Home > King James Only, Mallinak > A Presuppositional Approach to Preservation

A Presuppositional Approach to Preservation

February 16, 2007

Attempting to be neutral in one’s intellectual endeavors (whether research, argumentation, reasoning, or teaching ) is tantamount to striving to erase the antithesis between the Christian and the unbeliever. Christ declared that the former was set apart from the latter by the truth of God’s word (John 17:17). Those who wish to gain dignity in the eyes of the world’s intellectuals by wearing the badge of “neutrality” only do so at the expense of refusing to be set apart by God’s truth. In the intellectual realm they are absorbed into the world so that no one could tell the difference between their thinking and assumptions and apostate thinking and assumptions. The line between believer and unbeliever is obscured.

Such indiscrimination in one’s intellectual life not only precludes genuine knowledge (cf. Prov 1:7) and guarantees vain delusion (cf. Col. 2:3-8), it is downright immoral.

Greg Bahnsen in Robert Booth, ed., Always Ready: Directions for Defending the Faith (Nacogdoches, TX: Covenant Media Press, 1996), pp.7-8 (emphasis his)

Presuppositional apologetics is best summarized by Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:3:

We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak;

In other words, we fear God so that we can understand and know. As Bahnsen correctly says (p. 20),

To make God’s word your presupposition, your standard, your instructor and guide, however, calls for renouncing intellectual self-sufficiency – the attitude that you are autonomous, able to attain unto genuine knowledge independent of God’s direction and standards. Instead of beginning with God’s sure word as foundational in their studies, they would have us think that they begin with intellectual self-sufficiency and (using this as their starting-point) work up to a “rational” acceptance of Scripture.

So, believers are set apart from unbelievers by their assumptions (John 17:17 again). The believer assumes that Scripture is true, no matter what it says. The unbeliever assumes that all Scripture must be tested by other evidence. Cornelius Van Til, in his book The Defense of the Faith (1), traces this autonomous desire of man all the way back to the garden of Eden, where Satan challenged Eve to “go to as many as possible of those reputed to have knowledge.” Of course, in Eve’s case, there were only two “reputed to have knowledge.” God commanded Eve not to eat of the fruit, “for in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.” In deciding these things, Van Til reminds us, God would have us to know first “what do we know” and after this, “how do we know it.” Satan urged Eve to first consider “how do we know it” while ignoring the question of “what do we know.”

So, Eve stepped out and became her own authority, took the neutral position, and decided for herself. God said, “thou shalt surely die.” Satan said, “Ye shall not surely die. For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” But ultimately, the woman made herself the final and ultimate authority.

And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

Presuppositions are inescapable. We either presuppose that God’s Word is true and ultimate, or we presuppose that our opinions and decisions for the truth are true and ultimate. We cannot claim to somehow mix these two presuppositions. No man can serve two masters. If we claim a “neutral” position and come to the truth by weighing evidence, then we serve the master of our own personal autonomy. We ignore the question of “what we know” in favor of asking “how we know.” The submissive assumption of the believer is that “what we know” is most important, while “how we know” can only be answered after the first question.

A Presuppositional View of Preservation
On the issue of Preservation, “what can we know?” Confessing Christians must take a presuppositional approach to this question. We presuppose that we can know what God has told us, what He has said we can know. We can know that God Himself will preserve His Word, that one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. We can know that God’s Word will be generally accessible to men in all generations.

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. Isa 59:21

Knowing these things, we ask, “how can we know this.” And we immediately find an answer – thy word is truth. We can know this because God says it. God promises it. It will be done by the power of God. When we ask “how will this be done,” we must again revert back to our original question, “what can we know?” We know that God’s Word is truth. We know that the church is the pillar and ground of the truth. Thus, the church, in an historical sense, bears witness to the truth. When we answer the question of “what we can know,” the question of “how can we know” is readily answered.

In his book Mother Kirk: Essays and Forays in Practical Ecclesiology (2), Douglas Wilson demonstrates how this is done. I quote from Wilson here, not because he would necessarily agree with us on every point of doctrine (or that we would be in full agreement with him), but to point out that these are not “new and novel” ideas as others have claimed. Nor are they “a wildly unique and woefully complex position.” We want to point out that others who are not of our stripe believe basically the same thing that we believe.

