled, “An Inspired KJB is not Double Inspiration.” And Dr. Smith goes on to say,
None of the men that I know who believe in a preserved, inspired text believe in “double inspiration.” We do not believe that the KJB translators were gifted (theopneustos) with God’s inspiration!
What we very strongly believe is that the Lord God Almighty promised to “preserve” His inspired Word. He did use those translators to preserve the text for us so that we have an authentic English Bible.
To automatically equate our insistence on a preserved inspired text as double inspiration reflects neither reality nor the truth.
I repeat – we do not now, nore have we ever, advocatied or believed in double inspiration!
As a side note, we should point out that neither does Peter Ruckman.
Nevertheless, we do struggle to answer this charge. If we say that the King James Bible is not inspired, then are we saying that we have an uninspired Bible?
The charge really is not so difficult to answer. Instead, the reader should note the shift in the terms of the argument mid-stream, because what we have here is a sort of extended equivocation — yet another mis-leading use of ambiguity employed by Shelton Smith and those who make this same argument. We are discussing whether or not a translation of the Bible is inspired. If I say that the translation was not inspired in the same sense that the original Greek and Hebrew words were inspired, am I saying that my King James Bible is the uninspired Bible? Absolutely not.
You see, whether intentional or not, this kind of argumentation is dishonest. Those who make it are glossing over what they mean, and they are doing this by shifting terms back and forth. First we are discussing a translation, then without any warning whatsoever, we shift the argument to Scripture. The Scriptures are inspired. The King James Version is a faithful translation of Scripture. So, we can say that the King James Version is the inspired Word of God. It is not, however, contradictory on our part to say that the Authorized Version is not inspired. You ask how that can be so? Very simply. When I said that “the King James Version is the inspired Word of God” a moment ago, I was referring to the KJV as Scripture. And we know that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God. When I said that “the Authorized Version is not inspired” immediately afterward, I was referring to the KJV as a translation. The translation was not inspired — that would require double inspiration. But the Scriptures are still inspired. And since the Scriptures are not lost in translation, the King James Version is the Very Word of God.
When a preacher insists that the King James Version is inspired, and insists in the next breath that he is not arguing for double inspiration, he is equivocating. He should explain what he means when he says that “the King James Version is inspired.” Is he referring to the KJV as an English translation of Scripture, or is he referring to it as Scripture. When he calls the KJV inspired, what does he mean by “inspired?” Does he mean that God breathed it out in the same sense that God breathed out the Greek and Hebrew words? Does he mean that God divinely superintended the translators as they translated? Is he referring to the fact that translated Scripture is still Scripture? There is a significant difference between each of these meanings of inspiration.
The point is that he needs to do a better job of defining his terms. All arguments aside, it really is mis-leading to argue that the KJV is inspired, and then to turn around and say that you don’t believe in double inspiration, without any kind of explanation in between those statements. If a man believes in inspiration for any translation, if he believes that the translation itself is inspired, then he believes that God re-wrote the Bible, re-gave the words, this time as English or Spanish or Russian or Latin words. If he doesn’t believe that, then he needs to find a better way to say what it is that he means.
Given by Inspiration
We have discussed this before in our comments section, but we thought it appropriate once again to attempt a more complete treatment of the question. In 2 Timothy 3:16, the Bible says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.” In English, this phrase is 8 words long. It is the translation of 3 Greek words — and I apologize to the Greek purists who hate transliteration here, but — those three Greek words are, “Pasa graphe theopneustos.“ Literally, all Scripture is God-breathed. Theopneustos is an adjective in the predicate position, hence the word “is.”
We have had some amount of debate in the past as to whether theopneustos refers to the product or the process. In other words, does theopneustos refer to the process of giving the words, or to the words as the product of the process. If we would understand the issue concerning the KJV and inspiration, we must understand the answer to this question regarding theopneustos.
Theopneustos is Product
An adjective in the predicate position makes an assertion about the noun. All Scripture is theopneustos — God-breathed. We understand the word “is” to refer to a state of being or existence. We describe the nature of the existence of Scripture as “God-breathed.” All Scripture exists as God-breathed Scripture, and that quality is never lost in any of those words. In the past, we have argued that we know which words were the God-breathed words, because we still have them. We have all of them. Non-inspired words were lost, or lost for long periods of time before they resurfaced, thus proving that they were not God-breathed words. The breath of God produced words, and those words formed Scripture. All the writings of Scripture are God-breathed.
Theopneustos is Process
Our English Bible translates theopneustos as a verb — given by inspiration. In fact, the phrase “by inspiration” modifies the verb “given.” It explains how it was given, the instrument by which all Scripture was given. If the product of theopneustos is God-breathed words, then the process must necessarily have been by God breathing out those words. Our English Bible is correct then in its translation. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God. Inspiration was a process, and the result of inspiration was the product of the totality of inspired Scripture.
Inspiration as a process occurred over a fixed period of time. We believe that God closed the canon, that God finished that process in time past. The product continues, per the promise of God, forever. But the process was completed almost 2,000 years ago. God did not re-start or re-do that process somewhere around 1611. But God did enable English-speaking men to give a faithful translation of His Words in English. The product continues. We have the ability to examine that product continually, and a great assistance in examining that product, through our English Bible.
But our English Version is not inspired. To say that it is would be to say that God re-did the process. Our English Bible is the inspired Word of God. But that is different than saying that the English Version is inspired. Our English Bible is the inspired Word of God because it faithfully translates God’s Word (the product) into English. The product is not lost in translation, nor is the process re-done.
Much of the argument on this issue has revolved around the “breath of God” and whether or not it can be lost in translation. I would agree with those who insist that the words retain that quality of being the “breath of God.” But I would also point out the words that retain the quality of being the “breath of God” are not the English words. The words that God originally gave, those are the inspired words. We must understand our English translation in that context, or else we are undoing ourselves in this debate.
