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.
Since the Bible is practical, when you preach what it means, you get application. However, it’s obvious that a lot of what the Bible says requires making application to every day life. We could even call this “wisdom,” that is, the proper application of Scripture. Not all of the Bible tells you exactly how to apply it. A lot of it assumes that you are going to have to apply it. This is where the guidance of the Holy Spirit comes in, in addition to the text of Scripture.
For example, in 2 Timothy 2:22, Paul commanded Timothy, “Flee youthful lusts.” Preaching should include ‘what it is to flee’ or ‘how to flee.’ That is partly where application comes into the right kind of preaching. After Paul told Timothy to “preach the Word” (2 Timothy 4:2), he also said to “reprove, rebuke, exhort.” The goal would be to have actual fleeing youthful lusts to take place. When that’s the goal, you want to give the audience some ways that fleeing should occur. You could go to parallel passages to expand upon what it is to flee, but explaining that is a means by which someone would apply God’s Word. It might take very little time to describe what “flee youthful lusts” means and a lot of time to explain how to do it. In those cases, the application would last longer than the interpretation.
The inclusion of more of this kind of application with interpretation is a major way that fundamentalist or separatist preaching differentiates itself from evangelical preaching. It is possible, even probable, that the popularity of many evangelical preachers comes because they do not apply the Bible with proper authority. And then they may do very little reproving and rebuking that Paul told Timothy was required in preaching.
For instance, Paul instructs Timothy in 1 Timothy 2:9 concerning the proper dress “that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety.” What is adorning with shamefacedness? A preacher should show that the term “modest” relates to extravagance. “Shamefacedness” is what corresponds to our modern term “modesty.” Is there a scriptural standard for modesty? Are certain lines drawn in the Bible? This is where a separatist or fundamentalist has historically given specifics to the audience, while the evangelical often has not. And you’ll see far more immodesty in evangelical churches. That kind of evangelical preaching, however, is creeping into fundamentalist churches and so now their practice looks more and more the same as evangelicals.
So what does the evangelical say in response to a criticism for the lack of application? He would say that the preacher should allow the Holy Spirit to “guide them in the application of that truth to their individual lives and circumstances.” This is exactly what John MacArthur has said is the role he strives to take in preaching as it relates to application of a passage. He has said that “it is the work of the Holy Spirit to make the most personal, individual applications of the truth of Scripture in the heart of the hearer, and He does that infallibly, in a way [that] a preacher cannot.”
But what passage of Scripture itself says that the preacher should allow the Holy Spirit to make the application to the hearer? Shouldn’t the preacher be making the application to the hearer? Isn’t that part of the responsibility of the preacher? I think so. Again, I think it is part of the role of reproving, rebuking, and exhorting. The Apostle Paul told the Corinthians to imitate Him (1 Cor 11:1), and I think especially in the application of the principles of Christian liberty. As the man of God, you have wisdom from God that He wants you to use in your preaching.
In a sense, the ‘fallibility of the preacher,’ as a reason for not applying Scripture, is just an excuse. It is a cop-out. The passages left unapplied are often the ones most difficult to keep because their application is the most offensive to the world. This is one major reason, I believe, for the larger size of many evangelical churches. Their pastors offend fewer people with their preaching, because they don’t make pointed applications. What they say is “waiting on the Holy Spirit” is actually just fear of man.
When MacArthur says he doesn’t apply because of his fallibility, this sounds humble. Uncertainty is quite in fashion today. The emergents can’t even interpret because of fallibility. They think they’re even more humble. I say that all this is “voluntary humility” (Col 2:18). We can interpret and apply. God wants us to do that. This doubt about application is akin to the doubt about truth found in the world. Truth is relative. Application is relative. None of this is good.
The preacher leaves the people ignorant of the application and then uses the Holy Spirit as his excuse for doing so. If the people don’t make the application, ‘I guess the Holy Spirit must not have wanted them to do that.’ I believe this is what Paul had in mind with Titus when he called on him to “speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority” (Titus 2:15). Sure the younger women were to love their husbands (Titus 2:5), but what does that look like as it is fleshed out in the life of a younger woman? Preachers should exhort and rebuke in the particular shortcomings of love in the life of those women. The “aged men” were to be “temperate” (Titus 2:5), so certainly application is called for.