Beginning with the canonization of 66 books, Wilson demonstrates that, far from establishing or determining, the Historic Church submissively received the Scriptures on their own authority. “They are the Word of God, and they speak to us as such. Nevertheless, God has given us a secondary earthly testimony concerning them.” The church gives witness to the Word, and this witness includes canonization. In this sense, the church is not granting authority to the Scriptures, but rather is giving important testimony. This testimony is established and settled, so that (as Wilson says), “God does not intend for us to debate the canon of Scripture afresh every generation.” Rather, “in 393 at Hippo and 397 at Carthage, the Church formally testified that the twenty-seven books which we have in the New Testament are to be received as apostolic.”

So, the churches did not testify on their own authority. They rather accepted what had been preserved through the copying efforts of the churches. The Bible, as the Westminster Confession states, is preserved by God’s “singular care and providence.” The church and the churches give their witness to this fact by faith. It is an ungodly mock to ridicule our faith in God’s promise and plan.

Just as the churches testified of the canon of books, based on the faithful copying of God’s people, even so the churches, in settling on the Authorized Version, settled on the words of the Textus Receptus . The almost universal use of the Authorized Version from its inception up until the last one hundred or so years indicates that before liberalism launched their attack, the church had been settled on the Textus Receptus.

Wilson addresses this attack from liberalism first by pointing out the Catholic response to sola Scriptura. “The Reformers might want to say they believed in Scripture alone, but in which textual family was it to be found? Without an infallible church, without experts of some kind, there was no way to tell.” (pp.54, 55). And then, Wilson gives the Reformation’s answer.

The Reformers answered this question, not as neutral scientists, but as confessing Christians. The Word of God, they said, was basically found in the received text, which was representative of the manuscript family containing the overwhelming number of manuscripts. The Reformers asserted this, not on the basis of some neutral science, but on the basis of faith in God’s preservation of His own Word… For the Reformers, and for all consistent Christians, the doctrines of the Bible’s inspiration and the Bible’s preservation are twins.

The Evidential View of Preservation
Enter textual criticism. Wilson points out the similar reasoning of textual criticism in our day.

… evangelical scholars gradually came to the conviction that the science of textual criticism was in fact “a neutral science.” In other words, the worldview of the textual critic and translator does not necessarily matter. The foundation stone of all the modern versions is that textual criticism is a neutral science, and that Christians and non-Christians alike can be good practitioners of this science. The difference between evangleical and liberal textual critics is that the evangelicals have sought to fight off the principles of higher criticism by using the principles of lower criticism, little realizing that the fundamental principles are the same in each case.

In the last one hundred years or so, liberalism has challenged us to look at the evidence. No longer should we simply receive the Scriptures on their own authority and accept the witness of the churches. Today we have more information available. We are more capable of research. We are more equipped to examine the extrinsic evidence. Therefore, we are being called upon to go back and examine the veracity, not of the books of the Bible or of entire chapters, but of the words, of particular verses, and occasionally of particular passages.

Our opponents in this debate presuppose that this is what all the early collators did, so therefore we should also. But there is another, more subtle and deceptive assumption being made. Textual criticism presupposes that man must decide for himself. Man must make determinations, not about how a word or verse should be translated, but about whether a word or verse should be translated. This assumption whispers in our autonomous ears that we must weigh the evidence and decide for ourselves whether this word or this verse or this paragraph should be included. God wants us questioning His Word, the text critic says. And so, as a result, we have mounds and mounds of different autonomous decisions being made. One version accepts I John 5:7 and rejects the end of Mark 16. Another version rejects I John 5:7 and accepts the end of Mark 16, though with a disclaimer. And probably more than a few versions reject both.

Text criticism stands in judgement of God’s Word. Its proponents demand that we allow them space to decide for themselves, to determine what should be there. This attitude is in keeping with the mindset of our culture, which considers itself the first society to actually “get it right.” We are autonomous. We come to our positions individualistically and autonomously, not submissively. No doubt, we will be treated to some excessively long comments in the comments section claiming this sort of autonomy has been common throughout history, even among the collators of the TR, and including massive amounts of data to reinforce this view and discourage the readers. But we must not be deceived on this point. If we stand back as “neutral scientists,” look at both sides of the issue, and then decide whether a word or verse should be included, then we have set ourselves up as the ultimate authority.