You’d have a hard time ordering in a Greek restaurant with the “Koine Greek.”
— Stephen Carter, Co-Pastor, Landmark Baptist Church, Haines City, Florida
The English-Only Preservationists want us to know that we couldn’t order a pepperoni pizza at Domino’s Pizza using the Koine Greek. In fact, one preacher, in making this very point, asked for those to stand up who had studied the Biblical Greek. When one poor, misguided soul had the audacity to stand, this pastor proceeded to ask him, “could you tell me how to order a pepperoni pizza in Koine Greek?” And we have no doubt that the awkwardness of the resultant silence clarified the issue to said audience perfectly. We don’t want no Bible in no language that we can’t order no pizza in. Grunt. Snort. Snigger.
And they tell me that attendees were divided as to which happened faster, the Bible tucked high and tite under the preacher’s armpit, or the smug look that plastered itself to the preacher’s face.
And some say that the offending delegate was later overheard muttering “A pepperoni! A pepperoni! My argument for a slice of pepperoni!”
Of course, when they couch the argument in such powerful terms, one can easily see why English-Only Preservationists are winning the day in such astonishing ways. Why, how does one effectively counter such rigorous reasoning? Those of us who believe that God actually preserved the Very Words he gave are left befuddled and confused at how to answer such logic. After all, we had never thought of that ourselves. They taught us to anticipate the opponents argument, and we must confess that we overlooked it altogether. We confess, we can’t order a pepperoni pizza in Greek. And all of a sudden, all our arguments have come crumbling down around our ears, big gooey globs of sauce and melted cheese all over our foreheads. It runs down upon the beard, even our very own beard, and went to the skirts of our garment. Leaving behind a trail of tomato sauce and oregano.
After all, consider the ramifications if we can’t order a pepperoni pizza in Koine Greek. Obviously then, God didn’t preserve the Greek words. Obviously, God’s Words are only in English, since that is the only language available to me when I order a pepperoni pizza. Of course, I haven’t stopped to look at how one might order a pepperoni pizza in the King’s English, especially considering that the name “pizza” doesn’t appear in the Sacred Record, or, for that matter, in the English Language until sometime in the 1800′s. But I assume that since I can order a pizza in English, the Bible must only be preserved in English. Obviously, I need to stop studying Greek, since it is such a useless language. After all, I would have a hard time ordering in a Greek restaurant with the “Koine Greek.” Of course, I would have a hard time ordering in a Greek restaurant in English too, especially if they only speak Greek. But again, that is beside the point. Obviously the so-called scholars don’t really know the languages they so often herald. And that is obvious because they couldn’t order a pepperoni pizza in Greek.
Now, Knock it Off, Please
The ability to order a pepperoni pizza in Greek, or to order food in a Greek restaurant has as much to do with the issue as the length of your middle toe. For a person to argue that since we can’t order food in the Biblical language, therefore that Biblical language is useless, and (worse yet) God has not preserved those Greek and Hebrew words is sheer lunacy. One might as well argue that the Greek is useless because I was born with an innie instead of an outie. Really, folks, your argument is silly.
God promised to preserve the Words He gave. God gave the Bible in Greek and Hebrew. The fact that the Koine Greek is no longer in common usage does not undo the fact that God kept this promise. We have God’s Words, in Hebrew and in Greek. You can buy a copy for yourself. I bought my Greek New Testament for just a little over $12 U.S. Send me an e-mail, and I’ll help you find one. They somehow manage to still be around. Probably just a coincidence. Or perhaps a “Providential” coincidence. Either way, we’re assuming that this has to do with a little promise God made about His Words, something about heaven and earth passing away, but God’s Words not passing away.
Nor should the fact that you can’t use the Greek language in any sort of utilitarian way in this modern era discourage you from studying the Greek language. No, you won’t be able to give directions to your house in Koine Greek. You won’t be able to discuss politics with your co-workers in Koine Greek. And you won’t be able to do the play-by-play on Monday Night Football in Koine Greek. But that isn’t the point. The point is to study the Words God gave, so that we can better understand the sense in which the particular English words of our King James Bible are used. That is a worthwhile goal — imagine, gaining a better understanding of the Bible by (gasp!) studying. English-Only Preservationists should give study a shot. It might help them loosen the hayseed that’s been wedged there between their incisors.
Now, you should be warned ahead of time — you won’t be able to order a pizza out of the Bible. Not sure that God had it in mind that you should be able to in the first place. But then, we don’t want you to be gettin’ any false impressions. Your Greek New Testament won’t do your laundry either. But that doesn’t undo the fact that God has preserved His Words — the very Words of God, in the very Words that were given.
So, wipe that silly smirk off your face, and try to use a little common sense here. When you deny preservation in the name of the King James Bible, you undo the King James Bible.
Thanks to Jack Schaap, the KJVO debate has reached a rolling boil among the ranks. Right now, on my desk, sits a stack of articles from all sorts of sources, not least of which is the Sword of the Lord, and mostly those representing the various colleges in the Hyles circle. The articles have titles like “The Inspiration of the King James Bible,” “Is the AV 1611 King James Bible Inspired?” “What Did Jesus Write?” “Siding With the Plowman,” “Editor Makes the Case for Inspired Text,” “The Inspiration of the Scriptures,” and “The Inspiration and Preservation of the King James Bible.” In each case, the author denies that he believes in “double-inspiration.” And in each case, the author proclaims a doctrine that is impossible unless God re-inspired the Bible in English.
Here is what flabbergasts me. These men claim that they believe in preservation — they claim to believe that God kept every word of Scripture. And then, they turn around and deny that. In their attempts to argue that God’s Word is preserved in English only, they make statements like, “God allowed the Greek and Hebrew to go into oblivion.” They deny that God’s Word is preserved in the languages in which it was given. They argue that the Originals do not exist, and cast reflexion on the integrity of the various manuscripts of the TR, the basis of our King James Version.
