September 19, 2007

In 1957, R. Laird Harris, wrote Inspiration and Canonicity of the Bible in which he said (p. 46):

Thus in Matthew 5:18 Christ is clearly referring to the sacred writings of the Jews as a unity and a well-defined sacred unit, too.  But He says very positively that this Book is perfect to the smallest detail.  It is not merely verbal inspiration that He teaches here, but inspiration of the very letters.

I read that quote in God’s Word in Our Hands, and the use of those words by Harris would seem to indicate that the authors believed that Jesus didn’t just have God’s Word in His hands that day in c. AD 29, but every letter of the Old Testament.  Notice this line from the quote:  “He says very positively that this Book is perfect to the smallest detail.”  Not was perfect, as when it was inspired, but is perfect, as in over two thousand years after it was inspired by God where Jesus was at that moment in time.  I’m happy to report that the authors of God’s Word in Our Hands later wrote this concerning that same text (pp. 105, 106):Â

It can scarcely be conceived how our Lord could have guaranteed preservation of the written words of the law any more specifically or dogmatically. . . . If He had not affirmed the permanency of even the smallest letters and the smallest distinguishing strokes between those letters, they would have concluded that their suspicions were right after all. . . . [T]hink of the smallest strokes of the law.  They seem so fragile.  So vulneralbe to omission or substitution.  But they will not pass away.  They will remain throughout all history. . . until (emphasis his) all of heaven and all of earth and all that in them is (sic) passes out of existence.

I rejoice in that honesty that they have shown in the text.  They weren’t as thorough or complete as I would have been, but the words they write refresh my spirit.  I would be even happier if they meant them.  Here is the thesis for their book.  You will know it because they have it plastered alone on its own page (iii) in addition to having a whole chapter (xxi-xxiii) explaining each of the words.

We believe that the Bible teaches that God has providentially preserved His written Word.  This preservation exists in the totality of the ancient language manuscripts of that revelation.  We are therefore certain that we possess the very Word of God.

Anyone who knows a little of the authors will know that this statement is wrought purposefully with a tremendous amount of ambiguity.  At face value, it sounds like something that should pass along certainty to the reader.  The language is loaded with uncertainty.  They have a specific meaning of providentially (they don’t like “supernaturally;” “providential” means “errors” to them).  They use the two words “ancient language” to give a broad range of possibilities.  They say that we possess the “Word” of God, not the “Words” of God.  They don’t believe that we possess the Words of God.  God’s Word in Our Hands represents the position of one very large crowd on the preservation and translation issue.  They play games with words to allow for a great deal of latitude for their “scholarship.”  They seem to hope that you won’t know what they mean.

You would find the book confusing.  The authors seem like they would like to believe what the Bible says about preservation, but they can’t.  They would like their application to line up with interpretation, but they can’t.  As a result, they contradict themselves.  They know they are contradicting themselves.  I know because I have spoken to some of the authors.  They knew that they had varying positions on preservation, yet all agreed on one standard written position that they could support.  A big problem is that the book itself doesn’t support their position.

You read their thesis statement above.  Consider this sentence (p. 96):

It must be remembered that even those passages that do support our doctrine of preservation apply only to the Sacred Writings as originally given, not to the words of a particular translation.

I agree with preservation applying to the Sacred Writings as originally given.  Not like they do, but I believe that part of that statement.  However, they don’t believe their own statement.

Pastor Michael Harding, whom I respect in numerous ways for various stands, as well as several of the other authors of this book, puts these two sentences in bold print in his chapter (p. 343, so I’ll bolden them here too):

The original text, including its message, has been preserved in the totality of the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek manuscripts.  No particular translation . . . can scripturally claim exclusive rights to the teaching of providential preservation via secondary causation.

Pastor Harding footnotes his first statement.  If you go there, you’ll find that he doesn’t believe what he just wrote.  In his footnotes (p. 361) he says:

I believe the original Hebrew text (of 1 Samuel 13:1) also reads “thirty,” even though we do not currently possess a Hebrew manuscript with that reading.

So much for all that “jot and tittle” stuff.  So much for their “Sacred Writings” jive.  They don’t even believe that the Words are in the totality of the manuscripts.  So why say it?  Why say it if you don’t believe it?  What is someone doing when they say something that they don’t believe is true?  Does that seem dishonest to you?

Later Randolph Shaylor comments on Mike Harding’s admission:

He points out how the Septuagint (a translation) can help in harmonizing a seeming discrepancy in Scripture.  His conclusion recognizes a problem but expresses the faith of one who believes that God has preserved His Word in the totality of ancient MSS. . . . Perhaps in God’s own time we will be allowed to discover that manuscript.  Our confidence in the perfection of the autographa is not shaken by incomplete understanding of how and where its wording is preserved.