This is precisely what Wilson is arguing in Mother Kirk. After dealing with the necessary background information, Wilson says,

But when we consider the facts carefully, nothing is more apparent than that this is actually a battle of the paradigms… When we consider all the manuscripts we possess, we must still compare them to the number of all the manuscripts ever written – which we do not have. The reconstruction of the autographic text is a task outside the competence of science, and any attempt to submit the task to scientific canons will only result in increasing confusion… The autonomous text critic is someone who believes that this problem of the original text is one which admits of a scientific solution, or worse, that there is no solution. But the real solution to this problem is faith in God, and in His providential care for His Word. (emphasis his)

The point here is not to dismiss out of hand any sort of determining whatsoever, for that is impossible. Rather, the point is to dismiss a particular kind of “determining,” the kind of determining that wants to scientifically weigh the evidence. When we examine our Bibles, we should be asking, “what does this mean,” not “should this even be here.”

Now, we are not so naive as to think there will be no objections. A brief glance at the comment threads alone will reveal otherwise. A basic objection, and probably the most frequent objection to the presuppositional approach, is to point out the “mistakes” themselves. And judging again by the comment threads, there are many of these “mistakes” to be pointed out. We have said that we believe that God perfectly preserved His Word. We took some pains to define what we meant by “perfect,” demonstrating that perfect preservation should take the same shape as the inerrancy of Scripture. In other words, we do not make Scripture conform to our definition, but instead conform our definition to Scripture.

Our opponents counter this by arguing that if there is even one variant, then God did not perfectly preserve his Word, and the words are all up for grabs. As Kent quoted from Kevin Bauder, “If they can admit that a legitimate margin of error exists within their sources, then they do not really believe in perfect preservation at all.”

It should be pointed out here that unbelievers also use this line of reasoning to counter the doctrine of inerrancy. If they can find even one error, then the Bible is undone. And of course, they will find an error, and refuse to accept any explanation for it. The point is not that the error they found was actually an error. The point is that they refuse to believe, as anyone who is versed in presuppositional apologetics will know.

We believe that God has preserved His Word perfectly, not because no errors have been found, but because God said he would keep it. On the same basis, we believe that the Bible is inerrant, not because no errors have been found, but because it is God’s Word. This is presupposed. We have asked “what can we know,” and then asked, “how can we know it.”

Textual criticism asks “how can we know” first, only asking “what can we know” when their first question is answered. Textual criticism demands evidence before it will settle. The text critic must decide for himself. He must be autonomous in his search for God’s words. Textual criticism is naturalistic. It has compromised to meet the demands of liberalism. It is theistic evolution. As Wilson said, it is “an anemic attempt to have it both ways, i.e., continuing to believe in the Bible while accepting (to a limited extent) the new critical approach to textual studies.”



(1) Cornelius Van Til, The Defense of the Faith (Philipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1955), pp. 33-35

(2)  Douglas Wilson, Mother Kirk: Essays and Forays in Practical Ecclesiology (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2001)  for all of the quotes in this essay, please see chapter 3 “Receive the Word”, esp. pp. 51-60

Categories: King James Only, Mallinak
  1. February 16, 2007 at 4:44 pm

    Dave M.,

    You said: “We believe that God has preserved His Word perfectly, not because no errors have been found, but because God said he would keep it. On the same basis, we believe that the Bible is inerrant, not because no errors have been found, but because it is God’s Word. This is presupposed. We have asked “what can we know,” and then asked, “how can we know it.”

    I’m still trying to wrap my mind around this statement. You believe God’s Word is inerrant, but you acknowledge errors? I don’t understand. Please elaborate.

  2. February 16, 2007 at 7:41 pm

    “Textual criticism presupposes that man must decide for himself”

    As a Christian, I still believe that the Bible, if true, should be strong enough to be handle independent scrutiny. The Bible can be used on strict matters of faith, like salvation, after the Bible has passed those issues which can be shown to be true.

    Everyone, no matter how faithful, still needs a reason to hold onto their faith. At least that is my opinion.

