Preservation: How and What? Part 2

Read Part 1.

Fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals believe God has preserved His word. The debate among them is mainly over the manner of preservation and the form the preserved word has taken. Some believe we have a God-preserved, word-perfect text we can identify with certainty. Others believe we do not.

Those who hold to identifiable, word-perfect preservation cite several passages in support of their doctrine. Part 1 of this series examined several of the strongest of these to see what they they actually teach.1 I concluded that these passages lead us to believe God will preserve His word perfectly in a form that is at least potentially discoverable, but that they do not promise that God’s people will always be able to point to a particular manuscript or text and confidently claim it is the word-perfect, preserved text.

Others have examined these passages (and others) and come to very similar conclusions (Moritz, 86-88; Beacham and Bauder, 116-123; Williams and Shaylor, 83-111), and defenders of certainly-identifiable, word-perfect preservation have responded with counterarguments and accusations. Many of these obscure the real issues in the debate and attempt to frame it in a way that heavily favors their view.

Thou Shalt Keep Them

A fairly recent example is the book Thou Shalt Keep Them, edited by Kent Brandenburg in 2003 and revised in 2007. The book may well be the most thorough and thoughtful effort to make a biblical case for “verbal, plenary preservation” (23), but it also alleges that those who disagree with it’s view of preservation approach the Scriptures with attitudes strongly influenced by rationalism, humanism, and unbelieving textual critics (46-47, 131, 255), and with the aim of “trying to please the academic crowd” (126).

In Part 1, however, I argued exclusively from Scripture (both what it says and what it does not say), not from any external evidence. I cannot prove that I am not a rationalist or that I have no interest in winning the praise of the “academic crowd” (though perhaps “innocent until proven guilty” would be an appropriate principle here). What I can do is focus once again on what the Scriptures themselves reveal and, in the process, move toward framing the debate more accurately.

The Bible and Human Fallibility

Do the Scriptures teach that human beings normally do anything perfectly? If they teach that even faithful believers normally err in all they do, proponents of word-perfect preservation must make a biblical case for why believers would not err in the process of copying Scripture. So when we turn to the Bible, what do we find?

1. The fallibility of believers

We’re all sinners and all we do is tainted by that sinfulness (Rom. 3:23, Rom. 3:10, Isa. 64:6). Though believers are “new creations” (2 Cor. 5:17), sin remains an ongoing problem (Heb. 12:4, 1 John 1:8). We continue to sin both intentionally and unintentionally (Psa. 19:12-13).

In addition to this ongoing problem of wickedness, we also suffer from ordinary weakness (Matt. 26:41, 2 Cor. 11:29, 1 Thess. 5:14, Heb. 5:2). We make mistakes, forget things, express ourselves inexactly, grow weary, become confused, reason poorly, and literally fall down.

What sort of quality should we expect in the work of such beings as ourselves? Paul warned Timothy to exert himself diligently so that he would “rightly divide” (accurately handle) the “word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15; see also 1 Tim. 4:16). The clear implication is that he was capable of failing to be adequately diligent and capable failing to handle the word properly. What’s more, even mature, committed, well-trained believers such as the apostle Peter sinned in ways that distorted the gospel (Gal. 2:11-14).

Our understanding of inspiration and preservation must account for what Scripture reveals about believers’ propensity to err and sin.

2. The fallibility of Israel and the churches

The writers of Thou Shalt Keep Them claim that God has used two key institutions to maintain word perfect copies of His word. Thomas Strouse summarizes their view as follows.

[T]he Biblical writers clearly delineated the means for the preservation of God’s OT and NT words in Scripture. That the Lord used His NT congregation, as He did His OT saints, to be the agency through which His Words were preserved, is irrefragible [sic]. (109)

Chapters 11-14 focus on making a biblical case for this view. But weighing the biblical evidence for the idea of perfect preservation through the community of true believers requires that we first recognize what the Bible teaches about the character of these institutions.

Scripture reveals that, when it comes to wickedness and weakness, what is true of individual believers is also true of the body of believers. The epistles were all written to address problems in local churches, and some of these problems were severe. Though the church is described as “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15), these words describe the responsibility given to the church, not the church’s inherent character (cf. Brandenburg, 117-121). Paul does not assert that the church will perform its role as pillar and ground perfectly.

In the Bible, only one local church receives an evaluation free of criticism for failures. Christ commends the church of Philadelphia (Rev. 3:7-13) on every point. However, even this church receives the solemn warning to “hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown” (3:11, KJV). Even this church was capable of slipping and failing to do its work properly.

The body of true believers in the Old Testament was certainly no better! That they were given the responsibility of keeping and declaring the words of God (Brandenburg, 100) is not in dispute. But they were given many other responsibilities as well, and ultimately failed to execute any of them perfectly.

Prior to the reign of Josiah, idolatrous kings even managed to lose a vitally important copy of “the book of the law” for years, until Hilkiah accidentally rediscovered it (2 Kings 22:8). Opinions vary regarding whether this “book” was Deuteronomy or the entire Pentateuch, or whether any other copies of “the Law” were then available. Josiah’s reaction (22:10-13) suggests this “book” was, at best, one of very few surviving copies at the time. Some might object that these Israelite kings do not represent the true people of God during this time. However, if the leadership in Judah was not the chosen agency for preservation during that era, who could have been? It was certainly not the consistently idolatrous kings of the northern tribes.

In both the OT and the NT, the community of faithful believers is revealed to be one prone to error, and our doctrines of inspiration and preservation must take this clear biblical truth into account.

Implications for inspiration and preservation

Because the Bible teaches that imperfection is normal for God’s people, any claim that they have done something perfectly requires strong biblical evidence of an exception to the rule.

In the case of inspiration, we have that evidence. We are told that God acted directly on the writers of Scripture as they spoke and wrote. “Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Pet. 1:21), and every Scripture is theopneustos, God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16). In every part, it possesses the quality of having flowed from God Himself.

That the Scriptures thus inspired must be God’s words—word for word—is the point of Peter’s “no prophecy…is of any private interpretation.” Peter’s assertion is, literally, that Scriptures are not of one’s own epilusis—explanation or analysis. Though the meaning of epilusis is debated, the context clearly contrasts the idea of one’s own epilusis with the idea of speaking as the Spirit moves. Consequently, the point is that the Spirit produced the words.

This miraculous phenomenon of fallible men infallibly communicating God’s words is what David describes in 2 Samuel 23:2. “The Spirit of the LORD spake by me, and his word was in my tongue.”

So in the case of inspiration, we have strong biblical evidence that God miraculously overcame select believers’ normal fallibility so that they would produce His perfect word. But in the case of preservation, do we find equally strong biblical evidence? Though passages indicating God expects His people to faithfully “keep”2 His word are indeed numerous (Brandenburg, 100-102), does the Bible indicate that God’s people will certainly obey that charge or that they will do so with word-perfect accuracy?

Conclusions

Though Scripture speaks often of the preservation of all of God’s words, it contains no direct descriptions of the process of word-preservation that parallel the kinds of statements we have about inspiration.3 No passage refers to men of old copying, guarding or preserving as they were moved by the Spirit—much less, translating with miraculous intervention to ensure a perfect result.