In order to uphold our English Bible, those who claim to be King James Only are now denying that God has preserved the very words that he gave. I find this mind-boggling. What purpose does it serve to attack the foundation of the King James Bible?
When the Psalmist said in Psalm 12:6-7, “The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever,” what words was he speaking of? What words did God promise to keep? Would David have understood this to mean English words? Would he have thought that God was promising to keep any words other than the Hebrew words in which the Old Testament was given?
How about Matthew? When the Bible says in Matthew 24:35, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away,” how would Matthew have understood this? Would he have thought that Christ was referring to English words? Would Paul understand this to mean that God would lose the Greek words, the very words in which this verse and the majority of New Testament verses were given? Would Peter have understood this to mean that the Greek words would be lost and/or replaced with English words?
To argue that the Greek and Hebrew words were lost or “went into oblivion” is to argue that God failed to keep his promise. He promised to keep them, as the old Divines would say, “by His singular care and providence.” Ironically, those who have made the King James Version their first issue are now denying God’s promise in order to maintain their singular loyalty to this version, and subsequent rejection of the Original Languages.
Over at my blog, I have been writing a series of posts (a four part series: part one, part two, part three, part four) about the faulty epistemology of multiple version onlyism. I hope that doesn’t stop you from reading this post. Epistemology is in essence how we know what we know. The two major categories I have considered are presuppositional epistemology and evidential epistemology. We should be presuppositional and I tell you why, especially applying this to the issue of the preservation of Scripture, in those four posts. You should read them. I’ve made it easy with the links. My last post over there, which I uploaded on April 21, 2009, Tuesday, has been linked to by a couple of sites (here and here) that deal with textual criticism.
This entree would probably be my fifth in this series and I’ll probably retitle it and post it over there. I don’t want to do that yet, because I want that article to run a fuller gamot before I post over it.
I introduced the last in the epistemology series with an article that came out in USA Today in its opinion section called Fightin’ Words, which was a positive review of Bart Ehrman’s book, Jesus Interrupted. In the book, it seems that Ehrman uses the typical techniques of biblical criticism to undermine the authority of scripture, primarily by attempting to make the Bible look like it contradicts itself. The point, of course, is that if the Bible does do that, then it isn’t inspired or divine. The author of the USA Today article mentions that James White makes a personal attack against Ehrman by speaking of Ehrman’s unbelieving bias, to which he, Tom Krattenmaker retorts:
If criticisms of Ehrman veer toward the personal it’s because his evidence — the Bible’s own text — is what it is. And there is no denying the inconsistencies he surfaces between the various Gospels and letters that form the New Testament.
Bart Ehrman, the chairman of the Bible department at the University of North Carolina, is a significant liberal to deal with. To start, Ehrman himself is a one time “born-again” evangelical who attended Moody, then Wheaton, and finally Princeton when he said goodbye to his faith. Then much of the attack on scripture that you might hear used by atheistic scientists and from anti-Christian Islamics comes from the pen of Bart Ehrman.
What Ehrman has done, and in a way of marketing genius, is taken the very old, academic arguments against God and the Bible and written them in very simple, story-like terms, attempting to get graduate school material into comic book form and to make dusty, theological material very accessible to the average person. As I have gone door-to-door out here in California, I have many times heard points made that I knew came from Ehrman. Ehrman’s books often become NY Times bestsellers and are featured at the front of mainstream bookstores. They provide talking points to those who have or wish to push the eject button on Christianity.
From a human standpoint, it is to Ehrman’s credit that he has not just written the books and then hid out in his little hovel in Chapel Hill. He has traveled around, very much like Christopher Hitchens has done after writing God Is Not Great, and debated those on the other side who oppose his view. Part of Ehrman’s schtick is his ability to talk in everyman language and to appear to have no harmful agenda. If you listen to him closely, it’s easy to see that he’s actually dishonest. He presents content that cannot rise above the level of speculation and yet makes it sound like it is the most likely scenario. Some of that is seen in this part of the USA Today column:
If the Bible is the literal word of God, Ehrman asks, how could it be inconsistent on so many details large and small? Let’s start with an example appropriate to the just-concluded Easter season marking the Savior’s death and resurrection: As Jesus was dying on the cross, was he in agony, questioning why God had forsaken him? Or was he serene, praying for his executioners? It depends, Ehrman points out, on whether you’re reading the Gospel of Mark or Luke. Regarding Jesus’ birthplace of Bethlehem, had his parents traveled there for a census (Luke’s version) or is it where they happened to live (Matthew’s version)? Did Jesus speak of himself as God? (Yes, in John; no, in Matthew).
What about that paragraph? Ehrman presumes that the gospel accounts contradict one another in the sections on His death and birth accounts and that the words of Jesus on the cross are contradictory. What do we say about what Ehrman expresses as apparent inconsistencies? If you are reading this, it isn’t difficult to answer these biblical criticisms. Knowing the nature of Christ, it is easy for us to believe Jesus questioned God (in fulfillment of prophecy, by the way) about forsaking Him and prayed for His executioners. They both happened. Neither of the accounts contradict each other.
Each gospel has a unique, eyewitness point of view. Each has a particular theme. Altogether they don’t contradict, but present a full, panoramic, textured picture of the life of Christ. Matthew doesn’t say that Joseph and Mary were living in Bethlehem. Matthew also presents Jesus as God and he believed Jesus was God as much as John did. We call this answer “harmonization.” The various accounts do harmonize without contradiction, which is the nature of eyewitness accounts. If they were exactly the same, we would have a bigger problem, because then we might think that the witnesses just plagiarized one another.
Biblical criticism has been around since the books of Scripture were inspired by God. The present form that Ehrman is attempting to popularize is another mainly post-enlightenment invention. Wikipedia gives a fine synopsis:
Biblical criticism, defined as the treatment of biblical texts as natural rather than supernatural artifacts, grew out of the rationalism of the 17th and 18th centuries. In the 19th century it was divided between the Higher Criticism, the study of the composition and history of biblical texts, and lower criticsm, the close examination of the text to establish their original or “correct” readings.