  3. Steve
    February 16, 2007 at 7:48 pm

    As a non-KJV onlyist, my take on presuppositions regarding inerrancy happen to run along the same lines, contrary to the way you assume we non-onlyists all operate. To me, the inerrancy of scripture is a presuppositional necessity, but I don’t apply inerrancy to translations and copies of scripture. Rather, I apply this to the original writings as they were penned by men as described in 2 Pet. 1:20-21. As I go about studying the scriptures, even though I compare translations and sometimes (though not often) dig into questions more specific to matters of textual criticism, almost none of that activity has as its starting point a mindset of uncertainty or evidential pursuit before I’m confident abou the things in scripture that I’m told that I can *know* . The apostle John’s writings are replete with statements about all the things we *know* as Christians, and I don’t go about my Christian life digging for evidence before I affirm those things as a believer. Why? Because I presuppose the inerrancy, inspiration and ultimate authority of scripture as it was given to us by men of God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. The fact that we have thousands of manuscript copies and translations of the scripture (and perhaps 100’s of thousands of variants amongst them) in no way undermines or diminishes those presuppositions. In fact, this “embarrassment of riches” actually creates great confidence about what the scriptures say- Not Less! Rationalism and human autonomy are Not my starting point, and frankly I get pretty tired of those who try to paint me into that corner simply because I don’t embrace precisely their understanding of inspiration and preservation. I’m sorry, but It’s just not that cut and dried. We’re not all alike out here. We’re not all marching toward relativity and the “emergent” church mentality regarding theology, doctrine and practice either.

    Don’t get me wrong. I respect and certainly share your desire for certainty. We all long for confidence concerning the things we affirm at the core of our being, because those things define us as believers. They are foundational to our whole understanding of life here and after. I know that what scripture teaches me is true, because the apostle John says a can know. “I write things to you who believe…that you may *know* that you have eternal life…” (just one example)

    Not being KJV-only does not = radical uncertainty. That’s a false and grossly over-inflated view of our situation. But its a typical picture painted by kjvo advocates of us. For you we Must have complete uncertainty if we ever dabble in textual criticism or compare translations in our efforts to determine what scripture says and/or means. You’d like that to be true, because that fits perfectly into Your presuppositions. But I dare say that some of your presuppositions, though tethered to your noble desire to honor God and his word as supreme, are not all true.

  4. Ben
    February 17, 2007 at 9:45 am


    Could you expalin to me how exactly you approach the Bible with certainty? What value does the belief that the Scriptures were inerrent in the original autographs have for anyone today?

  5. February 17, 2007 at 12:28 pm


    Wouldn’t the fact that the Bible says it be a good reason?


    A different way to say it would be that I believe that the Bible is inerrant because the Bible says so. I don’t need any other reason to believe this. If I have to disprove any apparant errors in order to prove to myself that the Bible is inerrant, then inerrancy stands on my ability to disprove, rather than on the authority of Scripture. If I have to prove the Bible’s inerrancy, then I am the ultimate authority. Presuppositional apologetics begins with belief, and from there moves to understanding.


    I tried to start with common ground that we can both agree with… the inerrancy of Scripture. Gauging by your comment, I was correct – we both agree that Scripture is inerrant. So, that is common ground between us, and I would assume it is common ground between most who are discussing this issue here.

    But if a reader disagreed with the assumed inerrancy of Scripture, he would attack that by pointing out “errors.” Perhaps he would point out some of the errors that I mentioned in “Flawed Perfection.” Perhaps he would point out others. He would insist that “both can’t be right.” It can’t be both 400 years and 430 years. David’s punishment can’t be both 3 years of famine and 7 years of famine. It has to be one or the other. So, (he would insist) one is right, and the other is wrong, and if we can find just one error, no matter how big or little, then the Bible is not inerrant.

    Steve, you and I would handle these matters the same way… we would harmonize. This would be common ground for us. Where we differ is when it comes to preservation. We agree on a presuppositional approach to inspiration. We disagree on a presuppositional approach to preservation. I apply the same presuppositions to both inspiration and preservation because the Bible makes the same promises for both.

  6. February 17, 2007 at 12:46 pm

    Dave Mallinak said,
    Wouldn’t the fact that the Bible says it be a good reason?”