Nonetheless, the authors of Thou Shalt Keep Them (as well as others), believe a strong biblical case for miraculous, verbal, plenary preservation can be derived from multiple passages that speak to the subject less directly.

Future articles in this series will examine that evidence to see whether it should lead us to believe that God has enabled fallible human beings to make error-free copies of His word.

 

Works Cited

Brandenburg, Kent, ed. Thou Shalt Keep Them: A Biblical Theology for the Perfect Preservation of Scripture. Revised edition. El Sobrante: Pillar & Ground, 2007.

Moritz, Fred. Contending for the Faith. Greenville: BJU Press, 2000.

Williams, James B., and Randolph Shaylor, eds. God’s Word in Our Hands: The Bible Preserved for Us. Greenville: Ambassador-Emerald International, 2003.

Beacham, Roy E., and Kevin T. Bauder, eds. One Bible Only: Examining Exclusive Claims for the King James Bible. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2001.

Notes

1 Kent Brandenburg objects at his blog that I ignored historical context in Part 1. However, the historical case for or against certainly-identifiable, word-perfect preservation is worthy of consideration in a separate article (or several). As demonstrated in Thou Shalt Keep Them, the Scriptures themselves are the best place to begin.

2 Brandenburg argues that the meaning of “keep” in many OT passages includes includes guarding and protecting physical copies (Brandenburg, 103). While I suspect this idea of “keep” is not in view in many of these passages, I grant this meaning here for the sake of argument.

3 Some have argued that the “scriptures” Paul says Timothy knew from childhood (2 Tim.3:15), refers specifically to copies they possessed at that time and that, therefore, the “all Scripture” described as “inspired” in 3:16 refers to copies as well. However, it is likely that Paul actually intends no distinction between the copies and the originals here because his point does not require that distinction. For all practical purposes, the copies partake of the quality of God-breathedness along with the originals. Thou Shalt Keep Them specifically denies any kind of re-inspiration on p. 204.


Aaron Blumer, SI’s site publisher, is a native of lower Michigan and a graduate of Bob Jones University (Greenville, SC) and Central Baptist Theological Seminary (Plymouth, MN). He, his wife, and their two children live in a small town in western Wisconsin, where he has pastored Grace Baptist Church (Boyceville, WI) since 2000. Prior to serving as a pastor, Aaron taught school in Stone Mountain, Georgia and worked in customer service and technical support for Unisys Corporation (Eagan, MN). He enjoys science fiction, music, and dabbling in software development.

6131 reads

There are 53 Comments

Bob Hayton's picture

This is a good counter to TSKT's theses. I look forward to future posts dealing with this subject as well. Thanks for a well written post, Aaron. We'll be linking to it from http://kjvodebate.wordpress.com.

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

Aaron Blumer's picture

Thanks, Bob.
In reading TSKT, I frequently got the impression they had accepted an overly low biblical evidence threshold... that is, if you start out with the conviction that you don't have much to prove, you tend to leap to your conclusion too soon and declare it proven.
In this case, the authors start out with the conviction that there are no biblical reasons to doubt that "God's ordained institutions" would make perfect copies (because all doubt on that point stems from rationalism, the corrupt science of textual criticism, humanism, etc., and bedazzlement with academia). And if you assume all doubt on that point is inherently unbiblical, you only have to show passages sort of sound like word-perfect preservation and you're done.
But the evidence needs to be stronger than that because of the biblical reasons to expect human error.

(I'm not sure what to make of it, but it's interesting to me that in the years following TSKT, Kent has shifted a great deal of his energy to external arguments: history and epistemology. I'm inclined to say this is because the biblical case is so weak, but I think he would say it's because the biblical case has not been refuted so he has moved on to additional evidence.)

RPittman's picture

Aaron wrote:
Do the Scriptures teach that human beings normally do anything perfectly? If they teach that even faithful believers normally err in all they do, proponents of word-perfect preservation must make a biblical case for why believers would not err in the process of copying Scripture. So when we turn to the Bible, what do we find?

Aaron wrote:
Because the Bible teaches that imperfection is normal for God’s people, any claim that they have done something perfectly requires strong biblical evidence of an exception to the rule.

In the case of inspiration, we have that evidence. We are told that God acted directly on the writers of Scripture as they spoke and wrote. “Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Pet. 1:21), and every Scripture is theopneustos, God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16). In every part, it possesses the quality of having flowed from God Himself.

That the Scriptures thus inspired must be God’s words—word for word—is the point of Peter’s “no prophecy…is of any private interpretation.” Peter’s assertion is, literally, that Scriptures are not of one’s own epilusis—explanation or analysis. Though the meaning of epilusis is debated, the context clearly contrasts the idea of one’s own epilusis with the idea of speaking as the Spirit moves. Consequently, the point is that the Spirit produced the words.

This miraculous phenomenon of fallible men infallibly communicating God’s words is what David describes in 2 Samuel 23:2. “The Spirit of the LORD spake by me, and his word was in my tongue.”

So in the case of inspiration, we have strong biblical evidence that God miraculously overcame select believers’ normal fallibility so that they would produce His perfect word. But in the case of preservation, do we find equally strong biblical evidence? Though passages indicating God expects His people to faithfully “keep”2 His word are indeed numerous (Brandenberg, 100-102), does the Bible indicate that God’s people will certainly obey that charge or that they will do so with word-perfect accuracy?

Aaron, your observations are accurate but your conclusions do not necessarily follow unless you accept certain presuppositions and attitudes of Modernity. There are other conclusions that are just as reasonable.

As I follow your reasoning, you are saying that although God did use imperfect human beings to produce a perfect product (i.e. inspiration), we cannot say that He did it in preservation unless we are specifically told in Scripture. In other words, we cannot infer a "miraculous phenomenon" to overcome human fallibility unless God tells us. And you reached these conclusions through methods common to the rationalist thought of Modernity. This is where the charges of rationalism originate.

The problem that I have with your argument is that God would have done precisely this very thing through the process of canonization. Canonization is a form of preservation. Is it not? Although we are not necessarily talking about words, but whole books, we must posit that God preserved all of the books of Scripture in the sixty-six books that we accept as the canon. Otherwise, we leave open the question that some books were lost or some books may be mistakenly included. Do you want to go there? So, if God preserved the books and did not state it in Scripture, is it unreasonable to believe that He preserved the words as well? Is preserving books easier or more reasonable than preserving words without revealing His hand? Is anything too hard for God? Does size matter?

So, we are down to basic questions that may be instructive for us in dealing with the preservation issue. Did God supernaturally preserve all, no more and no less, of his Word in our canon of Scripture? If so, where are we told this in Scripture? Does the same benchmark apply to the modern preservation question as to the canonization issue? If so, how can we apply a more restrictive requirement (i.e. must have specific Scriptural reference) to the modern question than to canonization? (Hint: Canonization was settled before the advent of Modernity and Scientific Rationalism. I recommend reading E. F. Hills and considering his idea of the "rationality of faith.")

Aaron, thank you for a thoughtful and well-considered article although we disagree at points. I respect your integrity, openness, and desire to know the truth. We would all do well to humbly listen carefully to one another because we share the common human fallibility. I look forward to your response that I may learn.