During the Enlightenment, the role of reason was held above Scripture. Reason was then used to analyze Scripture because the Enlightenment philosophers believed that reason was more trustworthy. This is the basic presupposition that evangelicals and fundamentalists should not agree with but is found at the basis of all critical methods. The modern academy has not stopped at the threshold of reason. New forms of reader-response criticism allow any ideology to critique Scripture. As a result a person is able to find whatever he wants in Scripture.
Some of the famous names of higher criticism, which did what Ehrman does in Jesus Interrupted, are Thomas Hobbes, Benedict Spinoza, Julius Wellhausen, David Strauss, Karl Barth, and Rudolf Bultmann. The modern day Jesus Seminar is a recent example of this ongoing pursuit of de-supernaturalizing the Bible and turning Jesus into a regular person. One sure byproduct of these efforts will be the disappearance of the institutions from which they gain their paychecks. There will be no longer any use in studying such an impostor, what Jesus will have become once they’re through with Him and their writings about Him.
What Is the Difference Between the Biblical Critics and Us?
We both operate with different presuppositions. Of course, they say that they are dealing with the evidence, allowing it to lead them to the truth. But our presupposition is that the Bible is inspired, God’s Word, and that Jesus is God, Lord, and Savior of the world. Their presupposition is that the Bible is one of many ancient texts written by men.
I recognize that most evangelicals and fundamentalists attempt to create at least in perception a great distance between higher and lower criticism. However, Ehrman doesn’t see the great gulf between them. He shifts back and forth between lower and higher very comfortably. In one book, he attacks the text of Scripture (Misquoting Jesus) and then he smoothly shifts over to his disection of the content of Scripture (Jesus Interrupted). He has the same presuppositions and uses the same methodology with both.
What we do with the varied accounts of the gospels again is called harmonization. We harmonize the text based upon our presuppositions. We have a high view of God, of Scripture, and of inspiration. We choose not to see contradictions because we know that God does not deny Himself (2 Tim 2:11-13). So to recap: we harmonize differing accounts based upon our scriptural and theological presuppositions. This is how Christians have operated historically.
Because God is always true and every man a liar (Rom 3:4), we also harmonize what we see outside of the Bible with the Bible. We don’t harmonize the Bible with what we see outside of the Bible. The Bible is the final arbiter of truth, so every truth claim is tested by the yardstick of scripture. In other words, we aren’t integrationists. Biblical critics, because of the unbelieving presuppositions, place their own reason above the Bible and so rather than questioning their own opinons and conclusions, they question scripture.
Examples of Biblical Criticism in Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism
I’m going to give two examples where post-enlightenment, unbelieving rationalism has influenced evangelicalism and even fundamentalism toward biblical criticism. This is also the replacement of presuppositional epistemology with evidential epistemology. Fundamentalism was by definition to be hostile to biblical criticism in any form. Here are the two.
1. Despite the fact that God promised to preserve every Word and make it available to every generation of believers, so that there is only one Bible, evangelicals and fundamentalists have subjected the Bible to lower criticism to produce multiple Bibles, all of which contain errors.
This was not the position of pre-enlightenment Christianity. Sure they knew there were errors in copies, but they believed that God had preserved every Word and that they were all available to believers of every generation. When that was mixed with rationalism and science, that changed. Evangelicals and fundamentalists stopped harmonizing and started submitting to evidentialism, giving up presuppositional epistemology. I recognize that fundamentalists would say that they are not biblical critics as textual critics. That’s not the same conclusion that an objective outside source would make. Harriet A. Harris in Fundamentalism and Evangelicals writes:
Fundamentalism in fact accords with evangelicalism which, according to McGrath, ‘accepts the principle of biblical criticism (although insisting that it be applied responsibly).’ The difference between the two positions becomes a matter of what sorts of biblical criticism are accepted, and how its responsible application is defined. Here we will discover no hard-and-fast distinctions between fundamentalism and evangelicalism, but varying degrees of acceptance of different forms of criticism.
2. Despite the fact that the biblical account is a literal twenty-four hour day, seven day creation, and a young earth, biblical criticism in cahoots with secular science has influenced evangelicals and fundamentalists to accept a subjective, day-age, old earth explanation of creation.
This bow to rationalism or Darwinism submits God’s Word to external “evidence” as superior and final arbiter in this matter. Even fundamentalists have implied that this is acceptable.
So, just to review. Historically believers have harmonized their interpretation of the evidence with scripture, not vice-versa. They have also harmonized apparent biblical contradictions. They have done this based upon their high view of God, scripture, and inspiration. They have presupposed the Bible as the sole authority for all faith and practice.
We are seeing the fulfillment of Paul’s prophecy in our desire to rank doctrine. Every young preacher boy is taught Paul’s instruction to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:2.
Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.
In the next verse, Paul gives a reason for this instruction, making the instruction all the more important.
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
That time has come. We have lost our taste for sound doctrine. We teach after our lusts the message we want to teach, with a desire only to have a text for the sake of the audience which demands one. The natural result is that we have turned away the ears of many from the truth, and in many cases the truth has been turned into fables.
Of course, as an Independent Baptist, I want to blame the neo’s for this. They are, after all, the most convenient target, sorta like TV and MTV is the easiest of the cultural targets. But it would not be entirely accurate to blame the neo’s. In fact, in the Independent Baptist circles, we find a frequent disregard for God’s Word in our understanding of doctrine. We ‘preach,’ sure. We ‘preach’ in the sense that we rail, snort, stomp, slap our thighs, wave our hankies, wave our Bibles, wave our shoes, wag our heads, shake our fingers, and wag our tongues. We preach in the sense that we have a message, a main point, an outline, and a verse, which the congregation dutifully opened their Bibles up to. But do we follow Paul’s instructions? Do we preach the Word? My experience says that we do not. We preach our message. We get a text for it too. But we don’t preach the Word.