    Because if you have that mindset and when you operate on pure faith and nothing else, then you better consider yourself lucky that you are in a culture that primarily promotes Christianity (yes, I am making an assumption here, correct me if I am wrong). If you were born in Utah, you could say the same thing about The Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price, or any of their other scriptures. They certainly take those documents on faith, and never question their authority. If you were born in India you would be saying the same thing about the Upanishads because you were a faithful in your Vedantic Hinduism. However, taking any of those documents on faith does not make them inerrant, so why is the Bible held to a different standard? You see, there has to be a reasonable answer to that question for me to have continued faith in it.

  7. February 17, 2007 at 1:23 pm

    Steve and Others,

    Alright, we start with being presuppositional, great. That means we start by looking at Scripture to come to our point of view. HelSailing intimates that we take a Pearl of Great Price Approach. No we don’t, because we have the Bible which has proven itself especially by means of fulfilled prophecy (2 Peter 3:1, 2—this is how Peter deals with the naturalists represented in vv. 3, 4). Steve, if you are presuppositional for inspiration without preservation, then you are going to have some problems with Scripture, I believe.

    First, 2 Timothy 3:16, 17, the pas graphe (all Scripture, the actual product, the words, the marks on the page, all of it and every of it) is profitable at a time when the OT originals did not exist. Man is not thoroughly furnished without pas graphe. It is pas graphe that is sufficient. Not all Scripture that we have, but all Scripture, clearly implying that they had all Scripture and that we would have all Scripture. I don’t know how anyone can get around this and honor these two verses. The passage isn’t even about inspiration, although it teaches it, but about the sufficiency of Scripture, which requires all and every in order to throughly furnish the man of God.  You have no doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture without the doctrine of preservation.  I’d like anyone  to prove this wrong.  Don’t bring up a name to call me, and don’t bring up the names of Erasmus or which TR edition.  Those are finished as arguments.

    Second, Revelation 22:18, 19 requires settled Words. You can’t add or take away from something that is not settled. And if it is not settled, then we have a problem with Books really, and we then have to consider the position of Ehrman and Pagel on other possibilities of books.

    One last word here. Our position is the historical position. We will add more to that as the weeks go on. The other side on this issue are desperate to show a historical basis for their position, but it only has a 130 year history. I believe it should be traced to Benjamin Warfield, which I believe I can clearly prove. Notice this line of “scholarship” at Princeton then—Warfield-Metzger-Ehrman. Connect the dots. It’s easy actually. Where did Metzger get his ideas and where did Ehrman get his ideas. Look how much Metzger is quoted in Mind of God to Mind of Man and God’s Word in Our Hands and Only One Bible? They rely heavily on Metger as an authority. They show zero presuppositionalism—ZERO.

    They also slander me and others. They say our position is cultic, comes from a Seventh Day Adventist, etc. etc. Then there are other slanders. When you read their history, it is mainly quotes about the translation issue. Even in their own history, I can show that less than 20 % of it is about the text and over 80% is about the translation. So they crush the double inspiration guys. What does that prove? They say that no “fundamentalists” took our position, which is another inaccuracy, if not lie.

    This issue is very important. They redefine providence. They redefine preservation. They redefine a lot.

    Is anyone listening?

  8. Randy Hartinger
    March 14, 2008 at 12:32 am

    Kent, I’m listening. But I’m wondering how you can say you have the historical view. What historical fact are you going to trust as infallible? God didn’t promise to preserve perfect history, but PERFECT WORDS. For example, take a historical ‘fact’ you believe outside of the Bible. Where did the historical fact originate? Was it passed down as oral tradition? Is this hearsay or history? Is this hypothetical (based upon hypothesis) or historical? If there are multiple ancient witnesses, and assuming all the witnesses agree, does this then prove it’s veracity/validity? (Ex.23:2 “Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil.”) What is the original source document? Have you read the context of the historical quote/fact to ensure necessary details for proper understanding are missing? Are there conflicting copies of the original source document? Have you personally handled the source document? Could some archaeologist have invented this source document to justify their existence and maintain the government grants, etc.? Have you determined the validity of this document? Have you dated the document to determine if it is fraudulent? What reliable means by which would you date this document? (Carbon Dating?) Was this quote translated? (You have heard the quote in English, but did the quote predate English?) How do you know there is no bias or error in the translation? What if the quote doesn’t carry the same thought in it’s original language? Are there dynamic equivalents being utilized in English that distort the original meaning? Were some words not trasmitted/translated due to the deficiency of the translator’s English vocabulary?