Aaron Blumer's picture

Quote:
As I follow your reasoning, you are saying that although God did use imperfect human beings to produce a perfect product (i.e. inspiration), we cannot say that He did it in preservation unless we are specifically told in Scripture. In other words, we cannot infer a "miraculous phenomenon" to overcome human fallibility unless God tells us. And you reached these conclusions through methods common to the rationalist thought of Modernity.

I'm intrigued. Please elaborate on how I did that and what "methods" for reaching conclusions would be preferable?

As for where the accusation of rationalism comes from, in the cast of TSKT, it is a priori... or just circular, I'm not sure which. In some places, the book alleges that those who disagree do so because they are rationalistic, in other places it seems to say the evidence that they are rationalistic is the fact that they disagree.
No one from that neck of the woods seems willing (yet) to just look at the case we're making and weigh on its own merits. Much easier to dismiss it with something vague and unprovable like "You're just trying to win the praise of academia" or "your thinking is too modern."
Well, I'm game... how is my thinking too modern and how might I demodernize it?

Don Johnson's picture

RPittman wrote:
As I follow your reasoning, you are saying that although God did use imperfect human beings to produce a perfect product (i.e. inspiration), we cannot say that He did it in preservation unless we are specifically told in Scripture. In other words, we cannot infer a "miraculous phenomenon" to overcome human fallibility unless God tells us.

To this point, I always ask, "When the Lord healed the lame man, did he walk with a limp?"

In other words, miracles are visible. You don't need reason to discern them. You can see them.

If the miracle of preservation actually happened in the same way that inspiration happened, don't you think we would see a body of documents that were identical, preserved in an unbroken chain without error through the centuries?

Instead, what we see are a body of documents that ALL vary from one another to one extent or another. They limp along. From that limping body, it is our task to sort out by discernment of some kind what the original words were. Preservation appears to be providential, using failing men, rather than miraculous, in spite of failing men.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

RPittman's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

I'm intrigued. Please elaborate on how I did that and what "methods" for reaching conclusions would be preferable?

As for where the accusation of rationalism comes from, in the cast of TSKT, it is a priori... or just circular, I'm not sure which. In some places, the book alleges that those who disagree do so because they are rationalistic, in other places it seems to say the evidence that they are rationalistic is the fact that they disagree.
No one from that neck of the woods seems willing (yet) to just look at the case we're making and weigh on its own merits. Much easier to dismiss it with something vague and unprovable like "You're just trying to win the praise of academia" or "your thinking is too modern."
Well, I'm game... how is my thinking too modern and how might I demodernize it?

Fair enough. You've asked a lot. It's based on an understanding of epistemology in context of time. When I say Modernity, I am not speaking of being modern (i.e. technology, etc.). It is epistemological thought. How we perceive knowledge and our methodology for acquiring it. It's laid out in time periods of Pre-modern (i.e. I call it Traditional), Modern (or Modernity), and Post-modern. D. A. Carson does a good job of briefly dealing with this in one of his lectures on the Emerging Church (The lecture is online but I don't have the link handy just now).

The rationalistic mindset is that if we can't observe, then we don't accept it. The Liberals/Modernists used this attitude in rejecting miracles. Well, you've applied the same methodology except you are saying, "If it's not found in Scripture, then we can't accept it." Well, at least, it's to some degree although you probably would not consciously put it this strongly.

Although I cannot speak for others, I am calling you vile sinner because you are using "rationalism." No stigma, except to argue against your point, was intended. We all appeal to "rationalism" either intentionally or unintentionally because it's part of our age, education, and thought patterns. Even the other side of this issue use it unknowingly by imposing their standard of logic. I don't have the time or space to develop this further but this is NOT an appeal for the irrational. To show where I'm going, please consider the question: "How did the church decide issues prior to the rise of Modernity and Scientific Rationalism?"

Aaron Blumer's picture

I think you meant "not calling you a vile sinner..." Given your track record here, I think I can assume that.
I am a vile sinner though, so it's a good call either way. Smile

Anyway, really, it's not as complicated as you seem to suppose. Either we may reason from biblical evidence or we may not. What I've done in the article is nothing more than look at what is written and draw conclusions on that basis. There is nothing different going on epistemologically than what goes on when the writers of TSKT, for example, look at passages about preservation and conclude that God promised to preserve His word. It is the same process.
And I actually don't disagree with them on that part of the book ( hardly anyone does, but that's another topic), but even where I differ, it's not on epistemological grounds, but rather on properly understand the texts involved in light of Scripture's teaching as a whole.

Edit: missed this one.

Quote:
....the question: "How did the church decide issues prior to the rise of Modernity and Scientific Rationalism?"

The short answer is that those who did it right, read the Bible and interpreted it by something pretty close to the grammatical-historical method. (The longer answer would have to factor in that "the church" didn't always decide things very well! ... but at the early councils and such, the work of scholars weighed heavily and these men all employed reason to one degree or another in comparing Scripture with Scripture to arrive at conclusions.)

Ed Vasicek's picture

Good, reasonable article. Thank you, Aaaron.

"The Midrash Detective"

Bob Hayton's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

Quote:
....the question: "How did the church decide issues prior to the rise of Modernity and Scientific Rationalism?"

The short answer is that those who did it right, read the Bible and interpreted it by something pretty close to the grammatical-historical method. (The longer answer would have to factor in that "the church" didn't always decide things very well! ... but at the early councils and such, the work of scholars weighed heavily and these men all employed reason to one degree or another in comparing Scripture with Scripture to arrive at conclusions.)

I think, Aaron that he's getting more at the canonization question. There isn't a chapter and verse telling us which books are canonical and which aren't.

Personally, I am comfortable with God slowly working through His church to accept the good and reject the bad. To say is it harder for this to be done on the level of words versus books is somewhat amazing to me. Of course it is harder. It is not to say God hasn't guided His church to reject bad readings. But as Don pointed out above, this aspect hasn't resulted in a uniform position on the issue whereas the canonization process did (with respect to the NT and the three major branches of Christendom, Greek, Roman and Protestant).

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

Aaron Blumer's picture

I might get to the canonicity argument eventually. It's down the road a ways though. I don't think most people who are wrestling with the issue are finding that particular argument very persuasive.
(And since I'm pretty sure the writers of TKST are never going to be won over, it's those wresting the issue I'm mainly trying to help)

RPittman's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
I might get to the canonicity argument eventually. It's down the road a ways though. I don't think most people who are wrestling with the issue are finding that particular argument very persuasive.
(And since I'm pretty sure the writers of TKST are never going to be won over, it's those wresting the issue I'm mainly trying to help)
Aaron, you very perceptive in your observations--most people don't find it persausive. However, I will point out that all of us, including myself, have been schooled in "rationalism." We first must cast some doubt on the failure of Modernity and Scientific Rationalism, which Post-modernism is doing (I am a vehement opponent of Post-modernism but I am happy to use it against the common enemy, Modernism). We're chipping away at the massive pillars of a well-accepted way of thinking. It has, however, been a colossal failure in theology and philosophy although it was wildly successful in the sciences and physical phenomena. Do you see my point?