I have been taking advantage of current events in the Hyles camp. I admit it. I have been shamelessly riding the wave of interest in Fugate’s beef with Schaap in order to boost our ratings and draw readers to our blog. I confess.
But my purpose in this has not been entirely for personal gain. I really do think that the whole issue fits well with our topic for February. Kent has been dealing with it from the left end, where men defend their licentious fellowship practices. I intend to deal with the right end of the issue, where men defend their pet doctrines, and turn a deaf ear to the other. The former is a purposeful ranking of doctrine on the basis of the opinion of the many. They determine importance on the basis of fellowship. They set up standards for the sake of unity with others, making that the basis for distinguishing between essential and non-essential. The latter, on the other hand, work in sort of the opposite direction. They determine importance on the basis of tradition. The set up standards on the basis of distinction and independence. They set up standards for the sake of conformity to their Pope, making that the basis of essential and non-essential.
One reason we think it acceptable to rank doctrines has been that we have been doing it in a practical sense for decades now. We have finally gotten around to defending the practice, but we did it long before we felt the need to defend it. Traditionally, Independent Baptists have decided what they thought important from the Word (or not from the Word), and have insisted on those traditions regardless of whether it is Biblical or not.
We have ourselves to blame for the current state of affairs. It began way back when we decided that our preaching did not need to be directly from the Word. It began when we thought that the message to be preached was more important than the Word of God. It began when we stopped preaching the whole counsel of God. It began when we elevated topical preaching above any sort of exposition, when we decided that our topic trumped the text and context. It began when we set our standards first, and then found a basis for them in Scripture.
By our blatant disregard for God’s Word, we set the new standard. We de-valued doctrine for the sake of traditions and pragmatic practices. Success became our priority, and doctrines were important inasmuch as they brought us success. No, there was no official doctrine ranking ceremony. They were ranked by default. Dr. Big Britches had great success, and if you wanted to be successful like him, you needed to do what he did. The doctrines that were important to him no doubt played a role in his wonderful achievements, and you too would need to stress them if you wanted similar success. And thus began a tradition of judging the doctrines of God. Your garden variety Doctrinal Statement was birthed out of this need to identify with the traditions of the powerful and successful. Growth became faithfulness, and externals measured everything.
Now, today, we have little concern about whether or not we are getting our doctrine from Scripture. We have every concern about whether or not we have all the doctrines off the list of “important ones” as listed by the Guru of Church Growth. Our credentials come, not from the Word, but from traditions and how we line up with them. We ignore the doctrines that don’t make us grow, and that don’t matter to Dr. Fancy Pants with the sexy college. The others we make sure we get right, down to the commas and semi-colons.
Years and years ago, Jack Hyles made himself the judge and determiner of which doctrines “mattered.” And now, in our day, we have this fight erupting between the various factions of Hylotry. Jeffery Fugate says that Jack Schaap is unfaithful to the doctrines that Jack Hyles upheld. Jack Schaap says that he is in fact faithful to Jack Hyles’ doctrines. But who wants to judge a man by his faithfulness to the teaching of the Word?
The push to rank doctrines is nothing new. On the one side, we have those who ignore Scripture in order to promote their agenda. On the other side, we have those who attempt to give a Scriptural basis for tolerating blatant disobedience to Scripture. Does the fact that one side is more conservative excuse them from their practice of ignoring Scripture? I think not.
What’s This, Tag Team?
Now, with all of that in mind, I intend to give an opinion – my opinion – of the Schaap/Fugate matter. I do so because I believe it provides us with a wonderful illustration of the results of deriving doctrine from Tradition rather than from the Word. Consider:
Tuesday was an interesting day, at least for my mailbox. I received my very own copy of “The Voice” — the official publication of the First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana. Emblazoned across the front of the paper is the headline “Dr. Jack Schaap Speaks on Inspiration and the King James Bible…” I also received, in that very same mailbox, a letter from Dr. Russell Anderson (The Anderson half of Hyles Anderson). Anderson’s letter was addressed to “Dr. Jack Schaap, Dr. Jack Hyles, Students, Graduates, & Faculty of Hyles-Anderson College.”
My interest was piqued. Interestingly enough, the letter was mainly addressed to Dr. Hyles, who has been dead (last time I checked) for more than seven years. But talking to the dead is, apparently, one of those really important doctrines that Hyles held. He, after all, was frequently heard to talk to his mama after she was dead, sometimes even from the pulpit. If Jack did it, then it must be okay (or at least, so reasons Russell). Russell Anderson writes this letter to the very dead Jack Hyles, and the letter is about Hyles’ other famous son (in-law), Jack Schaap.
Russell Anderson wants us all to know that Jack Hyles taught him the doctrine that the King James Bible was the inspired, preserved Word of God. And Russell still believes it. In fact, Russell believes that God blessed and used him and Hyles because of this doctrine. And, in case you were wondering just how God blessed and used Russell Anderson, Russell Anderson wants you to know. He said (and I quote),
As of December 31, 2008, ten million three hundred thousand (10,300,000) people have been saved, mostly through the works of Hyles Anderson College graduates Dr. Rick Martin in the Philippines and Dr. Kevin Wynne in Mexico City. (note – Russell also tells us that he supports these and other personal soul winners with about $500,000 per year).
But that is not all. Anderson continues…
I have helped build ten Bible Colleges.
I have helped build 900 churches.
I have given over thirty-five million dollars ($35,000,000.00)
I appreciated the way Russell wrote out the dollar amounts both numerically and in English, so that I could feel the full impact of those numbers. And I’ll have you to know that I did search the letter diligently, but did not find anywhere in it a statement like “I have become like the most high.” In case you were concerned.