    Since the Bible sheds light on history and not vice versa, since history is interpretation of the past and the Bible interprets the Bible, since we have an infallible judge (the Bible), then why appeal to historical ‘positions’?

  9. March 14, 2008 at 9:13 am


    There is a difference between “taking a historical view” and relying on history as proof of the veracity of Scripture. We do the former, not the latter.

    Before you go to all this trouble, you might want to read through more of our posts on this issue, so that you will understand more clearly what we mean by “taking the historical view.”

  10. March 14, 2008 at 2:52 pm


    Dave wrote the article, so I didn’t answer, but since you addressed me, I’ll say that I agree with Dave. All true doctrine must be historical. Christians didn’t just start believing in preservation—they have always believed in it, hence it is historical. It isn’t historical not to believe in preservation. We defend our view with Scripture, which is why we wrote Thou Shalt Keep Them. We are against going to history as authority. I don’t believe historical doctrine is as important as Scriptural doctrine, but your doctrine shouldn’t be new. If it is, then you better be able to explain why it seems like it is. The new doctrine, for instance, is that God didn’t preserve every Word. Christians haven’t believed that.

  11. Todd
    March 17, 2008 at 8:23 pm

    Without all contradiction if you presuppose Gods Word you are going to have to choose a particular text or translation to presuppose. Not a generic unspecified collection of manuscripts but a real thing. This necessitates that someone choose which text and or translation will not appeal to empirical science such as textual criticism for its foundation. You cannot presuppose a modern bible without also destroying your presuppositional position at the same time since the new bibles are all founded upon empirical science.
    This of course puts our friend Steve in an epistemological bind because he wants to presuppose every varying manuscript to construct his epistemology while trying to convince himself that the truth of the scriptures exist apart from the actual scriptures (all the varying manuscripts or the “embarrassment of riches”) then magically reconstruct the scriptures (an actual text).
    In other words he accepts all manuscripts and translations and texts in order to have his necessary presuppositions to start with. Then he decides that the “embarrassment of riches” must now be sorted out to conclude what are the actual original writings. So he must call all the manuscripts into question while he judges them empirically; simultaneously suspending his faith in any actual manuscript or text. This is only possible if he can seperate the truth of the bible from an actual real bible. In other words Steve accepts an incoherent epistemological position (the doctrines found only in the bible without any actual real bible) which is also contrary to the doctrine of the book of the LORD found in the bible (whatever that is).

  12. March 17, 2008 at 8:38 pm


    Very good.

  13. Todd
    March 18, 2008 at 6:17 am

    Do you find it interesting that people who believe sola scriptura, abandon it when it comes to preservation? In the bible you find Gods words in a book (the book of the LORD); like 2 Kin.22:8 for example.
    But to think that God sovereignly preserves the scriptures all together instead of scattered abroad in conflicting manuscripts is exactly how you find the scriptures in the scriptures. Even Jesus, the apostles and the Pharisees didn’t dispute about what the bible was. And this is exactly necessary for presuppositionalism as Van Til pointed out that the argument for the existence of God was the same thing as arguing for the bible to be his word.
    But to receive the praise of men and appear objective and neutral, Christianity has been spoiled by the philosophy of men trying to array ourselves in a garb of ‘atheistic’ science (falsley so called). They (James White for example) believe God preserves his words but they claim he does it in such a way that it elevates textual science in a Nicolaitine style. This is not logically possible as Van Til shows us; since science needs the bible and not the reverse.
    We need to appeal to the bible about the bible, translation, preservation and every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

    “Man is not thoroughly furnished without pas graphe. It is pas graphe that is sufficient. Not all Scripture that we have, but all Scripture, clearly implying that they had all Scripture and that we would have all Scripture.”- Kent

  14. Randy Hartinger
    March 28, 2008 at 11:49 am

    Kent, you said that all true doctrine is the historical view.
    I was wondering if you believe in the pretrib rapture, literal antichrist, literal 7 years of tribulation, etc.? These are not the ‘historical’ view, right?
    Also, I ordered your Preservation book from Amazon.com; if you haven’t already mailed it, please sign my copy. I realize several people contributed. Looking forward to this.

  15. March 28, 2008 at 11:59 am

    Randy, I hope I sent your book. How did you order it? I’d be glad to sign it.