RPittman's picture

[/quote=Aaron ]I think you meant "not calling you a vile sinner..." Given your track record here, I think I can assume that.[/quote]Yes, Aaron, you are correct. The line should have read: "Although I cannot speak for others, I am NOT calling you vile sinner because you are using "rationalism."' I ask your forgiveness. Thank you for calling it to my attention. At my age, one misses a lot of synaptic connections.

RPittman's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
I think you meant "not calling you a vile sinner..." Given your track record here, I think I can assume that.
I am a vile sinner though, so it's a good call either way. Smile

Anyway, really, it's not as complicated as you seem to suppose. Either we may reason from biblical evidence or we may not. What I've done in the article is nothing more than look at what is written and draw conclusions on that basis. There is nothing different going on epistemologically than what goes on when the writers of TSKT, for example, look at passages about preservation and conclude that God promised to preserve His word. It is the same process.
And I actually don't disagree with them on that part of the book ( hardly anyone does, but that's another topic), but even where I differ, it's not on epistemological grounds, but rather on properly understand the texts involved in light of Scripture's teaching as a whole.

Edit: missed this one.

Quote:
....the question: "How did the church decide issues prior to the rise of Modernity and Scientific Rationalism?"

The short answer is that those who did it right, read the Bible and interpreted it by something pretty close to the grammatical-historical method. (The longer answer would have to factor in that "the church" didn't always decide things very well! ... but at the early councils and such, the work of scholars weighed heavily and these men all employed reason to one degree or another in comparing Scripture with Scripture to arrive at conclusions.)
Contrariwise to your view, I do think you are making this too simple. I am NOT saying your opinion is simple or simplistic but I do believe that you are not factoring in all the variables and their complexities of relationship. This is precisely what makes Scientific Rationalism or "rationalistic thinking" unfit for this type of argument because you cannot control and account for all the variables. In fact, we are singularly lacking in data. Without data, one cannot propose and test hypotheses or reach a definitive conclusion. There's nothing that we can test so lacking the data to support either side, we can conclude nothing under "rationalism." It goes without saying but to be clear on the point, a lack of data refutes neither side. However, "rationalism" seems to presuppose a lack of observable and verifiable indicates that the event didn't happen. Not necessarily true. This is a rather circular refutation of "rationalism" by "rationalism".

As for reasoning by the church, we must define what we mean by church. I do not consider the establishmentarian church to be the Church, which is the Believing Church. So, we may argue which gaffes may be attributed to the Church. On the other hand, the Believing Church did not always perfectly reflect God's will either. Consider the seven Asian churches in Revelation. However, we must accept by "reason of faith" that the Believing Church has been guided in truths by the Holy Spirit (John 16:13). Whereas I cannot and will not attempt to prove a linear argument of preservation (i.e. rationalistic argument), I do think there is ample reason to believe it from Scripture based on clear teachings such as the sovereignty of God, guidance of the Holy Spirit, etc. Furthermore, the said views are not contradicted, but complemented, by external sources such as history, epistemology, etc.

RPittman's picture

Don Johnson wrote:
RPittman wrote:
As I follow your reasoning, you are saying that although God did use imperfect human beings to produce a perfect product (i.e. inspiration), we cannot say that He did it in preservation unless we are specifically told in Scripture. In other words, we cannot infer a "miraculous phenomenon" to overcome human fallibility unless God tells us.

To this point, I always ask, "When the Lord healed the lame man, did he walk with a limp?"

In other words, miracles are visible. You don't need reason to discern them. You can see them.

If the miracle of preservation actually happened in the same way that inspiration happened, don't you think we would see a body of documents that were identical, preserved in an unbroken chain without error through the centuries?

Instead, what we see are a body of documents that ALL vary from one another to one extent or another. They limp along. From that limping body, it is our task to sort out by discernment of some kind what the original words were. Preservation appears to be providential, using failing men, rather than miraculous, in spite of failing men.


1. The illustration does not parallel the rejection of miracles by Liberals/Modernists. They rejected miracles because they were not there to observe and questions the Biblical record. But, I don't thinks this was your reference. You seem to make a connection to inspiration, thus it is still an inapt example because one cannot observe the "miracle" (i.e. process) of inspiration--we can only observe the product.
2. We are doing a "what if" speculation by supposing that if preservation occurred, then "we would see a body of documents that were identical, preserved in an unbroken chain without error through the centuries." Well, this is certainly man's conclusion based on "rationalism." Does it have to be? Could God have just as easily have preserved His Word in "a body of documents that ALL vary from one another to one extent or another?" Is anything too hard for God? We don't understand it and we can't explain it. Such is the nature of miracles. If one demands a transparent, understandable explanation, then it is no miracle and the highest court is "rationalism."

No sir, your argument won't stand unless I accept your presuppositions, which I don't. Now, answer simply two questions. Can you confidently say that God could not have perfectly preserved His Word with the historical and physical evidence (i.e. extant manuscripts) that we have today? If He could, then how do you know that He didn't?

RPittman's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
I might get to the canonicity argument eventually. It's down the road a ways though. I don't think most people who are wrestling with the issue are finding that particular argument very persuasive.
(And since I'm pretty sure the writers of TKST are never going to be won over, it's those wresting the issue I'm mainly trying to help)

Aaron, the canonicity issue is the first question to be settle. If the argument holds for canonization, then it holds for preservation. What do you think?

dcbii's picture

RPittman wrote:
Aaron Blumer wrote:
I might get to the canonicity argument eventually. It's down the road a ways though. I don't think most people who are wrestling with the issue are finding that particular argument very persuasive.
(And since I'm pretty sure the writers of TKST are never going to be won over, it's those wresting the issue I'm mainly trying to help)

Aaron, the canonicity issue is the first question to be settle. If the argument holds for canonization, then it holds for preservation. What do you think?

I'm not Aaron, but given your argument above, I should point out that this argument of yours is also based on rationalism. There is nothing preventing the workings behind canonization and preservation to be entirely different.

Dave Barnhart

RPittman's picture

dcbii wrote:
RPittman wrote:
Aaron Blumer wrote:
I might get to the canonicity argument eventually. It's down the road a ways though. I don't think most people who are wrestling with the issue are finding that particular argument very persuasive.
(And since I'm pretty sure the writers of TKST are never going to be won over, it's those wresting the issue I'm mainly trying to help)

Aaron, the canonicity issue is the first question to be settle. If the argument holds for canonization, then it holds for preservation. What do you think?

I'm not Aaron, but given your argument above, I should point out that this argument of yours is also based on rationalism. There is nothing preventing the workings behind canonization and preservation to be entirely different.
NO, my argument is rational but it is not based on "rationalism." Human cognition is only one of several factors involved. Do you not realize that I am differentiating between rational and "rationalism?"

Are the workings different? If so, what? How do you know? You're invoking my very argument against the "rationalism" opposing preservation. Thank you for agreeing. Now, this is what needs to be discussed. Is not canonization an act of preservation. If so, then we speaking of the same essence although the administration may be different.