Anyhow, Russell is upset with Schaap, who was just a teenager when WE started HAC (says Anderson). Russell wants to know, did Dr. Hyles know that Schaap is now preaching that the King James Bible is not inspired in the college WE have started, which I gave over TWELVE MILLION DOLLARS to? (emphasis is mine). Obviously, the dollar amount donated by Russell is relevant to the issue at hand. ”It seems,” says Dr. A, “that Brother Schaap thinks he knows more about the Bible than you did.” To which we all emit a collective “ouch!”
So, Russell Anderson is upset with Jack Schaap. He (Anderson) is the brother that Jack Hyles never had, and so he wants Jack to know that he is still defending the King James Bible. The same King James Bible that both he and Jack believe is the inspired, preserved word of God. Or, at least, Anderson assumes that Jack Hyles believes that still. I didn’t find any place in the letter where Anderson said whether or not Jack Hyles had contacted him since he left the building.
Schaap, meanwhile, in his paper “The Voice” has provided us with 16 pages of material, all designed to assure us, the reader, that he is still faithful to all of Jack Hyles’ teaching.
Now, in fairness, I have to say that in this controversy, I think that Schaap is in the right. Or perhaps I should say that I think Fugate and Anderson have done him wrong. Ever since ascending to the throne of First Baptist Church, Schaap has had to re-affirm his credentials as a true, card-carrying Hylot. And, as far as that goes, he really is. Perhaps the problem for men like Jeffery Fugate and Tom Neal is that they don’t like the real Jack Hyles. They had a different image erected in their minds, a less accurate version. In a sense, Jack Schaap is the King James Version of Jack Hyles. Men like Fugate and Neal were looking for a newer version… they wanted Schaap to be more like a New King James, or perhaps a New International Version of Hyles. But he isn’t. He’s the real deal. Hyles with Hair to Spray.
And they don’t like it. Short of Schaap doing a hatchet job on the writings and works of Jack Hyles (and that isn’t very likely — a hatchet job on Scripture, perhaps, but not on Hyles), Jack Schaap has fully demonstrated that he is simply repeating exactly what Jack Hyles taught about the Bible. He demonstrates it multiple times, and in multiple ways, by quoting Jack Hyles directly.
And that really is the problem We have a position on the Inspiration and Preservation of Scripture that really doesn’t come from Scripture at all. Yes, it is what Jack Hyles taught, but it isn’t what God said. You see, Fugate thought that Hyles meant that God directly inspired the King James. Schaap understood Hyles to be teaching that God (only) preserved His inspired Words in the King James. Who cares, really, what God Himself actually said about it. What we need is more quibbling about what Jack Hyles meant.
Some questions that I have asked of our English Preservationist friends (one that has yet to be answered) are these: when did God decide to stop preserving His Word in Greek and Hebrew (the languages in which they were given), and switch preservation to English? And how do we know that God decided to do this? And, if God decided to switch to English, which edition of the King James did He decide would be the final edition?
Jeffery Fugate twists Scripture terribly to arrive at his position. I quoted him in last week’s article, highlighting the most blatant of those examples. Certainly, every copy of the Word is called Scripture. That does not mean that God directly inspired each and every copy. What Fugate does is to lower the definition of inspiration to a level that could include our U.S. Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and a major part of the works of William Shakespeare.
Do I like Schaap’s position better? He at least gets it that inspiration and preservation are two different doctrines in Scripture. He believes that God has preserved His Word. I’m glad for that. But, he also insists that there is no preserved word in Greek (a position which the majority of English Preservationists take as well), and that the King James Bible is the place where God is preserving His Word. He demonstrates that he does not understand the true TR position of preservation. And in general, he shows that he needs to study the issue a little more.
I am not attempting to restate our position on preservation. That has already been done, and you can read our Biblically sound defense of perfect preservation in this section of our blog. (You might find this article helpful). God promised to preserve His Words… every jot and every tittle. Those, by the way, are not English. God gave the Word in Hebrew and in Greek. God preserved the very words that He gave. It bothers me greatly to hear those who will claim that in 1611, God started preserving His Word in English also claim that there is not a single edition of the Textus Receptus that is or can be called the Preserved Word of God. If there is a 1500 year gap between the giving of the Canon and its preservation, then God didn’t keep His Word.
As I see it, we really have to get this issue settled once and for all. Preservation is a Scriptural doctrine, not merely a traditional doctrine. God promises to preserve His Word, as the Westminster Divines said, “by His singular care and providence.” The Bible tells us how God would do it… through His church, the pillar and ground of the truth. Until we get back to taking our positions on Scriptural, rather than on traditional grounds, we will continue to wallow in confusion and contention. We must, then, get back to a reverence for the Word of God, to holding all doctrine to be equally important.
Our theme for the month is on the issue of truth, in particular on the subject of ranking doctrines. And, one reason that this issue has achieved the rank of “controversy” is because of inconsistencies within our worldviews. If we believe that God is the truth, that truth exists because God truly exists, and that all truth proceeds from God as both flowing from His very nature and as absolutely known by Him, then we have no choice but to say that all truth is equally essential. We can know the truth because God has revealed it to us, and whatsoever God has revealed is essential to us. And never is this more true than in the realm of God’s Special Revelation, as found in the pages of Scripture.
A Biblical, Trinitarian worldview demands that we acknowledge the sufficiency of every word that proceeded out of the mouth of God. Mankind is morally obligated to accept every word as it is in truth, the very Word and Words of God. And furthermore, mankind is morally bound to seek a full understanding of every Word, and to seek to fully apply that meaning to every area of life. This obligation excludes any sort of “cafeteria approach” to Scripture, whereby a man determines for himself what is essential and what is non-essential, or perhaps more accurately, what is more to his liking and what is less to his liking. The reason should be plain enough: when I shop the pages of Scripture the way a housewife shops the Pop Tart section of the grocery store, choosing this flavor and that one, and none of the others, I make myself the master and judge of Scripture, of what is important to me, and what isn’t. I become the judge. And if I am the judge of Scripture, then I will not be judged by Scripture.