Shaylor paints Harding as a hero for contradicting himself and the rest of the book, including their own thesis.  He won’t say there’s a discrepancy, only “seeming,” because there is so much unsurety about the text.  He praises the “faith” of Harding, faith that is not based on any tangible evidence.  He may wish now that he could leave “faith” out of the equation.  You see, with these guys, certain types of fideism are acceptable.  Harding has “faith” that some manuscript exists somewhere buried somewhere that has never been found.  We have faith that God has preserved every Word and that every one is available.  Ours is based upon Scripture.  His view is based upon the perfection of the doctrines of Scripture.  Ours is based upon the perfection of the Words of Scripture.  Did God inspire doctrines or Words?  What is our position on that?  Where should our faith lie?  Did God promise to preserve “the Word,” “the truth,” “doctrines,” or “Words”?  We know don’t we.  Our position is the faith position; not Harding’s or that of the rest of the authors of God’s Word in Our Hands.

These authors of God’s Word in Our Hands have never seen a copy of the autographa and yet they believe it is perfect.  Still, they cannot suspend their disbelief to accept that God fulfilled His promises to preserve every Word for believers to have and use.  They say they believe in preservation.  They say that they believe all the Words were preserved in the totality of the manuscripts.  They don’t believe even that.

Categories: Brandenburg, The Word
  1. September 19, 2007 at 8:52 am

    Do these men have faith? Do they believe God? I think they do. I think their Biblical presuppositions require them to make the statements that you have pointed out. They are not unbelievers.

    Nor do they lack scholarship. BUT, the realm of scholarship contains many pitfalls and swinging pendulums. For instance, the razor-sharp pendulum of “a desire for relevance.” Also, the deep pit of “the desire for scholarly recognition.”

    If we don’t have the sure words of God, than there is no preservation. In what sense could we claim perfect preservation for non-existent material?

    If we have the sure words of God, then what are we unsure about?

  2. Sam Hanna
    September 20, 2007 at 2:43 pm

    Good post – I have just listened to the Conference on the Old Paths led by the Rev Ivan Foster of the Free Presbyterians of Ulster.

    Whether you agree with all of their distinctives, I believe you will be truly stirred by the spirit and stand of their 5 conference preachers,


    Makes a change from the pathetic anameic BJU/Calvary/Central axis Conferences with their effeminate “seminars.”

  3. Anvil
    September 21, 2007 at 8:49 am


    Like you, I’m not attached to the idea of Baptists being the only heirs of true Christianity, and I find much to admire in the strong fundamentalism of those outside Baptist circles, but is there any reason that practically every other post from you includes an insult of those who see militancy differently from you? Those types of comments almost make me want to ignore anything you speak highly of. It’s well-known among those who read this site what the official-site-view of those in the other fundamental camps is. Any for anyone who has been reading your comments since at least your SI days, we understand what position you take. Trust me on this. The constant stream of snide comments really isn’t necessary, nor is it particularly edifying.

  4. Sam Hanna
    September 21, 2007 at 4:26 pm


    To be honest, I have given up on the likes of the crowd at SI. Their recent posts on the subject of boozing and dancing shows these “pastors” are entitled to no respect:


    Try this one from spiritual giant, Larry Lawton, “As far as weddings go, I had my own about three years ago. We had dancing at our wedding reception, as well as some alcoholic beverages (Champagne) from a champagne fountain… It was a wonderful time for all.”

    You can defend them if you wish, but I have no time for a crowd of Neo-Evangelical wannabees most of whom I doubt will even make it to heaven.

    If I have overstepped the mark, I am happy to be corrected by the Jackhammer Men. Certainly, not from an anonymous poster who wants to defend infantile and pre-Christian bloggers.

    I enjoy this site because they actually debate over the BIBLE and are willing to be corrected by it. I don’t agree with everything they say, but at least I can be sure they are reading the same Bible and preaching the same gospel. With respect, you need to think about who you hang out with.

  5. September 21, 2007 at 5:32 pm


    I’m glad you come here and I hope you keep coming.

    I believe that Sam is backing up his claims when he links to those particular SI threads. It isn’t a “Christianity” that identify with. I see an effeminate direction in the world in general, but as much so in fundamentalism. Some men are much better than others, but then they associate with it and tolerate it.

  6. Anvil
    September 23, 2007 at 4:15 am

    I’m kind of sorry I mentioned SI in the comment above now (it was only in passing). I wasn’t talking about them at all. My so-called “defense” was more of BJU/Central, who would distance themselves as much from what is mentioned in that SI thread reference you as you would.

    Pastor Brandenburg, if by tolerate, you mean “allow on a discussion site,” then I don’t see that this site is any different in that regard. Those here would certainly “hammer” anyone presenting the viewpoints referenced in Sam’s last post, but as far as I can see they wouldn’t summarily delete the comments. And from what I have seen on those threads there has been condemnation as well. However at this point, those on both sides have already gone around on this many times, and finally a point is reached where many of the voices know they are just wasting their time to continue.

    Sam, I’ve already explained my reasons for anonymity on this site, and I don’t need to go into it again since those in charge are OK with it. And you are right — you don’t need to consider anything I say. And I still will get something useful out of links like you posted above. However, when the comment also includes something like your reference to BJU et al, it still smacks of a certain childishness — it sounds a bit like what a bully says to his friends after those he has bullied have finally stood up to him and chased him away. But hey, it sounds like I’m the only one here who thinks so, and you seem to be getting cheers, so I’m sure it will only encourage those backhanded slaps to continue.