But, I'm not bound by "rationalistic" methodology as a system, I can rationally believe that preservation is a proper viewpoint through known teachings such as the sovereignty of God, guidance by the Holy Spirit, etc. Your argument won't stick on me because it is based on a discredited epistemology of "rationalism." I'm not constrained to eliminate all other possibilities, only "rationalism" is by its own methodology. Thus, you can't force the requirement on my paradigm. Now, do you care to defend Scientific Rationalism (Modernity) as an epistemological system? That's a different matter.

Aaron Blumer's picture

I don't mean to be insulting or anything, because I do believe RPittman sincerely believes the "rationalism" angle is important.
But in reality it is not important in this particular case. It's a red herring.

As I pointed out in the article, I haven't cited any external evidence at all, but have argued on the basis of Scripture alone.
So there is no need to insert a lengthy digression about the history of philosophy, epistemology or the canonicity issue, etc.

If someone want to refute what I've concluded so for, it's far less complex than that:
Just show how I have misinterpreted the Scriptures.

It really is that simple, because either I've gotten the Scripture right or I haven't, and if I haven't it should be possible make a case for where I've misconstrued them.

One can do that in two ways (and only two as far as I can tell)

  • Use other Scriptures that expose how I have mishandled the ones I've cited, or
  • use external evidence to show that he has mishandled them.

In the case of "b," you'd--ironically--be opening yourself to the charge of rationalism (as some understand the term), so if you have a commitment to not use external evidence to reason back to what Scripture means, you only have one option: prove it wrong from the Bible.

Edit: nope, there's a third way to argue against the biblical case: a logical argument (based on other Scriptures) against how I've interpreted the passages involved.

Bob T.'s picture

Romans 3:1-2 = Revelation, inscripturation, canonicity authority to the Jewish people.

The Apostles of Christ, those who were called by him personally, were the Jewish emmisaries of Christ on earth who authenticate the new writings of scripture and are the foundation of the Jewish, Gentile church.

Luke, the one gentile author of scripture, had his historically researched and inspired writings (obtained without revelation), authenticated by Paul.

The above involved the supernatural as attested by the scriptures themselves.

After the above had occurred, we evidently have the normal processes of history overseen by the providence of God. This involved the use of secondary causes in which principles of historiography are used to determine a likeness to a original infallible source by a multitude of fallible sources.

The death, burial, and resurrection of Christ are in the arena of historical evidence where humanity must deal with it based on the normal evidence with which all events are validated. It is not the evidence of the scientific kind which requires observation. It is the evidence of the historical kind. A type of which is legal evidence where determination may often be made based on best evidence documents. Thus our salvation begins outside of history but involves the actual events of history. Paul places the salvation events within the realm of human historical verification at 1 Cor. 15.

If you want divine authority today that can be said to reside in a textual compilation such as the TR, or a family such as the Byzantine, or a translation such as the KJV, just point out when and where a bunch of Jewish guys who were personally called by a visible Messiah met and authenticated such a Greek text or such an English translation. Then I will personally support it being put in a doctrinal statement. Absent such a meeting taking place, your preferred compilation, family, or version is but your preference based on your reasoning.

Inspiration and canonicity = divine first cause miracle.

Preservation = providential secondary cause determination.

It is in the sixties here at Pismo Beach but is supposed to get up into the seventies next week. As high as 77. Cool

PhilKnight's picture

Bob T. wrote:
Romans 3:1-2 = Revelation, inscripturation, canonicity authority to the Jewish people.

The Apostles of Christ, those who were called by him personally, were the Jewish emmisaries of Christ on earth who authenticate the new writings of scripture and are the foundation of the Jewish, Gentile church.

The above seems to be a key distinction between the two types of preservation (canonization for the books on the one hand, and preservation of the individual words, jots & tittles on the other). I recall that in Dr. Mark Minnick's excellent sermon series on this issue, From the Mind of God To the Mind of Man (same title as the subsequent book), he emphasized that canonization was the process by which the Church was led to recognize (not select) the books God had inspired. More relevant to this discussion, though, is something else he pointed out: He said that if you take the set of surviving books (the books that make up our New Testament as well as rivals, such as the apocryphal books), then eliminate all books that were not written during the lifetime of the Apostles, the set of books you are left with are precisely the 27 books that make up the New Testament. In other words, if apostolic authentication is made a requirement for canonicity (as it should be), all the surviving rival books are eliminated on that basis alone. (I say "surviving rival books" because there were rival writings even during the times of the Apostles that didn't survive.)

Disclaimer: It's been quite a few years since I heard that series, so it's possible I'm not remembering it precisely. However, that last point was such a watershed in my understanding of canonicity that I'm about 99.9% certain I'm remembering it correctly. Would appreciate it if there are any scholars out there who could verify.

Philip Knight

RPittman's picture

PhilKnight wrote:
Bob T. wrote:
Romans 3:1-2 = Revelation, inscripturation, canonicity authority to the Jewish people.

The Apostles of Christ, those who were called by him personally, were the Jewish emmisaries of Christ on earth who authenticate the new writings of scripture and are the foundation of the Jewish, Gentile church.

The above seems to be a key distinction between the two types of preservation (canonization for the books on the one hand, and preservation of the individual words, jots & tittles on the other). I recall that in Dr. Mark Minnick's excellent sermon series on this issue, From the Mind of God To the Mind of Man (same title as the subsequent book), he emphasized that canonization was the process by which the Church was led to recognize (not select) the books God had inspired. More relevant to this discussion, though, is something else he pointed out: He said that if you take the set of surviving books (the books that make up our New Testament as well as rivals, such as the apocryphal books), then eliminate all books that were not written during the lifetime of the Apostles, the set of books you are left with are precisely the 27 books that make up the New Testament. In other words, if apostolic authentication is made a requirement for canonicity (as it should be), all the surviving rival books are eliminated on that basis alone. (I say "surviving rival books" because there were rival writings even during the times of the Apostles that didn't survive.)

Disclaimer: It's been quite a few years since I heard that series, so it's possible I'm not remembering it precisely. However, that last point was such a watershed in my understanding of canonicity that I'm about 99.9% certain I'm remembering it correctly. Would appreciate it if there are any scholars out there who could verify.

So, how do we know this is true? Is this a Scriptural teaching, raising it above preservation arguments, or is it one scholar's opinion?

RPittman's picture

Bob T. wrote:
Romans 3:1-2 = Revelation, inscripturation, canonicity authority to the Jewish people.

The Apostles of Christ, those who were called by him personally, were the Jewish emmisaries of Christ on earth who authenticate the new writings of scripture and are the foundation of the Jewish, Gentile church.

Luke, the one gentile author of scripture, had his historically researched and inspired writings (obtained without revelation), authenticated by Paul.

The above involved the supernatural as attested by the scriptures themselves.

After the above had occurred, we evidently have the normal processes of history overseen by the providence of God. This involved the use of secondary causes in which principles of historiography are used to determine a likeness to a original infallible source by a multitude of fallible sources.