In all of this, we see the necessity of a Trinitarian Worldview as the basis and foundation for all thinking, including all thinking about God’s Word and God’s People. A right approach to Scripture is defined, not by what the current big-shots in Fundamentalism and/or Evangelicalism say it is. It is not defined by what the Blog-o-Maniacs say it is. A right approach to Scripture is defined by God, and we must receive that instruction, or we will be judged by that instruction.
And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.
It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son.
But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.
Scripture is very clear on this, that every word is essential. We get our doctrines, our standards, our convictions, and our practices from God’s Word, then. Scripture is sufficient. And while there will be controversies until the day when Christ sets all things right, we must strive to draw all our theological and doctrinal boundaries Scripturally. Will there be some fuzzy boundaries? The fuzziness is not because Scripture is not clear. Fog is the result of sin, and our fogginess about Scriptural boundaries is the effect of fallen men interpreting the infallible Word of God.
To Separate or Not to Separate
Nevertheless, while there certainly will be disagreement, we still find that in every case, the line where confusion becomes blatant disobedience is clearly marked. Our churches must labor to identify those lines, and then to apply them in the realm of fellowship. When a church is clearly disobeying Scripture, we must separate. The Bible teaches this plainly in Romans 16:17, in 1 Corinthians 5:9-11, in 2 Thessalonians 3:6 and 14, in 1 Timothy 6:3-5, in 2 Timothy 3:5, and in Titus 3:10. This separation principle applies both personally and from church-to-church. It is the duty of every God-fearing New Testament church to clearly identify where those lines are, and to seek to apply the separation principle, found so frequently throughout Scripture, within their church and surrounding community.
But, that being said, this does not mean that churches have a Scriptural right to separate for “light and transient reasons.” Unfortunately, much of the separation practiced by churches in this day and age is over trivialities, personalities, and so forth. One glaring example of this comes from the Evangelical side of things, in particular from the kinds of churches represented by men like Frank Turk of Pyro-Maniacs, and Phil Johnson of the same. These men, who openly ridicule the kind of separation principles held by those in the more Fundamentalist-oriented circles, practice a kind of separation of their own choosing. They don’t separate on Scriptural grounds, that is for sure. But they do separate on personal grounds, as has been well-documented already by Kent, and has been punctuated by their public separation from Kent. Make no mistake about it — these men practice separation. They separate from every brother who does not follow their “big-tent” philosophy.
Similarly, we find this kind of separation, on a practical level, being practiced by those in the broader movement known as the Fundamentalist Movement. It is a separation that consists, not in convictions and standards set by Scripture, but by Camps and Circles. “I am of Bob Jones,” says one. “I am of the Sword of the Lord,” says another. “I am of Jack Hyles,” says still a third. “I am Unaffiliated,” says still another. And thus the lines are drawn.
I will not tire, any time soon at least, of pointing out that we are not following Scripture in all of this. What is the standard? What determines right and wrong? Who gets to draw the lines of separation? If not God, then who? We are not a law unto ourselves, drawing our own lines and marking who we will be avoiding and who we won’t. Unity is a church doctrine, but 1 John also requires God’s people to love all those whom God has saved. If God loved them enough to forgive their sins, we are to love them. But, if they walk in a way that is disobedient to the plain teaching of Scripture, we are to mark them and avoid them, to have no fellowship with them.
Get Your Own Ditch
The recent controversy between Jack Schaap and Jeffery Fugate illustrates this point very nicely. In the January/February, 2009 edition of the Church Bus News, Jeffery Fugate very publicly announced that he is separating from Jack Schaap. Or at least, that he will not be speaking at Pastor’s School 2009. Now, I will not be speaking at Pastor’s School 2009 either — just in case any of you were wondering. I won’t be speaking at Pastor’s School 2010 either. But I don’t feel a need to take out an ad in the Sword of the Lord, or publish my own magazine for the sake of announcing that little tidbit of information to an anxiously awaiting world. But Fugate needs to inform all of us who are fortunate enough to be on his mailing list that he will not be speaking at Pastor’s School — that, in essence, he is separating from Schaap. Fugate says,
Until Dr. Schaap makes plain the fact that he believes that the King James Bible is the Inspired Preserved Word of God and stops sowing doubts about it I will not speak at Pastor’s School or in any ministry of First Baptist Church. I will not send my preacher boys nor recommend any others to HAC. The Church Bus News will no longer give bus scholarships to HAC.
So, he is separating from Schaap, and doing so in a very public way.
Now, this blog has been fairly vocal on the issue of Jack Schaap and Jack Hyles. And, I for one am not at all surprised by any of this on the Schaap end of things. In case you don’t recall the earlier series we did on the Hyles issue, I would remind you of something we said in our post, “What You’ll Find Beneath Peach Trees:”
Schaap, in my not so humble opinion, preaches heresy for the same reason Hyles did. Sure, he twists a different set of texts than Hyles did. But he does not bend texts for the sake of bending texts. Rather, he does this to force us to make a choice about him. Are we with him, or are we against him. Which one? Make your choice. Take your stand. Fall to the right of him, fall to the left of him, or stand with him. Those are your choices.
I still say that Jack Schaap is all about having a following. He wants to be the Rick Warren of IFBXdom… The Church Growth Guru of Fundamentalism. And, I have long predicted that he would lead the First Baptist Church of Hammond into a more neo position. In fact, I believe that, considering how enamored Schaap is with the Charismatic movement, and the historical position that FBC Hammond has taken on the Holy Spirit, Schaap will likely lead that church into some kind of hybrid “Fundamentalist/Charismatic” movement. I won’t be surprised.
But is Jeffery Fugate separating from Schaap because he has violated Scripture? One has to wonder, on the basis of the published material in the January/February 2009 issue of the Church Bus News. For one thing, the magazine features a prominent article on what Jack Hyles taught about the King James Bible — and have no doubt, that is as close to being inspired material in the minds of Hyles’ followers as Scripture itself. The magazine also features an article by Gail Riplinger, “7 Infallible Proofs,” and then an article by Fugate, “The Inspired, Preserved Word.”