Preachers can be prey to fallibility in interpretation just as well as application, so if fallibility is the “reason” for not applying, then perhaps nobody should preach. After all, they might make a mistake in preaching due to their fallibility. This is why the preacher is not the “pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). “The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets” (1 Cor 14:32) and the congregation, though not to despise prophesying (1 Thess 5:20), is to “prove all things” (1 Thess 5:21). The church is the pillar and ground of the truth. The protection against fallibility is the Holy Spirit and the church, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit.
I’ve heard many evangelicals say that they “don’t want to get in the way of the Holy Spirit.” I contend that they are getting in the way of the Holy Spirit by not making the application for the hearer. The Holy Spirit works in the heart of the preacher, but he quenches the Spirit by not applying the verse as the Holy Spirit would have him. The Holy Spirit wants the preacher to make application. When he doesn’t obey the Holy Spirit, why would He think that those to whom He is preaching will obey the Holy Spirit? Can individuals take the application a little further? Yes. Should they? Yes. But that doesn’t alleviate the responsibility of the preacher to apply.
When the preacher doesn’t apply, and leaves that to the hearer, and then the hearer doesn’t apply, the preacher doesn’t have to be responsible for that. After all, it’s the Holy Spirit’s job, right? And so he doesn’t have to confront anyone about not applying the Bible either. And how can he? He’s fallible, isn’t he? This type of thinking is very normal in evangelicalism. Evangelicalism mocks and criticizes fundamentalist preaching because of their overemphasis on application. In several cases, they might be right. However, the evangelicals are wrong in their lack of application.
In the end, God wants us to do what He says. Without application of Scripture, we won’t do what He says. If you have fundamentalist churches that do what God says, even though they are not quite as instructed in what Scripture means, they still are doing more of what God says if they are doing more of what God says. And then when someone in a fundamentalist church is confronted for not doing what God says, so starts doing what God says, while a person in the evangelical church continues not doing what God says because everyone is waiting for the Holy Spirit to do the job of making an application, the fundamentalist person is doing what God says and the evangelical is not. The evangelical might say that telling someone to do what God says is actually replacing the Holy Spirit. That whole “replacing the Holy Spirit” doctrine is not in Scripture anywhere, either interpreted or applied. Whoever tells someone to do what God says is doing something that someone ought to do. It results in more people doing what God wants them to do, and we do want that. Don’t we?
And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.
He is head (v. 18)
- Head/body – uses material thing to illustrate spiritual truth
- Head – Christ
- Thinks for body
- Directs body
- Body – church
- Servant to head
- Powerless and dead without head
- What is a head to a body?
- Head cannot accomplish anything without body
- Christ does his work through the church
- No other way to do the work of Christ
- Christ work is not accomplished by extra-biblical (para-church) ministries
- To work for Christ, you must work through the church!
- What a privilege!
- Warning – an abused body cannot work
- Head – Christ
- Beginning – creation & church
- Not only at the beginning/or before the beginning, He IS the beginning
- Fountain of authority and power
- Compare with 3 John 9
- Starts everything to uphold/save
- No earth without Christ; No church without Christ
- Church is the new creation of Christ
- He is source of church life
- He is director of church activity
- Christ’s resurrection is the central truth of Christianity
- We can know Him because He is alive
- We can “experience” Him
- Preeminent among all that are/were raised
- Most illustrious, he went from death to immortality
- First to rise to die no more
- Our resurrection depends on Him
- First means there will be a second (more!)
- Christ’s resurrection is the central truth of Christianity
- Preeminence – of rank, dignity, honor, & power
- Sonship – we are sons by adoption
- Salvation – we are chosen in Him
- Human nature – He is fairer than all
- Redemption – He alone worked it out Himself
- Life – His purity, teaching, miracles…
- Dying – conquered death and rose
- Over the universe – Creator, and Proprietor
- Chief among those who will rise from dead
- Head of the church – all churches subject to Him
- In affections of His friends:
Preeminent to us:
Affections of the heart
Contemplations of the mind
Desires of the soul
Praises of our lips
It pleased the Father (vv. 19-20)
- For all fullness to dwell in Him – summation
- The image of God – v. 15
- The creator and sustainer – v. 16-17
- The head of the church – v. 18
- All fullness
- All power of deity
- All attributes of deity (2:9)
- All the essence of God
- All the glory of God (John 1:14)
- In Him
- All fullness will not, cannot be found anywhere else!
- Was not given to Him, it is in Him
- Pleased the Father
- The mystery of the trinity
- An economy, not a hierarchy
- To reconcile all things to Himself by Him – the why?