The death, burial, and resurrection of Christ are in the arena of historical evidence where humanity must deal with it based on the normal evidence with which all events are validated. It is not the evidence of the scientific kind which requires observation. It is the evidence of the historical kind. A type of which is legal evidence where determination may often be made based on best evidence documents. Thus our salvation begins outside of history but involves the actual events of history. Paul places the salvation events within the realm of human historical verification at 1 Cor. 15.

If you want divine authority today that can be said to reside in a textual compilation such as the TR, or a family such as the Byzantine, or a translation such as the KJV, just point out when and where a bunch of Jewish guys who were personally called by a visible Messiah met and authenticated such a Greek text or such an English translation. Then I will personally support it being put in a doctrinal statement. Absent such a meeting taking place, your preferred compilation, family, or version is but your preference based on your reasoning.

Inspiration and canonicity = divine first cause miracle.

Preservation = providential secondary cause determination.

It is in the sixties here at Pismo Beach but is supposed to get up into the seventies next week. As high as 77. Cool

So, who established these criteria? By whose authority do you make these assertions? Apostolic? Revelation? How do you know?

RPittman's picture

Bob Hayton wrote:
Aaron Blumer wrote:

Quote:
....the question: "How did the church decide issues prior to the rise of Modernity and Scientific Rationalism?"

The short answer is that those who did it right, read the Bible and interpreted it by something pretty close to the grammatical-historical method. (The longer answer would have to factor in that "the church" didn't always decide things very well! ... but at the early councils and such, the work of scholars weighed heavily and these men all employed reason to one degree or another in comparing Scripture with Scripture to arrive at conclusions.)

I think, Aaron that he's getting more at the canonization question. There isn't a chapter and verse telling us which books are canonical and which aren't.

Personally, I am comfortable with God slowly working through His church to accept the good and reject the bad. To say is it harder for this to be done on the level of words versus books is somewhat amazing to me. Of course it is harder. It is not to say God hasn't guided His church to reject bad readings. But as Don pointed out above, this aspect hasn't resulted in a uniform position on the issue whereas the canonization process did (with respect to the NT and the three major branches of Christendom, Greek, Roman and Protestant).

Bob, you make some very astute comments but you amaze me when you write: "To say is it harder for this to be done on the level of words versus books is somewhat amazing to me. Of course it is harder." I can't see this. If God is the One controlling the outcome from behind the scenes, then nothing is hard for Him. How can anything be hard for God. There's no comparative when it comes to God. My point is that God can accomplish one thing as easily as another. Nothing challenges Him. It is harder to understand and explain from a finite human perspective but from an omnipotent, omniscience, and eternal viewpoint, nothing is befogging.

Bob, I do agree with you on "God slowly working through His church to accept the good and reject the bad."

Aaron Blumer's picture

Nobody here (or involved in the preservation debate elsewhere) believes anything is any harder for God than anything else.
We're talking about what requires more intervention by God into human activities vs. less or intervention of a miraculous sort vs. a providential sort.

Via providence, God uses secondary causes and allows for all sorts of error and even sin as He works all things according the counsel of His will. Using providential means, the church recognized the books that comprise what we call the canon. It's not hard to see how they could do that without God performing a miracle to overcome their fallibility. Why? Because the true books of the Bible self-attest in such a compelling way compared to the alternatives. However, there is no such compelling drive to favor a noun instead of a pronoun or singular instead of a plural or any of a gazillion other minor differences that appear among manuscripts. In these cases, finding the true text without fail would require ongoing, repeated miraculous activity.

How does this relate to what Scripture teaches? Well, we know that believers--whether singly or in God-ordained institutions--normally err in all they do. Providence (pretty much by definition) does not prevent that from happening, though it might reduce it's scope and frequency. Miracle is required to produce the sort of detailed error-free work verbal plenary preservation would require. And Bible-believing Christians have not been in the habit of supposing miracles have occurred where Scripture does not say they occurred--at least, not with a claim of biblical authority.

For example, when I was a kid, I used to hear pretty often the idea that the animals on Noah's ark hibernated during the flood. This is supposing a miracle that the text does not say occurred. It was deduced from what the text does reveal along with external evidence that seemed at the time to require an explanation. But those who suggested this hibernation miracle recognized they did not have biblical authority for it. They didn't represent it as the teaching of Scripture and assert that those who reject it are in serious error.

So, yes, verbal plenary preservation is "harder" than canonization in the sense that more/greater intervention is required to make it happen, and a higher biblical evidence threshold exists for the claim that this miracle occurred (and is still occurring in this view, let's not forget).

RPittman's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
Nobody here (or involved in the preservation debate elsewhere) believes anything is any harder for God than anything else.
We're talking about what requires more intervention by God into human activities vs. less or intervention of a miraculous sort vs. a providential sort.

Aaron Blumer wrote:
So, yes, verbal plenary preservation is "harder" than canonization in the sense that more/greater intervention is required to make it happen, and a higher biblical evidence threshold exists for the claim that this miracle occurred (and is still occurring in this view, let's not forget).
Then, I suppose God is kept pretty busy by the moment-by-moment intervention required in my life to make "all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28)." Smile It must really be "hard" to make things work for the millions of believers. Naw, I just can't buy this reasoning. This is our own anthropomorphically conception. Nothing is too hard for God and the idea of multiplying the details does nothing to lessen the impact of this concept. Consider the argument from creation. God managed an infinite number of details to create everything in sync (call it irreducible complexity if you please). We argue for creationism from this viewpoint of everything in coordination.

Anyway, this whole argument is a dead end street. Cut your losses. The poster simply used the wrong word. We all, including myself, do it--use a word for which we have not considered the implications. It really doesn't matter in the overall landscape. The only thing that we're arguing for here is the pride of being right. Let's just mutually agree to scratch this issue from our discussion. I'm for it.

RPittman's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
However, there is no such compelling drive to favor a noun instead of a pronoun or singular instead of a plural or any of a gazillion other minor differences that appear among manuscripts. In these cases, finding the true text without fail would require ongoing, repeated miraculous activity.
Aaron, you may want to reconsider your precise articulation of this idea. We can point to at least one place where singular or plural changes the meaning of a very important doctrine (i.e. Genesis 3:15; cf. Galatians 3:16). This raises other questions that we must ask.
1. Is this the only place where details of such nature are significant. How do we know? Scholarship? If so, this is the weak link in our chain of Biblical confidence.
2. How do we discern between significant and insignificant details?
3. It seems that you have argued for a required authentication by Scripture, how does one authenticate this by Scripture? If you require it of those arguing for preservation, then you are compelled by the same rules.
4. Did God protect this one portion by miraculous divine intervention or did He preserved other portions as well. Did He preserve some and not others? Did He preserve Genesis 3:15? How do we know?

The hangup here is that folks just cannot get around the variant manuscript problem. They have supposed a particular scenario and that it must be. It is lock-step thinking. I have alluded to the "reason of faith" (a term suggested by E. F. Hills) but no one has picked up on it--they continue butting their heads against the same wall, the variant manuscript problem. No one tries to refute it--we persist in trotting out the same old unsatisfying arguments.

Rather than supposing a multiplicity of miracles, let's think of it as a single miracle: God has preserved His Word in spite of confusing variants and a morass of details. This is consistent with His sovereignty working and control as well as bringing good out of failure and shortcomings.