    I believe that, yes, all true doctrine is also historic. It must be at least as old as the NT. When it comes to eschatology, I believe we have some different rules, because of Dan 12:3, 4, which I think shows that we will know more eschatology as we get closer to the end. I mean our understanding of the passages will increase. However, I believe we have good historic evidence, if you read some of what Thomas Ice has written on pre-trib, for the pre-trib position. Imminency is also a historic doctrine, which is a pre-trib doctrine.

  16. Randy Hartinger
    April 3, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    I agree with you that Daniel 12 proves that there will be a sealing of Daniel until the time of the end. Amen. I will look at Thomas Ice.
    I got your book. Ordered from Amazon.com. Excited about and it thanks for signing it. I’ve perused it, read the glossary, and am reading your Introduction. I wondered about this statement for starters in light of our discussion on history. My concern is that we subject the light of God’s Counsel, the light than shineth into a dark place, whereunto we do well to take heed, etc. to the artificial light of history. I appreciate this quote you stated on page 22: “After all, God did not promise the preservation of man’s words, only His own.” Amen. I had just sent something in recent weeks to some brothers that said, “God did not promise to preserve infallible history, but His infallible words.” So, I heartily Amened your statement. But question is about this other statement on the same page: “All aspects of grammar and history will be examined in order to obtain the accurate interpretation, knowing that God has been clear in His Word.” Firstly, forgive some potential nit-pickiness on my behalf, but how can ALL aspects of grammar and history be examined in ANY book? Also, if God’s word is clear, why do we need historical interpretation? Aren’t we feigning ourselves infallible historians and then making the Bible’s intrepretation subject to fallible history? Aren’t back into the same dilemma as evidentialists when we assert that the Bible depends upon history for light, when actually the Bible itself sheds light upon history? Help thou.

  17. April 3, 2008 at 2:29 pm


    Thanks for commenting. We are talking about a grammatical-historical interpretation, so we look at all (defined as not leaving any stones unturned) aspects of grammar and history for the interpretation. In other words, we aren’t going to go about this in a shallow or perfunctory manner.

    When I see historical, in that case, I’m talking about the historical context of the book that we are exegeting. When we expose a narrative, we consider how the people would have understood it that were hearing it in that day. That is the historical aspect of exegesis. I do believe that Scripture is perspicuous, that is, we can understand it all and part of that is by means of God not only preserving the verses but preserving the meaning of those Words, that is, we aren’t closed off from the meaning of the text, which is historic. Meaning is assigned to words and that is historic. In other words, we can know how people wouuld have understood agape or ethnos or whatever Greek word used in the NT.

    These are good questions, Randy.

    Randy, how long have you lived in Roanoke and what church do you attend there? I’ve never been there, but I do know that Booker T. Washington grew up near there and there is a national monument to him nearby.

  18. April 3, 2008 at 2:31 pm


    One more thing—in late August I will be preaching with Gary Webb, Bobby Mitchell, and Bryan Greene in a conference for an anniversary of Calvary Baptist Church in Carrboro, NC. We’ll let you know more about it was we get closer.

  19. Randy Hartinger
    April 4, 2008 at 4:31 am

    Greetings. I have lived off and on (mostly on) in the Roanoke Valley all my life (I’m 37 years old, with six children and one in the oven). I’m a member of Heritage Baptist Church in Vinton, VA (KJV-only, though the official church position is not English-preservervationist). Before I forget, I appreciate your comments in the book against parachurch authority, etc. Do you feel it is primarily the church’s responsibility to raise up its ministers and not seminaries? (somewhat off topic, but not really).
    Re: Historical, Grammatical, and Literal meaning. Wouldn’t the definition of words fall under the category of the Law of Identity law of logic? Also, wouldn’t ‘literal’ encompass this? Seems to me I continually hear the ‘historical’ interpretation used as a springboard into all sorts of nonsense or adding of artificial light to the bright Sunlight of the scripture. The ‘historical’ interpretation is used for everything from detailed descriptions of the Cat-o-nine tails to Romans 12:20 coals of fire upon one’s head being a blessing to folks by putting coals into pots on their heads, to the Eye of the Needle being a gate in Jerusalem, to the 100 pound hailstones being white rocks that were catapulted by the Romans, etc. These are all things that one would never gather immediately from scriptures alone. Since history is an interpretation of the past, why would we use an interpretation to interpret the scriptures?
    Also, I’m curious. Is there anything in the King James Bible that you would like to see changed?
    The reason I ask is that if you believe every word is providentially placed, and every word is easily defined, and we’re in the last days and God has used this KJB for 4 centuries now, then why delve back into fallible history to relay the foundation? Seems now that the foundation is laid, let’s move forward and assimilate all these doctinal pieces with the complete and sufficient puzzle box God has given us.
    Enjoying your book. Carrboro, NC is just a little over 3 hours from Roanoke. Keep us updated. Have you preached any sermons on the KJB issue?