Having read through each of these articles, it is very apparent that Fugate, like Riplinger, is an English Preservationist. The Riplinger article is abridged from her upcoming book, Greek and Hebrew Study Dangers: The Voice of Strangers, The Men Behind the Smokescreen, Burning Bibles Word by Word. Riplinger offers a somewhat disjointed proof that the English Bible is equally inspired with the originals — for example, since the Ethiopian eunuch was reading a translation of Isaiah, and since the book of Acts calls this translation Scripture, and since 2 Timothy 3:16 says that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, therefore “vernacular editions are given ‘by inspiration’.” She further argues that John Wycliffe and Miles Coverdale say that God, not them, was the author.
Fugate adds these thoughts:
Let me go a step further. Breath is tangible, which means you can feel it, smell it, etc. Spirit is non-tangible. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance – all are non-tangibles. Do you see the difference between breath and spirit? It’s important to understand because some conclude that the Bible was God-breathed, or the words were spoken and only when they were spoken were they inspired. However, the Bible says inspiration means His words are given by His spirit. I had someone tell me recently that there is no way the English version could be inspired because God doesn’t speak English. He spoke Hebrew and Greek. I wanted to tell the young man, “Maybe when you get to Heaven you can teach Him English, and He’ll appreciate that.” God is not limited by language!
He says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God…” I want you to understand something that is very important. It is not just the Originals that are inspired. Deuteronomy 17:18 says, “…he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites.“ Joshua 8:32 speaks of writing a copy. Proverbs 25:1 says, “These are also proverbs of Solomon, which the men of Hezekiah king of Judah copied out.“ If only the Originals are inspired then what happened to the copies. Don’t believe the statement that says, “Only the Originals are inspired.” If I didn’t believe that I had a copy of the inspired, living, preserved Word of God I would quit. God promised He would preserve His inspired words. I believe if God can create and sustain the world, He can give and preserve His Bible.
The word “scripture” or the usage of the word “scripture” in the New Testament never refers to an Original. The word “scripture” simply refers to copies of the Word of God. Acts 17:11 says the Bereans searched the Scriptures daily. Did they have the originals? No, they didn’t have them. They were reading copies of the Word of God. Acts 18:28 says Apollos was showing the scriptures that Jesus was the Christ. Matthew 21:42 has Jesus asking the question, “Did ye never read in the scriptures?” In Matthew 22:29 Jesus rebuked, “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures.“ If the scriptures were only accessible in the Originals then why would he chide them for not know(sic) something that wasn’t available. Do a study of the word “scripture” in the New Testament and see how many times it appears.
And here is the point of quoting all this. Fugate takes a wrong position on preservation. There is no Scriptural warrant for placing a translation on the same level as what was inspired by God. Nor does Fugate give any. Nor does Riplinger. Instead, they both play Gumby with texts and words in order to force their position on the Scriptural doctrine of preservation. I feel very sure (having had this discussion with more than one English Preservationist) that Fugate would deny that we have the very words that God spoke in the very language (Hebrew and Greek) in which they were spoken. The promise of preservation only works after 1611.
Fugate exemplifies the modern-day practice of taking a position because it “makes sense” and then separating from all those who disagree. Schaap has, apparently, joined the ranks of those who deny that we have a preserved Word today because we don’t have the originals. But then again, the Hyles camp has never attempted to take a Scriptural position on this. I found it ironic that Fugate made the statement that
“Admittedly, there are some that have had a wrong disposition in their defense of the King James Bible. There are also those that have taken a stand that goes to the right – such as saying that you must be saved by the King James Bible or you are a two-fold child of Hell.”
Actually, didn’t Jack Hyles say that?
But I digress. My point in all of this is two-fold. First, what we have here is an example of two men who have yet to identify a Scriptural position on the issue of preservation, and as a result, both stumble into the ditch. But Fugate has now determined not to be in the same ditch as Schaap, has announced to the world that he is leaving the Schaap ditch and going to the ditch on his own side.
And secondly, we have two men who have never made an effort to identify what the grounds would be for separation. At what point should we separate on the issue of Preservation? No Scriptural warrant is given for why this should be a separating issue between Fugate and Schaap. Although indeed, among the English Preservationists, there is no sin like the sin of not being an English Preservationist.
The doctrine of perfect preservation is an important issue. But one of the reasons that we can’t even have a rational debate about it is because the English Preservationists have never attempted to get their position from Scripture. As a result, our opponents on the Critical Text side of the issue have gone the same route. On the English Preservationist side, we have fideism — they believe what God says, and they could care less what history shows. But on the other side, we have evidentialism. James White might be a presuppositionalist in other matters. But when it comes to the textual issue, he is most certainly an evidentialist. He and his side looks at the history as more weighty than the promises. So, on the one side we have those who hold to the promises, and ignore the evidence. On the other hand, we have those who hold to the evidence and ignore the promises.
And this is why we can’t even conduct a rational debate on the issue. When we get back to taking a stand on Biblical grounds on this issue, we might once again see the pure Words of God preached with power and effect. We pray for such a day to come again.
Folks, I had to deal with some unplanned school activities for several hours yesterday. Hence, my tardiness and brevity. But consider today the relationship between the Word of God and the Truth. Jesus said along the way in His high priestly prayer, “Thy word is truth.” When He did that, he stated an equivalence between them. I believe that ranking doctrine is related to ranking Scripture. If we can or have to determine which scriptures are more important, i.e. really truth, then we feel that we can or have to determine which doctrines are also more important. Is seems that one’s belief about preservation affects his view of doctrine. Which only makes sense (or maybe it’s circular). He doesn’t think preservation is a primary doctrine. Maybe that is a root problem!
Maybe some of you can develop these thoughts in the comments…