Aaron Blumer's picture

I don't know how to be more clear that nothing is any harder for God than anything else.

Surely you would not deny that there is a difference between miracle and providence... that one describes more intervention than the other? That they are equally "easy" for God I heartily affirm, so let's just get past that part, eh?

I also didn't say that all the manuscript differences were unimportant or that in no case would a singular vs. a plural matter. Rather, my point was that there are many MS differences in which there is no clear theological significance to make one obviously preferable to the other. If you have "Christ" in one phrase and then, in the next, one MS says "Christ" again and another says "he," there is zero difference theologically. However, if we assume one of the MSS reflects the original reading, one of them is what God inspired and the other is not.

So, for the sinners involved to figure out if it's "he" or "Christ" is a very different kind of decision than preferring Ephesians to, say, the "Gospel of Judas." Multiply those kinds of pronoun vs. noun type decisions hundreds of times over, and the point becomes even more clear.

"Reason of faith"
Presumably, this would have to be faith in God's word. So I repeat my earlier questions, slightly reworded:

  1. What passages have I misinterpreted and in what way?
  2. Have I incorrectly concluded that all believers--and the body of believers as well--are prone to err in all they do?
  3. Have I incorrectly concluded that a series of miracles would be required to ensure that such error-prone people copied every word correctly?
  4. Have I incorrectly concluded that biblical statements supporting that series of miracles is less direct and clear than the biblical statements revealing the miracle of inspiration?
RPittman's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
I don't know how to be more clear that nothing is any harder for God than anything else.
Ok, I understand. Let’s dispense with the word harder because I suggest that God’s dealing with a multitude of details requires no more from God than handling a few.
Quote:
Surely you would not deny that there is a difference between miracle and providence... that one describes more intervention than the other? That they are equally "easy" for God I heartily affirm, so let's just get past that part, eh?
I don’t know. Perhaps the difference is from our perspective only. How do we know there is a difference? I would rather not take a position until I have time to think and consider if there is any relevant teaching in Scripture.
Quote:

I also didn't say that all the manuscript differences were unimportant or that in no case would a singular vs. a plural matter.
No, you didn’t. But, how do we recognize the significant differences from among the insignificant ones? Remember that we are looking for Scriptural level authority, not scholarly opinion.
Quote:

Rather, my point was that there are many MS differences in which there is no clear theological significance to make one obviously preferable to the other.
This appears to be the case but I am not certain. I don’t know. I have a hypothetical question. Would we have known about Genesis 3:15 if Galatians 4:16 was missing? Perhaps we would have thought it insignificant too. If so, how do we know that there are not significant variants that we do not recognize? Again, we must have Scriptural authority if we are to demand it of the preservationist crowd.
Quote:

If you have "Christ" in one phrase and then, in the next, one MS says "Christ" again and another says "he," there is zero difference theologically. However, if we assume one of the MSS reflects the original reading, one of them is what God inspired and the other is not.[emphasis added ]
If this is a level playing field, then preservationists and restorationists are two views of textual criticism. One posits a God-directed, through various circumstantial events, stream of manuscripts transmitting the Word of God to succeeding generations and the other hypothesizes corrupted texts through human error and manipulations, which it seeks to restore to the originals through scholarly study and editing. If the preservationists are to be denied legitimacy because they cannot provide a clear Biblical defense of their view, it follows that the same requirement be demanded of the restorationists. So, where is the Scriptural defense of the commonly accepted restorationist view that you just expressed?
Quote:

So, for the sinners involved to figure out if it's "he" or "Christ" is a very different kind of decision than preferring Ephesians to, say, the "Gospel of Judas." Multiply those kinds of pronoun vs. noun type decisions hundreds of times over, and the point becomes even more clear.
Except that it isn’t clear for me. The number has absolutely nothing to do with it unless we are viewing this from a human perspective. We are in a sad state if it has been left up to man for figuring out whether at the level of words or whole books. It makes no difference. If my faith in God’s Word is predicated on human knowledge and scholarship, then I have no basis for my faith at all. If God has not preserved His Word through both the canonization process and the subsequent transmission, then we have no assurance of the basis for our faith at all. It makes the whole matter of inspiration innane.
Quote:

"Reason of faith"
Presumably, this would have to be faith in God's word.

Perhaps you ought to define a little more of what you mean by “faith in God’s [W ]ord.” Do you mean faith that God’s Word, whatever it is, is true? Or, do you mean faith that we have God’s Word? If faith that we have God’s Word, which variant are you specifically talking about? Or, would you say all of them even though they vary? You can’t get around the variant problem with your system. Furthermore, it would seem that we must have faith that the we have God’s Word before we have faith that it’s true. Other wise, it is an arcane matter.
Quote:

So I repeat my earlier questions, slightly reworded:

  1. What passages have I misinterpreted and in what way?
  2. Have I incorrectly concluded that all believers--and the body of believers as well--are prone to err in all they do?
  3. Have I incorrectly concluded that a series of miracles would be required to ensure that such error-prone people copied every word correctly?
  4. Have I incorrectly concluded that biblical statements supporting that series of miracles is less direct and clear than the biblical statements revealing the miracle of inspiration?

1. It is not so much that you have misinterpreted Scripture. You have made valid observations that all men are fallible, sinners. There’s no disagreement. It’s your application and conclusions that produce the rub. Your sinner argument could be used just as effectively against a restorationist position because these scholars are sinners too. Their scholarship and conclusions are just as susceptible, even more so due to the complexity and lack of primary data, to error as the men doing a relatively simple task of copying Scripture.
2. You fail to differentiate between what Scripture intentionally teaches and your inferences based on Scripture. The only advantage of using Scripture for your inferential basis is that you are assured of a true basis; beyond that your inference is no better than a non-Scriptural inference. Thus, you are creating an illusion of Scriptural backing where none exists unless you can tell us that these Scriptures intentionally teach these points. Obviously, it’s your inferences, not Scriptural teaching.
3. I do not buy your requirement that “a series of miracles would be required to ensure that such error-prone people copied every word correctly.” Let’s put it this way: Did plenary, verbal inspiration require that God performed a series of miracles making the inspiration of each word a separate miracle? Or, was it simply the supernatural action of inspiration carried out by the Holy Spirit? Why must we make preservation different? No, it doesn’t flow.
4. Although I am not sure that you have firmly established that actions behind preservation are less direct than the act of inspiration. Direct and clear are two different concepts but you are a writer and know that. So, precisely what we can say is that more is said about inspiration so that it appears a little more explicit and perhaps clear, even though the process of inspiration is not that clear, because we really don’t understand how God did it, although we do believe that He did. We cannot say about directness, except that inspiration was direct influence because we are told. We don’t know about preservation because we are not told. God’s work behind the observable event is not necessarily indirect. For example, we read in the OT that Pharaoh hardened his heart as he did various actions. Yet, we are told in other places that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. I would call this direct action if it was through circumstances.
Aaron Blumer's picture

We might be getting somewhere now

Quote:
1. It is not so much that you have misinterpreted Scripture. You have made valid observations that all men are fallible, sinners. There’s no disagreement. It’s your application and conclusions that produce the rub. Your sinner argument could be used just as effectively against a restorationist position because these scholars are sinners too. Their scholarship and conclusions are just as susceptible, even more so due to the complexity and lack of primary data, to error as the men doing a relatively simple task of copying Scripture.