  20. April 4, 2008 at 2:18 pm


    Some good questions again. Sounds like a nice family. I have four children myself. I think churches should train their pastors. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with cooperating with other churches of like faith and practice to do so. I see this in Scripture.

    You probably do hear nonsense with things historical. We say grammatical-historical rather than literal, because it takes into consideration, for instance, figures of speech.

    I also think you ask a good question as far as why it is we might use history in our interpretation or the understanding of the meaning of Scripture. I think I mention in my chapter at the end of the TSKT book on faith, hinds feet in high places. It helps us to understand those kind of things to know what hinds feet in high places are and Scripture doesn’t explain those. We have to go into a historic meaning of words. Scripture has no private interpretation, so we look at the historic, publically understood meaning of those words. When Jesus said “my church,” He was differentiating it from some other assembly. It would help to know the history of ekklesia to see what people thought it was before. Some of this is implied from Scripture, but what comes to mind is “no private interpretation.” Paul asked Timothy to “bring the books,” so he studied things other than the Bible, and he also brought them into his sermons, like we see him do in Acts 17. Ultimately we do depend on the Holy Spirit and other believers (the church the pillar and ground of the truth) for our understanding. How people have understood words and grammar in the past brings in other believers to help us.

    I believe providence was at work with the translation, but it mainly related to the text. God made sure we had the words of Scripture, the Greek and the Hebrew. The KJV has already been changed many times up until 1769 with the words being updated and so on. I don’t think it is a problem. If someone says “conversation” means “lifestyle” in certain instances, etc. You would find that the actual 1611 is different in certain ways. I trust those translators in that I choose to believe God providentially used them. I don’t say they translated something wrong, but I explain what is there.

    Thanks for writing.

  21. Randy Hartinger
    April 5, 2008 at 7:54 am

    Thanks again, Kent. Your book has been a blessing and a great study.
    Paul referred to books, but did he interpret scriptures with books?
    Have you gotten your hands on Bercot’s ‘A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs’? It is basically nothing but historical quotes under various topical headings. It is very interesting and enjoyable to read, but I can’t put my stake in uncertain ground, and I wouldn’t go to the stake for fallible history. The many assimilated quotes can lead one into baptismal regeneration,etc. Like you said somewhere, the early church fathers were sometimes heretical. They interpretated some Bible words differently.
    Kent, you stated, “Scripture has no private interpretation, so we look at the historic, publically understood meaning of those words.”

    How do we determine what is the historic, publically understood meaning of those words? Are we not elevating empiricism by suggesting that the interpretation of scripture is now dependent upon studying other books and other scholar’s translation of those books, etc. while trusting that they were properly authenticated (Carbon dating? Handwriting analysis?) Who are we going to look to for these interpretations? I thought not privately interpretating would mean comparing scripture with scripture (spiritual things with spiritual) rather than comparing spiritual (scripture) things with natural (history, scholars, books, textual-assimilator’s notions, etc.)
    Thanks for your time,

  22. April 5, 2008 at 8:13 am


    I’m on the run here, but we do need the guidance of the Holy Spirit and should look for agreement from our church. Since there is no total apostacy until the very end, the gates of hell will not prevail against His church, we should understand that our doctrine should be what believers believed, not something new. All of these are application of passages of Scripture.

    This isn’t like carbon dating. God gives us understanding, wisdom, discernment, and we know carbon dating to be false. Plus it contradicts the plain sense of Scripture. We reject man’s version for what God said. I’m talking about what believers have said that words mean and how people have understood certain phrases. We take those into consideration because of no private interpretation. If Scripture sheds light on itself, we always go with that first.

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