- Father – God’s mind was not changed by Jesus
- We love Him because He first loved us.
- Son – purpose was to save sinners
- His name is Jesus
- Not to be an example
- Saving is transforming
- Through the blood of the cross – the how?
- Hebrews 9:22
- 1 John 2:2
- To all things – the extent
- Removes the curse of the universe
- This is a lovely world
- This IS my Father’s world
- If His redemption can presently (though not completely) be seen spiritually, it can in the same way be seen physically
- The creation can now also fulfill its created purpose
- In earth or in heaven –
- Both earth and heaven were set at variance with each other
- Christ reconciled heaven and earth
- Father – God’s mind was not changed by Jesus
- The purpose? (vv. 21-22)
- Holy – He took our flesh that we could be holy as He is holy
Sunday School Lesson
Key Verse: Colossians 1:18
Occasion & Purpose: Warning against Jewish law and Greek philosophy (theosophy)
- The Colossian Heresy
- Attacked the total adequacy and unique supremacy of Christ – no greater claims ever made for Christ
- Paul stresses Christ’s part in creation (1:16-17)
- Paul stresses Christ’s humanity (1:22; 2:9)
- Astrological element (rudiments, 2:8, 20)
- Elemental spirits of world – stars and planets
- Everyone consulted the stars
- Needed something more than Christ to rid men of this power
- Made much of demonic powers
- Principalities and powers (1:16; 2:10, 15)
- Everything and place had a spirit
- Needed something more than Christ to defeat these powers
- Philosophical element (2:8)
- Tendency to insist on ritual practices and days (2:16)
- An ascetic element (2:16, 21)
- An antinomian streak – anti-law (3:5-8)
- Worship of angels (2:18)
- Spiritual and intellectual snobbery (1:28)
- Gnostic Heresy – Colossian errors related to early forms of this (spirit=good, matter=flawed and evil; also, matter is eternal)
- Effects doctrine of creation
- This world then created by an emanation so distant from God that he was hostile to God
- Effects doctrine of Christ’s person
- Jesus could not have had a flesh and blood body
- Effects ethics
- Our bodies are evil
- Practice rigid asceticism, starve and deny the body, or…
- Disregard the body. Do whatever it desires, only the spirit matters
- Our bodies are evil
- Effects the simplicity of the gospel
- Series’ of emanations
- Higher reaches of religion only open to the “initiated”
- They were keepers of the mysteries
- Jewish element – many were sympathetic to Gnostic ideas
- Effects doctrine of creation
Theme: Christ is pre-eminent
- Over all things – 1:15-20
- In salvation – 1:21-29 (21-22)
- In our knowledge – 2:1-9 (3, 9)
- Over the law – 2:10-23 (14-15)
- In our desires – 3:1-11 (4, 11)
- In our practices – 3:12-4:6 (13, 17, 23)
- Apostle (office=authority and occupation=one sent)
- Of Jesus Christ (fully qualified to address matters)
- By will of God – what is God’s will for you?
- Divine authority
- Independence of human teaching
- Disclaimer of personal power
- Apostle (office=authority and occupation=one sent)
- and Timothy
- Not a co-author (look at subsequent we’s – through vs. 9, afterwards singular)
- Brother (Acts 9:17 – rich meaning for Paul)
- Saints (relationship to God)
- “set-apart ones” – all believers were called saints, not just a group within the church
- One who belongs to God
- Should reflect God’s character
- Soldier must act the part, so a saint should act the part
- Faithful brethren (relationship to others)
- At Colossae, in Christ (always two spheres/dimensions for the Christian) – John 16:33
- Considered the least important city Paul wrote to – one of most important letters
- Possibly Philemon’s house (4:9)
- “faithful” – not all believers are faithful
- No hint of moral sin even with immorality all around
- Confidence that they will listen to his teaching
- Grace (Greek greeting) – first, since without there is no peace
- God giving us what we do not deserve
- Breath, we lived in rebellion against Him
- Hope, a hope—our home in heaven
- Holy Spirit
- Mercy – God not giving us what we do deserve
- Combines with God’s love to give us unmerited blessing
- God giving us what we do not deserve
- Peace (Hebrew greeting)
- Full integration of the believers personality in fellowship with God
- Spiritual prosperity (well-being)
- It passes all understanding – Philippians 4:7
- w/God through the Lord Jesus Christ – no longer at enmity with God
- Which rules in our hearts and lives – Colossians 3:15
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.
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.