    I knew what to expect when I came here, but I still agree wholeheartedly with those at SI on one point — that our speech ought to be more characterized by graciousness than insult. In spite of all the hammering here, I will continue to believe that.

  7. Sam Hanna
    September 23, 2007 at 12:48 pm


    I appreciate you are trying to distinguish BJU/Central from the infantile pre-Christian blogggers at “Duller Iron” but frankly you are missing the point.

    The whole point of my entries and others is that the root cause of SI is the great falling away at former Fundamentalist institutions such as BJU/Central. A quick trip around the BJU website or download of their chapel sermons and music delineates how far they have fallen.

    A good example of this is George Dollar’s Book “The Fight for Fundamentalism” (1983) which states the historic position on separation. In that book Dollar roundly condemns Billy Graham for stating he had homosexual friends, yet this very year, President Stephen Jones boasts that he has many “homosexual friends” from the BJU chapel and no one blinks an eyelid!


    Notwithstanding the fact that how could someone who was educated from kindergarten to College at BJU and has lived on the Campus all his life at BJU have sodomite friends, this is clearly in contravention with Scripture.

    We also now have Dr Bob Jones III stating that he has no problem at all endorsing publicly a Mormon as President who believes that he is a god!


    We also have BJU offically declaring that they would no longer be referring to the Pope as antichrist anymore as previously,


    We also have the spectacle of Bob Jones III recently speaking at a thoroughly apostate interfaith University on religion


    Please do not say he was there to take a stand for fundamentalism as I listened to the whole lecture and he does no such thing. He never even mentions the word fundammtalism, separation or ecumenism.

    You cannot mention these things at SI as it will be immediately deleted by the BJU cabal who censore anything that shows the apostasy of BJU. However, it is open season on any “crackpot” like Pastor Kent who believes that the KJV is the providentially preserved Words of God.

    You have challenged me to put up or shut up – I have provided the evidence. You now face the challenge what are you going to do with it. Are you going to be like Mike Harding et al when faced with CCM at Calvary “Tim Jordan is my friend and we will not be separating?” Or are you going to be consistent and pull out from this unholy alliance of the flesh and the Spirit.

    I hope you will also have the grace now to withdraw your allegation that I am being “childish” or a “bully.”

  8. Anvil
    September 24, 2007 at 3:36 am


    First, I didn’t say you were being childish or a bully. Read more carefully — I said that that last line in your first post could be read as childish, and that the comment was similar to what a bully might say. You can claim that is a technicality, but I was addressing that comment, not you. It was not personal. I wouldn’t make the same accusation about your last post.

    I also wouldn’t necessarily agree with all the conclusions you take from the links you just posted, but I see a qualitative difference between that last post — where you are trying to prove your points against BJU — and the other one, where you were posting something positive about Ivan Foster, but at the same time, making a snide reference to BJU/others, which as I stated, seems to be somewhat common in your posts, and unnecessary, as those of us who read here already know your opinions of those groups. You don’t have tell us that what you just posted is a change from the “effeminate ‘seminars'” of another organization. We can read and see the differences ourselves.

    There are many theories as to why fundamentalism is in the shape it’s in today. The change in institutions could be one reason. So could the shallow, “behavior-based” (instead of scripture-based) preaching of many “fundamentalists,” or the “easy-believism” of some branches that has been the fruit of Finney’s legacy. What you see at SI reflects the fact that the internet greatly facilitates communication, and that because of our human nature, any group of people that has “free speech” as part of its mandate will eventually tend toward the lowest common denominator. People in fundamentalism at large are no different. The internet just makes it easier to see, because every person now has a voice.

    In any case, you and I aren’t going to change each other. I simply asked in my first post why you felt it necessary to make such comments. It was a question, which you didn’t answer and rather went after my passing mention of SI. Your last post is definitely clear on what you are getting at with your BJU comments in the other post, but I still don’t understand why you feel the need to make such statements so often when those reading already “get it.”

    Finally, regarding “who I hang out with,” that doesn’t really apply to any of the blogs I read, but rather to actual people where I live. Yes, I read SI, among many other blogs including this one. Obviously, from your reference, so do you and some of the authors of Jackhammr. What does that show? That we all want to keep our finger on the pulse of various trends/positions within Christianity? Regardless of exactly which position any of us hold, that is still a useful exercise when there is time for it. If I read only blogs that agreed with me in every point, I wouldn’t read any except maybe my own, and I don’t even have one! Not only would that be prideful, there can be no exhortation or sharpening when we are not willing to interact with positions/views outside our own. Most of that naturally occurs with people from my own church, but I really do enjoy getting to see the perspectives of others outside that environment, even when I disagree with them. I simply wish that there could be less vitriol, but James makes clear that we all must watch our tongues, and that it is a difficult thing to do without God’s help.

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