Yes, the use of one's brain (aka "scholarship") is also subject to error. I have no problem with that at all. But if one concedes that believers are also subject to error and the Bible teaches this, one accepts the main point of my article.

Quote:
2. You fail to differentiate between what Scripture intentionally teaches and your inferences based on Scripture. The only advantage of using Scripture for your inferential basis is that you are assured of a true basis; beyond that your inference is no better than a non-Scriptural inference. Thus, you are creating an illusion of Scriptural backing where none exists unless you can tell us that these Scriptures intentionally teach these points. Obviously, it’s your inferences, not Scriptural teaching.

This would also be true of any other position on the subject. It is not possible to use the Bible at all without making inferences. The real question is, are my inferences sound? Do they make sense? If they do not, in what way is my reasoning faulty? What inferences would be better and why?

Quote:
3. I do not buy your requirement that “a series of miracles would be required to ensure that such error-prone people copied every word correctly.” Let’s put it this way: Did plenary, verbal inspiration require that God performed a series of miracles making the inspiration of each word a separate miracle? Or, was it simply the supernatural action of inspiration carried out by the Holy Spirit? Why must we make preservation different? No, it doesn’t flow.

How exactly would a single act of inspiration result in 40 different authors producing God's words over a period of thousands of years? A series of miracles was certainly required for inspiration. Likewise, in the case of making perfect copies of Scripture, every time a man set ink to paper and began to make a mistake, one of two things would be required to correct the mistake: either, a.) extraordinary providence (which I'll define loosely as "natural causes" that are highly unusual) or b.) miracles (which is most agree to be the term for when God acts to directly reverse or suspend the normal operation of "nature").

But I guess I may have gotten distracted, myself, a bit on that point, because whether we're talking about providence or miracle, either way the question ends up being, Does the Bible teach that any human beings involved in copying the word will do it perfectly? But I still think that thousands of avoided errors over time would require multiple miracles.

Quote:
4. Although I am not sure that you have firmly established that actions behind preservation are less direct than the act of inspiration. Direct and clear are two different concepts but you are a writer and know that. So, precisely what we can say is that more is said about inspiration so that it appears a little more explicit and perhaps clear, even though the process of inspiration is not that clear, because we really don’t understand how God did it, although we do believe that He did. We cannot say about directness, except that inspiration was direct influence because we are told. We don’t know about preservation because we are not told. God’s work behind the observable event is not necessarily indirect. For example, we read in the OT that Pharaoh hardened his heart as he did various actions. Yet, we are told in other places that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. I would call this direct action if it was through circumstances.

Well, we may be agreed then that the question is whether the less-direct teaching we have in Scripture about preservation is ultimately "clear" or not. That's really what I'll mainly focus on in the next article, though I began getting into it in part 1.
Thou Shalt Keep Them has many chapters devoted to making the case somewhat systematically that
1. God promised to preserve His word (not in dispute, really--certainly not by me)
2. God promised to preserve His word perfectly (with the qualifier of "somewhere," I wouldn't dispute that either)
3. God promised to preserve His word through Israel (in OT times) and "His immersionist assemblies" (NT times).
4. God promised to preserve His word in a form that is recognizably perfect and directly accessible to His people.

I'll definitely be examining 3 and 4 in the future, probaby both in part 3. What I aimed to do in part 2 is get some foundational things in place that TSKT seemed to ignore, namely what Scripture teaches about the error-prone nature of Israel and the church and the higher biblical evidence threshold that results. So it's really prep for part 3.

I'm also doing what I can to expose the weakness of the "you're all just rationalists" non-argument. It's a non-argument because it cannot be proved without the a priori belief that anyone who rejects accessible "verbal plenary preservation" is rationalistic, not using the logic of faith, etc. It cannot be proved or disproved. Closest I can come is to follow the pattern in TSKT and build the foundation biblically before going to any external evidence.

I'll close this one by just pointing out one more time that so far there is no difference between my general approach to the subject and that used in TSKT. The only difference is that I have interpreted the Scriptures differently. It will be up to readers to decide whether I've interpreted them more accurately. But it should be clear by now that the "your approach is too scientific" charge is groundless.

J Ng's picture

The problem with TSKT-VPP KJBOism is that of projecting what God's ability and intent must be, and then extrapolating from that a particular act ("Verbal plenary preservation") which He did not do.

Beyond the theological and philosophical arguments that refute Brandenburg's approach is the example of the Scriptures themselves.

Wouldn't it be quite sensible to see if Jesus and the NT writers adopted a VPPist understanding of preservation? As Bible believers, we have found solid footing on the verbal, plenary inspiration; authority; and sufficiency of the Scripture in the Scriptures themselves. Examples include direct statements as well as the example of Christ at His Temptation prefacing his OT quotes with "It is written," Jude and Paul commending believers to keeping by the Word of God, Peter affirming that the OT's writers were borne by the Spirit, and so on.

What we do NOT see is affirmation or example of preservation being verbal, let alone in one text-type or edition (Masoretic, Majority, Alexandrian, TR-Scrivener, or TR-Beza), MS, version, or edition of a particular version (e.g. the 1900 "Pure Cambridge Edition" of the King James or the 1769 Blayney KJB).

What we DO see is that Christ accepted and quoted non-KJB texts authoritatively. Now, this may have sounded a little anachronistic, but if the Hebrew Bomberg Masoretic text were the VPPed Word of God, as some KJBOs claim it is (particularly those of the TKST/VPP camp), then wouldn't we expect Christ or Luke to eschew a Bible that's different and hence "corrupted"? The prime example (there are many others in that category; italics and bold added for comparison/emphasis):

Quote:
KJB Luke 4 17And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,
18The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
19To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
20And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.
21And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.

When we look up this Esaias in KJB, we see words that are changed, added, removed, etc.:

Quote:
KJB Isaiah 61 1The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
2To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;

Faced with the evidence of Scriptures, VPPers have several options, none of which are comfortable for them. Did God fail to preserve His Word verbally in AD30? Or is the Bomberg Text corrupt, seeing it deviates from the Textus Receptus of Luke? Remember the old KJBO adage, "Things that are different are not the same?"

Typically, VPPers will try to duck the evidence of Luke 4 and such passages--it's where the rubber meets the road and all their theorizing evaporates from the heat of substantive examples. Basically, Christ and the Apostles didn't go around hissing "Yea hath God said" at the Word of God in other translations than the Masoretic/TR, nor did they affirm a manmade VPP theory to attain some level of spiritual comfort or certitude. In spite of substantive differences in the text, they showed that God's Word remains authoritative and profitable for perfecting the man of God unto all good work.

This is a great thread--thanks OP--and I'll see if I can link [URL=http://bibleversiondiscussionboard.yuku.com/reply/49347/t/Enough-of-the-... ]the VPP thread there[/URL ] over to this board.

Pages

Help keep SI’s server humming. A few bucks makes a difference.